Planning a visit to any major city around the world with only 24 hours to experience the best things to do can be an incredibly challenging prospect. Not only do you have to figure out which attractions are worthwhile and “must-sees” but also you need to have a plan in mind as to how you will navigate around the metropolis in the most efficient manner to maximize your time in the city. Spending only one day in Los Angeles may sound like a crazy idea, particularly with the stereotype of this city having such awful traffic problems but of course, we always love a good challenge!
Our recent visit to California saw us spend 48 hours in Los Angeles but during our first day, we decided to put together an itinerary that would allow us to see some of the iconic sights and highlight the best way to navigate around the city. Here is our top tip that you will likely see me reiterate throughout this post, leave your car at home! That’s right, Los Angeles is best explored either on foot or using the best form of public transportation in the area – the LA Metro!
One Day in Los Angeles
Are you ready to join us on our adventure exploring the very best of LA in just 24 hours? Again, it may sound a little crazy but you may be surprised at just how much you can accomplish during a one day adventure around Los Angeles trendiest neighborhoods. From Hollywood to Santa Monica, from Beverly Hills to downtown LA, this city offers an eclectic blend of everything you could wish for in a major city.
The beauty of the LA Metro is that it’s easy to navigate, accessible to the majority of major attractions throughout LA’s neighborhoods and most importantly, incredibly affordable! For only $7 (that’s right, no typo there…$7!!!), you can enjoy a day pass that gives you unlimited journeys around the city.
Here are some of the highlights we think you can enjoy during a “fast and furious” 24 hours exploring Los Angeles. We are not suggesting that you should try and visit all of these but dependent upon your travel style, you can pick and choose which of these attractions you want to explore.
- Hollywood – Explore the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Dolby Theatre, TCL Chinese Theatre
- Downtown Los Angeles – Staples Center, L.A. Live Entertainment Complex
- Santa Monica
- Attend Sporting Event – LA Galaxy, LA Sparks, LA Lakers, LA Dodgers etc.
- Venice Beach
Looking for a recommended itinerary? Below is a suggestion that is realistic albeit action-packed and as always, we include some time for flexibility and spontaneity.
7:00 AM – Breakfast at the Hotel
8:00 AM – Explore Hollywood
10:30 AM – Head Downtown LA
12:00 PM – Lunch in LA Live (Yard House etc.)
1:30 PM – Afternoon in Santa Monica
5:00 PM – Dinner and Evening in Venice Beach (or attend a sporting event if available)
Where to Stay in Los Angeles
Our adventure started by checking into the Hollywood Hotel, a luxury, boutique establishment in the heart of Tinseltown and an option that proved to be the perfect place to be based for a couple of days to explore the best of Los Angeles diverse neighborhoods.
Minutes from the Vermont/Santa Monica Metro station, the Hollywood Hotel not only checks the box for perfect location but also has an incredibly relaxing vibe that makes this ideal to relax after a long day exploring LA.
Perhaps finding a beach location either in Santa Monica or Venice Beach sounds like a more appealing choice but whether you opt for the coastal location or something further inland, Los Angeles is not short of options. Be prepared to pay a premium for the “ultimate” location but this is one reason why we found the Hollywood Hotel to be such a perfect choice given that it was relatively affordable in comparison to other options in the area.
Regardless of whether you choose to stay at the Hollywood Hotel or alternative accommodation in the area, it’s critical that you plan your itinerary in order to maximize your time.
Why not start your adventure in Los Angeles by exploring the Hollywood neighborhood and enjoying iconic landmarks such as the Walk of Fame and of course, the Hollywood Sign! Visitors to Hollywood tend to have a “love-hate” relationship with the neighborhood, primarily because many consider it to be fake but also because it’s such an iconic global hotspot that everyone feels they have to explore it at least once in their lifetime.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time and I think the key is to spend just a couple of hours exploring the best things to do in Hollywood before heading elsewhere to enjoy the rest of Los Angeles. You could easily spend the whole time trying to find your favorite star along the Walk of Fame but fortunately, many of your favorite stars are likely to be grouped together.
From Mel Gibson to George Clooney, from Ellen DeGeneres to Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can be sure that one of your favorite movie stars or musicians will be recognized in Hollywood. As long as they contributed the $30,000 sponsorship fee and made an appearance for the unveiling of the star, they are recognized alongside their fellow iconic ‘stars.’
Be prepared to get hounded by several different tour guides wanting to book you on their guided tour of the Hollywood area. It’s entirely your choice but in our opinion, a self-guided experience of Hollywood is not only a much cheaper option but equally enjoyable.
Don’t forget to walk over to the TCL Chinese Theatre to browse around all of the iconic hand/footprints while the Dolby Theatre is another iconic landmark given its role as being the home of the Academy Awards.
We opted to get off the Metro at Hollywood/Vine and then wander along Hollywood Boulevard to explore these iconic attractions. Once you are finished enjoying the best of the Hollywood neighborhood, hop back on the Metro to downtown LA!
Downtown Los Angeles
If you choose to head downtown Los Angeles, there are a few iconic spots that you cannot afford to miss. The Staples Center, for example, is the home to the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, LA Sparks and LA Kings and is undoubtedly one of the most iconic sporting venues throughout the world.
You won’t be surprised to see tourists from all corners of the globe grabbing a selfie with one of their favorite statues outside the Staples Center. The recent unveiling of Shaquille O’Neal becoming the fifth LA Lakers player to ever receive a statue puts him alongside the likes of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and for today’s generation, is certainly one of the fan favorite attractions outside Staples.
Take a step inside the Team LA Store to grab your favorite merchandise and visiting the Staples Center during the day is definitely the ideal time to browse the store. Perhaps you can stop by the box office and grab tickets to an event while you are in town…more on that experience later!
Ready for lunch after an action-packed morning? Head across the street to the LA Live Entertainment Complex and choose from a variety of global cuisine options. We opted for Yard House which offers an eclectic blend of options and offers you the chance to sample a selection from more than 100 taps of the best American craft beers.
After exploring the heart of urban Los Angeles, hop back on the LA Metro and take a short 45-minute journey to Santa Monica where you will be transported to a haven of coastal bliss and beauty.
Whether you are intrigued by the prospect of spending a couple of hours on the beach by the gorgeous Pacific Ocean or perhaps mingling in the open-air Santa Monica Pier, you can be sure that time will quickly get away from you as you experience this beautiful neighborhood.
I was surprised to find out that the Pier is actually 109 years old and features the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. With plenty of local restaurants, souvenir shops, and hangout spots, it’s understandable that this is a hugely popular attraction in Santa Monica for visitors and locals alike.
Although the Pier and beaches along the Santa Monica coastline are the iconic attractions, take some time to explore the downtown area which offers the Third Street Promenade, another open-air shopping experience and Santa Monica Place, an upscale eclectic blend of restaurants, bars, and high-end retail stores.
Live Sporting Events
Los Angeles may be renowned for Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the gorgeous beaches along the Pacific coastline but this city is also famous for being a haven for sporting events. From the iconic legends that have graced the court at the Staples Center in the purple and yellow of the LA Lakers to the best baseball players that have worn the LA Dodgers shirts, there is something for everyone that loves sports.
For those of you visiting Los Angeles during the “off-season” for basketball, don’t worry because you may have the opportunity to watch the WNBA’s LA Sparks team. The benefit of attending one of these games is that tickets are cheaper meaning you will get better seats and there is still plenty of action to enjoy.
If you love soccer, or football as we call it in Europe, why not head over to Carson to enjoy the LA Galaxy. You can take the LA Metro all the way from Hollywood as we did and take one of the free shuttles from a couple of different metro stations to the stadium.
LA and sport go hand in hand, so be sure to check the various sporting teams and you will likely find that one or more of them are playing during your visit. The tough decision will come when several of them are playing at the same time!
Looking for a unique experience while exploring Los Angeles? Head to the bohemian beach town of Venice, just a few miles south of Santa Monica. If you choose to visit Venice in the evening rather than attending a sporting event, you can hop on the local bus from Santa Monica to explore the best of this vibrant town.
Renowned as being the “Venice of America,” this upscale location is known for its popular boardwalk area and the iconic canals that you would normally associate with the original European counterpart. Breathtaking residences line the canals and visitors can enjoy the charming location while admiring the gorgeous houses.
The shopper’s paradise of Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a popular hotspot for visitors but perhaps a romantic evening at one of the local restaurants offering eclectic cuisine options from around the world will inspire you to visit.
Take a stroll along the coastline to admire the stunning sunset over the Pacific Ocean or enjoy meandering through the canals as you imagine a gondola or two winding its way through the Venetian waterways.
Spending only 24 hours in any city around the world and hoping to see the best things to do is an incredibly challenging prospect. Los Angeles is certainly no different but thanks to the awesome public transportation system, we think that this is one that you can enjoy some of the best attractions if you organize your itinerary effectively.
From the gorgeous coastal towns of Venice Beach and Santa Monica to the heart of the downtown metropolis, Los Angeles has a myriad of neighborhoods that you could easily spend 24 hours exploring on their own. But exploring all of these in only one day is an exciting experience you will quickly fall in love with.
The beauty of following an itinerary like this is that even if you are planning on spending multiple days in the LA area, you can head back to some of these spots later in your trip knowing that you have covered the best things to do and also to give you an idea as to why Los Angeles is such a popular city for visitors from across the globe.
Did I also mention that the original Disneyland can be found in the Los Angeles area? We will save that experience for another day!
What are your favorite things to do in Los Angeles or surrounding area?
Great post! Thanks for sharing!
Good itinerary if you have a short time in LA. Or especially if it’s your first visit. I was there recently and did quite the same there, too. #weekendwanderlust
As an Australian, spending one day in LA is something I do quite often. The planes to Oz all leave late at night which means you need to find something to do all day before heading to the airport. I love the idea of a $7 metro ticket.
I love the look of those beaches and Venice Beach is SO on my to-visit list 🙂
This is fascinating to me because my daughter lives in Los Angeles and I was born there and lived there during my childhood. I’m always interested in what someone from out of town will choose to do. You planned well! I had no idea there is a metro, as I’ve always had a car when I visit. Good to know! Santa Monica is one of my favorite places. The wide beach and boardwalk is perfect for biking. And a few blocks away is the Third Street Promenade — closed to traffic and full of fun buskers and street musicians. I’m so glad you enjoyed your time in LA!
Los Angeles looks so beautifully.
Love the pictures guys. Great guide