There is SO much to do in Los Angeles, you can probably stay for two weeks and never get bored. COVID times are a bit different though since so many places are closed, so a little less than a week is sufficient. The best thing about this city in my opinion is the food and the laid back vibe. Check out my long list of recommendations of what to do and what to eat while in LA.
Things to do in LA
Los Angeles is one of the best foodie cities in the country, so make sure you check out my LA Eats blog post and be ready to eat some seriously good food.
Venice Beach is full of character. You can walk along a long path with shops and quick eats on one side and street vendors and performers on the other. There's plenty to see and do, so make sure to explore, pass by the skateboard park, and make your way down to muscle beach for some more people watching.
Probably the most iconic luxury shopping street in LA, Rodeo Dr. Is worth the visit, or at least a drive through. I wouldn’t recommend shopping here if you have a budget, but it is still fun to explore and people watch. My favorite part however is driving past Rodeo Dr. and weaving through the incredible Beverly Hills neighborhoods. If you love architecture and home design, you don’t want to miss driving through and appreciating the beautiful $7M - $30M homes and mansions.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
This tourist hot spot is best to visit during the day if you plan on getting out of your car. The famous stars on the sidewalk go down a long way, so expect to spend a good amount of time here if you are into that sort of thing. You should also swing by the famous Chinese theater.
This modern art museum has some pretty cool exhibits. This is a pretty popular destination, so get there early or try to book a slot online. You can also get a student discount, so don’t forget your ID!
Beaches! El Matador Beach, Manhattan Beach, Zuma Beach, Santa Monica Beach & Santa Monica Pier
Don’t feel too bad if you aren’t able to go to any San Diego beaches, because LA has some great options! Our favorite from the three listed above was El Matador State Beach. It is the most scenic and isn’t in direct view of any shops or restaurants. There are two long set of stairs that you will need to walk down, but it is worth it!
Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica beach are great for people watching, even if you don’t plan on swimming. Zuma Beach is a 3-mile-long beach-line that is very popular, so if you aren’t a fan of crowds, avoid it during the summer or other peak days.
The Grove is a family friendly outdoor shopping area. There is a beautiful fountain with plenty of outdoor dining restaurants, so expect a lot of traffic around dinner time.
Lake Hollywood Park
This is my favorite spot to view the Hollywood sign. It's a drive up through lots of twisty roads, but it is worth it once you get to the top. The small park is perfectly manicured and is perfect for a picnic where you have the perfect view of the Hollywood sign. There is also a small playground if you have kiddos.
Santa Monica Farmers Market
This farmer’s market is so nice to walk through. They mostly sell produce, but it is nice to see a classic local market. Check their website for their most up-to-date calendar. The market is in the middle of a busy shopping area, so you can continue your stroll through there and walk towards the beach.
The Getty Center is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. Even if you don’t plan on going into the Museum, it is worth visiting the grounds for the views.
The Griffith Observatory is magical during sunset, so make sure you get there at least 30 minutes ahead so that you don’t struggle finding a spot in the limited parking lot. Even if you don’t plan on going inside, the views are worth the visit. You will see incredible views of the whole city, including the Hollywood sign.
Universal Studio Tour
Besides Universal Studios theme park, the Universal Studio Tour is definitely something you want to consider. I’ve tried taking the tour but unfortunately was too late to book - so make sure you make reservations early. I wasn’t so lucky the second time either since I visited LA during COVID and the tours were closed.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Even if you don’t plan on booking show tickets, this beautifully designed building is worth visiting from the outside.
What to Eat in Los Angeles
This place is not overhyped - it is very much worth it. I got two sliders with a side of mac-n-cheese. The “sliders” were larger than expected. If you have a long list of spots to eat at while in LA, Dave’s Hot Chicken’s slider is perfect for a “snack” haha.
I am not exaggerating when I say that this is probably one of the best bakeries I’ve been to in my life. The shops themselves are not glamorous and the outdoor seating doesn’t feel like you are at a cute French patisserie, HOWEVER, everything I put into my mouth was freaking delicious. We went here twice because it was THAT good. My favorites were the cheese rolls, empanadas (chicken, spinach feta, and pineapple), potato balls (all flavors) and their Duce De Leche and Chocolate Hazelnut Besto Cookies. Classics like their chocolate chip cookies and chocolate croissants were also super delicious. I’m also not a fan of smoothies, but my husband ordered the mango passion fruit smoothie with coconut milk and it was probably the best smoothie i've ever had in my life. I need to go back and try their sandwiches someday, because I heard they are incredible. They also apparently ship nationwide, so I may have to try that.
I’m boring when it comes to ice cream flavors, so I wasn’t that excited about the Middle Eastern flavored ice creams in this shop. The one flavor I was excited to try (dates) was not available. My husband ended up ordering the orange blossom, saffron pistachio, and rose cranberry. He absolutely loved them and thought it was refreshing (thus why I am listing this on the blog), but if you are like me and would rather keep rose water in your classic Middle Eastern desserts like baklava and kunafa, then this spot is not for you.
I saw an episode of Chef on Netflix featuring Pizzana and immediately added it to my list. I knew there was a risk that this spot may be overhyped, but decided to go there anyway. Dine-in was closed because of covid, so we got a takeout order and ate it on the trunk of our car rental. THIS PLACE IS DELICIOUS! We got the short rib and neo-margarita pizzas - both were incredible. I was also craving a salad, so I got the leafy salad with pistachios and apple and loved it too. I’d come here again for the dine-in experience.
Teddy’s Tacos are famous for a reason - they are delicious! We got the sampler which had one of each of their tacos. My favorites were the tostada and quesadilla taco with cheese.
Everything we had at Bestia was absolutely delicious. My husband has never been a big fan of gnocchi, but Bestia converted him, so make sure you order that! We also really enjoyed the Thai crab pasta and the unique bone marrow served over fresh pasta. We had 9:30pm reservations so unfortunately the slow roasted lamb neck (which we were really looking forward to) was sold out. We ended up getting the whole fish instead which was delicious. Definitely make early reservations.
We ordered one of each taco that didn't have pork. They were all delicious in those warm flour tacos. But the real show stopper for me was the queso and warm chips. We even dipped the tacos into the queso - best fresh queso i've ever had and the closest to the jarred Tostitos stuff that is probably loaded with chemicals and preservatives - haha. We took the leftover queso home - it was just as delicious after being microwaved.
Pasta Sisters in Culver City $$
We really wanted to try Pasta Sisters after watching the Worth It episode on pastas. The owners opened a new dine-in location in Culver City which has really nice outdoor seating. The pastas are all made fresh and they definitely cook it the classic Italian way- el dente, so they all have a bite to them. My absolute favorite was the tagliatelle pasta with the creamy mushroom sauce. If you don’t eat pork, you are in luck! Their meat sauce is all beef and absolutely delicious. We also absolutely loved the butter lettuce salad with toasted almonds.
This food truck’s name is spot on. We had the chicken and steak quesadilla. It was absolutely amazing and was not greasy. I can’t wait to recreate this at home. Make sure you check their instagram account to see where the truck will be parked each day.
Although I’m not vegan, I knew I wanted to try a vegan spot since California has some of the best vegan restaurants in the country. I’m glad we went with Gracias Madre because everything was absolutely amazing. My favorite were the nachos which had soy chorizo. The chorizo was so good, I would have never known it wasn't meat if no one told me. The fried potato rolls and avocado toast were also absolutely delicious.
Blu Jam Cafe $$
Blu Jam Cafe has multiple locations and is very popular, so don’t be surprised to find long lines outside. The menu had so many good options to choose from, but we went with the loaded chicken nachos and their famous crispy french toast with vanilla icing. Both were delicious, but I must admit the crispy french toast at Norma’s in New York City stills beats it.
Republique is probably my favorite breakfast spot in LA so far. Their bakery sweet and savory options are absolutely incredible. I keep coming back for a slice of one of my favorite cakes ever - their tres leches cake with fruit and dulce de leche and pistachios - IT IS AMAZING. I also love their mushroom tartine, chicken and waffles, and spicy kimchi rice with melt-in-your mouth short ribs. The pastries are also amazing. I tried about a dozen and I loved them all. This place is popular, so try going early and get in line - it is worth it.
Grand Central Food Market $$
Grand Central Food Market in downtown LA is a great spot to try a bunch of food. My favorites are the fried chicken sandwiches from Lucky Bird Chicken, the chicken curry with rice from Thai Sticky Rice, and the famous Eggslut.
Not only does this place have incredible soft serve, but their ice cream pies are INCREDIBLE. We ended up picking a vegan option that had a lotus cookie crust and a coffee whipped and it was one of the best ice cream treats we've had - and I would have NEVER guessed it is vegan.
There were SO many places I had saved on my LA Yelp List to try but there was just not enough capacity in my stomach. Comment below if you've tried any of the ones I have not tried.