Photo tour: Los Angeles in one day
LOS ANGELES — So maybe you're on a one-day layover, or just really pressed for time. Perhaps Disneyland is the main attraction and you only have morning, afternoon and evening to explore Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city.
So we'll skip downtown, museums, the Sunset Strip and Dodger Stadium or Staples Center. Let's see the highlights of Los Angeles – the beach, the ritzy hotels and shopping district of Beverly Hills, the stars and footprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and end at the Griffith Observatory for the best city views and a good shot at the Hollywood sign.
It's a long day, but it can be done. Check our photo tour for 55 highlights from the day, which begins at LAX in the morning and ends in the evening with sunset and skyline views.
• After landing at LAX, which is on the west side of town, we head 6 miles down the road to Venice Beach, for a stroll through the wild street scene that is Venice. Here you will see the iconic California beach, street performers, silly gift items like henna tattoos and your name written on rice, and wonderful, local art all over basically every building around. If you have time, head from the beach to the Venice Canals, which were created in 1906 by Venice's founder Abbott Kinney, who wanted to re-create Venice, Italy, in Southern California. Note: the area can be seedy, and has more crime than neighboring beach cities so be street-smart when you visit.
• Next up, 2.7 miles away is the tonier, cleaner Santa Monica Beach, which is highlighted by the pier and a fully functional amusement park, Pacific Park. Rides include a roller coaster, Ferris wheel and lots of games. From the pier, there are great views (on a clear day) of Malibu to the north and Venice to the south. Or just walk or rent a bike and enjoy the paved walkway, where you'll probably have to dodge electric scooters, which are all over Santa Monica. End your time here by getting to Wilshire Boulevard.
• Some 7 miles up the road, directly on Wilshire, will bring you to ritzy Beverly Hills. Here, the attractions are ultra-expensive stores on Rodeo Drive (treat the storefront windows like an art show) and historic hotels (the Beverly Wilshire, the Beverly Hills Hotel) which have served as locales in "Pretty Woman," "Argo" and countless other movies. A visit to the Polo Lounge for a drink is a lot less costly than the cheapest room, which starts at $463 nightly. Also check out the huge palm trees on Beverly Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard., which scream "California."
• From the Beverly Hills Hotel and Sunset Boulevard, go east 5.8 miles and you'll get to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We could tell you not to waste your time, as the area can be seedy, ultra-crowded and there's not much to see beyond cement stars of people you probably haven't heard of on the ground. But you'll go there anyway. Most of the action takes place around the TCL Chinese Theatre, where costumed performers, usually in superhero outfits, are ready to pose with you, in exchange for a tip. Posing with Spider-Man is probably as close to a star as you'll get on this trip. ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" tapes across the street at the El Capitan Theatre.
• From Sunset, head 4.5 miles east to the Griffith Observatory for the best city views and the closest you'll probably get to a selfie with the Hollywood sign behind you. The sign, the symbol of Los Angeles, is actually quite a ways away, up on Mount Lee, but the observatory has the best posing spot, with the only available parking on a seven-days-a-week basis. (You can get closer in residential neighborhoods, but there's no parking available Saturdays and Sundays.)
That said, parking can be challenging at the observatory as well, especially on weekends. The city recommends dropping the car down the road at the Greek Theatre lot and walking up the hill, or taking public transportation. (There is a parking lot at the observatory, no climbing required, that charges $6 an hour.)
At the observatory, showcased in the recent film "La La Land" as well as the 1956 classic "Rebel Without a Cause," it's all about the views. You can go inside for a space-and-stars show, or just marvel at the city lights and skyline of Los Angeles from 1,100 feet up. And if you're up for it, the observatory is the starting point for the Hollywood sign hike, which is either 2.8 miles away for a frontal view, or just under 4 miles (and uphill most of the way) to get behind the sign, for one killer Los Angeles view.
And that's our one-day tour. The skies are dark now, so it's a good time to roll back down the street and go to dinner, perhaps at a classic, vintage Hollywood establishment like Musso & Frank Grill, which is over 100 years old. You probably won't see stars there, but then you never know. Johnny Depp and the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards have been known to dine there.
Take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard
90210 in real life: Scenes from Beverly Hills
Photo tour: The wild street scene that is Venice Beach