Los Angeles, one of the coolest cities in America, boasts world-famous movie studios, celebrity homes, long sandy beaches – perfect for anyone looking for variety in a destination. Plus, a vast choice of eateries from affordable food trucks to the finest Michelin starred restaurants.
LA is a sprawling metropolis. You can’t explore the whole city on foot. You can join a private or group tour, but you are able to head further afield if you rent a car and explore the city on your own.
Ready to explore LA’s sights, beaches, neighborhoods, and flavors? Here’s a Los Angeles travel guide for first-timers.
What to see and do
OUE Skyspace in Downtown
First, go to OUE Skyspace, LA’s tallest open-air observation deck located in the U.S. Bank Tower for 360-degree views of LA. The highlight of OUE Skyspace is the 45-foot long, four-foot wide Skyline. Visitors can glide in the glass slide from the 70th floor to the 69th floor while viewing the magnificent LA skyline.
Skyspace is open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm.
Join a tour of Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills
Hollywood needs no introduction. It is synonymous to fame and the American film industry. Take a walk on the iconic Walk of Fame – 15 blocks of Hollywood Blvd and three blocks of Vine Street embedded with over 2,500 terrazzo and brass stars. Check out the Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre (Home of the Academy Awards), El Capitan Theatre, the Palladium (a National Register of Historic Places) and Hollywood & Highland Shopping, Dining and Entertainment Center.
Most tour companies offer tours that include a drive through Sunset Strip and Melrose District in West Hollywood (WeHo). If you have time, check out the bookstores, shops and art galleries in Sunset Strip. It’s the center of LA’s gay community. If high-end shopping is not your thing, go people watching and window shopping on Rodeo Street in Beverly Hills. Of course, you must check out the Beverly Wilshire Hotel when you’re there. For a full experience, have afternoon tea or a drink at the hotel’s Lobby Bar.
A guided tour will take you to the exclusive mansions belonging to stars and billionaires on the hills of Beverly Hills. Drive by celebrity homes. You’ll hear names like Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, and Bruno Mars.
Relax at one of the beaches
LA makes a fun destination because of its beaches from Malibu to San Pedro, the southern point of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Tourists have so many options to enjoy the endless summer in one of the Southern California beaches.
Have you heard of the song “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys? The singers were referring to Manhattan Beach. Manhattan Beach is laid-back and is a great spot to watch the sunset, surf, bike, run or rollerblade. For a carnival-like vibe, go to Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Pier features a ferries wheel, a few small roller coaster rides and plenty of dining options.
Malibu offers a 21-mile long pristine coastline, perfect for those looking for a beach for surfing, sun-bathing and beautiful sunsets. Many Hollywood stars and celebrities live in Malibu, and you may have a chance to dine with the stars in restaurants like Nobu Malibu and Mastro’s Ocean Club.
If you like boating, parks, beaches, great seafood and visiting the aquarium, go to San Pedro. Home to Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro is also home to the Battleship USS IOWA where you can take a self-guided tour of this US Navy Battleship.
Grand tour of Los Angeles
If you don’t like a self-guided tour or don’t have time to cover all the must-see places in Los Angeles, we suggest taking the full day tour that includes stops at Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory, Walk of Fame and the Original Farmer’s Market. A stop at Griffith Observatory will allow you time to explore the Space and Science exhibits in Griffith Observatory, photograph the Hollywood sign and enjoy views of Downtown LA.
Where to stay
In Downtown LA stay at the JW Marriott LA Live or the Ace Hotel Los Angeles. Ace Hotel in historical downtown LA is the former United Artists building where you still see the original 1,600-seat theater. JW Marriott LA Live is ideal for those going to the LA Convention Center or STAPLES Center.
Kimpton Hotel Wilshire located in the Miracle Mile if you like to be in Beverly Hills area.
Walk of Fame Hostel for an affordable to stay in Hollywood.
Stay at the Santa Monica Beach & Pier Apartments *26 if you like an apartment within walking distance to the beach, shops, and restaurants.
Where to eat
Grand Central Market
The Grand central Market is the place to go for Salvadorian pupusas (Sarita’s Pupuseria), the best egg sandwich (Eggslut) and orange juice and Mexican food (Tacos Tumbras a Tomas).
The Original Farmers Market
This open-air market has dozens of food stalls and specialty shops. Try Texas-style barbecue dishes at Bryan’s Pit Barbecue, Cajun food at The Gumbo Pot or breakfast food at Charlie’s Coffee Shop.
Rock’N Fish Restaurant
For creative cocktails and amazing seafood dishes, go to Rock N Fish Restaurant at LA Live Downtown LA, near STAPLES Center and LA Convention Center.
When in Brentwood, LA’s most affluent neighborhood, go to Pizzana, a pizzeria by Naples native Daniele Uditi. Candace Nelson, the founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, is the co-owner of Pizzana.
We suggest joining a food tour to learn about LA’s food culture and the different ethnic foods in different neighborhoods. Avital Food Tours offers a Koreatown food tour, Downtown food tour, Taco tour, Venice Beach tour and Hollywood Cocktail tour.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the third busiest airport in the US and seventh in the world. According to Los Angeles Tourism Board, LAX serves 742 daily nonstop flights to 101 US cities and 1,274 weekly nonstop flights to 76 cities in 41 countries.