Spread the love

Let me share the details of my weekend in Los Angeles, USA. The city left me with mixed feelings… Everything I saw was the opposite of my initial expectations.

  • This post contains affiliate links from which I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you). For more info, please read my disclosure. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

A Perfect weekend in Los Angeles

After visiting LA several times, my mind has made up these tips and ideas for a weekend in Los Angeles. I hope they´ll help you to make your trip a hit right from the start!

One thing everyone says: LA is one of those love-at-first-sight or not-my-kind-of-place destinations. You either like it or you don´t – there´s no in-between here.

Yet I left The City of Angels quite perplexed! Let’s try to figure out what happened.

Reality vs. Expectations

Los Angeles was the first place I got to visit in the States and also a stopover city on my way to the magical Big Island of Hawaii. I was honestly really excited. At the end of the day, LA is definitely one of the top tourist destinations in the whole country. How could you possibly pass up the opportunity to visit it?

Also read: American Southern Gems – Savannah or Charleston?!

Besides, there´s no USA Bucket list without Los Angeles and New York. While the last one had impressed me (as well as The Bay City, San Francisco), Los Angeles did not live up to my initial expectations at first.

It´s not necessarily a bad thing, isn’t it?

It´s a part of this unique travel experience. You feel the energy of a place and it´s either hit or miss. Either you are disappointed or you become a part of its heartbeat.

The City of Angels was full of contrasts, surprising revealings, and epic disappointments. I felt like an emotional rollercoaster, switching feelings from complete astonishment to intense dislike.

How could so many different things happen in one single place?!

Also read: 7 Things I Loved in San Francisco

On one side, you have a homeless crisis, smog, insane traffic jams, poor public transportation system (not to mention that the top places LA is internationally known for – are simple tourist traps). On the other side – lots of interesting places to visit, tons of things to do and try, amazing weather, trendy restaurants, posh neighborhoods, the ocean… You can definitely find something for all kinds of tastes, choices, and preferences, but there’s no balance in Los Angeles whatsoever!

How to plan your visit

I’ve tried to put up the main travel tips and ideas in this post, as wise planning is essential for making the most of your Los Angeles itinerary. There are many things you should consider before traveling if you want to enjoy your weekend in LA to the fullest!

How to move around? – Basically, your main choice here is whether you decide to rent a car or not. Public traffic in LA … well, there is still a lot to improve there! Metro doesn’t have many stations, buses may eventually come late, and taxis are expensive. In general, it takes so long to get to your final destination. Having a car will definitely make it easier, but you’ll still be forced to deal with traffic jams and at times, expensive parking. You should seriously consider avoiding freeways during rush hours at any cost (6.00-9.00 a.m. / 4.00-7.00 p.m.).

Where to stay? – LA is basically made up of different neighborhoods. Choose your top-choice sights, restaurants, and shops first. Then go for a smart location to cover more of your top-choice places. On our first trip to LA, we opted for a hotel in Downtown LA, then we also stayed near LA Airport and Beverly Hills. But anyway, if your plan is to see all of the top sights – just be ready to move around a lot. 

Also read: Autumn in the Big Apple – New York Mood

What to do? LA is so huge that you can’t see it all in one weekend. Just to make sure we’re on the same page here. You won´t be able to cover all the suggestions and fit them in 2 days (it took me a few visits and I still haven’t checked all of the museums, for instance). But you can definitely handpick something you’re most excited about and make the most of your time in Los Angeles. Let’s say that a 4-day Los Angeles Itinerary would be the best choice for your first LA vacation. But if you have less than 4 days, that’s also fine – you’ll have an excuse to come back to The City of Angels.

Top things to do in Los Angeles

1. Architecture and Street Art / Downtown LA

Street view and skyscrapers at Downtown LA
Downtown LA during our weekend in Los Angeles

One of my favorite parts about traveling is walking as much as possible to explore a new place. This is how you get the real sense of how things are, the sights, the smells, and the sounds, right?!

While LA is all about the car culture, there’s one place you could actually walk around – Downtown LA.

There are so many cool buildings in Downtown LA. You should have a look at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad (book in advance if you want to visit), Moca, LA´s Broadway Theater District, Million Dollar Theater, and The Last Bookstore.

Also read: The Most Beautiful Cathedrals in Spain

Graffiti fans should keep their eyes open, as Downtown LA is also all about ever-changing colorful murals.

2. Outdoor activities

Views of the Hollywood sign weekend in Los Angeles
The famous Hollywood sign during the weekend in Los Angeles

If one thing won’t disappoint you in Los Angeles – it´s the weather. All you might have heard about LA´s perfect blue skies, giant palms, and sunny days is completely true. This makes Los Angeles a perfect outdoor destination! If you’re into active vacation, your weekend in LA should include bike, hike, beach stroll, or even surfing.

You can start with a Hollywood Hills hike or Griffith Park´s hikes: Bronson Canyon Trail and Ferndell Trail. But that´s just to name a few – avid hikers will find many options for all choices and preferences.

The most popular area for a bike ride is the Santa Monica Bike Path, which connects Santa Monica with Venice Beach.

3. Museums

If you’re not into hiking or outdoors, you can really focus on the cultural side of this weekend in Los Angeles and visit some of the most interesting museums: Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, The Broad, LACMA, La Brea Tarpits Museum, Peterson Automotive Museum, and more.

4. Food

If you’re into fancy restaurants, fine dining, world cuisines, and gastronomic inventions – LA also has a lot to offer here. Even if you’re vegan or vegetarian – you’ll be spoilt for choices.

Make sure to check the Grand Central Market (an open-air market operating since 1917) and grab an iconic burger at In´n-out. By the way, you might have heard about the ongoing debate regarding two famous American burgers: Shake Shack vs In-n-Out.  You really can’t leave the West Coast without making your stand here.

5. Universal Studios Hollywood

If you’re a Harry Potter fan and want to add some additional heart-racing to your weekend in Los Angeles – Universal Studios Hollywood is a great place to go. Unfortunately, I visited it before The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was opened. Although from my Orlando trip, I could say that so far, it´s been one of the coolest theme park experiences in my life. Plus, now I have kids – I feel we won’t escape The Universal on our next visit anyway.

6. Santa Monica Pier & Boutiques

Road, cars and palms in Santa Monica, Los Angeles
Santa Monica during our weekend in Los Angeles

The iconic Santa Monica Pier will be your ultimate dejavú experience. I feel like most of the movies set in Los Angeles definitely make this place one of their filming locations. Besides, Pacific Park, located on the world-famous Santa Monica Pier, is one of the best things to do in LA with kids. It is a great family place to enjoy some rides, midway games, and the first solar-powered Ferris wheel.

Also, check Third Street Promenade for some cool restaurants and trendy boutiques. And if you crave more shopping – head to The Santa Monica Place, a contemporary open-air mall.

Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles
Santa Monica Pier during our weekend in Los Angeles

I really liked the Santa Monica neighborhood: wish we had more time to explore the surroundings.

7. Malibu

 Malibu has one of the most beautiful coastal stretches in California. It´s also an epic place for watching sunsets. That´s the only place I was suggested by local friends that we didn’t get to visit at the end. Mostly due to the fact that we ended up wasting a whole day in the touristy LA (despite all the warnings).

Therefore, Malibu will be a first must-stop on my next visit to Los Angeles. If you decide to go – make sure you check Malibu Pier, Surfrider Beach, Point Dume Beach, El Matador State Beach, and Adamson House.

8. The Touristy LA: Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach

Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles
Me being a complete tourist during our weekend in Los Angeles

First and foremost, this is not something I´d recommend you to do. But at the same time, how can I ignore the top touristy places in Los Angeles, right?!

It is a common belief that one can’t visit LA without a stop at The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and Venice Beach. Especially the first-time visitors in The City of Angels! How can you resist those cliche places?!

I was warned against these tourist traps by some local friends, so we initially planned Malibu instead. But once in Los Angeles, the curiosity took over and we decided to check the touristy LA anyway.

Also read: An Italian Vacation – A Beautiful Nightmare in Liguria

In case you go, just know what you’re signing up for!

There’s nothing glamorous or celebrity about The Hollywood Walk of Fame: you won’t meet any stars there. It´s a typical tourist trap with lots of homeless people on the streets and occasional freaks trying to show off their talents.

Rodeo Drive is full of fancy cars, expensive shops, and tourists taking pictures of everything. It feels so fake( especially, as you drive around the other neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Then, to sum up, Venice Beach: is so bizarre. I’ve never seen so many weird people in one place embracing it.

We also stopped at Beverly Gardens Park for a photo with the famous “Beverly Hills” sign and visited Madame Tussauds Museum. At the end of the day, we didn’t have time for Malibu and headed to Marina del Rey for a short walk.

Palms in Los Angeles
Palms during my weekend in Los Angeles


I’m fully convinced that a day in Malibu would have provided me with a more laid-back experience, instead of traffic and crowds. But I’m not sure I could sleep at night if haven’t seen the touristy things in LA with my own eyes. Even though they ended up being an actual disappointment.

Another thing that shocked me was LA´s homeless crisis. This is something I was honestly not familiar with before visiting Los Angeles: it was all shockingly unexpected and heartbreaking.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, in 2019, approximately 50,000 to 60,000 people may be found homeless on any given night in Los Angeles County. Not that here, in Spain, things were perfect, with huge unemployment rates and recession, but according to INE ( National Institute of Statistics), there are around 23,000 homeless for the whole country.

After I got over my ruined first impression (generated by my own unrealistic expectations) I realized I´d love to travel back to Los Angeles again to explore more. Yes, the iconic movie places were not as epic in real life. But there were many other lesser-known spots I came across unexpectedly and genuinely liked.

Los Angeles is definitely a great city! And the best part – you could never feel bored during your visit! Architecture, street art, food, outdoors, sights, beaches – Los Angeles simply has in all.

Pin it

Pinterest image of Santa Monica beach in Los Angeles

For more travel tips check my Pinterest Board Los Angeles.

at lifestyle crossroads travel blog resources