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  • Writer's pictureYllara Maia

5-Day LA Itinerary: A Guide to Exploring the City of Angels

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

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Los Angeles is one of the United States' most sought-after vacation spots. From its renowned television and film industry to its many captivating sights, such as the iconic Hollywood sign and Malibu's stunning beaches, a visit to LA promises an unforgettable experience.

If you're headed to Los Angeles for your first time, be sure to make a list of all the must-dos, and don't miss out on any exciting sights. Plus, remember that it can take longer than expected when navigating around this large city - so plan ahead and allow yourself enough time to check off everything you want!

Four or five days in LA should be enough time to take in the city's most iconic attractions, depending on how much ground you want to cover. If your stay is shorter, it would be wise to organize activities according to their location - this will help ensure that no one spot gets overlooked!

Since this worked out quite well for me during my first visit, that is how the recommended activities in this post will be grouped. Also, keep in mind that five days is simply not enough time to see everything.

For that reason, we stuck to only the most well-known tourist spots that every first-time visitor to LA should experience. Now, let's get started on our 5- Day Los Angeles itinerary!

Day 1: Hollywood

Major Attractions: The Hollywood Sign, the Chinese Theater, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Griffith Observatory

I like to hit the ground running by starting with the most iconic tourist spot that a city has to offer. In this case, the Hollywood sign is typically number one on everyone's list.

Location: Hollywood Sign - restricted area

The Hollywood Sign

Getting close enough to touch it is not possible, since the area is closed and guarded. However, there are many different spots where you can go to take a photo with the sign in the background. Keep in mind that whichever spot you chose, there is a very high chance that you will have to do some hiking.

So, come prepared and wear some comfortable shoes. If you are staying in Hollywood or its surrounding areas, a short car ride can get you where you need to be. Ubers and Lyfts are widely available in the city, so you won't have a problem finding a ride!

The drivers will typically drop riders off at the edge of Ledgewood Drive and Mullholland Highway. From there, you can then walk up West Mulholland Highway until reaching a spot that your like. There are several areas along the path that will make a great background for your photos.

Whatever you do, don't attempt to visit the spot shown in the picture above. I was naïve enough to trust my boyfriend when he said it was allowed for us to go up there, and so I ventured up the hilltop without knowing it was off-limits.

Needless to say, we got yelled yet by security over the very loud megaphone. If you want the avoid the hassle of finding good spots on your own, you can always take a walking tour. The guides always know the best spots!

This activity can take up most of your morning and does require a bit of exercise. I recommend starting your day off with the Hollywood Sign and then coming back to Hollywood Boulevard for lunch. There are so many great places to eat around the area, and it's where you'll want to be for your next round of sightseeing!

Location: Hollywood Walk of Fame

TCL Chinese Theater and Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Boulevard is home to the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star-lined sidewalks run for three blocks on both sides of the street. This part of town is typically touristy, but there is also a lot to explore and do.

If you're into spooky things, you can even take a haunted pub-crawl on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If you walk along the main road, you will eventually pass the famous TCL Chinese Theater. Here, you can see the handprints and footprints of famous stars embedded on the concrete forecourt.

They also offer tours of the building, with guides who will walk you through the space and share its incredible history! This is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Los Angeles for the first time. It's a fun experience and totally worth the price of admission, which is about $15 per person.

Location: TCL Chinese Theater

At night, this area is super lively and there are lots of evening activities to choose from. The TCL Chinese Theater is also a working movie theater, and you can purchase tickets to a showing if you want to get the whole Hollywood movie experience.

If the idea of a night in front of the big screen fails to excite you, then hop in your car for a short drive to Griffith Park and explore the incredible Griffith Observatory. At times, you may find that one of its main roads is closed off due to high visitor numbers.

In the event of this happening, a shuttle bus will be available to take you up the hill. Remember - walking up that hill is not for everyone so don't feel bad about ditching the rest of the hikers. However, if you do decide to take it on, make sure that your itinerary includes enough time for getting up and down!

Griffith Observatory

I recommend visiting the observatory twice, once at night for the view - which is incredible - and during the day for the architecture. You can walk the grounds of the park at any day and time, but the inside of the observatory is only open Friday-Sunday.

Although the exhibitions and the planetarium at this location are available without charge, expect queues for access to the telescopes. The line for the telescope can be very long, so plan accordingly!

Day 2 - Hollywood Hills & Burbank

Main Attractions: Universal Studios & Warner Brothers Studios

Los Angeles has something that no other city in the US has: countless studios and movie sets! If you've never been to LA before, make sure you add a visit to one of these iconic locations to your list. It's an experience like no other.

On the second day, kick off your morning with a studio tour or choose to spend the entire day at Universal Studios - one of the theme parks available in the area. All of these locations are conveniently located within close range in Burbank, just north of Hollywood Hills.

If you are a fan of either Harry Potter, Friends, or the DC comics, you should visit the Warner Brothers Studios. The first guided tour of the day starts at 9:30 AM and lasts for about an hour.

During the tour, a guide will take you through the backlots of the studio, which is an unforgettable experience if you love movies and TV. When you reach the building where they have the set of Friends and the Big Bang Theory, they give you a little freedom to explore of your own.

I spent my free time in the most famous of all coffee shops - Central Perk. Getting to be in the original set of Friends was the highlight of this trip for me.

Location: Warner Brother's Studios - Friends Set

At this location, you can rest, eat, and take photos. Altogether, the entire tour can last for about 4 hours and take up the majority of the morning and into the afternoon. This is rated as the best studio tour in Los Angeles, but if you want to check out something different, several other studios also offer guided tours such as Paramount Pictures, Sony, and Universal Studios.

In addition to housing backlots used in several hit productions, Universal Studios Hollywood is also an amusement park. Similar to the one located in Florida, the park has numerous rides and attractions that can take up your entire day. This is a great activity for families visiting Los Angeles for a few days.

The general admission ticket will give you access to the theme park and the studio tour, which you can reach from inside the park itself. Walking around Universal Studios Hollywood can be tiring, so you may want to spend the entire day here instead of studio hopping - especially if you have kids.

If you are determined, however, it is possible to do a Warner Brothers Studios tour and the Universal Studios tour on the same day. I recommend doing the Warner Brothers tour early in the morning, having lunch, and then spending the rest of the day at Universal Studios.

It won't be a relaxing second day, but it will surely be a fun one!

Location: Santa Monica Pier

Day 3 - Santa Monica

Main Attractions: Santa Monica Pier, Route 66 End Trail Sign, Muscle Beach, Venice Beach, Third Street Promenade

Santa Monica, much to my surprise and probably everyone else’s, isn’t actually in Los Angeles. It's an independent city that borders LA. I guess if you're from outside of California, you're probably as confused as I was.

The other thing that came as a shock to me was how long it took to get from West Hollywood to Santa Monica Beach. Although it may look close on the map, don't let that fool you.

If you are staying in the Hollywood area, it will probably take around 40 minutes to drive to Santa Monica. This can be a bit costly during peak hours if you take an Uber or Lyft - LA traffic is something else.

Although public transportation was always an option, since I lacked knowledge of the areas where the buses and trains stopped, I made a decision to take Lyft for safety reasons.

Location: underneath Santa Monica Pier

Endless possibilities await you in Santa Monica - whether you like to plan your day or take life as it comes. Feel the salty Pacific Ocean breeze and let it guide your next steps!

If getting a photo on the Santa Monica Pier is at the top of your to-do list, head there early before the crowds start to show up. Walking along the pier is free and the view of the ocean is worth the trip.

The famous Route 66 End of the Trail Sign is also located at the famous Santa Monica Pier, which stands on a public beach. Santa Monica Beach is packed with activities. You can swim, rent equipment for water sports, and walk or bike along the boardwalk.

If you're not much of a walker, there are places where you can rent a bike for the whole day. When it's time for lunch, you can eat at the pier, but there are many other food options to choose from along Ocean Avenue.

Third Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica, which is filled with food shops and stores, is another area that you can't miss. This outdoor mall is a perfect spot to grab a bite and do some shopping at common retail outlets.

When it comes to Santa Monica, you won’t run out of activities to choose from - which is why paying a visit to this neighboring city is crucial for a perfect Los Angeles itinerary.

If you enjoy walking and want to explore, you can head east of the pier and keep walking until you reach the famous Muscle Beach in Venice. Venice Beach boardwalk is also a great spot to grab some lunch and has a more lively scene with great music and street performers.

Keep in mind that all of the spots previously mentioned are not right next to each other. Walking from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach can take about 36 minutes. In terms of getting to and from each location, I found that walking was the best way to really take it all in. However, there are plenty of Ubers and Lyfts available in the area.

Day 4 - Beverly Hills & Malibu

Main Attractions: Rodeo Drive, Beverly Gardens Park, El Matador State Beach

Beverly Hills is notorious for its glamorous homes, luxury shopping, and celebrity residents. Once you step into all of the opulence, you can definitely notice the drastic difference between Beverly Hills and some of its surrounding neighborhoods.

The area is extremely clean and well-kept compared to other areas of Los Angeles. It's intimidating and exciting at the same time! When visiting this part of LA, make sure to pay a visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art . Even if you're not into museums, you'll want to take photos at this one!

Location: Rodeo Drive

When you visit Los Angeles, don't forget to check out this area and its luxury shopping scene. Rodeo Drive is well-known all over the world for being home to numerous high-end stores like Louis Vuitton, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.

Depending on your will and your wallet, you can spend the entire day shopping in this part of the city. When you’re ready to take a break, you can stroll around Beverly Gardens Park and take a photo with the famous Beverly Hills sign. Several tour companies also offer celebrity sightseeing tours around the area.

The tours will take you around nearby residential areas in a double-decker bus, in hopes of catching a glimpse of a star. If this is not your scene, opt to skip this one and just walk around the palm-lined streets instead - it'll be worth it!

In the afternoon, head over to El Matador beach in Malibu to watch the sunset. This is an experience you can't miss when visiting LA - you won't regret it! If you have access to your own vehicle, take in the scenery as you drive through the Pacific Coast Highway, past Malibu’s most iconic coastline and landmarks.

If you do bring a car, access to El Matador Beach will be through a paid parking lot. Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards or other facilities at this beach, but the views and the sunset are definitely worth the trip.

If you chose to stay until later in the evening, grab a bite to eat on the Malibu Pier. This location is far less crowded than the Santa Monica pier, and they offer a selection of boutiques shops, restaurants, and a much better view.

Day 5 - Downtown LA

Main Attractions: Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Bradbury Building, Union Station

Although downtown Los Angeles may get a bad rep, it has several iconic sights to see. Just a heads up before you go, some areas in downtown LA may not feel very safe.

Unfortunately, the city has a growing population of homeless, and a large part of the community is in this region of Los Angeles. I would not recommend this area for families with smaller children. However, if you are interested in visiting any of these attractions, it's best to take a Lyft to and from each location.

If you’re an architecture fanatic, there are several points of interest here for you. The Walt Disney Concert Hall, with its wacky exterior, is a must-see in downtown LA.

Location: Inside the Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building is another iconic spot worth checking out. From the outside, it looks like a regular old space. The inside of the building, which is currently used as office space, is lined with ornate ironwork surrounding its stairways and walkways.

Before you come all the way downtown to visit this landmark, double-check to make sure that the building is open to the public on that day. When I visited, I didn't check beforehand and it turned out to be closed.

Last but not least, the Union Station is a must-see spot for movie fanatics. Several hit movies have been filmed in this location, such as The Dark Night Rises, Catch Me if You Can, and Blade Runner. Not only is this an iconic landmark, but it is also Los Angeles' main railway station.

If you want to visit all these locations but are scared of going alone, consider doing a guided tour of LA. That way, you'll have a professional guide who will know what areas to avoid, and there's safety in numbers. Here are some highly recommended tours online:

  • Downtown Food Tour

  • LA Highlights Tour

  • Downtown Historic Highlights Tour

Overall, this 5 day Los Angeles itinerary is packed with fun for any traveler wanting to explore LA. Whether you're after adventure, unique shopping, culture, or delicious food there's something for everyone in the city of angels.

As you can see from the list there's a plethora of different things to do during your stay and this selection only scratches the surface. Don't forget to leave any suggestions for more fun things to do in LA that didn’t make it onto the list – we love hearing from our readers! Above all enjoy yourself; do as much or as little as you want and thanks for reading – travel safe.


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