2 Days in Los Angeles – Itinerary
I have shown Los Angeles to dozens of friends when they visit. Many of them have only two days in Los Angeles. Here is how I organize their visit to help them figure out what to do in Los Angeles in 2 days. Is two days in Los Angeles enough – it can be if you organize.
How to spend two days in Los Angeles
First, I make sure they want to see all of the A list for Los Angeles
- Beverly Hills
- The Beach
- Movie Studio Tour
- The Getty Museum
Then I ask which of the other things to do are must see in Los Angeles for them
- Sunset Boulevard
- La Brea Tar Pits
- Santa Monica – Pier and Promenade
- Griffith Park and Observatory
- Universal Studios
- Queen Mary
- Venice Canals and Beach
I could have added another 50 items to this list. But these are the ones I give the most value to for visitors to answer what to do in 2 days in Los Angeles.
Sample 2 day itinerary for Los Angeles
Movie studio tours – I like to start 2 days in LA, with a big must do. There are still two public tours of Hollywood movie studios, Paramount Studios and Warner Bros. Studio. I like them both. Paramount is smaller, but it is right in Hollywood. Warner Bros. is over the hill from Hollywood – between Universal Studios and Disney Studios (still only 30 minutes from hollywood). The movie studio tour will eat up 3 hours of your precious time, but if you have never been to a real movie studio this is a must do in LA (no, Universal Studios is a real theme park -and it is great for what it is – and if you go there and do the movie ride, it is still good too. But for a focused movie making experience, I recommend Paramount or Warner Bros.) It is really important to get advance tickets for the movie studio tours, just showing up is very unlikely to work (it will at Universal, if you can’t get in the other two.).
Hollywood – After your studio tour, head over to Hollywood Boulevard. Park your car near the Chinese Theater as you will want to see all the movie star handprints in the cement outside the theater entrance. Checking out the Hollywood sidewalk stars is another fun thing to do. Yes, it is a tourist thing, but you are a 2 day tourist in Los Angeles. So do it. And there is a Mel’s Drive In for a quick lunch if you are hungry. Some of my friends like to wander around Hollywood a bit, but for a two day visit to LA, I recommend we move on.
La Brea Tar Pits – Our next stop is a fancianting park and museum. Wilshire Boulevard is the longest and most important commercial street in Los Angeles. And midway between downtown and the ocean is a 20 acre tar pit where oil oozes out of the ground and forms a large pool (or pond) of tar. It has been doing this for tens of thousands of years. Over that time many animals (and a couple of humans have been caught in the tar. The La Brea Museum is very cool, and has a large collection of Saber-tooth tiger skulls and Wooly Mammoth tusks.
If you have time, across the street from the tar pits is the Original Los Angeles Farmers Market. A fun quick stop.
At this point I have two suggestions based on where you are staying.
Olvera Street – Downtown Los Angeles – If you are staying close to downtown, I suggest you head that way. Enjoy Olvera Street. Then have dinner downtown and catch one of the many live shows performing in one of the theaters. With so many actors and actresses living in Los Angeles, there is always a quality performance going on. If you prepare in advance, tickets to the Hollywood Bowl is a wonderful treat.
Venice Beach – If you are staying on the west side, closer to the ocean, I recommend heading out to Venice. It is fun to see the canals, the beach boardwalk and Venice Muscle Beach area. For dinner there are the small cool places along Abbot Kinney Boulevard – You are also close to Marina del Rey. You could have dinner there. It is a very large marina with about 5,000 boats parked in it.
If you are night owls, going to one of the dozens of rooftop bars on a warm summer evening can be great – or clubbing on Sunset Boulevard (with only two days to enjoy Los Angeles, it is ok to overdo it.
Beverly Hills – I like to start with breakfast/brunch in Beverly Hills. You can do one of the hotels; Beverly Wilshire (of Pretty Woman fame) or the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel (bring your wallet) or for locals, try affordable Nate’n Al Deli. Afterward, head to Rodeo Drive so you can walk the boutiques. Go inside at your own risk.
After that, I usually drive my friends around the streets of Beverly Hills. I am still surprised at the number of large homes lining the streets. And as you head north of Sunset Boulevard, the house just get bigger and bigger. You can use a star finder app if you are a celebrity follower.
Sunset Boulevard – To see the billboards you need to head east from Beverly Hills. Spot the clubs; the Roxy, the Whisky A Go Go, Viper Room and more. When you have seen enough, make a U-turn and head west.
Bel-Air and UCLA – You will go by Holmby Hills and Bel-Air (detour in to see the Playboy Mansion). If you are not tired of mansion envy, I recommend both. Elon Musk, spent $100 million to buy all of the neighboring houses to his in Bel0Air, so you get the type of people who you might hit driving around, so drive carel…. Next is the UCLA Campus. It is a big sprawly campus which you can venture through if you have interest.
The Getty Center – This is a spectacular art collection. But what I find just as interesting is the museum buildings and grounds. To get there, just stay on Sunset Boulevard and when you get to the 405 freeway, you are near the entrance (just use your gps here as it is easy to miss the signs). After the Getty, head towards the ocean and Santa Monica.
Santa Monica – There are three things to do in Santa Monica to pick from; the Third Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier and the beach. I like all three, but if my visitor is not used to Pacific Ocean beach fun I try to include that. There is beach boardwalk with the assortment of walkers, runners and rollerbladers (and yes, Bay Watch was headquartered here). The pier is an old-fashioned amusement park, especially fun with kids.
Malibu Beach – This is my personal favorite. From Santa Monica you drive up famous Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) past Topanga Canyon where the road now heads straight west. This where the beach houses cling to the edge of the sand between the highway and the ocean. The best place to experience Maibu is to park at Surfrider Beach. This is where the Malibu Pier is located. It is also where surfing was introduced to California by people who learned to surf in Hawaii. Surfrider Beach has three separate breakpoints which allow for close to shore surfing, making it fun to watch.
I always walk on Malibu Beach if I have time. Walking west (on the sand) from Surfrider Beach will immediately put you on Colony Beach (short for the original name, Malibu Movie Colony, because it was the first beach Hollywood stars would stay at). It is still dotted with celebrities. Ignore the fence and no trespassing sign. California’s beaches are public property up to the mean high-tide line. So you can walk at the water’s edge. If you decide to head east, you will be going to Carbon Beach, which is now nicknamed Billionaire’s Beach, due to the current owners of the larger homes.
Dinner: I recommend staying in Malibu. My favorite is Nobu on Carbon Beach. Can be an awesome sunset. I also recommend Tra di Noi, orTtony’s Tavern in the small casual shopping area across the street from Surfrider Beach.
Spending time in Malibu is a great way to end two days in Los Angeles.
2 days in Los Angeles with kids
If you travel with your children here are the best places to focus on that kids seem to like:
From the above list
- The Beach
- Movie Studio Tour
- Santa Monica Pier
Depending on the age of the children these often replace other things – if you have two days in Los Angeles, one of these will replace most if not all of one the the days – and if you have never been there, they are great.
- Universal Studios
- Knott’s Berry Farm