Last Updated on June 3, 2021 by

Planning a weekend in Los Angeles? Here’s a detailed 3-Day Los Angeles itinerary from my friend Isabel who runs Bel around the World.

Los Angeles: sun-kissed beaches, laidback neighborhoods and fancy Tinseltown. The City of Angels is vibrant, diverse and multi-faceted. There’s the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, but there’s also the boho SoCal vibes and surfing scene of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. 

As the second largest city in the United States, Los Angeles promises much more than you’d expect. If this is the starting point of your California road trip, I recommend making the most of your time here and get to know it well. Here is my detailed Los Angeles itinerary for those who intend to spend a weekend in LA. I promise it’ll make you want to come back for more!

weekend in la - things to do this weekend in los angeles

Weekend in LA Itinerary

For those planning a weekend in LA, this Los Angeles itinerary will help you make the most of your 3 days in Los Angeles and see as much as possible. I’ve included the best things to do in LA, as well as ideas for day trips from Los Angeles, and the best places to eat and stay in Los Angeles. Check out this link if you’re visiting LA on a budget.

Click on the links below to skip to each section:

To help you plan your weekend in LA, I’ve included more details:

LA Itinerary Day 1: Explore Venice Beach & Santa Monica

Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of Los Angeles – just focus on different sections of the city each day and you’ll learn to love the appeal of LA. Start your weekend in LA in the Santa Monica area to get a feel for the laidback Californian coastal city. Santa Monica is one of the best beaches in California, with big surfs, golden sand and laidback vibes.

Hang Out at Venice Beach

Known for its bohemian spirit, Venice Beach is the best place to soak up the laidback SoCal vibes of Los Angeles. Free-spirited Venice Boardwalk is flanked by funky shops, street performers and colorful murals. There’s also a skate park and Muscle Beach outdoor gym where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out. Don’t forget to grab a photo of the hanging Venice sign.

California Road Trip: My 2-Week Itinerary

spend time at venice beach during your weekend in los angeles

Discover the Venice Canals

Leave the beach behind to wander around the Venice Canals, for a completely different side of the beachfront neighborhood. Take a stroll through these three canal-lined blocks and you’ll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle boarding bulldog.

venice canals - a surprise in this 3 day los angeles itinerary

Stroll along Abbott Kinney Boulevard

Take a trip to Abbott Kinney Boulevard, also known as “the coolest block in America”. The mile long road is lined with boutique shops, restaurants, and galleries. It stretches from Washington Boulevard to Main street and is home to one-of-kind local goods as well as internationally recognized brands.

Stop at Gjelina (one of Beyonce’s favorite places for eating in LA) for an early dinner. Book in advance as it stays busy. The food and drinks are great. The menu is centered around small dishes instead of huge meals.

venice beach cafe

Enjoy Santa Monica at Sunset

After you are done with the dinner, walk towards the beach of Santa Monica, a stark contrast to Venice Beach. Try to reach Santa Monica around sunset to see the beach awashed in gold. Santa Monica Beach is fringed by Palisades Park, with views over the Pacific Ocean. The Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian-only, open-air shopping area only two blocks from the beach. Here is where you’ll find the weekly farmers market and a variety of American brands.

santa monica at sunset - must do during your weekend in la

Have a Blast at Santa Monica Pier

Stroll over to the Santa Monica Pier, where you’ll find one of LA’s icon. The red and yellow Pacific Wheel is world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. On the pier, you’ll also find Pacific Park, an amusement park combined with plenty of restaurants, bars, and an entertaining arcade. 

Get a craft beer here and listen to some live local music to the sound of the nearby waves. From here, the views of Malibu and the South Bay are outstanding. There’s no better way to end the first day of your Los Angeles Itinerary.

Weekend in LA: My 3-Day Los Angeles Itinerary

Itinerary Day 2: Get to Know Hollywood

Hike up Hollywood Hills

Kick off your weekend in Los Angeles proper with a hike from Griffith Observatory. Griffith Observatory opens as early as 10 am on weekends and from midday on weekdays. The Hollywood Hills Hike will give you a close-up view of the famous Hollywood sign in addition to a bird’s eye view of downtown.

If you want to walk right up to the sign, the hike is about 3.3 miles and around 2 hours each way. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and keep an eye out for the rattlesnakes! You can also book hiking tours such as this Griffith Park and Hollywood Hike to explore the hills with a knowledgable local.

Weekend in San Francisco: The Perfect 3-Day Itinerary

weekend in los angeles

See the Hollywood Boulevard

Yes, Hollywood is tacky and touristy. But you can’t come to Los Angeles and not visit Hollywood?! There are quite a few attractions in Hollywood Boulevard, including the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theatre, and Paramount Studios

For a nice outdoor lunch, I recommend having a picnic at the Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor amphitheater and concert space. The massive arena is especially popular among locals in summer who gather here for boozy picnics on weekends.

hollywood boulevard

Wander around West Hollywood

In the afternoon, head to West Hollywood, one of LA’s poshest areas. This is where you’ll find the legendary Beverley Hills, Rodeo Drive and Sunset Strip which features the Chateau Marmont, a swanky celebrity hideaway. You will also find some of the most extravagant homes in Los Angeles located here. If you’re a Hollywood fan, perhaps you can even go on a Hollywood celebrity houses’ tour to see where your favorite stars live.

rodeo drive beverly hills los angeles

Eat at Mel’s Drive-In

Made famous by George Luca’s film American Graffiti, Mel’s Drive-In is one of the symbols of America. Anyone who has seen the 1973 film remembers the familiar neon sign at the gang’s favorite hangout spot buzzing in the background, blazing “Mels drive-in.” The American restaurant chain was founded in 1947 and continues to be a popular haunt. 

mel's drive in - must eat on a los angeles weekend itinerary

Observe the Stars from Griffith Observatory

That night, head back to Griffith Observatory for a night under the stars. The vista from this hilltop landmark is the best at night when Los Angeles twinkles below. Inside you’ll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, Tesla coil and planetarium show.

Give yourself plenty of time before the 10pm closing to gaze through the 12-inch refracting telescope on the roof, otherwise you can look through the far less crowded modern, reflecting telescope on the front lawn.

griffith observatory at night

Itinerary Day 3: Visit Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles never used to have the best reputation, but it has cleaned up in the past decade or so and transformed into an interesting area chocked full of museums.

Admire the Architecture of Walt Disney Concert Hall

Cruise along Grand Avenue and you can’t miss the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a twisted metallic explosion of Frank Gehry’s imagination. The concert hall is home to the LA Philharmonic. While you’ll need to buy a concert ticket to see the stunning auditorium, we think the exterior is just as exquisite.

walt disney concert hall - 3 days in los angeles

Try the Skyslide at OUE Skyspace LA

The brand new Skyslide is an all-glass slide attached to the side of a building, 1,000 feet above Downtown LA. As part of the U.S. Bank Tower’s exterior, the slide shuttles visitors from the 70th floor down to the 69th.

The slide isn’t as terrifying as you’d think—some squeals and expletives aside—mostly because it’s over and done with in fewer than five seconds. Swing by later in the day; sunset is particularly memorable from up here. Check availability here.

skyslide at OUE Los angeles travel blog

Stroll Along Miracle Mile

After the adrenaline rush, get your culture fix along Museum Row on Miracle Mile. This stretch of road is home to four major Los Angeles museums: L.A. County Museum of Art, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Craft and Folk Art Museum, and Petersen Automotive Museum

Petersen Automotive Museum spots the most eclectic architecture, featuring a wavy steel and aluminium facade designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. The L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA) has an impressive collection of contemporary art, including Chris Burden’s iconic entrance installation Urban Light, a piece made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around LA.

petersen automative museum los angeles

Grab Street Food in Downtown Los Angeles

In the evening, head to the Grand Central Market to grab some food from the hip food stands. Even if you’re not there for the food, it’s worth a trip; people from all corners of L.A. mix and mingle among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage.

The hip market is a great place to get cheap pupusas and carnitas tacos from funky eateries like Sticky Rice, Belcampo, Sari Sari, Horse Thief BBQ, Eggslut, and McConnell’s.

To end your weekend in LA with a blast, hit the trendy rooftop bars at The Standard Downtown LA and Ace Hotel for some sublime sunset views and sexy cocktails.

grand central market - great place for food on any los angeles weekend trip

Day Trips from Los Angeles

3 days in Los Angeles are surely not enough to explore all that LA has to offer. If you’re spending a long weekend in LA and have an extra day or two, I recommend taking a day trip from Los Angeles. There are lots of interesting sights within a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles. For those who are not driving, I have also suggested some day tours below.

Channel Islands

Just off the California Coast, the eight small Channel Islands are an archipelago of relaxing and romantic sandy beaches and dreamy views of the Pacific Ocean. To get there, take a train/car to Long Beach (1hr) then catch a high-speed ferry ride (1hr). If you don’t have a car, check out this Channel Islands day tour.

Most people head straight to Santa Catalina Island’s city of Avalon, a popular spot for its unique cultural history and gourmet California cuisine. We recommend driving to Isthmus Cove and take advantage of excellent hiking, incredible snorkeling, and relaxing safari boat tours. You’ll understand why it’s called “Galapagos of North America”.

Arizona Road Trip: My 2-Week Itinerary

day trips from los angeles - channel islands, santa catalina island

Palm Springs

Located on the western edge of the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs serves as a popular desert escape from Los Angeles (2-hour drive away). For those seeking adventure, ride up Mount San Jacinto on its aerial tramway or visit Painted Canyon for rock climbing. Check out my full list of things to do in Palm Springs. For those who don’t drive, book your Palm Springs day tour here!

palm springs - day trip from los angeles

Santa Barbara

At the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is an upscale getaway famed for its colonial red-tile roofs and white stucco downtown. The city also has some of the most inviting sandy beaches, including Refugio Beach, a popular place for kayaking. Santa Barbara also offers excellent local winery tours. We recommend combining your day trip to Santa Barbara with Solvang.

santa barbara for day trip from los angeles

San Diego

About a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles is sun-kissed San Diego, blessed with pristine stretches of white sand beaches. There are plenty of things to do in San Diego: go on a whale-watching boat tour, or spot rare birds at San Diego’s Mission Bay Park, the largest aquatic park in the US. Discover San Diego’s popular downtown and Gaslamp District by scooter for yourself or join a walking tour to learn about the city’s history and culture. 

visit san diego on a weekend trip to los angeles

How to Get to Los Angeles

The gateway to Los Angeles is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). There are several flights a day from nearby airports like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. 

Flying into Los Angeles from the US is really affordable. You can fly from New York to Los Angeles for as little as $250 return (6-hour direct flight). Flights from Miami to Los Angeles are slightly more expensive around US$300 return (5-hour flight).

Flying from Europe to Los Angeles is also affordable, especially from London. We took direct return flights from London to Los Angeles once for $400.

Search for Flights to Los Angeles 

lax airport

By Car

Driving is definitely the most convenient way of getting to Los Angeles, as compared to the Greyhound (bus) or Amtrak (train). Los Angeles is within driving distance from many major cities. Below is a timetable with the time it takes to drive here from other parts of US.

If you’re coming from outside the US and plan to do a road trip around California, then it’s wise to rent a car. I always book my car rental from Discover Cars as they offer the best prices and excellent customer service.

Distance Duration by Car Duration in Time
San Francisco 382 miles (614km) 5.5 hours
Las Vegas 270 miles (432km) 4 hours
San Diego 120 miles (194km) 2 hours
Palm Springs 107 miles (172km) 1.5 hours
Long Beach 29 miles (39km) 30 minutes

driving in los angeles

How to Get Around Los Angeles

By Car

If you don’t have your own car, I recommend hiring a car for your weekend in LA as the city is very spread out. You’ll also get to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of exploring at your own pace. Drivers with foreign licenses are allowed to drive. 

An economy rental car in Los Angeles average just $180 for a whole week, which is around $20 a day. The current price for gas in California is $3 per gallon, though this changes with time.

Check Car Rental Prices

carpark in santa monica los angeles

By Public Transport

Los Angeles doesn’t have the best public transport system. If you don’t drive, it is possible to use the metro network of buses and rail. Buy a TAP card to ride the Metro. It costs only $1 and you can reload it at any rail station. Buses, on the other hand, take cash fares and don’t provide back the change. Here are some details:

  • TAP adult one-way: $1.75 (with 2-hours of free transfers)
  • TAP day pass: $7
  • Bus one-ride: $1.75 (no transfers)

metro bus in los angeles - how to get around los angeles

Best Time to Visit Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a year-round destination, thanks to its sunshine and balmy weather. But in general, March to May (Spring) and September to November (Fall) are the best months for visiting LA. This is when the weather is the most pleasant, and it’s not too crowded. The average temperature in these months is around 70°F (or 21°C). 

Don’t forget to pack an umbrella when planning your trip in winter, as January and February still receive a little rainfall from time to time.  

best time to visit los angeles - hollywood sign

Where to Stay in Los Angeles

Budget: Ocean Park Hotel

Located close to the Santa Monica Pier, this budget hotel is simple but modern and clean. It’s definitely a great option for those looking for excellent location and low prices. It’s surrounded by restaurants and shops, and offers free parking. Check the latest rates.

Midrange: The Hotel Hollywood

Within walking distance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this Hollywood hotel features comfortable, spacious rooms. Famous former guests include Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Its location is also close to many attractions, including Universal Studios and the famous Hollywood Sign. Check the latest rates.

Luxury: Viceroy Santa Monica

If you’re looking to splurge on your weekend trip in LA, check out the Viceroy, one of the best hotels in LA. located along the Santa Monica beachfront, The slick and sexy rooms all feature a blue-and-white theme, with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. The hotel also has two outdoor pools and some comfy cabanas. Check the latest rates.

Luxury: Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel 

The 4-star beachfront retreat, Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, is located on the Pacific Ocean on one side and the sands of the legendary Muscle Beach on the other. The fantastic rooftop bar offers some of the most amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Check the rates.

Airport: Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport 

If you’re looking to stay overnight near the airport, Hyatt Regency is the best choice in terms of value. It offers free shuttle service to and from all the airport terminals. Check rates here.

california road trip - viceroy santa monica

Best Places to Eat in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is one of the best places to eat in America, thanks to its huge array of cuisine. You can find everything ranging from trendy food trucks to upscale Michelin-starred restaurants, authentic taco stands to gourmet dining on the beach. LA is home to some of the most talented chefs and restaurants in the world.

Here are some of our favorite places to eat at:

bbq meat in america - los angeles weekend

Planning Your Trip to Los Angeles

And that’s a wrap! Feel free to print out this Los Angeles itinerary and bring it with you on your weekend getaway! I have packed this itinerary with all the best things you can do in Los Angeles in 3 days, so get ready to have a blast.

Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions. Read more of my US articles to get idea for your next weekend trip:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to companies I use and trust. I get a small commission when you click on my links, at NO EXTRA COST TO YOU.

About the Author: Isabel Leong

Full-time travel blogger and digital nomad roaming the world at whim, Isabel draws energy from being outdoors. An explorer at heart, the world is her playground. She chronicles her travel adventures and budget tips on Bel Around The World.

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