Los Angeles had been at the top of my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember so for my birthday, Rick and I spent 4 days in LA and we had the absolute best time! There is SO much to see and do in and around Los Angeles. We packed a ton into our 4 days in LA and we still didn’t get to see all that the City of Angels has to offer.
If you’re planning a trip to Los Angeles, this post has got you covered. From the beaches to the Hollywood Hills, I’m outlining where we stayed, how we got around + I’m highlighting our favorite things we did in our 4 days in LA!
When traveling, we sometimes like to fly into a city late in the evening to avoid the first day of our trip feeling like a stressful, jet-lagged blur. This trip, we flew into LAX late and stayed at the Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel for the first night. Hotels near the airport are typically cheaper and usually provide free transportation to and from the airport for guests.
Flying into town late can save a day of car rental costs and [hotel] parking fees. If you hit the hay as soon as you land, you may avoid any jet lag if the time difference is only a few hours. Plus, you can wake up early the next morning to take on your first full day in town feeling refreshed and energized.
Transportation & Traffic
Before our trip, we booked a rental car to pick up early on our first full day. I highly recommend renting a car while in LA. Los Angeles is pretty spread out between the beaches, downtown, and the Hills, and there is a lot to see and do up and down the coast.
Traffic can be kind of insane on the LA freeways so be sure to plan your trip accordingly. We planned everything out so that we would be driving from one destination to the next during non-peak traffic times. Rick and I found that the best times to be on the road are mid-morning (after 9:30am), early afternoon (any time before 2:30/3pm) or later in the evening (after 7pm). We also planned our trip so that our 4 days in LA were mostly weekdays when traffic/sites would be less busy.
Where to Stay
Aside from our first night near the airport, we stayed at this Air BNB in the Hollywood Hills. This house is located in a beautiful residential neighborhood tucked up in the quiet Hollywood Hills, just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood Blvd. It’s also close to Griffith Park and it has the absolute BEST view of the Hollywood sign right from the bedroom window.
The pictures we took do not even do the view justice! Air BNB is definitely the way to go for budget-friendly options that are near popular attractions in any city.
Beaches to Visit
If you’re spending a few days in LA, I highly recommend driving down the coast to Laguna Beach. Laguna is less than an hour drive (during non-peak times) from LA and it is the most gorgeous beach town.
Every beach around LA has a different vibe and Laguna’s vibe was upscale and relaxing. There are tons of cute little boutiques, cafes, and eateries in Laguna and the beach is incredibly picturesque. Laguna was definitely our favorite beach that we visited while in Cali.
Santa Monica is pretty touristy and we found the iconic pier with carnival rides and snack shops to be crowded. There are a few big pay parking lots near the pier. Tip: Be sure to stow your belongings away in the trunk, as these lots are notorious for theft.
Snap some pics in front of the pier where Route 66 ends and then rent a bike or a Bird (motorized scooters that are all over LA) and cruise the path that runs between Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Or you could walk the path like we did – It took us less than an hour to walk from one beach to the other.
Venice Beach has a unique and funky vibe with eclectic shops along the beach and trendy eateries galore. It’s definitely a hipster hangout where you’ll come across some very interesting sights… We saw a man walking around with a [real] giant snake wrapped around his neck! Head back a few blocks from the beach to check out the beautiful canals of Venice.
Manhattan Beach is upscale with a chill + fun vibe. With lots of volleyball games and people hanging out on the beach, Manhattan Beach is the perfect spot to spend the afternoon with friends and family. We also loved walking through town and checking out the different beach boutiques.
Things to See & Do
Drive around Beverly Hills (free)
If you rent a car, take some time to drive around Beverly Hills to see all of the insanely gorgeous mansions and meticulous landscaping. Don’t forget to stop by Beverly Gardens Park to snap a pic in front of the pond and the famous Beverly Hills sign!
If it’s your first time in LA, it would be a big mistake (huge) if you didn’t go [window] shopping on Rodeo Drive. However, if you want to make some purchases without breaking the bank, head over to The Grove for some budget-friendly shopping and then grab lunch at The Original Farmer’s Market.
Hollywood Walk of Fame (free)
Take some time to walk around and look at the stars! 4 days in LA would not be complete without talking a stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also, while on Hollywood Boulevard, check out the Dolby Theatre and TCL Chinese Theatre.
Book a Sightseeing Tour
While you’re around Hollywood Blvd, sign up for a Hollywood Sightseeing tour (you can also book a tour online in advance like we did here). The tour took us all around Hollywood, through several celeb-filled neighborhoods in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, and up and around the famous Mulholland Drive! If you’re only in LA for a short time and you want to see as much as you can, I highly recommend doing one of these tours.
Hike to the Hollywood Sign (free)
Our favorite thing that we did in LA was hike up to the Hollywood sign. Before our trip, we researched several of the trails that run up near the sign and we chose the Brush Canyon Trailhead. This trail runs right up to the back of the Hollywood sign where you can overlook all of Los Angeles.
If you plan on hiking while in LA, be sure to bring lots of water, sunscreen, and comfortable hiking shoes. This hike isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but it’s not super strenuous once you get past the first 20 minutes or so. I would recommend going early in the morning to avoid the sun/heat and crowds. It was still hazy while we were on our way up, but the sun came out as soon as we reached the top so we were roasting on the way back down.
Most of the trails up to the sign start in or around Griffith Park. The parking lots for the trail are small so again, it’s wise to get there early to find a spot. We got there around 8:30am and got one of the last spots. Plan for a little under three hours roundtrip to have a leisurely hike up, relax at the top + take in the view, and then head back down the trail.
Griffith Observatory (free)
Griffith Observatory overlooks downtown LA and also provides a great view of the Hollywood sign. It houses an array of science and space displays, as well as several telescopes that visitors can look through. Tons of movies have used Griffith Observatory as a filming location such as La La Land, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, and Transformers. The observatory is also one of the best places to catch the sunset over Mt. Hollywood.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
If you love TV shows like Friends, Gilmore Girls, and The Big Bang Theory, you HAVE to go on a Warner Brothers Studio tour! You get the full behind-the-scenes experience on the lot that is home to some of the most iconic TV shows and movies.
We got to walk around Stars Hollow (or Rosewood if you’re a Pretty Little Liars fan), visit the Big Bang Theory sound stage, and walk through the Prop Department. It’s recommended to book tours online in advance. The guided portion of the tour is about two hours and every tour is different.
Where to Eat & Drink
We ended up eating a lot of quick meals (we definitely went to In-N-Out Burger a few times) since we were always on the go, but two of our favorite restaurants during our 4 days in LA were —
I had always wanted to dine at The Ivy. This restaurant is basically where celebs go if they want to be photographed by the paparazzi. Rick and I both LOVED what we ordered and we felt super boujee dining here. We racked up a hefty tab for a few drinks, two lunch entrees, and dessert, but it was my birthday lunch of choice and I loved every second of it.
Tip – Make a reservation in advance (you can do so online) and request to sit outside on the patio!
Alcove is a trendy cafe and bakery near Griffith Park that celebs apparently frequent. We stopped here for a relaxing and delicious lunch after our hike. This is a great little cafe to sit outside and sip some iced coffee.
…And that sums up everything we did and would recommend to do with 4 days in LA! Whether you’re more of a city girl or a beach babe, LA has something for everyone.
If LA is in your upcoming travel plans or if it’s a destination on your bucket list, be sure to pin this post using the image below to easily come back to it later. Also, if you’re looking for cities to add to your travel list, check out more of my travel posts HERE!
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