Celebrities, high end shopping, famous beaches, a very popular pier, the Hollywood sign and more can be found in L.A. It’s a lot like what you’re picturing in your head, surprisingly.
In this article
Visitor’s Guide – Order your free guide to California Travel. Or call 1-877-CALIFORNIA to request one.
Another Visitor’s Guide – This one is specifically for West Hollywood.
Sigalert App – Download this app to help with L.A traffic. It’s actually as bad as you’ve heard – maybe worse.
From Disneyland to LAX, you’ll travel 28 miles. By car, you’re looking at a 35 minute drive (without traffic). I typically plan for twice the expected drive time for all Los Angeles adventures.
The Metro Rail (or Light Rail) offers trains and buses which coordinate to get you where you need to go, including to and from Los Angeles from Anaheim. The Metro Mobile Trip Planner will get you started and is easy to use.
Amtrak has options, too, but is usually pricier than other trains.
*** Traffic tip: Los Angeles traffic is terrible. Besides avoiding the city all together, your best plan is to travel super early or late. Heaviest traffic will occur during these times: 7-9:00am and 2:30-7pm. (Yes, I’m serious.)
Where to Stay
Disneyland is close enough to L.A. not to worry about an overnight stay, but if you want to hang out for a few days, here are some options:
Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City – A block from Universal Studios Hollywood, and minutes from Hollywood itself. The pool is lovely and double rooms run around $200.
Omni Los Angeles – This hotel is in the heart of downtown L.A. and was recently updated.
Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel – If your budget is limitless, stay at the Beverly Hills Plaza. But, be on your best behavior!
Which Beaches to Visit
Torrance Beach – This beach is in Torrance, CA where the South Bay meets Palos Verdes. Parking is easy and only costs a small fee. You’ll be close to the beach where you park, so hauling your gear to the sand won’t bring you to tears. There’s a snack shack on site, the bathrooms are clean and it’s rarely crowded.
Venice & Muscle Beach – The Venice Boardwalk and Muscle Beach are home to perhaps California’s finest cliches and it’s a site to see. Walk the promenade, skate, play some basketball or just people watch. I recommend people watching.
Santa Monica Pier – Like many L.A. beaches, the Santa Monica Pier feels very touristy. You can find Pacific Park there, which is an amusement park on the pier, plus games and lots of good people watching, too. The original Muscle Beach is just south of the Pier and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is a fun stop. ***Check Groupon before visiting the pier because they often have great savings for the amusement park.
Manhattan Beach – This is a super popular beach for many reasons, most of all because of the nice restaurants, bars and shops nearby. Here’s the downfall – parking is far away and you have to walk down a huge hill to get to the sand. If you choose this destination, use the drop off system. Drop off an adult with whatever gear he can carry and then park and join him. Then, have an adult later retrieve the car when you’re ready to go so that the long walk up the hill with gear is avoided.
Mother’s Beach (Marina Del Ray) – No waves here since it’s in the bay, so little ones will enjoy the experience of the water without the scary waves. Picnic tables and a playground are nearby. From the beach, you can watch the gorgeous boats float by and dream of owning one eventually.
***Need beach gear? Rent it before you go.
What to Do When You’re Not at the Beach
Natural History Museum – This museum is unlike many natural history museums in that it’s interactive and fun for small children. Eat lunch in the beautiful outdoor garden and enjoy the cafeteria food – it’s good! You can also pack a lunch if you wish. Look for transitioning exhibits with the seasons and a life-size puppet show starring a baby Triceratops. While at the museum, visit the California Science Center for free. Check out the coliseum where the Olympics were held and where USC plays, too. Consider taking the Light Rail here because there’s a stop right across the street from the museum.
Long Beach Aquarium – This aquarium stocks lots of interesting sea life and includes a ‘touch tank’ that kids love. It’s all very beautifully done with a price tag to match. If you’re on a strict budget, visit the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium instead. Nearby, you’ll find the Coastal Park, which includes tide pools (my favorite) and more.
The Skirball Center – This stop includes a HUGE Noah’s Ark Exhibit that kids LOVE. All of the animals are made out of recycled parts. Authentic in terms of size, exhibit is quite impressive. You’ll find a musical concert each day that takes place outside. And, there is an archeological dig for kids where they can use actual tools to find “fossils” and other treasures.
Dodgers game – Check the schedule to see if they’re playing while you’re in town. I love an old school baseball night with kids.
Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive – “Big mistake. Big. Huge!” is what immediately comes to mind when I think of Rodeo Drive. Turns out, it exists beyond that scene in Pretty Woman. Rodeo Drive typically refers to a three block stretch of the street north of Wilshire Boulevard and south of Little Santa Monica Boulevard, which is known for its luxury-goods stores. The larger business district surrounding Rodeo, known as the “Golden Triangle,” which extends from Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard, is both a shopping district and a major tourist attraction.
Sunset Strip – The Sunset Strip is the name given to the mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard that passes through West Hollywood, California. It extends from West Hollywood’s eastern border with Hollywood at Havenhurst Drive, to its western border with Beverly Hills at Sierra Drive. The Strip is probably the best-known portion of Sunset, embracing boutiques, restaurants, rock clubs, and nightclubs that are on the cutting edge of the entertainment industry. It is also known for its trademark array of huge, colorful billboards.
The Hollywood Sign – The best place to see this sign is from the Griffith Park Observatory. It’s a beautiful spot for a picnic and to see lots of Los Angeles from a great vantage point. It’s closed on Mondays, but you can still visit and walk around and enjoy the views. Other days will include the opportunity to walk in and experience the actual observatory.
Another option is from the Hollywood and Highland Shopping Center. Have a meal, go up on the bridge and snap a photo. On a clear day, the Hollywood Sign is visible all across the Los Angeles Basin, including from downtown high rise buildings, and even from Signal Hill, almost 30 miles south. For even more options, check out the Best Views of the Hollywood Sign.
You can also hike to the Hollywood sign if that is more your speed.
TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) – Find your favorite celebrities’ hand and foot prints in front of this famous theatre. Called The Forecourt of the Hollywood Stars, most people love this stop. Park at the Hollywood and Highland shopping center nearby for $2 for 4 hours (with validation) or park on the street with metered parking. Avoid tour bus stops – they’ll be plainly marked.
Hollywood Walk of Fame – Started in 1958, this area holds over 2,300 celebrity stars. The Hollywood Walk of Fame runs east to west on Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue and North South on Vine street from Yucca Street to Sunset Boulevard. The biggest cluster of stars is in front of Hollywood & Highland and
Grauman’s TCL Chinese Theatre. Find your favorite celebrity and take a photo with the star.
Hollywood Wax Museum – If learning about the stars isn’t enough, see them recreated in wax. (This place creeps me out, but people love it.)
Some Additional Suggestions
Star Tour – I don’t recommend Star Tours for families with young children unless you have a specific interest in this kind of thing. The buses are often topless and the heat will wear on you.
A good friend of mine recently took her 5 year old daughter and even though she enjoyed seeing “Hannah Montana’s” house (poor misguided soul), the highlight of the tour was when she found an Oreo on the bottom of the bus and ate it. Her mother is currently being treated for hysteria.
If you insist, here are some options:
- Starline Tours – Some depart from Anaheim, too!
- Hollywood Tours – Lots of variety in options here.
- Ultimate Hollywood Tours – Rated #1 on Trip Advisor.
- TMZ Tour – Made popular by the TV show, highlighting celebrity life.
- Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles – Four Los Angeles area locations. Food to die for.
- Pink’s Hot Dogs – Famous in L.A. and super yummy. At the corner of Melrose Avenue and La Brea Avenue. There’s more than hot dogs, too. Check the menu.
- Diners, Drive Ins and Dive Picks – I have yet to disagree with the this dude. Check the link for ideas. Beer Belly is amazing. Not mine. The restaurant.
- The Ivy is a popular place for celebrity sightings. Dying to go here!
Tired yet? I am and I merely wrote about Los Angeles. There’s a lot to do, friends. Have fun!