Los Angeles is one of the most iconic cities in the world, and for great reason. LA is a melting pot of all cultures and has everything you’d want in a city: warm and sunny weather, an amazing food scene, beautiful beaches and mountains, great shopping and nightlife, and tons of entertainment. The one thing LA does lack however, is good public transportation! (But the nearly 365 days of sunshine more than makes up for it.) As an LA native, when friends and family come to visit I like to make sure they have the most quintessential LA trip and the full tourist experience, while also experiencing some great hidden gems, trendy hot spots, and local favorites. Thus, I have created this ultimate Los Angeles Bucket List that includes everything you need to see and experience to have the most “LA” trip imaginable.
How to use this bucket list and guide
This LA bucket list is grouped by the most popular neighborhoods in LA, starting from East to West. If you’re putting together an LA itinerary, you can plan to explore about 2 neighborhoods a day, or 3 in some cases if you get an early start and move quickly. The best way to experience LA is by renting a car, but Uber/Lyft or the Metro are also options. What makes this LA bucket list blog post unique? Not only does it have every major tourist attraction, but I’ve included my own local favorites and the trendiest hot spots that are loved by other locals, too. You can go through this list and keep track of all the places that appeal to you most and skip the ones that don’t. Keep reading to create your best Los Angeles bucket list trip.
Table of Contents - Jump to: Downtown LA Echo Park & Silverlake Hollywood Mid-City Beverly Hills Santa Monica & Venice Beach Malibu Visitor's FAQ
Downtown Los Angeles – DTLA Bucket List
Downtown LA is a true representation of the all-encompassing city it is. Here, skyscrapers line the streets giving you a real “city feel” that is lacking in most other parts of LA. The people you will encounter Downtown are a mix of students and young professionals, immigrant businesses owners, high-paid lawyers, artists, musicians, and trendsetters. That said, it does come with a bit of grit so Downtown LA might not be for everyone. I may be biased because I lived in DTLA for 12 years beginning in college, but I think it is one of the most vibrant parts of the city. It surely has the highest concentration of the best restaurants, so if nothing else, you’ll want to visit Downtown to eat! Here are the top things to do, see, (and taste) in DTLA:
Grand Central Market – Eat your heart out at the most iconic food hall in LA and a foodie’s paradise. GCM really sums up the eclectic food scene of LA with cuisines from all over. You’ll find all kinds of eateries in this marketplace/hall, but some of the most popular are: Eggslut, Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, Ramen Hood (vegan!), and Wexler’s Deli. GCM is a must for any foodie.
The Last Bookstore – Get lost in Southern California’s largest independent new and used bookstore– one of the largest in the country. Housed in an old bank building, this spectacular store not only buys and sells books but offers over 20,000 vinyl records, too. They have books of all kinds including rare books and a floor dedicated to art and photography. Pop in for a quick browse or spend hours if you’re a real bookworm.
Olvera Street – This historic area is Los Angeles’ oldest section established in 1871, and pays tribute to its authentically Mexican heritage through street vendors, restaurants, cafes, and gift shops. If you’re into culture, LA history, or Hispanic heritage, you’ll want to check this area out.
The Broad Museum – See the art at one of LA’s most impressive contemporary art museums, which houses the ever-Instagrammable Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors, and other major contemporary artist works such as Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami. Free to enter! (But book in advance.) This museum is great for all ages and if I had to pick one to visit, this would be it. If you’re looking for a nice place to eat in the area, definitely check out Otium. (Tip: Broad is pronounced like owed with Br in front of it.)
MOCA – Adjacent to the Broad, more great contemporary art is found here at the aptly named, Museum of Contemporary Art. MOCA features the work of notable artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. If you can’t get enough of art, consider popping by here after visiting the Broad.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall – Do as LA influencers do and come here to snap a photo! (Or you know, attend the orchestra.) Located right near the Broad and MOCA, the Disney Concert Hall is home to the LA Phil Harmonic; however the architectural masterpiece designed by Frank Gehry is especially loved by LA influencers and fashion photographers for the curved mirrored walls – a perfect backdrop for those LA Instagram photos.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Santee Alley – Go bargain shopping at Santee Alley (or just “the alley” as it’s also known) in Downtown LA’s Fashion District. In the Alley, you will find over 150 small stores and kiosks selling everything from trendy clothing and shoes to knock-off cosmetics, all at the lowest of prices. While you’re in the area, you can also pop over to the LA Flower Market and arrange yourself a fresh bunch of flowers or just wander in amazement at all the different types of flora.
Little Tokyo – Head to Little Tokyo to have some of the best Japanese food outside of Japan. For the best, authentic sushi (i.e. no crazy rolls, tempura, etc. just really amazing sashimi and sushi) you must try Sushi Gen. For ramen, Daikokuya. When you’re done eating, wander through the Japanese Village Plaza and have some mochi at Mikawaya for dessert.
Arts District – Spend some time in this mostly industrial, up and coming, hipster neighborhood on the outskirts of DTLA right next to Little Tokyo. The Arts District is one of LA’s coolest little pockets that are yet to hit the mainstream. Aside from the city’s best restaurants, you’ll also find great galleries (my recommendation is Hauser & Wirth) and breweries here, too. Click for a neighborhood guide.
Crypto.com Arena – Formerly known as The Staples Center. Attend a sports game ( i.e. Lakers!) at this sporting arena. The Lakers fandom runs deep in LA, (RIP Kobe) and attending a Lakers game is something every Angeleno (AKA a person from Los Angeles) has done at least once in their life. Even if it’s not basketball season, perhaps you’ll want to catch an LA Kings hockey game, or a concert, or if it’s winter go ice skating outside the arena at LA Live.
Best restaurants in Downtown Los Angeles: Bestia for the #1 dinner restaurant in LA, Bottega Louie for literally any meal, any menu item, any time and their famous French pastries, Perch for rooftop vibes with a view, or Sugarfish for trendy LA sushi (multiple locations throughout LA) or even better yet, some authentic sushi in Little Tokyo as mentioned above. (the best is at Sushi Gen!) Lastly, if Italian is what you’re craving, Rossoblu makes incredible hand-made pasta.
Local DTLA favorites: Rooftop day drinks at Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hotel or Upstairs at the Ace Hotel in the evening. The Hoxton also has a great rooftop, as does the Wayfarer Hotel, but what’s even better is their boozy high tea experience at their Lily Rose speakeasy!
Tip: Click on the restaurant names and bookmark them on Yelp to be able to refer to them later!
For local dining, I also love Urth Caffe in the Arts District for breakfast or lunch. The Middle Eastern sister-restaurant of Bestia, Bavel in the Arts District is amazing for dinner, too, and one of my all-time favorite restaurants. Two more Aarts district favorites of mine are Girl & the Goat (globally-inspired menu) and Damian (elevated Mexican).
Best DTLA hotels: The Hoxton, The Ace Hotel, The Wayfarer, The InterContinental or Freehand Hotel.
Tip: Make restaurant reservations in advance! The recommendations listed in this blog post are some of the most popular spots, and super trendy restaurants such as Bestia get booked up weeks in advance for prime dining hours. Another way to get in is by showing up at opening time (usually 5PM) to get first-come-first-served counter seats.
Echo Park / Silverlake Bucket List
Echo Park and Silverlake are what’s known as the “hipster” Eastside neighborhoods of LA (kind of like what Williamsburg is to Brooklyn.) If you’re into counter-culture, mom-and-pop businesses, neighborhood bars, and an overall artsy and creative scene, this area of Northeast Los Angeles is where you’ll want to visit. Echo Park is found just outside of Downtown, and next to it lies Silver Lake which borders East Hollywood. It’s not exactly where I’d recommend staying because it’s not so centrally located (unless you know you’ll be spending a lot of time here) but if you’re into the hipster scene, you’ll want to check it out.
Echo Park Lake – A major landmark of the area, you’ll find young adults and local families alike enjoying the lilly pad lined and fountain-spraying lake. Spend some time here with a picnic on the grass (pick up sandwiches and fresh pastries from the nearby Clark Street) and ride the paddle boat swans with a backdrop of the Downtown skyline.
The Echo + EchoPlex – Attend a show from a local indie band or dance to an eclectic DJ at Echo Park’s main concert venue, which hosts musicians both big and small, but never too mainstream.
Dodger Stadium – If it’s baseball season, attend a game, eat a hot dog, and root for the Dodgers. Angelenos love the Dodgers and the camaraderie that comes with it; but even if you don’t love baseball, you’ll feel a part of the LA culture by going to a game. (Tip: Catch a game on a Friday night to see the fireworks!)
Eat tacos – Street food is a big part of LA food culture and thanks to our large hispanic population, we have some of the best taco trucks and Mexican food outside of Mexico. The East Side is especially known for having great street tacos, and some of the best can be found only in the evening at the Taco Zone truck (veggie friendly), or at the original Guisados taco shop which is known for having some of the best tacos in Los Angeles.
Best Restaurants in Echo Park and Silver Lake: Sqirl for an acclaimed hipster LA breakfast (technically just outside of Silver Lake) Night Market + Song for Northern Thai, and Sage Vegan Bistro for modern vegan food. Silverlake Ramen also offers some of the best in the city, Courage Bagels serves some of the most famous bagels in the city, and Pijja Palace is an award-winning Indian-fusion restaurant and sports bar.
Echo Park and Silverlake local Favorites: Elysian Park offers a non-touristy local hike with urban city views of the downtown skyline and Dodger Stadium. Find the rope swing tied to a tree on the northeast edge of the park, just off Angels Point Road. Clark Street Bakery is a great place to pick up sandwiches and/or baked goods for a picnic at the Echo Park Lake. Bar Flores is a neighborhood bar that’s super popular with Echo Park locals, as is the gastropub/restaurant Mohawk Bend.
Best hotels in Echo Park / Silver Lake: Silver Lake Pool & Inn and just outside of Silverlake in Los Feliz, Cara Hotel is a beautiful place to stay with a great restaurant and easy access to Hollywood and the East side.
Hollywood Bucket List
Hollywood is divided up into its own sub-areas, with the two most notable being West Hollywood and what is known as just, “Hollywood,” and they couldn’t be more different from one another. West Hollywood, also known as WeHo is where you’ll find the trendy bars/clubs and restaurants, and is historically home to the LGBT community. (Though all different kinds of people live and hang out here.) The more west you are in West Hollywood, the nicer it becomes as it begins to border Beverly Hills.
In the center of Hollywood you have the super touristy, slightly seedy, but never dull part of the city. (Probably where the name “Hollyweird” comes from.) You probably won’t spot any celebrities in Hollywood proper, but there’s a good chance you could in West Hollywood! North Hollywood, East Hollywood, and the Hollywood Hills also have some hidden gems of their own, but should probably be reserved for after you’ve spent more time in LA. (Except for the famous Mulholland Drive, a popular tourist attraction/highway in the hills above Hollywood with epic views and lookout points and is one of the best scenic drives in LA.) Here are all the bucket list things to do in Hollywood:
Griffith Park & Observatory: Take in the Hollywood Hills views at Griffith Observatory, a major LA landmark and staple. Griffith Park offers several hiking trails including the famous Hollywood Sign hike, and as the name suggests, it is the best place in LA for planetary star gazing.
Hollywood Walk of Fame: I don’t think it gets more touristy than the Walk of Fame at Hollywood and Vine, right in the heart of Hollywood. Here is where you’ll find the famous Hollywood “Stars” on the sidewalk, character performers on the street, TCL Chinese Theatre, and the iconic Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I would say most tourists find this to be the most simultaneously underwhelming and overwhelming tourist attraction. Underwhelming in a sense that it is literally just stars on the sidewalk with celebrity names on them, and overwhelming by the hectic cacophony of everything else going on in that area. I’d say skip it, unless you’re really into the idea.
Melrose Avenue: Melrose is a popular shopping area and street where you can find all types of stores ranging from very high-end on the west end of Melrose, to some of the best vintage shops in LA on the eastern part. The Melrose Trading Post is a flea market that takes place every Sunday is totally worth checking out for rare finds of clothing, jewelry, furniture, and more treasures. On the opposite spectrum, you have the bougie Melrose Place on the west tip near La Cienaga Boulevard, and this is where you’ll find trendy local hot spots such Alfred Coffee (where the saying “But first, Coffee” originated) and a nice Farmer’s Market on Sundays. The Best Melrose shops whether east or west can be found in this guide here. And if you get hungry, you’ll want to stop by Taeem for a local’s favorite and the BEST authentic falafel or shawarma in the city. If you love shopping, Melrose is a must.
Runyon Canyon: Take a hike at LA’s most famous and trendiest hike. Locals and tourists all flock to Runyon, which gets especially crowded on the weekends. The hike offers great views of LA and even possibly a celebrity sighting or two.
Explore the nightlife: Hollywood is probably most famous for its nightlife scene, which offers a range of entertainment. See some live music on the Sunset Strip and ride the bull at Saddle Ranch, attend a comedy show at the Laugh Factory, or go dancing at one of these popular nightclubs or the Abbey, one of the most famous Gay bars in the country that is loved by both people in the LGBTQ community and not. If you’re looking for the “it” clubs, Poppy, and Hyde are having a moment (hot clubs are always changing) but you may need to know someone to get in. (Or buy bottle service.) For a chiller yet still trendy vibe, have a drink at any of the bars listed here.
The Magic Castle: Have dinner and see magic shows at this exclusive, members-only magic club. You’ll need to track down a magician or member to receive an invite, but if you can manage to do it, it’s totally worth it.
Best restaurants in Hollywood: Mozza for some of the best pizza in LA, Catch or Delilah for a super trendy dinner vibe, Gracias Madre for vegan Mexican with a cool atmosphere and great margaritas, or Crossroads Kitchen for vegan upscale Cali-terranean. And of course, no trip to LA is complete without a stop at In ‘n’ Out (which you can also found other locations throughout the city including right nearby the airport.)
Hollywood local favorites: Hollywood may be known for their nightlife, but rooftop pool parties during the summer days are a favorite of mine at places like Skybar at Mondrian, Tropicana at the Rosevelt, or Highlight Room at the Dream Hotel. For a trendy rooftop vibe with great views, check out Harriott’s Rooftop, Bar Lis, and Mama Shelter,
Best hotels in WeHo: Mondrian, The London, Chateau Marmont, The West Hollywood Edition, and the 1 Hotel
Best hotels in Hollywood: The W, The Roosevelt, Dream Hotel, and The Thompson
Mid-City Bucket List
Bordering WeHo you have the mid-city area and the Beverly Grove neighborhood. As the name suggests, Mid-City is centrally located and just a hop away from the westside or Hollywood. On Fairfax Boulevard you’ll find the likes of Hype Beast, streetwear, and skater-culture shops like Supreme, and on West Third is where you’ll come across trendy restaurants and boutiques. Here all the things you should check out in Mid-City:
LACMA: LA has so many great museums, but the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is probably the most notable and recognizable. Even if you don’t go inside, you’ll want to take a photo with the light posts outside, as it is one of the most famous Instagram-photo spots in the city.
The Grove: Walk, dine, or shop at this beautifully-designed outdoor shopping mall. One of the most famous malls in LA, here you will marvel at the fountains as Frank Sinatra plays in the background, and browse the popular stores or watch a movie. Attached to the Grove is also the Original Farmer’s Market, and just outside adjacently is also where you’ll find LA’s most loved health-food market, Erewhon, for a quick healthy lunch or snack.
Best Restaurants in Mid-City: Republique – especially for brunch, AOC for cool California-French cuisine, Jon & Vinny’s for Italian. Don’t forget to stop by Magnolia Bakery for some of their famous banana bread pudding, too!
Mid-City local favorites: If you’re looking for something quick and casual, Sweetgreen is a great salad place (multiple locations) and Mendocino Farms has the best sandwiches (also multiple locations). Kreation is an awesome spot for smoothies and fresh pressed juice (LA loves their juice bars.) Another locally-loved favorite is a cafe called Joans on Third. And Leo’s Taco Truck is also known as one of the best taco trucks in the city! Lastly, for the bougiest health food grocery market in LA, Erewhon is worth a stroll and maybe some lunch from their deli case. (It doesn’t get more “LA” than Erewhon!)
Best Hotels in Mid City: The Kimpton, Palihouse, and The SLS (technically in Beverly Hills but borders Mid-City, and a good centrally-located choice.)
Beverly Hills Bucket List
The westside city of Beverly Hills, naturally, is so famous in its own right and would be considered a sin not to at least pass through by car while you’re in LA. Wide, palm tree-lined streets, mansion homes, and a plethora of the rich and famous. Of course, you also have the iconic Rodeo Drive for world-class shopping and upscale restaurants galore. Here are some of the things you shouldn’t miss while visiting Beverly Hills, 90210.
Beverly Gardens Park: This is where you’ll see the iconic Beverly Hills sign — a staple for tourists to take photos in front of. It’s also just a very nice park to hang around in with perfectly landscaped lawns, a pretty fountain, and cool sculptures.
Rodeo Drive: You’ll find all the luxury brand names on Rodeo from Chanel to Gucci, and Rolex to Cartier, as supercars lined parked along the sidewalks. The adjacent Via Rodeo is a beautiful European-style street, and even if you aren’t spending, the window shopping is also fantastic.
Century City: A short drive from Beverly Hills you’ll find this beautiful outdoor mall, movie theater, and Eataly, the Italian outpost/marketplace originating from NYC. You’ll find similar stores to the Grove here, plus more boutique designers.
Sprinkles ATM: Grab a cupcake at the world’s first 24/7 cupcake ATM. Sprinkles makes some of the best cupcakes in LA, and now you can have one any time the craving hits.
Best Restaurants in Beverly Hills: The Honor Bar for elevated pub food, Wally’s for a trendy wine bar, and The Penthouse at Mastros for an upscale steakhouse.
Beverly Hills local favorites: My personal favorite LA fro-yo spot is Go Greek in Beverly Hills near Rodeo Drive — they make frozen yogurt AND amazing regular yogurt bowls with unique seasonable flavors. The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel is an influencer favorite for brunch or lunch. Sugarfina is a fun, fancy candy shop (think champagne, gold-covered marshmallows and rosé gummies) and is a great place to get gifts to bring back for friends and family (because who doesn’t love candy!?)
Best Hotels in Beverly Hills: The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Beverly-Wilshire, The Sixty, The Beverly Hilton, and Waldorf Astoria
Venice Beach and Santa Monica Bucket List
Welcome to the Westside! The two neighboring beach cities of Santa Monica and Venice are the epitome of LA beach culture. In Santa Monica, you have a slightly more tourist feel with mainstream shops and restaurants, and in Venice, a more hippie/bohemian and local vibe. You can easily spend a day exploring both these neighbor beach locations.
Santa Monica Pier: Take a walk down the pier to Pacific Park and play some games or ride the Ferris wheel for pretty ocean views. I would say the pier is mostly filled with tourists and families with young kids, but if you’re into a carnival vibe and have some time, it may be worth checking out.
3rd Street Promenade: Near the pier off Ocean Avenue, stroll down the Promenade to check out the shops, restaurants, and talented LA street performers, and visit the Santa Monica Place mall for even more shopping and dining options.
Main Street: 3rd Street Promenade to tourists, is what Main Street is to locals. On Main, you’ll find a more authentically neighborhood Santa Monica vibe with more locally-owned businesses, bars, restaurants, and shops. Main Street is also an area where Westside locals like to go bar hopping on weekend nights.
Ride Bikes along the beach: Rent some bikes and ride them down the bike path from Santa Monica to Venice Beach or vice versa. You can also walk/jog, roller skate, or scooter the path while taking in the ocean views and marveling at the multi-million dollar ocean-front properties. Tourists or local, this is one of the best activities to do in the area.
Tip: If you're looking for a beach to go to in the area to spend time in/near the water, I recommend going just a bit north to Will Rodgers Beach (in Pacific Palisades.) The beach is nicer than in Santa Monica or Venice and less crowded with more locals than tourists.
Best Restaurants in Santa Monica: Mercado for Mexican food and good drinks, Water Grill for oceanfront upscale seafood dining, or for ultra-fine dining, the 2 Michelin starred restaurant, Mélisse.
Santa Monica local favorites: For a cool and trendy hotspot with great ocean views, check out Élephante located near the 3rd Street Promenade. Bay Cities Italian Deli found inside a small market is a true Santa Monica staple, and their deli sandwiches are very loved by locals, and perfect for on-the-go or a picnic at the beach.
Best Hotels in Santa Monica: Shutters On The Beach, Viceroy, Casa Del Mar, Santa Monica Proper
Venice Boardwalk: Take in the sites, sounds, smells, and tastes of the funky and eclectic Venice Boardwalk. Here you’ll see the famous Muscle Beach bodybuilders, skater kids riding in the skate park, street performers and artists, and all kinds of interesting Venice Beach characters. This is classically and authentically old Venice Beach, which has maintained a lot of its original charm compared to other parts of Venice. It can be a high-traffic tourist attraction, especially in the summer, but it is still equally loved and frequented by locals.
Venice Canals: A nod to the canals of Venice, Italy, you can walk through this historic neighborhood community and see the waterfront homes that are built on this unique street. If you have the time, it’s a beautiful and unique spot worth checking out and can be seen rather quickly.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard: Trendy restaurants and boutique shops have all taken over this once-neighborhood street and has turned it into a destination for all to visit and dine. This is one of the coolest streets in Venice, so you’ll want to take a walk here and check out the cool artisan shops while grabbing a bite at one of the Abbot Kinney hotspots.
Best restaurants in Venice: Gjelina for trendy Californian, Gjusta Bakery and Cafe for breakfast or lunch, and Felix Trattoria for some of the best Italian in all of Los Angeles. (All on Abbot Kinney.)
Venice local favorites: The restaurant Dudley Market found right off the boardwalk is my favorite place for fresh and local seafood with a glass of rosé. The rooftop bar at Hotel Erwin is also a great place to hang out and catch the sunset.
Best hotels in Venice Beach: Hotel Erwin
Malibu Bucket List
Malibu, with its rocky shorelines, secret coves, and some of the most expensive real estate in LA, is one of the most beautiful areas of the whole city. Malibu itself is kind of out of the way to get to (about 20+ minutes north of Santa Monica up the PCH), so you may want to make a day trip out of it, but the beaches there are the best in all of Los Angeles. It also has some of the most scenic hikes and amazing seafood restaurants making it a great place to get out in nature, splurge a little, and enjoy the scenery.
Hikes: There are so many great hikes in Malibu, like to the waterfalls at Escondido Falls, or Solstice Canyon. Or perhaps you just want some great views, like the ones provided by Los Liones trail, (which is technically in Pacific Palisades just south of Malibu.) Depending on your time and skill level, there is a hike suitable for almost everyone. A quick tip: I recommend not hiking Malibu too early in the morning as you’ll want to let the marine layer burn off before so you can actually see the amazing ocean views!
Beaches: If you have the option, you’ll definitely want to go to the beach in Malibu over Santa Monica or Venice. The water is nicer, the beach (usually) isn’t as crowded, and it is less touristy. Some of the most favored beaches in Malibu are Zuma, Point Dume, and El Matador. If you really want to be like Malibu Californians, maybe pick up some surfing while you’re there!
Best restaurants in Malibu: You absolutely must stop for an ocean-front meal or drink while in Malibu, preferably for sunset! Some of the top recommendations are of course, Nobu, for a celebrity-favorite splurge. Broad Street Oyster or Malibu Seafood for budget-friendly fresh seafood, Malibu Farm on the Pier for something casual, and Geoffrey’s for upscale seafood dining.
Local Malibu favorites: One of my favorite hikes in Malibu is the less-trafficked Tuna Canyon, which is technically in Topanga Canyon right above Malibu. It’s a relatively easy hike with the best Malibu seaside views and is never crowded like some of the other hikes. And for a drink with a view during the day or for sunset, Moonshadows offers a trendy vibe on their outdoor deck against the gorgeous waters — you might even get lucky and spot some dolphins! Lastly, Malibu Wines Tasting Room (which is not exactly in Malibu but kind of nearby-ish) is a lovely place to spend an afternoon sipping local wine or going on their famous Wine Safari where you’ll get close to animals like giraffes and zebras with plenty of stops for wine.
Best hotels in Malibu: The Surfrider Hotel, Malibu Beach Inn, Nobu Ryokan
Tip: If you want my list of all the best restaurants in LA that you NEED to visit all in one place, click here.
Visiting LA FAQ and Tips:
The most commonly asked questions when planning a trip to LA answered, plus some of my expert local knowledge and tips. (With some random photos of me around LA thrown in because why not.)
What is the best area of LA to stay in?
Depends what kind of vibe you’re going for and ultimately your budget. If you want a true urban city feel in a walkable area with budget-friendly options, stay Downtown. If you want to be close to a lot of attractions and centrally located, West Hollywood, or Mid-City. If you want to party, Hollywood. If you want to splurge or be bougie, Beverly Hills. If you want to spend a lot of time at the beach, Santa Monica or Venice. If you want a relaxing, high-end vacation, Malibu. I think if it were me, I would probably stay in or as close to Mid-City as possible (Beverly Hills, West Hollywood) because of its central location. All of the hotels recommended in this post are excellent, but if you need help narrowing it down or want other options, feel free to email me for any of your itinerary needs.
Do I need a car?
No, but it will definitely help! The public transportation in LA isn’t the most efficient, but it’s workable. Lyft and Uber are also great options. I recommend using Google Maps to map out your commutes ahead of time to check for traffic and walking/driving/transport options.
Is LA traffic really that bad?
It can be! If you’re going to the wrong place at the wrong time. Morning rush hour (about 7am -9am) goes from East to West and North to South, and afternoon/evening rush hour (5pm – 7pm) is mainly from West to East and South to North. So try to always drive against the flow of traffic if you don’t want to be too stuck. With no traffic, getting from Downtown (the east side) to Santa Monica (the beach) takes 20 minutes. At 5-o-clock rush hour it can take up to 2 hours! Plan accordingly and check traffic times on Google Maps before you head anywhere.
What is the best time to visit LA?
Anytime, really. The weather in LA is pleasant and sunny year-round. If you really want to enjoy the beaches and getting in the water opt to visit in the summer (which is also high season) or early fall. (June – October.) November – February can be a little chilly (by LA standards, which isn’t that cold at all because it rarely drops below the 50s Fahrenheit.) By March it begins to warm back up again. If you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting during off-season times (AKA not in the summer or over December holidays/New Years.)
Do I need reservations at every restaurant?
Not for casual eateries and cafes, but for most of the restaurants listed here, it’s a good idea for dinner. If you can’t get a table on the night that you want for some of the most popular spots (I’m looking at you, Bestia) a pro-tip is to arrive right when they open (usually around 5pm) and snag a spot at the first-come-first-served bar seating.
Is Los Angeles safe?
In general, yes, but of course some neighborhoods are safer than others. The ones listed here are all for the most part safe (though there are some dodgy areas to avoid — like Skid Row obviously) but even solo female travelers will be perfectly fine. That said, LA is a big city so common sense goes a long way. Be aware of your surroundings and you should be just fine.
What are some other areas to explore aside from the ones already listed?
LA has so many wonderful pockets and neighborhoods. To get a little off the tourist track, have some Korean BBQ and karaoke in K-Town (Korea Town), eat some of the best sushi at a strip mall on Ventura Boulevard in the (San Fernando) Valley, explore the beautiful South Bay beach towns of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, Visit the beautiful Huntington Gardens or Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, or the Getty Center in Brentwood for the most architecturally-renown museum. For a spa day outside of the city, a romantic couples or girls trip to Glen Ivy Hot Springs is a great way to spend a day getting pampered.
Are people in LA nice? Are they fake? Stuck up?
I personally think real LA natives are some of the nicest and most down-to-earth people. It’s often the transplants that unfortunately give LA a bad rep. That said, LA is a melting pot and you’ll find characters of ALL walks of life here. But more often than not, most Angelenos will be more than willing to stop and help you out if you have a question or need some advice.
As you can see from this blog post, LA really has so much to offer. When people visit LA and say they don’t like it (rare, but it happens) I think it’s because they didn’t experience the parts that speak to them. There are areas in LA for nearly every type of person (beyond what’s listed here), and the type of trip you’ll have is entirely up to you! Just be sure to explore as many different areas as possible to experience all that LA has to offer. Use this guide to pick and choose what you’re interested in seeing (or see it all!) and have a quintessentially, fabulous LA time.
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11 thoughts on “The Ultimate Los Angeles Bucket List and Travel Guide – Everything to Do, See, & Eat + Where to Stay – as Told by a Local!”
This was one of the best posts on LA I’ve come across thus far! I love how you shared the nitty-gritty details from restaurants, to people. Super helpful, pinned for future reference!
What a compliment, thank you so much and glad I could help!
After reading your description of Echo Park and Silverlake, I can’t believe we missed them the last time we visited LA! We’ll obviously have to remedy that next time.
I hope you do! You’ll get a feel for the east side culture when visiting these areas, that are quite different compared to the west side.
We obviously still have a lot to see and do when next were in LA. Loved our first visit there.
Definitely! LA is a huge city with a lot to offer. It definitely warrants a second trip!
LA local and fellow travel blogger here! I love this list! Its very comprehensive and definitely includes all the big ticket items and hidden gems!
These are all amazing all the tips on your bucket list.Thanks for all the advice and tips!
Great list! I’m always looking for new ways to be a tourist in my own city when family members come to visit.
I’d also recommend a street art tour in DTLA’s Arts District. There are a number of guided tours, but visitors can always explore on their own. I’ve lived in the Arts District for 7 years and I’m still discovering new art.
Love the Arts District too! Great suggestion. Thanks so much!