Los Angeles Santa Monica

United States: 4-day Los Angeles travel guide

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The Los Angeles area is huge; four days certainly aren’t enough to cover everything there is to see and (especially) eat in this American megalopolis, but this guide will give you a good introduction to Los Angeles.

What’s more, the days on this four-day Los Angeles itinerary break up very nicely as they take you to different parts of the city.

So you can choose to follow a single day when you just have a stopover, for example.

Indeed, Los Angeles is often a hub for Asia or Oceania, and flight schedules are usually designed to leave you with several hours to spare.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles: a 4-day itinerary

Day 1: Hollywood & Beverly Hills

When you think of Los Angeles, you immediately associate it with Hollywood because this metropolis is the birthplace of the entertainment industry; this is where the action is for celebrities and aspiring artists.

The most famous tourist attraction in this area is, without a doubt, the Walk of Fame. This begins at the intersection of La Brea Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard; in fact, the sites to visit are along this street.

Although there are many famous people in Los Angeles, they are often very discreet so you are more likely to see “stars” on the Walk of Fame! If you are looking for a particular star among the 2,500+, you can use this site to locate it.

Los Angeles Stars

Next, a visit to the TCL Chinese Theather is extraordinary; this historic Los Angeles cultural landmark is also renowned for its parterre filled with celebrity footprints. The artists who have the privilege of putting their touch on the Chinese Theater are selected according to their impact on the industry; a ceremony is performed at the time of the prints, and it is a great honour to be there!

Chinese Theatre 2

Then, I enjoyed my little guided tour at the Dolby Theater to see the backstage of the Oscars. Then, the majority of Disney movie premieres are held at El Capitan Theather; although you have to be invited to attend, you can also go there to watch a movie as part of a regular movie screening.

Oscars

After a morning in Hollywood, I suggest you go to Beverly Hills and take a walk on Rodeo Drive; it’s the luxury of luxury! The major brands of the fashion industry are located here and it is the perfect place for window shopping.

You can also find a beautiful park in Los Angeles at Beverly Gardens Park. It is an ideal place for a break or a picnic.

Other iconic streets in this area are Melrose Avenue and Sunset Strip.

Rodeo Drive
Rodeo Drive

At the end of the day, I recommend a trip to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset; the views are breathtaking. There are also plenty of walking routes in the area if you want to spend a little more time in nature and away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Finally, the exhibitions at the Griffith Observatory are often very interesting and free.

Griffith Observatory
Griffith

The best place to see the Hollywood sign is at Griffith Park; there are multiple hiking trails on Mount Hollywood that start in the Observatory parking lot.

What are the best vantage points to see the Hollywood sign without hiking?

The best spots to see the famous “Hollywood” without having to make physical efforts are: Griffith Observatory, Lake Hollywood Park, Hollywood Reservoir, Hollywood & Highland Center, Mulholland Drive and North Beachwood Drive.

Los Angeles in stopover

This neighbourhood of Los Angeles is a 30-40 minute drive from LAX when there is no traffic. By subway, you must take the green, blue and red line to reach the Walk of Fame and count 90 minutes.

From Griffith Observatory, the public transit ride back to LAX takes just under 2 hours.

Los Angeles Sigle Hollywood

Day 2: Santa Monica & Venice Beach

After a day of visit centred on the cinema and the stars, we change of atmosphere by going to the seaside. Los Angeles is associated with Hollywood and big sun, surf and beaches; the most iconic spot is Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

You can start with lunch and a stroll along the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian street full of great restaurants and cafes.

Los Angeles Santa Monica
Los Angeles Santa Monica

Later, the Santa Monica Pier is emblematic of this part of Los Angeles with its rides; the Ferris wheel is operated with solar energy! It’s a must-see even if you’re not interested in theme parks; the carnival atmosphere is superb and you can indulge in lots of sweet treats… kids love it.

Let yourself be tempted by an electric bike ride through Santa Monica!

Santa Monica Ferris

Another particularity of Santa Monica is that it is the last stop on the famous Route 66 that crosses the United States from Chicago.

For art lovers, the Getty Center is an unusual and impressive museum.

Santa Monica Route 66

After a morning in Santa Monica, you can take a walk along the Ocean Front Walk to Venice Beach and its Boardwalk, which are very different from Santa Monica. This part of Los Angeles is more hipster and… weird, but interesting!

Try your hand at surfing lessons or book a culinary tour of Venice Beach.

 

Venice Beach
Venice Beach
Venice Beach
Los Angeles in stopover

Santa Monica is only 20 minutes from LAX or about 1 hour by public transportation; the number 3 bus runs directly to the Aviation/LAX station every 15 minutes.

Another alternative for a more casual, local Los Angeles “beach” stop is at Manhattan Beach, a 10-minute Uber ride from the airport.

Day Three: Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles is huge and has several districts; you’ll need to spend more than a day getting around. This neighbourhood will be especially pleasing to people who love urbanism and art.

City Hall is a beautiful building for architecture enthusiasts, and its observatory is accessible free of charge.

Afterwards, two concert halls, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, are worth a visit, even if it is only to look at the building from the outside.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Grammy Museum also offers several interactive exhibits related to all genres of music.

Then there’s the Grand Central Market, another unmissable Los Angelesactivity, where you’ll find a large number of stalls selling local produce, as well as counters where you can eat or snack at low prices.

Los Angeles in stopover

The station in the heart of downtown Los Angeles is Union Station, which takes about an hour to get to from the airport, and can be reached by subway on the green and gray lines. You will need about 20 minutes by car if there is no traffic.

Day 4: Malibu

After several days in the hustle and bustle of the big city, a short roadtrip to Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway is definitely recommended. Malibu is a suburb of Los Angeles. Of course, it is preferable to rent a car to enjoy it fully and at your own pace.

Laguna Beach

This roadtrip starts from Santa Monica, and you will head to the northwest of Los Angeles. The first stop at the Malibu Pier is ideal for admiring Santa Monica Bay and the mountains in the background. There is also a beautiful little beach around a lagoon at Malibu Lagoon State Beach and Surfrider Beach for surfing enthusiasts.

Right next to the Malibu Lagoon, there are several small restaurants and stores where you can eat without breaking the bank. Then, the Malibu Country Mart is known as a place to spot celebrities. Indeed, many celebrities own a house or villa on the waterfront in Malibu.

Los Angeles Malibu

Then, Zuma Beach is a good spot for surfing, and El Matador Beach offers a breathtaking landscape with its rock formations, cliffs and caves.

A little further down the road, you can find Neptune’s Net, an iconic seafood restaurant. We can recognize this establishment the first film of Fast & Furious.

Beautiful and romantic El Matador State Beach in Malibu, Southern California
Beautiful and romantic El Matador State Beach in Malibu, Southern California

Finally, you will complete the Malibu tour when you reach Point Mugu. Actually, Point Mugu is in another county, but it is the last point of interest on this roadtrip where you can rest at the beach or go hiking in the surroundings.

And why not take a van tour of Malibu with a driver-guide, including a wine tasting.

Los Angeles in stopover

If you want to walk around Malibu during your layover in Los Angeles, it takes about 1.5 hours to get directly from the airport to Point Mugu.

This roadtrip is still quite good while waiting for a connection, as you can rent and return the car at LAX. It’s an excellent opportunity to stretch your legs at the beach with breathtaking scenery!

 

Los Angeles: other points of interest

It is certain that the itinerary proposed below is very condensed and does not include everything, but I tried to group as many attractions as possible.

If you have more time, the following sites are also worth a visit:

  • Hollywood Bowl
  • Dodger Stadium
  • LACMA
  • Union Station
  • Park Exhibition
  • Capitol Records
  • Disneyland

One of the must-do activities is a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Los Angeles

Finally, here are the best viewpoints in Los Angeles:

  • Griffith Observatory
  • Ascot Hills Park
  • Hollywood Bowl Overlook
  • Baldwin Hills Overlook
  • Vista Hermosa Park
  • Runaway Canyon Park
  • Skyspace LA
Los Angeles Vue

Where to eat in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles has no shortage of good restaurants; with a mix of multi-ethnic neighbourhoods like Little Tokyo, Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Armenia, etc., it’s very easy to find meals for every taste and budget!

Here are my recommendations, by sector, based on the itinerary suggestions in the previous section of this article.

Hollywood & Beverly Hills

Here are the restaurants I recommend in Hollywood & Beverly Hills:

  • The Griddle Cafe: great selection of all-day lunches
  • In N Out Burger: iconic chain in Los Angeles and California
  • Nate n Al Delicatessen: very large sandwich with an affordable New York style for a quick lunch
  • Spago of Beverly Hills: famous restaurant with a very diversified and often changing menu

Santa Monica & Venice Beach

Here are the restaurants I recommend in Santa Monica & Venice Beach:

  • 26 Beach Restaurant: a small breakfast restaurant with a bohemian soul
  • Blue Daisy Cafe: traditional lunches
  • The Butcher’s Daughter: vegan restaurant
  • Elephante: Italian with a sea view
  • Noma: excellent sushi restaurant

Downtown Los Angeles

Here are the restaurants I recommend in Downtown Los Angeles:

  • Grand Central Market: huge open-air market with many small vendors
  • Guisados: very good tacos
  • Bestia: Italian restaurant known to be frequented by celebrities

Malibu

Here are the restaurants I recommend in Malibu:

  • Neptune’s Net: the food is ordinary, but this restaurant is a classic where you have to stop when doing a roadtrip in Malibu.
  • Malibu Seafood: succulent and very fresh seafood
  • Nobu Malibu: very famous and delicious Japanese restaurant with the possibility of eating à la carte or in Omakase, but quite expensive
In N Out

What activities to book in Los Angeles?

For movie lovers, there is no better place to get away from it all than Los Angeles. First of all, the stars are everywhere in town and it is not uncommon to see them when you have lunch in a restaurant.

For my part, I spotted Keanu Reeves on the bus (!) and Julie Roberts in the Warner Brothers Studios parking lot. However, don’t expect to see any celebrities; Los Angeles is huge.

Studio visits

In Los Angeles, tours of production studios are very interesting; it is impossible to go on film sets when they are in use, but these tours give a good idea of what is happening behind the scenes in Hollywood.

These are so large that they have their own separate zip code! For example, Warner Brothers is located in Burbank on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

I had the chance to discover the studios of Paramount, Sony, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers. This one was my favourite by far; the famous Warner Brothers Stage 24 is the set of Friends, and you can still visit the filming site in this building.

Los Angeles Stage 24

Live filming

The majority of the shows are filmed in Los Angeles. So it’s possible to get tickets when there’s an audience, like at Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Show avec publique

These tickets can be obtained by raffle, among other things; for years, I have been subscribed to the Seat Fillers and more newsletter, which offers me opportunities to attend some events in Los Angeles. However, these invitations are often last-minute!

So the strategy here is to subscribe and hope to receive an email, crossing your fingers that it fits in well with our stay in Los Angeles, or be ready to buy a flight to get there quickly!

Organized tours

Then, as Los Angeles encompasses a very large area, I booked a city tour on GetYourGuide to cover several areas like Rodeo Drive and the Star Mansion district.

If you have little time (like on a stopover for example), these organized tours can be a good way to optimize your day.

You can check out activities to book in Los Angeles with our partner GetYourGuide:

 

Where to stay in Los Angeles?

In the case of a stopover in Los Angeles, I suggest you choose a hotel in the vicinity of the airport; the traffic is terrible in the metropolis and public transportation will take you a long time.

Then, for several days in Los Angeles, it will depend on your interests and what you plan to do in the city; establishments near a metro station are usually a good option.

The iconic hotels

In Los Angeles, there are some hotels that are famous, very glamorous and frequented by famous people. These establishments have retained their original Hollywood charm and can often be seen in movies; a visit to their restaurant or lounge can be a great way to experience them for less.

Here’s our selection:

For me, staying at The Beverly Hills Hotel is part of my bucket list in Los Angeles; this facility is probably the most historic and takes us all the way back to the silent movie era with Charlie Chaplin.

Los Angeles Beverly Hills Hotel

The points strategy at these hotels will be based mainly on travel points applicable to expenses. The majority of these establishments are independent or cost a lot of points.

The best credit card to have in your wallet if those hotels in Los Angeles are in your sights is the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Cardthe economy of conversion fees from foreign currencies by 2.5% and earning 6X points on this “travel” purchase is not a small return.

Finally, this card offers a generous bonus to new customers, and you can use Scene+ points to pay off your purchase.

Marriott Bonvoy

Around LAX, there are a lot of hotels, many of them from the Marriott Bonvoy chain. The Los Angeles Airport Marriott is just a few minutes from the airport.

I often used a free night certificate during my stopovers in Los Angeles. These certificates are offered with the Marriott BonvoyMD American ExpressMD* Card and the Marriott BonvoyMD Business American ExpressMD* Card, which also offer generous welcome bonuses.

See our review of the Westdrift Manhattan Beach, Autograph Collection, which is less than 15 minutes from the airport.

If you’re spending several days in Los Angeles, I’d recommend an establishment like The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles, which is very central and where you can use Marriott certificates.

Other hotels in the same area include :

How to get to Los Angeles for less?

Los Angeles Airport is one of the largest hubs in North America, so you have several options for getting there on major Canadian airlines.

Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet provide direct flights to major cities across the country as shown on Flight Connections.

Liaisons canadiennes Los Angeles

If you’re flying Air Canada, be on the lookout; if you’re traveling in business class or planning to use upgrade credits, choosing your plane can pay off in an armchair bed for that transcontinental flight!

With travel points

Airfares to Los Angeles vary greatly depending on the time of year. From experience, Air Transat often offers the best prices for direct flights from Montreal.

To save on these types of tickets, you’ll need travel points, which can be used to reimburse any airfare purchase, such as NBC Rewards points from the National Bank World Elite Mastercard®.

If you want to use NBC Rewards points to save on your Air Transat flight to Los Angeles, it’s best to use the National Bank booking platform.

In fact, the prices are similar to what you can find on the company’s website and you can redeem your points on your travel purchase. By doing so, you benefit from a better redemption rate and earn bonus points.

These low rates don’t usually include baggage fees, but you can use your $150 annual credit to get reimbursed for this expense!

Then, by doing so, you will benefit from your credit card’s excellent travel insurance!

With Aeroplan points

When cash prizes are harder to digest, it may be more advantageous to use Aeroplan points.

You will need to use at least 12,500 Aeroplan points, departing from Montreal, for one economy class flight to Los Angeles airport, according to Air Canada’s points predictor.

To get to Los Angeles with Aeroplan points, you could quickly accumulate some with the TDMD AeroplanMD Visa Infinite* Card welcome bonus.

What’s more, you’ll have the added advantage offree baggage check-in in case you get the urge to store on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles!

How to get around Los Angeles?

Metro and bus

Los Angeles is not very well served by public transportation (bus and subway), but it is not imperative to rent a car either.

From the Los Angeles Airport, the Aviation/LAX station is your gateway to the city’s network. However, you’ll need to calculate at least 1 h 15 and two line transfers to reach downtown Hollywood at the “Hollywood/Highland” station.

The first few times I went to Los Angeles, I travelled mostly by bus. So, it’s very doable though you will pay in time; I personally migrated to Uber on my most recent getaways and stopovers.

The bus is a pleasant way to discover the city. This comprehensive tour includes the Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Bell Air.

LA Métro

Uber and Lyft

A bus connects the airport to the Santa Monica Pier, but the trip will take you around an hour compared to 20-30 minutes by Uber. Similarly, to get to the Griffith Observatory from downtown, you can spend 45 minutes on public transit or 15-20 minutes by Uber.

Without a car rental, you can use Uber and Lyft to get from one corner to the other. Sure, it’s not the most economical way, but it’s the best car-free option in Los Angeles.

Here’s a sample fare for an Uber ride between LAX airport and Santa Monica Pier, and for a ride between Hollywood and the Griffith Observatory.

I often transit through Los Angeles on my way to Sydney or New Zealand; each time, I ordered an Uber to get to a spot and spent the 8-12 hours I had before catching my connecting flight.

Depending on the location, it cost me about 50-60 USD for a round trip to LAX and I used my Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card to save on conversion fees.

Rental cars

When it comes to car rentals, I prioritize TD Rewards points, which are easily accumulated through the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* CardMD welcome bonus. These points are best used on the Expedia for TD platform.

On the other hand, one should not neglect the parking fees which can add considerably to the bill. In fact, these costs can rise to over 20 USD per day if you do a lot of walking.

Finally, traffic is terrible in Los Angeles, especially during rush hour between 6:00 am and 9:00 am and again between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm, so it is recommended that you spend the day in a corner of Los Angeles. It’s up to you to see if it’s optimal to rent a car for your stay compared to Uber, as driving or not driving in Los Angeles is also a personal decision!

Los Angeles trafic

A travel guide to Los Angeles

Don’t forget to pick up a Los Angeles travel guide from the Ulysse bookstore!

Here are two travel guides about Los Angeles:

Los Angeles stopover
Los Angeles Ulysses

Bottom Line

The city of Los Angeles is the perfect destination for a short getaway of a few days for a diversified trip: beach, city, roadtrip, Disneyland, good food, etc.

Although big American cities can be expensive, there are many ways to cut costs when you play your (credit) cards right!

Did you like this guide? Check out the one on New York in 4 days!

When is the best time to visit Los Angeles?

In Los Angeles, the average temperature is 24°C in the warm season and 10°C in the winter.

How to visit Los Angeles

Traffic in Los Angeles is impressive, especially during rush hour. Choose a hotel close to your points of interest. Excursions that combine several activities are also a good way to save time.

How much can you afford to spend in California?

It all depends on what you want to do on your trip: luxury hotels, excursions, car rental, etc. Credit card rewards points can be used to reduce your bill, especially with account credit. Those without foreign currency conversion charges are also attractive, since the charges are generally 2.5%.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
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I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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