Want to spend a single day on the Westside of Los Angeles? Staying near LAX and want to easily see the best things to do in the area? This itinerary has you covered, with a step-by-step plan for Beverly Hills, Culver City, Brentwood, Century City, Bel Air, Westwood, and so on. While it’s not a walkable itinerary, everything here is in a pretty compact part of the Westside, and is under an hour’s worth of driving in total.
Before you commit a ton of time reading this, I’ll level with you: this isn’t our best itinerary. I’ve created it because I noticed that there was a huge area of the Westside that we haven’t covered in our other Los Angeles itineraries. However, I also didn’t want it to overlap with those touring plans, which can easily be combined to form a perfect multi-day visit to L.A.
As such, if you’re using this as a standalone itinerary, you should also consult our 1-Day Santa Monica & Venice Itinerary as well as our 1-Day Los Angeles Highlights Itinerary. Spots like the Getty Center, Getty Villa, and Santa Monica Pier are going to be Westside essentials, but we’re omitting them here because we’ve included those stops in the aforementioned (superior) itineraries.
However, if you’re doing multiple days in Los Angeles and are already planning on using those itineraries, you might want to consider using this Westside Itinerary, too. It’s also great for your arrival or departure day, as it’s a bit more laid back.
With LAX nearby, you can hit the ground running with this plan, and remove points of interest if you need to turn this into a half-day itinerary…
You probably won’t find many (any?) other Los Angeles itineraries that recommend starting your day bright and early in Culver City. If you live outside California, you’ve probably never even heard of it, despite Culver City being a powerhouse for motion picture and television production. In part, this is because it’s more industrial than it is flashy and touristy, but that’s not a bad thing if you’re looking to get off the beaten path a bit.
Start your morning with breakfast at Destroyer, a futuristic hotspot serving Scandinavian fare. After that, head to the first tour of the day at the Sony Pictures Studio. As we note in our Sony Pictures Studio Tour Review, this is our favorite studio tour in Los Angeles, and a huge part of that is its authenticity and ‘realness’ rather than being a polished product.
The Sony Pictures Studio Tour is also the cheapest way to go behind the scenes at a Hollywood studio, and it includes parking in the cost, which is huge. We actually recommend using the Go Los Angeles Card (read our review of the Go LA Card here), which sort of negates any cost comparisons, but if you’re not using that, it’s good to know. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as they’re required.
If you’re so inclined, the Museum of Jurassic Technology isn’t far away from the Sony lot in Culver City. You’ll find the Museum of Jurassic Technology on a lot of “quirky” or “hidden gem” posts about Los Angeles. While we think the concept is neat, the presentation leaves something to be desired and it walks a fine line between eclectic and confounding.
Lunch in Little Osaka
Our 1-Day Downtown Los Angeles Itinerary dedicated significant time to Little Tokyo, so it should be no surprise that we’re suggesting the neighborhood of Sawtelle Japantown. Informally known as Little Osaka, this area is home to a sizable Japanese American population and has a burgeoning dining scene, plus dozens of trendy retail shops.
Whereas Little Tokyo feels older and established, Little Osaka exudes an aura of hipness. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Tsujita Artisan Noodles, which is our favorite ramen spot in Los Angeles. After a big bowl of tsukemen, indulge your sweet tooth at Beard Papa or B Sweet Dessert Bar.
Then you’ll probably want to shake off the inevitable food coma with a stop at Balconi Coffee Company or Coffee Tomo. We usually spend several hours in Little Osaka per visit, with some combination of 3 of those dining spots, plus some shopping in between.
Unwind at UCLA
After what should be a thoroughly exhausting dining marathon in Little Osaka, it’s time to drive over to the University of California, Los Angeles. The main draw here is the (free!) Hammer Museum, and that’s what we recommend focusing on here.
In a manner that seems to be the rule rather than the exception of Los Angeles art museums, Hammer presents artist-centric exhibitions that challenge the visitors, and pose questions (and insight) into pressing cultural, political, and social questions. The presentation at Hammer Museum is exceptional, and it also has a variety of public spaces and seating that are conducive to conversation and relaxation.
You’ll find a variety of other interesting things on and around the campus in Westwood, including the Fowler Museum, UCLA Meteorite Collection (yes, that’s really a thing you can visit), and Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden. If you have time to spare on your parking, we’d also recommend walking over to Stan’s Donuts.
Century City Sightseeing
Most visitors are drawn to this area of Los Angeles for the Westfield Century City shopping mall, which has been described as “a shining beacon of shopping heaven.” I don’t know that I’d go quite that far, but it’s a nice mall. However, it’s hardly iconic in terms of L.A. shopping, so it’s a tough sell as a recommendation for tourists.
Instead, we’re recommending Century City for a pair of under-the-radar but exceptional museums: the Annenberg Space for Photography and Museum of Tolerance. The names pretty much tell the story of what each is all about, but it’s worth underscoring that both are high-quality experiences that don’t receive nearly enough accolades or interest from visitors as the more generalized museums in Los Angeles.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is totally free, and runs single topic exhibitions that are powerful and thought-provoking. By contrast, Museum of Tolerance is expensive, but also offers exhibits that are also powerful and thought-provoking (obviously in totally different ways). Just divide your Museum of Tolerance admission in half and think of paying that amount for each of them; it ends up evening out and both are worth it.
By this point, even if you started early and didn’t spend a ton of time in Little Osaka (your mistake!), the last of the city’s points of interest are likely closing for the day and you’re probably due for another meal or evening entertainment.
You could simply head to the aforementioned Westfield Century City. Eataly L.A. is probably the most interesting (but not best) option, with 3 floors, 4 table service restaurants, 9 counter service restaurants, 2 cafes, 2 bars, cooking classes, and retail devoted to all things about Italy’s culinary scene.
Alternatively, you could cruise down the iconic Wilshire Boulevard, or head over to the even more iconic Rodeo Drive to get your shopping fix, be it the real or window variety. Over half the people wandering around Rodeo Drive are looky-loo tourists, and Beverly Hills in general isn’t nearly as intimidating as your mental picture might paint it. With that said, it’s also probably not as interesting or glamorous as your preconceived notion.
Going the other direction entirely, you could head over to La Cienega and the most iconic spot of all: Norms Restaurant. The draw of Norms is its imaginative zigzag design and neon lights, an exemplar of Googie architecture in Southern California. It’s also an ‘endangered species’ and one that has been saved from demolition more than a couple of times. Cuisine-wise, Norms is not particularly noteworthy. It’s reliably good diner food, but about as far as you can get from haute cuisine. At the end of a long day in L.A., a no-fuss meal might really hit the spot.
All in all, this should be a fairly full and satisfying day in the Westside of Los Angeles. As stated earlier in the itinerary, it’s pretty easy to remove or shift things around to make this work for an arrival and departure day. No matter at what point you pick this up, you’re never far from LAX, so it’s a great option in that regard. We also shouldn’t undersell the itinerary–there are several stops here that we absolutely love, and this does make a great fourth or fifth day in the Los Angeles area!
If you’re planning a trip, check out our Ultimate Guide to Los Angeles or our California category of posts. For even more things to do, The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas is an exceptional resource, which is written by other locals. If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!
Have you done any of these things on the Westside of Los Angeles? If so, what did you think of experience? Anything else you’d add to this itinerary? Spots you’d remove? Any additional tips to add that we didn’t cover? Would you recommend first-timers to Los Angeles spend a day in this part of the city? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!