Our 2-day Los Angeles itinerary offers a step-by-step touring plan for experiencing the best things to do in L.A., with a trip to the top beach, excellent California food, and free attractions. It’s an efficient plan-of-attack for Los Angeles, and while you’ll see and do a lot, we’ve also tried to allow for some relaxed, leisure time–after all, SoCal is known for its laid back nature.
The goal with this Los Angeles plan is basically to take our 1-Day “Best of” Los Angeles Itinerary, slow it down just a bit, and expand it to two days. That itinerary has an aggressive pace that barely allows you time to blink. Our goal here is doing more, but also having some time to breathe.
Even still, you won’t be able to accomplish it all. This 2-day Los Angeles itinerary features several museums, a couple hiking options, pretty drives, and more, but our intention is not that you do it all. Too many L.A. itineraries are unrealistic in that they don’t account for that “traffic” thing, or expect you to race through everything, trying to get things done checklist style. That’s not our approach–we do account for traffic, and we also let you know what’s skippable…
If you’re spending 3 or 4 days in Los Angeles, we’d recommend adding our 1-Day Downtown Los Angeles Walking Itinerary and/or our 1-Day Hollywood Itinerary, both of which have little overlap with this one. The DTLA itinerary makes a great second day for a 3-day stay in Los Angeles; it’s entirely on foot, which is a nice reprieve from all of the driving in this 2-day L.A. itinerary.
Downtown Los Angeles is also great for a third day because it’ll actually give you a slice of the atmosphere in the city. This itinerary spends a lot of time on the westside and in the hills, which are the strongest areas in terms of things to do, but don’t full capture the full Los Angeles experience. Venturing into DTLA for a day is a good way to remedy that.
For now, here’s our recommended way to spend 2 days in Los Angeles, complete with maps for navigating Southern California’s infamous traffic…
1. Hike to Hollywood – We have a full post offering Tips for Hiking to the Hollywood Sign, which presents the array of trails and options, rating from easy but long to short but moderate. One option would be saving this until the end of the day and combining the Hollywood Sign hike with your visit to Griffith Observatory. Unfortunately, that’s a 6.5 mile hike, so not exactly recommended if you’re in L.A. for only 2 days.
Instead, we’d encourage you to try the approach through Deronda Gate (step by step instructions are in that post). This is a moderate hike, which is about 1 mile and will take about 30 minutes to get behind the Hollywood Sign. Doing this early in the morning is ideal, as you’ll beat the crowds and the heat. If that’s more physical activity than you want to start your day, head to Lake Hollywood Park, which offers the best view of the sign without any hiking, and is a lovely, grassy park.
2. Warner Bros. Studio Tour – Now that you’ve been to the top of Hollywood, it’s time to continue your adventure in showbiz with the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which is a stone’s throw from the Hollywood Sign. (You can literally see the Warner Bros. lot from the hike.)
You need to book this tour in advance, and we’d recommend opting for a morning slot around 10 a.m. or so. While there are other exceptional studio tours in and around Los Angeles, this is the most polished experience, and is like a hybrid theme park and authentic backstage experience. See and read more in our full post about the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
3. Refuel at In-N-Out – In-N-Out Burger is a California institution that you must visit when in California, and while it’s not the best meal you’ll find in Los Angeles, it is the most iconic.
In-N-Out has many locations throughout Southern California, and we’re going to recommend the one on Sunset Boulevard (7009 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028). All In-N-Out locations are perpetually busy, but that’s doubly true here as this is in a popular tourist spot. Nevertheless, it’s a good option along this route, and will position you nicely for a quintessential California experience: cruising down Sunset while savoring a Double-Double.
4. Hollywood & Sunset Boulevards – Aside from the eponymous sign, this itinerary glosses over popular ‘downtown’ Hollywood landmarks entirely. You can remedy that by combining this with our 1-Day Hollywood Itinerary or gawking along the drive. If you go the driving route, your first step should actually be turning right onto Hollywood Boulevard en route to In-N-Out. This will take you past El Capitan, the Chinese Theatre, and Roosevelt Hotel.
Upon leaving In-N-Out, we’d recommend staying on Sunset, passing by the Crossroads of the World, Amoeba Music, and the Pacific Cinerama Dome. Immediately after that, you’ll turn left onto Vine and then right back onto Hollywood Boulevard, where you’ll arrive just in time to see the Pantages Theatre.
5. Barnsdale Art Park – This popular green space is popular with Angelenos, and is home to a handful of galleries and theaters. The main reason to visit, and the centerpiece of Barnsdale Art Park, is Hollyhock House. This masterpiece by Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect’s first project in Los Angeles.
Built between 1919 and 1921, this was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first Los Angeles project. It was designed to suit the region, and Wright referred to the house’s style as California Romanza. It’s a beautiful home, and self-guided tours are inexpensive. (Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside.)
6. Looky Looing in Los Feliz – If you visited Hollyhock House and want the Frank Lloyd Wright double feature, drive up Glendower Ave, where you can spot the famous Ennis House from the street. If you’re a serious high-roller, perhaps you can arrange a tour of the home, which is for sale for the bargain price of $23 million.
Beyond the Ennis House, this residential area of Los Feliz features some ritzy homes of affluent Angelenos. It also offers a broad cross-section of L.A.’s charming residential architecture. Other famous homes in the area include the John Sowden House and Lovell House, but pretty much everything in the area is beautiful. If time allows, drive around Los Feliz, but keep in mind that you should get to Griffith Observatory an hour before sunset.
7. Sunset at Griffith Observatory – There’s a ton to do in Griffith Park: hiking, the Los Angeles Zoo, and Autry Museum are all popular. None of them are Los Angeles highlights or must-dos, and you don’t have the time for them, anyway. Focus your attention here exclusively on Griffith Observatory, which is the crown jewel of Los Angeles.
Griffith Observatory is free to visit, and inside you’ll find a bunch of cool exhibits, including a Tesla coil, Foucault pendulum, planetarium, and wealth of astronomy programming. There’s also beautiful murals and Art Deco architecture. Outside, you’ll find a viewing deck with panoramic views overlooking Los Angeles that are perfect for sunset. Watching the sun light fade away and the skyline light up at dusk is a really fun experience, and highly recommended. See and read more tips for visiting Griffith Observatory.
8. Dinner – While our 1-day version of this itinerary takes you back into Hollywood for an evening on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip (including Daikokuya for dinner), we think that’s overzealous for a 2-day itinerary, particularly one that recommends an early second day.
Instead, we’re going to leave dinner on this one up to you, with the suggestion that you eat somewhere en route to your hotel. Our Great Food in Los Angeles series has recommendations throughout the city.
All told, this day of the itinerary is under 20 miles, which is good! However, the practical reality is that it’ll entail spending 2 hours in your car unless you get lucky with traffic. We’ve tried to minimize time on busy roads during peak commute times, but traffic is almost always a hassle. Unfortunately, that’s just the reality of driving in Los Angeles.
1. Inventive Donuts for a Traditional Breakfast – For a city that is known for its fixation on health and appearances, Los Angeles is known for some surprising foods. Namely, burgers and donuts. While it’s never too early to have the former, we’ll start the day with the “traditional” breakfast of inventive donuts.
There are great options all over Los Angeles, and where you go really depends upon where you’re staying or how far out of the way you want to venture. My favorite is Sidecar, but Voodoo Doughnut, Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts, and California Donuts are also incredibly popular (among many others). You really can’t go wrong, so we’d recommend choosing based upon convenience. (Pro tip: order a few extra to keep in the car for an afternoon snack–dinner won’t come until late.)
2. Petersen Automotive Museum – This day of the itinerary includes 5 museums; you cannot possibly do them all (nor would you want to), it’s more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ sort of deal. The first 3 are all within a couple blocks of one another on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, and we’d recommend parking in a nearby garage and visiting 2 of them.
While Petersen Automotive Museum may seem like the least-appealing option if you’re not into cars, we’d recommend doing this one. It provides insight into California car culture, and also showcases a number of vehicles used in Hollywood films. See and read more about Petersen Automotive Museum.
3. LACMA – Despite it being the highest-profile museum on this list, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the one we’d skip. This is primarily because it’s an art museum and we’re recommending two more of those in the afternoon, but also because it’s huge and the bulk of its collection consists of hit-or-miss modern art.
If you’re particularly keen on modern art, you may disagree with us. In any case, we’d recommend making a quick stop for the obligatory selfie at Urban Light before continuing to La Brea Tar Pits. See and read more about LACMA.
4. La Brea Tar Pits – It’s a concrete jungle now, but Los Angeles used to be home to Woolly Mammoth, Sabertooth Tiger, Dire Wolf, and other prehistoric badass animals. Even today, it’s home to active tar pits, all of which you can see at the La Brea Tar Pits.
The museum here is small, but it’s incredibly cool and a uniquely Los Angeles experience. Plus, you’ll likely spend less time at Petersen Auto Museum and La Brea Tar Pits combined than you would at just LACMA. Both can be quick hit experiences, which is good because this is a jam-packed day. See and read more about La Brea Tar Pits.
5. Original Farmers Market – First opened in July 1934, the Original Farmers Market on Fairfax is a historic Los Angeles landmark and an option where everyone can get what they want for lunch. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite place in L.A., but it’s a ~10 minute walk from Museum Row, meaning you don’t have to pay for parking again, so convenience wins the day here. Dupars is a Farmers Market institution, but if you’re short on time, try Loteria instead.
After Farmer’s Market, you’ll drive up Wilshire Boulevard to the Getty Center, passing a diverse lineup of architectural styles that help define Los Angeles. From the Googie architecture of Zucky’s to the Spanish Colonial Revival style of Wadsworth Theater, keep your eyes peeled.
6. Getty Center – Home of the best and most valuable art collection in Los Angeles, the Getty Center is a free art museum with numerous galleries spread out in multiple buildings in a beautiful outdoor campus. It’s one of my favorite art museums in the world, and a large part of the reason we recommend skipping LACMA.
The Getty Center is large and sprawling, and we’ve spent entire days there. Unfortunately, you don’t even have a half-day to experience it, so we’d recommend focusing on a handful of galleries and bypassing the rest rather than trying to race through them all. If you have more than 2 days, it’s worth noting that the two Getty locations plus Malibu can make for a full-day itinerary. Read our tips for what to see and how to spend your time at the Getty Center.
7. Getty Villa – Before leaving the Getty Center, be sure to stop at the info desk for a coupon good for same-day complimentary parking at Getty Villa (we emphasize parking a lot in this itinerary, and that’s for good reason–you can drop $80/day on parking in Los Angeles if you pay for parking at every stop). We also recommend driving the Sunset Blvd. route between the two for a more leisurely cruise.
Getty Villa is a totally different experience from its sister sight. Rather than being a traditional art museum, this was benefactor J. Paul Getty’s oceanside estate. The museum is modeled after a first-century Roman country house, and itself is a beautiful exercise in excess. It also emphasizes antiquities, which makes it a good companion to the Getty Center. See more & read our tips for how to spend your time at the Getty Villa.
8. Malibu Magic Hour(s) – Almost every other itinerary for Los Angeles is going to recommend Santa Monica Pier instead of making the trek up to Malibu. So, why should you follow our advice over the clear consensus?
First, you’re already there if you go to Getty Villa. Although its address is technically Pacific Palisades, it’s basically in Malibu.
Second, Malibu is better. Santa Monica is trendy and its pier is ‘Instagram-able’ but ultimately the experience rings hollow and the beaches in Santa Monica are meh at best. Malibu’s beaches are far more photogenic, and are among the most beautiful in all of California.
Finally, you’re going to need to drive to get to the beach regardless, so why not spend the extra 30 minutes to get to one that’s actually good?! Ultimately, if you disagree with us, you can head to Santa Monica after Malibu. The Pier and Promenade are both open late.
Anyway, in Malibu our favorite is El Matador State Beach, which is our recommendation for sunset. After sunset, head down the road for dinner at Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market, where there are options for every budget, and a delightful open-air seating area to enjoy the dusk breeze.
With almost 60 miles of ground covered, day 2 features almost triple the mileage as day 1. The good news is that over half of this time is spent on a scenic section of Pacific Coast Highway. Moreover, you’ll spend about the same amount of time driving as the first day, but it’ll be more enjoyable.
Hopefully our 2-day Los Angeles itinerary helps you plan the perfect trip. If you have more time in Southern California, we’d recommend pairing this with some of our other itineraries (mentioned above) for the perfect trip!
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 visited any of the places in this California touring plan? If so, what did you think of them? If you’re an Angeleno, what do you think of this itinerary? Anywhere you’d recommend that didn’t make the list? Disappointed that in 2 full days we don’t recommend anywhere in DTLA? Anywhere you’d recommending skipping that did make the list? Questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so if you need personalized advice or have suggested revisions to this Los Angeles itinerary, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!