Visiting Los Angeles for the first time?
It’s hard to know where to start when you visit a city like LA. There’s are so many things to do in Los Angeles and so much ground to cover. What if you only have a weekend to explore the city? I teamed up with Expedia.com to bring you the perfect 2 days in Los Angeles itinerary. Don’t worry about trying to pack everything into two days because it’s simply not possible. Here’s how I managed to narrow it down and travel to a few essential spots around LA. To get your trip started right, see Expedia.com for a full list of vacation rentals in Los Angeles.
Day 1: Venice
Spend your entire first day in LA exploring Venice. It’s my favorite neighborhood in Los Angeles and where we also spent the night. It’s such an interesting place where you could spend your whole day people watching on the Venice Beach boardwalk. However, there’s much more to Venice than that, so let me show you where to visit, eat, and sleep.
Looking for a beautiful beach in Los Angeles? Head directly to Venice Beach. It’s a expansive stretch of powdery sand with deep blue waters and mountains in the distance. In other words, it’s paradise. You can’t go to California without hitting up the beach. Make Venice Beach your first stop on your 2 days in Los Angeles itinerary.
Besides the beach itself, there are quite a few intriguing attractions surrounding Venice Beach. First, the Venice Beach boardwalk is a lengthy paved path to walk along, and you’ll see lots of interesting characters on your way. Browse through some of the shops lining the beach. Check out the Venice Skate Park right on the beach, a favorite among skaters in LA. There’s also the Muscle Beach Gym, once the home gym of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. You’ll watch some of the fittest people lifting heavy things or you can even join them for a workout.
Have you heard of the Venice of America? The Venice Canals are man made canals that are over 100 years old. Originally, developer Abbot Kinney wanted to import the concept of Venice, Italy to California, complete with canals and gondoliers. Unfortunately, the project was a bit of a failure because it didn’t take off like he anticipated. However, the Venice Canals are a spectacular place to go for a stroll and check out the beautiful homes. It’s a lesser known attraction in Los Angeles and one you definitely need to add to your bucket list.
Even with only a weekend in Los Angeles, it’s a landmark you need to check out. After all, it’s the next best thing to its Italian counterpart. We loved wandering across the various bridges, spotting unique homes and green spaces around each corner. There was even a small duck pond marked, “Do not enter – ducks only!”.
Starting at the Venice Canals, you can spot bright and colorful street art. In fact, it’s all over Venice. You just need to wander around to find it. Discovering street art while traveling is one of my favorite activities. Murals can often teach us something about a particular place as they can be representative of the people that live there or its history. Some of my favorite works of public art feature striking imagery of animals or splashes of color in various shapes and patterns. There are entire walls covered with beautiful art all over Venice.
Shop at Boutiques
There’s something for every taste and style at the boutique shopping in Venice. If finding clothing, jewelry, items for your home, or unique gifts and souvenirs are up your alley, take a stroll down Main Street or Abbott Kinney Blvd. Even if you’re more of a window shopper, it’s worth a trip down these shopping streets and you should add this activity to your 2 days in Los Angeles itinerary. I also stumbled upon the cutest looking library ever, right on Main Street.
Where to Dine
I highly recommend that you dine at Cafe Gratitude in Venice. Cafe Gratitude is a small chain of vegan restaurants, primarily in Los Angeles. Their plant-based meals are thoughtfully prepared and all come paired with descriptive feelings or adjectives. For instance, we ordered the Buffalo Cauliflower Wings, which were also labeled as “Eclectic”. My Macrobiotic Bowl was also called “Whole”. Before dining, we were presented with a “question of the day” by our server, which we embraced as a conversation piece at our table. We discussed all that we were grateful for before the food arrived at the table, which was a really peaceful and kind concept.
The meal at Cafe Gratitude was so wonderful that we decided to return for breakfast the next morning. I highly recommend the pancakes. They come topped with fresh fruit and served with maple syrup. Yum!
Where to Stay
Spend the night one street away from the beach at the Ellison Suites. Built in 1913, every suite in this historic hotel is uniquely designed. After the original owners, the Ellisons, comedy duo Laurel and Hardy purchased the property. In the 1950s, the hotel was converted into apartments and often frequented by Jim Morrison. Our suite was the perfect home away from home, with its own kitchenette, bedroom, and pullout couch. From our room, we woke up to a beautiful view of the beach from our window. You can easily walk all over Venice from the Ellison Suites, and the Santa Monica Pier is a short bike ride away. For a weekend in Los Angeles (or longer!), this hotel is the best home base for exploring the city.
Day 2: Santa Monica, Hollywood and Beyond
After a restful night’s sleep and a satisfying breakfast at Cafe Gratitude, it’s time to travel beyond Venice to see more of Los Angeles.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is an iconic and popular landmark in Los Angeles that you must visit. It is officially the ending point of Route 66, so be sure to snap a picture with the highway sign. Pacific Park, an amusement park, is the main attraction at the Santa Monica Pier. There’s a one of a kind solar powered Ferris wheel at the park, which I highly recommend riding. There are some amazing views when you circle to the top of the Ferris wheel that you absolutely must see. After riding the Ferris wheel and the small roller coaster, we walked up and down the wooden pier to catch glimpses of the ocean. There are opportunities to rent bikes, boogie boards, beach chairs and umbrellas. Go shopping for souvenirs or grab a bite to eat. You can easily spend all day going on rides and lounging at the beach.
After you’re finished exploring the Santa Monica Pier, take a trip up to Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory. Even if you only have 1 day in Los Angeles, you should find time to go there as it was one of my favorite spots. We made the mistake of calling an Uber right before rush hour and it took us a few hours to get there! Don’t make the same mistake as us. Plan accordingly and don’t head to the Griffith Observatory during peak traffic hours. We learned first hand how the traffic in LA can be a total nightmare.
We wanted to watch the sunset from the Griffith Observatory and made it to catch the end of the spectacle. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sun go down over the city. Plus, it has one of the best views of the Hollywood sign. After we watched the sunset, we caught a live planetarium show at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Our show was called, “Light of the Valkyries” and it was one of the best planetarium shows I’ve ever seen. If you’re a fan of outer space, spectacular light shows, or even just learning something new, it’s not to be missed. Tip: You can also catch the DASH Observatory bus to get there if you don’t have a car or don’t want to take a car sharing service.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
It might seem a little too cheesy or touristy, but a first timers’ trip to Los Angeles is not complete without checking out the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While it wasn’t even close to being my favorite activity, but it’s one of those places you’ve just gotta see. I’ve scheduled it towards the end of my 2 days in Los Angeles itinerary because if it’s something you don’t have time for, you can leave it off the list. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is much larger than I expected, spanning several city blocks. We aimlessly walked along and didn’t recognize many of the names on the stars, but we did stumble upon a few notable ones.
Where to Dine
For dinner, check out the Veggie Grill location in Hollywood. This vegan fast food chain has numerous menu selections, including burgers, sandwiches, bowls, salads, tacos, and more. I opted for a classic veggie burger with fries and it definitely didn’t disappoint. They serve up vegetables in delicious and innovative ways, even if it means ordering a safe selection like a burger. The restaurant was constantly packed with people, though the line moved quickly and our orders came to the table fast. Don’t miss this plant-based LA favorite when traveling here.
Click here to check out more photos from my trip to Los Angeles. You can purchase prints, housewares, and so much more made from my travel pics right from my photography website.