Some travellers will only ever see LA during a quick layover.
That’s okay, but those travellers will never get to see Los Angeles for what it really is.
Yes, there’s all of the sparkle and pizazz that comes with somewhere that is so intrinsically linked with celebrity and stardom, but there is actually so much more to LA than meets the eye.
This 3 day Los Angeles itinerary aims to show all first time visitors the top attractions that are expected alongside other hidden gems you may never have known about.
3 Days in Los Angeles Itinerary for First Time Visitors
LA is a big place. Fact.
For first time visitors, I’d highly recommend using the CitySightseeing ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus by Starline. Now I know what you’re thinking — aren’t they like super touristy and way overpriced?
I’m not going to lie. Yes, they are touristy, and they mean even err on the side of overpriced.
But for first time visitors, they are a really good way of getting around; particularly the Los Angeles bus, which has routes that sprawl out all over the place. Plus, they are a lot safer than some of the public transport options that are in LA, which can be rife with crime (especially at night).
For a 72 hour pass, you’ll pay $72 per person (roughly £60), but given you’re likely going to be using it A LOT during the 3 days (LA is hardly a walkable city), then I personally think it’s great value for money.
It certainly did us well during our visit, ensuring we got the chance to see all of the top attractions that are included within this Los Angeles itinerary.
For those of you who also think this bus would be a good option, I’ve included notes in this itinerary for what colour route you’d use the most on each day.
Day 1 – Yellow & Red Routes
If you’re anything like me then towards the top of your LA bucket list will be walking in the steps of Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman.
In this case, spend some time mooching about Beverly Hills.
A splurge (or window shop) in Rodeo Drive, a walk through Beverly Hills Park, a quick selfie in front of one of many Beverly Hills signs and a drink and sit down in posh Beverly Canon Gardens should all be at the top of your list.
For this itinerary, you’ll likely be in Beverly Hills for 2-3 hours (or longer if you love to shop!)
Hollywood Walk of Fame
As this is a Los Angeles itinerary for first time visitors, it should come as no surprise that the Hollywood Walk of Fame would be listed.
The complete Walk of Fame runs for 15 blocks along Hollywood Boulevard and 3 blocks of Vine Street (1.3 miles in total) and will take roughly 45 minutes to an hour to walk the whole thing.
Have fun looking for all of your favourite stars!
TCL Chinese Theatre
Follow the Hollywood Walk of Fame until you get to the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Outside the theatre is a small area of concrete slabs, which have handprints, footprints and signatures of yet more celebrities. In my opinion, the slabs here showcase a more personal side of celebrities compared with the Hollywood stars, thus, in a battle between the Walk of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre, the theatre would win hands down.
Once you’ve spent some time looking at all of the slabs, take a look inside the accompanying shopping mall. If you head to the very top, you’ll be able to see the Hollywood sign!
At this point, you could opt to stay at the theatre and catch a show. It’s basically a very posh cinema, but hey, when in LA…
Day 1 – Where To Eat
There are a huge number of restaurants in Hollywood as you might expect.
Most locals will tell you not to eat here if you don’t want overpriced food, but I personally think Los Angeles is the one place where you can act like a total tourist as much as you like.
We loved the burgers at Hollywood Burger. They were delicious and very filling, while the restaurant was a super relaxed joint to eat in.
Additionally, a first timer’s trip to LA simply has to include the Hard Rock Cafe. It would be rude not to, right?
Day 2 – Green Route
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier always seems to be crammed full of people. But there’s a really good reason why.
It’s simply a very fun place to come if you love traditional pier games, rides and food stalls. You can easily spend a couple of hours here if you want to, although I would advise against chilling out on the beach at Santa Monica as it’s very dirty with cigarette butts everywhere.
There are much cleaner (and quieter) beaches further along, which is where you’re heading next.
Los Angeles Beaches
Heading south from Santa Monica, there is a long stretch of beach, which is actually several beaches alongside each other.
As a vast contrast from the hustle and bustle of Santa Monica Pier, the rest of your day should be spent chilled out on one of these beautiful beaches and making your way as far south as you can.
You’ll pass through Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and end up at Redondo Beach if you walk the full stretch. But any one of these beaches are great to relax on.
Towards the end of the day, start making your way back up the beaches towards Manhattan Pier for sunset.
There are some very picturesque spots along this pier, which allow you to frame the sunset against palm trees and even American flags!
Day 2 – Where To Eat
When in LA, you must, must, must try some Mexican food. That was at least what one of our taxi drivers told us. We personally loved eating at El Gringo, which was situated in between Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. It felt very authentic and the prices were great!
As for other meals, surely you’d want to grab a bite at Santa Monica Pier, perhaps for lunch? There’s a whole array of food stalls to choose from, ranging from hot dogs, to sea food, to even cotton candy!
Day 3 – Green Route
Fisherman’s Village & Marina Del Rey
If you head out before 9am, you’ll be able to walk around Fisherman’s Village and nearby Marina Del Rey with hardly anyone around.
This is such a cool little area of LA, and just doesn’t get mentioned enough in my opinion.
It’s essentially a series of cute little shops along the harbour front, which sell anything from homewares to souvenirs.
But it’s the buildings and boats that you should be looking at. They are cute, colourful and so reminiscent of a tiny little seaside town that you’ll be guilty of forgetting you’re even in a place as busy and hectic as Los Angeles.
There are several miles worth of tiny little canals in Venice, Los Angeles, so you’d be forgiven for walking for an hour or two along them.
Almost every house overlooking the canals has a port and boat, and there are several little bridges that interlink the canals. It’s such a tranquil area and as above with Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll likely forget you’re still in LA.
For your final activity in this 3 days Los Angeles itinerary, I’m going to suggest that you spend a few hours chilling on Venice Beach.
This will help prepare you for your onwards flight and will ensure you’re making the most of the beautiful Californian sunshine.
Day 3 – Where To Eat
In this part of LA, you should try to hunt down some delicious seafood, which is likely to have been locally caught.
If seafood isn’t your thing, then other great options in this area include pizza joints. You are near the Venice Canals after all.
Is this LA itinerary not quite what you were after? We also offer custom travel planning services!
3 Days in Los Angeles – Where To Stay
Even in busy touristy cities like LA, I always seek solace (especially when it comes to hotels and where to stay).
Furthermore, as you’ll only be spending 3 days in Los Angeles, my personal recommendation would be to seek out hotels near to the airport in areas such as Westchester, Marina Del Rey and Hawthorne.
Although you’ll be further out of town, staying in one of these areas will make for a quick and easy taxi ride to and from the airport and will be much more peaceful after a busy day of sightseeing.
And if you’ve opted to use the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus, you won’t be too far from the orange route, which runs as far as LAX, or the green route that starts in Marina Del Rey.
For 3 days in LA, I’d recommend keeping it simple with a chain motel. They should be clean, simple, likely to offer a free breakfast and most importantly, are cheap (even when close to the airport).
Here are a few recommendations:
I hope this 3 days Los Angeles itinerary offers you some inspiration ahead of your visit. If you’ve got any questions about this itinerary or about these LA sights, then just leave me a few notes in the comments below and I’ll reply back to you.
Note: We spent 3 days in LA as part of our 2 week West Coast USA itinerary.
Need help planning your trip to the USA? We also offer custom travel planning services!
Was this useful? Why not share it around!