Santa Monica
Quick Trips

How to do Los Angeles in One Day

As a lady born and raised in Los Angeles, I find myself visiting all the time. While I did move away when I was 14, my parents moved back about 4 years ago leaving me a fun place to visit and explore.

I don’t know about you, but Robb and I like to take full advantage of any city we are visiting, regardless of the amount of time we are there.

For instance, we literally have done Rome in a day and while it would obviously be a skimmed version of what the city has to offer, we did hit most of the sites we wanted to see.

Now with any family visits, my time tends to be limited in the city and I often need to find a way to get the full Los Angeles experience without taking away from family time. On this particular visit, my parents rented us a car and for the day while they all had to work, my fiancé and I ventured out to get the full LA experience.

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Southern California has a lot to offer and as a Denverite that lives thousands of miles away, there is a lot that I don’t want to miss.

I will say, what’s not included in my day of Los Angeles is the famous theme parks surrounding the area. Personally, I am not much of a fan of them since I despise that funny feeling in your stomach when dropping and have spent most of my childhood crying my way through lines of rides I was forced to go on.

Also, for my one day experience, visiting a theme park would take up almost all of your time. However, if your down in Los Angeles for Disneyland, perhaps this could be a guide for one of the other days you are visiting.

It’s Los Angeles. The options are endless.

11:00 – 1:00 VENICE BEACH

We began our adventure in Venice Beach.

Generally, Venice is my spot to walk around the boardwalk. With local venders and eclectic people, it’s a great spot to find local treasures, grab a quick bite to eat, and see small acts.

I will warn you, it is a bit more adult themed and while things like recreational marijuana is legal in the state, Venice is generally known for getting your green card. Also, you’ll notice that the shirts may be a bit more explicit for small children so be a prepared. Honestly, I think it’s pretty fun to walk around even just for a little bit to see some culture and art work.

When it came to food, I opted to visit a little stand on the boardwalk. It was beautiful out, and I didn’t want to take away from the experience by eating indoors. Plus, it’s cheap! I was craving fish tacos so we found a stand for a couple dollars a piece and ate tacos on the beach.

What’s more Southern California than that?

While Venice is a fun experience, it’s not my favorite place to lay out on the beach. You’ll notice there isn’t many people hanging out by the water, and honestly, there are better beaches for that right up the coast.

As a kid, I’ve visited almost all of the beaches in the area and would never play in Venice Beach. This is especially a big deal since baby Melanie was basically a mermaid.

As for my day in LA, we spent a couple hours hanging out at this beach and made our way 10 minutes north to Santa Monica Pier and beach.

1:30 – 4:30 SANTA MONICA

Santa Monica Pier is a fun place to walk around, check out some rides, and feel that ocean breeze. While it is very touristy, it is a LOT more family friendly than Venice.

You still have shops, but the sales people are a lot less pushy and the products are less risqué. It also has rides so you can get a feel for the theme park without spending a whole day there.

When getting there, I try to park on the pier itself. We were planning to stay there for a few hours and t 3 dollar an hour, we couldn’t complain. It was especially nice to have access to the car so we can walk the pier without our beach stuff and grab it once we feel like hanging in the water.

One of the biggest things about the pier is the rides. They are a bit pricey, but we usually choose one to do during our trip. This time we chose the roller coaster (and yes, even my wimpy butt can handle this one).

We have been on the Ferris Wheel as well which I highly recommend hitting if it is sunset. Because we did that last time, we decided to skip it.

After walking around the pier, it’s time to check out the beach.

Santa Monica Beach is a significantly better area to lay out and wade in the water. The views are prettier and it is a lot safer.

My personal favorite beach in the area is Zuma but Santa Monica is a nice option to save time since you are already at the pier. Since we were only there for a day, I think it’s the best option to maximize the Los Angeles experience.

Also, since everyone knows about the traffic in Southern California, I do my best to limit the amount of time driving. Santa Monica gives me all the fun of hanging out at the beach with all the fun on the pier. Plus, with it so close to Venice, you can check out both within the same trip.

Next, Hollywood.

4:30 – 6:00 DRIVING


6:00 – 9:00 HOLLYWOOD

After our day at the beach, we decided to check out Hollywood for dinner.

It doesn’t quite feel like a trip to Los Angeles if we miss Hollywood Boulevard. Try to find your favorite star!

You won’t want to miss snapping a shot at Hollywood icons like the Grauman’s Chinese Theater or Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. You can tour the theater, but to save time, we usually just walk round and take photos.

Throughout Hollywood Boulevard, there are several stars but the ones in front of the Chinese Theater have the famous hand-prints, foot-prints, and signatures. As an added bonus, you can see all of them for free!

Also, several people like to dress up like characters from your favorite films, especially by the theater. I know, many of them are, well…. part of the tourist trap scam but I find it to be part of the Hollywood experience. Just know that they will probably ask you for money to take a picture with them. I generally skip the photo and simply enjoy the experience of the silly characters.

Since it was getting dark, we barely missed the famous Hollywood sign since you can only see it during the day. There are ways to hike up and get close, but we skipped it since last time, we drove up as it was getting dark and couldn’t see a thing. Since you can see it from the whole town, we figured that is good enough.

In Hollywood, you have several different options on where to eat at any price range. For this trip, we kept it simple at one of those grab and go pizza by the slice options but you can definitely find better food if you have more time.

With our parking spot expiring and our friend that we were meeting up with heading off of work, going quick and cheap with dinner was a better option. Besides, we were planning on going out and dancing later which is certainly not fun with an overstuffed belly. However, if that is not what you are planning to do that night, eat all the foods!

You’re on vacation and I always believe that eating great local food can give you a feel of where you are visiting.

9:30 PM – 2:00 AM DOWNTOWN

Fortunate for us, one of our college friends lives right next to Dodger stadium, giving us a free place to stay and a nice place to get ready for the night.

Robb and I love to go dancing and as a person who hasn’t experience much of the Los Angeles night life, it was fun to check it out.

This time, we decided to head to a couple places in downtown and had a blast.

Like with any metropolitan, we had to make sure that stayed out of danger and luckily, with friends that live there, they pointed us in the right direction.

We started out at Lash, which had a fun but chill vibe. Drinks were reasonably priced and there were a couple DJs on each side of the venue. One side was hip hop while the other was deep house but it does vary.

Then we headed over to Clifton’s and 80-year-old staple outfitted with eclectic decor, dancing, and a three-story red wood in the middle of the establishment. Each floor had extensive décor varying at each floor. What a great way to end the night.

We ended up staying there until closing time since we were meeting some of our other friends there. If you are feeling more ambitious, there are plenty of other clubs and after parties in the area, but I don’t want to recommend something that I haven’t been to myself.

From beaches to city life, I’d say we succeeded at our goal to fully get the Los Angeles experience in 24 hours without feeling too overwhelmed.

I say, if our going on a trip, it’s best to get the most out of your time and try to see it all, regardless on how much time you have in your location. Who knows when you’ll be back for more?

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