What to Do on Your First Trip to Los Angeles (Part 1)

So it’s your first time traveling to Los Angeles.  All the most popular travel sites list an overwhelmingly amount of things you should do and see.  The city is huge and strategic planning is needed to make sure you include the most popular sites as well as hidden gems in your itinerary.  Let me help you with the process! 🙂 The recommendations below are all things either I or friends have personally experienced.

Getting Around

Rent a car.  A car is a necessity in LA.  The metro system is extremely inferior to other big cities.  It is difficult to navigate and not the safest.  And as I said, LA is huge so getting around by car is the only sensible option.  Parking can get expensive in some areas but it is unfortunately still the most budget-friendly option.  Uber is an option too but can be expensive for activities farther out from your lodging location.  Book your rental through the link below to get a discount!


Rentals From $8.98 A Day 7 Major Car Vendors. Save Up To 40%

What To Do (By Region)


View of Grand Park from City Hall.
  • Los Angeles Central Library – Even if you don’t love libraries (like I do), go here!  The store is an awesome place to get unique souvenirs that you won’t find anywhere else.  The greeting cards and postcards are especially awesome.
  • Los Angeles City Hall – Yes, it’s a building filled with boringness but the treasure is found on the 27th Floor. The 360 degree panoramic views from the observation deck are unmatched (and free) in LA.  Check out Grand Park while in the area too.
  • The Last Bookstore – If you’re a bookstore junkie, this one will feed your addiction.  The second floor in particular has a whimsical design and some more opportunities for souvenir shopping.
  • Downtown Art Walk – If it happens to work out that you are in DTLA on the 2nd Thursday of the month, you’ll enjoy the art by locals.  Just look or buy a piece as a souvenir.


  • I recommend staying away from Hollywood, but if you insist on going, go to catch a show.  The Pantages Theatre, Hollywood Palladium or the Hollywood Bowl usually always have something going on.
  • Lake Hollywood – If you’re looking for a peaceful time away from the city, take a short drive over to the Hollywood Reservoir aka Lake Hollywood.  With great views of the Hollywood sign and some great photo ops, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Griffith Observatory – Even if you just go for the views, a trip to the top of LA is worth it.  Don’t forget your camera!
  • The Greek Theatre – This concert venue is set up like a Greek ampitheater and is an awesome place to see your favorite band perform.  This is easily my favorite venue in LA.

Santa Monica / Venice

View of Santa Monica from the pier.
  • Santa Monica Pier – Though it may seem like a tourist trap, Santa Monica is a beautiful city.  The pier, which contains an amusement park, Pacific Park, is a classic piece of LA.  Ride the Ferris Wheel or just take a stroll past the street performers.  Or if you’re like me, take advantage of the limitless photo ops in all directions.
  • Third Street Promenade – This 24 hour shopping complex in Downtown Santa Monica can keep you entertained for hours.  Whether you’re just walking through people-watching or shopping for something special to take home, this is your spot.
  • Venice Beach – While I personally am not a huge fan, this is one of the most trendy beaches in Southern California.  You can check out the vendors at Ocean Front Walk.  If you want to do something more active, bike from Venice to Santa Monica (or vice versa) or get a workout in at Muscle Beach.
  • Getty Villa – This museum is technically just a little north of Santa Monica in Pacific Palisades.  I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re in the area!  It is not as crowded or popular as its counterpart, the Getty Center, and it’s European vibes might make you feel at home.  Be advised that tickets for entry are free but you must reserve them online before going.  Parking is $10.  If you go to the Getty Center the same day, you can use your parking pass there as well.

Where To Eat (By Region)


  • Grand Central Market – This is a great place for picking up sustenance from the various food stalls showcasing a flavorful mix of fresh produce, meat, seafood, spices and prepared foods that reflect the “melting pot” vibes of LA.  They have tables set up inside or take it to go and enjoy your meal at a table in Grand Park a couple blocks away.


  • Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles – If you go to LA and don’t eat Roscoe’s, you have some explaining to do.  I usually go for the SCOE’s plate or Carol C. Special with a side of greens and mac & cheese!  Hit up the location just down the hill from the Griffith Observatory.
  • Tender Greens – If you’re in the modd for some tasty healthy food, this is your place.  It’s a more casual atmosphere but the food is no less classy.  Try the Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Tender Greens Salad.

Santa Monica / Venice

  • The Albright – Located on the Santa Monica Pier, most people come here for the experience.  But the food is pretty tasty as well!  The seafood options are endless!

This is just the first part of a collection for first-time LA goers.  I included these regions because I find most people tend to knock these off their bucket list first.  What are your favorite things to do and/or eat in these areas?  Let me know in the comments section below!

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