Are you heading to Los Angeles soon? If so, keep reading for a complete travel guide to Los Angeles.
I went to Los Angeles not knowing what to expect. Despite living in Northern California for several years in my late teens and early twenties, I never made it that far south. The warm weather and sunshine is what I was most excited for. I’m a sucker for year-round spring weather, but mother-nature had different plans and it was a little too cold for this Texas girl during our trip. From the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Malibu to the Griffith Observatory and everything in between, I am going to recap the best of the best to prove why you should visit Los Angeles.
*We did spend some time in Laguna Beach, so you will find Laguna Beach recommendations scattered throughout the post.
*Updated July 2019
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Complete Travel Guide to Los Angeles
Where to Stay
- The Beverly Hills Hotel. Known as the hotel to the stars, The Beverly Hills Hotel is probably one of the most well-known hotels in the world. If you want to stay at a five-star hotel, with a price tag that goes along with it, I would stay here. It’s a classic and has so much history. Even if you don’t stay here, you should visit just to get a picture of the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel sign on the front of the building. It’s also very kid-friendly.
- Farmer’s Daughter Hotel. A boutique hotel located in the heart of Los Angeles. Located within walking distance to museums and the Farmers Market, this is the perfect hotel for a girls weekend or quick kid-free getaway.
- Seaview Hotel. This is where we stayed for the first part of our trip. It’s located on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. It’s a no-frills, boutique hotel one block from the beach and it’s super affordable. The rooms (the one we stayed in especially) can be noisy from the street, but I am not a light sleeper so it didn’t bother me. There is no air-conditioning at this hotel, so keep that in mind if you plan on staying here. The hotel offers free parking on a first-come, first-served basis. There are only about ten spots available but we didn’t encounter any problem with this during our stay and easily found a spot each day.
- Loews Santa Monica. This hotel was about a block from where we stayed in Santa Monica. It’s really nice and if you’re looking for more of an upscale experience with all the amenities that go along with that, I would recommend this hotel. There is also a Hertz rental car agency inside the hotel, which is nice if you decide to rent a car at the last minute
- Montage Laguna Beach. Located a little more than an hour south of Los Angeles in Laguna Beach, The Montage is a resort like no other. With killer views and amazing on-site restaurants, you can’t go wrong. This is a family resort, so if you’re looking for a kid-free vacation, I wouldn’t stay here. The beach at the resort is public property, so even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, I would recommend visiting just to walk around on the beach.
- Laguna Beach Lodge. This is where we stayed while we were in Laguna Beach. The hotel is located directly across the street from The Montage on the south end of Laguna Beach. I enjoyed this hotel and would recommend it. It’s affordable and they occasionally offer Groupon deals, which makes it even more affordable. There is a grocery store and a few restaurants in the shopping center next door, which is convenient when you don’t feel like driving to town.
Where to Eat
- Bestia. Perfect for a date night or just because you want to treat yourself and splurge.Start your meal off with an order of Salumi and follow it up with the Gnocchi al Pomodoro or the 32oz Bone-in Dry Aged Prime Ribeye.
- Republique. The perfect weekend brunch spot. But, if brunch isn’t your thing, they also serve lunch and dinner focusing on modern French fare.
- Pink’s Hot Dogs. You can’t visit Los Angeles and not eat a chili dog from Pink’s. There is a reason it’s been in business since 1939. What started as a mom and pop food cart, has turned into one of the most iconic food stands in Los Angeles and it deserves a visit.
- Angelini Osteria. If you’re looking for great Italian food, look no further. Angelini Osteria offers traditional Italian food and a pretty expansive wine list. I recommend the Pumpkin Tortelli or Tagliolini al Limone.
- Umami Burger. Think of this as your local burger joint, if your local burger joint offered gourmet burgers and truffle fries. You should check out Umami if you want a burger you probably won’t find anywhere else. I also recommend you order some truffle fries. Or cheese stuffed tater tots. Maybe both? Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
- The Misfit Restaurant. Located in the historic clocktower in downtown Santa Monica, The Misfit Restaurant is a farm to table restaurant specializing in comfort food. The menu includes dishes like shrimp ceviche, saigon crispy chicken, and a black bean veggie burger.
- Tar & Roses. Very interesting menu that includes veggie, seafood, and meat sharing plates with an ample wine and beer list.
- The Cliff Restaurant. Great food. Even better views. What else could you ask for? If you make it down to Laguna Beach, you must have at least one meal at The Cliff. If the weather is nice, sit outside and take in the amazing scenery.
- Nick’s Laguna Beach. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can dine at Nick’s during any time of the day. Some menu items include chicken and waffles (breakfast), Belgian waffles (breakfast), fish & chips (lunch/dinner), pan seared Scottish salmon (lunch/dinner) and several sandwiches and burgers.
What to Do
- Catalina Island. This is an easy day trip from Long Beach. The trip takes about an hour and costs less than $75.00 for a roundtrip ticket. Once on Catalina Island, there is so much to do. You can take a helicopter ride around the island, partake in a food tour, rent bikes and explore the island, and parasail. Really, the possibilities are endless. Catalina is also a great place to just relax and escape the hustle and bustle.
- Griffith Observatory. Some of the best views of Los Angeles can be seen from here. I would recommend NOT parking along the street leading up to the observatory and instead drive to the parking lots located near the Greek Theater. The lots are free to park in and there is a shuttle bus that will take you up the mountain to the observatory. The shuttle bus costs $0.50 per person and there are several different buses running so the wait time isn’t that long.
- Skyspace Los Angeles. Another place with great views of Los Angeles. Think of it as Los Angeles’ version of “Top of the Rock” but with a glass slide hovering 1,000 feet in the air that you can slide down. You can also participate in “Sunrise Yoga” every Saturday during the summer months.
- Santa Monica Pier. One word comes to mind when I think of the Santa Monica Pier, and that word is,
packed. Holy moly, there were people everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool place to visit with all kinds of little shops, restaurants, and even a small amusement park, but if you don’t like crowds I wouldn’t recommend you visit.
How to Get Around
- Silvercar. I highly recommend renting from Silvercar. It was all around a great experience and I have no complaints whatsoever. The thing I loved most about Silvercar was the pure easiness of the entire process. The prices are not cheaper than renting from a regular car rental agency, but there are usually specials and discounts on their website.
- Sixt. If you want to rent a luxury vehicle, this is the place. At Sixt you can rent a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Range Rover, and even a Jaguar F-Type. They do offer basic rentals also, just in case a luxury vehicle isn’t what you’re looking for. I do find their prices to be a little higher than normal, even on their basic rentals, so you may want to check out Hertz or Enterprise.
|The Venice Canals|
|El Matador Beach in Malibu|
|Beverly Hills Civic Center|
|The path leading to Victoria Beach|
|Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach|
Did you enjoy this complete travel guide to Los Angeles? I have also written travel guides to several other locations, which you can check out on this page of my blog. Check them out if you are planning a trip to any of those destinations in the near future.