Heads up: some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you click and make a booking or purchase, I’ll make a commission (at no extra cost to you). I partner with companies I personally use and the $$ goes towards creating more awesome, free travel content.
Covering an area of over 500 square miles, Los Angeles is such a sprawling metropolis that it can be difficult to know what to visit and what not to visit. With 3 days in Los Angeles you won’t be able to cover absolutely everything there is to do in the city, but you’ll definitely be able to cover the highlights.
This 3 day Los Angeles itinerary covers some of LA’s top attractions as well as the beach towns of Santa Monica and Venice. It also includes a road trip to Malibu and a hike to the Griffith Observatory, which offers the best views of LA.
How to Get Around on Your 3 Days in LA
If you’re only spending 3 days in Los Angeles then the best way to get around is by Uber. If you rent a car you have to worry about parking it and you’ll probably start getting super frustrated when you end up stuck in traffic.
LA is notorious for its traffic jams and congestion so it’s best to leave the driving up to someone else. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get between each place so you don’t end up being too rushed.
The city does have a metro system and there are buses but I wouldn’t bother with public transportation as the routes are limited. Since your LA itinerary will be pretty jam-packed, save yourself the stress and just stick to rideshare services.
If you’re landing at LAX airport there are a number of ways you can get into the city. I would suggest either hailing an Uber/Lyft at arrivals, or you can pre-book a shuttle service such as Super Shuttle.
Another way to get from the airport to Los Angeles is to take the LAX FlyAway bus, which is a non-stop bus service between LAX and the locations of Van Nuys and LA Union Station. One-way fares are just $9.75 each but then you’d probably have to take an Uber or public transportation to get to your hotel.
If you do plan on renting a car, check out Rentalcars.com and Discover Cars to compare prices.
3 Days in Los Angeles Itinerary
Day 1: Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Griffith Observatory
To kick-off your 3 days in Los Angeles I’d start with the Entertainment Capital of the World – Hollywood! Your first day will be spent discovering major sights such as the Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Hollywood Walk of Fame & TCL Chinese Theatre
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is pretty tacky and super touristy but it’s still worth seeing if it’s your first time in Los Angeles. Featuring over 2,725 stars embedded in the sidewalk, the Walk of Fame extends across 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and 3 blocks of Vine Street. Dedicated to famous actors, musicians, directors and producers in the movie industry, the stars have become one of the most popular attractions in LA.
Take a stroll along Hollywood Boulevard then make your way to the TCL Chinese Theatre, which first opened in 1927 and now boasts the largest IMAX auditorium in the world. The theater has hosted three Academy Award ceremonies and countless movie premieres, and is one of the most famous landmarks in Hollywood.
Outside the front of the theater lies the Forecourt of the Stars, which features roughly 200 celebrity handprints, footprints and signatures from famous Hollywood celebrities. Among the famous names who’ve left their mark here are Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant.
If you want to learn more about the history of the theater you can take a 30-minute tour to learn some interesting stories and fun facts about the movie premieres and the Forecourt of the Stars.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
LACMA is famous for its Urban Light art installation, which stands outside the entrance of the building. It consists of a grid of 202 restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s, most of which once lit up the streets of Southern California. It’s incredibly popular for Instagram photos and has become one of LA’s most photographed attractions.
The museum itself is the largest art museum in western United States and houses nearly 149,000 objects from over 6,000 years of history. The museum is open every day except Wednesday and the entrance fee typically costs $25 for non-residents or $20 for LA residents.You can check current ticket prices and opening hours on the LACMA website.
Once you’re done at LACMA, head on over to The Grove which is right next door. The Grove is an outdoor shopping and dining complex that features stores such as Apple, Aritzia, Alo Yoga, lululemon, Banana Republic and GAP.
If you’re feeling hungry by this point, there are tons of restaurants here to choose from. Unami Burger serves juicy burgers, La Piazza serves traditional homemade Italian food and ALMA serves Authentic Mexican cuisine with a Southern California twist. Whatever you’re in the mood for you’ll find something here.
Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive
After lunch, head to Beverly Hills, which is one of LA’s most exclusive neighborhoods and popular with A-listers. If you’ve ever seen the movie Pretty Woman you’ll be familiar with Rodeo Drive, which is where Julia Roberts utters the line “Big mistake. Huge! I have to go shopping now.”
This palm-tree lined road is lined with expensive designer stores such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana and Tod’s. There are also a few upmarket eateries here, including 208 Rodeo, Gucci Osteria and The Hideaway.
To cap off your day of sightseeing, hike to Griffith Observatory, which offers the best views of LA. Or, if your legs are too tired, order an Uber/Lyft which will drop you off just past the Observatory horseshoe driveway in front of the lawn.
The Griffith Observatory is an iconic landmark perched on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. The observatory is visible from all over LA and sits 1,134 feet above sea level.
Covering an area of 7,000 square-feet, the observatory is a mix of planetarium, public observatory and exhibition space, and welcomes an estimated 1.6 million visitors every year. The views from up here are incredible and it’s one of the best spots to catch a glimpse of the famous Hollywood Sign.
The observatory is open Wednesday to Sunday, while the grounds are open every day of the week. Admission to the observatory is free.
Dinner in West Hollywood/Sunset
There are tons of restaurant options around West Hollywood/Sunset area but I’d suggest one of these two options:
The Eveleigh – Located on Sunset, Eveleigh is housed in an intimate residence built upon an orchard in 1923. This romantic restaurant has an enchanting outdoor garden patio and serves fresh vegetables, salads, pizzas, pastas and small plates.
Merois – Merois is a trendy restaurant on the rooftop of the Pendry West Hollywood serving a blend of Japanese, Southeast Asian and French/California cuisine. The menu, created by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, features sushi, Peking duck, crab fried rice, Mongolian lamb chops and a selection of sashimi.
Day 2: Santa Monica & Venice
My favorite part of LA has to be the beach areas of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. These areas are much more laid back than Hollywood and are great for people watching.
It takes around 1 hour to walk from Santa Monica to Venice, or you can ride bikes along the bike path. There are several bike rental companies located on the Santa Monica beach bike path and some Santa Monica hotels offer complimentary bike rentals.
Santa Monica Pier
Begin your day in Santa Monica at the iconic Santa Monica Pier, which extends out into the Pacific Ocean at the intersection of Ocean and Colorado. The pier dates back to 1909 and is home to the Pacific Park’s Ferris Wheel, a small amusement park and several eateries. Breathe in the sea air, snack on a hot dog, take a stroll and buy some souvenirs before renting a bike and making your way towards Venice.
The Georgian Hotel
Next, pay a visit to The Georgian Hotel, which was built in 1933 and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Santa Monica. This famous hotel is known for its Art Deco architecture and its basement restaurant was one of the last strongholds of the Prohibition era, welcoming the likes of “Bugsy” Siegel and Clark Gable. Step inside the lobby of this historic hotel and perhaps grab a drink in the hotel bar before continuing on your way to Venice Beach.
Venice Beach has a much grungier, edgier vibe than its neighbor Santa Monica and is a fun place to hang out for the afternoon. Take a walk down Venice Beach Boardwalk and you’ll see all sorts of artists and performers entertaining the public with their skills.
Highlights of Venice Beach include Muscle Beach – an outdoor gym where LA’s best bodybuilders work out – and Venice Beach Skatepark – a public skatepark where skateboarders of all ages show off their moves.
Lunch at Great White
For the best lunch in Venice Beach head to Great White, which is an all day cafe serving eggs, grain bowls, pastas, pizzas and share plates in a bright and airy setting. The restaurant has California coastal vibes and a large outdoor patio where patrons can dine outside in the sun.
One of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles is to walk around the Venice Canals, which are located just off 25th street in Venice Beach. The neighborhood consists of four canals with pretty waterfront homes and bridges that allow you to cross from one side to the other.
The whole area is incredibly quiet and relaxing so it’s nice to just stroll around the canals and take photos. You’ll feel a million miles away from the chaos of the Venice Beach Boardwalk!
The Venice Canals were built by billionaire developer Abbot Kinney in 1905 as part of his Venice of America project, which sought to bring a slice of Venice (Italy) to California. When cars gained popularity in the 1920s, many of the canals were filled in to make way for roads, and the rest fell into disrepair by the 1940s. They were fully renovated and reopened in 1993, and are now a popular tourist attraction as well as a designated historic district.
High Rooftop Lounge
End your day by watching sunset at High Rooftop Lounge, which is located on top of the Hotel Erwin. This is one of the best rooftops in Los Angeles, offering stunning sunset views over Venice Beach and Los Angeles. It’s the perfect spot for cocktails and light bites, and if the weather gets chilly on the ocean they’ll give you blankets to keep warm!
The rooftop serves Happy Hour from 3pm to 5pm Monday through Thursday, and brunch from 10am to 3pm Saturday and Sunday.
Address: 1697 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA 90291
Day 3: Malibu and The Getty
For the last day of your Los Angeles itinerary it’s time to escape to Malibu, which is known for its beautiful beaches and expensive beachfront homes. Lots of celebrities have homes in Malibu and there tons of chic restaurants up here including Nobu and Little Beach House Malibu.
You can get up to Malibu using Uber, or you can rent a car for this day of your trip. I used Uber while I was up there and didn’t have too much of an issue ordering a ride.
Rosenthal Wine Bar & Patio
Start by visiting Rosenthal Wine Bar & Patio, which is the only wine bar and tasting room on the Pacific Coast Highway. The tasting room is located right across the street from Malibu Beach and usually has food trucks on Saturdays and Sundays.
Spend an hour or two here sitting on the large outdoor patio while sampling wines from the Rosenthal estate. There are often live music performances here on weekends too, so it’s nice to relax and enjoy the chill vibes.
Address: 18741 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Next up pay a visit to Malibu Pier, which is a historic landmark that dates back to 1905. The pier offers beautiful views of the coastline, including the famous Surfrider Beach, which attracts surfers from all over the world.
If you’re feeling hungry, pay a visit to Malibu Farm Restaurant, which boasts an outdoor patio and whitewashed dining room offering gorgeous views of the pier and ocean. On the menu you’ll find plenty of fish and seafood dishes as well as healthy salads and farm-to-table cuisine.
There’s also a counter serve cafe at the end of the pier called Malibu Farm Cafe, which serves coffees, juices, sandwiches, burgers and other snacks for people who are on-the-go.
Many fishermen cast their rods at Malibu Pier and if you’re interested in learning how to fish yourself, rod rentals are available from Ranch at the Pier. Halibut, thresher shark, bat rays, corbina and mackerel are just some of the types of fish you can catch here.
Address: 23000 Pacific Coast Highway Malibu, CA 90265
Check out the Beaches
Malibu has tons of sandy beaches to discover including Zuma Beach, Point Dume State Beach, Surfrider Beach and Paradise Cove.
One of the most photographed beaches is El Matador, a small cove that’s nestled between two headlands. This small beach is popular for wedding/engagement shoots due to its interesting rock formations and rugged scenery.
If you want to see what the life of a billionaire is like head to Carbon Beach, which is lined with very expensive mansions and beachfront homes. Nicknamed “Billionaire’s Beach”, this mile-long beach stretches between Malibu Pier and Carbon Canyon Road. Despite being the backyard for numerous celebrities and CEOs, the beach is still accessible to the public.
Dine at Moonshadows Malibu
For lunch with a view, check out Moonshadows Malibu, which has an outdoor patio with beautiful views of the ocean. The restaurant serves a variety of seafood and signature dishes with Italian, Asian fusion and American influences. On the menu you’ll find dishes such as tuna tartare, burrata, barbecued octopus, clam chowder, lobster caesar, tiger shrimp rigatoni and rib eye steak.
Address: 20356 Pacific Coast Hwy. Malibu CA 90265
+1 310 456 3010
The Getty Center
If you have time once you get back to the city, head to The Getty Center, which is known for its modern architecture, unique gardens and beautiful views over Los Angeles. Admission to the museum is free, although you’ll need to reserve a timed entry in order to get inside. It’s closed Mondays, so don’t try to visit on this day!
The Getty has an extensive collection of art ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day, as well as changing exhibitions showcasing art from around the world. At the heart of the museum lies a 134,000-square-foot Central Garden by California artist Robert Irwin, which features cascading waterfalls and blooming gardens with over 500 varieties of plants.
Spend your afternoon browsing the Getty’s art exhibitions, then take the tram to the hilltop section of the museum for incredible views of the city. If you need to rest your legs for a minute, relax in the museum’s courtyard, where you can admire the fountains and order a beverage from the coffee kiosk.
Where to Stay on Your 3 Days in Los Angeles
For this 3 day Los Angeles itinerary I’d suggest staying either in Santa Monica or somewhere near West Hollywood/Beverly Hills. Traffic in LA is notoriously bad so you don’t want to be staying too far out from the main attractions. If you’re staying all the way out in Downtown LA or Silver Lake it’ll take you much longer to get everywhere since you’ll have to get all the way across town.
Here are some great hotels in LA to stay at:
- Fairmont Miramar
- Loews Santa Monica
- The Beverly Hilton
- The Mondrian
- Petit Ermitage
- Sofitel Hollywood
- The Roosevelt
- W Hollywood
A Final Word…
3 days in Los Angeles is just enough time to see most of the major sights, although I’d suggest spending up to five days here if you really want to cover Downtown LA and Universal Studios as well. With sunny weather, palm trees, beaches and tons of attractions, Los Angeles is always a fun city to visit for the first time. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your trip!
More USA itineraries: