Travel

How to see 10 top L.A. destinations in 1 day

A view of the Griffith Observatory and downtown Los Angeles from Griffith Park. The Griffith Observatory overlooks downtown Los Angeles to the south and the Hollywood Sign to the west.

The Hollywood Sign, the Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive—these sights and many more make L.A. a top travel destination. Spread out over a sprawling metropolis, they also make it challenging to see everything in a short period of time.

The L.A. area easily has enough to see, do, and eat for a monthlong visit. But if you've only got time for an 8-hour tour, the city's spread-out geography poses a challenge. There's a lot of ground to cover between the Hollywood Sign and downtown (7 miles), downtown to Beverly Hills (8 miles), and on to Santa Monica (6 miles), even before considering traffic.

To maximize what you get to see and minimize travel time, we've put together a suggested itinerary for a daylong L.A. adventure that hits many of the most famous landmarks while traveling clockwise in a loop.

A few words about getting around

Los Angeles has a robust public transit system, contrary to popular belief. Using it is eco-friendly and can be fun and rewarding, but for our suggested tour, time is crucial. We recommend renting a car to make it much easier to fit everything into a day, and to let you stay longer at each stop.

Our itinerary begins in Hollywood and proceeds clockwise around the L.A. area. Because it's a loop, you can pick it up anywhere: If you're coming right from LAX, for example, you can start in Santa Monica and end at Museum Row. Starting at a hotel downtown? Begin there and end in Hollywood.

What to see

The Hollywood Sign as seen from south of Hollywood Boulevard

The Hollywood Sign, perched on the southern slope of Mount Lee, can be seen from far away on a clear day.

1. The Hollywood Sign

While L.A.'s most famous landmark is visible from much of the city, there are a couple prime locations for viewing and selfies. Lake Hollywood Park is the option closer to the sign, providing parking and a lawn where visitors can take their time getting the perfect shot. Another popular option is the Griffith Observatory, which also has great views of the rest of the city and is a destination in itself. (Be aware that parking at both options may be limited at busy times like weekends and holidays.) 

Hollywood Boulevard at night facing east, with lights from traffic and signs.

The 3 blocks between La Brea and Highland avenues are the busiest portion of Hollywood Boulevard and sport the densest collection of Walk of Fame stars.

2. Hollywood Boulevard

Once you've seen the sign, head south into the heart of Hollywood: the 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue to the west and Gower Street to the east. For some visitors, seeing the theaters and other landmarks as you drive past will be enough. Others will want to explore the Walk of Fame on foot to find their favorite stars, which you can find the addresses for on the Walk of Fame's official website.

If you're hungry for lunch or dinner, stop at Musso & Frank Grill, a glamorous Hollywood fixture that's been around more than a century. (It's also AAA Diamond Approved.)

The exterior of Walt Disney Concert Hall, as seen facing north.

Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of the many distinctive L.A. landmarks you'll find downtown.

3. Downtown

From Hollywood, head down either the 101 Freeway or Sunset Boulevard to downtown L.A. It's here you'll find many of the city's architectural landmarks: the billowing Walt Disney Concert Hall, the historic Bradbury Building, the pyramid-topped Central Library, and many more. 

Food options abound here. Grand Central Market, opened in 1917, offers dozens of vendors from pupuserias to oyster bars and is a great option if your party doesn't all want the same kind of food. Clifton's Republic is another storied downtown institution, featuring 1950s-era recipes and a life-size fake indoor evergreen forest.

A view from below of a mammoth skull at the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum The exterior of the Petersen Automotive Museum

4. Museum Row

Head about 7 miles west on Wilshire Boulevard and you'll come to the stretch known as Museum Row, home to the La Brea Tar Pits, the L.A. County Museum of Art (better known as LACMA), and the Petersen Automotive Museum, among others.

While they're within walking distance of one another, you won't be able to spend lots of time at all 3 on a daylong tour, so choose wisely. The tar pits and the George C. Page Museum that exhibits fossils pulled from them are a must-see for lovers of natural history. LACMA is the obvious choice for art aficianados who want to see works such as Diego Rivera's Dia de Flores and Rene Magritte's The Treachery of Images (of "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" fame). The Petersen awaits the automotively inclined with exhibits on car history and culture, including dozens of beautiful and rare specimens on dislay (not to mention a discount on admission for AAA members).

Road signs for Via Rodeo and North Rodeo Drive A wide-angle shot of the Beverly Hills sign

5 & 6. Rodeo Drive & Beverly Hills

Continue west on Wilshire to leave the city limits of Los Angeles and enter the posh town of Beverly Hills. Like Hollywood Boulevard, the bite-size tour option is to hang a right onto world-famous Rodeo (pronounced "ro-DAY-oh") Drive, see the famous boutiques and maybe a few Bentleys and Lamborghinis, then turn left on Santa Monica Boulevard to depart.

For a more in-depth Beverly Hills experience, get on foot and explore some of Rodeo Drive's boutiques up close. Then head north to Beverly Gardens Park for a selfie with the Beverly Hills Sign (which, unlike the Hollywood Sign, you can walk right up to) and a view of Beverly Hills City Hall's historic cupola. 

A photo of Fox Plaza from street level

Fox Plaza will look familiar to fans of a certain 1988 action movie.

Bonus: "Nakatomi Plaza"

It's not really a "top attraction" unless you're among the most die-hard of Die Hard fans. But between Beverly Hills and our next stop in Santa Monica is Fox Plaza, a 34-story office building in Century City with a familiar silhouette. Fans of Die Hard will recognize the building as the one that played the fictional "Nakatomi Plaza" in the 1988 film. If you'd like to catch a glimpse of it, make sure to drive down the Avenue of the Stars in Century City on your way to Santa Monica.

A view of the California Incline in Santa Monica around sunset

The California Incline connects Santa Monica's city streets with Pacific Coast Highway.

7. Santa Monica

No tour of L.A. is complete without a trip to the beach, and Santa Monica's is iconic with its pier, Ferris wheel, and miles of boardwalk. Even if you're not looking to take a dip in the Pacific, there's still plenty to see and do—at the very least, walking to the end of the Santa Monica Pier offers great views up and down the coast on a clear day. It also has an amusement park, Pacific Park, that offers AAA members up to 40% off unlimited ride wristbands. There's parking at the pier, but if it's crowded (or you're looking for a better deal), you can park on the street or in other public lots in Santa Monica that are a short walk away. 

The East Gate to the Bel Air neighborhood The front entrance of UCLA's Powell Library

8 & 9. Bel Air & UCLA

After you've gotten your feet wet in Santa Monica (literally or figuratively), hop back in the car and drive up Pacific Coast Highway, turning inland on Sunset Boulevard. Following Sunset east will take you through Pacific Palisades and Brentwood, 2 of L.A.'s most luxurious neighborhoods, before bringing you past the 2 famous picturesque entrances to Bel Air: the West Gate and the East Gate. (You may find the theme song to a certain 1990s sitcom playing in your head at this point.)

On the other side of the street, you'll find the UCLA campus. If you'd like to stop and visit, Parking Structure 4 just off Sunset offers visitor parking and puts you within sight of iconic Royce Hall. If you don't stop in, you'll still see the university's Powell Library rotunda as you continue down Sunset.

10. Greystone Mansion

The last stop on our itinerary is a little more out of the way, tucked into the higher parts of Beverly Hills above Sunset Boulevard. Built in 1928 by oil magnate Edward Doheny, Greystone Mansion is one of Beverly Hills' older estates. The manor has served as a backdrop in many films, including Ghostbusters, The Big Lebowski, and There Will Be Blood. While you can only see the indoor portion via guided tour on special dates, the beautiful exterior grounds of the 16-acre estate are a public park that's open year-round (though it's occasionally closed for private events and film shoots).

Hertz logo

Rent with Hertz and save

Renting a car for your tour of L.A. makes it much easier to fit everything into a day, and will let you spend more time at each stop. AAA members save up to 20% on when they rent with Hertz in the U.S. and Canada.

Rent with Hertz

AAA Travel alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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