What to do with a day in LA…Now that’s a title you don’t hear very often. Los Angeles is a great city, but one of the things you’ll most commonly hear about it is that it takes a while to love. That’s partly because the city is just so damn big.

LA is huge. It’s sprawling. Its public transport is surprisingly crap. From a tourist’s perspective, it can be a logistical nightmare to get around – not ideal if you’re working on a limited timescale.

Two years ago, I found myself in this particular pickle, with just a day to kill in the city before heading up the Californian coast to San Francisco. I decided to challenge myself and see how much I could fit into twenty-four hours. While it was definitely a struggle, I realised that with a bit of clever planning, it was possible to have a great day in the city – to still take in some its main attractions while having a bit of time to explore its lesser known areas. Here’s how…

In the morning…

“Let’s face it – it’d be pretty darn hard to visit LA without taking in some of the celebrity sites. My advice? Get this out of the way in the morning when it’s cooler and there’s less crowds about.  If you’re interested in Hollywood’s celebrity culture, then here’s a few of the sites you won’t want to miss!”

TCL Chinese Theatre

The TCL Chinese Theatre is an iconic cinema palace, right at the heart of the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. First purchased by Sid Grauman, the theatre first opened in 1927, and has provided the backdrop for many star-studded events, from Academy Awards shows to the premier of major films such as Star Wars. Today, the theatre boasts one of the largest movie screens in the states, and is soon to be the largest IMAX auditorium in the world. Equally famous though are the flagstones outside, which are imprinted with the hand and foot prints of many of Hollywood’s biggest names. Great for photo opportunities – not so great if you don’t like crowds…

Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame stretches for over a kilometre, and is comprised of over 2500 stars embedded in the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. The stars are engraved with the names of Hollywood’s elite, from actors and producers to musicians and theatrical directors, and serve as monuments to their achievement in the entertainment industry. It’s estimated that at least 10 million visitors tread the path every year, and while it’s all pretty gimmicky, I have to admit that it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement as you find yourself dotting about between the stars, wondering how many famous feet have stood upon that very spot.

Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive is well-known as the place that the rich and famous come to do their shopping. Stretching over three blocks, this road is home to some of Hollywood’s most lavish and exuberant boutiques, and is a great place to do a little window shopping – that is, if you can resist the temptation to pull a Julia Roberts-esque moment, a la Pretty Woman. The street isn’t exactly designed for budget conscious tourists (Bijan’s customers spend on average $100,000 a visit!), but it’s worth a visit just to imagine how the other half live. You never know, you might run into Johnny Depp on his annual underwear run. Unlikely, but one can still dream…

 

In the Afternoon…

Head to Santa Monica

It’s a bit of a trek, but definitely worth heading down to Santa Monica to take in the beautiful beachfront city and breathe in the fresh sea air. The city is home to many of Hollywood’s celebrities, but its beach is incredibly laidback and a great place to take in the afternoon sunshine. After grabbing a corn dog on the promenade, take a walk through Muscle Beach, famous for its outdoor exercise culture and Baywatch associations. It’s a great place for people watching, though I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for sighting The Hoff these days!

If you’re feeling adventurous, head up to the amusement park on the historic Santa Monica pier where you can take in the views at over 35mph on the oceanfront rollercoaster. Just make sure you leave plenty of time for your lunch to settle first…

Walk the Venice Beach Boardwalk

It may only be a short walk from Santa Monica, but by the time you reach Venice Boardwalk, you’ll feel a million miles away. Gone are the pristine, glass-fronted shops, and in their place is a vast stretch of make-shift stalls selling everything from tie-dye clothes to ‘medical’ marijuana. The air is ripe with the smell of pot, and you’ll meet all kinds of weird and wonderful people – artists, musicians, entertainers, bleary-eyed and dreadlocked all seem to call the strip home – but there’s a great vibe about the place, and it’s easy to feel relaxed as you meander through the stalls and take in the colourful artwork.

The strip is also famous for its fish tacos, and while James’ Beach is incredibly popular (a debt owed, I’m sure, to its feature in the film I Love you Man) rumour has it that La Fiesta Brava on Rose Avenue is pretty hard to beat…

 

For Dinner…

Head to Chinatown

LA’s Chinatown isn’t always the first place on traveller’s agendas, but it’s well worth a visit. For a start, it’s easy to get to, as it’s right in the heart of downtown LA and a short walk from Union Station with its excellent transport links. It is also home to some of the best Asian dining the city has to offer, from Vietnamese mom and pops to traditional boba cafes. If you’re looking for authentic Dim Sum, head to the Golden Dragon Restaurant on North Broadway, or head to the Ai Hoa market for some decent street food.

 

In the evening…

Grab yourself a front row seat at The Comedy Store!

The iconic Comedy Store is located at the end of Sunset Boulevard, and is the perfect setting for a great night out in West Hollywood, with good food, drinks and laughs guaranteed! The club has been running for over forty years, and has been a platform for many of the world’s biggest names in comedy; Chris Rock, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey – you name them, they’ve been there! You can usually get tickets on the night, but it wouldn’t hurt to book in advance using their website. If you sign up to a guestlist via twitter, you can get free entry, which is useful given the venue’s two-drink-minimum policy!

Or…

Catch some music at Whisky a Go Go

Prefer some live music? Head to the Whisky a Go Go bar on Sunset Boulevard. This iconic music venue is hailed by many as the epicentre of LA’s Rock and Roll scene, and over the years has seen many a legend grace its stage – from Neil Young and The Doors to Guns n Roses. The bar has become a bit of an institution in itself, yet still retains its grungy character and has live music every night – from local, aspiring bands to some of the industry’s biggest names. It can get pretty crowded, so I’d recommend booking your tickets in advance, either by visiting www.ticketweb.com,or by going to the box office early on in the day.

Where to stay

For pure convenience, stay at the Hollywood Youth Hostel on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s as basic as they come, but right where you need to be for getting around, with a metro stop straight across the street, a supermarket round the corner and all of Hollywood’s major sites right on your doorstep. If we’d been better organised, we’d have got ourselves tickets to be in the audience for the Jimmy Kimmel show, which was filmed next door. We were lucky enough to run into some celebrities though, and it’s not every day you wake up to see Kermit and Miss Piggy filming right outside your bedroom window!

 

How to get around

This is by far the hardest aspect of seeing LA in a day. Because most locals drive everywhere (or get driven, for that matter!) the public transport is pretty lacking to say the least. The metro will get you most places you need to go, but for pure ease, we decided to jump on a sightseeing bus. Yes, it was pretty cheap and cheerful; yes, we did have to listen to terrible commentary, but the busses are fast, efficient and air-conditioned, and by far the easiest way to get around if you’re working on a tight timescale. You have the benefit of knowing you won’t get lost, but do make sure you check the final pick-up times as though your ticket will be valid for twenty-four hours that doesn’t mean the busses run into the evenings!

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