Spend a year in LA and you’d still not exhaust the sights and experiences it has to offer. So if you only have a weekend, you have some decisions to make. Where you go and what you do will depend on your budget, personal preferences, other people in your group (small children may vote for Disneyland, a couple looking for a break may enjoy a day on the beach more), and how much driving you want to do. Theme parks aside, here are some suggestions on what to do with a weekend in LA.
Morning: Explore LA on foot
Contrary to expectation, there is a lot of walking to be done in LA. Walking tours, organized by the Los Angeles Conservancy, explore the history of the City of L.A. through architecture, and depart Saturday mornings at 10am. Red Line Tours offer a Hollywood Behind-the-Scenes walking tour which runs every two hours starting at 10am. And, Vintage Venice Tours offers Reel to Real tours (Los Angeles Magazine’s 2012 “Best Walking Tour”), with footage of historical Venice shown as you wander around the Venice Canals.
If you prefer a more rugged walk, try one of the canyon trails – Topanga Canyon State Park has trails for walkers of a range of abilities, and spectacular views of the sea on a number of them. If you enjoy hill walking, there’s the Hollywood Sign Hike (not recommended for children under 5.) If walking isn’t enough exercise for you, sign up for an Off ‘N Running Tour, It’s a great way to combine keeping fit with sight-seeing!
Afternoon: Visit a museum or gallery
After a morning of walking (or running) outdoors, take refuge in the coolness of a museum or art gallery, and get your fill of culture. The Skirball Cultural Center is a sure hit with the kids and adults too! If your tastes lean more towards art, check out the Getty Museum and Villa, even if it’s just to walk around the beautifully manicured gardens. It’s not just literary types who will love the Huntington Library, with its world-class collection of the early editions of Shakespeare’s works and great exhibitions on topics ranging from literature to art to natural history. The Huntington estate also houses award-winning gardens and galleries, so don’t expect to be exhaustive if you’re only spending an afternoon there! Make sure you check admission times before you go too – many museums and galleries close as early as 4.30pm.
Evening: Go to a show
For more culture, head to Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. For comedy, try the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood – it’s BYO, too. Check out the local listings for live theatre and improv comedy – there’s always something to see in LA!
Morning: Spend some time on the beach
Beaches run down the coast, so you shouldn’t be too far away from one, wherever in LA you’re staying. Whether you love surfing, basking in the sun with a good book, or just promenading down one of the many boardwalks people watching, there’s a beach for you. Most beaches have bike and skate paths, with cycles and in-line skate rental shops lining the beach, and in Venice there’s a skate park as well. In fact, if you want to maximize beach-time, Venice Beach is the place to be. With surf, skate and bike paths, ample space for sunbathing (though it does get crowded later in the day), and a dazzling array of performers down the boardwalk (not to mention Muscle Beach), there is plenty to do and see for everyone. There’s even a small number of playgrounds along the bike path, with the biggest at the Venice Recreation Center, towards Santa Monica Beach. And if you have kids with you, keep walking towards Santa Monica Beach till you get to Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier, which boasts a roller-coaster, a big wheel, and other rides suitable for both younger children and the young at heart.
Saunter down Rodeo Drive like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, or if you want to do more than window shop, head to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. There’s plenty of shopping in LA, and if your tastes run more to the eclectic, explore Abbot Kinney Boulevard, or perhaps shops in the hipster areas of Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park. For vintage wear, you can’t go wrong in the shopping Mecca of West Hollywood, amongst the galleries in Melrose Avenue. If you can fit it in, head to the Original Los Angeles Farmer’s Market (6333 West 3rd Street). It is perfect for souvenir hunting, an afternoon snack, and people-watching.
Evening: Wind down with a relaxed dinner
After your jam-packed weekend, take some time to enjoy a relaxing dinner in one of the many restaurants dotted around LA. Regardless of your budget, food in LA is excellent, so make sure you plan for at least one of your meals to be a particular highlight. For fine dining, try one of the many celebrity restaurants; for ethnic food, head to one of the ethnic conclaves (the best Thai food, for example, is in Hollywood’s Thai Town, home to America’s largest Thai community), and you can’t go wrong with seafood in a beachside cafe or restaurant. If there’s still time on your schedule, one of the many new cocktail bars should round your weekend off nicely.