Hop a plane to make your dreams come true in sunny Los Angeles. Whether it’s seeing the stars above at the Griffith Observatory or below on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Grab a cruiser and bike along the beach or grab a board and learn to surf. An art museum, the tar pits, the Space Shuttle, or even a baseball game, you can do it in 3 days in LA. A few foodie stops and unique architectural musts make this 3 day itinerary for Los Angeles a must for your trip.
3 Day Itinerary for Los Angeles
My kids, 9, 13 and 14, would spend every summer in Los Angles with its mellow SoCal vibe. My daughter even wants to go to college in LA.
Families, especially ones with teens, flock to LA with its beaches and pop culture sites, though Los Angeles can intimidate visitors with its freeways and infamous traffic. Planning is key, along with an organized 3 day itinerary for Los Angeles.
Day 1: Hello Hollywood
Start your first day in Los Angeles with the stars. While the crowds are still sleeping, hop in your car and head for breakfast along Sunset Boulevard.
The Griddle Café
7916 Sunset Blvd.
Opens at 7 a.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. weekends
How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, head north on U.S. 101 and exit Sunset Blvd.
A drive down Sunset Boulevard is a must for its iconic Southern California vibe. As a bonus, it’s early, so the driving should be easy going.
Since it’s a favorite, arrive early to satisfy your breakfast dreams. The Griddle Café offers a huge menu with pancakes in every flavor, along with French toast and egg dishes.
After breakfast, head around the corner to see a bit of Old Hollywood history. Built in the 1920s, The Château Marmot, 8221 W. Sunset Blvd., is an iconic LA hotel. As the backdrop to numerous movies and a celebrity hangout, it’s a must.
Time head to the theater, so drive north and turn right on Hollywood Blvd. As home to several famous theaters, it’s a bucket list destination for movie goers.
Start with the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s) for the stars’ footprints, located at 6925 Hollywood Blvd. Then walk to the home of the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater, 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Blvd. between La Brea Blvd. and Vine St.
Open 24 hours
After walking by the famous theaters, find the brightest stars in California. With three-and-a-half miles of brass and granite stars, spend a few minutes along the Hollywood Walk of Fame finding your favorites for a star selfie.
Drive by Capital Records Building, 1750 Vine St., to see the record label’s headquarters. Built in 1956, the round building looks like a stack of 45s.
After star gazing, take a walk through LA’s infamous tar. A must-do for generations, La Brea Tar Pits have topped my must-do LA list since I was 10.
La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Open 9:30 a.m to 5 p.m.
How to get there: From Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, drive west on Hollywood Blvd. to N. Highland Ave. and head south to Wiltshire Blvd. Head west on Wiltshire Blvd and park in the shared La Brea Tar Pit/LACMA parking lot.
A must for families, see the strange bubbling tar churn and spew into puddles and pools at the La Brea Tar Pits. Start with a walk around the property to see the tar pits in different sizes. Be prepared to cover your nose, the tar reeks.
After walking around the tar pits, head into the museum (which is not free) to look at prehistoric animal bones found on the property. And the discovery isn’t over, La Brea Tar Pits remains an active discovery zone.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) shares a parking lot with La Brea Tar Pits. Walk through the museum next.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wiltshire Blvd.
Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m most days, closed Wednesdays
Adult admission, kids under 17 free
How to get there: Located in the same complex as the La Brea Tar Pits so walk to the entrance.
Don’t let the name confuse you, the LACMA (as the locals call it) is the largest art museum in the western U.S. With separate buildings dedicated to different eras and styles, visitors could spend all day. I recommend hitting the highlights and check in with a docent upon arrival to tailor your visit to your interests.
After a morning with the stars, some tar followed by the arts, it’s time for lunch. For the kids, I recommend Pinks hot dog stand, an LA icon. Hop back in the car for a 10-minute drive.
Drive by the Petersen Automotive Museum (6060 Wilshire Blvd.) before heading to lunch. The building opened in 2015 and resembles a red car racing around a corner.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N. La Brea Ave.
Open 9:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
How to get there: From La Brea Tar Pits, head east on W. 6th St. and turn north on N. La Brea Ave. Street parking in front and parking around the back, though watch that meter!
I’m not a hot dog enthusiast, though I enjoyed Pink’s.
First, pick a celebrity-named dog, like the Martha Stewart Dog. Then give your order to the ladies working the counter, many of whom have worked the stand for years.
Grab a table out back under an umbrella. And bite into an experience. Are the hotdogs messy? Yep, but the kids will love it.
4730 Crystal Springs Dr.
Open 24 hours
Free, attractions extra
How to get there: From Pink’s, head north on La Brea Blvd. then right on Santa Monica Blvd. Continue east on Santa Monica Blvd. until N. Western Ave. and take a left. Continue onto Fern Dell Dr. into Griffith Park. Located west of Interstate 5 and south of SR 134 (Ventura Freeway) Use the DASH Observatory Shuttle (50 cents) to get around the park since parking can be hard to find, especially at the Griffith Observatory.
Griffith Park offers days of exploring as one of the largest municipal park with an urban wilderness in the U.S. Depending on your family, I would choose one attraction in Griffith Park, the Los Angeles Zoo or the Griffith Observatory. Since the hike to the Hollywood Sign is several miles, I don’t recommend it with kids.
Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Dr.
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Since 1966, the LA Zoo has wowed kids with more than 250 animal species across 133 acres. Take a spin on the vintage carousel with the kids (additional ticket).
2800 E. Observatory Rd.
Closed Mondays, Open 12 noon to 10 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends
With amazing views of Downtown LA and the Hollywood Sign, a visit to the 1935 Griffith Observatory tops many must-do lists for LA. The building is an Art Deco jewel and free to visit. It includes science exhibits and offers some amazing views.
For the train lovers in the family, visit the Griffith Park and Southern Railroad (4400 Crystal Springs Dr.) for a ride in a miniature train.
Another must do for train lovers, Travel Town (5200 Zoo Dr.) offers outdoor facility with several full-size train cars to explore. It’s one of the top hidden gems in Los Angeles.
After exploring Griffith Park for a few hours, head back and stop for dinner at The Original Farmer’s Market.
The Original Farmer’s Market
6333 W. 3rd St.
Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, shorter hours during weekends
How to get there: From Griffith Park, head south out of the park on Fern Dell Dr. and onto N Western Ave. Continue until Beverly Blvd and turn right, headed west. At Fairfax Ave. make a left.
More than a fresh produce market, The Original Farmer’s Market is a foodie destination. Stocked with unique and familiar purveyors, find everything from fresh seafood to cold brew coffee.
Since so many quick service eateries are in one location, this is the ideal place to feed a family. For the teens in the family, The Grove is next door, offering the possibility of seeing a starlet or two (189 The Grove Dr.).
Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Ave.
Admission for concerts
How to get there: From the Original Farmer’s Market, head east on W. 3rd St. for 6 miles. Stay left on W. 4th St. then take a left onto Grand Lower. Take a left on W. General Thaddeus Kosciuszko Way then a right on S. Hope St.
The only way inside the concert hall is to attend an event. So if the LA Philharmonic is in season reserve tickets to the architectural marvel, sheathed in stainless steel. Designed by Frank Gehry in the Deconstructivism style, it’s an American architectural icon.
While at Walt Disney Concert Hall, drive by The Broad, located across the street at 221 S. Grand Ave. As a contemporary art museum, the building looks like a honeycomb.
1000 Vin Scully Ave.
How to get there: From the Original Farmer’s Market, head east on W. 3rd St. then take a left on N. Alvarado St. Followed by a right on Sunset Blvd. then a left on Vin Scully Ave.
If a concert sounds boring, get tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a home baseball game.
Day 2: The Shuttle and the Surf
After a full day of LA fun, spend your second day touring the Space Shuttle and then head to the beach for a sunset. But first, it’s a vacation, so eat like the calories don’t count.
Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway
8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, head to S. Broadway in Downtown LA.
As a downtown landmark since 1917, Grand Central Market provides a hum of early morning activity and some solid breakfast options, like Eggslut as well as bakeries and coffee counters.
After breakfast, time to explore like an astronaut.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Dr.
Open 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
Free, except for special exhibits and $2 tickets to see the Space Shuttle
How to get there: From Grand Central Market, take E. 3rd St. to I-110 South and continue for 3 miles. Take the W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. exit (20A exit) and park in the paid parking lot.
As one of the locations to see a retired Space Shuttle, this is a must for the adventurers in your car. With half of the facility dedicated to space exploration, the California Science Center is a must for families.
The Space Shuttle Endeavor requires an additional ticket but don’t miss it. And don’t forget the external tank outside the building.
The Ecosystems exhibits walks kids through 11 different ecosystems. Don’t miss the kelp forest with touch tanks mimicking tidal pools. The desert display features a mock flash flood that kids love too.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Since this is a free museum, I found it to be a favorite with school groups. Buy tickets for special exhibits and the Space Shuttle at Will Call or the Ticket Window.
After exploring the earth and stars, head out for some art.
The Getty Center
1200 Sepulveda Blvd.
Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (until 9 p.m. on Saturdays), closed Mondays.
How to get there: From the California Science Center take W. Exposition Blvd. to Normandie Ave. and head north to I-10 West. Head west on I-10 for about 3 miles to the I-405 North. Continue for about 10 miles on I-405 North then take exit 57B for Moraga Dr. Then take a left on N. Sepulveda Blvd. and then another left on Getty Center Dr. Park in the paid parking lot and take a tram to the museum (free).
Savor the beauty of LA in a beautiful place, to see beautiful art overlooking a beautiful view. The Getty Museum is more than an art museum, it’s a work of art itself.
Designed by Richard Meier, The Getty Center is a top architectural delight as well as the gardens and courtyards. A favorite among locals sitting in the grass and enjoying a sunny afternoon.
An extensive art collection including Van Gogh’s Irises, you could spend all day, so keep it limited to your interests or stroll the gardens instead.
Time for lunch.
Kye’s on Montana
1518 Montana Ave.
Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
How to get there: From The Getty Center to Kye’s it’s a 5-mile drive. Start out by taking a right on N. Sepulveda Blvd. then take a right on N. Church Lane. Next take a right on Sunset Blvd. and then take a left on S. Westgate Blvd. Finally take a right on Montana Ave. Park at metered parking where available.
Grab a Keyrito, a hand-held wrap with a host of yummy fillings, including gluten-free, wheat-free, diary-free and soy-free options. Due to the special wrapping technique, your Keyrito wrapper, like nori, romaine lettuce or collard greens, remains crispy for the trek to the beach.
Head to the Santa Monica Beach for the afternoon.
Santa Monica Pier and Beach
Ocean Ave. at Colorado Ave.
How to get there: From Kye’s head south on Montana Ave. towards the Pacific Ocean. Take a left on Ocean Ave. Continue for about a mile to the pier, parking is available on the pier or use metered street parking.
A trip to the beach is a must for LA. And a SoCal sunset is legendary, it will totally make up for any hiccups in traffic.
If surfing is on the kids’ list, then arrange for a surfing lesson from one of several surf shops that offer lessons. Don’t worry about special gear, the shop arranges all that for you, like spring or wet suits and surf boards.
My kids, 9, 13, and 14, benefited from surf lessons. Heck I even took surf lessons. Just like any new sport, practice is the key. Kids must be proficient swimmers to take lessons.
Santa Monica Beach Bike Tour
After surf lessons, explore the Santa Monica Beach and pier for the rest of the afternoon.
I recommend renting bikes and taking a guided tour of Santa Monica. Great way to explore and the dedicated bike lanes make it safe for families. Several rental shops located next to the pier.
After a bike tour, rent a couple of chairs and watch the sunset. Let the kids play in the sand or chase waves.
After the sun sets, head to the Santa Monica Pier for dinner and family fun. It boasts carnival rides and food in abundance. I’m partial to the carousel, though there is a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster.
Day 3: Say So Long to LA and Hello to Long Beach
After exploring Los Angeles for a couple of days, pack up to explore Long Beach for a day trip. About 25 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, it offers a full day of family fun.
Long Beach is a favorite with my kids since it boasts the Queen Mary and a fabulous aquarium along with a bike path. But first it’s time for breakfast.
Gaffey Street Diner
247 N. Gaffey St.
Opens at 5:30 a.m.
How to get there: From your centrally located LA hotel, head south on I-110 South for 22 miles. Then take the Gaffey St./San Pedro exit.
Gaffey Street Diner makes everything from the biscuits to the salsa, fresh in-house. It was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri and is a local favorite. Not much to look at but the food is fresh and hot.
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Hwy.
Various hours and tours
How to get there: From the Gaffey Street Diner, take CA 47 North/ Seaside Freeway from W. Santa Cruz for 4 miles then exit S Harbor Scenic Dr./Pico Ave. Parking is plentiful at the Queen Mary.
Once the queen of the seas as she crossed the Atlantic to-and-from England, the RMS Queen Mary has been moored in the Long Beach Harbor since 1967. Now a maritime destination, it’s rumored to have ghostly figures walking the decks.
Take the tour to learn the history of the RMS Queen Mary, including a tour of duty during WWII for troop transport. Walk through the model room with scale models of various ships and the LEGO version of the Queen Mary.
During my visit, I found the indoor pool (not open to visitors) and different mechanical rooms. With several restaurants, we ate at the Chelsea Chowder House and Bar while aboard.
After touring the Queen Mary, disembark the ship and head to the bike rack at the entrance. If everyone is willing, rent bikes from Long Beach’s bike share. With multiple locations across the tourist areas, I found it to be convenient for families with older kids.
Long Beach Bike Share
60 Bike Share Stations across Long Beach
$7 per hour or $21 for 4 hours prepaid
Grab a bike from the Long Beach Bike Share Station in the shadow of the Queen Mary. From the parking lot of the Queen Mary, I found dedicated bike/walk lanes across the bridge and along Shoreline Bike Path.
After riding, just park your bike in the rack outside and remember to take your belongings. If you park your bike in the official bike rack, the time on the meter stops. Your bike is open for another biker though I didn’t have a problem finding a bike during peak times, like weekends.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Download the app before arriving. Helmets are NOT included with bikes.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission depending on age
How to get there: If you ride a bike it’s right along the Shoreline Bike Path with a bike rack out front.
A must for families, the aquarium houses more than 10,000 animals from different 500 species. With animals from the Southern Californian region to the tropics, kids encounter a wide assortment of marine life.
As a favorite among kids, spend a little extra time at the touch tanks.
After exploring the aquarium, grab a bike and continue along the Shoreline Bike Path.
Pelican Pier Arcade
411 Shoreline Dr.
Open noon to midnight
Free to enter, games extra
How to get there: Located along the Shoreline bike path.
With a vintage carousel and arcade games, try to keep the kids out of here.
Shoreline Aquatic Park and Rainbow Lighthouse
200 Aquarium Way
How to get there: Located along the Shoreline bike path.
Take a break and enjoy the view of the Queen Mary or the Rainbow Lighthouse. A great place to let younger kids to run around.