This post is part of a series on what to do when you have one day in port on a Cruise. You can find more posts from this series on my page, How To Spend One Day In Port.
Do your travel plans have you cruising out of San Pedro or Long Beach Cruise Port? Or maybe you have a long layover at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) on your way somewhere else. If you find yourself with 1 day in LA, don’t just hang out in your hotel room!
After making the trip from SF (San Francisco)to LA many times in the past few years, I’ve seen a lot and have my favorites. With these experiences in mind, I’ve assembled three 1-day Itineraries for LA. One of these Los Angeles itineraries is bound to tickle your fancy.
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1 Day In LA Itinerary #1: 3 Ways To See The Stars In Los Angeles
Today is about seeing stars; LA is the entertainment industry’s capital. The stars in the sky at the Griffith Observatory. The stars on the streets (Hollywood Boulevard – Walk of Fame) and maybe even real movie stars as you end the day in Beverly Hills.
This Morning Head to the Furtherest Out Place in LA and Work Your Way Back
Start your day by getting a panoramic overview of Los Angeles. Head straight for Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory for stunning views of the city and the Hollywood Sign. If you’re visiting on a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean from the Observatory. There is limited parking, and it is costly. But the Observatory is free of charge.
If you go inside, you’ll be treated to exhibits like the Wilder Hall of the Eye, Cosmic Connection, the Edge of Space, and the public telescopes. Again all of the presentations are free. However, viewing a show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium costs around $10 for tickets (ages 13 – 54).
Once you’ve finished at the Observatory, head back down Fern Dell Drive to Los Feliz Boulevard and turn south. This route will take you through Los Feliz and Thai Town to Hollywood. When you reach Melrose Avenue, turn west. Drive past Paramount Pictures Studio unless you are stopping for a tour and keep going to reach your lunch spot.
It’s time for lunch! Fortunately, many delicious restaurants exist in Hollywood. But while you’re here, I recommend the iconic Pink’s Hot Dogs on Melrose Avenue. Why? Pink’s has been selling their dogs for over 80 years on this very corner, and still, there is always a line out the door today. Don’t worry; the line moves fast.
What does Pink’s have to do with stars? As you may have noticed, it is just down the street from Paramount Pictures Studios (take a tour if you are so inclined). And yes, many celebrities have visited this little hot dog stand over its eight decades in Hollywood; you’ll see many of them in the pics on the wall.
Done with your hot dog and ready to see more sites? Drive north on La Brea Avenue past Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard to Hollywood Boulevard. Since you are in Hollywood, you don’t want to miss one of the most recognizable tourist destinations
An Afternoon Stroll On The Walk Of Fame And A Choice of Tar Pits Or LACMA
The Hollywood Walk of Fame: since the first star was laid on this street in 1960, a walk along this part of Hollywood Blvd has been a must-see for any visitor to Los Angeles.
Start your walk on the edge of West Hollywood at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd near N. LaBrea Ave. Then head east down the boulevard until you reach Vine St. The “Walk of Fame” is only a mile long, but the stars are on both sides of the street, so you may end up walking 2 miles. Give it a go and see if you can find your favorite celebrities names.
While strolling along Hollywood Blvd. looking for stars, don’t forget to look up. You don’t want to miss other notable landmarks like the Chinese Theater or the equally famous El Capitan Theater.
Now that you’ve walked off lunch, head south to 6th street in Central LA, where you can choose two fantastic venues: The La Brea Tar Pits Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
The La Brea Tar Pits is home to a fascinating collection of fossils from the Ice Age, many of them found at this very site. In fact, you can walk the grounds and see the tar pits where anthropologists are still extracting fossils.
On Wilshire Boulevard, stop for a moment and get your Insta pic of “Urban Lights,” the large-scale sculpture by Chris Burden, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) entrance. The 2008 installation comprises restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s, most of which once lit the streets of Southern California.
LACMA, according to its bio, is the largest art museum in the Western United States. The museum houses a collection of 149,000 objects that span 6,000 years of human artistic expression. And that is just its resident collection. There are, of course, visiting exhibitions from around the world at any given time. You’ll surely find works at LACMA that call to your artistic muse.
Evening Shopping And Dinner In Beverly Hills
Now’s the time to shop and hobnob with the rich and famous on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. If you can think of a designer, you can find their boutique here. Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, and more await you. You may only be window shopping, but you don’t want to come to LA and not be able to say you shopped on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
For dinner, head to one of the many rooftop bars in the area for drinks and small plates. You may be tempted to head to the Beverly Hills Hotel, but this recommendation comes from my daughter… Check out the Rooftop by JG at the Waldorf Astoria. According to my reliable source, JG has excellent views, good food, and real-life celebrities in the crowd.
1 Day In LA Itinerary #2: DTLA – Architecture, Culture, And Art
The glamour of old Los Angeles is somewhat hidden now, but this tour gives glimpses into what the town would have been like in the era of Philip Marlowe.
This one-day itinerary is best done on foot once you get to Downtown LA. If you will be driving into Los Angeles, park in the Union Station East garage, open 24 hours. Parking here is affordable at around $8.00 for 24 hours.
But this itinerary doesn’t need a car… You can take the Metro! From San Pedro, the LA Metro J Line (silver) goes directly to Union Station, the first stop. From Long Beach, there is 1 transfer: Starting on the A Line (Blue) and transferring to the B Line (Red) to reach your final destination. The trip on the Metro will take about 1 ½ hours, so plan accordingly.
Taking public transportation is for those a bit more adventurous, but an all-day pass is just $3.50! After you get to Union Station, an Uber or walking will get you everywhere else on the itinerary.
Start Your Day At Union Station
Commissioned in 1933, Union Station was a joint venture between the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroads. Designed by the father-and-son architect team of John and Donald Parkinson, Union Station was an innovative blend of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, and Art Deco architecture. This style is now commonly referred to as Mission Moderne.
The Ticket Concourse features soaring ceilings with exposed trusses to imitate Spanish-style beams. In between the beams are tiles painted with beautiful Mission Revival designs. In the Waiting Hall, the coffered ceiling features more tiles and massive Art Deco chandeliers above the floors with unique Spanish tile mosaics.
All of this old-world finery was actually just recently rediscovered. In 2017 a restoration of the Station was completed, and Union Station hosted the Oscars in all its splendor. Today you get a glimpse into the luxury of train travel in the early 1900s.
When you are done admiring the work of the many tradespeople, step outside and take a walk (about 1 mile) to the following sites for the day.
The Bradbury Building & Grand Central Market
The Bradbury Building is the oldest commercial building in the center of Los Angeles. Built in 1893, the modest Romanesque exterior of the Bradbury surrounds a light-filled Victorian court rising almost fifty feet. Open “bird-cage” elevators, marble stairs, and ornate iron railings are inside the court.
Because of its unique architecture and location in LA, the Bradbury has made its mark on popular culture. This iconic building has been featured in movies like “Blade Runner,” TV shows like “Pushing Daisies,” and music videos and literature.
The Bradbury is open to the public, but only up to the first stair landing. However, there is no charge to visit. So take a peek inside and try to remember where you’ve seen this beautiful lady before.
Are you hungry yet? If not, your appetite will surely pick up with all the wonderful smells emanating from Grand Central Market right across the street!
Grand Central Market started its life back in 1917 as a true market serving the denizens of LA. Today the market hosts 40 stalls that are operated by only-in-LA vendors representing a microcosm of the immigrant communities of Los Angeles.
Looking for tacos or burritos? Maybe you’re in the mood for barbeque or ramen. Whatever you find yourself with a taste for you will find the food at Grand Central Market. Tip: have someone in your party secure a table and chairs, before you order your food. This place fills up quickly!
Angels Flight – The Worlds Shortest Railroad!
You have two choices to continue your tour of downtown LA; you can keep walking, heading a bit west to avoid the hill in front of you. Or you can plop down a buck and take the Angels Flight funicular. Maybe the only train in the world that just goes 1 block.
I’m pretty sure there is a scene in La La Land with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone holding hands and kissing while riding Angels Flight.
LA Public Library
LA’s Central Library is an early example of Art Deco, the transitional modernist style of architecture popular from the mid-1920s through the 1930s.
In the original building, known as the Goodhue building, the Rotunda ceiling has a stunning bronze Zodiac Chandelier created by Lee Lawrie. On the dome’s upper walls is a mural cycle by Dean Cornwell depicting scenes from California history.
The Tom Bradley Wing is now where most of the library collection resides. Opened in 1993, the new wing is eight levels around a glass-roofed atrium. Banks of Escalators take you down through the hall filled with public art projects.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Broad, And Walt Disney Concert Hall
After you visit the library, walk along S. Grand Avenue towards 1st Street to find the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Broad, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Broad both focus on … you got it, contemporary art. Both museums’ main exhibits offer free public admission and charge for “Special Exhibitions.” So which one should you choose? IMHO, you can’t go wrong with either choice.
If you are looking for more well-known artists, the Broad may be more to your taste. We recently went to see the current William Kentridge exhibition. Then we walked through the works of Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol. It was a lovely afternoon.
Across the street, MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) has excellent groupings of painters, photographers (Reynaldo Rivera), and sculptors. These artists may be less well-known, but their works are still essential pieces of the past century’s art world.
Walt Disney Concert Hall is an outstanding example of “deconstructivist architecture.” The asymmetrical exterior clad in stainless steel is definitely a one-of-a-kind property. If you are lucky enough to attend a concert here, arrive early because the interior is as phenomenal as the exterior.
Even if you are not attending a performance, you can take a self-guided or guided tour of the hall. These tours are free; you don’t need to make a reservation but do check the schedule.
End Your Day In The Arts District With Dinner At Manuela
From the concert hall on 1st and Grand, walk over to the Arts District, where I recommend you go for dinner. If my calculation is correct, the walk is just over a mile, but fortunately mostly downhill. However, if you’ve walked enough today, the best way to get to the dinner spot is to hit your Uber or Lyft app for a ride.
So far, today has been full of free or almost free venues. So why not splurge a bit for dinner? Manuela may seem pricey to out-of-towners. But Manuela’s location (in the Arts District), the artworks commissioned from artists Paul McCarthy, Mary Heilmann, and Raymond Pettibon, and a menu that celebrates Southern California’s best foods and beverages make it worthwhile a splurge.
1 Day In LA Itinerary #3: Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, And More On The Coast
The Pacific Coast Highway of Los Angeles is home to many of California’s prettiest, wide, sandy beaches. If you’re a beach lover, this is a chance to check out the SoCal scene.
Morning In Malibu And Santa Monica
Start with a drive up to Malibu and take a walk out on the Malibu Pier. Then start working your way south, heading first to Santa Monica Beach.
This Santa Monica Pier is an iconic landmark and a must-see for many visitors to Los Angeles. Enjoy the Pacific Ocean views, ride the ferris wheel, and play games at the arcade. BTW, did you know this is the official end of the famous Route 66?
Ready for some lunch? Big Dean’s Ocen Front Café offers burgers, tacos, and more with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Or head down to The Fig Tree in Venice Beach for some fried calamari and a great salad with green fresh from local farms.
Spend The Afternoon In Venice Beach
After rejuvenating yourself with fantastic California Cuisine, you are ready to walk or bike along the Venice Beach Boardwalk. This vibrant area is home to street performers, artists, and vendors. Don’t miss the Muscle Beach Gym to see some of the world’s strongest men and women in action. Maybe you can even join in a beach volleyball game!
Fun as the Boardwalk is, take a few minutes to walk along the three canal-lined blocks of Dell Avenue. This neighborhood is why Venice is named Venice. Starting at the arching pedestrian bridges, you find charming beach houses lining the Venice canals, bunches of ducklings, and the occasional paddle boarder floating by.
When you’re ready, drive down Vista del Mar, the road that runs south along the coast. It would be best to take a little detour inland to get around Marina Del Rey unless your car has an amphibious function.
Driving south along the coast will be a mixture of Highway 1 and local streets. Still, you’ll enjoy nothing but sand and surf as you pass the famous Dockweiler Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, etc. Your goal is to get down to Palos Verdes, so set your GPS for the Point Vicente Lighthouse.
Lighthouses are always in prime ocean viewing locations, and the view from Point Vicente doesn’t disappoint.
Head back to your hotel, knowing you’ve seen some of the best beaches in California.
1 Day In LA: Bonus Trips & Things To Do
Disneyland – The Original Theme Park
Head Over to Anaheim and spend your day in LA at Disneyland. This is where Walt Disney built his first theme park. Yes, this is a bit of a drive (it will take you at least an hour each way), and if you’re a Disney fan, well worth it.
Visit all your favorites, from the Pirates of the Caribbean to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and everything in between. And of course, don’t miss the always popular “Main Street Parade!”
Universal Studios Hollywood
Are you a fan of movies and amusement parks? Then visit the Minions, Harry Potter, and Jurassic World at Universal Studios Hollywood on your 1 day in LA. You can tour Universal Studios and spend the rest of the day geeking out on rides featuring your favorite Universal characters and worlds.
Want to Stay Close To The Port, But Not In Your Hotel?
If you are staying close to the Los Angeles World Cruise Center or the Long Beach Cruise Terminal, you still have options of sites to see without going into LA.
The Battleship USS Iowa is docked west of Terminal Island (the port area). It serves as a museum for the Navy. A bit further south, you will find the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. This aquarium is a smaller venue but an entertaining way to spend a few hours in the afternoon.
On the east side of the Island sits the venerable Queen Mary. Cunard’s Super Ocean Liner, whose maiden voyage was in 1936, is now permanently docked and open to the public. On this side of Terminal Island is the Aquarium of the Pacific. If you are genuinely interested in sea life, this aquarium has more than 100 exhibits and 19 habitats.
Here Are Some Tips To Make The Most Of Your 1 Day In LA
Getting Around Los Angeles
You can get around Los Angeles by taxi or Uber, but I recommend renting a car. The city is spread out, so having a car to get around is the least expensive way to get around.
A 1-day rental from a major car rental company will cost between $60 and $85 per day, according to the prices on booking.com. An Uber from San Pedro or the LAX area to the Griffith Observatory one-way will run around $50.
Be Prepared For Crowds
The population of Los Angeles is over 12 million. In addition, LA is a popular tourist destination, with over 48 million visitors from around the world visiting each year. Be prepared for crowds, especially at popular attractions like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Griffith Observatory.
Pack comfortable shoes. Los Angeles is a city of walking and driving, so wearing comfortable shoes is fundamental.
Stay hydrated. Los Angeles is a hot city, so staying hydrated is essential. Bring a water bottle and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Remember, Los Angeles is a big city with its share of opportunistic crimes. There are always pickpockets where tourists gather, whether in Los Angeles, New York, London, or Rome. Pay attention to your surroundings and keep your wits about you.
You Won’t See All Of LA In Just 1 Day
Los Angeles covers over 502 square miles. It would be impossible to see everything in just 1 day. But as I’ve demonstrated with the three itineraries here, you can spend your 1 day in LA enjoying the things you love your way.
If you’re looking for a city that has it all, Los Angeles is the place for you. With its perfect weather, endless entertainment options, and friendly people, LA, the city of angels, will leave you with lasting memories.