Los Angeles is huge. 502.7 square miles huge, in fact. With all the main sights spread out all over the place, it’s almost impossible to see everything in a single day, even if you’ve got access to a car.
But I decided to go one further and cram everything into just 6 hours.
Mental? Yes. Impossible? Also yes. But with my two others day in LA being devoted to Universal Studios, catching Daniel Radcliffe getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and going to see The Late Late Show With James Corden being filmed, I had to make it happen! Oh and did I mention that at the time I went to LA I couldn’t drive either…?
How to See (Most Of) LA in One Day
With both my friend and I being unable to drive (and also being a little strapped for cash), we decided to take a 6-hour tour with LA City Tours that we found on Viator.com.
There was a choice of morning or noon tour options (of course we went for the noon tour, because sleep). But the main thing that drew us to this particular tour was the fact it ticked off so many of the big city sights we were desperate to see. Here’s a near-exhaustive list of areas covered on the tour. The places where we had time to get off the coach and have our own snoop around are marked with an *:
- Hollywood Boulevard (Chinese theatre, Dolby Theater, Walk of Fame)*
- Griffith Observatory/Hollywood sign*
- Marina Del Rey
- Venice Beach*
- Santa Monica*
- Celebrity homes
- Rodeo Drive
- Beverly Hill sign*
As well as all these things, however, our tour driver also pointed out so many other sights as we made our way round the city, including the school where they filmed Grease, the Capitol Records Building, the Viper Room, the West End of Route 66, Hollywood High School, Musso & Frank Grill (the oldest restaurant in Hollywood!), Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles Police Academy, Dodger Stadium, Grammy Museum, LAX, The Hotel California, Staples Center and Forest Lawn Memorial Park (the final resting place for a number of celebrities including Michael Jackson). Quite honestly, there were probably a whole shedload of other places he pointed out – it was almost a bit overwhelming at times, and it’s only from looking back at my photos that I remembered seeing half of it!
To give you an idea of how much ground the tour covers in 6 hours, here’s a map of LA marked with areas you’ll visit:
What to Expect on The Tour
The tour kicks off at the LA City Tours HQ on Hollywood Boulevard, which of course means it’s perfectly located for you to tick off half-a-dozen tourist sights before you even get going! I’d recommend getting here around an hour or so beforehand so you can experience everything, including the Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre, El Capitan Theatre and all your favourite celebrity stars on the Walk of Fame.
There were several different tours leaving at the same time as ours so we were each given a sparkling gold sticker just in case we forgot which one we were on. Before long, we were shepherded onto our (pretty full) minibus and joined the traffic along Hollywood Blvd. Of all the places in LA to get caught in traffic though, this is the one. Our driver was able to point out the seemingly endless sights with ease, including Hollywood High School (where the scenes in Grease involving bleachers were filmed), and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel which I’m desperate to visit one day. It was the venue for the very first Academy Awards back in 1929, and is the oldest continually operating hotel in LA. Plus it just looks ridiculously retro.
The First Stop: Griffith Park
Once we’d meandered our way out of the traffic, our minibus headed to its first stop, Griffith Park. This isn’t like your ordinary run-of-the-mill park: it’s a park made up of 4,300+ acres of land, which offers views out over the city of LA and the nearby Hollywood sign. Its trails are a popular hiking area for locals (I swear I even saw pictures of Kendall Jenner up there one time), but you won’t have to do anything of that on this tour. The bus drops you off at the Griffith Observatory so you can get the best views all in one hit…
We had a quick 20-minute stop at the Observatory, which was just enough time to run through the building in order to use their loo and see a Tesla Coil, but before we knew it it was time to head back to the bus and onto our next stop…
The Second Stop: Venice Beach
The inclusion of Venice Beach on this tour was one of the main reasons why I opted for it. So many people warned me that the city area was dirty and touristy, and that the best area to visit was Venice Beach – and, after experiencing all parts of LA, I can now completely see what they mean.
But, before we got to Venice Beach, it was time for the longest part of our minibus journey. I lost track of just how long we spent trying to find our way around in the traffic, but it could have well been close to an hour. Luckily, the journey was broken up by our driver pointing out places of interest, like LAX, the Los Angeles Police Academy, the Dodger Stadium, the Grammy Museum and the Staples Center…who knew there was so much to see in LA?!
By the time we arrived in Venice Beach, we were ready to stretch our legs and grab some lunch. Thankfully, it was the longest stop of the tour at 45 minutes, so we had plenty of time to grab a slice of pizza and make our way to the beach to catch some rays.
I instantly saw what everyone meant about Venice Beach. The vibe was so relaxed, the weather just seemed so much more pleasant, and the people were so chilled it was unbelievable. Although that last one probably had something to do with all the ‘medicinal’ shops along the front, if you catch my drift… While you’re there, make sure you check out the iconic Muscle Beach. Obviously for the wonderful appreciation of outdoor fitness. Nothing else. Ahem.
The Third Stop: Santa Monica
After just a short drive along the front, we were at our next stop: Santa Monica. Our experience of this beachfront city was short but sweet. With just a quick 20-minute stop, we were able to snap a few photos of the iconic pier from afar, listen to one of the buskers, and take a short walk along the front to admire its palm tree game as the sun started to set.
Fun little fact: at Santa Monica you can have your picture taken with a Route 66 sign! The end of the legendary highway is officially at the end of Santa Monica Pier, but there’s a sign up by the Information Centre for the obligatory snaps.
The Fourth Stop: Beverly Hills
The sun was starting to set and we still had a lot to bundle into our tour. On the way back towards Hollywood, we took in some of the million-dollar celeb houses up in the hills – I genuinely thought that this would be a lot more interesting, but in actual fact it was just a lot of iron gates, scary CCTV and tall hedges. Although we did manage to see the back of the Playboy Mansion, which has got to account for something.
From there, it was straight onto Rodeo Drive where we felt a bit like imposters snooping at expensive cars and into shop windows at things we’d never be able to afford. We did manage to see Badgley Mischka though – the store where Julia Roberts is turned away from in Pretty Woman.
After that, it really was time for the last stop of the tour. After all, you can’t go to Beverly Hills and NOT see the famous sign! Luckily, a quick photo stop meant we could get those all-important snaps just in time for the sun to set completely and our tour to come to an end.
The Tour: Overall
Exhausted just reading about our day? Yeah, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Seeing LA in one day is slightly bonkers, but if you’re short on time and slightly mad, this city tour covers all the main sights. Yes at times you may feel a little rushed, but it’s a great introduction to the city and all it has to offer. And, after all, it’ll just help you pinpoint where to focus your time when you make that inevitable return trip to the City of Angels!
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