Seeing all that Los Angeles has to offer in a short time is difficult, mainly because everything in the city and surrounding areas is so far apart. A car is essential, although there is a good public transportation system if you are patient and have time to spare. However, if you have one day and want to see things fast this is what I would do. I lived in Los Angeles for six years and learned how to get around quickly and stay off the busy freeways. Here are my top picks for one day and it excludes anything that has an admission charge. The only thing you need to pay for is gas, food and parking fees in some locations. My suggestion is start out early in the day.
I would start the day at Griffith Park. Take Los Feliz Blvd (it’s easy to reach via the Los Feliz Blvd exit on the Golden State Freeway-Interstate 5) to the signs that say Observatory and Greek Theatre. Take this route and you will go past the theatre and climb into the hills. At the top of the mountain is the Observatory, made famous in the James Dean movie “Rebel Without A Cause.” From here you will get an excellent view of all of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign. You can look at the view for no charge. On a clear day you can see forever from here.
Exit out of Griffith Park back onto Los Feliz Blvd and go right. The street will curve and then turn into Western Avenue. You will take a right at the first stop light onto Franklin Avenue. Follow Franklin to Beechwood Canyon Road and turn right. If you go up this road far enough you will see the Hollywood sign in front of you. Eventually you will enter the gates to Hollywoodland. There’s a small café here that’s wonderful for breakfast or a snack.
After taking a great photo of the Hollywood sign, retrace your steps back to Franklin Avenue and go right. Follow Franklin Avenue until you reach Highland Avenue. Go right on Highland and you will travel a short distance and reach the Hollywood Bowl on the left. Depending on the season (summer is not good) you can park and walk in to see the bowl at no charge. If there’s a concert that evening, the parking lot will be closed. After seeing or not seeing the bowl, retrace your steps back down Highland the way you came.
You will soon reach Hollywood Blvd. At the corner on the right is a shopping complex that contains wonderful stores. You can park in the parking garage here for a small charge, which will be less if you buy something in the complex. There are many eateries here, but I like Johnny Rocket’s for cheap, good food and also there’s a California Pizza Kitchen. Have your parking receipt validated if you buy anything for a discount. This complex also contains the Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. Next door on is the famous Chinese Theatre with stars’ footprints in cement. Walk around the complex and Hollywood Blvd. The beautiful El Capitan Theatre is across the street, as is the famous Roosevelt Hotel. After you have seen enough of this area (which is very crowded with tourists, but worth the visit-go on a Sunday morning when it’s quieter) then get your car and head out again.
Head out on Highland Avenue, heading south and in the opposite direction from where you drove to see the Hollywood Bowl. Keep going south until you reach Melrose Avenue and turn right. Melrose has seen better days, but it’s still full of fun shops and has a funky atmosphere. There are still some good cafes along here (Louise’s has good cheap Italian food) and there’s trendy store Fred Segal, where many stars shop. Park on the street at a meter (or on one of the side streets, but read all the parking signs to mark sure you can park there) and wander along Melrose to see the more alternative style of LA.
After you are done with your walk, get back in your car and take Melrose to Fairfax Avenue and turn left. On Fairfax you will pass the huge CBS studios and then reach 3rd Street. On the left will be the Farmers Market. You can park here and, once again, it’s cheaper if you buy something and have your parking validated. This market has everything-food from around the world, great souvenirs and it’s a wonderful place to people watch. Walk next door to the fantastic Grove Shopping Complex. There are high-end stores here (Nordstrom’s) and the outdoor design of the area is beautiful. Since CBS is next door, don’t be surprised if you find people offering free tickets to a TV show being taped there. The tickets are free, but they do require that you be there for quite a while. When you’ve had enough of shopping and eating at 3rd and Fairfax, go back to your car and go right on West 3rd Street (you will be traveling east).
Follow West 3rd Street all the way out to Beverly Hills. West 3rd will end at Santa Monica Blvd. Go left a short distance and then left again onto world famous Rodeo Drive. There are parking garages on Rodeo and on the streets that run parallel to it. Look for the ones that are City of Beverly Hillsparking garages for cheaper parking. Avoid the privately owned garages unless you want to pay a high fee. After you park, walk on Rodeo Drive to see very expensive stores. Walk away from Santa Monica in the opposite direction toward Wilshire Blvd. You will pass Prada, Gucci, Tiffany’s, Cartier and many more gorgeous shops. At Wilshire you will see in front of you the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, featured in the movie “Pretty Woman.” If you go right on Wilshire you will find more stores like Sak’s, Barney’s and Neiman-Marcus, which is my personal favorite. The café on the top floor besides the Men’s Store is excellent for a snack (although it’s pricey).
After finishing in Beverly Hills, get in your car and go back to Santa Monica Blvd. Go right and head back towards Hollywood. At Doheny Drive, as you enter the city of West Hollywood, go left. This will take you to Sunset Blvd, where you will want to turn right.
This is the famous Sunset Strip. You can see the fancy hotels, popular bars, large billboards and more great shopping at Sunset Plaza. Highlights include the Viper Room (Johnny Depp’s club), the Chateau Marmot (a legendary star hang-out) and The House of Blues.
Keep driving along Sunset and you will find yourself back at Highland Avenue, since you have really gone in a circle since you left there. You still have the evening free for a good dinner and a movie someplace in the Hollywood area. Some of the places you might have dinner are Musso and Frank Grill at 6667 Hollywood Blvd (it’s Hollywood’s oldest restaurant since it opened in 1919) and it has lots of atmosphere; or the Pig’n’Whistle, at 6714 Hollywood Blvd, which is also a landmark. For cheaper food, on Highland you will find Mel’s Drive-In (which is a fun diner). Overall, you’ve spent the day seeing what I consider some of the top sights and you’ve spent money only for parking and food. Beyond the places I’ve listed, you may see something along the way that is worth visiting. The Beverly Center (which you will pass on 3rd Street on your way to Beverly Hills) is a huge shopping complex with Macy’s and Bloomingdales among the many great stores. Another detour will allow you to see a movie studio. If you go left when you get to Melrose for a few blocks you will find the Paramount Studios at Melrose and Gower. You can take a tour here (which costs $35.00 and you will need reservations at 323-956-1777). The tour takes about 2 hours, which will really cut into your day, but you will get a behind the scenes looks at the studio and perhaps see some stars if they are working on the lot.
Overall, a great day in Hollywood does not have to cost much. Get a map and mark off the route I’ve suggested. I think you’ll find that it’s a fun day and you’ll see a lot without spending a lot of time and money.