Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Los Angeles itinerary. Regular readers of this blog know I’m a generally cheerful person. I can have a great time in a large Japanese city or a small town in Mississippi.
But there is one city that has been my eternal nemesis: Los Angeles. Some call it the City of Angels, but to me it is more like a Hellmouth. I’m from New York City, and the first time I tried a one day in Los Angeles itinerary was as a kid with my dad on a business trip.
I thought LA had too much sunshine, too much smog, and too much smiling. But on my most recent trip to La La Land, I fell in love with the city’s artificial beauty and disturbingly flawless weather. Join me for a one day in Los Angeles itinerary and we’ll see the sights from the top of Griffith Observatory to the pavement outside Grauman’s Chinese. We might even spot a celebrity!
One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary
Where to Stay?
Ordinarily this is the point in the one day in Los Angeles itinerary when I would recommend a place to stay. However I can’t do that because when I arrived at 1 in the morning at my hotel in Los Angeles after a lengthy flight from New York City, I was informed by my hotel that they had canceled my reservation due to an unspecified problem with my credit card. (Narrator: The credit card was fine.)
Then they kicked me out into the night with no car and no place to stay. I did find something at the last minute, but I can’t recommend it. Next time I have a One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary, I’m just staying at the Chateau Marmont!
But if you want to check out great deals at almost 3000 hotels in Los Angeles, just click here! With so many options, I guarantee you’ll find something in your budget and your price range.
One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
LA gets very sunny, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary
Morning: Griffith Observatory
For somebody who thinks that Los Angeles is ugmo and made of silicone, like this humble blogger once did, Griffith Observatory is the perfect place at which to correct this false impression. It is located in gorgeous Griffith Park, which is one of the largest parks in the whole United States. It’s been an important part of many glamorous feature films.
Plus it’s fun to go here, so that later when you tell people you saw stars in LA, they’ll think you meant movie stars and not great balls of fire. That will add a special touch of fun to your One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary! Interested in learning more about Griffith Observatory? Allow me to share…
three fun facts: Griffith Observatory
1) How Do I Get There?
The Griffith Observatory can be a little hard to get to if, like me, you do not know how to drive. Also it can be hard to get to if, like me, you arrived in Los Angeles from New York City at midnight the night before and arrived at your hotel only to find that they had canceled your reservation without warning you and did not have any room available for you. Now you’re stuck staying in Manhattan Beach, which is about an hour’s drive away from the Griffith Observatory. AHEM!
Anyway, rideshares like Uber or Lyft will take you pretty much anywhere you need to go in Los Angeles, even if it takes an hour with traffic. Just be careful when calling a rideshare to pick you up at Griffith Observatory. The cell phone reception isn’t great, so you’ll probably have to dance around a bit to find a spot. I recommend getting to Griffith Observatory as early as you can in the day. It’s completely free and very popular, so it fills up quickly. Also we have a busy day ahead of us!
2) What Can I See at Griffith Observatory?
The most famous sight at Griffith Observatory is the Hollywood sign. According to the website, the observatory is the best vantage point from which to view this famous nine letter word. You get the best views if you go on the roof of the observatory. The sign wasn’t actually built to advertise the entertainment industry. It dates back to the 1920s and it was built to advertise the Hollywoodland housing development.
My favorite story about the Hollywood sign is that it became run-down by the 1970s, like many parts of America. However, unlike with many other parts of America, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner led the charge to restore it. Mr. Hef paid for the restoration of the Letter H and other celebrities, including Alice Cooper, were responsible for the other letters. It’s pretty surprising that Hef paid to restore anything that was over 50 years old and not a bottle blonde.
3) Why is the Griffith Observatory famous?
The GO has been featured in over 300 movies. However the two most famous are Rebel Without a Cause and the Rebel homage in the more recent La La Land. Unfortunately if you’re looking for your own romantic moment with Ryan Gosling (or James Dean’s ghost, I don’t know your life), you can’t really get that on this itinerary. The telescope is open for viewing only in the evening hours. But you can still wander through the Griffith Observatory’s collection of artifacts and learn about the building’s history.
My favorite was this gorgeous wall decoration made entirely out of celestial-themed jewelry. I like to think that all of these jewels were donated by Liz Taylor. I also recommend taking in a show at the gobsmacking planetarium theater. These tickets do cost money, but you can easily buy them at the Griffith Observatory. The show Centered in the Universe will take you on a virtual journey through the cosmos. Now that’s what I call a night of a thousand stars!
One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary
Afternoon: Explore Hollywood
It wasn’t just the Hollywood sign that deteriorated in the 1970s. I was not alive in the Me Decade, but I’m given to understand that the John Carpenter film Escape From LA is a documentary about what life was like in Hollywood back then.
But nowadays, Hollywood is bursting with life, health, Elmo impersonators trying to steal your money, and that one woman who kept asking me if I was with the CIA. (It was very tempting to tell her that if I told her, I’d have to kill her, but she didn’t seem like the right sort of lady to joke around with.) I recommend spending the whole afternoon of your One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary doing the most touristic things you can find in Los Angeles. Embrace the tacky, I say! But first…LUNCH!
approximately top 5: One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary Edition
1) Pizzeria Mozza
Pizzeria Mozza is not in Hollywood. But it’s in between Griffith Observatory and Hollywood, so I say we are stopping here for our One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary lunch. Pizzeria Mozza is the creation of legendary chef and baker Nancy Silverton. (There’s a whole episode of Chef’s Table dedicated to her, so you know she’s good.) I’m sure everything at Pizzeria Mozza is good, but I have to insist that you order exactly everything I did.
The waitress complimented me on my ordering skills, is how well I chose my food. Start with the world-famous chopped salad. This salad is so popular, the Sweetgreen chain sold their own version in a collaboration with Nancy Silverton. It was tasty, but the original here is about a grillion times better.
24 Hour Treat: Squash Blossom Pizza
To be more precise, it’s squash blossom and burrata pizza. These toppings were so light and summery that I could almost convince myself eating a whole pizza is a healthy choice. And I felt much more cheerful after I ate it, even though I was being forced to stay in Manhattan Beach in a hotel that was partially under construction. So I guess it was a positive choice for my mental health.
It shouldn’t be surprising since Chef Silverton is such a famous baker, but this pizza crust was the single most delicious pizza crust I have ever eaten, and I usually throw away the crusts of my pizza.
For dessert, the only choice is the butterscotch budino, which is often called the best dessert in Los Angeles. This is the perfect dessert if you like something that’s not too sweet. And the Maldon sea salt on top added that perfect salty and sweet mix that I can’t get enough of. At this point the waitress came by and told me I was living my best life. Indeed I am waitress! But the validation is always appreciated.
2) From the South Bay to the Valley
Los Angeles is a notoriously bad walking city, and therefore I decided to walk it. I walked all the way from Pizzeria Mozza to Hollywood, which takes about half an hour, so you’ll still have plenty of time left in your One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary. It’s fun to do this while listening to some incredibly stereotypical Los Angeles tunes like the soundtrack to La La Land. But the best Walking Around LA music is “I Love LA” by Mr. Randy Newman. When you hear the lyrics, “Look at that mountain, look at those trees, look at that bum over there,” you can actually see all of those things yourself.
Hey, I just noticed that the lyrics to “I Love LA” really aren’t all that positive if you think about it. Is “New York State of Mind” also secretly making fun of New York City? Nah, Billy Joel would never do me like that…
3) Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood
Despite my intense history of traveling, I had never been to a wax museum. I always wanted to go to one, but my mom said they were overpriced and tacky. But now I’m an adult, so I can spend all my money on ugly things if I want to! At Madame Tussaud’s, you can get a combination that includes admission to two other Hollywood tacky-ttractions and saves you 30 dollars, so I think it’s a pretty good deal. You didn’t come to Hollywood to be cool, after all. You came to get a selfie taken with Wax Harrison Ford!
Here I was trying to take a selfie with a Wax Rock Star, but I missed, so you can’t really tell where I am. But my hair looks good, so I’m posting the photo anyway.
The silliest part of Madame Tussaud’s is this section where you can put on a bridal wig and pose for a photo with one of these wax hunks. Was I little tempted by Wax Matt Damon? I’ll never tell!
And if marriage isn’t your thing, Wax Hugh Hefner is creepily waiting for you in the next room. I actually think this might be Hef’s corpse, not a wax figure.
And Wax Harrison Ford must have greatly angered someone at Madame Tussaud’s to get posed next to Wax Shia LaBeouf instead of Wax Carrie Fisher or Wax Tommy Lee Jones. Han Solo deserves more respect than this.
4) Ripley’s Believe it Or Not
Up next on the combo ticket is Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium. This was probably my favorite museum in Hollywood because it was just so random. I mean where else can you find a two-headed calf…
A crayon portrait of Magnum PI…
Ingrid Bergman made out of puzzle pieces…
A piece of the Berlin Wall…
And C-3P0 and R2D2 all in the same museum? My only suggestion for this museum is I think they should change the name. When you call your place Believe it or Not!, it makes people think they shouldn’t believe you. Better to call it Ripley’s Believe IT!!!!! That shows you mean serious business.
5) Guinness Museum
The Guinness Museum is probably not interesting enough to visit without the combination ticket. But since you basically get admission here tossed in free with the combo, why not check it out! You’ll get lots of information on some of the strangest world records out there.
Have you ever been interested in comparing your height to that of the tallest man who ever lived, Robert Wadlow? You can do that here. But spoiler alert! He is taller than you are.
You might also meet this lunatic. I told her that in LA you’re supposed to be on television, television isn’t supposed to be on you. But she didn’t listen to me.
My favorite was the most literal legal act. The husband in this case took a chainsaw to his front door in order to give his wife 50 percent of his property. First off, I can’t IMAGINE why she divorced you, sir. Second, how do you measure how literal a legal act is for the Guinness Book of World Records? Like if I slaughtered a man, I think that would pretty literally be manslaughter, no?
One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary
Evening: Sips of Old Hollywood Tour
As much as I make fun of LA, I absolutely love movies. My favorites are anything made in between 1934, when It Happened One Night came out, and 1960 when my very favorite movie of all time, The Apartment was released. So I was excited to be able to experience the glamour of Old Hollywood on Urban Adventures’s Sips of Old Hollywood Tour. I’d be able to see where the movie magic all began and get my drink on at the same time. We saw about 15 amazing stops on this tour, but I’m just going to pique your curiosity with…
approximately top 5: Old Hollywood edition
1) Snow White Cafe
For a Dis-Nerd like me, there was no better place to begin than the Snow White Cafe. Apparently Disney animators used to come here in the Golden Age of the studio. To show their appreciation, they painted a mural in the back that says We Hope We Have Pleased You.
Sadly it’s hard to get a good photo of the mural because of the light placement. A drink here was included with the price of the tour. I got a Shock Top beer with a little orange slice on top. Tony, my guide, says that Shock Top has a brewery in Los Angeles, so it’s popular there. I personally think the Snow White Cafe should put a little apple slice on the Shock Top instead of orange to go with the theme. But maybe people would worry it was poisoned…
2) Musso and Frank
Our next stop was Musso and Frank Grill, which is celebrating its one hundredth birthday this year. In Los Angeles years, that’s basically a millennia. Everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Marilyn Monroe dined here and it’s still a popular spot for celebrities. I saw Saturday Night Live legend Darrell Hammond sitting with a group as we did a lap around the restaurant, but I am too polite to interrupt his dinner to tell him his Donald Trump impression is better than Alec Baldwin’s.
My favorite part of this stop was when Tony showed me an old menu from Musso and Frank hanging on the wall. Imagine coming here when a whiskey cost less than a dollar. No wonder those old movie stars were all alcoholics!
The final stop on the tour was Boardner’s, a truly legendary bar that goes back to the 1940s. Unlike Musso and Frank, this place gives off more of a shady side of LA vibe. They say this was the last place Elizabeth Short drank before she was found murdered and became better known as…The Black Dahlia.
At Boardner’s, I got a Moscow Mule and a snack. The Moscow Mule, which I thought came from Russia, was actually invented in Los Angeles at the Cock and Bull, which doesn’t exist anymore. It was invented as a way to sell vodka, which wasn’t really catching on in the United States. I can see why a Moscow Mule would be so popular in LA. It’s light, refreshing, and perfect for the sunny weather.
The snack was nachos. There’s no cool story here. There’s just nachos. But they do go nicely with a Moscow Mule!
4) Grauman’s Chinese Theater
Now it was time for the sightseeing portion of the tour to begin. Grauman’s Chinese Theater is most famous for the celebrity handprints/footprints/hairprints stuck in the cement outside. (And yes, celebrities still get asked to leave their prints in the sidewalk to this day.) You could probably have an entire tour just of the prints here alone, and it would be enough to please any film buff.
My favorite prints belong to Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, left when they were promoting their movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marilyn had the clever idea to leave her diamond earring in the cement. After all, the most famous song from that movie is “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. She was the original “head for business, bod for sin”.
5) Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has been around since 1927. It’s such a part of Hollywood history that the very first Oscars were held there. (Back then the ceremony was not televised.) So I was thrilled to be able to walk through the lobby and by the pool on the tour. Many old Hollywood stars stayed here.
The most famous is certainly Marilyn Monroe, who actually lived here for two years. They say her ghost haunts the building, but we didn’t see her when we were walking around. If I did get haunted by Marilyn Monroe, I’d just start singing “Candle in the Wind” with my very best Elton John voice. Pretty sure that would scare her off.
6) Hollywood Walk of Fame
It’s not a trip to Hollywood without a stroll down the walk of fame. Tony was very good about showing me the stars of my favorite celebrities. I was too shy about asking to see Matt Damon’s star since I had almost married Wax Matt Damon earlier that day. There are thousands of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
To get placed on it, you have to be nominated and someone has to agree to pay the fee. (The cost is 50,000 and I would rather put a down payment on an apartment, thankyouverymuch.) Tony said that celebrities can be nominated posthumously, and it’s usually fan clubs that arrange for that.
The little symbols below the person’s name tell you what medium he or she was famous for. There’s the camera for movies, like Ginger here, TV screens for stars like John Ritter, music for rockers like Tom Petty, and even drama masks for stage performers, like Joel Grey. But my favorites are the classic movie stars. They say Ginger Rogers here could do everything Fred did, but backwards and in heels, so I photographed her upside down.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary!
What would you do with One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Los Angeles? With whom would you rather make out in Griffith Observatory, Ryan Gosling or James Dean’s ghost? And is my marriage to Wax Matt Damon legal? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Los Angeles itinerary. And if you have time for an extra One Day in Los Angeles Itinerary, try this one!