There are literally hundreds of things to do here in LA. Here is my list of “must sees”. Visit as many as you have time for:
Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth. Half a billion visitors can’t be wrong. #1 Destination.
Universal Studios: A theme park that grew out of a studio tour. #2 Destination.
Even if you don’t visit Disneyland or Universal Studios Tour, Downtown Disney District and Universal City Walk are very fun places to visit for shopping and eating. And they’re free to visit. If you’re adventurous, try the indoor skydiving (www.iflyhollywood.com). They also shoot “Extra” here 9AM-2PM. You could see a star.
Hollywood: Enjoy the Walk of Fame, Entertainment Museum, Chinese Theatre and more. The Hollywood & Highland complex has lots of shops and restaurants, and the Kodak Theater. The El Capitan theater, right across the street, is where Disney shows their movies. And the Hollywood Bowl is a GREAT place to listen to concerts outdoors.
Other theme parks include Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain, which are both more geared towards the fast-ride teen crowd.
Olvera Street/Union Station: Olvera Street is the birthplace of LA, and it emphasizes our Mexican heritage. In addition to the Avila Adobe (oldest building in LA), you can eat at some pretty good Mexican Restaurants, do a little shopping, and taste a churro. If you don’t want to go to Tijuana, this is as close as it gets without going there
Rodeo Drive, 90210: Packed with exclusive shops, full of gawkers. They all came to enjoy the excess. Free, unless you intend to buy something.
Venice Beach: Here you'll find Muscle Beach, street performers and tacky shops galore. Fun, VERY interesting, but I avoid it after dark, when it gets a little TOO interesting for my taste.
Santa Monica: Beach and Pier: Great beach scene and a classic seaside amusement park, complete with antique carousel that has been in a lot of TV and movies. After visiting the pier, you can ride a bike south a couple miles to Venice Beach.
Farmers Market and The Grove - A new shopping complex right next to a Los Angeles landmark, It is right next to CBS.
Griffith Park - Home of the Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park Observatory, Travel Town, the Greek Theatre, and Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage.
Hike to the Hollywood sign: http://www.hollywoodsigntrip.com
Getty Museum - The Getty's architecture is so beautiful that it keeps me fascinated. No matter whether you like their art, architecture, or view better, the Getty is sure to please. Free.
Attend a TV taping - You can get free tickets at audiencesunlimited.com, tvtix.com, or ocaudiences.com. It’s a very fun and interesting time.
Places to eat:
In-N-Out Burger: Multiple locations, best burger in LA.
Pink’s Hot Dogs: Locations in Hollywood and Universal Studios.
Tommy’s Chili Burgers: Look for the shack, an LA tradition. The original location is at Beverly & Rampart, a couple miles west of downtown.
Canter’s Deli: 419 N. Fairfax, between Beverly & Melrose. Near CBS, you might spot a celebrity.
Phillippe’s: 1001 N. Alameda. Great roast beef sandwiches. Near Union Station and Olvera Street.
Tito’s Taco’s: Voted best tacos in LA. King Taco is a good alternate if you can deal with East LA.
The Pantry: Corner of Figueroa and 9th, downtown. Huge portions, they never close, GREAT steak and eggs.
Medieval Times and/or Pirate’s Dinner Adventure: Dinner and an adventure show, both are on Beach Blvd in Buena Park, you get to eat with your hands.
Places to Stay:
Since LA is so spread out, there is no single place that is close to EVERYTHING. Most people who come here tend to stay in Hollywood, Santa Monica, or Anaheim. In Hollywood, I recommend the Hollywood Roosevelt, Orchid Suites, Hollywood Celebrity Hotel, or Hollywood Heights (formerly Holiday Inn Walk of Fame), all near Hollywood and Highland. In Santa Monica, the Holiday Inn Santa Monica is close to the pier and reasonably priced. In Anaheim, I recommend the Howard Johnson (HoJo) Anaheim, and the Candy Cane Inn. There is also a nice place in Burbank called the Best Western Media Center, very close to Warner, NBC, and Universal Studios. Universal Sheraton and Universal Hilton have great views and great locations, but are a bit pricey. A decent beach hotel can easily cost $600 per night.
Definitely rent a car. Distances are too far here. Last month I had to take a taxi home (because SuperShuttle left me stranded late that night at the airport), and the fare alone was $130, not counting tip. Fortunately, SuperShuttle had to pay for that one. You can rent a car for as little as $30 per day. A decent one runs about $50.
Places to Shop:
Citadel Outlets, Commerce
Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica
The Grove, Los Angeles
Americana @ Brand, Glendale
Beverly Center, Los Angeles
Brea Mall, Brea
The Block at Orange, Orange
South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa
Fashion Island, Newport Beach
Santee Alley, Los Angeles