Think LA is nothing but show biz? Think again. The backbone of West Coast culture has so much more going for it than movie sets and titans of the entertainment industry; in fact, it’s so sprawling and multicultural, your trip to the city of angels can be whatever you want it to be.
Care to immerse yourself in great art? The museums are world-class. Looking to get as many stamps in your foodie passport as possible? You’re in luck! Simply on the hunt for a centering, holistic getaway? Unlike a certain city that never sleeps, the wellness culture in LA arguably dwarfs the nightlife circuit. It really comes down to this: The Hollywood version of LA is omni-present, but your version of LA is here, too, simply waiting for you to find it.
Cinephiles, art lovers seeking the latest and greatest, families accustomed to city life (come for the theme parks, stay for what lies beyond their gates), anyone craving sunshine
Ideally, a trip to LA is one where your budget is somewhat negotiable. “I can’t believe this coffee was $8” is a common refrain among the uninitiated; try as you might to keep things conservative, a day in this city simply always manages to add up. Be sure to factor in driving expenses—you’ll want to rent a car—and when it comes to accommodations, prioritize location above all else. That may come with a heftier price tag, but we promise the uptick in Airbnb rates (budget $75-$150/person nightly) are worth being in the thick of things rather than a traffic jam away from your desired destination. A satisfying dinner sans drinks will run you $30-$75 per person.
As with many big cities in the US, Los Angeles has seen an overall decline in crime over the last few decades, but “less crime” is not “no crime.” It’s important to hide or take valuables with you when you park your car and keep your wits about you in crowded settings. The good news is that, in true coastal fashion, diversity in LA is generally welcome, what with its big, beautiful LGBTQIA+ scene and wide range of cultures, from Latinx excellence to a bustling Koreatown.
Los Angeles has a subtropical climate, with very mild, relatively rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. From June through August, average high temperatures are in the low 80s F (though heat waves increasingly push those higher) while winter days are typically in the 60s and may dip to the 50s at night. Snow is unheard of, but winter can bring some much-needed rain.
Anytime is a good time to visit LA depending on what you want to do. If the beach is on your agenda, visit from June through early October, though be aware that crowds are at their biggest—and prices on accommodation generally highest—during June, July, and August. Winter is the cheapest time to visit.
Add in the cost of parking. If you’re renting a car, be sure to check the cost of parking when looking at hotels. A more expensive hotel with free parking could be a better deal than a cheaper hotel with exorbitant parking rates in the end.
Eat at food trucks. Tacos, fried chicken, pizza, pasta, grilled cheese, lobster rolls—food trucks in LA serve up dozens of tasty, cheap options.
Menus the world over use the designation of “California style” to indicate that a dish is garnished with a few slices of avocado, and while it’s not inaccurate, it’s a fraction of what you’ll experience when it comes to LA’s culinary scene.
Incredible chefs like Roi Choi and David Chang serve up some of their most iconic creations in this town, the taco trucks are without peer, and virtually any dietary restriction is routinely accommodated by a huge portion of the city’s restaurants.
LA hotels don’t have to break the bank, with a solid room starting at around $100 (and going up, up, up from there for those who want to live like an A-lister for a few days). Vacation rentals can be even cheaper, especially for couples and single travelers who don’t mind a smaller space.
LAs neighborhoods each have a style of their own. Beverly Hills offers loads of that Old Hollywood glamour in the form of boutique hotels, while downtown’s ongoing revival has paved the way for stylish budget options and loads of rooftop pools. There’s always Venice and Malibu, if you prefer the beach and a trendy vibe, and hip neighborhoods like Los Feliz and Silver Lake are home to lots of Airbnb eye candy.
No two ways about it: You need a car in LA. Having your own wheels will help you explore the city comfortably, and while traffic can be quite bad, the driving itself isn’t. If the thought of navigating an unfamiliar urban sprawl with lots of other cars on the road gives you anxiety, take comfort in knowing the roads are well maintained and drivers are, on the whole, pretty friendly.
If you’re unable, or unwilling to drive, or you plan on only exploring one or two nearby neighborhoods, you can get by using Uber or Lyft. But multiple long rides, especially during rush hour, can easily cost more than a rental.
The Los Angeles metro area is served by three international airports and two domestic-only airports.
We’re focusing here on the airports closest to downtown Los Angeles, though one of the other airports listed above may be a better option if your ultimate destination is elsewhere in the metro area.
LAX has a nonstop shuttle bus, FlyAway, connecting the airport with Union Station downtown. A ticket costs about $10 and takes roughly 30 minutes. Taxis can cost $100 or more, depending on where you’re going. Rideshare options are Lyft, Opoli, and Uber, with fares starting in the $30-50 range.
Burbank Airport is the only airport in the entire LA metro area with a rail line connecting it to downtown Los Angeles. Metrolink trains serve the Burbank Airport-South Train Station and Burbank Airport-North Train Station. A Metrolink train trip to LA’s Union Station takes about 25–30 minutes and costs $4.50–6.00 one-way.
Have a Malibu day and head to the beach, grab some great foods and check out one of the town’s stylish wineries.
Dust off your aspiring sommelier beret and drive 2.5 hours to Solvang, a Danish-influenced town that’s a fantastic destination for wine tasting.
Spend some time in San Diego (~2.5 hours away), a family-friendly destination with good surfing, good food, a great zoo, and gorgeous beaches
Make your way about two hours away to Ojai, a welcome respite from the urban grind of LA full of local shops and restaurants, hiking and swimming spots, and lots of wine-tasting rooms.
Head 2.5 hours away to the mountains of Big Bear, an incredible day-trip destination during ski season and come summer.
Take a 2.25-hour trip out to Joshua Tree National Park, an otherworldly desert destination for camping and hiking, and then to Palm Springs for a man-made oasis in the desert.
Road-trip up Highway 101 to iconic towns like Cambria, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey, dramatically positioned above the Pacific and full of beauty, good dining options, and local charm (the Monterey Bay Aquarium is also a big draw year-round).
Take a one-hour flight to San Francisco to explore a totally new side of California, with its foggy mornings, steep hills, epic dining options, and much, much more.
Drive 4 hours northeast to Las Vegas to indulge in a party weekend, relax by the pool, see some shows, shop, and taste world-class cuisine.
As the home of Hollywood, thousands of tv shows and movies have been filmed or set here. The city itself plays a role in shows like You, Alias, On My Block, Party Down, Selling Sunset, and Beverly Hills, 90210, and movies like La La Land, Sunset Boulevard, Jackie Brown, L.A. Confidential, Swingers, and Speed.
On the page, there’s the 1939 crime class The Big Sleep, gang life memoir Always Running, and the fictional look at the dark side of LA, Less Than Zero, among many others.