view over downtown Los Angeles.

The Travel Guide to Los Angeles



March 12, 2024

9 min read

Table of Contents

Welcome to Los Angeles

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.

Who’ll love Los Angeles

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 

How to budget for a trip to LA

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.

Safety considerations

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.

Weather in Los Angeles

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. 

When to visit LA

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. 

Money saving tips

Check out free attractions. The Broad, Getty Center, Hammer Museum, Griffith Park, and the California Science Center are all free. And many others offer free admission on certain days.

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.  

What to see, do, and eat in Los Angeles

Getty Center

Top 10 things to do in Los Angeles

  1. Explore the sprawling grounds at The Getty Center and check out some great art
  2. Stroll through the canals and along Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice
  3. Go to The Last Bookstore and take a photo in its book maze
  4. Walk around Echo Park Lake for some Grade-A people watching
  5. Visit Griffith Park to hike with the locals or see the Griffith Observatory
  6. Spend a day at the Santa Monica Pier
  7. Shop along Melrose Avenue for retail therapy among LA’s best strip of boutiques (and snap a selfie at the Pink Wall)
  8. Drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu
  9. Wander through Grand Park downtown for attractions like The Broad Museum, MOCA, Walt Disney Concert Hall, City Hall, LA Public Library, and more
  10. Catch a performance at the Hollywood Bowl

The local picks for top attractions and activities in LA

hiking in LA

  1. Go to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for an outdoor movie night or concert unlike any other
  2. Drive through the Santa Monica Mountains for a route so beautiful and remote, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another country
  3. Go to Temescal Canyon for a challenging hike with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean
  4. Get lost in Grand Central Market, the best food court on the West Coast, with tons of great dining options
  5. Craft a unique date night with a trip to Keith and Margo’s Murder Mystery Dinner
  6. Stop by the Sherman Oaks Antique Mall for some great browsing, window shopping, and perhaps even buying
  7. Watch the sunset at Moonshadows, an unbeatable spot to wrap up a day well spent in Malibu
  8. Wander the LA Arts District for a fantastic collection of street art; Zinc Cafe is a good starting point
  9. Catch a show at the Upright Citizens Brigade for great comedy from LA’s up-and-comers (and perhaps a few bonafide celebs)
  10. See the Hammer Museum, an intimate Westwood art escape that’s always free and hosts the biannual “Made in LA” series, an amazing way to sink your teeth into the Los Angeles art scene and get to know what’s new and now

What to eat and drink in Los Angeles

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.

  • Paper or Plastik is a landmark for the creative low-key crowd to meet friends, catch up on reading, and eat great organic food at brunch
  • Guisados, with three locations and a wonderful lineup of tacos, is a locally loved spot that’s an excellent option for a casual lunch
  • Republique serves up of the best New American food in the city; it tends to require a reservation, but it’s worth a little planning to enjoy a meal here
  • Laurel Hardware offers picture-perfect garden seating, farm-to-table eats, delicious cocktails, and a lively vibe 
  • La Poubelle is a great French bistro that evolves into a nightlife destination as the evening progresses
  • Wolf & Crane is an ideal destination to try a Japanese whiskey or a classic mule
  • Malibu Wines is worth the trek; just sure to make a reservation so that you can enjoy one of the most scenic al fresco wine experiences around
  • Angel City Brewery is perfect for a lazy day wandering the streets of downtown

Where to stay in Los Angeles

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. 

Top LA neighborhoods for visitors

Venice Beach

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.

Getting around in LA

Public transportation options in Los Angeles

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. 

Los Angeles airports

The Los Angeles metro area is served by three international airports and two domestic-only airports.

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is one of the busiest airports in the world. It’s a hub for American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, and a focus city for JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and Allegiant Air. It’s 18 miles from downtown LA.
  • John Wayne Airport (SNA), sometimes called Santa Ana Airport and located about 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles in Orange County, is served by Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, among others.
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT) is nearly 40 miles from downtown LA. It’s served by major airlines such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and United Airlines, but the only airline that calls Ontario a hub is a cargo carrier—UPS.
  • Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), also called Bob Hope Airport, is about 15 miles from downtown LA. It’s a hub for low-cost carrier Avelo.
  • Long Beach Airport (LGB) is a small airport about 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles. 

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.

How to get to Los Angeles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

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.

How to get to Los Angeles from Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR)

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.

Where else to go from Los Angeles   

Day trips from LA

beaches of Malibu

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.

Where else to visit from Los Angeles

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.

Roadtrip 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.

Books, movies, and tv shows set in Los Angeles 

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.

Previous cheap flights we've found to LA: 

  • Denver nonstop to LA for $97 roundtrip
  • Atlanta to LA for $130 roundtrip

Find your next cheap flight to LA—or anywhere in the world—with Going.

Published March 12, 2024

Last updated March 12, 2024

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