Palm trees, beaches, and getting towed. What’s not to love about Los Angeles? In all seriousness, I went to LA for a quick weekend trip and I’ve gotta say, it was fabulous. Despite some not-so-great experiences like getting towed and having to pay a $60 minimum at a bar, I’d say, it’s certainly worth a visit.
If you, too, are considering a quick trip to LA and not sure where to spend your time, here are the few things I did to make my trip enjoyable in just two days. Plus, some tips on how to not get towed like me.
Where to Stay
Everything is expensive in LA, and that includes hotels. Since I was only there for a couple of days and I was on a budget, I wanted an unfussy accommodation instead of a ritzy hotel. So, I opted for an Airbnb. There are a lot of great options in LA that are less expensive but still centrally located. I recommend searching Airbnb or Booking.com for smaller, locally-owned accommodations that are more affordable and cozy.
Where to Go
If you’re in LA around sunset, definitely take a trip to Griffith Park. This gorgeous open space park on the top of the hill is prime for getting a birds-eye view of LA. In the distance, you’ll also peep the Hollywood sign (which is pretty tough to see up close). The drive up to Griffith Park is stunning as well. A desert landscape and windy roads lead to a very rewarding view that you’ll never forget.
University of Southern California
The gorgeous University of Southern California campus is located in the center of LA and is a great pitstop on your tour of the city. Fortunately, I was with a USC alum and was able to tour parts of the campus that are restricted to alumni and current students. Spots like the historic Doheny Memorial Library, the Stephen Speilberg-funded USC Film School, and Masjid Omar ibn Al-Khattab Mosque are amazing and unique areas on the campus. If you’re not with an alum, you can still pretend to be a USC student and walk through unrestricted areas of the campus and get lost amongst the palm trees.
Japanese culture is huge in Los Angeles and so naturally it’s worth visiting Little Tokyo. All the cosplay lovers, kimono enthusiasts, and sushi fans will enjoy visiting this quaint area of LA. It’s a small central location but it’s jam-packed with all of your Japanese interests. We enjoyed popping into small shops to pick up trinkets, drink imported green tea, and get lost in the anime stores.
Getty Museum and Villa
Interestingly enough, there isn’t just one Getty to see, there are two. The Getty Museum is a typical museum-focused art center perched on the top of a hill while the Getty Villa is a historic villa where the founder, J. Paul Getty, used to live. Both places are on opposite sides of the city, so you should probably choose one. We chose the Getty Villa because of its historic qualities, gorgeous architecture, and garden views. Definitely, get lost in the art and culture of this place. Both places are free, except for parking. Be sure to reserve a free ticket early as they often sell out within a few days.
3 Beaches to Visit
In two days, we had an opportunity to visit three beaches and I’ve gotta say, they all had their own vibe. Depending on who you are and what you’re into, you may like…
Venice was my favorite beach. It had the classic southern California vibe that I was looking for. Beach goers, rollerbladers and bikers, even the Muscle Beach outdoor gym that gives you flashbacks of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his younger years. The people watching was amazing. Sit back and watch basketball players score points on the sidelines. Sit in a ritzy lounge and watch people enjoy Bloody Marys. Or watch street swindlers earn a buck or two with sidewalk gambling. Overall, Venice Beach felt young, eclectic, and lively.
Malibu, on the other hand, is much further away from the most populated areas of Los Angeles and therefore affords more secluded, upscale vibes. Malibu is incredibly beautiful with the classic cliff meets ocean views that the west coast is famous for. It has a higher income demographic with huge houses on the hill giving the place a more tranquil, distant, and aloof energy. This is great spot if you want peace and quiet at the beach.
Santa Monica, with its ever-popular Santa Monica pier, this beach is much better for families, tourists, and entertainment seekers. It’s more populated than Malibu but similar to Venice in that it’s packed with people and has very high energy. This is the beach where you rent a bike and cruise up and down the beach with family and friends. Beware, you’ll definitely get ripped off on tourist attractions and souvenirs since this beach is such a popular spot. If you’re looking for a classic, packed-to-the-brim, touristy beach, this is the spot.
Where We Ate in Downtown LA
I won’t even attempt to create an exhaustive list of places to eat in Downtown Los Angeles because this entire article would be reduced to nothing but places to eat. Since we were only there for two days, there was no way to enjoy all of the delicious food Los Angeles had to offer. And depending on where you’re staying, you’ll have totally different food options.
What I can tell you is where we ate and drank while we were there and you can choose your own adventure.
Breakfast: Paris Baguette
I don’t know about you, but I’m a croissant girl. We were lucky. Our Airbnb was right around the corner from this French-inspired pastry shop. We enjoyed stopping there for a quick latte and a croissant. Delicious, traditional-tasting pastries in a laid-back environment.
Lunch: Tocaya Modern Mexican
Although we were surrounded by a plethora of great lunch spots, we wanted to eat something quick, natural, and vegan-friendly. So, we visited Tocaya Modern Mexican. This local chain offers unfussy Mexican cuisine in a casual environment. I loved their vegan options with adobo-spiced tofu and vegan jack cheese (pictured above). Super yummy, fresh and natural.
Dinner: Bottega Louie
My boyfriend used to frequent a fabulous upscale, pizza spot in downtown LA back in the day so he insisted we had to pay it a visit. That spot was Bottega Louie. Located in a glossy, marble, historic building, this spot made even pizza snobs raise an eyebrow. Their 16-inch pizzas were simple with extremely high-quality, traditional ingredients. Very thin crust served with wine and wonderful service. I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for an upscale pizza spot, in an Italian-inspired atmosphere.
Coffee: Andante Coffee
For a quick pick-me-up, we stopped at Andante Coffee in downtown LA. It’s a tiny coffee shop serving fruity, Central American coffees. It’s a grab-and-go kind of shop with very limited seating. However, we were impressed with the roast profile of their beans and the perfectly frothed milk in our lattes. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, yet satisfying coffee to go.
Cocktails: Spire 73
The number 73 in the name of this cocktail bar and restaurant is referring to the floor of the hotel in which it’s located. Spire 73 is the tallest rooftop bar in the western hemisphere. Yep, you read that right. It’s on the 73rd floor of the Continental Hotel and requires two elevators to get there. When you’re there, you're rewarded with the best view of Los Angeles with a classy, upscale vibe. Beware, this place has a minimum fee ($60 per person), which can feel expensive for some people. It definitely blew my mind! But, if you’re looking for an unforgettable view of Los Angeles and don’t mind dropping a pretty penny for great cocktails and food, I definitely recommend a visit.
Transportation Tips and How to Avoid Getting Towed
Rent a convertible car
You’re in LA, why not splurge a little, right? For us, this meant paying a bit more to rent a convertible Ford Mustang. Which was incredible. The wind blowing in your hair, the sun on your skin, and looking pretty darn cool cruising around LA was a great choice for us. However, if you don’t like the price tag or you want something more economical, do you. As long as you feel mobile enough and can get to the places on this list, you’re good.
Park in garages, not on the street
Parking garages in Los Angeles cost around $12 a day. That sounds expensive, but it’s not as expensive as getting towed (more on that later). If you choose to rent a car in LA, I recommend getting a parking garage space and leaving your car there. Only move your car if you’re going to visit places out of the way like the Getty Villa or Griffith Park. Traffic is a headache and oftentimes you don’t want to be on the road anyway.
I recommend parking your car in a garage and taking an Uber, LIME scooter, or walking around instead. It’s more economical and your chances of getting towed are lessened.
How to avoid getting towed in Los Angeles
So, here's a short story. We got towed in Los Angeles. I know, big surprise. We got towed by doing something totally avoidable. Hopefully, you won't make the mistakes we did.
We parked on the street and didn’t read the signs thoroughly. We parked in a spot not far from our Airbnb. The sign said, “Pay to park 9 am-8 pm”. We arrived at 7:45 pm and felt like we were in the clear. We were right, we could park there. What we didn’t read was the adjacent sign that said “No parking from 7 am-9 am on Thursdays". We parked the car at 7:45 pm on a Wednesday night and went to pick it up at 7:45 am on Thursday morning. It turns out, that 7 am to 9 am on Thursdays is street-cleaning day and if you’re in the way, towing companies are happy to haul your ride away. So, we woke up on Thursday morning to no car. We thought it was stolen, but in fact, it was towed 20 minutes before we got there.
Don’t find yourself in this situation, friends. If you do get towed, it can be a headache getting it back. Many rental car companies don’t want you to retrieve the car yourself from the tow yard and may even charge you for the days it’s sitting there plus interest. Yikes.
To avoid getting towed:
Be sure to read all of the signs very carefully. And I mean every single sign. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem.
Check to see if other cars are parked there. If no one’s around, you can assume there’s something you probably don’t know. And it may be best to avoid parking there.
Assume you have to pay for parking at all times. It’s better to pay $2 more than to get a $50+ ticket.
Just use parking garages. We know they’re expensive, but it’s better than a $300 tow bill. Trust me.
Skip the car and Uber, walk, levitate, whatever instead.
Have Fun in LA
There are a lot of people who speak poorly about Los Angeles and to be fair, I think it’s not for everyone. But, visiting LA was an awesome experience for me. The weather, activities, energy, and opportunities are abundant. I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t gone. You never know, maybe you’ll fall in love with LA like I did. I’ll definitely be back and I hope you, too, choose to visit someday.