L.A.’s sprawling, city-without-a-center layout can overwhelm Angelenos, let alone visitors. So we understand how squeezing every essential museum and attraction into your 48 hours in Los Angeles can seem a daunting task. But let us take the wheel—well, not literally, we’re not your Uber driver—and guide you with this expertly curated itinerary. Skip the disappointment of Hollywood and instead fill your 48 hours in Los Angeles with these standout spots—and with a little time left over to spend at one of L.A.’s best beaches.
Here’s how to spend your 48 hours in L.A.
L.A.’s buzziest contemporary art museum, the Broad, is the public home for Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of 2,000 post-war works from the likes of Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons. Though time slots for Yayoi Kusama’s reflective “Infinity Mirrored Room” are quickly booked up in the morning, the free museum’s notorious standby line is at its lightest in the late afternoon and early evening. Make sure to admire the architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street while you’re there.
The Arts District, a downtown industrial district turned chic nightlife epicenter, is undoubedtly L.A.’s neighborhood of the moment. You’ll find essential eateries like Bestia, the impressive Hauser & Wirth gallery and a bevy of breweries. But the area’s go-to spot once the sun goes down is E.R.B. The bustling bar is bright and elegant inside, with a warm, twinkly patio out back. Both are the perfect settings for finely crafted cocktails and a standout house burger.
Venture out to San Marino, a small suburb south of Pasadena, to explore the exquisite Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. True to its name, the museum presents a mix of Arts and Crafts handiwork and distinguished paintings alongside literary treasures (a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, Audobon’s The Birds of America, Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War letters). But the main attraction is its magnificent gardens; you could spend an entire leisurely afternoon strolling through its otherworldly desert garden, fragrant rose garden and impeccably styled Chinese and Japanese gardens.
Picky eaters and avid Instagrammers alike will all find something to love at Grand Central Market. Full of bucket-list dining options (see: Eggslut, Sari Sari, McConnell’s, Sarita’s Pupuseria), bring a few buddies to hit up separate vendor stalls and reconvene at a table together. Make sure to poke your head into the light-flooded atrium of the Bradbury Building across the street.
We can’t think of a more dazzling spot that so consistently wins over out-of-towners and natives alike than the Griffith Observatory. Inside you’ll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, a Tesla coil and a planetarium show. The iconic building’s vista is stunning; head up in the late afternoon to stake out a spot for the sunset and watch as Los Angeles twinkles below.
Where else can you see sitcom stars and top-notch comedians perform in a tiny theater for only a couple of bucks? Avoid the Sunset Strip comedy clubs and come to Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre instead. The improv theater’s signature ASSSSCAT show is always a great one for first-timers; grab tickets early for the Saturday show at UCB Franklin or wait in line for the free Sunday show at UCB Sunset.
When you’re in need of a late-night bite—as late as 3am on Friday and Saturday—the Taco Zone Truck is a Mexican food fan favorite. From burritos to quesidillas, what sets these authentic meals apart is the salsa. And at $2 a taco, it’s hard not to wait in the late night line that wraps around Echo Park. Just make sure you hit an ATM before, because this fun food joint is cash only.
No museum in L.A. can claim a location as stunning as the Getty Center, a hilltop acropolis built to house the J. Paul Getty Trust’s staggering collection (make sure to view the illuminated manuscripts, French furniture and Impressionist paintings). Its monastic-meets-futuristic archicture (a stark contrast to the nearby Getty Villa’s faux Italian estate filled with antiquities) perfect frames a sweeping view of the L.A. Basin that stretches from Downtown to the ocean.
As you cruise along the Pacific Coast Highway, you owe yourself a stop at Malibu Seafood. Even if you’re nowhere near the oceanside staple, it’s worth a visit for its super-fresh seafood and sunny views of the Pacific from its three-tiered patio. This place has slightly less character (and fewer biker characters) than nearby Neptune’s Net, but the food is undeniably fresher and more flavorful.
Forget the busy beaches in Venice and Santa Monica; put in the extra miles for Malibu’s Point Dume State Beach and you’ll be rewarded with a wide and rarely crowded patch of sand and surf. You can repel up and down the beach’s namesake rock face or take an idyllic hike along its summit. With parking spots only steps from the sand, Point Dume is the perfect place to pack a picnic for a beachfront meal as seals and dolphins frolic in front of the sunset—just watch out for those hungry seagulls.
Have some more time to spend here?
If you’re a tourist looking for things to do, you’ll find plenty of vacation inspiration here, from Hollywood tours to a day at the one the city’s best beaches. And locals, you may discover ways to fall in love with the city all over again in our extensive list of Los Angeles attractions.