First order of business, find a local coffee shop and grab a cold brew to go. Entry to The Broad museum is free with appointment or you can take your chances in the standby line, but I suggest coughing up the $12 entry charge for their special exhibition, which will grant you access to the full museum. MOCA is just across the street, but save it for a Thursday evening between 5-8pm when Wells Fargo sponsors entry and you can browse for free.
The Last Bookstore is a downtown gem, and their second floor boasts a maze of books and local boutiques that one can easily explore for hours. It’s the largest new and used book and record store in California, and you’re bound to unearth a few classics to stow in your carry-on home.
Visiting Grand Central Market hungry is kind of like going to the grocery store hungry — I wouldn’t recommend it. I almost left with an empty stomach once because I was so overwhelmed by all of the delicious options. I want to save you from that experience, so allow me to recommend a few — Berlin Currywurst, Bento Ya Japanese Cuisine, and Roast To Go, but honestly you really can’t go wrong with any of the vendors. Grab some fruit, cheese, or a Wexler’s deli sandwich to go, and make sure you stop by Courage and Craft for some alcoholic fuel for the road.
It’s time to choose your adventure, and it’s a heavy choice Angelenos battle every day — Uber or public transportation?
If you opt for the Metro, not only will you save a couple bucks, but you’ll get to indulge in some of the best people watching the city has to offer. Downtown to Santa Monica is the route of the moment, which is ironic because few of us would dare dip our toes into that over-polluted mile-long stretch of the Pacific. This is when those snacks and libations come in handy. You’ve got about an hour until the train drops you at 3rd Street Promenade, but if you’ve ever had to navigate beach parking, you already know this is the better option.
From there, stumble down to the Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park for arcade games, bumper cars, and a sick view. If you need a break, check out Misfits‘ Happy Hour that extends until 6pm and splurge on the promenade.
Prefer to stay local? Echo Park is about a 7-minute Uber ride away from downtown. Head to Echo Park Lake for a lazy paddle boat ride that will only cost you $10 and give you a chance to finish off your leftover treats from Grand Central Market. Echo Park is pretty walkable, and home to some of the best thrift and vintage shops in the city, though be aware that hipster fashion comes off a cost. Whatever, you’re on vacation.
If thrifting isn’t your thing, head on over to Button Mash for old school arcade games and a great beer menu.
If you chose the Santa Monica adventure, catch a quick Uber to Venice for dinner at one of their many acclaimed vegan restaurants and spend some time exploring the canals by moonlight. If you’re single and I’ve just described your worst nightmare, head to Del Monte Speakeasy for live music and artisan cocktails instead.
Do yourself a favor and explore LA on a Thursday, which we essentially treat like a weekend, and makes for some great nightlife options. If you’re in Echo Park, you’ve got a couple of options. You can continue to bar hop from Button Mash down Sunset Blvd and catch a cheap show at The Echo or, if you’ve had your fill of Echo Park, head back to downtown and stop by my favorite no-frills dive bar La Cita. Pro-tip: Head to the back bar for better cocktails. The Regent, Villains Tavern, or Blue Whale are your best downtown options for live music; pick Villains if you want to skip the cover charge.
Both Echo Park and DTLA have a plethora of taco trucks to choose from if you find yourself hungry later on.
You may notice that Hollywood is not mentioned in this guide. That’s not an oversight. With only 24 hours to spare, trust me when I say your time can be better spent.
Top 10 Tips for 24 Hours in Los Angeles
- Bike or roller skate down the Venice boardwalk
- Hike to the Hollywood sign — there are several routes
- Live out your nerd dreams at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Check out the view from the Observatory at Griffith Park
- Take advantage of our growing craft beer scene
- Visit a Houston Hospitality bar — Break Room 86, Pour Vous, No Vacancy, and Piano Bar are personal favorites
- Visit the Getty Center and take in that sunset — they’re open late during the summer
- See a concert at the Hollywood Bowl or the Greek Theater
- Get some all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ in Koreatown
- Tour Pasadena and Highland Park and check out some of LA’s original architecture
Uber or lyft: Los Angeles has a lot of transplants, but I’ve found most drivers are able to navigate around our sprawl pretty well. It’s always a bonus if you’re familiar with your route so you can advise against some of the fare-increasing detours they occasionally try to take.
Pro-tip: If you get a primetime fare estimate, try closing the app, walking a block or two and reopening it a few minutes later.
Metro Bus: For whatever reason, most people avoid the bus system in LA. I was surprised at how easy it was to navigate when I took one of the rapid buses from Mid-city to USC a few weeks ago.
Metro Rail: The city has allocated billions in attempts to compete with other major metropolis’ public transit systems, and it’s paid off. I suggest dropping $7 for a day pass, and taking advantage of stops along Northeast LA all the way to Santa Monica’s beach and beyond.
Bike: The Metro Bike Share program opens in Downtown LA on August 1st! I would advise participating only if you have a good health care plan. One-way streets and rage-inducing traffic make biking downtown a perilous adventure.
Walk: There’s a song by Missing Persons called “Walking in LA” that claims “Nobody walks in LA,” but with Downtown LA’s growing nightlife scene, and the heightened popularity of neighborhoods like Echo Park, Highland Park, North Hollywood, and Pasadena, LA is slowly becoming a more convenient to city to walk around.
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