72 Hours in LA: Top Things to Do for First Timers

72 Hours in LA: Top Things to Do for First Timers

It is not new information that the options of things to do in Los Angeles are endless, but it can be overwhelming deciding where to begin! With just 72 hours to play with, how much can you actually see? Well, if you’re like me and enjoy a jam packed itinerary, the answer is a lot! Of course, this city is absolutely HUGE, and getting from place to place in itself is time consuming. Here is my mini travel guide of things to do in and around LA in 72 hours that is sure not to disappoint!

*Forgive me if you would be keen on doing things like celebrity mansion viewing, star sighting, or high-end shopping because they did not make my list. Personally, I am just not into that sort of thing, but it’s okay if you are! I am not phased by the luxurious designer stores and I don’t particularly care what celebrities are doing (unless it’s Jim Carrey. I would do anything to meet him or even just catch a glimpse of him <3).*

1. Griffith Park Observatory

Listed as my number one suggestion for a reason! After arriving at Hollywood Boulevard, my husband and I walked around for a bit and weren’t that enthralled. At the Walk of Fame, I searched for Jim Carrey’s star but sadly could not locate it. I also couldn’t figure out if he even had one or not! Weird.

We entered the nearest Starbucks for a coffee and asked the barista what he recommended we do while in the area. He instantly mentioned Griffith Park Observatory. He informed us that even though he’s from LA, the views from up there always take his breath away. And with that recommendation, we were off to see the views for ourselves.

To get up to the observatory it can be quite the trek so we figured we best take a cab up. We entered a Trader Joe’s for some snacks and asked the cashier where all the cabs were at! He chuckled and informed us that hailing a cab in downtown LA isn’t a thing – Uber is – but he kindly called us a cab from a cab company to come pick us up.

The journey all the way up to Griffith Park is a bit of a journey, but once stepping out of the cab and taking in the panoramic views of the city it was well worth it! With the sun soon about to set, a golden glow blanketed the hills of Hollywood. As the sky dimmed, the city lights effortlessly blended into the twinkling stars against the dark sky.

2. Santa Monica Beach and Pier

The Santa Monica Pier has a large Ferris wheel and amusement park, and has been used a film location for countless movies. Rent a bike to cruise along the endless boardwalks along the beach to Venice, which can be especially enchanting near sunset. Biking along the beaches was our favourite thing to do while in the city!

3. Breakfast at Jinky’s

This cafe was highly recommended by the manager of Hotel California (impossible to say/write without hearing the song Hotel California play in my head). This restaurant for breakfast was a smash hit. We ate breakfast here each morning. The menu is impressive with so many unique and yummy options! If you are staying in Santa Monica, be sure to enjoy a breakfast here.

4. Venice Beach

Soak up the sun and hippie vibes underneath the swaying palm trees at Venice Beach! The vibe here is bohemian, quirky and artistic, and you’ll find street performers and vendors as well as athletes, skateboarders, tourists and beach-goers. I’m not cool enough to skateboard like the locals do, but I can ride a granny seat bicycle with a basket.

Spend some time soaking up the sunshine and the atmosphere – it’s a great place to people watch if there ever was one. If you are a fan of street art, the Venice Beach Murals are a great free activity.

5. Muscle Beach

An interesting beach/exhibit of exactly the kind of clientele you’d expect to work out here. Despite the equipment being extremely old and rusty, it seems to be a popular spot – I imagine having to do more with the novelty of it all. Also, this gym is where Arnold Schwarzenegger once worked out. As we rode by on our bikes, we stopped to watch wrestler John Cena film a commercial. I am not into wrestling and didn’t know who he was until my husband mentioned it, but watching a celebrity giant in action can be fun sometimes.

6. Malibu Coast

A scenic drive can be one of the most freeing and picturesque things to do in LA! Check out these 7 scenic drives of LA to consider.

7. 3rd Street Promenade

This open air shopping mall is located just a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier, offering talented street performers and eclectic vibes. The promenade’s atmosphere is the main draw for visitors as well as the outdoor dining options. If you’re in the mood to cook your own meal, you can find fresh produce at the farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday morning.

8. Runyon Canyon

An awesome urban hike and one of the most popular hiking areas in LA. Located just two blocks from bustling Hollywood Boulevard, Runyon Canyon is known for frequent celebrity sightings and a 90 acre off-leash dog park. Be sure not to miss the Griffith Observatory pre or post hike since you’ll be right in the area!

9. Catalina Island

If you would like to spend one of your few days outside of the city, Catalina Island will make you feel as if you’ve stepped onto the coast of Greece. You can choose to take the ferry from Long Beach to one of two ports in Catalina Island: Avalon or Two Harbours. This journey via high-speed ferry takes only about an hour. We docked in Avalon, and the interesting thing here was how the most common mode of transportation was a golf cart.

My husband and I weren’t totally impressed with the amount of things to do here as we tend to enjoy being on the move more than lying around and relaxing. So if you prefer to just sit back, meander and relax, this could be an enjoyable day trip for you.

Have you done any of these activities when you were in LA? What are some of your favourite things to do in the City of Angels?


My passion for capturing memories through the lens of my camera, my love for food and the joy I find in reflecting on my travel memories using a pen and paper results in a series of blog entries filled with warmth, pure happiness and inspiration. I hope to share a little bit of myself and my adventure of life with you.


  • This is a perfect guide to spend 72 hrs in LA. In particular, I would love visiting Griffith Park, Canyon park and the Catalina Island. Food too looks great here. Great pictures.

  • Unfortunately, Griffith Park Observatory wasn’t open when I want to visit, but I still made sure to stop by just for the awesome views of the city below! So sad I didn’t get to make it to Catalina Island. It looks beautiful!

  • I only had 24 hours in LA and managed to see Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory and the Walk of Fame – it was a busy day! Did you go to the Venice Canals? That was probably my favourite spot! I can’t wait to go back to LA and explore more – Catalina Island looks amazing!

    Oh, and it took us 2.5 hours to get from Santa Monica to Griffith Observatory in rush hour traffic – that was an Uber ride for the ages! ;)

  • When you are visiting a big city like LA and for the first time, it is always overwhelming to decide on what to focus. If you have a time constraint then it becomes an issue on deciding what to see and what to leave out. Your post is excellent as a pointer for anyone planning to be in the city with 72 hours at their disposal. I would love to visit the observatory and of course the beach.

  • Sometimes just a collage of pictures is enough to convey the character of a city. LA is one of those cities. I can sense its vibe through each of these pictures. I am ready for 72 hours in LA, thanks to you.

  • It sounds like you really did make good use of the amount of time you had in L.A. I have done a quick stopover there myself and ended up visiting Griffith park which is quite nice. L.A. is quite a big chaotic place but when you zero in on places, the level of chaos reduces and then the experience turns out to be more pleasant than you expect.

  • Oh L.A., my beloved L.A.!! I spend so many summers there when I was a teenager (my parents sent me to L.A. to attend an English second language school back then. haha…) and we returned again for a month in 2013, since Kerstin had never visited before. The Griffith Park Observatory is certainly a must-see / must-visit place, and you’re absolutely right to add it to your itinerary, because it’s worth taking time to drive up there even if one only had 72 hours in Los Angeles! The Runyon Canyon is also a cool place for hiking and the views of the city from that place is simply breathtaking too! As for Catalina Island , I have NEVER been there!! Sooo crazy, right? If it really looks like in Greece (my favorite country after France) then I definitely NEED to visit it next time we’re in L.A.! Thanks for this lovely post!

  • My favorite thing to do in LA is to see the progress that has been on the boxes made at the La Brea Pits. I refuse to call them the La Brea Tar Pits since Brea means Tar in Spanish. The Pits have so many amazing follis to view and I like how the asphalt will randomly seep up in the grassy areas.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *