Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
Los Angeles is a year-round party, with never-ending glitz and glam making way for celebrity sightings and top-notch everything: from beaches and boutiques to spas and nightlife. Whether you’re indulging in a seaside lunch between hitting the waves, window-shopping in Beverly Hills, or sightseeing the different neighbourhoods, Los Angeles vacations have much to offer. We have your Los Angeles travel guide for all things L.A.
Who should go?
People visit Los Angeles for its celebrity culture, world-class beaches, designer wares, and trendy hot spots that come alive after dark. L.A. offers an NYC alternative with the same caliber of restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and entertainment, but with a coastal feel. Festivals like Coachella attract people wanting to experience the music and hippie vibe, or those fans of activities like surfing and sunning who want a feel of the sunshine.
The Go Los Angeles Card provides access to nearly 40 top attractions and tours such as LEGOLAND California, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, and Madame Tussauds Hollywood, allowing you to create your own itinerary.
Los Angeles’ downtown is the business district and hub of trendy restaurants. From the historic district of Olvera Street, filled with ethnic eats, to the art galleries and energy of Chinatown, you’ll find unique neighbourhoods here. Big attractions include the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Grand Central Market, a landmark since 1917. Sports enthusiasts can catch a game at the Dodgers Stadium and STAPLES Center for sports. Exposition Park in South L.A. is home to recreational areas, museums, and sport facilities, including the California Science Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Country, IMAX Theatre, the beautiful Rose Garden, and the California African American Museum. Outdoor concerts and events are held at Pershing Square and California Plaza, while LA LIVE is an indoor entertainment complex with places to eat, play, and stay.
Part of the Miracle Mile area in the Mid-Wilshire district is referred to a Museum Row. Here, you’ll find:
- La Brea Tar Pits
- Peterson Automotive Museum
- Craft and Folk Art Museum
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
- A&D Museum
- George C. Page Museum
- Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Warner Bros. Studio is a must-see on any visit to Los Angeles. You’ll get behind the scenes of motion pictures and your favourite TV shows on incredible tours of sets, soundstages, and the prop department. Pass by stages of shows like Two and a Half Men, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Passes can be purchased in advance, like this general admission ticket, skip the line ticket, or this tour, with hotel pickup and drop off included. You can even pair a Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour with a 2-hour celebrity homes tour where you are chauffeured around exclusive Los Angeles suburbs to spot mansions of Madonna, the Beckhams, Ozzy Osbourne, and other A-listers.
Hollywood Boulevard may be Hollywood’s most famous street, home to the Hollywood sign, Hollywood Museum with costumes and memorabilia from famous movies and shows, the Hollywood Wax Museum, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of Records Museum, and tons of theatres. You’ll also find the Walk of Fame in this area, where over 2,300 stars line the sidewalk symbolizing personalities that left their mark in radio, television, music, and film. The Dolby Theatre is also on Hollywood Boulevard, where The Oscars are held.
Visitors to Hollywood may want to take a studio tour of Paramount Pictures or the Dolby Theatre, host of the Academy Awards. Visitors who want to pay respects to some of Hollywood’s late greats can visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, founded in 1899. The Hollywood Bowl, the 1920s amphitheater northeast of Hollywood, is the place for musical performances, including entertainment by the Philharmonic and national touring acts at the Frank Lloyd Wright band shell. Pack a picnic and head here for special events.
West of Hollywood is Beverly Hills, where you may just catch a glimpse of a celebrity, or feel like one at the very least. The famed Rodeo Drive boasts high-end fashion houses like Gucci and Chanel. Catch the 90210 fever from luxury hotels, lavish spa treatments, world-class shopping, and glamorous events.
Between Hollywood and Beverly Hills
Sunset Boulevard stretches from downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean. Among the street’s attractions is the House of Blues. Made famous by the television series Melrose Place, Melrose Avenue is another famed strip with eclectic shopping, secondhand stores, and good restaurants and bars.
Santa Monica and the Beaches is the most popular beach in L.A. with its famous Santa Monica Pier built in 1908. Grab an ice cream and explore the permanent amusement park, taking a ride on the carousel, ferris wheel, or visiting the arcades. The beach has white sands, cafes to refuel and lounge, and a large, convenient parking lot. Enjoy walking along the strip, biking, and exploring the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Santa Monica surf lessons for any age are available and include all equipment and two hour instruction.
Coming in close second for the best beach is Venice Beach with its Ocean Front Walk and boho chic vibe. You’ll find street performers, circus acts like fire eaters and jugglers, body builders, shops, bike rentals, and its namesake canals.
Surfrider Beach in Malibu has some of the city’s best waves. Located between the Malibu Pier and the lagoon, it’s always a busy area. The wide Manhattan Beach was once frequented by the Beach Boys and features oceanview homes and volleyball courts, while the wide, white sands of Hermosa Beach are another option for travellers.
San Fernando Valley
Known as the “Valley”, this northern area of Los Angeles is home to Universal Studios, the attraction-filled theme park with thrilling rides, a working movie studio, and exciting attractions for the whole family. From Fast & Furious and Transformers to Shrek and The Simpsons, ride along with some of your favourite movies and shows. Across from the theme parks, Universal CityWalk is full of stores and restaurants. You’ll find a movie theatre, many dining options, shopping, and nightlife, as well as indoor skydiving and an arcade.
Disneyland Resort: L.A. is home to theme parks, including Disneyland Resort. This Disneyland Adventure includes hotel transportation to the happiest place on earth, full of rides, loveable characters, and five themed lands to enjoy.
- Helicopter tours are a thrilling way to see the landscape from above, as you hover over the Malibu Canyon, Hollywood Sign, or Santa Monica.
- Cultural tours that satisfy any movie lover or celebrity-follower’s curiosity include a TMZ Hollywood Celebrity Hot Spot Tour, a Hollywood Movie Location Tour, and a tour of Movie Stars’ Homes.
Day trips from Los Angeles are available to places like San Diego, LEGOLAND California, Catalina Island, and even Las Vegas. This 3-day Las Vegas and Grand Canyon Tour is popular with people wanting to experience the glitz of the Boulevard with the natural beauty of the canyon.
Sports and Activities
Los Angeles is relatively flat, making it great for leisurely bike rides or guided biking tours through the beaches, wealthy Beverly Hills neighbourhoods, or past Santa Monica street art. Fishing and sailing from Marina del Rey, the largest manmade marina in the world, is a popular past time, as well as golfing at one of the 100+ golf courses in the Greater Los Angeles area. Deep-sea fishing and whale watching are popular water activities. From horseback riding to the Hollywood sign to exotic car riding to a Malibu wine safari, anything is possible on a Los Angeles vacation.
Spectator sports are abundant for those who want to catch LA Dodgers baseball, LA Lakers basketball, LA Galaxy soccer, or even horse racing on the Santa Anita Racetrack.
Los Angeles isn’t compact within one central area. Most visitors head to the beaches of Los Angeles, but those seeking a less pretentious vacation may consider downtown L.A.
Santa Monica and the Beaches are a great place to book a hotel, especially during the summer when you want to spend your days on the sand. The area is comprised of Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. These areas are home to the rich mansions of Cher, Mel Gibson, and Alanis Morissette but also homelessness and poverty. The beach communities feature shopping, promenades, and eclectic communities – a must-see on any visit to Southern California. A half hour drive away is Beverly Hills, known for its famous residents and high-end shopping. This is the movie star many travellers come to see, to stroll along Rodeo Drive and pop into shops. Hollywood, the center of the L.A. movie scene, is just twenty minutes from Beverly Hills and attracts young hopefuls to make dreams come true and tourists to visit landmark attractions like the Walk of Fame. The glitzy area is home to restaurants, nightclubs, and boutique hotels.
Moving West is downtown Los Angeles, home to a number of attractions and sophisticated restaurants and bars that are less ostentatious than their Hollywood counterparts. Here you’ll find skyscrapers and ethnic and residential communities like Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and Chinatown. For a vacation off-the-beaten-tourist-path, the San Fernando Valley, also just known as “the Valley” is located between the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains on the northern end of Los Angeles and is mostly a residential area but home to the famous Universal Studios.
When to go and for how long?
November to May has sunny weather while December to April is rainy season, though rainfalls are usually brief. August sees average highs of 26C average while January to March see average lows of 11C.
Summertime is tourist season when attractions, beaches, and restaurants are packed with visitors and locals – but the weather and smog can get muggy. Los Angeles is host to many festivals including the Academy Awards in February, Toyota Grand Prix in April, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, and many more.
Most Canadians visit Los Angeles from a weekend to a week or two.
Many people plan a California road trip to tour the state or just focus on one city or area. Some take the 20+ hour drive from Vancouver, or fly to their starting point from Canada and then rent a car. Vacation packages are another option, which bundle together flights and a hotel stay for those seeking a quick getaway or pairing a vacation package with another travel style.
California tours may include stops in San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego, Seattle, and New Orleans, and range a variety of durations and price ranges. Youth tours like Contiki Holidays or adventure tours like G Adventures also include Los Angeles in their itineraries, with camping, National Park visits, and even tours as short as three days.
Cruising is also a popular way to discover Los Angeles. Popular stops include Santa Barbara, San Diego and Mexican cities like Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Shore excursions include helicopter tours above celebrity homes and the Hollywood sign as well as visits to historic The Queen Mary ship or an educational visit Battleship Iowa Museum, the world’s greatest naval ship.
The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the fifth busiest airport in the world and second busiest in the USA. The LAX FlyAway bus offers regular scheduled trips between the airport terminals and different stops in the city, including downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Hollywood, for $8 one way. Buses, vans, and taxis are all available from the airport. A cab ride from LAX to downtown is about $40 and a shuttle van is about $16 per person. Airport transfers can be booked in advance.
Flights to Los Angeles are available Canada wide. Toronto, Montreal, and western Canada offer direct flights, starting at $230+ from Vancouver to $550+ from Montreal.
Many visitors to Los Angeles rent a car and do their own exploring at their leisure. Parking is relatively easy to find, you just may want to avoid driving in rush hour. If you decide not to rent a car, taxis are plentiful and can transport you around the city easily.
Buses and the MetroRail are convenient for the occasional jaunt close by, but driving may be the best option since attractions are spread out. A one-ride base fare is $1.75 for the bus. For $7, you can get a 1-day pass for all metro services.
The Los Angeles Hop-on Hop-off double decker bus tour is great for exploring at your own pace. With more than 50 stops including Hollywood, Beverly Hills, downtown LA and Santa Monica, this tour gives an overview to first time visitors.
Vacation Packages: From Canada’s west coast (closer to the state of California), Los Angeles vacation packages are less expensive, starting at approximately $350 for a three-day stay, including flights and hotel accommodations. From Canada’s east coast, vacation packages start at approximately $800 per person for a four or five day stay.
Flights: Direct flights from the west coast to LAX start at approximately $300 while connecting flights from the east coast usually start at $600.
Hotels: There are a wide range of Los Angeles hotels for different budgets, ranging from $100 to $400+ per night.
Tour: Tours in California that visit Los Angeles start at $1699 per person, with the exception of less expensive youth tours like short Contiki Holidays tours.
Car Rentals: Start at approximately $40 per day in low season, to up to $80 per day in high season for the economy car.