48 Hours in Los Angeles: Tacos, Baseball, and Epic Hikes (2018 Edition)
48 Hours in Los Angeles: Tacos, Baseball, and Epic Hikes (2018 Edition)
We get it, 48 Hours in Los Angeles is not only way too little time to experience all there is to see in the city, but couldn't possibly be enjoyable in just a weekend right? Wrong.
We just left Los Angeles after a whirlwind trip to California and on our Great American Road Trip and couldn't wait to share our perfect weekend in the City of Angels - even though we've been 100 times :)
Visit Malibu and hike steps from Los Angeles in total peace and quiet.
LA does tacos, these are the best spots!
Where to stay and where to eat
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The most important thing to think about before spending 48 hours in Los Angeles is making sure you plan it correctly, as Los Angeles is a massively spread out city and isn't exactly walking friendly. Sure, you can explore certain areas on foot, but if you expect to land at LAX, jump on the metro and be having lunch in Hollywood 20 minutes later, you've got some learning to do.
If you follow our adventures around the world at all, you'll know we love to get lost and explore cities on foot, many days doing 10-15km walking easily. However, in Los Angeles, you'll need to rent a car to really enjoy yourself - especially if you only have a weekend.
While a car will give you the freedom you need to get from Santa Monica to Pasadena, down to Long Beach and up the PCH Highway through Malibu, there actually is a metro in Los Angeles, which most people have no clue exists - I sure didn't until I accidentally moved within walking distance of a stop 10 years ago. Uber and Lyft are plentiful in the city, so never fear, if you've had too many and don't want to drive there will always be a way to get back to your hotel without spending $80 on a cab.
Planning your trip to Los Angeles?
Next up you'll need to pick a place to stay, which you should really put some thought into. We've had so many readers plan trips to Los Angeles and simply pick the cheapest option, only to be surprised they've ended up in a budget hotel miles and miles from anything close to interesting.
Currency: US Dollar (USD)
Time change: PST/GMT -8 hours
SIM Card provider: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile
Rental Car: Hertz at LAX
Best time to visit: Year round!
Dress code: Anything goes
Los Angeles is so spread out it actually has two downtown areas, miles apart from each other so the most important thing is to pull out a map and decide what is most important to you. As I spent 10 years living in Los Angeles (see "How to Visit Los Angeles Like a Local") I had soooo much to show her, so picking the right spot was key, especially working around the world-famous Los Angeles traffic.
The USC campus is located an easy drive from LAX without going on the major freeways and is spitting distance downtown, Pasadena, Silver Lake, and Dodger Stadium, exactly where we wanted to be. The Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Midtown at USC proved to be the perfect spot to base ourselves for the weekend and the safe parking, business center and easy access to every part of the city couldn't have been better. Aside from that, the beds were the most comfortable of our entire road trip and I could actually do a full workout in their USC themed gym.
48 Hours in Los Angeles | Day 1: Nature and Baseball
What better way to start 48 hours in Los Angeles than with a gorgeous hike? While Runyan Canyon and Venice Beach are known for their active and exercise-friendly areas, just a short drive outside the city center up the PCH you can find the beautiful Topanga Canyon State Park nestled hidden within the Malibu coast. This was a personal favorite hiking spot of mine for years so our weekend had to start with a hike out to Eagle Rock, a stunning viewpoint, a 4-mile road trip hike from the parking lot.
Tip: Lock your doors and don't learn this lesson the hard way!
Ok, now that you have your exercise out of the way for the day you've got to eat, right? While making your way back down the coast take your time, play in the sand, walking along the beach and enjoy the always beautiful weather but watch the clock, the traffic is always looming! If you like seafood, stop along in Malibu at Neptune's Net for seafood but if you've got a bit of extra time, head to the famous Los Angeles Farmer's Market on Fairfax where you'll find a swarm of eateries with everything from Turkish to BBQ, Thai to Deli meats and everything in between.
This is also a short 10-second walk to the more famous Grove shopping center for all your shopaholics out there - husbands, hide your wallets :)
If it is anytime between April and October you've got to add a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game to your 48 hours in Los Angeles, even if you hate sports and have no idea what is going on. The view from the iconic Dodger Stadium couldn't get most stereotypically Los Angeles with the sun setting behind the perfect palm trees, and who doesn't like sitting in perfect weather with friends drinking a cold beer?
Tip: Buy tickets online for as little as $5 instead of buying at the gate - you'll save a ton!
48 Hours in Los Angeles | Day 2: Griffith Park, Santa Monica, and Tacos!
Phew, one day down, one to go! After a great game at Dodger Stadium (did you get a famous "Dodger Dog"? we had one more day in Los Angeles and we were determined to make the most of it. As the Radisson USC is so close to downtown, it also is super close to the LA Science Museum, which is often not visited by tourists and is the perfect spot to explore if you happen to catch some rain on your 48 hours in Los Angeles.
Now, we can hear you all screaming "What about the tacos!?!" Ok, we hear you. By far our favorite tacos in Los Angeles come from the seemingly endless and delicious food stalls that pop up and move all over Los Angeles, which serve a variety of meat tacos, usually around $1 each, and they couldn't be more authentic or delicious. Try the Al Pastor, Cabeza, Lengua, and Carnitas - and google what body part they each are later. So many people think a good taco needs loads of sauces, condiments, and toppings but they couldn't be more wrong. All a good taco needs is some perfectly marinated meat, and maybe, just maybe, a squeeze of lime and a pinch of cilantro - and should be gone in two bites!
Now that we've taken care of the food, it's on to Santa Monica and Griffith Park. These two areas couldn't be more different (or far from each other) but we love both so it's up to you to see if you have enough time to see both of them or pick one and really spend a few hours.
Griffith Park is home to the world-famous Griffith Observatory, which sits high atop Mount Hollywood (actually the neighboring mountain to that which holds the famous sign) and has some of the best hiking trails in Los Angeles, with sweeping views of downtown, the valley, Hollywood and, of course, the Hollywood sign. Not only is the scenic setting beautiful, but the Griffith Observatory itself is amazing to explore, free and a perfect way to learn more about this amazing planet - let alone see the setting for so many iconic Los Angeles based movie scenes. (La La Land, anyone?)
Tip: Bring enough to last the day as ATM fees in LA can add up quick!
Now, Santa Monica is clear on the other side of the city, but for the visitor spending 48 hours in Los Angeles who just has to see the beach, palm trees, and pier, Santa Monica couldn't be any more "classic Los Angeles" which it's stunning views, bustling boardwalks, and amazing restaurants. It's also worth mentioning, that the Santa Monica Pier is the end of the famous Historic Route 66, which traverses nearly 4,000km all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Spend time on the 3rd Street Promenade, with close by safe parking, walk out along the pier, enjoy the beach, and make sure to go south about 1km to the eclectic and buzzing Venice Boardwalk - which is sure to entertain you.
Well, that's it! That is how we'd spend 48 hours in Los Angeles and think it gives a pretty good darn overview of this amazing city. Have extra tips? Things we left out? New restaurants or bars to try? leave them in the comments and we'll add to our updated 2019 edition in a couple months.
Crazy Facts about Los Angeles
When LA was founded, the city’s full name was “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles sobre el Rio Porciuncula.” or “The town of our lady queen of the angels on the Porciuncula River.”
By 1923, Los Angeles produced one-quarter of the world’s oil, how crazy is that? The city still sits on the third largest oil field in the United States.
If Los Angeles were its own country, its economy would be bigger than Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Sweden’s and the "Hollywood" sign originally said “Hollywoodland.”
The lowest point on Earth in terms of dry land is the shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan. It lies at 1,378ft (420m) beneath sea level.
The population of metropolitan Los Angeles as of 2010 was nearly 13 million residents. Meanwhile, the larger metropolitan was estimated to be over 18.7 million residents.
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