How to spend two days in Los Angeles


Taking advantage of long weekends for road trips is an American art form. You’ve got to squeeze as much joy out of those few days as possible without using up your other precious paid vacation days.

Our most recent holiday weekend (as they’re called here) was spent soaking up the sights and sounds of Los Angeles. Also the smells. So many smells. I’m going to level with you up front: Los Angeles wasn’t one of my favourite places in the US. Having said that, there are some great things to see and do in LA.


If, like us, you drove or flew in the night before, you’ve had some sleep and you’re feeling fresh and ready to get out and about. There are a couple of options here, depending on what you’ve seen/done previously.


If you’ve never been to Disneyland before, it’s a must. Even if you don’t have kids and are feeling a little skeptical about the whole idea, do it anyway. I was a little on the skeptical side to be honest. I wasn’t sure that spending an entire day of a short trip at Disneyland was the best idea, but I had an absolute blast, and you can read about it all here.


It brings out the best in people I think – obviously not waiting in line for rides (but even that wasn’t bad when we visited) – but there are smiling faces everywhere. There’s something for everyone – the thrillseeker, the Disney nut, the SciFi enthusiast and kids of all ages.


If you’re not keen on Disney or you’ve been there before, then you may want to consider Universal Studios instead. This was a Los Angeles must for me, if only to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


The town, modeled on Hogsmead, is all things Harry Potter. Complete with the steam train, the Weasley’s car, Hogwarts and all the shops and alehouses that are familiar from the books. You can even go into Ollivander’s and pick out your own wand or watch as a wand picks its perfect owner.

Take the studio tour for an in-person look at how special effects are created and film sets constructed, check out WaterWorld, Springfield, Jurassic Park and a bunch of other sections. Find out more about Universal Studios and our day there.


While I’m sure it’s possible to spend your entire day at Universal Studios, we took advantage of the proximity to Griffith Park Observatory later in the afternoon.


The observatory is situated on top of a hill in Griffith Park, so you’re going to want to drive in or take the DASH Observatory bus, which runs every 20-25 minutes and costs about 50 cents. Now, the reason to get here during daylight hours is for the the view, not only of Los Angeles but also of the Hollywood sign.

If you’re all about getting that classic photo of the sign, this is where you want to snap it from. Plus it’s a beautiful building in its own right.


Hopefully you’re not all partied out from all of those rides and standing in line. Because we’ve hit the Hollywood portion of our Los Angeles guide and this one’s going to be a big day.


This didn’t quite live up to the hype I’d put on it, or the way Anne M Martin described it in The Baby-sitter’s Club books. Hollywood Boulevard is great for the Walk of Fame stars and the TCL (Grauman’s) Chinese Theater, but apart from those it’s all a bit dingy to be honest.


You can tour the Chinese Theater, which first opened in 1927 with a showing of Cecil B. DeMille’s film The King of Kings. Today the theatre forecourt hosts the hand and foot prints of some of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors and at least one hoof-print of a Hollywood horse.


If you didn’t get a chance to see the Hollywood sign yesterday, you can catch it from the second floor balcony of the Hollywood & Highland Mall.


Now it’s time for something a little more highbrow. The Broad contemporary art museum opened in September 2015 and there are still considerable lines to get in even though general admission is free.


The $140 million building itself is a work of contemporary art that has to be experienced in real life to fully appreciate it. The museum was founded by Eli and Edythe Broad, and houses their 2,000-piece collection that spans the decades from the 1950s onwards.

Because of its popularity, you can reserve your free tickets from The Broad website, when they are released at the beginning of each month, or you can try your luck by waiting in the “stand-by” line outside the building.


If you weren’t able to get into The Broad, (or maybe you did) you must be hungry by now. To the museum’s left, next to the little courtyard you’ll find Otiumla – a hipster restaurant down to the denim aprons of their servers.


I hold a special place in my heart for all things hipster, so don’t think that’s a negative thing. It’s a beautiful spot with an open kitchen, courtyard and it’s own glassed wine room. It even has its own garden, where it grows some of the ingredients used in the rustic dishes.

I am not one of discerning tastes (ie I’ll eat just about anything you put in front of me) but Mr M doesn’t just give out compliments willy nilly. We ate off the brunch menu, I chose the Mole (pictured above) and Mr M got the Chicken with potato, onion, shishito and aji verde and was extremely impressed.


We were lucky enough to visit Los Angeles while the Museum of Ice Cream was open, so we walked off our lunch through Japantown and the Arts District. I totally recommend walking through the Arts District for the street art. You can see more of it right here.


Because we had somewhere to be, we didn’t get to see all of it, in fact, I’m not sure that we even scratched the surface. But we saw some spectacular murals and examples of how a district of warehouses and mechanics can transform itself into a beautiful area full of art for everyone to enjoy.


There’s no better place to enjoy a sunset than at the beach and Santa Monica’s Pier means you get to hang out after dark for some rides and games too.


If you visit during summer you can also catch a Twilight Concert or two by bands like Miami Horror, Warpaint and Eric Burdon & The Animals or solo artists such as Mon Laferte.

Ride on the historic carousel, the iconic ferris wheel and roller coaster, or learn some moves at the trapeze school. Then grab something from California’s famous food trucks and your two days in LA are complete!

LA | Los Angeles | Things to do in LA | LA Guide | Los Angeles Guide | LA Holiday | LA Vacation | The Broad | Universal Studios | Disneyland | Hollywood Boulevarde | Hollywood | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life
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42 thoughts on “How to spend two days in Los Angeles

  1. On our big road trip last month, we didn’t get to make time for LA (mainly because with three small kids I felt it wasn’t the right time for us). We, of course, did stay in Anaheim and do Disneyland/DCA because we are Disney nerds!! Now, you have me wanting to go back just to go to LA. We were able to stop in Santa Monica, but sadly it was so crowded (it was Mother’s Day) we couldn’t get anywhere near the pier. So, despite seeing a doing tons in California in 18 days, I now have a whole new bucket list of things to go back and do. 🙂

    1. Oh what a shame! Although, LA does seem like a place for older kids. It’s a lot of sitting in traffic and walking around. I love that you did Disneyland though, that’s awesome! I’ll but you all loved it!

  2. All great suggestions! I think Universal Studios would be super fun.

    I found it especially interesting to read about the Broad in your article. There is a smaller Broad art museum on the campus of Michigan State University that is also a uniquely-shaped beautiful building. I had no idea they had a bigger museum anywhere else in the country. Fascinating!

    1. Well there you go! I had no idea that there was another Broad either! I’ll have to look up the Michigan State version for a look. Thanks for letting me know 🙂

    1. I am sitting in my office in San Francisco with a jacket on right now. I would welcome that heat wave up here!

  3. Ah you’ve just gotten me excited to hopefully do a big three week trip to California next year and show my husband our beautiful state! #CityTripping

  4. I used to go to LA every couple of years when I was a kid because my grandparents used to live in that area. I remember liking it, except for the traffic. But my judgement might be clouded because we always went to Disneyland whenever we visited. lol #wanderfulwednesday

    1. Hahaha, I’m so jealous of people who got to visit Disneyland as kids! It must have been an amazing experience.
      The traffic is a pain, and me being Australian doesn’t help since I’m not used to a billion highways with windy exits that lead to more highways!

    1. If you’re ever in the neighbourhood (I know, a long way from Tromso), book tickets to The Broad in advance! It’s sooo busy.

  5. I always love to read about other’s adventures in LA! Even though you said it isn’t your favorite, you sure had a lot of nice things to say! I laughed when you mentioned all the smells… I think most cities have smells, don’t you!? We often talk about the “smell” of New York… Hot garbage in the summer… we love it! ha ha! #citytripping

    1. My first experience of LA was at LAX on a flight from Sydney. The first thing that hit me was the smog smell. I couldn’t handle that. You’re right though, most cities have smells… bahahaha, love your description of New York.

  6. This itinerary would be perfect for me – my children would love Disneyland and Universal especially everything Harry Potter related! I think I saw the observatory in the film La La Land? HollyWood Boulevard is a must and we’d love the pier!
    Saved for future trip! #WanderfulWednesday

    1. Ooh I haven’t seen La La Land Jo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the observatory made an appearance, it’s such a great spot!
      Thanks for visiting 🙂

  7. I am trying to make plans for the holiday weekend (super late, I know) and it seems like we are staying home. Since we are going to be here in LA, I am thinking about doing the touristy things that we haven’t done in a long time. So you gave me some ideas. Universal Studios sounds good! #wanderfulwednesday

    1. This holiday weekend has escaped me a little. I’m working Monday and so I didn’t really think to plan anything since the weekend kind of gets broken up. Have lots of fun being a tourist in your own town!

  8. Love this! When we went to LA I think we did all of these things except for the arts district, which tbh looks like one of the coolest things on your list!

  9. Very interesting to me because I was born in LA and live in San Diego and visit LA often. I’ve missed the Broad Museum and the arts district entirely. Time for another trip!

  10. I have to admit LA wasn’t top of my list when we visited California (except Universal… one day) but this is a great idea of the variety that there is in the city. I shouldn’t write it off! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    1. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who isn’t too keen on the idea of LA. But if you look hard enough there’s always some great stuff that you can track down 🙂

  11. Wow, I hope you didn’t visit Disneyland Universal Studios all in one day! Those are two full days for me. I love spending an entire day in each park and just walking around and riding the rides over and over! You hit up the major spots in LA :). Griffith Observatory is one of the most beautiful places in LA and Santa Monica is always fun!

    1. Oh God no, it’s an either/or kind of deal. I put both of them up there so people could choose. We visited last year around the same time and did Disney and this year we did Universal.

  12. Disneyland will always get a big thumbs up from me. Now that I’ve read this post, I wish we’d had a few days in LA before/after our trip to Disneyland because although we’ve done the Hollywood stuff, we’ve never been to Universal and The Broad looks so cool. Plus what about that Ice Cream Museum? I have loved seeing your pics on the socials!

    1. Well, to be fair, Disneyland is pretty much the biggest drawcard for LA. All the rest is just window dressing right? OK, wrong. But you didn’t do too badly at all.

  13. Oh I’m so keen to go to L.A… been wanting to go for years, hopefully soon!

    I know exactly how you feel about Disneyland… we went to Disney and Universal in Orlando a couple of years ago and I wasn’t hugely fussed but they were two of the most enjoyable days! There’s something magic and so nostalgic about Disney (I think I probably was able to appreciate it even more as an adult than I would have as a kid!) Harry Potter at Universal is just something else isn’t it?


  14. What a timely post! I’m actually heading to LA in a couple of weeks and am looking for things to do. I’m sad that the ice cream museum is sold out, but never heard of the Arts District. I love street art so I can’t wait to check that out!

  15. Love this itinerary! Always love seeing what people do/like to do in LA. Sometimes you lose that perception when you live there – probably the same for you in SF 🙂 Thanks for joining #FlyAwayFriday – hope to see you again tomorrow! xo

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