LA flight deal.

It’s not easy being in a new place for the first time. There’s so much information out there, it’s just hard to know what to truly believe and what to take with a gigantic, ocean sized pinch of salt. But, some advice rings true unequivocally for anyone who’s ever been. Whatever your travel interests and lifestyle may bring, from museum person to beach person, nightlife person or pop culture junkie, there are certain mistakes that first time tourists nearly always fall in to. Here’s how to do LA like you know what you’re doing…

a ferris wheel on a pierNot Renting A Car

Los Angeles is a huge city, where a car is just a must. If you want to get around comfortably and affordably and see all the cool things, there’s just no other way. To truly “get” the allure of Los Angeles you need to see everything from the Hollywood Hills to Santa Monica beach, Malibu and all the trendy shops and cafes in between. And when we say in between, we’re talking about real distance here.

Sure, there’s traffic to contend with, but you’ll find that in almost any city worth visiting. There are lots of good car rental options right at the airport; including Silvercar, which make the process as simple as can be and will have you cruising the town in a nice silver Audi. Whatever you rent, you will save a lot compared to taking Uber’s everywhere.

Not Packing Practical Attire

Los Angeles has a reputation for all things glitz and glamour, but some of the best things to do involve comfy clothing – namely hiking. Few cities do hiking as well as Los Angeles, so before you fill your case with heels, platform shoes, suits and beauty products, be sure to pack some athletic wear and running shoes. Come for the views, leave with a great workout.

You just can’t beat a sunset jog along Santa Monica Beach, or an early morning hike in the Hollywood Hills. Runyon Canyon is a great place to start (and celeb spot), but if you’re ill equipped, everything will feel like a challenge.

a sign on a hill with a city in the backgroundStaying In Hollywood

It’s not quite like going to New York and staying in Times Square – because unlike Times Square, some Angelenos do live in Hollywood, but central Hollywood is pretty close. There are so many great alternative accommodation options which don’t involve stepping out into a sea of tourists wearing Spiderman masks everyday.

Hollywood Blvd is worth walking at least once, to get a quick glimpse of your favorite heart throb actors star – but, night after night you’d be missing out if you didn’t move around the city, or at least to West Hollywood. One of the best options in LA is to book an Airbnb with a parking space. You can find some wonderful, unique options in the hills which will make you feel like you’re living the high life – for half the price you’d actually expect.

Not Culture Tripping

Los Angeles brings thoughts of sunshine, actors wearing sunglasses pretending not to love being famous, muscle beaches, fancy restaurants, shopping and nightlife; but there are lovely museums and galleries to see, and you’d be really missing out if you let them pass you by, while sitting in an open top van that claims to take you on a tour of celebrity homes.

LA’s underrated museums rivals the best found in other U.S. cities, so if you appreciate the world of art, visit: the Getty Villa, The Broad, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) or The Annenberg Space for Photography. Depending on your interests, there’e also The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, Griffith Observatory, Natural History Museum, The Hollywood Museum and more to see. If you’re unlucky enough to be there on a rainy day, these are excellent options.

a sunset over a beach with palm trees

Ignoring Downtown LA

Once seen as a place to stay well clear of, many still think it’s not worth the hassle of heading downtown. There’s no doubt it’s still in the process of changing, but many of the newest and best bars, restaurants and hip hotel pools can be found in the revitalized downtown.

Come for the simple stuff like Grand Central Market, 12 acre Grand Park and more, and stay for the groovy poolside nights at the Standard Downtown, one of the 10 coolest hotel pools in the world – not by temperature of course. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Eating Like A Tourist

Santa Monica Pier – great to look at, terrible to eat. Same goes for Universal Studios, Third Street Promenade, Venice Boardwalk and all the other places you might guess. LA is home to some of the best sushi, street food, Mexican food and California cuisine you’ll find anywhere, so having some fried “shrimp” from Bubba Gump’s isn’t really isn’t going to enlighten your culinary palate.

But it doesn’t have to be expensive either. While options like Nobu and Spago will no doubt dazzle, there are tons of wonderful and affordable places to eat, scattered all about town, particularly in Silver Lake, Downtown LA and scattered around Hollywood. For example, if you like Thai Food, you can’t miss Night + Market in Silver Lake.

What’s your best LA tip?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I am confused…. the title suggests this is the list of mistakes tourists make… a list of things you shouldn’t do.

    So first one on the list… Renting a car. what? renting a car in LA is a mistake? no way. then realized this is how it should be done. Then Packing a practical attire… ok I guess this is the list of what to do.
    Then 3rd on the list, Staying in Hollywood… what? I should only stay in Hollywood? it seems list has switched from being a list of what to do to what NOT to do half way down.

  2. We didn’t rent a car when we stayed in West Hollywood last year for 4 days. We took the recently opened new subway line to Santa Monica/Venice Beach for a day, which was very enjoyable. I like getting around in public transportation whenever possible. I think it adds to the city experience. I feel less like a tourist.

  3. Your 10 coolest hotel pools link doesn’t include the Standard Downtown, unless i’m missing something.

  4. I live here. All the tourist traps are the worst things about California (Hollywood and Venice especially). LA beaches outside of Malibu and Palos Verdes are just the worst. And “nobody walks in LA.” Its a famous song and a mantra tourists should ascribe to.

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