Grand Central Market Your Guide to Los Angeles in One Day

Ah, Los Angeles. A colorful, sprawling land of palm-treed streets and endless sunshine. One day in LA, heck even one year, wouldn’t be enough to scratch the surface of this vibrant metropolis — the nation’s second largest. With so many neighborhoods and possibilities, it can seem near impossible to explore all that the City of Angels has to offer. However, 24 hours (if done right), gives you just enough time to knock the essentials off your bucket list. Let us make it easier for you. Below is a comprehensive guide to the best food, places and vistas to hit up if you’re only in Los Angeles for 24 hours.

The Venice Sign, Los Angeles, California Start your morning off in Venice, a breezy, oceanside town known for rollerblading bikini babes and chill, hippie vibes. First order of business: tacos. Quick, cheap and authentic, eating at a taco truck is a significant rite of passage when visiting LA. Something about standing on a bustling sidewalk while chowing down on handheld bites of tortilla-wrapped deliciousness definitely speaks to the soul. Fuel up at the La Isla Bonita taco truck on 4th and Rose, before a morning stroll on the beach. The 30-year old taco establishment dishes up traditional Mexican grilled meats — asada, pollo, lengua and al pastor, but people come here for the seafood tacos, touted the best in the area. Get the camaron tacos made with savory shrimp, fresh cilantro, onions and stewed pinto beans piled high on a soft, handmade tortilla. Also make sure to try their famed specialty, the ceviche tostada, impressively cheap at $2.50. A crispy round tortilla shell is slathered with a fresh, flavorful mix of chopped fish, shrimp, crab, octopus, and tangy pico de gallo, then garnished with hearty avocado slices and a plump lime wedge. 

La Isla Bonita Taco Truck in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California Head down to the Venice Beach Boardwalk and enjoy some quiet moments on the sand before the crowds arrive in droves. Check out the legendary Venice Art Walls — concrete canvases of graffiti murals that showcase the distinctive passion and creativity of LA’s street artists.  Since these walls are continuously being painted over with new pieces, you may even witness one being spray-painted on the spot. 

Graffiti Artist Painting in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California  

After watching a few daring skate tricks performed at the world-renowned skate park, make your way down the winding bike path that runs along the beach towards the Santa Monica Pier.

Entrance to the Santa Monia Pier located at: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401 Hop on the ferris wheel at Pacific Park for stunning, panoramic views of the Santa Monica Pier and coastline. A key Los Angeles landmark, the 9-story tall wheel is adorned with 160,000 dazzling LED lights and is the world’s first and only solar-powered ferris wheel. There are no admission fees to enter the park, simply pay per ride or purchase a wristband for unlimited rides. 

The Pacific Park ferris wheel and roller coaster located at: 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401 

View from the Pacific Park ferris wheel in Santa Monica Head inland, drive east along iconic Sunset Boulevard. Get refreshments at Alfred Tea Room, a quirky Melrose Place hangout offering an eclectic selection of artisanal teas. With quotable tea puns written on their tiled, blush pink walls, Alfred’s Tea Room teems with LA aesthetic and is every instagrammer’s dream café. Though the indoor space is petite, plenty of seating is available in a quiet, tucked-away alley off Melrose.

Interior of Alfred Tea Room located at: 705 N Alfred St, Los Angeles, CA 90069 Try the matcha latte, made in the traditional way with a sieve and bamboo whisk. Or order their signature pink drink — a creamy and luxurious concoction of organic strawberries, pomegranate, beetroot, vanilla, almond milk, and cinnamon. Their pink croissant, dipped in raspberry-rose white chocolate and sprinkled with dried raspberries and rose petals, is another favorite and is known to sell out quickly. 

Matcha Latte from Alfred Tea Room 

The Pink Croissant, Matcha Latte and The Pink Drink from Alfred Tea Room  Keep heading east down Melrose Avenue, LA’s fashion mecca and a world-renowned destination for its trendsetting boutiques and vintage thrift stores. Here you can find clothes in a diverse range of styles, from grungy to glamorous and affordable to upscale. 

A thrift store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California  LA is no stranger to visual statements, and aside from its fashion, it can also be seen in its street art. Though Melrose Avenue is home to highly coveted social media backdrops like the Paul Smith “pink wall” and Colette Miller’s angel wings, make sure to scope out some of the lesser-known murals — many of which are hidden in back alleys and parking lots off Melrose. Whether playful or political, these sprawling pieces symbolize the city’s creatively outspoken spirit. 

Street art on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California  

For a fast food fix when visiting LA, ditch the yellow arches and follow the yellow arrow to In-N-Out. Their menu is simple — burgers, fries, shakes, soda. Order the Double-Double with fries, and ask for it “animal style.” Get a root beer to wash it all down. Two juicy patties, two slices of melted cheese, grilled onions, crunchy hand-leafed lettuce, and an impressively plump tomato slice, sandwiched between two freshly toasted buns — all prepared fresh-to-order.

Double-Double with Fries Animal Style from In-N-Out in Los Angeles, California Yes, In-N-Out makes a darn good burger, but it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. From the retro charm of their palm-tree printed soda cups, to the friendly employees in paper hats, to their special sauce, unchanged since 1948, eating at In-N-Out is the quintessential West Coast burger experience — classic, comforting and everything a burger joint ought to be. 

Exterior of In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles, California  Locals will you tell you that some of the city’s best food is hidden in its strip malls, and ice cream is no exception to that rule. Grab a scoop or two at Mashti Malone’s, a Hollywood dessert institution known for their uniquely dense and fragrant Persian-style ice cream. Tantalize your taste buds with exotic flavors like ginger, cucumber, lavender or Turkish coffee.

The exterior of Mashti Malone's located at: 1525 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 Try the pomegranate sorbet for a lighter, icy treat but don’t forget their bestseller, the creamy saffron and rosewater pistachio. Drizzle on some sour cherry syrup to take your scoop to the next level. 

Pomegranate Sorbet & Saffron Rosewater Pistachio ice cream from Mashti Malone's in Los Angeles, California Head to the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea and look for the silver “Four Ladies of Hollywood” gazebo.  This art deco-style monument marks the beginning of the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

View of the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at: N Highland Ave & Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028 Pink and bronze star-shaped plaques, 2,600 in total, immortalize the names of the “entertainment greats” — a visual, walkable roster of acclaimed actors, musicians, directors and more who have contributed their talents to the industry. Though the star-studded sidewalk stretches down for 15 full blocks, it’s more efficient to go to each of your favorite stars individually in order to sidestep the crowds.  Use the Walk of Fame’s online Star Search tool for the exact location to each star. 

Bob Marley's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California  Make a quick stop by the TCL Chinese Theater to see the hundreds of cemented celebrity hand and footprints in the courtyard.

Celebrity hand and footprints by the TCL Chinese Theater, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California Seeing the Hollywood Sign is definitely a must when visiting LA, but with only 24 hours, you can skip the popular “Behind the Sign” hike and simply appreciate it from afar. Make a quick stop at Lake Hollywood Park to have your obligatory picture with the sign or, if time allows, get dropped off at the Mt. Lee Drive trailhead, located at the intersection of Mulholland and Deronda Drive. From here, it’s an easy, 3-minute walk to an up-close view of those darling white letters.

View of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California  One thing you cannot pass up when visiting LA is a trip to the Griffith Observatory. Sitting majestically atop a hill miles away from the rest of the city, (as if in another world entirely) the observatory is probably the city’s greatest landmark. Some of its highlights include its enormous central pendulum, the Tesla coil, remarkable planetarium shows and the most looked-through telescope in the world.

The Griffith Observatory located at: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 But if you do just one thing here, simply head to the balcony. Look to the horizon and feel an energy that’s hard to find anywhere else. The observatory captures the true spirit of the city, rationalizing that stubborn yet sincere belief all Angelenos hold — that if you dream hard enough, anything can happen. With breathtaking visuals as far as the eye can see, the Griffith Observatory beckons to the dreamers, the stargazers and to anyone who can appreciate a good view.

Closeup of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California  

A viewfinder at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California  From the observatory, head to Downtown Los Angeles and explore some of the city’s most impressive examples of modern architecture. The Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, is a curvy, stainless-steel masterpiece. Explore its Blue Ribbon Garden, an oasis hidden from the bustle of downtown. The garden is open to the public and can be accessed by a discreet stairway entrance.

Walt Disney Concert Hall located at: 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 in downtown Los Angeles Right across the street is the Broad museum. With its stark-white honeycomb exterior and over 2,000 contemporary artworks including Yayoi Kusama’s highly praised Infinity Mirrored Room, the Broad has become an indispensable addition to the city and the art world at large. Though browsing its vast collection make take up a big chunk of time, be sure to put the museum on your list if you are in LA for longer than a day. Admission is free, though online reservations are recommended to avoid a long wait on the standby line.

The Broad Museum located at: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 in downtown Los Angeles Step back a hundred years and onto a bright orange tram car at Angel’s Flight Railway. The legendary funicular that runs up and down Bunker Hill is the world’s shortest railroad, but it isn’t just there for novelty — locals use it daily to avoid hiking up one of Downtown LA’s steepest streets. This trip back in time won’t cost you a fortune either — a one-way ride costs $1 and only 50 cents if you have a Metro Tap card. 

Ticket from Angel's Flight Railway located at: 350 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013 

View from Angel's Flight Railway in downtown Los Angeles After making your descent to Hill Street, cross over to Grand Central Market, a culinary landmark that’s been around since 1917. It’s the city’s largest and oldest public market, bringing the diverse cuisines of LA together in one vibrant space. A wide range of affordable dinner options can be found as you wander down dozens of neon-lit food stalls that cater to almost any craving. Wexler’s Deli, China Café and Sarita’s Pupuseria are a few local favorites. 

The inside of Grand Central Market located at: 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013 For Thai comfort food, Sticky Rice is a solid choice. Try their gai yang, a popular street food item found in Thailand. Tender, charred strips of chicken are served with sweet chili dipping sauce and a small bowl of tangy papaya salad. Every dish also comes with a bamboo cup of sticky, glutinous rice — a culinary staple of Southeast Asia. Another must-try is their flaming pot of tom yum goong, a hot and sour shrimp soup that features lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.    

The Gai Yang from Sticky Rice at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, California 

The Tom Yum Goong from Sticky Rice at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, California After dinner, head a few blocks east to the Last Bookstore, and explore a sprawling labyrinth of new and used books, vintage records and local art.

The Last Bookstore located at: 453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013 There is a sacred grandness to this booklover paradise, with high ceilings and massive marble pillars remaining from what was once an abandoned bank. Even the original bank vaults have been preserved — one holds a curated collection of vintage books while another is filled with crime and mystery genre reads. Find the staircase tucked away in the back and meander your way through bookshelves, eccentric art pieces and a whimsical book tunnel. 

The interior of the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, California  Rooftop bars have become all the rage in LA, and it’s easy to see why. Grab a drink at Broken Shaker, a boho-chic, beach themed oasis on the Freehand Hotel’s rooftop deck. Sit back and relax poolside as you watch the sun setting below the downtown skyline. Order a refreshing tiki cocktail like the sunset on la playa, infused with rosemary, prickly pear, and fresh lime juice. Yes, life really can be this good. 

Broken Shaker rooftop bar located at: 416 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA 90014 

The Sunset on La Playa cocktail from Broken Shaker Los Angeles, California While it can gather a selfie-taking crowd during the daytime, the Urban Light installation outside LACMA transforms after hours from tourist trap to pure, antique-lit magic. Make this your final stop, the later at night the better. The intricately designed street lamps, which once illuminated LA’s streets in the 1920s and 30s, exude romance with every step. A walk through these charming remnants of history is a surreal, one-of-a-kind experience and a perfect conclusion to your one-day, whirlwind tour of Los Angeles. 

Urban Light Installation outside of LACMA located at: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036 

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Aira Pamintuan
Aira is a food and lifestyle writer living in LA. Born in Manila and raised in New York, she now believes that good tacos and sunshine can fix most problems. In her free time, you might catch Aira taking pictures of artsy walls. Tell her about your favorite ice cream spot: @airakrystel