Are you planning a visit to Los Angeles? Already live here and looking to get to know the area better? As you might be aware, Los Angeles has some notoriously bad traffic for the United States. However you don’t have to be stuck in that mess. A lot of the famous sights and attractions are in a few concentrated areas. So if you’re looking to beat the traffic when you visit Los Angeles on your vacation or trip and want to sight see in the fresh air and sunshine, pick your area and just explore it by foot. You won’t have to wait in stand-still traffic with frustrated and angry drivers laying on their car horns all day. Yes, believe it or not but LA is a much more walk-able city than you might think.
Taking a walking tour of parts of Los Angeles is actually not Mission Impossible with famous places like Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach and Santa Monica having their attractions clustered close together making walking the most convenient option. Of course nothing beats walking in LA’s year round beautiful weather – with sunshine and low humidity you’ll be happy and dry as you explore and sight-see Los Angeles in a way that you might have never thought or known existed!
A lot of people will say downtown Los Angeles is the urban and walkable environment most akin to New York City in Los Angeles. But wouldn’t an urban environment just steps away from the beach be as nice if not nicer? Wouldn’t you prefer to breath the ocean breeze than the smog of the highway? Enter Downtown Santa Monica – The City by the Beach. Santa Monica is an actual city in Los Angeles county as opposed to some other famous LA areas we’ll talk about which are in Los Angeles city as well as the county. Santa Monica was primed for tours and tourism from the start. Originally envisioned as an industrial shipping harbor city, Santa Monica’s beautiful coastline had other plans for the city’s future and today it is definitely a place you don’t want to miss on your California visit.
Strut your stuff and check out the great, bountiful shopping on the 3rd Street Promenade, an open air shopping mall strip situated in the three blocks between Broadway on the south and Wilshire Blvd on the north. Blocked off to cars, it is a perfect place to mosey on down and have an iconic Southern California moment. Check out the beautiful sunset view of the Pacific Ocean off the historic and lively Santa Monica Pier. And of course, soak up the Southern California sun on the beach or on the bike path that snakes up and down the Los Angeles coastline – Pacific Palisades on the north (where a lot of stars like Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Ben Affleck live) to Torrance Beach on the south.
Downtown Santa Monica is designed in an easy to understand grid system with 1st Street, more commonly known as Ocean Avenue, flanking (you guessed it) the Pacific Ocean situated on the west – at “the edge of western civilization” as the Los Angeles band The Red Hot Chili Peppers sang in the lyrics to their hit song “Californication”. Ocean Ave goes to 26th Street and beyond to the east. From south to north we have Colorado Ave, Broadway, Santa Monica Blvd, Arizona Ave and Wilshire Blvd – the less famous (the more being Sunset Blvd, location of the Sunset Strip) Boulevard that’s spans the lion’s share of the length of Los Angeles. Every corner you go to in downtown Santa Monica you are bound to be steps away from some of the best eating in town, such as Michaels (classic Californian in arty digs) or Cassias (French-Asian). If you want to not only check out beautiful Santa Monica, but to learn all the famous characters that have been part of it’s story than check out our Santa Monica Walking Tour!
Hollywood is known around the world as the center of the entertainment industry of the western world. Now an industry over a century old, “Hollywood” is all over Los Angeles. Studios and production companies have outgrown the technical neighborhood of Hollywood by this time but the name of course has stuck and has become synonymous with the entertainment industry. Charlie Chaplin used to stroll down the street to his favorite restaurant (still there! – Hollywood Blvd, between Cherokee and N Las Palmas Ave) “Musso and Frank Grill” after filming all day at his studio.
These days Charlie Chaplin and many other stars of today and yesterday are honored on the walk of fame which spans a bit over a mile on Hollywood Blvd from La Brea Ave on the west to Gower Street (original location of Warner Bros, now in Burbank) on the east. You can walk that stretch of Hollywood Blvd and see your favorite stars from today and your favorite classic stars from yesterday. You might also see your favorite characters lining the boulevard as people dress up as famous Hollywood characters to give you a true Hollywood moment!
Check out the first outdoor shopping mall in the world on the famous Sunset Blvd (“Crossroads of the World”) where the central building is designed to resemble an ocean liner. Head up on the stretch of Highland Avenue between Sunset Blvd and Hollywood Blvd to check out Mel’s Drive In, a 24/7 retro diner perfect for families and famous for being the place in George Lucas’s “American Graffiti”. Continue on up and across Hollywood Blvd and nestled right next to the Wax Museum will be the Snow White Cafe, named after the Snow White art and murals on the walls, some of it done by actual classic Disney animators, it was the place for the after party of the Snow White premiere back in the day.
For fun and scandalous Hollywood stories and history consider taking our Hollywood Walking Tour!
Seeing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is best epitomized in Beverly Hills and best experienced on foot. Of course Beverly Hills (named after an east coast farm town) evokes exclusivity but downtown Beverly Hills is actually a very walkable area. With the famous Rodeo Drive (pronounced Row-day-oh, not like a rodeo!) at its center and the subway from downtown Los Angeles adding a stop by 2022 or 2023 (purple line, Wilshire Blvd), Beverly Hills is destined to become an even more walkable area. Shop Rodeo Drive with everyone from Gucci to Salvatore Ferragamo (legendary show maker to the classic stars) lining this fashionistas paradise, check out the inventor of red velvet, “Sprinkles Cupcakes” with its cupcake vending machine and walk off the calories in the beautiful Beverly Gardens Park when you need a respite.
The next street over from Rodeo Drive is Beverly Drive where at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd is The Paley Center for Media where you can check out costumes from current and classic productions as well as other great Hollywood memorabilia and exhibitions. Celebrate Los Angeles Mexican history (“Los Angeles” means “The Angels” in Spanish after all) by having some organic Mexican cuisine at Sharky’s Woodfried Mexican Grill further down on Beverly Drive. Further down Beverly Drive: If you’re a cheese and wine kind of person definitely don’t pass up an opportunity to visit “The Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills” where you are guaranteed to find lots of things to whet your appetite.
If you keep going down Beverly Drive and arrive at Wilshire Blvd you won’t be far at all from the internationally famous Beverly Wilshire hotel at the Four Seasons. The Beverly Wilshire is the Los Angeles hotel of choice for many a celebrity and dignitary. And if you want to maybe see a celebrity check out “The Grill on the Alley” just around the corner on a little alley side street called Dayton Way. At The Grill on the Alley there could be some power players striking a Hollywood deal or just enjoying brunch.
If you are a car nut you might want to stay on Wilshire Blvd and mosey a little east to check out the Ferrari’s and Mclarens stocked in the Wilshire car dealerships.
For fun Beverly Hills stories about its famous faces consider taking our Beverly Hills Walking Tour!
Conceived as a “Venice of America” complete with canals, these days you can walk these former canals that lead to and from the beach, as well as the actual canals themselves. Venice has gone through quite a transformation, from undeveloped marsh lands to a bohemian and artistic hotspot to now a quickly growing hub of tech industry activity, and many different phases in between. Learn about the fun stories and cool characters of Venice on our walking tour!
The focal point of Venice is the famous “Venice Beach” on the boardwalk which is lined with lots of souvenir shops where you can load up on the sunglasses you’ll need to sport to shield yourself from the California sun, all the better to see the skaters do they’re tricks at the skatepark or the tons of street performers that line the other side of the boardwalk from the shops.
Take your shoes off and put your toes in the sand! The beach and the sea are just steps away from the boardwalk. Check out the surfers catching the waves if the conditions are right.
Also, Venice beach is populated with beautiful street art – pop off the boardwalk every once in a while to the side streets a step away to admire these artists handiwork, which includes a Van Gogh “The Starry Night” recreation! (by Rip Kronk, longtime Venice mainstay). And don’t forget to check out the legally sanctioned graffiti wall. All you need is an easy day permit that you get from the police station next door and you’re good to go!
Abbot Kinney Blvd is another focal point in Venice Beach. Named “Coolest Street in America” by GQ, the street name is named for the founder of Venice, and the best shopping and eating awaits you here! Stroll the blocks of Abbot Kinney perusing the many offerings and when you need to re-fuel grab your coffee at Blue Bottle or Intelligentsia.
One thing you definitely don’t want to miss is the Venice Beach canals – a tranquil place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Admire the beautiful waterways and the modern architecture and wander over to the park to see the wandering ducks!
For fun stories about Venice and its many characters consider taking our Venice Beach Walking Tour!