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The Ultimate Locals Guide to Los Angeles: Insider Tips and Recommendations

Los Angeles is a massive city, and it can be more challenging than you think to plan a visit. Lucky for you, we have more than two decades as Los Angeles locals – Angelenos, if you will – and we’re here to give you all of the inside info. Here is your guide to Los Angeles from a local perspective!

Santa Monica Pier entrance sign
©Stephen & Andie

L.A. is known and revered for many things, such as its career opportunities, practically perfect climate, and status as the entertainment capital of the world. It has many of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, from the Hollywood Walk of Fame – which boasts over 2,600 celebrity stars and grows by a few every month – to Rodeo Drive, the Sunset Strip, Universal Studios, and Universal CityWalk. L.A. has hosted the Summer Olympics twice so far, making it the only city in North America that can claim this distinction. And by 2028, it will have added a third time.

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Yes, L.A. Does Have Culture

Los Angeles is also deep with culture which can be found in its over 100 museums spread about the city limits, and its historical theater district on Broadway in Downtown L.A. is the largest on the National Register of Historical Places, clocking in at 225 theaters. There are more museums and theaters here than any other city in the states. Being home to over 23,000 art jobs places Los Angeles on the country’s leading edge. It is also the country’s artistic center, having both the largest concentration and largest number of artists within the metropolitan area. As might be expected, both of those honors were previously held by New York. (sorry NYC, but we still have mad love for ya!)

Los Angeles is about as diverse as it gets and does not have a majority population. This beautiful city is home to people from more than 140 countries!

Our Los Angeles

a couple posing in front of the Hollywood sign
©Stephen & Andie

What do two East Coast natives who have lived in Los Angeles for decades have to say about this city? Well, to quote Randy Newman, “WE LOVE IT!” It’s a very casual city with a laid back vibe, and is very pet-friendly. Between us, we’ve been students and worked professionally in the entertainment industry here for the majority of our adult lives, and we consider ourselves well-seasoned on the ins & outs of L.A. and the Southern California lifestyle. Getting around, parking, how to prepare for your vacation to L.A., what to expect when moving to L.A., and more, we offer our years of experience as your personal guide to Los Angeles. For example, here’s an itinerary we put together for those who might be visiting for just a couple of days. Check out Our Perfect 48 Hours In L.A.!

Los Angeles Weather

The obvious and most common starting point is probably the weather. While the old saying “it’s always seventy-two and sunny” is a bit of a stretch, the reality isn’t far enough off that you’d be complaining. Ok, it’s awesome. With more sunny days than not, there’s plenty of motivation to get outdoors and take advantage of everything the city and surrounding areas have to offer. 

What To Do In Los Angeles: A Locals Guide


Stephen & Andie pose with a Minion at Universal Studios Hollywood
©Stephen & Andie

As mentioned, Los Angeles is home to many of the most famous and iconic attractions and landmarks in the world. The Hollywood Walk of Fame; the TCL Chinese Theatre; The Hollywood Bowl; Griffith Observatory; Staples Center, the home of the L.A. Lakers; Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center; the Walt Disney Concert Hall; Air Force One at the Ronald Reagan Library; the Getty Center; the Battleship USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro; Universal Studios Hollywood & Universal CityWalk; and of course, The Hollywood Sign. Speaking of which, if you’d like to see the amazing views of the Hollywood Sign and the views of all of L.A. from above and behind the Hollywood Sign, check out our vlog to get up close!

Outdoor Activities

Southern California is well known for its beautiful weather, and there are loads of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy while taking in some of that “warm California sun.”

Beaches In And Around Los Angeles

Santa Monica Beach
©Stephen & Andie

Beaches are one of the first things that come to mind for most people when they think about Southern California. There are so many different beaches in and around L.A., each with their own vibe, that you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for. You can surf, skate, play volleyball or just chill out (don’t forget the SPF!).  Even without dipping a toe in the sand, simply driving along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from Santa Monica to Malibu will provide you with postcard views of the coast you won’t soon forget. 

Hiking In Los Angeles

The hills of L.A. have incredible hiking trails with jaw dropping views. There are too many to list here, but you have plenty of choices. Runyon Canyon is a locals’ favorite. If you’re more ambitious, the hike up to the Hollywood Sign is well worth the effort. There are stunning views from in front of it as well as from behind, via two completely different trails. We highly recommend putting in those extra steps to do both, as the view from behind the Hollywood sign is as iconic as it gets. You’ll see all of L.A., and on good day, all the way out to the Pacific. We cannot stress this enough – it. is. breathtaking. If you’d like directions to the Hollywood Sign from a local, check

hiking path signs warning hikers about rattlesnakes
©Stephen Mills

out this post for The Best Way To Get The Best Views Of The Hollywood Sign!

Hiking Pro Tip:

Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, coyotes, and other wildlife, and definitely don’t wear sandals.

And if you’re looking for a unique hike with a a shocking backstory, check out How To Get To Murphy Ranch: An Abandoned WWII-era Compound in L.A..

Skiing And Snowboarding Outside Of Los Angeles

You’ve probably heard the saying that it’s possible to surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon in SoCal. Well, it’s true! Head just a couple of hours outside the city and up into the mountains and you’ll find actual snow, for your skiing and body boarding pleasure. Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead offer equally as amazing summer activities as well as the winter wonderland variety most people think of first. And if you’d like a really cool unique stay up in that area, we’ve got a suggestion for you here

Exploring Southern California Deserts

Southern California desert landscape in the late afternoon
©Stephen & Andie

Just a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles are the magnificent desert areas. Sure, the whole of L.A. is primarily a desert basin to begin with. But hop in the car and leave the city lights behind and you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful landscapes, rock formations, vegetation, wildlife, camping and awe-inspiring stargazing that SoCal has to offer. We absolutely love Joshua Tree which is in the Mojave Desert. We and our dogs car-camped for a night during a meteor shower last year, and we genuinely had a transformational experience with nature that night. Whether you camp overnight or not, we suggest you at least stay for a few hours after dark to get the nighttime experience (including being surrounded by distant calls of dozens of coyotes just after sunset – eerie!) 

Los Angeles Nightlife

a concert at Los Angeles' iconic Wiltern
A concert at The Wiltern | ©Andie Mills

If you’re into nightlife, there is certainly no shortage of bars, clubs, concert venues, and theaters. This IS the entertainment capital of the world, after all! While the heyday of rock n’ roll on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood is long behind us, Echo Park and Silver Lake have been hotbeds of emerging indie artists for quite some time now. Both neighborhoods are featured in just about every guide to Los Angeles nightlife. And that’s just the music side of L.A. nightlife. There are also many comedy clubs and improv theaters, dance clubs, rooftop bars, galleries… you name it, we’ve probably got it!

Art In Los Angeles

the Shakespeare Garden at Huntington Garden
©Stephen & Andie

There are incredible museums in L.A. like MOCA, The Broad, LACMA, the Getty, and the Grammy Museum, to name a handful. And if you prefer galleries, check out areas like Downtown L.A. (DTLA) and Venice for their monthly art walks, which feature both permanent and pop-up galleries. West Hollywood is also a great area for gallery hopping, and it’s the localtion of our personal favorite: The Morrison Hotel Gallery Los Angeles location. As for street art, keep your eyes open for some incredible graffiti and commissioned murals scattered about the city’s buildings and freeway underpasses! 

Food In Los Angeles

L.A. is very culturally and ethnically diverse, so the possibilities are limitless. You’re sure to find some of the most amazing food here because of it. From Little Armenia to Little Tokyo, from street food to fine dining and everything in between, your cravings are covered. And yes, that includes pizza, and a variety of styles of it at that. Admittedly, you need to know where to find these good pizza spots, as they’re not on every street corner for you to trip over as someplace like, let’s say, Brooklyn, NY. But what you sacrifice in an over abundance of pizza, you gain in culinary variety, including a massive amount of fantastic and legit sushi. We’d say the best anywhere outside of Japan, and we dare you to convince us otherwise. In a nutshell, you can virtually dine anywhere in the world, all without leaving L.A.

Itinerary Is Key

L.A. is so vast that if you’re visiting for a short time, you really need to limit your plan. The traffic situation is unavoidable, but with a good itinerary and some patience you’ll be able to maximize your time. If you’re interested in things like Universal Studios/Citywalk, that’s the better part of one day. Disneyland? That’s fifty miles South, in Orange County – a full day or more. If you’ve only got twenty-four or forty-eight hours, perhaps stick to the must-see spots around Hollywood. You can ride share or walk to things like the Walk of Fame, the famous intersections of Hollywood and Vine and Hollywood and Highland, which will lead you through the gauntlet of celebrity look-a-likes and buskers to the famous handprints outside of TCL Chinese Theatre. The important thing is to stick to one area of the city at a time. Trying to cover too much ground – especially in the same day – will only lead to disappointment. 

Locals Guide To Los Angeles Traffic

night time-lapse view of the Los Angeles skyline and blurred traffic lights
Photo by on Unsplash

It’s difficult to explain how to adapt to it or how to avoid it. There isn’t an easy answer. Generally speaking, traffic is the least brutal between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and say, 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Obviously, not everyone has the luxury of only commuting during those hours, but this gives you a general and ridiculous idea of what you’re up against. And Fridays? Forget about it. Friday traffic is merciless. And get ready for this head-scratcher… Thursdays. They’re even worse. We’re not kidding. Nor do we really know why, as this was not the case until around fifteen years ago. Back then, Friday was the unrivaled king of pain within the L.A. traffic week. But take consolation in the fact that “traffic” is a widely accepted excuse for being late in L.A. 

Traffic Pro Tip:

Allow yourself at least an extra 30 minutes whenever going somewhere. Be sure to check your GPS in advance, as traffic can – and usually does – change in an instant.

Locals Guide To Parking In Los Angeles

No guide to Los Angeles would be complete without some parking tips. L.A. has plenty of valet parking options, and public parking lots and structures. If budget isn’t a concern, some are modestly priced ($5-$10), while others can be as much as $30 (we’re looking at you, Staples Center). A couple of suggestions: try the Spot Hero app. Enter the location you’re going to, and it will bring up a map of parking options, prices, and details. Or, if you don’t like to pay, and don’t mind a little hunting or walking, there’s often street parking. Just be patient and drive around until something opens up. Pay very close attention to parking signs and restrictions. Some are clear and simple, but some can be shamefully deceiving. Many an experienced Angeleno has gotten a ticket when they thought they were safe. If you see the word “permit” on any sign, best to just move along, as these are the most difficult to understand.

Parking Pro Tip:

Yellow loading zones – after 6:00 p.m. you may be able to park in them for free. This has traditionally been the case within the city of Los Angeles, but be aware that West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and other cities that are considered “Los Angeles” are actually their own municipalities with their own laws and enforcement. Always check the city website to make sure it’s okay where you are. Many people do not realize this and pass these spots up out of caution. When we’re seeking city parking, we always look first for yellow loading zones or free neighborhood parking or metered parking. These vary, but in many cases they are also free after a certain time of night. It depends what part of town you’re in, and again, read the posted signs very carefully. 

Vehicle Rental Pro Tip:

When it comes time to rent a car for you trip, check out Discover Cars. It’s really easy to use and does all of the price comparing for you, so you can choose the right car for your trip. You’ll save money, and the best part, is there are no hidden fees! In case you’re thinking you don’t need a car in L.A. – think again. The city is massive, and  notorious for having an inadequate public transportation system.  Do yourself a huge favor and go rent a car.

Time To Plan YOUR Visit!

the Tea House at Huntington Garden
©Stephen & Andie

We hope this locals guide to Los Angeles has been helpful. L.A. has been our home for longer than anywhere else we’ve lived and she still has our hearts. For us, the tons of positives greatly outweigh the few negatives. There is so much to do here, that even after decades, we are still finding new things to experience for the first time. And we LOVE sharing it with first-time visitors!

Looking for a little help with travel planning? Visiting L.A. with your pup and looking for dog-friendly hotels in town? We got you:

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Locals Guide to Los Angeles: Insider Tips and Recommendations”

  1. I was in LA a few years ago and really wished I had given it more than the 3 days that I did. I saw a lot but just never got to a few things that I wanted to, due to time constraints. I had not realised that the distances between sites can be huge (and take time) and that public transport is much more limited than I’m used to. I worked out a few bus routes and used the Metro (which was again smaller than I am used to). Clearly cars rule here for transport – interesting that your post details info on car parking . I never realised that there was a hiking trail up to the Hollywood sign which I saw from the foothills. Great info on places to eat here and things to do out of the city. I’ll bear them all in mind for when I am next in LA . Thanks for sharing.

    1. It’s a common problem for visitors to L.A. Having moved there from places that had excellent public transit, I know exactly where you’re coming from! L.A. can be very difficult to navigate without a car, and even with one it takes a lot of planning to make sure that you are being efficient and realistic about how much ground to cover in a day there. We usually tell friends and family to just pick one main thing to do or see per day, and then anything they can add based on the location and surroundings of that primary thing, consider them a bonus! If you get a chance to visit again, please reach out and we’ll be happy to advise any way we can!

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