If it’s your first time visiting Los Angeles, there are certain sightseeing attractions you just don’t want to miss. Follow this LA first-timer's itinerary to discover some of the spots that make Los Angeles a world-class destination.
Begin the day by visiting LA’s most iconic building, Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. After 9 a.m. you can pay to park under the building. Take some time to explore the large lobby. Notice its sleek wood and abstract tree trunk designs. Listen to its acoustic qualities. See how the elaborate floral motif appears throughout the venue, giving the concert hall a close connection to gardening, one of Lillian Disney’s favorite pastimes. Outside, stroll through the Urban Garden and admire the beauty of the various plants, trees and flowers of the garden.
When you leave, drive north on Grand Ave. to Cesar Chavez Blvd., then head west. Within a few blocks the street will change its name to Sunset Blvd., one of LA’s most well-known streets. At the Hillhurst/Virgil intersection, take Hollywood Blvd. into the heart of Hollywood. Just before Vine St. you’ll see Pantages Theatre on the right. Opened in 1930, this lavish movie palace was once home to the Oscars and many glamorous premieres.
The circular building to the north is Capitol Records, the world’s first circular office building. If you have time, drive up to see the mural on the south side. It pays homage to Capitol stars, including Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday.
Continue along Hollywood Blvd. At the northwest corner of Highland is Hollywood & Highland Center (pay-parking underneath, be sure to get a validation). This dramatic landmark is filled with shops and eateries, ranging from Louis Vuitton to California Pizza Kitchen, so it's a great place to browse and refuel.
Spend some time shopping for your favorite fashions, or make like a tourist and get a perfect photo of the Hollywood Sign from the upper walkway. Don’t forget Hollywood & Highland’s Kodak Theatre, the home of the Oscars. Behind-the-scenes, 30-minute guided tours are offered daily from 10:30 a.m–2:30 p.m. (4 p.m. in summer).
As you walk west, check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame — bronze stars set in terrazzo honoring the preeminent people and personalities in the entertainment industry. The commotion in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre goes on all day, every day. Have your picture taken with Darth Vader, Marilyn look-a-likes or a dozen other possibilities. Then explore the courtyard itself with famous footprints and handprints of Hollywood’s favorite celebrities.
To get back to Sunset Blvd., drive south on Highland and head west on Sunset. Just past Crescent Heights is the famous Sunset Strip. Both sides of the street are lined with clubs like House of Blues, The Comedy Store, Viper Room, The Laugh Factory and The Roxy. Legendary hotels (The Mondrian, Sunset Tower Hotel) and the celebrity-popular boutiques at Sunset Plaza are also major attractions.
As you continue to drive west, you’ll notice that the glitter of Tinseltown turns green as you pass by meticulously landscaped mansions. Take a few minutes to drive around the residential streets just south of Sunset, all named after different types of trees — Palm, Maple, Elm. This is the part where you say, “I want that house.” “No, that one.” “No, that one.”