Three Perfect Days in LA


If you’re planning your first trip to LA, or are looking for new things to do while you’re here, we’ve asked our closest friends to plan out a perfect 3 days in LA.

Tarin & Brian

Brian and Tarin are in their 30s, have a newborn baby, and are both in the moving pictures industry in LA.  Brian is also in the wedding party.  Brian and Tarin both have a passion for the film industry, both studied at the American Film Institute, and both have been involved in major Hollywood productions.

Todd & Eva

Eva is one of Kim’s closest friends and is in the wedding party.  Eva and Todd are originally from Los Angeles, and currently live in Irvine, CA.  They are in their mid 30s and have a newborn baby.

Lakshmi & Gautam

Lakshmi and Gautam are originally from India and have lived in Los Angeles for 5 years.  Lakshmi is a management consultant and Gautam is a writer.

Lora & Heather

Lora is Kim’s cousin, and she grew up in Southern California.  Her partner, Heather, grew up in Connecticut but has lived in LA for the past 15 years.  Lora and Heather enjoy the outdoors, good food, and good scenery.

Helen & Luis

Who better to ask for 3 perfect days than the bride’s parents?  Helen and Luis raised a family in LA and know how to have a good time!  If you have young kids and are looking for fun in LA while you’re here, here are Helen & Luis’s suggestions.

Day 1: The Best of Orange County

2 rounds of golf (36 holes) at the North and South courses of the newly renovated Pelican Hill Golf/Resort

Located in Newport Coast

  1. 2 18 hole courses that hug and overlook Newport Beach’s coast

  2. First Class Service and Amenities

  3. Hotel/resort accommodations on site and within walking distance to the course

  4. Close to major shopping areas for the spouse that does not golf

  5. Spa onsite for the spouse that does not golf (for those staying at the resort)

  6. Camp Pelican for those with children (for those staying at the resort)

Shopping at Fashion Island

Located in Newport Beach

  1. Newport Beach open air shopping and dining along the coast

  2. Features Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and other unique boutiques

Shopping at Crystal Cove Promenade

Located in Newport Beach

  1. Minutes from Pelican Hill and Laguna’s Village

  2. Beautiful ocean views while shopping for home good or clothing

  3. Great dining options (Javier’s, Mastro’s Ocean Club, Bluefin)

Shopping at South Coast Plaza

Located in Costa Mesa

  1. 250 boutiques

  2. 30 restaurants

  3. 4 performing arts venues

Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch at Pacific Whey Café  at either Crystal Cove Promenade or South Coast Plaza

Located in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach

Fast, fresh, and healthy with daily fresh baked pastries!

Brunch at Old Vine

Located in Costa Mesa

  1. Serving fresh seasonal and locally grown ingredients in all their homemade soups and creative salads

  2. Features a specialty food and wine store

Pageant of the Masters

Located in Laguna Beach

  1. Runs only between July 5 – August 31

  2. 500 volunteers are transformed into life sized re-creations of some of the world’s most famous art works on stage

Dinner at Mastro’s Ocean

Located in Newport Beach

Dry aged steaks cooked to perfection

Dinner at Bluefin

Located in Newport Beach

Best Omakase sushi experience! from Chef Takashi Abe.

Day 2: Bicycling Along the California Coast

Newport/Back Bay Leg Burner Ride

Located in Newport Beach

For advanced riders.

There will be a lot of food at Kim’s wedding, so burn those calories!  It is a challenging but beautiful ride to the coast.

Santa Ana River Trail South

Located in Newport Beach

For novice/recreational riders.

Ride North from Huntington Beach to Sunset Beach hugging the sandy Huntington and Seal Beach.  Enjoy the Summer and people along the beach.  There are facilities all along this path.

Huntington Beach Pier

Located in Huntington Beach

  1. Lots of beach boutiques selling everything from beach apparel, home decorations, souvenirs, to surf boards, and plenty of microbreweries.

  2. Restaurants/fast food chains that have al fresco seating facing the ocean. Duke’s is a local favorite and right off the sand.

  3. Great place to people watch

  4. On the weekends there are usually independent artists and street performers that bring a lively atmosphere

  5. Summer months usually bring the surf competitions to this part of the beach

Seal Beach Pier

Located in Seal Beach

  1. Quaint and quieter beach

  2. Stop by Bogart’s café for a cup of coffee or iced tea to sip while enjoying the ocean view

  3. Have lunch at any of the fast but tasty diners/restaurants, some with window service

  4. There’s a Ruby’s diner at the end of the pier. Stop by for lunch or a shake

  5. Main street is the beach’s downtown area. There are lots of cute stores to peruse.

  6. There are several Irish themed pub/bar/grills on Main street that serve great food and beer

  7. Enjoy the sunset from the pier with Catalina Island as a backdrop

Day 3: A Day at the Beach

Paddle Boarding

Doheny State Beach

A great way to have fun and stay fit!  Doheny State Beach also has an aquarium and lots of different nature attractions.

Surfing Lessons

Located in Huntington Beach

The ankle slapping waves in California will guarantee success popping up on the board and you might just pick up a new hobby

Kite Surfing

Located in Huntington Beach

  1. If you like to fly and liked surfing, this is the best of both worlds.

  2. Best way to get the adrenaline pumping and catch some major air over the Pacific

Lunch at Duke’s

Located in Huntington Beach

  1. Dukes is an icon along any coastal city/town

  2. Dukes is where fish tacos were supposedly invented

  3. The location is right off the sand and a great place to see and be seen in a temperature controlled setting

Watch the US Open of Surfing

Located in Huntington Beach

  1. The best in the surf world come together to show off

  2. There are other extreme beach sport competitions and exhibits

  3. Free concerts

Rent Beach Cruisers or Rollerblades

Located in Huntington Beach

  1. Bike/rollerblade up and down the board walk. Head South to Newport Beach or North to Seal/Long Beach.

  2. Lost of rental places along the beach

Dinner at the Waterfront

Located in Huntington Beach

  1. Towel off and enjoy a sunset dinner at the Hilton Hotel across the street from  Huntington Beach

Day 1: Jewels by the Pacific

Breakfast at the Rose Cafe

Rose Cafe: 220 Rose Av, Venice.

The Rose Cafe is lively, friendly place with good food, and is a good choice for brunch, to sustain you through this busy day.

Tour of the Adamson House

23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu.

A visit to the classic Malibu home, the Adamson House, is like stumbling upon a beautiful shell on the beach. It's small, but really worth a visit—not just for the house itself, but the stunning tilework, the views, and even the drive to and from Malibu.

The Getty Villa

17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades.

(Entrance is free, but you will need to reserve a timed ticket well in advance. Do it now!)

While a day at the Getty Center is an absolute LA must-do, its lesser known cousin by the coast, the Getty Villa, is also too beautiful to miss. Like the Getty Center, the Villa combines art, architecture, and gardens, and uses its location to best advantage, with great views around unexpected corners.

Wind Down at Father’s Office

1018 Montana Av, Santa Monica.

If you like burgers, the Father's Office version is definitely one to add to your collection—one that, arguably of course, defines LA's gourmet burger experience. There's a large collection of craft beers and wines.

Day 2: Pipe Organs and City Grit

Day 3: California History and New American Theater in Orange County

Brunch at Langer’s Deli

We'd hop onto LA's metro rail, taking the Red or Purple Line to the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. We'd have brunch at Langer's Deli, eating their #19 pastrami sandwich.

Los Angeles has an excellent metro rail service. It's clean and punctual, and the stations are large and full of murals and other art. It is the best way to get around downtown LA. If you think NYC is the place for the best pastrami sandwich in the world, you haven't eaten at  Langer's Deli. If you haven't had pastrami before, take just one look at the picture on the Langer's website.

Free Pipe Organ Concert

First Congressional Church of Los Angeles

We'd then walk to the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles (FCC LA) for its free Thursday pipe organ concert at 12:10pm.  The FCC LA has the largest church organ in the world, with 20,000 pipes. The largest of these, you feel rather than hear. The church also features fascinating gothic revival architecture and some rather dramatic stained glass.

Sightseeing in Downtown LA

Downtown Los Angeles

Then we'd get back onto the metro, visiting downtown LA, taking advantage of the many signs and self-guided walking tours to see its amazing buildings and other sights, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Union Station, the Pueblo and Olvera Street, Angels Flight, the Pope of Broadway mural, Grand Central Market, and making sure not to miss the interior of the Bradbury Building (made famous in the Ridley Scott film 'Bladerunner').

Downtown LA is like Los Angeles in general. It's difficult to get a sense of, has great beauty and great ugliness, but has something new and wonderful for you every time you come back to it. Some of its buildings are beautiful, and the Bradbury Building is truly breathtaking.  

Drive on Pacific Coast Highway

PCH along the California Coast

After an easy morning to recover from all the walking of the previous day, we'd take a leisurely drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, passing through all the beach towns of Orange County on our way to San Juan Capistrano (SJC)

Tour of San Juan Capistrano Mission

26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano

We'd visit the mission, taking the audio tour, and then wander around the historic town center of San Juan Capistrano.

We love the California missions, and the mission at SJC is certainly the prettiest in the Los Angeles area. This mission, famous for the swallows that return to nest every year, has beautiful gardens and a well-laid-out museum. The atmospheric chapel is the oldest building in California still in use, and the wine vats here are most likely the birthplace of the California wine industry. Historic San Juan Capistrano right opposite, is just as picturesque—with old bungalows, a vine-covered train station and quirky shops.

Watch a Play at the South Coast Repertory

655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

The South Coast Repertory is one of the US's foremost producers of new plays, though they also present classics and dance on its three stages. On a visit to NYC when we interacted with various theatre professionals, South Coast Rep was the name that came up over and over again when we said we lived in Southern California—it's a highly respected institution.

Day 1: An Eating Tour of Pasadena, the City of Roses

You are in for a treat!  Pasadena has some great places to grab a bite.  If you want something a little different than what’s on here (e.g, dim sum, El Salvadorian, pizza), contact us through Kim & Curt!

Breakfast at Europane

2 locations – original at Colorado near Mentor (free parking on street) and newest one at Colorado near Garfield (across the street from Paseo Colorado outdoor mall; metered street parking)

Oh start here!  Different menus at each of the 2 locations; serves breakfast & lunch (if you can do it, try the egg salad sandwich, but beware, there’s 5 whole eggs in that deliciousness!); dog-friendly

Lunch at the Green Street Restaurant

California cuisine; outdoor patio, try the Dianne salad (yummy!)

Dinner at Arroyo Chop House

Not only beef steaks but also fish, chicken, veal, and pork; our favorite – the rib eye (skip the sauces)!

Day 2: More Great Food in Pasadena

Brunch at Elements Cafe

Outdoor seating; dog-friendly; we like their brunch menu.  This is also a favorite of the dog of honor, Bixby!

Lunch at the Raymond Restaurant

Wonderfully charming place (converted Craft-man’s style care-taker’s cottage ); contemporary California cuisine; outdoor patio; dog-friendly.  Amazing food!

Dinner at the Langham Hotel and Spa

Now, you shouldn’t need a place to go to for dinner (Saturday);  you should be at the wedding at the Langham Hotel & Spa!

Snack at Wolfe Burgers

If you get hungry, go to Wolfe Burgers for hamburgers, hot dogs, tamales, fries, and more!  Yum!

Day 3: Winding Up a Great Weekend

Brunch at Le Grande Orange

Very cool place; converted train station waiting area; try the sangria and the taco platters (the ahi tuna); outdoor back patio with fireplace

Chinese Banquet

Monterey Palace Restaurant

The place where Kim and Curt’s banquet will be held on Sunday after the wedding.  Go early and try it for Dim Sum or other tasty Chinese food!

Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

Odd combination but oh so good!  (scrap off excess butter)

Day 1: The Happiest Place on Earth


1313 So. Harbor Blvd. Anaheim, CA 92802

I’ve always loved to take the kids on the Tea Cups, Big Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones.

Disneyland is a fun place for the family to visit.  It is a very large park and being it is summer, there will be long lines for all the major attractions.   My kids always loved the Dole Pineapple Whips when the lines got too long.  Every evening they have a wonderful laser and fireworks show!

Breakfast at Huge Tree Pastry

Monterey Park, CA

I would start off early in the morning and have a good breakfast before heading to the park.  We would have a great Taiwanese breakfast at Huge Tree  Pastry in Monterey Park.

Day 2: Universal Studios Hollywood

Breakfast at at EAT

North Hollywood, CA

Start the day off early with breakfast at EAT just up the street in North Hollywood, a local fixture for breakfast among the locals.

Universal Studios

1000 Universal Center Dr. Universal City, CA 91608

When you get to the park, start with the tram studio tour.  Then enjoy some of the rides such as Jurassic Park, Mummy, and Shrek.  You can also enjoy the special effects stage tours.

It is interesting to get a glimpse of how movies are made with all the special effects and sound stages.

Day 3: A Break from Amusement Parks

The following places are good alternatives to the amusement parks.  You can visit the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary Seaport.  You can spend a whole day by the coast and still not visit the beach!

Aquarium of the Pacific

100 Aquarium Way Long Beach,  CA. 90802

See the natural side of LA and visit the Aquarium of the Pacific. You can see all sorts of marine wildlife native to the Pacific Ocean.   You can see sharks, otters and rays. 

The aquarium is very kid-friendly and is a great way to teach your kids about different species that inhabit the waters off California’s coast.

Lunch at Yard House Long Beach

401 Shoreline Village Dr.  Long Beach, CA 90802

After a morning spent in the aquarium, a great place for a good lunch is the Yard House in the Shoreline Village.

We like the Yard House for their Firecracker wings and coconut shrimp.  Kim’s dad especially likes the Thai Pizza.

Queen Mary Seaport

1126 Queens Highway Long Beach,  CA. 90802

Next, I would hop over to the Queen Mary since it’s in the same city.  Take a tour of the big boat and learn about its historical past.

The enormous boat is truly grand and it’s so interesting to see how people traveled in luxury back in the 1930s to the 1960s.