Where to Travel in September Los Angeles

15 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid Visiting Los Angeles, California (2024)

Los Angeles native here, born and bred, and I love my hometown. Unfortunately there is a tidal wave of bad advice about visiting Los Angeles on the internet. This post is an effort to set the record straight because I want you to love LA too.

The Los Angeles travel guide will help you with the best things to do in LA, the best time to visit Los Angeles, how to get around and where to stay.

This eclectic, fun city is a huge metropolis with distinctly different neighborhoods. If you run around trying to fill up your Instagram feed, you’ll sit in traffic and miss what’s great about visiting LA. You’ll also end up disillusioned.

As I clear up some of the misconceptions below, you’ll also find tips on how to do it right.

Planning your trip to Santa Monica last minute? Here are the tours and hotels we recommend. You will also find 25 Cheap Things to do in Los Angeles and the 12 Best Boutique Hotels in Santa Monica helpful.

Los Angeles Travel Guide: 15 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid

Los Angeles Fog

The Best Time to Visit Los Angeles Isn’t What You Think It Is

Summer is crowded and not necessarily the best time to visit LA because the weather can be dreary with May Grey and June Gloom that bleeds into July.

Los Angeles gets a heavy marine layer on the coast in the early part of the summer. The fog typically burns off in the afternoon but sometimes it’s cold and grey for days. Don’t forget to pack a sweater and pants.

From August through October highs are in the 80s by the beach, 90s inland and regularly over 100 degrees in the Valley. Skip theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios on those crazy hot days.

So skip the summer and visit Los Angeles when the hotel rates start to dip and the sunny California days are picture perfect.

☀️ Best time to visit Los Angeles for good weather – You can get a perfect week any time of year but the best months for 70 degrees and sunny are March, April, November and December.

California Beaches Malibu Lagoon
A perfect winter day at Malibu Lagoon Beach.

Visit Los Angeles Beaches – There are Tons of Beautiful Ones

  • Santa Monica Beach is huge. The entire beach north of the pier for a few miles is an excellent and convenient choice.
  • Pacific Palisades has the ever popular State Beach and the beach near Temescal Canyon. There’s plenty of parking (even free spots on Temescal).
  • Malibu is filled with ideal surfing beaches like Topanga and Surfrider or fun in the sun beaches like Malibu Lagoon, Paradise Cove and Zuma. Many blogs suggest going to El Matador beach, and while it’s beautiful, you’ll be passing at least 10 great beaches on your 24 mile drive to get there.
  • Redondo Beach makes a perfect day trip. Dockweiler Beach in El Segundo may seem like a weird choice but if you’re an airplane geek like me, you’ll love watching jumbo jets fly right overhead.
  • South Bay beaches like Manhattan Beach are also ideal for playing or watching world class beach volleyball.

RELATED POST: 13 Prettiest Southern California Beaches

Visiting Los Angeles Venice Beach
Venice Beach is not pretty the way people make it look in pictures.

The Worst Beaches in LA are Venice and Santa Monica Pier

The worst advice people get about Los Angeles is that Santa Monica Pier and Venice are the best beaches. These are honestly beaches to avoid in Los Angeles. Visitors end up missing the prettiest Southern California Beaches.

  • Venice Beach – Filled with street performers, junky souvenir shops, homeless people, and marijuana vendors wearing green scrubs, this is not the real LA. It’s a grimy sideshow. Venice Beach can be great for interesting photography or a shot under the Venice sign. The best parts of Venice are a few blocks inland on Main Street and Abbott Kinney.
  • Santa Monica Pier – At the pier entrance, there are lots of homeless people and others who prey on tourists. If you really want to see the pier, go early on a weekday. The beach on both sides of the pier is dirty, with sketchy characters.

⚠️ Be Careful – Pay attention to your surroundings at both of these spots. It’s not necessarily dangerous but it’s also not 100% safe. Some of the people you encounter may have mental illness and/or drug issues.

Visiting Los Angeles Traffic

Don’t Underestimate Los Angeles Traffic

Los Angeles rush hour times are pretty much all day long. While the worst LA traffic times are from 7-10am and 2-7pm, you can even find traffic at midnight.

You don’t need to be afraid to drive on LA freeways because the trip is more like a parking lot that barely moves. Some simple tips will make your trip so much better.

  • Pick a hotel where you plan to spend the most time. A friend of mine stayed in Marina Del Rey thinking it was close to where she wanted to be in Santa Monica (4 miles away). It took more than 30 minutes to drive each way every time she had to go back to her hotel. Here are our favorite Santa Monica Hotels.
  • Plan sightseeing strategically. Spend the day in a specific area like Santa Monica or Downtown. Don’t attempt go to the beach in Malibu, shopping on Rodeo Drive and Hollywood in the same day unless you want to spend the whole time in the car.
  • Disneyland is not in LA. You can’t stay at a hotel in Los Angeles and go to Disneyland for a day trip, just know that you’ll spend at least 3 hours in the car. Or stay overnight in Anaheim by the park.
Rental Car Visiting Los Angeles

Renting a Car Will Make Visiting Los Angeles Easier

As much as the powers that be try to improve our public transit system, it’s nowhere near the caliber of other cities. Busses go everywhere but it will take double the amount of time. The metro rail is only convenient getting to and from Downtown.

Renting a car will be your best option to get around for an L.A visit. Google maps has gotten really good at predicting how long it will take to get everywhere and will give you the easiest directions.

Familiarize yourself with the directions before you start driving. You don’t want to be the person getting confused and making everyone honk. Angelenos are typically very friendly but no one likes people who block traffic.

Don’t want to rent a car? You can easily use Uber, Lyft, rental bicycles and scooters to get everywhere.

🚕 Dealing with transportation at LAX is more organized and less crowded with recent airport upgrades. Here is information for every type of transportation at LAX and how to get Ubers and taxis.

Book Your Rental Car Now!

Visiting Los Angeles Airports

LAX is Typically the Best Airport Choice for Visiting LA

The worst advice I read on the internet was to skip LAX and go to one of the other airports. LAX is a huge airport and it’s a pain but it’s the most centrally located.

Burbank Airport and Long Beach Airport are smaller and convenient if your destination is near them, but don’t fly to those airports and drive all the way across town unless you’re just dying to experience the full wrath of LA traffic.

  • LAX is best for Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West LA, and beach cities north of Manhattan Beach. It’s also the top airport choice for Los Angeles in general.
  • Burbank Airport is good for San Fernando Valley, Hollywood or Downtown Los Angeles.
  • Long Beach Airport is good for areas by Long Beach, or south like Disneyland. If you are going to Disneyland, you should check John Wayne Airport too.

✈️ The best advice for Los Angeles airports is to arrive and depart at lowest car traffic times. Weekdays, the best flight times are before 7am, 11am-1pm or after 7pm. Try not to arrive/depart on Friday afternoon. On weekends, before noon is easiest.

Visiting Los Angeles In N Out

Don’t Miss In-N-Out Burger on an LA Visit

In-n-Out is a favorite of Angelenos. There are always long lines and it’s delish. One blogger actually said to skip it (yikes!) and is robbing their readers of a true Los Angeles experience.

There’s no reason you can’t go to other delicious burger places like Father’s Office, The Apple Pan, Tommy’s, Fatburger or the Heavy Handed Food Truck too.. LA has great burgers!

Kill two birds with one stone by going to the In-n-Out next to LAX. If you get to the airport early and like watching planes take off and land, it’s entertainment and good food.

Gracias Madre Visiting Los Angeles

The Best LA Restaurants Are Constantly Changing

We love keeping up with the LA restaurant scene. There’s always something new and exciting and we are great about trying lots of new restaurants.

This city has A LOT of restaurant turnover. Instead of recommending places here that will be outdated quickly, you’ll get more accurate info if you google “best restaurants Los Angeles Summer 2024” or whatever month you are visiting Los Angeles.

LA Eater puts out new lists regularly and they’re a trustworthy source. Time Out and a couple of other websites have the latest hot spots. There are also lists for great coffee shops, brunches, fast food, healthy food, and vegan food.

I constantly see restaurants with crowded parking lots that no locals go to anymore. They are probably recommended by a guide book that is outdated. You will thank me for telling you to use LA Eater for the latest restaurants.

If you really want to know what restaurants we love at the moment, comment below and we’ll answer.

Visiting Los Angeles Museums The Broad

Don’t Skip the Awesome Museums in Los Angeles

You’re probably all about the beach and being outdoors but LA museums are terrific. You could spend your entire trip just visiting museums. There are so many that are well worth your time. Grouped by interest, here are a few recommendations:

Modern Art – The Broad, MOCA, Geffen Contemporary, Hauser & Wirth, Institute of Contemporary Art, LACO

Prettiest Grounds/Views – The Getty Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Getty Villa, The Huntington, Norton Simon Museum, Descanso Gardens, The Arboretum

Best For Kids – La Brea Tar Pits, Petersen Automotive Museum, LACMA, California Science Center, Natural History Museum, Museum of Tolerance, Skirball Cultural Center

Things to do in Los Angeles Hollywood Hiking

Bring Your Workout Clothes

Los Angeles is an exercise obsessed friendly city. The Santa Monica Mountains supply an endless amount of hiking options.

Some of the best trails are Runyon Canyon in Hollywood, Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades, and Sullivan Canyon in Malibu.

You can also stroll the beach boardwalks, rent bikes, go surfing, take workout classes, and even go skiing in winter. Take advantage of the active culture in Los Angeles and have fun with it. No need to put on vacation pounds in LA.

RELATED POST: 10 Best Hikes in Malibu & Pacific Palisades

LA Style is Casual Chic

I read somewhere that people will know you’re a tourist if you are seen in flip flops away from the beach. That’s absolutely false.

The truth is being too dressy, especially in a conservative way, or following directions on your phone will make you look like a tourist.

LA style is trendy casual. Lots of exercise clothes during the day and denim all the time. If you’re not sure what to pack, don’t worry too much because you’ll find tons of boutiques that reflect that relaxed chic that Los Angeles is famous for.

The best places to shop for that LA look is Abbott Kinney in Venice, Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Brentwood Country Mart, Malibu Country Mart, and Melrose Avenue.

If you want upscale designer boutiques, you’ll find them on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, Palisades Village in Pacific Palisades, and Beverly Hills.

There are also great outdoor malls like The Grove and Century City with big chain stores and other great shops.

Santa Monica has some good stores on 3rd Street Promenade but Santa Monica Place is awful right now. A lot of stores closed and the ones that are still open have less inventory. It’s worth driving to Century City.

Visiting Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl

Hollywood Has Great Places to Visit

Most visitors head to Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the footprints at the Chinese Theater. A quick pit stop is enough, then head off to do something much more interesting in Hollywood.

Film buffs should try one of the LA Conservancy’s self guided film location driving tours or a meal at the legendary Musso & Frank Grill. Go shopping for vinyl records at Amoeba Music. Get up close to the Hollywood sign on a hike.

The Hollywood Bowl is one of the best places to visit in Los Angeles. Don’t miss the chance to dine al fresco while you enjoy music under the stars. They have everything from current musical acts to classical music to a Fourth of July extravaganza.

You can even catch a movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Smoking is Prohibited in Many Parts of Los Angeles

Californians don’t embrace cigarette smoke. Strangers will stop you in the street to tell you that you’re not allowed to smoke. If you are more than an occasional smoker, do some research before your trip so you know what to expect.

Los Angeles is proactive about protecting citizens from second hand smoke. There is a ban on smoking indoors everywhere, but in cities like Santa Monica, it’s banned outdoors too. That said, there are a surprising amount of weed stores.

Celebrities Are Not at Tourist Locations

Some people come to Los Angeles hoping to spot celebrities. While there are plenty of famous people living in LA, you will not find them at tourist attractions. They are in grocery stores, at the gym, restaurants, and places where locals live their lives.

There is not a guaranteed place to find celebrities other than getting tickets for a taping of your favorite sitcom.

You can up your chances by going for a hike in Runyon Canyon, catching a Laker game, getting drinks at Chateau Marmont, or eating dinner at the latest restaurants, but there is no guarantee.

The best thing to do, is go where locals go. If you get lucky, great. If you don’t, at least you had an authentic LA experience instead of a super touristy one.

Final Thoughts About A Visit to Los Angeles and Mistakes to Avoid

Hope these tips help you to be more prepared for your Los Angeles trip. Feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

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Visiting Los Angeles California

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  • Reply
    January 17, 2023 at 11:34 pm

    Very helpful thank you….
    There we’re a few things in here that others don’t mention (smoking rules-laws)
    This I’m sure will help me enjoy my trip more and stay out of the spot light

    • Reply
      January 18, 2023 at 3:23 pm

      That’s a good point thanks. Hope you have a great trip!

  • Reply
    October 11, 2021 at 3:13 am

    I loved “Biggest mistakes to avoid and then some of the highlights. . As a local I miss some of those spots . . ..I’ve never had an In and Out Burger . . It’s .on my to do list…AND loved all of the magnificent photos . . . .Many thanks . . Eva

    • Reply
      October 12, 2021 at 2:26 am

      Thanks for the nice message Eva. There are so many great things to see and do in LA. It’s fun writing about our hometown and thinking of all the places we forget about sometimes. Hope you get to In-N-Out soon 😉

  • Reply
    Kara Fox
    September 20, 2021 at 3:05 pm

    great information. I love the link to photography by Riley byington!

  • Reply
    September 20, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I love LA!! My plan is to still live there in the near future.

    Curated By Jennifer

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