Drive-Yourself Los Angeles Visitors Tour

You can get a guided tour around the most famous sights in Los Angeles or you could drive yourself around. Or do both, of course. When you drive yourself, we’ve come up with two possibilities. They both will take about a day and they both will give you a somewhat different impression of what life in Los Angeles has to offer. The first tour setup will guide you through what everybody knows as Los Angeles, at least the best part of the city. The second tour, the tour around the tourists (not guaranteed you won’t see them) is a bit more off the beaten path. It will guide you through somewhat more remote parts of town and will give you an insight into what other great inspiration LA has to offer, such as the tranquility and closeness of the wilderness and the best of Californian beach life a bit to the south. Enjoy both rides and take your time.

Before you start touring get a good map of Los Angeles. One of the best, we think, are the hard copy maps supplied by Rand McNally available in the better book stores or print some good maps from MapQuest. Also Checkout our ServiceDesk Maps section for routes and maps described in the articles below.

santa monica pier visitors guide

Santa Monica

Star early, well, we mean before 10 AM or so. Santa Monica is famous for its Pier, Third (or 3rd) Street Shopping Promenade (between Broadway and Santa Monica Ave.), its beaches and Main Street. Its all within walking distance and the bright light of the Californian sun and the cool ocean breeze will help you to enjoy the sights and sounds of it all even better. Although Main Street is just a few (hundred) steps further away from Third Street Promenade it’s definitely less crowded and worth a visit. We mean, don’t think of it as a huge street with hundreds of stores, think of it as a street where the locals hang out. With some little shops, coffeehouses and some fine dining. It’s just relaxing and a bit away from the crowds. You’ll also find the Urth Caffe’s Santa Monica location here, a good place to eat some great yet very affordable food. Find more about Urth Caffe at our Where to eat section.

santa monica pier

When you’ve taken about an hour to visit Main Street and had your Coffee from Starbucks or the Coffee Bean start driving towards Ocean Ave. When you get to Ocean Avenue continue north until you ‘hit’ Wilshire Blvd. Take Wilshire all the way up and enjoy a typical broad LA street. Wilshire could take you all the way up to Downtown but we make a little d-tour in Westwood.

Westwood

Therefore you take Wilshire Blvd up to Westwood Ave. and take a left. Best is to park your car and walk around but you could also drive a bit and find your way through LA’s student residential village of Westwood. Students living here attend UCLA, The University of California at Los Angeles, just behind the residential area. In total 22.000 students attend. You could even walk up to the UCLA campus (image) and find out why this University is such an amazing place to get inspired to learn.

Beverly Hills Family vacation

Beverly Hills

From Westwood Ave. or any of its parallel streets drive back onto Wilshire Blvd and continue East again towards Beverly Hills. When entering Beverly Hills continue driving on Wilshire Blvd until you ‘hit’ Rodeo Drive. Take Rode Drive and park your car or again drive through what is known as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. You’ll find pretty much all the exclusive designer labels on and around Rodeo Drive. You could also cross Santa Monica Avenue into the residential area of Beverly Hills and see some of the upper-class houses and Palm tree-studded avenues. Done shopping? Drive back onto Wilshire Blvd and continue East again.

West Hollywood

Still driving on Wilshire Blvd, passing Doheney Drive, you’ll enter the City of West-Hollywood, known for its nightlife and gay scene. You will see more of this when driving back later on Sunset Blvd. Continue driving until your hit Fairfax Avenue and then take a left onto Fairfax driving North.

Cool things to do in California

Hollywood

You are now driving in an area most often referred to as Hollywood. Not a separate city with its own counsel like West-Hollywood, but one of many parts of the City of Los Angeles and in this case famous for its movie history. When you are driving on Fairfax you’ll come across 3rd Street. Here you will find an interesting Farmers Market to you’re right and one of the newest Shopping Malls in LA, named The Grove, right behind the Farmers Market. Check out our section about shopping for more details. But it’s surely worth a stop and look around here!

When done strolling along with the many shops, boutiques, department stores, and little diners that the Farmers Market and The Grove offer, continue driving North on Fairfax Ave until you ‘hit’ Sunset Blvd. Then go Right on Sunset and continue East. Then take a Left on Highland and pass Hollywood Blvd. Then go immediately left and drive into the Parking Structure underneath the Hollywood & Highland Mall. A perfect place to park your car and enjoy Hollywood’s biggest attraction, the section of Hollywood Blvd between Highland Ave and La Brea Ave. Here you will find the ‘stars’ in the pavement, the famous Mann’s Chinese Theatre opposite Disney’s generously restored El Capitan Theatre and a fairly new shopping mall you just parked underneath. Of course, this section also houses the Kodak Theatre, annually in the spotlight during the Oscar night. Check out our shopping section for more details about Hollywood & Highland.

When your day is almost over we would suggest you take Sunset Blvd. all the way back down (West) to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and then head back towards Santa Monica, by going left (South) on PCH. An amazing drive all the way down!

Downtown

But when you have time left and there is plenty of daylight time remaining, continue on Highland Ave. (also when exiting the parking structure) and go North towards the 101 Freeway. Take the 101 Freeway South towards Downtown. Exit the 101 Freeway on … avenue. Now you are in a completely different world. Tall buildings and skyscrapers all around reminding people of New York City or San Francisco, yet different. It’s easy to drive around a bit and find your way. Most streets, however, are one-way so pay attention here. And better not stay around here after 7 PM because when the working people leave, it gets rather quiet pretty fast. But don’t get frightened or anything just use some common sense and it’s worth a trip to see the difference between Downtown LA and the rest of Los Angeles.

Sunset Blvd.

Drive back from Downtown LA taking the 101 Freeway North. Then exit on Highland Ave. Drive South on Highland Ave. until you get to Sunset Blvd. Turn right (West) onto Sunset Blvd. and take it al the way down to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Then take a left on PCH and head back towards Santa Monica. An amazing drive all the way down!

sunset blvd la ca
Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles

This drive will take you past the ‘Sunset Strip’, between Fairfax and Doheney, where a major part of nightlife in LA is taking place. During the day it’s also fun driving by and enjoys the ‘fighting’ between the billboards for your attention. Pay attention to the road of course!

Then Sunset Blvd. will take you further West through Beverly Hills residential areas, past the Gates to Bell Air, along UCLA’s Northern Entrance and into the secluded village of Pacific Palisades all the way down to the Ocean! Need we say more? At the end of Sunset Blvd. go left onto the Pacific Coast Highway towards Santa Monica (and get off again before it turns into the 10 Freeway).

The next Los Angeles Tour Guide will lead you a bit more off the beaten path. Go Around the Tourists and discover another part of Los Angeles in the next post.

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