Los Angeles seems to be the type of place you either absolutely love or never want to visit again. But I think the people who say they hate it have only seen the tourist traps; not that the touristy places aren’t worth a visit, but there is so much more to L.A. than the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

The city is so diverse in terms of food, landscape, and entertainment, you could easily spend a week or more exploring. But let’s say you only have 24 hours to squeeze in as much as you can. Here’s where to go to get a real taste of everything L.A. has to offer.

Los Angeles 7:00am: Venice Beach

Visiting Venice Beach was the first time I had been to the beach since I was a little kid. And, it was the first time I had ever set my sights on the Pacific Ocean. It truly is a sight to see. The vast ocean, the warm sand, beautiful sunshine.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles, from the Ferris Wheel. / @ Eric R. / Flickr

Venice Beach, Los Angeles, from the Ferris Wheel. / @ Eric R. / Flickr

The perfect, most relaxing way to start your morning would be a long walk on the beach, sandals in one hand and a cup of iced coffee in the other, watching the surfers warm up on the small morning waves.

There are plenty of great little shops just beyond the boardwalk where you can find great souvenirs, fresh produce, and plenty to indulge in for breakfast. Venice Beach is in Culver City, about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown.

Los Angeles 9:00am: Hiking up to the Hollywood Sign

Okay, so this one is a little more touristy, but you have to see the Hollywood sign at least once in your life. Make sure you bring a camera or at least your cell to capture the moment. The drive up to the Hollywood sign is a little rough; the road is really narrow and twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe. But once you get there, it will have totally been worth it.

Panoramic view of the Hollywood Sign from the top of Mt. Lee/ James Gubera, Los Angeles.

Panoramic view of the Hollywood Sign from the top of Mt. Lee/ James Gubera, Los Angeles.

Park on Mulholland Drive and walk up the short hike to hilly spot where you can see the sign perfectly. There’s also a fantastic view of the city that can’t be beat. Beware: getting too close to the Hollywood sign is illegal and could get you into major trouble. This is a designated spot for turistas. Along the way you’ll have time to gawk at the gorgeous homes nestled in the Hollywood Hills as well. Worth the trip. But you’ll probably get hungry after all that beach walking and hiking, so…

Los Angeles 11:00am: El Bronco Taqueria

You’ll need to find a great spot to eat! If you’re a fan of Mexican food, there are plenty of options. But the one I recommend is El Bronco Taqueria, at the corner of Hauser and Venice Blvd. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant has the most amazing carne al pastor y asada you could ever ask for.

Bronco-Taqueria-dish

I recommend the loaded nachos with crema, avocado and fresh made tortilla chips (in the photo above). The food here is simple, tasty, and priced very reasonably.

Los Angeles 1:00pm: Browsing the LA Farmers Market

If you like the feel of thrift stores, haggling, and the 1-on-1 buyer experience, you’re going to love the LA Farmer’s Market. A fun mix between more established restaurants and more one of a kind stands, there is something interesting and unique around every corner. Parisian bakeries, open air restaurants, culinary shops, hot sauce stands (every hot sauce you can imagine!), exotic food and seasonings, fresh produce, etc.

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Bring cash and be ready to dish out serious bones, but it’s well worth it. The market has been an LA staple since 1934 and houses hundreds of individual merchants and vendors. To find out more about planning your trip there, click here.

3:00pm: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a cherished interactive art museum just south of West Hollywood. Slow down your crazy day in LA with a viewing of modern art both inside and out. It’s set among the La Brea tar pits as well, with a really cool viewing area of the natural tar pits and an installation of what it may have looked like thousands of years ago.

LACMAThe museum is also great for the entire family. It costs just $15 for general admission. They also have free admission days sponsored by Target- upcoming freebies include January 1, February 17, and May 26, 2014 (all Mondays!). Plan accordingly!

Los Angeles 8:00pm: Dinner at Foo-Chow and a walk around Chinatown

You’ve had an intense day gallivanting all around LA, and now you need to wind down and find something good to eat. Chinatown is one of the coolest parts of LA, especially at night when the sun has set and the neon lights are a-glow. Make your way towards Foo-Chow Restaurant, where their claim to fame is that part of Rush Hour was filmed there.

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Los Angeles Chinatown at night, by Kevin Wong / Flickr

They have great lunch specials and the food is filling and delicious. They also have a homemade sweet and spicy sauce on every table that will blow your mind. Definitely worth a dinner date. Afterwards, stroll around the area and take in the sights, sounds, and smells.

Los Angeles Honorable mentions:
Phoenix Bakery; The Harry Potter Museum;
The Venice Canals; Olvera Street

All worth a peek if you have extra time!

So this is a lot to squeeze in in one day, I know. But it’s entirely possible if you hustle and you only have a day to see as much as you can of LA. If you have the luxury, take a weekend or more to see LA at a slower pace. But no matter how long you stay, it’ll be worth the trip.

Feature image by Michael Dorausch / Flickr.