I've been enjoying life in Los Angeles since 2007, and after 15 years here, I'm still discovering new ways to experience the city. Due to its size and varied attractions, it can be an overwhelming place for a first-time visit. But three days is the perfect amount of time to experience many of its joys: It's possible to dive into the beach, pop culture history, the diverse food scene, and the hills above the city on a long weekend.
Even on hot days, nights can be cool—pack a light jacket.
If you only have time for one thing, make it the beach.
Take the morning to get an overview of this enormous metropolis. Los Angeles is roughly 500 square miles (in comparison to San Francisco's 49!), so there's a lot of ground to cover. Bus tours allow you to see how everything fits together and note where you'd like to explore further.
Pop over Cahuenga Pass on Highway 101 to Hollywood for a hike in the Hollywood Hills. Other stops I love include Barnsdall Park, Amoeba Records, El Capitan movie theater, Musso & Frank Grill, and Griffith Observatory. The area really comes alive at night, so be sure to check out the thriving restaurant and bar scene.
Explore LA's "Westside" today at the beach. Consider brunch on Malibu's historic pier and make your way down to Santa Monica for some sun and surf. You'll cover a lot of ground by renting a bike and riding the boardwalk to see Venice, Muscle Beach, and the beach cities of Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Manhattan Beach.
Grab lunch at a cafe along the shoreline, the birthplace of California Cool. Finish the day in the water and try the activity that locals love: surfing.