If you want to enjoy the City of Angels without the pitfalls of traffic and price gouging, then please do not do these things in Los Angeles.
There are so many things to do in Los Angeles and it’s one of the greatest cities in the world, but like most major metropolises, it’s filled with its share of idiosyncrasies, stereotypes, and pratfalls. Spend a day here and you can eat like a king, surf like a seal, and gawk at out-of-this-world art, but it’s just as easy to fall prey to mind-numbing traffic, annoying price gouging, and Draconian parking rules. So, if you want to do the City of Angels right, here’s a list of 14 things to avoid that’ll help you keep L.A. in its epic golden light.
Don’t Drive on the Highway Between the Hours of 8-10 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.
L.A. traffic is not a myth and the surest way to ruin your vacation is to get on the highway during rush hour. Granted, it’s only 15 miles from the beaches of Santa Monica to the high-rises of Downtown, but if you take the I-10 highway in the late afternoon, that drive could feel like a lifetime. Here’s one of the best-kept secrets of L.A.: no one wakes up early on the weekend, so, if you want to get anywhere on a Saturday or Sunday, handle your business before 10 a.m.
Don’t Be Fooled by Los Angeles Parking Rules and Signs
L.A. has a lot of rules, and parking can be one of the most confusing parts of the city. There are myriad signs that tell you about street cleaning, permit zones, confounding no parking hours, and more. Parking tickets range from $65 to a whopping $825 (for repeat offenders) and are the quickest way to a miserable day. Read the signs carefully and know that if a spot is too good to be true, that’s probably because it’s illegal.
Don’t Eat at Pink’s Hot Dogs
If you want to stand in line for 30 minutes or more for a mediocre hot dog, have at it. But L.A. is a hot dog lovers’ haven with multiple options that leave Pink’s in the dust. One of the most famous franks is at Dodger Stadium, home of the succulent Dodger Dog. Opt for the grilled link over the steamed when venturing into the bowels of the stadium. Other great L.A. choices include Wurstküche, which has sausages that range from chicken and pork to rattlesnake and rabbit in multiple locations. On the historic side, check out Tale O’ The Pup, a classic stand dating to 1946 and currently being restored to its original glory.
Don’t Take a Star Home Tour
Lining Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards you’ll find no shortage of sightseeing companies and vendors handing out brochures and maps for guided and self-guided tours of celebrity homes. A lot of celebrities don’t even live in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, and the ones who do treasure their privacy and often have large fences around their residences. You’re more likely to see a celebrity at niche shopping areas, such as the Brentwood or Malibu Country Marts, or hobnobbing in a recently opened restaurant.
Don’t Shop on Rodeo Drive or at The Grove
Rodeo Drive and The Grove aren’t short on upscale shops or people watching. But if you want to avoid the hordes of snap-happy tourists, there are better options for the design-savvy shoppers. Check out Robertson Boulevard and West Third Street for high-end boutiques and trendy designers just adjacent to Beverly Hills. On the west side in Santa Monica, Montana Avenue is a tree-lined strip with more than 150 specialty shops and restaurants.
Don't Take Selfies at the Pink Wall of the Paul Smith Store on Melrose
You’ve probably seen it on your friend’s Instagram story, a giant pink wall against the perfect blue-sky background. This is the Paul Smith store in West Hollywood where clout chasers come to prove their traveling bona fides. Outside the store are dozens of people, waiting in a non-existent line for the right moment to bathe themselves in pink. Don’t be that person. In fact, if you actually go inside the store (novel thought), you’ll discover some of the chicest men’s and women’s apparel in all of Los Angeles.
Don’t Hike Runyon Canyon
Runyon Canyon is one of the most popular hiking trails in L.A., which is likely due to its location in the middle of the city. This also makes it one of the most crowded hiking spots around. To escape the mob, head over to Griffith Park, home to the Griffith Observatory and more than 50 miles of hiking. Farther west, near the Pacific Palisades, is Topanga Canyon, which offers trails through the Santa Monica Mountains and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
Don’t Go to Hollywood and Highland
Do you like being harassed by buskers? Do you enjoy people trying to sell you their CDs? Is taking a photo with a fake Superman or Chewbacca for a couple of dollars your idea of a good time? Then Hollywood and Highland is for you! Here’s the thing, the Times Square of L.A. is a tourist trap, and if you want to see the famed Chinese Theatre with celebrity handprints, you’ll have to brave the gauntlet of hawkers who are out to get your money. The good news is that the Hollywood Walk of Fame extends 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, so you can still catch a glimpse of the stars without the hassle.
Don’t Rely on Public Transportation or Taxis
Los Angeles is in the middle of massive public transportation revitalization, but trains and subways around the city are still few and far between and won’t be fully up and running until the 2028 Olympics. Buses aren’t much better and a trip from LAX to Hollywood can take upwards of an hour and a half. As for taxis, L.A. isn’t like New York where you can hail a yellow car from anywhere. You’re better off using Uber or Lyft as they’re more reliable and typically much cheaper than a regular cab.
L.A. gets a bad rap when it comes to walking and many of the city’s best neighborhoods are great for strolling and discovering. However, don’t even think about jaywalking. L.A. cops are just waiting for people to disregard traffic signals and will shell out tickets to the tune of $200! Ultimately, L.A. is mostly flat, and areas like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Venice are great for walking around and finding the city’s true character.
Don’t Ignore Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown L.A. is one of the most eclectic parts of the city and features unbeatable restaurants, museums, and historical sites. On the food front, Grand Central Market is L.A.’s best food hall with dozens of vendors, and Smorgasburg on Sundays at The Row is an exceptional open-air food market. In the heart of Downtown is the Broad Museum for modern art lovers, which is next door to the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, and across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art. One downside of Downtown is Skid Row–where thousands of L.A.’s unhoused are congregated–and it can be dangerous to walk around at night.
Don’t Try to See the Entire City in One Visit
If you try to see Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice, and the beach cities in one trip, you’ll only catch glimpses of each neighborhood and will spend most of your visit in traffic. Maximize your travel time and stick to one area at a time, such as Santa Monica, which offers easy access to Malibu, Venice, and other parts of the west side.
Don't Get Up Close and Personal With the Hollywood Sign
While there are a couple of different hikes to the Hollywood Sign, such as the Hollywood Ridge and Beachwood Canyon trails, your best view and photo is likely to be well beneath it, from various trails around Griffith Park. If you try to climb the heavily guarded fence surrounding the sign, you could get a hefty fine or a not-so-nice night in jail.
Don’t Go to In-N-Out
Okay this might be controversial, but before talking about the quality of the food, it’s important to remind readers about In-N-Out’s very, not-so-cool, history with the LGBTQIA+ community and their blatant disregard of mask mandates in California. But on the food front–and the controversial take–the burger is just fine, and the lines are always too long. The good news is that L.A. is a burger-lover’s paradise where you can find quality patties at every price point. Check out HIHO Cheeseburger which serves grass-fed wagyu burgers for only $8, or the trendy smash burgers at For the Win, or the “you-can’t-believe-it’s-not-meat” burgers at Monty’s Good Burger.