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How to Beat the Crowds in Los Angeles

From timing-out traffic to visiting local spots, here’s how to beat the crowds in Los Angeles.

Hi, I'm Daniel!

Daniel Modlin is a writer and editor based out of Austin, TX, covering food, travel, and the environment. His work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, WIRED, Architectural Digest, and more. Follow his work on Twitter and Instagram.

A poster child for urban sprawl, Los Angeles is known for its huge network of freeways that connects 84 neighborhoods across 469 square miles (1,210 square kilometers). This sprawling landscape means that LA has crowds that are difficult to avoid, whether you’re on foot or in a traffic jam. But there are ways to avoid traffic and swarms of people in the second-largest US city—you just have to know where to start. Make sure your time in Los Angeles is spent enjoying the sunshine instead of being stuck on the freeway by following these tips.

Skip the Instagram spots for real local food

Food trucks lined up on a sunny LA street.
LA's food scene is unreal.Foto: Idealphotographer / Shutterstock

Eat your heart out.

Los Angeles is an awesome destination for foodies. But, if you want to avoid crowds, don’t flock to the latest restaurant in your Instagram feed. Instead, take time to seek out some of LA’s most beloved local spots for a bite to eat. The most efficient way to do this is with a local food tour, where you will learn about some of LA’s best bites ranging from Japanese specialties in Little Tokyo to freshly made fare at Grand Central Market. The food scene in Los Angeles is always evolving, so let a local guide you—and your palate—toward under-the-radar grub.

Take a private tour

A private tour takes place by a fountain in LA.
It just makes things easier.Foto: David A Litman / Shutterstock

See the city of stars like a star.

Many of Los Angeles’ top attractions are notoriously overcrowded. Take the Griffith Observatory, to which tourists flock for its stunning skyline views, or the streets of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, which are typically swarming with gawkers. With a private tour, you can maneuver around the masses and feel like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. A savvy LA tour guide can also take you to star-studded places both on and off the beaten path while you relax, worry-free, in a luxury SUV.

Hit the beach

Friends stroll a beach path in LA beneath the palm trees.
LA's beaches really make the city.Foto: telesniuk / Shutterstock

Come on in—the water’s fine.

Los Angeles earned its sun-soaked reputation thanks to its more than 75 miles (121 kilometers) of coastline and more than 100 beaches. Whether you opt for Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Venice, Malibu, or somewhere in between, Los Angeles has plenty of urban beaches where you trade the noise of the freeway for the calming sounds of waves crashing on the shore. If you’re up for trying something new, you can take a surfing lesson.

Let someone else do the driving

A couple checks directions in a convertible in LA.
You won't regret letting someone else taking the wheel.Foto: AlessandroBiascioli / Shutterstock

See LA’s roadways in style.

Los Angeles is infamous not only for its bumper-to-bumper traffic but also for its aggressive drivers. To avoid sitting in gridlock among honking Angelenos, try a private or shared driving tour. A chauffeured tour of the city is practical, giving you the chance to whizz around town without having to worry about glitchy GPS routes and other driving headaches. In short, hiring a private driver for the day or half-day allows you to sit back in style like a movie star while seeing everything this sprawling city has to offer.

Take a hike

A hiker checks out the Hollywood Sign in LA.
LA's canyons were made for hiking.Foto: Personal Belongings / Shutterstock

There are so many trails to explore.

From the vast Runyon Canyon Park, one of LA's most treasured urban wildlife oases, to the iconic Hollywood sign, Los Angeles is filled with scenic hiking trails. While popular with locals, these trails are often relatively empty—especially compared to the typical tourist circuit. If you are in search of peace and quiet as well as spectacular city views, escape the bustling city below and head for the hills for a leisurely hike.

Take flight

An aerial view of downtown LA and the surrounding sprawl.
The views are unbeatable.Foto: Freezframz / Shutterstock

Now that’s one way to beat traffic.

Sometimes there’s no way around LA traffic beyond taking a helicopter tour and soaring above it all. If you need to get from point A to point B in a hurry, a ride in a chopper might just do the trick. For travelers who are looking for a cool or romantic way to see the City of Angels—and are ready to splurge—a helicopter tour can be a magical way to take in views of LA’s dramatic landscape, from the city to the sea.

Nobody walks in LA

The Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Even in Downtown LA, you'll find peaceful streets.Foto: Heather Schor / Shutterstock

So try it out.

It’s true that hardly anyone walks in LA. So, a great way to avoid swarms of people is to hit the sidewalks for yourself. One place to do this safely is in Downtown Los Angeles. The historic core of the city, DTLA has plenty to explore, from architectural landmarks to the arts and jewelry districts. But, as city centers go, the streets are almost empty, making it a great place to stretch your legs while you soak up southern California culture.

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