los angeles weekend getaway

See the City of Angels in a new light. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

See Los Angeles 3 Ways in 3 Days

Southern California is a sprawling cornucopia of cities, all with their own distinctive personalities. Only have three days and trying to narrow down where to partake in the fun? We’re scratching the surface with suggestions to whet appetites for return visits for years to come.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Day 1: Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena

Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” used to announce its location as “Beautiful Downtown Burbank.” Today, Burbank is still the home of NBC and Disney Studios. Don’t expect to find high-rises, though.

Visitors are more likely to encounter cowboys (the 75-acre Los Angeles Equestrian Center is based here), vintage lovers scouring Magnolia Boulevard for one-of-a-kind finds, and Porto’s Bakery & Cafe, with a line of people circling the block, waiting for Cuban potato balls and dreamy cakes.

Some favorite Burbank haunts to check out: Viva Rancho Cantina for great Mexican fare and live music; Tony’s Darts Away for beer, board games and yes, darts; and Castaway for taking in stunning valley views from around a fire pit.

The next city over is Glendale. Yes, Glendale is known for The Americana at Brand, an outdoor mall with its own small-town feel and a cute trolley to boot. Just down the street is 1925-built Alex Theatre, which is easy on the eyes with its art deco architecture. This is a great place to catch live music, dance and stage performances.

Swayed by these small town touches, head to Montrose, a burg that first gained notice in 1910. Centered around sleepy Honolulu Avenue, the district looks like a throwback to 1960s Main Street America with shops, boutiques and the historic Montrose Bowl bowling alley, which can be rented out for parties. A favorite place to dine is Zeke’s Smokehouse, where debates over barbecue-sauce flavors commence.

Still to come — Pasadena. Most people equate Pasadena with the Rose Bowl, which can bring on memories of either football or … the Rose Bowl Flea Market, held the second Sunday of every month.

The Craftsman architecture of Pasadena brings a feel of California’s pioneering era. Dive in at The Gamble House. Tool away an afternoon taking in art at the Norton Simon Museum. Mosey down to Old Town for upscale shopping and restaurants. One ideal for dinner and cocktails is Café Santorini. Afterward, squeeze in one last stop — Vroman’s Bookstore.

Day 2: Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA)

DTLA is a destination unto itself, filled with history, architecture, museums and performing arts. There are endless pursuits and districts (the Arts District deserves its own visit) to explore.

If you’re a first-time visitor, experience some of DTLA’s beloved landmarks. Start with breakfast. The Original Pantry Café has been going strong since 1924; thus, it’s sticking to its cash-only diner-fare. It’s definitely worth waiting in line. Another option is the Grand Central Market. Here you can pick and choose between vendors — G&B Coffee, Eggslut, The Donut Man … the list is tantalizing.

Where to go next? The Broad Museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) to delve into the arts; the Music Center to procure tickets to the opera, ballet or theater (Hello, Walt Disney Concert Hall!); or a tour of cultures via Little Tokyo, Chinatown and Olvera Street.

Not to be missed is the “Harry Potter”-esque The Last Bookstore, Clifton’s (for the decor as much as the cuisine), and Philippe and Cole’s to debate over the best French dip.

Or simply step back in time with an evening of cocktails and burlesque at The Edison, or head to the romantic Union Station to grab a train for all points south.

Day 3: The South Bay/Long Beach

Between the Valley’s cowboys and DTLA’s Edison flappers, one might forget about SoCal’s beach culture. Ideal for meeting surfer types are South Bay and Long Beach. The Pacific Ocean wraps its way around South Bay cities, including Manhattan and Hermosa beaches. Going pier to pier between the two with a stop for breakfast or Irish fare at Hennessey’s Tavern is recommended.

San Pedro

Keep heading south until you arrive at San Pedro. This fishing village is a place to watch. A $150 million redevelopment will be breaking ground in 2020 at the Port of Los Angeles: San Pedro Public Market.

A beloved favorite to visit is the San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant. While here, hop aboard a Spirit Cruise around Los Angeles Harbor for Pacific Ocean views and California history. Speaking of history, this is also the area for touring the USS Iowa, the battleship with a renowned history, seeing it from its maiden 1943 launch before it was retired to its current home in 1990.

Head inland to be wowed with attractions like Crafted, a warehouse filled with shops featuring works from local artisans. Just across the way is Brouwerij West, where imbibing a flight of beers brewed on site is imperative.

Before leaving town, a visit to the Korean Friendship Bell is in order. Kites aloft announce one’s arrival to Angel’s Gate Park, where a bronze bell gifted by the Republic of Korea in 1976 is housed beneath an intricate pavilion. The panoramic vista from this hilltop is nothing short of dazzling.

Long Beach

los angeles weekend getaway
While away an afternoon in Long Beach. (Photo: Getty Images)

Delineating the South Bay from Orange County is Long Beach. This harbor town is where the grand dame known as the Queen Mary resides. From Scots Festivals and murder mystery dinners to ice palaces and royal brunches, something celebratory is always afoot here.

Check out the Acura Grand Prix in April, when the city transforms into a veritable racetrack for the IndyCar Series. Not around in spring? The Aquarium of the Pacific introduces visitors to marine life year-round.

Feeling peckish after a day of discovery? Not to be missed are Mason jars filled with deliciousness at The Pie Bar. Need something more substantial? Mix history, romance and five-star Italian cuisine at L’Opera, the site of 1906-established First National Bank.

What to do when the sun goes down? Head to the waterfront, where one is likely to happen upon a fireworks display. Yes, this is just one way Southern California wishes its guests goodnight.