Best Time to Visit Los Angeles - How Long to Stay

Planning a Los Angeles Vacation

Downtown Los Angeles
••• Downtown Los Angeles. Brian Hawkins/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

It's hard to say when is the best time ​to visit Los Angeles. Like every place, it has good and bad points for every season, but there's always something you can do in L.A.

Weather

Many people think Los Angeles is warm and sunny 365 days a year, but in fact:

  • Los Angeles weather varies a lot, sometimes just across town. Summer may be unbearably hot inland and just right at the beach, on the same day.
  • In early summer it can be foggy all day long near the beach.
  • Smog levels are improving, with ozone levels far lower than they were in the mid-1970s, according to the Air Quality Management District. The air tends to be worse in summer than in winter, and any time of the year, it's better at the beach.
  • In autumn and early spring, wind patterns sometimes reverse, blowing toward the ocean instead of away from it. It creates very dry (and sometimes hot) "Santa Ana" conditions which are especially uncomfortable for people with allergies.
  • The ocean is colder than you might imagine all year long, reaching its warmest (68°F) in August, cooling down to 58°F to 60°F in winter.
  • Most of the rain falls in the winter. That doesn't mean it's going to rain every day, but you may encounter as much as a week of rain without much of a break.
  • April and October have the clearest skies and moderate temperatures.
  • Skies are often crystal-clear right after a winter rain, especially if it's cool the next day.

Check the average temperature, sunshine, and rainfall in the LA weather guide to visit to get an idea of what it's like in every season.

Crowds

A large city like LA always feels like it's full of people, but this is how the tourist crowds change:

  • In summer, the most popular Los Angeles sights are overrun with tourists.
  • Crowds taper off in fall.
  • Winter brings more visitors who want to escape the cold weather where they live.
  • January through April is least busy, tourist-wise.
  • Disneyland and other theme parks are busy any time kids are out of school, at Thanksgiving in late November, and especially around the end of the year.

Annual Events

A few big annual events in LA draws so many people that they can disrupt your plans. Pasadena gets busy for the annual Rose Bowl Parade, held on January 1.

The LA Marathon in February also closes a lot of city streets in March.

Whether you're looking for a special event to attend or just trying to avoid the crowds that gather for some of the other popular ones, this Annual Event Guide will give you a month-by-month summary of events that happen every year.

How Long to Stay

It could take weeks to see everything in Add a few fun tours, spend a day at the beach and go on a couple of day trips and it could take well more than a month to do it all. LA. After years of visiting and writing about it, I still have an LA bucket list that's as long as my left arm.

Sadly, the average visitor stays less than a week. You may have even less time than that, so some prioritizing is essential. These are the highlights:

  • If you have 3 to 4 days, add a side trip. If you want to relax, head to Catalina Island. You'll find lots of ideas for places to visit in the Day Trips Around Los Angeles guide. You'll also have time to visit a museum or get in some quality people-watching in Venice Beach.
  • If you have 5 to 6 days, Take another side trip - or two. Take a day off. Go shopping in the downtown Fashion District. Take in a baseball game or a basketball match. Enjoy a night at the theater, or just hang out on an interesting street corner and watch all the goings-on.