Let’s picture the scene: you are a high school student from Texas, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest,  the East Cost – somewhere not Southern California. You’re on vacation from school, and you are lucky enough to be conducting a collegiate road trip of California. You started in Northern California, toured Stanford and UC Berkeley, stopped at Cal Poly on the drive down to Los Angeles, and now have arrived in Los Angeles to tour the only relevant school in LA: the University of Southern California. To heighten the stakes, you only have one day in Los Angeles before your late-night flight back home. How do you spend that one day?

Here is a comprehensive guide to touring USC and Los Angeles all in one day. Trust me, the schedule budgets additional margin for traffic on the 10 and the 405 (and the 110 and the 105, but you get the point).

7:00am: Breakfast at Jacks ‘n’ Joe

An SC favorite, Jacks ‘n’ Joe is a breakfast restaurant just north of campus, at the intersection of Adams and Figueroa, a 15-minute walk from campus. As a student, I love taking out-of-town friends to Jacks ‘n’ Joe for their decadent pancakes. I always recommend Pudgie Elvis, three pancakes smothered with peanut butter, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and bananas. Make sure to leave your diet at the door!

8:30am: Attend a USC Campus Tour

Campus tours meet at 8:30am at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Make sure to RSVP in advance! The campus tour is a great way to learn about SC and see the campus.

10:45am: Meet with Viterbi Admissions via a Meet USC

If you do an 8:30am campus tour on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, there is a good chance you can participate in a Meet USC afterward. At 10:45am, your general SC tour will end, and your tour guide will introduce you to a Viterbi Student Ambassador (VSA), a representative from the Viterbi School of Engineering. The VSA will bring you to Ronald Tutor Hall, the home base of Viterbi. Once at Ronald Tutor Hall, a Viterbi admissions staff member, along with the VSA, will give a presentation on the admissions process to Viterbi and answer any and all of your questions. Following the presentation, you will have the option to tour several facilities, such as a lab or dining hall, if the VSA does not have to run off to class! Make sure to RSVP for the Meet USC in advance when you book your campus tour!

12:30pm: Lunch at Grand Central Market and the Bradbury Building

After the Meet USC, hop in the rental car or take the metro Downtown to the Grand Central Market. The Grand Central Market itself is a spectacle; bustling with people and fresh food, the Grand Central Market is the picturesque food market. In the market, there is a variety of food options, from tacos, to a Jewish deli, to Chinese. I would recommend Egg Slut, a famed egg sandwich stand with out-of-this-world sandwiches. The line is most definitely worth the wait. But feel free to try any of the options at Grand Central Market!

After lunch, check out the Bradbury Building, right across the street from Grand Central Market. A historical and architectural landmark, the Bradbury Building’s open architecture and use of natural lighting is unique and fascinating to view. For science fiction fans, the Bradbury Building played host to J.F. Sebastian’s apartment in Blade Runner.

2:00pm: Explore the Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Avoid the flashy lights and crowds of Hollywood, and instead head to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, lovingly referred to as LACMA. Right off the bat, make sure to take a picture with the Urban Lights exhibit. Urban Lights is rows upon rows of street lamps purposely placed in front of the museum and is perfect for photo opportunities. Once inside, enjoy the wide variety of art, from modern to Greek. My favorite gallery is the American and Latin American art, which contains pieces from pre-colonial America. Spend as little or as much time as you would like at LACMA; when I visit, I have usually seen enough art after 3 hours or so.

The Urban Lights Exhibit at LACMA

The Urban Lights Exhibit at LACMA

5:30pm: Eat at the Closest In ‘n’ Out Burger

Make sure to grab dinner at an In ‘n’ Out burger; there is not a better tasting burger outside of California! Until you end up attending USC, you won’t have many opportunities to chow down on double-doubles and fries, so take advantage. Try ordering your meal “animal-style”.

6:00pm: Finish off the Evening in Santa Monica

For out-of-towners, a trip to Los Angeles is not complete without a trip to the beach. Santa Monica provides the beach and more. Before the sun sets, run down to the water and dip your toes in the freezing cold Pacific Ocean; maybe even swim out a little ways to attempt to body surf a wave. After drying off in the dying light of the sunset, head toward the Santa Monica Pier. At dusk, the pier is bustling with activity and people. From street performers to small shops to beautiful views, walking down the Santa Monica Pier is always an interesting experience. For the aerospace nerds, make sure to walk to the very end of the pier, and look south. You should be able to see the lights of airplanes taking off from Los Angeles International Airport over the Pacific Ocean, a pretty impressive sight to behold. If there is enough light, you might even see how close the heavy Airbus 380s and Boeing 787s headed to Asia get to Dockweiler Beach below!

Santa Monica Pier on a Beautiful Beach Day

Santa Monica Pier on a Beautiful Beach Day

Avoid the evening sea breezes by headed to Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade, a busy pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants. The 3rd Street Promenade is beautiful and enjoyable to stroll down at night, hopefully with an ice cream in hand.


By this point, I hope you have had a fun day! You should probably be headed toward LAX to catch your flight home; who knows what traffic will be like on the 405, even after 9pm?

That is one way to spend a day in Los Angeles and still tour USC. But this is surely not the only method to have a fantastic time in LA! Hiking, sporting events, Hollywood, and so many other attractions could fill your day in LA. Whatever you do, don’t waste any time, and get to exploring this great American city!

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Astronautical Engineering, Class of 2016, Learn more on his profile here!