Los Angeles International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the US, is located in the Westchester district of Los Angeles, California. Although the airport is somehow far from the city center, there are more than enough places to visit and things to do during a long layover that will give you a taste of the City of Angels.
Jordie of The Bear and the Blonde is a travel blogger and a native of Los Angeles. Growing up just south of the airport, she knows Los Angeles inside and out and is happy to share tips about the city she calls home through our Airport Layover Series. If you find yourself with a long layover between flights and want to experience the city for yourself, let these insider tips and recommendations guide you.
- Los Angeles Airport Code: LAX
- Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States of America and the third largest in North America by population. Source: City Mayors; World Atlas
- Los Angeles is not only famous for being the entertainment capital of the world, it is also known for its Mediterranean climate and for being one of the most culturally-diverse cities in the world.
- By geography, Los Angeles is the city while California is the state. Here’s a list of things to do in California (via The Atlas Heart).
- To enter Los Angeles, California, one must have a passport valid for at least six (6) months and a valid visa to travel in the U.S. Similarly, as mentioned in our layover guide for Marietta, Georgia, you can enter the U.S. if you quaify for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
Getting Around Los Angeles
Los Angeles still has a lot to improve in terms of public transportation. For some reasons, the city was never able to develop a strong railway system similar to those in other larger cities such as New York. The bus system can be hard to navigate and is prone to long stops in traffic.
The best way to get around the city is by using Uber or Lyft. These ride-sharing companies will save you the stress of navigating the freeways or worrying about parking while still giving you the flexibility to explore the city as you please. On the other hand, long-term travelers will fare better by renting a car.
Once you have checked in to your accommodation and dropped off your baggage, there are Bird or Lime scooters around town that you can rent using an app! Not ideal for long hauls, but great to go a few blocks. Taxis are also available, but they are more costly than both Uber and Lyft.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
If you are on a stopover, I would recommend staying on the west side of the city so you are not too far from the airport. While you will not be able to see the Hollywood sign, you will have a view of the ocean and plenty of nearby attractions to keep you busy. I recommend staying somewhere in Manhattan Beach or in the Marina Del Rey/Playa Vista area. These neighborhoods are both by the beach and very close to the airport. LA traffic is BAD, so staying close to where you want to be will prevent you from spending half your layover stuck in a traffic jam.
You might also want to look into staying in El Segundo. It’s a small town just south of the airport that’s close to both the ocean and freeways and has a comfortable hometown feeling.
If you have 48 hours, you could stay in Hollywood or Downtown, but I would suggest staying in just that one area and giving yourself ample time to get back to the airport. Los Angeles is way too big to be traversing across the city multiple times during a short stay.
Expect to lodge around $150+ in Los Angeles. It’s not a cheap city. If it’s your first time visiting the city, here are seven things you need to know before your arrival in Los Angeles.
Best Places to Visit in Los Angeles
I have listed the steps below in order from north to south. Depending on where you are staying, I would plan to start furthest from your hotel and work your way back.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is iconic. It’s the pier with the roller coaster and Ferris wheel that you’ve probably seen in movies. Right by the pier is the Third Street Promenade, an outdoor mall filled with shops and restaurants. This is a must-see! You should give yourself three hours to spend in Santa Monica: an hour at the Pier (unless you have kids who want to ride all the rides; in that case, you will want more time) and two hours to stroll the promenade and grab a meal. It can be very hard to find parking in Santa Monica, though, so it’s best to just Uber there and get dropped off!
Next stop, Venice Beach! Venice is home to the famous Muscle Beach. It’s a very fun, bohemian beach city where you can do some of the best people-watching in LA! I suggest walking on the strand or renting bikes and riding from one end of the beach to the other. If you are feeling ambitious, you could actually bike along the strand to all the locations on this list! The bike path is right along the sand and runs all the way up the coast. I suggest spending at least two hours in Venice!
Marina Del Rey
Marina Del Rey is literally just west of the airport, so it’s both a fun and convenient spot to visit during a stopover. From the marina, you can take a harbor cruise, rent stand-up paddleboards (if you have your swimsuit), or just walk around and grab lunch. There are tons of great places to eat on the water–I especially like the Warehouse for their great seafood. If you are doing all these stops in a 24-hour period, I advise budgeting one to two hours in the Marina!
Manhattan Beach is just southwest of the airport on Pacific Coast Highway. It’s technically not part of the City of Los Angeles, but if you are looking for a great California beach experience, this is it! You can catch some rays on the sand before walking up from the pier to Manhattan Beach Boulevard to grab lunch, shop, and my favorite, get a drink at The Strand House and enjoy the sunset! If you are going to the beach, I would suggest giving yourself at least four hours in Manhattan Beach. But if you just want to stroll around and grab a bite, two hours is long enough. You will really enjoy this town if you are looking to just relax!
The overall time spent on this itinerary is nine hours, but I would add in two hours extra to account for driving time and to give yourself a safety buffer. If you have 48 hours, I would suggest you spend one day in Santa Monica and Venice and the other in Marina Del Rey and Manhattan Beach!
What You Shouldn’t Miss
If you have never had an In-N-Out burger, you must go try one! While In-N-Out is not unique to Los Angeles (you can find locations throughout the southwestern United States), it was founded in California and most locals have a special place in their hearts for its delicious burgers, fries, and shakes. Luckily for travelers, there is one close to the airport on Lincoln Boulevard!
Even if you only have time to put your feet in the sand, go to the beach. Or find a bar with a view and stay for the sunset! The beach is a highlight of Southern California, and since Los Angeles is right by the beach, it’s a must-do!
Other Top Attractions in Los Angeles
- Historic Downtown Los Angeles (lots of great things to see; I would suggest spending a whole day in Downtown!)
- Beverly Hills / Rodeo Drive
- Griffith Observatory
- Universal Studios
- Disneyland (although this is at least an hour’s drive outside of LA)
Micah and Jordie are lifestyle bloggers out of Los Angeles, California, who write for TheBearandTheBlonde.com, a journal of experiences from two creative, food-loving, adventurous people. Be sure to give it a read for great travel inspiration and more tips on visiting Los Angeles in their feature LA Special!
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