What to do in LA for a long layover at LAX?
January 19, 2011 8:50 AM   Subscribe

What to do in LA for a long layover at LAX?

My friend and I, enroute to New Zealand, am faced with a eight-hour layover in LAX. The time is sufficient to allow a good daytrip into the city. What would you recommend we do? Museums (art, culture, history, technology—whatever's great and unmissable), cool food joints (vegan friendly?), neighborhoods—I defer to your superior knowledge! Bonus points for an itinerary. We're there ~11AM to ~10PM. Lastly, thoughts on the Getty?

Thanks in advance!
posted by alexandermatheson to Travel & Transportation around Lawrence, MA (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
LA is awesome for vegans! From that perspective I recommend Real Food Daily, Native Foods, Veggie Grill (for a quick fix), Seed in Venice wasn't my fav, but I know a lot of people like it. For yummy desserts hit Scoops on Heliotrope for vegan gelato/ice cream. Usually four flavors a day. If they have Salty Chocolate it's like heaven in a cup. If you want to hit West Hollywood you can do Hugo's (which is mixed, but many vegan options and a pretty good shot at running into a celebrity) and grab a shake from Millions Of Milkshakes, which offers soy ice cream and many tasty vegan mixed options.

The Getty is awesome, as is Griffith Park and the observatory. LACMA is also pretty good. When are you going? Right now LA is in the heat of awards season and it seems like on any given weekend night there's a ceremony somewhere that shuts down an entire chunk of the city.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:57 AM on January 19, 2011

The Getty? Not enough time.

Into the city?

Which city? You probably mean Los Angeles but that's a vast place, and downtown's an hour from LAX when there's no traffic.

But heading north from the airport, you could explore Venice and Santa Monica -- just take the #3 Santa Monica bus. You'll have to take the free airport shuttle (the "B" I think) over to the bus stop. Many people could while away hours just on Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade, or the "boardwalk" of Venice (Ocean Front Walk).

As you come out of customs into that big lower-level hall of the International Terminal, ask for more info at the big round Traveler's Aid counter.
posted by Rash at 9:00 AM on January 19, 2011

When I had a similar layover, I took the Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica for the day. Huge fun, not so many museums though. Santa Monica is good as it is not too far if you get caught in horrific traffic (likely)
posted by wingless_angel at 9:01 AM on January 19, 2011

Seconding Santa Monica / Venice. You could go south and hit Manhattan Beach, which is far more sedate and ritzier. But if you want the L.A. experience really fast, his Santa Monica.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:05 AM on January 19, 2011

santa monica pier. ferris wheels are always fun. vegan food is all over california. here are the vegan retaurants listed near santa monica. real food daily really is good. third street promenade is fun to explore. on foot. lots of coffee to keep you awake during the layover, too. i can't vouch for these public transportation directions anymore (i live on the other coast now) but they may be a good starting point.
posted by anya32 at 9:10 AM on January 19, 2011

I call BS on the hour/no traffic thing. I am in and out of LA several times a month. To get from LAX to Hollywood it's 35 minutes most evenings. In the middle of a day it's probably about the same. This is all surface streets.

I've also taken the UCLA shuttle into Westwood very effectively in about 45 minutes with traffic. I think 8 hours is totally doable for a variety of things. But I would be sure to leave lots of time for the return trip.

But yes, Santa Monica and Venice are probably best if you want to play it safe.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:15 AM on January 19, 2011

venice beach is definitely another great option. fantastic people and space alien watching. rent a bicycle built for two and ride along the ocean. some vegan food options. seed is pretty good.
posted by anya32 at 9:16 AM on January 19, 2011

Agreed on Santa Monica & Venice. I would say that you do definitely have time to do the Getty Center, as long as you are conservative about allowing enough time to get back to the airport. You may not have time to do anything else though, but you can eat there in the cafeteria. If you really want to do the Getty then go for it, it's a fantastic place!
posted by Joh at 9:17 AM on January 19, 2011

oh oh oh... if you do venture more into the city/Hollywood area and want a vegan treat you can't find most places hit Doomie's Home Cooking on Fountain and Vine. Vegan comfort food. They recently re-opened in this new location and it's great!
posted by FlamingBore at 9:18 AM on January 19, 2011

Eat tacos! (And you can use their handy taco truck map to plan your route).
posted by googly at 9:20 AM on January 19, 2011

To get from LAX to Hollywood it's 35 minutes most evenings. ... This is all surface streets.

I guess you could go straight up La Cienaga, but for someone on an international LAX layover, there will be customs first. Then it's an hour just to get a car from the monstrously shitty rental car situation at LAX. Then 40 minutes to Hollywood. Now you have to find parking. Now you have to walk to anything interesting for a first-timer (e.g. Hollywood and Highland, or Melrose shopping). This is all assuming you will know exactly where you need to go. Then it's a walk and then 40 minutes back. Check the car back in. Get through security, get to the gate in time.

You just spent half of your 8-hour layover getting to and from Hollywood.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:08 AM on January 19, 2011

CPB - the OP lives in Massachusetts according to a previous question, so that's not a customs concern. There are public transit options and I've spent tons of time in LA without ever having to circle more than once before finding a spot within two blocks walk.

If a rental car is in the mix there's GPS.

I realize I am running the risk of thread-jacking and being uppity, but the chorus of "not enough time" from people who seemingly are not from, do not live or do not spend a lot of time there makes me sad.

When the alternative is 10+ hours sitting at LAX (which I've done en route to Australia) a little adventure outside the airport is a much better option, even if half of it were transit related.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually, it's the Parking Lot C shuttle that takes you to the City Bus Center. They pick you up at the blue signs (LAX Connections, or something like that) at the curb outside of luggage claim.

Concurring with sticking to Venice or Santa Monica.

LA Metro Webpage

Big Blue Bus (Santa Monica Buses)
Culver City Bus
posted by hwyengr at 10:24 AM on January 19, 2011

Nthing Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Great art gallery called the LA Louver right at Main and Pier Street.
posted by effluvia at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2011

I highly recommend the suggestion of Venice/Santa Monica for a quick shot of whiling away time. I had an extra day tacked on to a work trip to L.A. once and spent it doing that. It was great. It's pretty walkable once you get there, and it's a nice relaxing time strolling around, people watching, maybe doing a little shopping if that's your thing.

If you do that, there's this funky little dive bar there, somewhere (along the beach?) where Frank Sinatra used to hang out. Apparently. The Yelp link refers to it as a "restaurant", though to this New Yorker's eyes it seemed more like a dive with a kitchen to me. Whatever. It was quirky fun.
posted by Sara C. at 10:50 AM on January 19, 2011

As a resident of Los Angeles County, I think you could do the Getty, or you could do Hollywood, if you really wanted to. However, you'd have to be careful about time, making sure to leave enough to get back to LAX in case there' a bunch of traffic, and I don't think it would be very enjoyable. Santa Monica and Venice, on the other hand, are perfect. Not too far, plenty to do, relaxed and enjoyable. I'd say skip Manhattan Beach (not a whole lot to do there) and do Santa Monica and/or Venice.
posted by malapropist at 11:13 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

LAX is not at all far from The Museum of Jurassic Technology, which to me is one of the highlights of LA. (And I was just able to visit it again last week!)
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:39 AM on January 19, 2011

I was in the same exact situation once and opted to take a SuperShuttle to Hollywood and take public transit back. I did not think Hollywood was very interesting. The high point of the trip was my first visit to In-N-Out Burger, which looks like it won't be a possibility to you.

If I had it to do over again, I would check out Santa Monica.
posted by grouse at 11:42 AM on January 19, 2011

I think there's an In-N-Out Burger in Santa Monica. I was hardcore veg at the time, so I might be remembering a different fast food chain we don't have on the East Coast, like Carl's Jr. or something. But it's definitely possible.
posted by Sara C. at 12:06 PM on January 19, 2011

nthing Santa Monica and/or Venice as the best bet in terms of maximizing your time doing something fun (rather than driving) and minimizing the risk of traffic-related problems (though keep in mind that parking in Venice can be very bad; Santa Monica is a far better bet on that score). With a layover of your length, I do agree you could make it to Hollywood or downtown and still have several hours to do something, but I think SM/Venice is far and away the least stressful or unpredictable option.

I do live in LA, and I have driven to/from LAX 100+ times since I moved here. Yes, traffic is relatively predictable most of the time at certain times of day, BUT there are always exceptions (usually due to some fatal combination of construction and accidents), and traffic exceptions in LA can equal HORROR SHOW, even for experienced drivers who know surface streets/short cuts well.
posted by scody at 12:34 PM on January 19, 2011

Nthing Santa Monica. It's definitely touristy, but the 3rd Street Promenade and the Pier are way more fun than hanging out at LAX.

Seconding previous sentiments about Hollywood; IMHO it's not worth the time and clock-watching stress; it's trashy touristy fun when you have a relaxed schedule and nothing better to do, but not worth the fare and the time spent in traffic just to go look at the walk of fame and the footprints in front of the Chinese theater.

(On the other hand, a little further east on Hollywood Boulevard is Barnsdall Park, where you could take a tour of Hollyhock House if your flight falls on a Wednesday through Sunday... but if you're not architecture buffs that's probably not worth the trek either.)

Whatever you decide to do, you'll probably be better off renting a car; public transportation in LA sucks, especially if time is a factor.
posted by usonian at 12:56 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

But the Santa Monica bus system will be fine -- as Cool Papa Bell points out, rentng a car, what a hassle!

Upon consideration I agree, you could do the Getty -- but it's probably all you'd do. Remember you can't drive there, you must take the special tram from the ($15!) parking area -- or you can take the bus: public transport to the Getty Center.

Also, a final tip -- if you've arrived back at LAX with time to spare, go to the Theme Center in the middle of LAX and have a bite at the Encounter restaurant.
posted by Rash at 1:28 PM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: Incredible, everyone! I truly appreciate your time and value the suggestions.
From the (majority-defined) sound of it, Santa Monica and/or Venice is a safe as well as enjoyable bet, so I'll elect for that. Sadly, the Getty will have to wait. FLW's Hollyhock looks rapturous (I am an architecture buff!), but sadly it'll too have to be postponed. MoTJ looks spectacular.
Thrilled about vegan/chillage options in SM/V.
posted by alexandermatheson at 6:54 PM on January 19, 2011

The Venice/Marina del Rey In-n-Out is just a block or two off Lincoln, so you can hop off the #3 Blue bus at Washington and then hop back on! You can get a transfer for 50 cents when you board the bus and still continue on your way.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:30 PM on January 19, 2011

Grrr.... I got so excited at the In-n-Out mention I missed the whole vegan thing, sorry.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:32 PM on January 19, 2011

If you are an architecture buff, you might want to take a look at Frank Gehry's private residence in Santa Monica, or the Meyer house in Santa Monica. The Walt Disney Center is extraordinary, but it would be a lot of commute time to get there and back again for your flight.
posted by effluvia at 8:16 AM on January 20, 2011

Response by poster: Ended up hitting Santa Monica and Venice, having a lovely lunch at Real Food Daily before wasting some time by the ocean; then public transported it up to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which was "ethnographic curiousities" embodied. Excellent day all in all. Thanks again!
posted by alexandermatheson at 9:04 PM on January 20, 2011

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