A different side of LA?
March 13, 2014 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I've been to LA probably a dozen times or so, but mostly for events or a quick trip to Disney. My friends and I are taking a cruise that disembarks next Sunday morning, around 10am. Our flight from LAX doesn't depart until 7:50 PM, so we have a day to kill in LA proper.

We won't have a car, but I don't mind Ubering to get around. I believe we'll be able to drop our luggage with our friends who aren't flying home, so that shouldn't be a problem.

What ideas do you have for things of interest, fun places to eat, or other random oddities in the area around the Port of Long Beach and LAX proper? We don't mind wandering a bit off the path there, but we can't exactly travel too far without serious cab fares.

We're into random local things, fun stuff we might not know about, and less touristy stuff, good food, weird/odd museum-type places, and anything else the least bit memorable or interesting.
posted by disillusioned to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Less than ten miles away from LAX is the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which is worth a visit of you're there Thursday-Sunday. That's not too far from Father's Office in Culver City, which has an excellent burger (and other food) and a good beer list.
posted by j.edwards at 1:42 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Obligatory: Museum of Jurassic Technology & a few blocks away is an In-n-Out in Culver City.

Downtown has its charm. It's quickly getting gentrified but for something people won't suggest immediately is to go to the Fashion/Garment district in the day time. I love knock off t-shirts (Think LA Dogers logo-ish, that just says LOS ANGELES BASEBALL) and being able to get a cheap pair of Levi's. And now there are nice bars and restaurants too. An iconic restaurant list of LA would include downtown's Philippes French Dip. It's fairly close to the old-town Pueblo and Union Station. Little Tokyo is nearby too.

If you've never had Korean food then you could go to an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ or get Soon-Tofu at a tofu-house in Koreantown.

Guisados is a really good, unique, taco place: fresh handmade thick tortillas with stewy meats (they have veggie too). They have two locations, Echo Park & Boyle Heights.

Just rattling off some other touristy stuff:
Watts Towers
Griffith Observatory
posted by wcfields at 1:45 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Behold: The Velaslavasay Panorama!
posted by theodolite at 1:48 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I always recommend people go to downtown LA. It is so overlooked by tourists but there's a lot of interesting stuff down there. In addition to what wcfields said, I'd also stop by Grand Central Market, the main library, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

You can get there via public transit (Metro trains) from both Long Beach and the airport.
posted by something something at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is the coolest thing ever.
posted by grouse at 1:52 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, the indescribable Museum of Jurassic Technology, the LaBrea Tar Pits,( take a picture with the Giant Sloth), and a very nice aquarium at Long Beach with happy otters among many other sea creatures. We saw them hand-feeding a tank of nautilus.
posted by mermayd at 2:10 PM on March 13, 2014

Long Beach is not LA proper, where do you want to go? It's 28 miles by car from the Port of Long Beach to Culver City; or 32 miles to Echo Park or 30 miles to downtown LA; or 35 miles to Griffith Park; or 30 miles to the Tar Pits. None are really walkable to each other, you would pick one destination only.

Good ideas for all the areas of LA above, but plan to spend at least 90 minutes on trains/buses each way (sunday schedules, trains run every 20 minutes or sometimes slower) or $50-90 on cab fare and and hour or so to go from Long Beach to any destination mentioned. My neighbor does Uber and Lyft and pays about 20-40% less than taxis in our neighborhood, not sure how its priced in long beach. Metro claims the green line train goes to LAX but it is a lie. You take the train to a bus station about 2 miles from LAX and take a free shuttle. The shuttle comes infrequently. Iwould recommend taking the Flyaway bus from Union Station if you are on public transit in LA.

Aquarium of the Pacific is in long beach and is cool. There is not much near LAX worth visiting on purpose. Maybe Venice Beach (although that is also a pricey cab ride, it's not on any train routes and I think you'd need to take both LA Metro buses and Santa Monica city buses to make it there on public transit). Google maps includes all the LA public transit companies.

Sorry to be such a downer but I loooove my adopted town and it makes me sad when people come here and try to do the impossible in a day and get frustrated (or spend a lot) and then are like "i hate LA!" Imagine if an answer to "whats the best ways to enjoy a visit to Disneyland? " and all the answer are "drink a huge drink, find the longest line in the hottest sun, stand there for hours, and then when you get to the front of the line of the roller coaster, touch your bottom to the seat for 30 seconds, get up, then go onto the next line! Deny yourself the relief of a bathroom break for 10 hours!" that's how i feel about these suggestions.
posted by holyrood at 2:18 PM on March 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

As has been mentioned these places are not nearly as far away from LAX.
posted by grouse at 2:23 PM on March 13, 2014

Los Angeles gets a bad rap but its an amazing city to explore. The Venice Canals are cool and are not too far from LAX. They are a short walk from Venice Beach (paddle tennis, muscle beach, buskers, and great people watching) and Abbot Kinney (hip shopping and food). Going to the top of Erwin Hotel for a drink on the roof is a neat way to see the coast on a clear day. If you have time you can walk straight through Abbot Kinney and then up main street through Santa Monica.

Downtown is great as well - but I'm more of a bar / food person.
posted by jengapiece at 2:26 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, but they are still pretty far. I used to live 1 mile fromy the Museum of Jurassic thechnology. There is no direct public transit route from LAX to there, and it's a $30 cab ride one way (maybe $15 on uber). There is pretty much no public transit from LAX to anywhere, except the flyaway from the airport to union station ($10 per person) or the shuttle bus to the green line. Any of these options take 60-90 minutes on a workday, much less sunday when the flyaway and trains and buses all are on slow schedules.

OP, please note that i am the only person commenting who currently lives in LA and commutes daily on public transit. Take your advice accordingly.
posted by holyrood at 2:31 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would honestly see if you can rent a car in Long Beach and return at LAX. The cost for a one-day rental is probably less than a single "Uber" ride, and you'll have a million times less hassle.

As far as what to see, it's such a big question it's almost unanswerable, like asking "What's interesting in New York or Paris or London?"

The Getty Center is off the 405 and very accessible *if* you have a car. It's a museum but the main attraction is the buildings and the location, on top of a mountain over the 405. It's a great place.

*Be sure to note the "main" Getty museum is distinct from the Getty Villa, which is a reproduction of a Roman Villa located much farther out towards Malibu.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:41 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd second something something about taking the metro downtown; the downside is you could be on the bus for a very long time.

For a destination with less transit time, take the Big Blue Bus line 3 or line 3 Rapid from the LAX bus center to downtown Santa Monica.

Downtown Santa Monica has recently, for better or worse, become a tourist shopping mecca. It got plenty of good restaurants and the 3rd Street Promenade is a great place for people watching. There's also Palisades Park overlooking the beach and Pacific Ocean, and the Pier.

A combo day of Santa Monica and Venice Beach, as jengapiece suggests, would also be doable, for a bit more grit. In addition to Main St., you could rent bicycles and travel on the beach bike path from one to another; on a nice day it is quite a scene down there. (The whole area -- SM especially -- is very bikable.)
posted by bertran at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2014

I like the idea of a downtown L.A. explore-a-thon for your crew. After all, you've just come off a cruise, so you've probably had enough of ocean views for a while (i.e., skip Venice Beach).

To maximize your time on foot vs. in transit, I'd suggest getting Uber or Lyft from LB to DTLA. Dividing the fare amongst several of you will make this affordable.

Downtown has tubs of bars, eateries, museums, coffee shops, rooftop views. You'll have no problem filling up 6-8 hours of free time, and if your posse gets tired of one another, you can divide and conquer and regroup.

To get to LAX, you *could* take the FlyAway from DTLA, but again, since there are multiple people traveling, you might find Uber/Lyft to be economical.

Taking the choochoo (Blue Line) from LB to DTLA would be an interesting experience, but I think it might eat up too much time.
posted by nacho fries at 2:54 PM on March 13, 2014

Also: a slightly less touristy thing to do in Santa Monica is visit the galleries at Bergamot Station.
posted by bertran at 2:57 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go to the beach. Sit on the sand and watch the waves. Seriously, where/when else you gonna be able to do this?
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 3:30 PM on March 13, 2014

I think the first question is, where are you leaving your luggage? Is that why you mention Long Beach?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2014

Just as a side note about getting around, I feel compelled to mention that LAX has technically banned UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar from pickups at LAX. Their more expensive UberBLACK and UberSUV iterations are still fair game, although not without risk for the driver. (Alternatively, your ride may not actually give two fucks about the rules.)
posted by mykescipark at 4:57 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

mykescipark: "Just as a side note about getting around, I feel compelled to mention that LAX has technically banned UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar from pickups at LAX. Their more expensive UberBLACK and UberSUV iterations are still fair game, although not without risk for the driver. (Alternatively, your ride may not actually give two fucks about the rules.)"

Ok, here's my tip for a way around this: Get off LAX property (or at least the shaded area on the Uber app)!

You can walk, to the In-n-Out nearby, it's about a mile, and takes you through hidden parts of LAX where there's a 9-11 memorial that no one ever sees. (Hint: You know where all those lit-up cylindrical tubes are at the on-ramp to the airport? In that area).

Or, you can tip the "Parking Spot" shuttle-bus driver to take you to the In-n-Out since the Parking Spot parking structure is right next door. Once there, have an UberX pick you up.
posted by wcfields at 5:06 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hugely helpful things to know about uber and LAX, thank you for those. We ARE flying in through LAX and I was looking to avoid doing the cruise line's transfer since they want $30 per person, and there's three of us, so I figured we could probably beat $90 doing uber, even if not by a whole lot.

Their fare quote tool claims $35-$50 for uberX, so there's that.

These are all great responses, and I'm pretty excited to see a few of these things I haven't gotten a chance to before.

I've done downtown pretty extensively, having been there for conventions and the like, but I've never done the tar pits or the other museums, and some of the ideas near the port are awesome too.

posted by disillusioned at 5:29 PM on March 13, 2014

If I'm understanding the Ask correctly, the OP doesn't need a lift *from* LAX to anywhere -- they would be making their way *to* LAX eventually. They are landing at Long Beach.
posted by nacho fries at 5:31 PM on March 13, 2014

If I'm understanding the Ask correctly, the OP doesn't need a lift *from* LAX to anywhere -- they would be making their way *to* LAX eventually. They are landing at Long Beach.

Oh, wait!

You could take the metro rail from Long Beach to Culver City [PDF] and hit MJT.

Next, take the 733/33 Metro bus from Culver City into downtown Santa Monica [PDF], or just Uber it, if it's in your budget. You could go hang out at the pier and ride the Ferris Wheel and play pinball, or you could rent a bike (SM Bike Center is convenient), hit the bike path, and check out Venice Beach.

Downtown Santa Monica would be a convenient end point before you head back to LAX because you can take the Rapid 3 Blue Bus to the airport for $1 or grab a cab at a taxi stand. Cab fare from SM to LAX is a flat $30, plus tip.)

Santa Monica Bike Club also has lockers you can rent if you end up with bags.

Personally, as cool as MJT is if you just hung around the beach you could have very nice, leisurely day, but I have a much lower tolerance for "cutting it close" when I have to be at the airport. I'd still take the Metro rail into Culver City, and then maybe uber it to DTSM. Round out your day at the beach with lunch at Back on the Beach.

I'm so freaking excited about the train coming to Santa Monica!
posted by Room 641-A at 8:49 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could go South to Belmont Shore (still technically Long Beach, but Long Beach is pretty vast) and eat at La Creperie. Also in Long Beach there is the Museum of Latin American Art Going north into San Pedro you've got the Korean Friendship Bell and Point Fermin Park. Below Point Fermin there are some tide pools that you have to walk down a crazy rickety old stair case to get to.
posted by willnot at 9:19 PM on March 13, 2014

Not sure if you're a Lebowski fan, but if you go to San Pedro you can also go to Sunken City, the spot where Walter and The Dude spread Donny's ashes.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:14 AM on March 14, 2014

The one thing that's worth knowing about the Cruise Line is that some of them have a way for you to check your luggage the night before. If so, DO IT! It's like $10 per bag, but they take them to the airport and check them through for you. You don't have to worry about the bags, you don't have to handle them, AND you don't have to wait in line to check them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:12 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

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