Looking for one quick but amazing thing to do in Los Angeles
June 30, 2022 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I have a couple hours in Los Angeles before I drive south to Carlsbad. What's one (or two) amazing thing(s) I can do or eat before I leave the city, or as I drive south?

I'm flying into Los Angeles, landing at 3pm on a Wed, renting a car from the airport, and sleeping that night at Legoland in Carlsbad. Are there any super quick activities, an amazing store, a killer casual place to eat, or a place to stop on the drive that can work with the very minimal amount of time I have?

Note I have a 6 and 9 year old, so kid-friendly is appreciated. I know LAX is a nightmare, and traffic is doubly so, so it'll probably have to be something quick, making any museums, galleries, etc. impossible.

If picking a restaurant, it must have an outdoor dining area. No restrictions on other things to do. Really appreciate your thoughts.
posted by evadery to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for providing all the necessary info! Assuming you are driving off by 4 p.m., Google says you will arrive in Carlsbad at 6-7 p.m. depending on traffic. It doesn't get much better unless you wait until after 6 p.m. to leave. I would maybe stop in Laguna Beach on the way down and dip my toes in the sand, but it's going to be tight to do much else unless your kids are night owls.
posted by wnissen at 1:39 PM on June 30


Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit, but re: 'It doesn't get much better unless you wait until after 6 p.m. to leave' - We're happy to stay in LA, explore/eat in the city and drive to Carlsbad after dinner. Better food and beating the traffic seems like a win-win.
posted by evadery at 1:45 PM on June 30


Museum of Jurassic Technology. [edit: not entirely on your way, but not absurdly far out.]
posted by eotvos at 1:47 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


La Brea Tarpits
posted by at at 2:02 PM on June 30 [8 favorites]


Don’t try to go into the city. Just stop for In-N-Out on your way to the hotel.
posted by itesser at 2:09 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


I love the museum of jurassic technology, but it's probably a little too much for a 6-year-old. The Getty is cool and pretty close to the airport. Just walking around the gardens gives you great views of the city and time with some really stunning architecture; you can totally skip the galleries. Main drawbacks are that it's in the opposite direction to Carlsbad and the freeway you'd have to take is the busiest of the busy.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:32 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


It's going to be an eternity of slow-go traffic on the 405 unless you dawdle in the LAX area for 6 hours, which you don't want to do. So maybe, don't even get on the 405 right away, take Sepulveda south into the South Bay. After El Segundo go west (right) at Rosecranz or Manhattan Beach Blvd and find parking as close to the sand as possible, put everything in the trunk, and walk along and out onto the beach, which you'll find bordered by what's referred to locally as the Strand, the ocean front bike and walkway. Walk out onto the sand and even go wading, then find a restaurant, lots of outdoor dining. There's piers to walk out onto in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo but everywhere, parking's going to be difficult, hopefully not impossible. Pay at a lot instead of chancing a ticket or a tow, if the signs are confusing where you spot a parking space on the street. Traffic on the 405 and then the 5 south may lessen after 8 or 9 PM.
posted by Rash at 3:45 PM on June 30 [12 favorites]


Angeleno here. Landing at 3pm + getting your luggage + shuttle to rental car + getting the rental squared away = I'd be shocked if you were on the road before 4:30. Do not go into town at all, I'm begging you. I agree with Rash. Go to Manhattan Beach, walk out on the pier, eat at whatever place seems good and that your kids will accept, and dawdle as long as you can before getting on the freeway south. Please use Waze.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:56 PM on June 30 [13 favorites]


Rash's strategy is smart. The day is long and you will have a lot of time to be at the ocean and watch the sunset while everyone else is wrestling with traffic. Drive down the freeway after sunset while it's cool and not so dang crowded. Manhattan Beach et al is a lovely area with little friendly strolling activities and lots of good food choices. Seconding the advice on parking.
posted by effluvia at 4:00 PM on June 30


I would 2nd the Getty but they close at 5:30 on Wednesday (unless there's a special event the day you've be visiting) and there's a monorail that you have to ride in and out from the parking area that adds even more transit time, so you probably wouldn't even have time for a decent speed run of a single exhibit or the gardens.

Also, I don't know about LAX but a lot of car rental places have been slammed since Covid so just getting a car may take a lot longer than you're used to pre-pandemic.
posted by Candleman at 4:32 PM on June 30


About 6 months ago I rented a car at LAX and waited in line for about an hour to get the car. So you might end up with less time to kill than you think. Agree to go to Manhattan Beach and skip diwntown.
posted by emd3737 at 4:57 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


find parking as close to the sand as possible, put everything in the trunk

Seriously very much put EVERYTHING IN THE TRUNK.
posted by vunder at 5:11 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


The museum of jurassic technology is amazing but your kids won't think so. Take them to lots and lots of real museums and when they are teenagers, take them there.
posted by mmascolino at 5:23 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I didn’t make it to the beach during my very brief stay in Southern California, and have always regretted it. The beach suggestions above sound absolutely lovely, especially for unwinding on your travel day.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:48 PM on June 30


I think everyone has given you great advice to just head for the beach, but a couple of diversions to consider: there's an In-N-Out on the edge of the airport, and you have views of the runways from there. If your kids would have their minds blown by watching that, it's worth dealing with what can be kind of a trafficky clusterfuck right at that intersection.

I understand this is an entirely appalling suggestion, but if you find you just need to, like, sit down and drink some iced tea and feed the kids something and keep them relatively contained, there's a Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey with a wonderful patio overlooking the marina and all the boats and houseboats and stuff. You can walk around on the beach afterwards, and there is (at least there used to be) a decent-sized liquor-and-supplies store next door where you can kill a few minutes picking up hotel snacks and treats before you take off. In old days, I used to have afternoon weekend lunch with friends at that CF once or twice a year just because it's a nice view and relatively easy meet-up point from various places in the city.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:29 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Oh and you didn't ask but go to Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad. It's right down the street from Legoland.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:33 PM on June 30


You don't have time to go to the Getty. Agree that you should find a nice beach SOUTH OF LAX and spend 45 minutes rolling up your jeans and putting your feet in the water. I would try to get as far south as you can before the evening commute really starts to hit, then just use your preferred smartphone navigation experience to find the nearest nice beach and head there to watch the sunset for an hour (PUT EVERYTHING IN THE TRUNK). So maybe you will end up following Rash's advice but let's posit that miracles happen and you have your rental car by like 3:45. Don't mess with Manhattan Beach in that case. Get on the 405 and FLOOR IT until you find traffic slowing down. THEN find a beach.

That In n Out by the airport always has the most obscene line at the drive thru. My husband waited 45 minutes once! No burger is worth that. I get it if you're from CA and it's a nostalgia thing but I have never met a non-native-Californian who didn't feel extremely cheated when they waited >20 minutes for In n Out.
posted by potrzebie at 10:46 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


Zankou chicken if your kids can handle garlic
posted by brujita at 5:13 AM on July 1


Agreed, brujita, a more novel and interesting local chain. Unfortunately no South Bay branches, and given the OP's route, the new Huntington Beach location would be the only possibility.
posted by Rash at 6:20 AM on July 1


For kid friendly, the Skirball cultural center’s “Noah’s Ark” 100%. Right next to the Getty. The Skirball is a Jewish cultural center so there’s clearly a religious “in” but it’s actually an interactive exhibit about working together to make a better world and has no religious verses or passages in it.
IMO, worth battling the 405 for.
Edit: gah, they close at 5pm. Scratch this suggestion.
posted by Pretty Good Talker at 9:28 AM on July 1


Beach beach beach. Head straight for the beach put your feet in the water.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:21 PM on July 1


The Long Beach Aquarium is sort of on your way South of LAX and pretty kid friendly with touch pools. There are places to eat and walk see around there. The Queen Mary is also very close.

If the earlier suggestions of cheesecake factory appeals there is one in Redondo Beach that's more on your way and closer to sand and a peer.
posted by willnot at 9:03 PM on July 1


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