The nation is gradually beginning to reopen which means life is slowly getting back to normal. While we all have to remain vigilant when it comes to exercising social distancing precautions, travel is a much-missed activity that can be enjoyed once again. While international travel may have to remain on pause for a little while, we’re lucky to live in one of the most incredible countries in the world, so there’s plenty to see and do on our own turf.
In this edition of Love Your Layover, we’re focusing on Los Angeles—La La Land, the City of Angels. You’ve been watching plenty of movies during lockdown so now it’s time to actually see the location where some of the greatest films in the world were made. Of course, there are other things to do and see that have nothing to do with the glitterati yet you’ll feel like an A-lister yourself. Whether it’s your first trip or your fifteenth, here are some great ways to make the most of your time during a 4, 6, 12, and 48-hour overnight layover in Los Angeles.
If you’re looking for things to do in LAX while on a layover, one of your best options from a comfort standpoint is to apply for a Priority Pass so you can access over seven exclusive lounges should you not be flying as a first or business class customer. Only with escaping the hustle and bustle of common waiting areas and bustling food courts, you’ll be treated to complimentary light bites, a selection of beverages (including libations), comfortable seating and workspaces, Wi-Fi access, and shower facilities.
Otherwise, one of the next best things you can do with a four-hour layover at LAX is to dine at one of the full-service restaurants on-site. Obviously, your options are going to be dictated by which terminal you’re in, but luckily, each one has at least one sit-down restaurant to choose from.
For example, in Terminal B (International), you can go south of the border at Cantina Laredo for guacamole and quesadillas. Reilly’s Irish Pub in Terminal 1 is based on the West Hollywood original. Soak up the large selection of whiskey and beers on tap with hearty, stick-to-your-ribs pub fare like corned beef sliders, nachos, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Catch up on some travel tips while you relax.
Terminal 2 offers a more elevated experience with Sealegs Wine Bar, which is patterned after the Huntington Beach location. There’s a wide variety of small plates, charcuterie, flatbreads, and fresh salads to go along with your vin. If your layover is over breakfast time, swap your Chablis for a mimosa and order up a plate of California-style Chilaquiles, complete with a sunny side up egg. If you’re in Terminal 3, you’ll be tempted by the juicy burgers and creamy custard at Shake Shack, a California original that’s garnered a cult-like following around the globe.
Those in Terminal 6 are lucky to have Osteria (an outpost of his popular North Hollywood restaurant) by Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani. There’s an extensive wine list that pairs well with everything from antipasti like truffle potato skins to pizzas and paninis to salads and a small selection of pasta dishes. Breakfast is served until 10:30 if jonesing for a breakfast sandwich of stuffed french toast.
L.A. is notorious for its terrible traffic, so you’re really going to have to be careful with your planning if you decide to leave the airport on a six-hour layover. The LAX FlyAway Bus followed by the metro trip takes approximately 40 minutes to get to downtown L.A., just the bus 90 minutes and a taxi or shuttle 25 minutes on a good day. Make sure that you have a solid piece of maneuverable luggage that can handle the quick trip.
Nothing can give you a greater taste of L.A. than a tour of Paramount Studios. Explore over 100 years of Hollywood history in approximately two hours. There’s also a VIP tour that includes lunch, but it takes 4.5 hours so you’d be cutting it too close time-wise. With the regular tour ($60 online, $62 in person), you’ll still be able to see iconic filming locations, tour the prop warehouse, and rub elbows with producers, talent, and crew.
While you’re in the area, it’s worth taking a stroll along the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine and La Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and Highland where you can compare the size of your hands and feet to the imprints of your favorite actors and actresses.
Explore more of the area with a 30-minute walk to Pink’s Hotdogs, a Hollywood legend since 1939. There are 18 creatively dressed dogs to choose from, including a classic Chicago Polish dog, a nacho cheese chili dog, a mushroom swiss cheese dog, and the staple Hollywood Walk of Fame dog—a nine-inch link topped with coleslaw and chopped tomatoes.
Don’t head back to the airport without getting a snap of the iconic Hollywood sign. You can capture it from a Distance on the Walk of Fame or head into the Hollywood and Highland Center (a large mall) on Hollywood Boulevard for a closer and more elevated shot.
Okay, so Rodeo Drive is far from a hidden gem yet there’s no denying it’s an iconic Beverly Hills staple. Two Rodeo is European-inspired retail and dining complex brimming with high-end designer boutiques. Anderton Court deserves a look just for the architecture alone—it was designed by the great Frank Lloyd Wright.
There are a bevy of incredible dining options in L.A., but if you want to get the most out of your short layover, head on over to the Original Farmers Market for lunch. Open since 1934, it’s also considered a historic landmark and tourist attraction. Today you’ll find more than 100 vendors offering prepared meals, groceries, and a variety of shops offering both locally produced and mainstream goods.
The vendors producing food typically work with local farmers—many of the offerings are ethnic, thus supporting the immigrant communities of Los Angeles. The hardest part is going to be choosing what you’re going to eat, so consider getting a variety of bites from several places and sharing them with your travel companion(s) if applicable.
If you’re traveling solo, opt for places offering smaller bites so you can have the same experience. Some highlights include Du Par’s Restaurant (a local favorite that’s been around as long as the market itself) for classic diner fare, Magee’s Kitchen (another market original) for hand-carved meats and homemade horseradish, and Trejo’s Tacos for a variety of creative taco and burrito offerings.
Walk off your food feast with a tour of the Greystone Mansion (aka the Doheny Mansion), which has been used in copious films and television shows, including The Social Network, Indecent Proposal, The Bodyguard, Ghostbusters II, Airforce One, The Witches of Eastwick, Batman and Robin, Nixon, and countless others. Fun facts: It’s the largest home ever built in Beverly Hills and the descending staircase is one of the most iconic sets in Hollywood. You’ll have to keep checking their website for updates on tours of the mansion, but the grounds are free to stroll on a daily basis.
Depending on the time of your layover, try to sneak in a happy hour location at Bar Marmont within the iconic Chateau Marmont—a playground for celebrities, A-listers, and other members of the glitterati since 1927. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have the opportunity to become starstruck while sipping a dirty martini. Note that it’s a popular spot for VIP events, so there’s a possibility it will be closed.
When you’ve got 48 hours in L.A. you have the opportunity to create a more relaxed trip. Of course, an overnight layover in Los Angeles means you’re going to need a hotel. Get out of the heart of the concrete jungle and head to the shoreline of Santa Monica, located just north of the residential area of Venice Beach.
Shutters on the Beach is one of the most quintessential properties in the area—the entire facility feels more like a relaxed beach house than your typical hotel. Tastefully decorated rooms and suites designed by renowned interior designer Michael Smith (many of which have sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean) feature amenities like a personal library, sizable balcony, Bluetooth speaker system, and a hydrothermal massage tub.
Take a stroll down the Santa Monica Pier to take in the scenic ocean views but skip the tourist trap restaurants and head over to Social Eats for lunch instead. This expansive food hall offers tasty fare from all over the world. Standouts that keep visitors and locals alike lining up at the door include David Chang’s Fuku by Momofuku (finger-licking fried chicken), build-your-own-bento boxes at Supertoro, tacos from Azulé Taqueria, fish sandwiches from STRFSH, Asian noodles from Street Noods, and so much more.
Finish off your layover with dinner at Michael’s, a Santa Monica staple since 1979. Feel good knowing that almost everything you fork into your mouth comes from neighboring farmers’ markets—some say owner Michael McCarty gave birth to California cuisine. Reservations are highly advised, but if you have to wait a bit for your table, have an aperitif in the lounge and partake of small bites like striped bass ceviche or orange-scented Marcona almonds with piment d’espelette.
No matter what your interests or time frame, there is something for everyone in Los Angeles. Want more guides to cities you’re visiting for a few hours or a couple days? Check out more of our city guides here!