I recently returned from a short trip to Los Angeles. I think people either love or hate LA - it’s a huge sprawling city that takes time to really see and understand. I happen to love it. I love that it has all the great things you can expect from a world class city, but because it’s made up of many different cities and neighborhoods, each area has it's own vibe. Venice, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Westwood, Santa Monica, and Downtown LA all feel like completely different cities. There is no one Los Angeles.
Size and Sprawl
It’s easy for a visitor to look at a map and think I’ll visit Venice Beach, then pop over to Rodeo Drive, then go downtown... but based on time of day it could take 30-45 minutes to get from one neighborhood to another. It’s not at all like New York City, where neighborhoods are smaller, more densely packed, and connected by a comprehensive subway system. (LA does has a subway but it doesn’t go everywhere so you really need to drive or Uber from place to place.) Until you explore the city on your own it's hard to get a sense of LA's size.
Getting Around the City
There are really only two good options for getting around: a rental car or Uber. Uber is most convenient: there are tons of drivers and you don’t have to worry about parking. It can be expensive though - it’s not unusual to spend $30 to get from one part of the city to another. Uber Pool is available and less expensive, but it can add time to your drive. A rental car might be less expensive but it depends on the cost of parking at your hotel. I stayed at a mid-range hotel in Westwood where parking was $44 a day. I used Uber, which worked great for me.
Areas to Visit
Hollywood - tacky and overrated. Just do a drive by if you’re interested. If you’re interested in Hollywood you’ll probably have a better experience if you skip the Chinese Theater and take a studio tour instead. I’m told that Warner Brothers is the best overall, and Paramount is best for classic Hollywood memories. Tours are around $50-55 for a couple hours. Both have VIP tours that provide more access.
Downtown - downtown LA (sometimes abbreviated DTLA) is often overlooked by tourists but I enjoyed it. Little Tokyo (one of the largest Japanese neighborhoods in the US), Grand Central Market (an indoor food hall), the Arts District (think repurposed warehouses, galleries, and street art), and the Walt Disney Concert Hall (designed by Frank Gehry) are all worth exploring.
The Coast - Venice Beach and Santa Monica are destinations on their own. Venice beach is a hipster / skater hangout - people watching on the Venice Beach boardwalk is memorable. Santa Monica Pier is great with kids, and there are lovely beach hotels in Santa Monica: Shutters on the Beach, Fairmont Miramar, and Loews Santa Monica.
Beverly Hills - worth a visit! Shopping on Rodeo Drive is really as glam as you've heard, and there's always the hope of running into a celebrity. The city of Beverly Hills offers a $5 trolley tour every hour that will let you see the highlights without walking all day, but if you have a rental car, definitely drive around the neighborhood to see some of the amazing private homes on the residential streets. My favorite restaurant is there: Nate 'n Al's Deli, where Larry King and Arnold Schwarzenegger are said to be frequent customers.
If you are planning a trip to Los Angeles and would like help, please contact me. Not only can I help with the trip planning, but as a Virtuoso agent, I can get you valuable perks at all of the best hotels, including daily breakfasts, credits to spend at your hotel, and a possible upgrade on arrival (based on availability).