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Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX

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Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX
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We're spending 3 nights in LA (Hotel is near the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood) and arriving in LAX between 1-2pm on a weekday.

We're taking a FlyAway bus to Grand Union Station before buying a TAP card there to use the Metro to take us to Hollywood.

I thought instead of going straight to the hotel in Hollywood we might store our bags somewhere in or near Grand Union Station and use the afternoon and early evening to explore the area so we can check that off our list and maximise the rest of days such as visiting Universal Studios, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, Venice beach, Griffith Observatory etc.

Does that sound like a decent idea or not worth the effort and extra expense to store the luggage, we just have 2 carry-on bags each.

I thought Grand Union Station itself is worth a bit of time then:

City Hall: Apparently you can go up to a high floor (27th?) for a view. I have to take a photo of myself in front of the building. It's a childhood thing from watching the Dragnet film and send it to my brother. I'll probably be doing a lot of that!

Grand Central Market: Probably best to eat there.

I thought the La Brea Tar Pits was close too but not so after looking at the map.

If you can think of itinerary that we could do for that then it would be most appreciated.

Walt Disney Concert Hall looks impressive and close by.

Is it worth walking around the financial district, if so, might I already be running out of time?

I'm getting a bit overwhelmed with trying to maximise the visit. It's difficult trying to connect the dots. I'm from London so when folks come to visit me I can give them a pretty good time scale and order of seeing things they want.

We're on a budget too so mostly looking at landmarks especially the ones that I grew up with while watching American movies etc. A bit cheesy but I don't care! That said, I do like the odd museum especially about history but I think we might be limited with time, and money especially if the entrance fees are a lot. Universal Studios is obviously an expensive entrance fee but looks worth it and clearly a whole day thing.

Any advice or links you can think of will be well met. Of course, I'm trying to look at places myself but there's so many, so compromises will have to be made with time and money but organising it all is the key.

Thanks very much and hope you can help.

14 replies to this topic
Santa Monica...
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1. Re: Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX
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No it's not a good idea - there's nowhere to store bags, either.

using public transport, arriving at 2pm - you'll get to your hotel about 4 or later. Check in, drop bags, head back out.

Or, save your money and skip Universal, use it for an Uber to go directly to your hotel - they'll at least take your bags if they can't check you in. That gives you a full afternoon to take the Metro downtown and see all those things you want to see.

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2. Re: Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX
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Thanks very much.

If I go straight to the hotel in Hollywood, maybe I should look around there instead for the rest of the day and go Down Town another day?

Got half day when I arrive, two full days after, then up until around 1pm before heading to Palm Springs on the fourth day.

Hunter Valley...
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Hollywood will take you an hour or 2, you can do that after Universal

Do what Elle suggested. Get an Uber/Lyft to your hotel, drop your bags or check in then get yourself back to Union Station via the metro or another Uber/Lyft.

That’s the best way to maximise your time.

Los Angeles...
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4. Re: Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX
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A few 'clean up' items...

1. I'm guessing that you're a regular visitor to New York City since one of the two rail stations there is GRAND Central Station. Our sole train station is called simply UNION STATION. "Grand Union", btw is the name of a supermarket chain on the east coast which was big in NY city for many decades but has now shrunk to a number of locations in the northern part of the State.

2. I responded to your other posting about airport transfers but am now learning that your arrival is in early afternoon on a weekday. At best, you're looking at an hour between the time the plane pulls up to the gate and the time you'll be 'on your way' out of the airport. Assuming your plane rolls up at 1:30, that means, emerging from the terminal at around 2:30 pm. That is the beginning of our afternoon rush hour so a transfer into downtown would take around an hour on the Flyaway.

At Union Station, you could stow your luggage at the 'left luggage' room that Amtrak operates (we don't call it 'left luggage' like you blokes do; it's just the 'luggage room'). Amtrak will only provide this service to paying rail customers so to use it, you'd need to buy a rail ticket to somewhere (the train to Glendale is only $8 as I recall); then, of course, you'd have to pay to store your luggage (not sure how much that is).

Bottom line, by the time you get all of that sorted, it will be around 4:00 pm and downtown L.A. will be in the midst of 'afternoon rush hour'. I wouldn't call the experience of touring downtown L.A. as "a half day in L.A." since the day will be mostly over at that point and if you're flying in from LHR, it will be midnight GMT when you start your touring.

I'm feeling sleepy just writing about this. Zzzz.

A better option would be to head to Hollywood and stroll around the Walk of Fame. The Hollywood district is compact and easy to navigate -- everything is located on Hollywood Bl. Downtown L.A., meanwhile, is a little more complicated; there are a number of 'sub districts' in downtown L.A. like the Financial district, Little Tokyo, and L.A. Live so you'd need to use public transit to move around or do some serious walking.

Union Station and City Hall are impressive attractions -- inside and out -- so if you feel that you'd like to see them before you head to the hotel, go for it. City Hall is only a walk of about 10 minutes from Union Station. But the walk to it is not interesting and I'm not seeing that heading back to Union Station to retrieve your bags and squeezing onto the "B' train after 2 or 3 hours of touring is going to be a positive experience.

BTW, the Disney Concert Hall is atop Bunker Hill so you'd either need to trek up the hill (pant! pant!) or take public transit to it.

Personally, 6 or 7 hours at Universal is plenty. It' a tiny Park -- just 17 attractions. You can definitely combine Griffith Park on the same day (after visiting the Studios).

Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier and, Venice beach can be done on the other full day.

Downtown can be done on your last 1/2-day. How are you getting to Palm Springs? Stop in downtown on the way. One interesting museum in downtown that you might like has free admission and is called La Plaza del Artes Y Cultura. It's a history museum about Mexicans that have contributed to the establishment and development of L.A. You can walk to it from Union Station.

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5. Re: Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX
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Thanks for your replies.

You are absolutely right. I don't know why I kept typing GRAND Union Station. I didn't realise I was doing it!

I wish I was a frequent traveller to New York's Grand Central Station but this will be my first trip to the States ever so very much looking forward to it and trying to make the most of it within a reasonable budget.

After all your advice, I'm starting to believe that I should try to get an Uber directly to the hotel from LAX although I hope it won't be too much especially as the prices rise during rush hour. I guess I'll just have to bite down hard on the pillow for that one and swallow the cost.

So now it seems I'll do all or most of the Hollywood Boulevard stuff on the day of arrival (In-N-Out is just around the corner too - need to decide on a secret menu!). I see the parallel street is Sunset Boulevard which I've heard of but don't know if it's worth seeing. I have to remember they're bloody long streets too so even though they're close to each other, the actual attractions themselves might be far apart.

So, on one full day I can do Universal Studios and Griffith Observatory. Anything else I can slosh in on that day or night? The other full day can be Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier and Venice beach then which sounds perfect.

I wonder if it's worth hiring a car for the day just to drive around (must remember to drive on the right side) ticking all the boxes on landmarks and famous locations? Are any of these tour buses worth it? Many haven't got that great reviews and after seeing a couple of YouTube videos, it might seem not a great way to maximise my time.

After googling it, I really like the idea of visiting that La Plaza del Artes Y Cultura. Hopefully I will have time. Unfortunately it's also one of the preferential differences between my wife and I! I love history but not so my wife. That said, I'm also very partial to the cheesy side of famous landmarks in films! I'd love to take a photo of myself in a banged up Chevy Nova outside the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Come to think of it after seeing photos of that hotel again, the names Ghostbusters and Bachelor Party comes to mind: the latter being Tom Hank's finest work to date.

Unfortunately I'd like to stay longer in LA but we have to leave on my wife's birthday to make our way to Palm Desert where we'll be staying with her sister and mum who's organising a bash. Initially I was going to purchase Flixbus tickets for about $35 in total but I've noticed I can hire an AVIOS car for 24 hours for about the same price (excluding gas) where I can pick it up after visiting Union Station and City Hall.

We've got another 12 days in the States after all this so we're hoping to go to Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon etc. It's a shame we couldn't fly from LA to Las Vegas, seems to be only about $30, without any luggage though. Starting to think hiring a car is the way to go now and I can see there's a kind of Airbnb version in the car hire world which should bring the cost down. Again, just need to remember to drive on the right side!

It's really all overwhelming and I can see myself getting stressed with trying to make the most of it and forgetting to enjoy myself!

One last thing if I may, I see a lot of talk about how dangerous it is to go out at night even in Hollywood which is where we're staying. Personally I think it sounds like any other city where you just use common sense, it's not like we're planning on visiting Skid Row to watch the stars in a tent, but what's it like travelling on the Metro at night? Can you recommend any dos and don'ts at night? We're actually staying on Franklin Avenue and I'm assuming it's okay to walk to a decent place for a bit of food and drink at night? The fact that I have my wife with me gives me pause.

Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate it.

Santa Monica...
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6. Re: Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX
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I go out at night almost every night. Go, have fun.

You're not taking an Uber at rush hour from LAX, if you take an Uber, it will be about 2-2:30pm. You have time to visit downtown, but might not have the energy or stamina. You'll be in a bit of a daze that first day.

Drive to Palm Springs, but if you do, leave at 10am - no later than noon.

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Ah yes, need to remember the jet lag. Thanks.

If I was to drive to Palm Springs then I would've planned on leaving around 2pm so I could still do some sightseeing in the morning. Is it because of the traffic that you recommended no later than noon and if so, is it that bad? How much time do you think it would add to the journey? I guess the rush hour in Palm Springs/Desert would be starting to gather when I arrive there too.

San Diego...
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By not tipping, you can readily dump those "savings" into getting around Los Angeles. Don't forget to not tip any Uber/Lyft....if you deign to use that service.

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Thanks for the tip (pun intended) Liars N F, I'll be sure not to use it.

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10. Re: Maximising half a day after arriving in LAX
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"After all your advice, I'm starting to believe that I should try to get an Uber directly to the hotel from LAX although I hope it won't be too much especially as the prices rise during rush hour. I guess I'll just have to bite down hard on the pillow for that one and swallow the cost."

Up to you. The fare will be high and you'll have to transfer to the LAX-it (ground transportation lot) to meet the vehicle so you'll save a little bit of time, have door-to-door service and pay dearly for it. Why not see how much the fare is upon arrival and decide?

"I see the parallel street is Sunset Boulevard which I've heard of but don't know if it's worth seeing. I have to remember they're bloody long streets too so even though they're close to each other, the actual attractions themselves might be far apart." You are right to be concerned. Unlike London and the like where streets can be short enough to play soccer/football on, our streets are extremely long. Sunset Bl, for example. is 23.5 miles/38 km in length!

So, you're suspicions are correct. The famous part of Sunset Bl is known as the Sunset Strip and it's not the part of Sunset that is in Hollywood. It's in the adjacent City of WEST HOLLYWOOD -- about 1.5 miles / 2.4 km to the west. There is a frequent bus which runs along Sunset (the #2 Metro bus and its occasional cousin, the #302) so you can jump onto one of those heading west for the 10 minute ride to the Sunset Strip.

BTW, I hope you can answer this for me: We've been told for a while that only the U.S., Myanmar and Liberia use the Imperial system of weights and measures but is that completely true? When I watch English TV shows, I see lots of examples of people describing their weight as "12 stone" and the like. The English "home improvement shows" have workers that measure lumber in centimeters but also sometimes in inches.

There is no question that temperature is expressed in metric almost everywhere but the U.S. But has the UK totally adopted the metric system? If we say that two destinations are a mile apart, do we need to convert that to Kms so you blokes will understand us?

Thanks for the insider info!

"So, on one full day I can do Universal Studios and Griffith Observatory. Anything else I can slosh in on that day or night?" You could explore some of Hollywood (the Walk of Fame is a mile / 1.6 km in length -- both sides of Hollywood Bl plus a little bit along Vine St and never closes; nor does the courtyard of the Chinese Theatre). You could stop in Thai Town or the Los Feliz District for dinner.

"I wonder if it's worth hiring a car for the day just to drive around" It couldn't hurt. There are places that are best viewed from a car, e.g. the Pacific Coast Highway if you want to drive 'up the coast' or even 'down the coast'. There are many beach communities and they're all a little different: having a car will allow you to more easily explore Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu and even Marina Del Rey (which is actually built on an inland waterway, a mile from the coast) and the South Bay cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, etc.

A car is also handy if you want to drive 'into the hills' to Mulholland Drive (which overlooks the city). There are several places at which to pull over to look at the views from Mulholland but the road is narrow and windy in places and there is often no guard-rail separating your car from the city below.

"(must remember to drive on the right side)" It will be easy to follow the car in front of you but remember if you make a turn at an intersection to BEAR RIGHT!

"Are any of these tour buses worth it?" It's hard to say. I prefer to self-tour and Trip Advisor is a DIY website so most contributors here would be like-minded in that regard.

I really like the idea of visiting that La Plaza del Artes Y Cultura. Unfortunately it's also one of the preferential differences between my wife and I! I love history but not so my wife." That's okay because the museum is in a small historic district celebrating the beginnings of Los Angeles. If she doesn't want to join you in the Museum, there are other things that she can do nearby:

a. On Olvera St, is a long stretch of merchants selling Mexican Crafts off of carts and from stores. If she likes to shop for artsy things, this could work.

b. Also, nearby is the Chinatown district which has lots of little shops of, mostly Chinese wares.

c. Also nearby is Bunker Hill, home to a host of attractions, e.g.

i. The Disney Concert Hall which one can admire from the outside (It's unique!) or you can take an audio walking tour of it.

ii. The Broad (rhymes with toad) Museum (contemporary art)

iii. One of the MOCA (Contemporary art) locations.

iv. The Catholic Cathedral

Bunker Hill is 'up a hill' from the Historic District where the museum is located but there are DASH "B" buses (35-cents if you load the fare onto a TAP (transit) card of 50-cents in cash) that will take her there in 8 minutes if she starts at Union Station (or in 6 minutes if she walks with you to the museum. If she does this, she'll have to take a walk of a few minutes to reach the closest stop for the DASH 'B' whereas if she gets it at the Station, there is less walking).

"One last thing if I may, I see a lot of talk about how dangerous it is to go out at night even in Hollywood which is where we're staying. Personally I think it sounds like any other city where you just use common sense, it's not like we're planning on visiting Skid Row to watch the stars in a tent..." You're right. You have nothing to worry about.

"but what's it like travelling on the Metro at night? Can you recommend any dos and don'ts at night? We're actually staying on Franklin Avenue and I'm assuming it's okay to walk to a decent place for a bit of food and drink at night? The fact that I have my wife with me gives me pause." I wouldn't hesitate to walk there in the evening. The portion that is closer to Highland Av is all residential (apartment buildings and the like) so you'd need to walk down to Hollywood Bl for food and drink.

But, Hollywood, in general, is nothing special when it comes to food and drink. I would head elsewhere like to Thai Town (a few minutes east of Hollywood aboard any bus along Hollywood Bl) or Los Feliz (a little further east -- get off at the corner of Vermont Av and turn left -- or take the 'B' train south from Hollywood/Highland and get off at Sunset/Vermont station and head north (a little uphill) and cross over Hollywood Bl into the Los Feliz District).

The 'B' train and local Hollywood buses (the 217 metro bus, etc) are fine in the evening. After 10 pm or so, public transit doesn't run as often and starts to feel differently so I wouldn't ride after that; I don't think you'd be in any danger but you might see some homeless sleeping on the trains/buses.

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