I see them all the time: the Los Angeles tourist who's made a mistake. They're stuck in traffic on the 405, shivering in their shorts at the beach or paying too much for their hotel room. To help you be a smarter Los Angeles tourist, enjoy your trip more and spend less of your hard-earned money doing it, try these Los Angeles tourist tips:
Eight Ways to be a Smart Los Angeles Tourist
- Know the Weather: Summer weather can be quite warm in Los Angeles. However, it always cools off at the beach in late afternoon, winter can be rainy and the "June gloom" marine layer often obscures the sun for weeks at a time. Our guide to weather and what to expect can help you bring the right stuff. Be even smarter and check the forecast for the right spot: temperatures vary within just a few miles. When it's 72°F in Santa Monica, it might be 80°F downtown and even hotter in Pasadena or Anaheim.
- Avoid the 405: This freeway seems to be perpetually gridlocked, especially between US 101 and Long Beach, and you can get in a traffic jam on it anytime, whether it's rush hour, midnight on Tuesday or noon on Sunday. Get a good map and use it to plot another route. Use the guide to getting around Los Angeles, which may also help. Depending on where you are and where you're going, consider using the Metro Rail instead of driving.
- Get a Hotel Bargain: If you're willing to invest some time, you can get excellent weekend rates in the Los Angeles area, especially in the hotels south of LAX that cater to weekday business travelers such as the Hilton Garden Inn. The Priceline bidding strategies that work well in other locations don't seem to net such good bargains here, and you'll often get a better price by booking directly through a hotel website.
- Know the Geography: The Los Angeles metropolitan area is a big place, encompassing five counties and it can take almost all day to drive across it from north to south. You can attack it in two ways: (1) Figure out what you want to do while you're here, mark the locations on a map and visit them in groups, or (2) pick an area to stay in such as Hollywood or the beach cities and visit the attractions in that area.
- You Have Options for Airports: While Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the best-known and busiest airport in the area, it's also prone to delays, busy and confusing. Consider flying into Burbank (BUR), Orange County's John Wayne Airport (SNA) or Long Beach (LGB) instead.
- What to Expect in Hollywood and Beverly Hills: What you will find in Hollywood are museums featuring memorabilia from Hollywood's past, the Walk of Fame and the famous footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Few movie stars live here, or in Beverly Hills, and most of the studios moved out years ago. Skip the overpriced movie star home tours and don't buy the maps you'll find sold on the roadside either. Frankly, they're mostly fiction. If you really want to see a star or two, the most reliable way to do it is to get tickets to be in a Los Angeles studio audience.
- Go to the Beach: Beaches typify Los Angeles and Southern California in many people's minds. While the water's a little too cold for all the but the hardiest swimmers or surfers in wetsuits, it doesn't keep people from flocking to the sand. Join the locals to watch the beach volleyball games while you stroll along the beachside sidewalks in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach or Rendondo Beach, where you'll be joined by rollerbladers, bicyclists and runners; visit Venice Beach for a taste of the unusual, or head to Orange County's Newport Beach or Huntington Beach for surfing and sand castles.
- Save Money on Admissions: If you're visiting several attractions with admission fees, look the companies offering multi-attraction discount packs.
Offering fewer attractions (but ones that you are most likely to want to see) is Citypass. You can buy their Southern California Pass or Hollywood Citypass online before you go to save time later. The Go Los Angeles Card offers a lot of things to do, but be sure you'll use enough of them to make it worthwhile before you purchase.