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Los Angeles is truly anything you’d like it to be.

Oasis retreat, glamorous red carpet, five star meals, laid back beach trip or perhaps – everything in between. But what is “Los Angeles”? The truth is, it’s a gigantic city, with miles in between many of the things worth doing. If you want to get the very best out of it, you need to plan and consider every element, like where to stay carefully.

Here’s what you need to know before visiting Los Angeles, California…

a sunset over a beachLAX Is Not Your Only Choice

When people think Los Angeles, they think LAX. The airport is one of the largest in the world, and extremely convenient to Santa Monica and places South, but it can be a trek from LAX to Hollywood or places outside of the central city.

For those headed to Hollywood or Burbank, from domestic flights – consider Burbank airport instead. It’s much easier. If you’re going toward Orange County, also check in on John Wayne airport. And if all LA airports are too expensive, consider San Diego, just a 2.5 hour drive, and a gorgeous one at that!

You Probably Need A Car

Though there is a subway system, mass transit in Los Angeles, is largely a joke. No one needs to rent a car in New York City, but in Los Angeles, you’d better think again. It’s really advised. Unless you’re on a fly in work trip with a hotel next to everything you’ll do, you’re going to be traveling a lot, and being in control is big.

Uber is great in Los Angeles, but if you’ll be moving around frequently, drives can be over 20-30 minutes at a time and can really add up. Downtown Los Angeles to Beverly Hills can often take an hour, for example. Check out Silvercar for 40% off rentals at the moment, in an Audi A4.

a sign on a hill with a city in the backgroundLocation Is Crucial

Be very weary when choosing your hotel. If you want “walk of fame”, “Hollywood” and nightlife, your best bet is staying in Hollywood or Beverly Hills.

If you’re in town for non music/film industry business, it’s probably in Century City or Downtown Los Angeles. If you want to stroll along the beach, stay in Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu or Marina Del Rey.

If you’re going to Universal Studios, Burbank is great for hotels- and cheaper. Like we said, drives are long, so figure out what you want, and stay as nearby as affordably possible.

The best tip though? Airbnb is a great option here, from amazing beachside spots in Santa Monica to cute bungalows in the Hollywood Hills.

Runyon Canyon Is Amazing

A breath of fresh air is never better than when traveling. Runyon Canyon, perched high in the Hollywood Hills, with outstanding views all the way down to the water, and of the Hollywood sign, this is the perfect place for a hike. And don’t worry, there are other hikes too.

It’s about 20 minutes from any location on the Sunset Strip, and is a favorite of both locals and tourists alike. Just wait until the sun burns off some of the morning smog, if you’d like the very best views! You really can see down to the water on a beautiful day…

a dessert on a plateLA Food Trucks Are Famous

There are many destinations around the world where eating from a food truck is a guaranteed death sentence for your stomach. Not LA. It’s a place where all your senses will be rewarded for your clever culinary decision.

From tacos to pokè and everything in between, Los Angeles food scene is thriving. For cheaper eats on the go, especially while walking around places like Beverly Hills, don’t be afraid to saunter up to one of these mobile establishments for a great meal. In fact, Angelenos were outraged when no taco trucks won a Michelin star in this years guide.

Just look for long lines, it’s a great sign of quality.

Where To Find Hipsters

While many associate hipsters with overgrown facial hair and occasionally a lack of hygiene, it’s their affinity for strong drinks, beautiful coffee and emerging food and design trends that we seek.

If you want to find the havens of the hip in Los Angeles, we recommend checking out Silver Lake, Abbot Kinney/Venice, Downtown Los Angeles and Echo Park. You’ll find no shortage of the best in music, coffee, cocktail, creative and graffiti. For Thai food, you’d be hard pressed to beat Night + Market Song.

a vineyard with trees and hills in the backgroundDay Trips Recommended

The West Coast is a vast, ever changing landscape. Five hours to the Northwest of Los Angeles you’ll find top wineries, 2 hours to the Northeast you’ll find desert in Palm Springs, and about 2 hours to the Southeast you’ll find San Diego.

If you’ve heeded the warnings in this post, and rented a car, there’s no greater joy than road tripping down California’s excellent roads to these wonderful spots. Even if you don’t have enough time for those, a jaunt over to Malibu is something you’ll not soon forget.

Famous People Everywhere

James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke is not a farce.

Celebrities really are everywhere in Los Angeles, especially in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Silverlake and Burbank. If you see one of these obscure creatures in the wild, treat them the same way you’d treat a mother bear in the woods. We’re half kidding. The best way to enjoy celebrity spotting is from a distance, observing whether the person seems cool or not, without bugging them. Especially before coffee.

And yes, Whole Foods in West Hollywood is a great spotting place.

a bedroom with a bed and a chairAbout The Marijuana…

Marijuana, weed, cannabis, mary jane, ganja or whatever you’d like to call it to fit in, is largely legal in California. Approved residents currently can purchase cannabis in approved dispensaries, and legislation has passed allowing expanded use.

Basically, it’s going to smell like “weed’ in a lot of places, and there’s not a whole lot to do about it. If you’re sensitive, request to be moved to a non smoking floor and so forth. It’s part of life in Los Angeles, for better and worse.

Most Museums Are Free

Los Angeles has some wonderful museums and attractions, from the Griffith Observatory to the LACMA. If the museum is not always free, it more than likely offers a few days or weeks of the month which are free. If museums are your thing, try to plan ahead, checking into when your preferred attractions will be free. We love the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Griffith Observatory, FIDM Museum and Galleries and countless others.

Bonus: Compton Really Is Dangerous

Thanks to movies like Straight Outta Compton, and the success of Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and many of Compton’s famous (once) residents- people love venturing to Compton, even if just to take a picture next to a street sign. This is not something we can suggest. Not only will locals hate you, it’s a legitimately dangerous neighborhood, especially after dark. Same goes for parts of Long Beach. If you love music, the Capital Records building is almost as iconic, and totally safe.

Copyright: sumikophoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. There are 2 other airports in the LA area, Ontario ONT (all 4 major airlines + others), and long beach LGB (AA, DL, Jetblue). San Diego is a bit far in SoCal traffic.

  2. If anyone is dead-set on visiting Compton, there is a company that does tours around there (LA Hood Life tours). I spent a very entertaining couple of hours doing one last month being driven around in a vehicle with blacked out windows spewing forth gangsta rap, learning all about the musical and cultural history of the city (although the tour probably wouldn’t be for you if you have issues with item 9 on the above list)…

    I have no affiliation with the tour company, just sharing my experience!

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