What To Do in Los Angeles on a Layover

Basketball court on Venice beach, California
Basketball court on Venice beach, California | © George Petrou / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of K Santos
3 July 2019

Knowing the right places to go during a short stay in Los Angeles is essential for visitors trying to get the most out of their layover. This guide proves that you’re not limited to a nap at the airport.

It can take half an hour to drive two miles in Los Angeles, so venturing there during an airport layover can seem a daunting task. If the trip is planned carefully, however, a layover at LAX allows a short but magical experience in the City of Angels. Once you’ve got your luggage and transportation sorted, a layover can become a mini-vacation.

Plan ahead by expecting traffic on weekday mornings (around 9am) and rush hour times (4pm to 7pm). To take advantage of the METRO trains, check Google Maps, which outline the best train and bus routes. Note that LAX rideshares meet at departures.

Those on a spontaneous layover trip might want to stay close to the airport. Thankfully, you can visit several colorful nearby neighborhoods without getting stuck in traffic.

Venice Beach

Natural Feature
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Cycling along Venice beach
© Sérgio Nogueira / Alamy Stock Photo
LAX is not far from Venice Beach. Depending on traffic, the drive takes you from the airport to the beachfront in about 20 minutes. This popular and laid-back seaside neighborhood is famous for its skateboarding teenagers, bicycling tourists, and surfers. Layover travelers who fancy some exercise at Venice Beach can get rideshare drivers to drop them off at one of the many beachside bike-rental stores. There’s also the option of renting one directly from the Metro Bike Share found in various locations. The beachside bike path stretches from Pacific Palisades to Redondo Beach. Bikers can head north (toward Malibu and Santa Monica) or south (toward Marina Del Rey and Manhattan Beach). Beachside hangouts like Back on the Beach Café offer bicyclists and others a chance to relax and enjoy the view with a beer in hand.

Santa Monica Pier, California

Amusement Park
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Amusement park in Santa Monica
© Nata Rrass / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Located just north of Venice Beach, the Santa Monica Pier is an ideal place for a short romantic date. The pier has photo booths, a Ferris wheel, and multiple carnival games for couples or families who want to have a little fun before the next leg of their travels. Over a hundred years old, the pier is a landmark for both Angelenos and tourists. Its seafood restaurants offer panoramic views of the ocean.

Museum of Jurassic Technology

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For those looking for a more surreal experience, Culver City’s Museum of Jurassic Technology is just the ticket: it has been described as one of the strangest museums in America. The unique collection features curiosities that blur the lines between science, history, and folk art, including microminiature sculptures and floral radiographs. Although the authenticity of many of the objects has been called into question, this is a great place to muse on abstract ideas. You can also do that while sitting back with a Georgian cuppa in the museum’s Russian Tula Tea Room.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Historical Landmark
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The Butcher's Daughter Cafe on Abbot Kinney in Venice, CA
The Butcher's Daughter Cafe on Abbot Kinney in Venice, CA | © Robert Landau / Alamy Stock Photo

Abbot Kinney Boulevard in South Venice is a great place to shop, dine, and explore the local culture. Many of LA’s best restaurants are located on this mile-long strip. Popular eateries include GJELINA, one of the city’s most critically acclaimed restaurants; Salt & Straw, an ice cream parlor with an extensive list of flavors; and Butcher’s Daughter, a nationally recognized, mostly-vegan restaurant. Yoga studios, art galleries, and nightclubs are also found here.

Sony Pictures Studios

Architectural Landmark
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Sony Pictures Studios
Sony Pictures Studios | © Allstar Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
Outsiders often think that Hollywood Boulevard – the famous location of the literally star-studded Walk of Fame – is the center of Tinseltown, but the movie studios are scattered about LA. If you have a long layover between flights, Sony Pictures, located on West Washington Boulevard in Culver City, is worth visiting for its two-hour guided walking tour.

In-N-Out Burger Near LAX

Food Stand, American
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In-N-Out Burger sign
In-N-Out Burger sign | © David Touchtone / Alamy Stock Photo

On short layovers, leaving the airport for hours isn’t an option. But travelers can still find an authentic slice of LA life without going too far. Located less than two miles from LAX, the famous drive-thru burger joint In-And-Out is a great way to get a taste of the city before heading onto the next leg of your journey. By grabbing a cab, rideshare, or Parking Spot shuttle (the complimentary shuttle takes riders to the Sepulveda In-And-Out), you can dig your teeth into one of America’s greatest burgers.

Hollywood Park Casino

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A visit to Las Vegas is too far from LA for a day-long vacation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hit the poker table during an airport layover. Inglewood’s Hollywood Park Casino is only a short drive from LAX. The card games include blackjack, poker, and party craps. The casino also has a sports bar with dining options.

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