By Kelly Zuniga
To list all of the attractions in Los Angeles would be an impossible task. Instead, I will share a sample of what this city has to offer. Let’s begin with an overview of transportation and end with a preview of attractions.
Airport to Downtown
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the major international airport in Los Angeles. One option for getting to downtown from LAX is to book a shared shuttle ride through SuperShuttle. The ride, per person, can cost as low as $15-17 when using the discount code E4RXN on the SuperShuttle website. Other forms of direct transportation include ride sharing apps (Lyft or Uber), hailing a taxi at the airport, or ExecuCar.
Alternatively, you could combine a shuttle with public transportation, though it may turn into a long journey. LAX connects to Union Station for $9.75 through the Flyway shuttle service. Union Station is the largest rail station in Los Angeles and is well connected to several transportation options.
Renting a car can be very useful, especially for those hoping to venture outside the city. There is a wide variety of complete rental companies at LAX. If you are a member of Zipcar, there are a number of pick-up locations.
Getting Around L.A.
If there is one complaint that I have about my city, it is the lack of public transportation. However, I would like to acknowledge the number of increasing options—urban planners are listening to our concerns. Play around with this Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority trip planner to discover routes from your hotel or get an overview of all metro lines in Los Angeles.
As for the Los Angeles Convention Center itself, it touches several public transit options.
One exciting transportation development is the new Expo Line that connects downtown Los Angeles to the west side. Those wishing to soak up the sun and listen to the sound of waves can walk 20 minutes to the 7th Street/Metro Center station to take the Expo Line towards Santa Monica.
For those driving in L.A., I have a few tips:
- Be aware of major events around the L.A. Convention Center. They can cause street closures and excessive traffic.
- Give yourself enough time during rush hour to travel (7:00-9:00 a.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m.).
- Please, please pay attention to parking signs and meters. Our impossible-to-read street signs feel like traps for parking tickets.
- The Waze traffic app may bring you to large and dangerous intersections. To avoid this, turn on the “Reduce difficult intersections” option in the general settings.
Attractions: Music, Art, and Entertainment
As one of the entertainment capitals of the world, Los Angeles is home to a variety of concerts, exhibits, and performances. I recommend looking for tickets ahead of time. One of my favorite sites for discounted tickets is Goldstar. To find events that correspond with your stay, filter by date and browse the site from time to time for added shows.
Why not attend a free T.V. show taping while in L.A.? Check out this site for links to some of the most popular shows.
Great Views of L.A.
The best things in life are free, right? That is why I am adding a section of free viewpoints.
- City Hall Observation Deck: Sign in at the front desk to access the viewing deck from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; the address is 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90012.
- Griffith Observatory: There is a reason the observatory was featured in the movie La La Land. Enjoy breathtaking views of L.A. from the observatory and the surrounding park.
- The Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites: If you will be staying here, I suggest a quick ride in the glass elevators to the top. If you would like to indulge, enjoy a drink or meal at the Bonavista Revolving Lounge, which completes a 360-degree turn every hour or so.
- For more amazing views of L.A., take a look at this list from one of my favorite blogs.
There are more than 10 museums in downtown L.A. alone. Here’s an insider tip: reserve tickets for the Broad Museum as soon as possible. Once inside the museum, try your luck at securing a spot in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room. I suggest heading to the reservation kiosk right away, and if your wait time is too long, you can always exit and re-enter the museum. Lunch break, anyone?
Also, I should point out that some Los Angeles museums offer free admission all the time or during select hours.
This section includes some ideas for conference attendees who will be traveling with partners and children.
Museums for Children
- California Science Center: Home to the Endeavour Shuttle and conveniently located off the Expo Line; free advance reservation is highly recommended.
- Discovery Science Center: This interactive museum is technically located in the San Fernando Valley, but may be worth the drive for the ample parking.
- Aquarium of the Pacific: Discounted tickets are available on Goldstar for weekday entries after 3:00 p.m.
- Universal Studios Hollywood: Travel to the wizarding world of Harry Potter and party with minions in the same day. The theme park is accessible via public transportation.
- Six Flags Magic Mountain: Thrill seekers have plenty of roller coasters to choose from at this theme park north of Los Angeles. Though public transportation is available, I recommend getting there by car.
- Disneyland: Though located in the neighboring county, visitors like to spend the day here while staying in Los Angeles. Visit the Disney website for transportation details.
- Knotts’ Berry Farm: Snoopy fans will appreciate this family-friendly theme park located an hour south of Los Angeles.
- Universal City Walk: Cinema, dining, shops, and bright lights all in one; located next to Universal Studios Hollywood.
- Griffith Park: It is hard to believe that a single urban park can house a zoo, a theatre, an observatory, hikes, and picnic grounds, but Griffith Park does just that.
A health-conscious crowd, Angelenos love staying in shape by visiting the hills and playing in the ocean.
- Hollywood Sign Hikes: I prefer getting a close-up of the Hollywood Sign, and I appreciate that all levels of hikers can access it too. Read about the different hikes to the Hollywood Sign.
- Malibu Hikes: An ocean view is the perfect incentive to get outdoors. If you agree with this statement, check out these hikes near Malibu Beach, primarily accessible by car.
- Mount Wilson: Experienced hikers may want to start or end their visit in L.A. by conquering this 6-to-8-hour hike north of Pasadena. Please research the trail beforehand.
- Santa Monica Beach and Pier: The water is not so good for swimming, but the gorgeous sunsets and shops on Third Street are worth the visit. Big bonus: it is accessible by metro on the Expo Line.
- Venice Beach: This area is so quintessentially L.A.! Find a Groupon deal to rent bikes or walk down the boardwalk for some serious people watching. My new favorite spot is Abbot Kinney Boulevard; every first Friday of the month they line the street with food trucks (June 2).
- El Matador State Beach: It might take you more than an hour to drive there, but the caves and rock formations will make up for it on a sunny day.
Personally, I cannot keep up with all of the teams in this city. On the other hand, sports fans are never bored in between seasons. Catch a game while you’re in town!
- L.A. Clippers and L.A. Lakers: Los Angeles has two men’s basketball teams, which increases your chances of attending a playoff game if you are willing to spend a pretty penny; however, I predict only one team will make it to the playoffs…
- L.A. Sparks: Luckily, the WNBA season starts in May so that we can get our basketball fix. Visit their official website for ticket information and the season schedule.
- Quick note: all of these teams play at the Staples Center near the L.A. Convention Center.
This blog post is meant as a starting point and quick reference. Please do not feel restricted or overwhelmed by the possibilities. For those who like to plan ahead, I recommend booking one or two activities ahead of time; more than two events might be difficult to schedule if you don’t know the lay of the land. If the weeks leading up to the conference leave you with little time to plan, you can always visit the hospitality booth at the conference. The beauty of Los Angeles is that there is always something to do, whether meticulously planned or spontaneously chosen. Enjoy!
Kelly Zuniga is J-1 exchange visitor counselor at the University of California-Los Angeles and the Local Arrangements Team (LAT) communications chair for the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo.