A long layover in LAX can be a great opportunity or a living hell.
The first time we had a long layover was on the way home from Australia. Blonde had to sit, exhausted and jet-lagged, for over 5 hours waiting for her flight to Boston. She spent the vast majority of that time actively trying not to cry and vowed never to do another long layover at LAX.
This year as Blonde and Brunette planned our trip to Fiji we decided very early on that we would spend a night at LAX both directions on our trip. We wanted to reduce our stress and Blonde’s need to hold back tears. One of our favorite bloggers, Johnny Jet, has a good write-up on what to do with a long layover at LAX. We read his very useful suggestions, followed some of them and threw in some change-ups of our own.
We were staying at the Radisson at LAX (which turned into the Concourse while we were gone for 2 weeks) and happened to encounter the manager in the lobby. Blonde was grumping around about there not being anyone at the concierge desk and the manager asked if he could help. We told him where we were planning to go, he got out a map, we saw the Getty Museum on it and changed our plans and decided to go there! (Good thing we didn’t see a meth lab.)
We threw fiscal sensibility to the winds (again) and used the hotel’s very convenient car service to get us to the Getty. It was the “easy button” choice and we like that button. The museum is about 15 miles, or half an hour on a Saturday afternoon, away. The museum’s website lists parking costs, how to get there on public transportation and other useful information including the good news that entrance to the museum is free.
We were lucky enough to get there just as a free docent tour set off for an interesting exhibition of the “The Scandalous Art of James Ensor”. Good thing we didn’t live when he did. They thought that was “scandalous”! Sheezh – what a beginner!
After our cultural mini-foray we went to the restaurant for lunch. We had a charming waiterina who talked about what food is good for your brain (guess she could tell we didn’t know) and who Brunette plotted kidnapping as a prospective daughter-in-law.
We still had a little time left for culture so went breezing through some of the permanent exhibitions and then of course the gift shop (there’s a gift shop everywhere you turn which is great or dreadful depending on your point of view).
After Brunette started to interact inappropriately with the art, we had the car service come fetch us and take us to Manhattan Beach.
We were there on a beautiful Los Angeles Tourism Bureau Official Dream Weather Day so a stroll out on the pier was really fun. We saw a few kooky types to at least make us feel like we were in LA but, in reality, Manhattan Beach is an upscale, fun community.
A few weeks earlier a swimmer had been bitten by a shark below the pier so we exercised good judgement at all times.
That evening we had a very nice casual dinner at the restaurant at the Shade Hotel. It looked like a nice place to stay – maybe next time.
After dinner we prowled the local shops and helped the Skechers store make their sales quota for the next couple months. Just what experienced travelers recommend – buying extra shoes before you’ve even left for your destination!
On our way back from Fiji we had considerably less time in LAX but still spent a night and returned to Manhattan Beach. This time we had an even better dinner (and view) at The Strand House. We lucked out because we were going to eat at the unfashionable hour of 6:00 p.m. (stomachs were still on Fiji time). We called and a got a sort of “early bird” instant reservation. Making a reservation more in advance would be highly advisable.
Once again we did some shopping before heading back to LAX for the night. Our layovers at LAX not only broke up the exhaustion of going to a very far away destination but were also a lot of fun. Thanks to Johnny Jet we discovered the delights of Manhattan Beach and, thanks to the much reviled 1% of Americans who are super wealthy (for example, the Getty family), we enjoyed some free culture!
We plan to go back to Fiji next year and foresee longer layovers at LAX on that trip. Catalina Island, anyone?
Update: We did go back to Fiji about 8 months later and did another layover in LA. Here’s what we did that time.