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Our “Your Layover Guide” series feature airports and destinations around the world where you’re likely to be stuck between flights, offering tips on navigating and spending time in the airport, as well as some things to do if you find yourself with time to explore the nearby city. TPG Contributor (and pro photographer) Patrick T. Fallon guides us through his home airport — Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (Except where noted, all photos are by the author.)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) serviced more than 70 million passengers in 2014, and traffic is projected to rise to up to 100 million by 2040 — so chances are you may soon have a layover in LA.
At the Airport
The biggest downfall of LAX is its lack of airside connectivity. LAX is composed of Terminals 1-8, plus the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT, or Terminal B). Terminals 4-8 are now connected airside, but while construction is ongoing to improve airside connectivity in the other terminals, there’s still a long road ahead.
You’ll need to re-clear security when moving between Terminals 1, 2 and 3 to TBIT and Terminals 4-8. A shuttle bus also moves between the remote American Eagle Terminal “44” and Terminals 4 and 6. Airside shuttles are available for Qantas passengers to TBIT after 4:30pm from Gate 44. In 2016, there will be an airside bridge allowing a seamless connection between TBIT and Terminals 4-8.
In other words: Give yourself plenty of time to get to your connections, and be prepared to walk!
There’s no on-site luggage storage at LAX. One off-site company, LAX Luggage Storage, offers an expensive curbside pick-up and drop-off service that will cost you $20 for one suitcase for a single day; two suitcases and two carry-ons would cost more than $100 to be picked up and dropped off! You’re better off renting a car for the day and storing the bags inside of the trunk while doing a little sightseeing. Or, storage rates are much lower if you deliver your luggage yourself, and the facility is only a six-minute ride away.
Many airport area hotels offer “day rates” with free shuttle service and usually require checkout before 6pm; these include the Four Points by Sheraton LAX (starting at $109), Hilton LAX (starting at $89) and the Travelodge LAX (starting at $70). From any of these, you could take a taxi, Uber or Lyft back to LAX.
Also check with your airline to see about checking in your bags early. For example, Qantas starts an early check-in at 4pm for evening departures.
The newly renovated Great Hall in the TBIT is quite impressive and beautiful inside — it offers the most options of any terminal for shopping with a Rodeo Drive-inspired retail boutique and duty-free shopping area. Retail and duty-free luxury shopping stores travelers located after TSA security include: Bvlgari, Michael Kors, Fred Segal, Kitson LA, Coach, Porsche Design, Tumi, Victoria’s Secret, Hugo Boss, XpresSpa, See’s Candies, Hermes, Gucci, Burberry, Emporio Armani, and more. According to an LAX tweet, you can access the post-security area if you’re flying out of a different terminal that day, but you’ll probably have difficulty having duty-free purchases delivered to your flight in another part of the airport.
Other terminals have limited options, but inside the connected terminals of 4/5/6/7/8 you’ll find Magic Johnson Sports (T5), Rip Curl (T5), See’s Candies (multiple locations), The Mattel Experience (T5), DFS Duty Free (T6), Bartels’ Harley-Davidson (T7), Hugo Boss (T7) and multiple newsstand-type stores. More renovations are underway, so this should get better soon!
Southwest Airlines’ Terminal 1 is undergoing a major renovation, but at the moment options are limited to a Gordon Biersch Brewery, La Brea Bakery, California Pizza Kitchen ASAP and Pinkberry. The Dunkin Donuts Express located on the arrivals level near baggage claim is one of the very few in LA County.
Terminal 2 features the SLAPFISH Modern Seafood Shack, Nate ‘n Al, a Fresh Brothers Pizza, BUILT custom burgers, Starbucks and Pick Up Stix. Limited options in Terminal 3 include a Gladstone’s 4 Fish Restaurant, La Brea Bakery, Burger King and Starbucks.
The renovated Terminals 4 & 5 are where things get exciting, with new outposts of local LA restaurants. Inside T4 you’ll find Homeboy Industries Cafe, Real Food Daily, Cole’s, Campanile, 8oz Burger Bar, La Provence Patisserie and Chef Roy Choi’s Kogi Truck, which actually looks like a food truck parked inside the airport terminal. Options in T5 include Ford’s Filling Station, Rock & Brews, Lemonade, Loteria!, Skewers by Morimoto, a Farmers Market To Go and more. Since terminals 4/5/6/7/8 are all connected airside, you can access these from any of the terminals if you are able to walk and have time.
Terminal 6 has a Ruby’s Dinette and Home Turf Express/Angel City Brewing. Inside Terminal 7 is BLD from Chef Neal Fraser, Wolfgang Puck Express, another Loteria! grill, Rolling Stone Bar & Grill and The Counter Custom Built Burgers. Terminal 8 has Engine Co. No. 28 and Marmalade Cafe, among a few other options.
For those with international departures, TBIT features 800 Degrees, ink.sack from chef Michael Voltaggio, Petrossian Caviar and Champagne Bar, Lucky Fish, III Forks Steakhouse, Chaya Brasserie, Border Grill and Umami Burger, among other options. Note that almost all dining options in TBIT are now airside past security.
The @flyLAXairport Twitter account regularly posts photos of new eats and can offer assistance, too — so check out its page if you are looking for some airport-dining inspiration.
Terminal 2: Options include the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Air France Club, Air New Zealand Koru Club and Hawaiian Airlines Premier Club.
Terminal 3: Virgin America Loft – Full details are on the Virgin America website, including access for Priority Pass, Lounge Club members and buying day passes.
Terminal 4: American Airlines Admirals Club – If you have an Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, you’re already a member of the American Airlines Admirals Club in Terminal 4 (accessible airside from Terminals 5/6/7/8) and the American Eagle Remote Terminal 4 (Gates 44 – accessed via shuttle) — and don’t have to be flying on American/US Airways/American Eagle to enter. If you receive your Admirals Club access via the Citi Prestige card, you can only access the Admirals Club when traveling on American/US Airways. (Admirals Club members with a same-day boarding pass for American Airlines/US Airways or Alaska Airlines may also use the Alaska Airlines Board Room in Terminal 6.)
Terminal 5: Delta Sky Club – The Delta Sky Club lounge at LAX was recently renovated and features a full bar, complimentary refreshments, Wi-Fi and cool art decorating the walls. The Platinum Card® from American Express and Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express cardholders can access this lounge, as well as elite SkyMiles members or those with an Alaska Airlines Board Room membership — depending on what airline and route you’re flying that day. A new private Delta One lounge can also be found here.
Terminal 6: Alaska Airlines Board Room – Members of the Alaska Airlines Board Room program, American Airlines Admirals Club members, and Priority Pass holders can access this lounge.
Terminal 7 & 8: United Club – If you have a United Club membership, the United MileagePlus Club Card, are traveling in a premium cabin on an international itinerary or meet other terms for MileagePlus and Star Alliance Gold access on international or domestic routes, you can access the United Club. Check the UA website for latest details and location, due to construction.
Priority Pass: If you have a Priority Pass Select membership from the American Express Platinum Card, or better yet from the Citi Prestige card — which allows two free guests unlike the AMEX — there are a couple lounge options in LAX. For the latest information, check the Priority Pass website or download their mobile app. Remember that Terminals 4/5/6/7/8 are all connected airside, so you can access lounges in any of those connected terminals.
Travel to the City Center (Downtown LA)
From LAX to Downtown LA, taxis charge a flat rate of $46.50 plus a $4 LAX origination surcharge, plus tip. Uber and Lyft cars can now pick you up directly from LAX, as well.
Alternatively, you can hop on a FlyAway bus from LAX to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles for $8, one-way; tickets can be bought online or in person. The trip will take at least an hour, but give yourself plenty of extra time with LA traffic.
There’s also the “G” shuttle bus to connect from LAX to the Metro Green Line, which connects to both the Metro Silver Line bus and Metro Blue Line light rail to take you into Downtown’s 7th/Metro Center station. Traveling by bus and Metro could also take at least an hour.
From Union Station, you can hop on the Metro Red Line ($1.75) to go to other parts of Downtown LA or on to Hollywood. You could also explore the beautiful architecture of Union Station, then walk across to Mexico-inspired Olvera Street. For a bite, try taquitos smothered in avocado sauce at Celito Lindo or go to Philippe’s for the Original French Dip; both now take credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which earns 2x points on dining.
Olvera Street is home to a lot of interesting early Los Angeles history and art including the once-hidden América Tropical mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros, but the entire street is a great place for photos. If you go to Los Angeles City Hall (walk or take the Metro Red Line) check out the top observation deck for a free view then relax in the new Grand Park. Just a couple of blocks away is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the steel, undulating planes of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
If You Have a Half Day
The In-N-Out Burger on nearby Sepulveda Boulevard is an awesome place to watch planes land while you await your next flight, and is relatively walkable from Terminal 1 or a short ride with a taxi, Lyft or Uber. Be aware that at peak lunch hours, both drive-thru and dine-in lines can get pretty long, but the friendly staff move people along quickly.
Though savvy travelers used to get to In-N-Out-Burger by hopping on the complimentary shuttle for the nearby parking lot called Parking Spot, the lot has since made it clear that their shuttle is for “paying customers only” and now requires your car’s entry ticket (or a flash of the free Spot Club card). To find the latest alternatives for transportation (and activities), be sure to check the ongoing FlyerTalk thread about In-N-Out layovers at LAX.
Taking a taxi, Lyft or Uber from LAX to Manhattan Beach is a great idea. (Note that taxis have minimum fares from LAX of $15, plus a $4 origination surcharge.) You can get some fresh air while walking along the beach or the pier, have lunch at a variety of awesome restaurants, shop or even hop in the ocean for a swim.
Manhattan Beach has embraced a culinary surge — GQ called it the “Best Beach for Food.” I’ve successfully used the American Express Platinum Card concierge to score a last-minute table reservation at chef David LeFevre’s MB Post, which features a host of tasty eats including bacon-cheddar biscuits. Great views of the water can be had from The Strand House and the classic beach bar Shellback Tavern. You might also want to try the seafood at Fishing With Dynamite, or grab a beer or glass of wine at Simmzy’s Pub or Brew Co.
Even closer to the airport is El Segundo, with a classic Main Street area that’s growing in popularity. Restaurants I love include El Tarasco for a super deluxe burrito, Farm Stand with local and sustainable cuisine and the original Rock & Brews location. (Rock & Brews is also opening soon inside LAX Terminal 1 and is already open in Terminal 5.) For some more local brews, check out the tap room of El Segundo Brewing for wonderfully hoppy craft beer or the classic tiki bar Purple Orchid.
If You Have A Full Day
If you have a full day I would certainly consider renting a car — touring sprawling Los Angeles is quite a challenge via public transit. If you enjoy driving, some of the coast roads are incredibly beautiful, and with a car you’ll have a lot more options to explore. Going north from the airport you could check out Venice Beach, Santa Monica or further up to Malibu — try the barefoot bar at Duke’s Malibu on the water’s edge — or just before the Ventura County border, stop at Neptune’s Net for some seafood. Check out Eater LA for a comprehensive guide to Malibu dining. After your meal, you’ll be driving along the Pacific Coast Highway 1 (PCH), which offers gorgeous sunset views over the ocean.
If you want to stay a little closer in order to avoid crowds and tourists, head south past Manhattan Beach to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, cruise through Malaga Cove Plaza and go up and around the hill to relax with food and drinks at Nelson’s at the Terranea Resort. Grab a spot around the outdoor fireplaces right on the cliff’s edge and soak up the sweeping views — on a clear day you can see Catalina Island. Tide pools are nearby, and there are also some good places for an easy hike including the Crenshaw Trails at Del Cerro Park in the Portuguese Bend Reserve.
If You Have The Night
There are many airport-area hotels, from points brands like Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt. My friends have often stayed at the Four Points By Sheraton Los Angeles Airport (starting at $179 or 7,000 Starpoints per night), which has a surprisingly great selection of 100 beers in its Brewster’s Bar. If you stay here, inquire about tokens for 2-for-1 beers when you check in at the front desk; they’re occasionally given out as promotions to elites and others.
If you’re considering staying in Hollywood, Downtown or Santa Monica — and are aware of the additional time required to get back to the airport — then take advantage of the nightlife these places offer. The W Hollywood Hotel (starting at $323 or 12,000 Starpoints per night) is right at Hollywood and Vine with a rooftop pool, striking views of the Hollywood sign and convenient access to the Metro Red Line. The JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot (starting at $399 or 45,000 Marriott Rewards points per night) is just steps from the beach south of the Santa Monica Pier. In Downtown, consider the boutique Hilton Checkers Los Angeles (starting at $289 or 50,000 HHonors points per night), where you can enjoy the classic 1920s style and open-air rooftop deck and pool.