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Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

Mumbai
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Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

We will be traveling to Los Angeles in a few weeks time on a family holiday. We are planning on staying at Sheraton Universal. Our flight will arrive into LAX at 9:30am and we will be in the city for 3 days.

- what would be a good way for group of 8 to transfer from the airport to Sheraton Universal? Is public transportation practical?

- Would Sheraton Universal be a good choice for local sightseeing? The hotel is supposed to be close to the Red Line which seems to connect many tourist locations.

- does it make sense to rent a van for local travel within Los Angeles? I suppose parking would be a big problem?

- Is it easy to use public transportation for local sightseeing?

- would it be better for us to use a local tour operator for a day of sightseeing instead of trying it on our own?

- we have been advised to visit the Venice beach on a Sunday afternoon for the experience. It is really worthwhile?

Lost of questions! I will be grateful for the advise and recommendations.

West Hollywood...
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1. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

"what would be a good way for group of 8 to transfer from the airport to Sheraton Universal?" Prime Time Shuttle (redvans.com) has airport transfer service with two options:

a. A 'shared van' service where you might be combined with another passenger (just 1). The cost is $90 for the 8 of you but the van might be driven around the airport a couple of times so the driver can look for that one additional passenger (the vans hold 9 passengers). This could delay the transfer which could take 90 minutes or a little bit more.

b. A 'private van' service for $95. In this case, you ride in the same van but Prime Time does not solicit additional passengers and drives immediately to the hotel. The transfer would take 45 to 60 minutes.

"Is public transportation practical?" If you're coming from Mumbai, I wouldn't take public transit after such a long flight (plus 60 to 90 minutes in Immigration, baggage claim and customs). If you don't mind carrying your luggage on and off the public transit vehicles, there will be three parts to the transfer:

a. Union Station Flyaway Bus to Union Station in downtown L.A. (the bus pulls up in front of each terminal every 30 minutes and the ride takes between 35 and 65 minutes depending on traffic /time of day. Fare is $7 per person.

b. Transfer there to the red line metro rail (25 minute ride) to Universal City station (trains run every 12 minutes). You will have to queue up to purchase tickets from the vending machines.

c. Upon arrival at Universal City, cross to the diagonally-opposing corner of the intersection there, walk 50 m to the 'tram stop' and wait for the free tram 'up the hill' to the Sheraton. (trams runs once every 15 or 20 minutes; the ride takes 1 minute). Alternatively. you can walk up the hill (10 minutes).

As this transfer will cost $8.50 per person and involve 3 steps, the total cost will be $68. The 'shared van' will cost $90 -- just $22 more for a much easier, more relaxing transfer. The 'private van' will cost $27 but it will be easier and quicker than the other 2 options.

"Would Sheraton Universal be a good choice for local sightseeing?"

It's not a TERRIBLE idea but it's not a great one either. This is because transferring up and down the hill between the hotel and the metro rail station takes time. Plus most of the tourist attractions are closer to Hollywood than to Universal so you'd be passing through Hollywood on a repeated basis. Instead, if possible, get a hotel in Hollywood. This has the added advantage of allowing you more to walk to in the evenings (restaurants, bars, clubs, etc). The Sheraton's only nightlife options are those at the nearby Universal Citywalk Mall -- not a bad thing but you could do a lot better.

"Does it make sense to rent a van for local travel within Los Angeles?"

It really depends on what it is you're going to look at. We have hundreds of attractions (our city is the second-largest in the U.S.). Many visitors think that there are just 4 or 5 things to see and do but they're mistaken. What SPECIFIC sites do you plan to visit?

In general, I'm not a big fan of vans. They can be difficult to park. they use a lot of fuel and they can be expensive to rent. Besides, if your group ever wants to split into 2, how would you do it with just one big van? I prefer 2 smaller vehicles but, again, that depends on where you're going.

There are lots of coach tour options including Starline's Hop On, Hop Off Tour which has 4 intersecting 'tour bus routes' that are included in the one tour. Here's info on that tour. (Look over the info as it will be a sampling of the many, many tourist attractions available in our metro area):

starlinetours.com/los-angeles-tour-HOHO.asp

"I suppose parking would be a big problem?" That depends on what you mean by a 'big problem". In general, there are lots and lots of parking at attractions. Some parking areas have designated areas where smaller cars are permitted to park but larger cars are barred from this area. So, you may have to drive a little bit further to find a place to park. In some places, you might find other vehicles that aren't parked properly within the painted lines on the ground which mark the parking space. If a vehicle is parked crooked, you might not be able to fit the van in the adjacent space. Bottom line, driving a van would be a mild inconvenience as far as parking is concerned.

"Is it easy to use public transportation for local sightseeing?" We have detailed instructions about our public transit system in the TOP QUESTIONS BOX at the right side of this page. Here's a shortcut to the 'local transportation' section: (link and SCROLL DOWN for the content in the center column)

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g32655-c171690/Los-An…

Public transit is easy in some places and more difficult in others. For example. Griffith Park is an enormous city Park (one of the U.S.'s largest urban parks). There are a dozen attractions spread out throughout the park but only 4 of them are available via public transit and two of those (the Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theater) are accessible only on weekends via public transit.

So, before we can tell you how easy public transit will be to use, we have to know your SPECIFIC itinerary.

"would it be better for us to use a local tour operator for a day of sightseeing instead of trying it on our own?" It really depends on your itinerary and how much you're willing to plan in advance (look up public transit routes and schedules, etc).

"we have been advised to visit the Venice beach on a Sunday afternoon for the experience. It is really worthwhile?" Venice is fun and a little bit gritty. Via public transit, it would take a while to reach, say, Venice Pier from the Sheraton (105 minutes each way via three conveyances in succession. If it were me, I'd hire a vehicle (or two) for this portion of your holiday. If you stayed in Hollywood, the transfer would be about 75 minutes, each way.

Mumbai
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2. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

Wow! First off, thanks for the detailed input. Extremely helpful. We will take the van service for sure upon arrival into LAX. By the way we will be flying in from Houston so jet lag will not be an issue. Basically when traveling overseas there are limitations of time especially when visiting many cities so we will have to shortlist the places to see in Los Angeles within the time on hand. We will arrive into Los Angeles on day one and will drive to Las Vegas on the morning of day four. That gives us one partial day and two full days. The kids are very keen on Universal Studios and Six Flags which will take away most of the daytime over two days. We need to make the most of the remaining limited time. Because of this I was wondering if it might be better if we rented a vehicle in advance which we would otherwise be renting for the Las Vegas trip.

I suppose we could save transit time with a vehicle but on the other hand would have parking challenges? What places to visit? I'm told we should spend time in Hollywood (walk of fame, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills), Griffith Park (during late evening for the lights of LA), spend some time in Venice or Santa Monica beaches. What else would you suggest as must-do? Our group will have kids from 9 to 18 and we would like to take care of everyone's interest.

Once again, much appreciate your help.

Corona del Mar, CA
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3. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

I will be more succinct than HSJ. :)

I would not stay at the Universal Sheraton. It is an absolute pain getting up and down the hill to the Red Line Station, I'd look at the Loews Hollywood Hotel or one of the hotels in that area (Hollywood & Highland). it is more convenient on every level for public transportation.

Have you looked at a map of the LA area? See the Google Map below.

http://goo.gl/maps/VUXcI

Hollywood is pretty central to Downtown LA and its neighborhoods (including Little Tokyo and Chinatown), Beverly Hills and Santa Monica to the west, but it wouldn't be my first choice. The sights of Hollywood like the Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theater and snapping a picture of the Hollywood sign takes maybe two to three hours.

Rodeo Drive is in Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills is west of Hollywood and that area would be my first choice. The Sofitel Hotel (see maps below) is still very central, but now you are closer to Santa Monica, the Getty Center, La Brea Tar Pits, Farmers Market, LA County Art Museum and more and it is a nicer area. It is also across the street from a nice mall, the Beverly Center.

http://goo.gl/maps/SmRQl

http://goo.gl/maps/amE6G

Mumbai
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4. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

Well, hotel prices are important too. We will be across California and Nevada for around 7 days and need to watch our budget. Could you suggest some hotels in favourable locations priced within $150 per night? I imagine the Sofitel would be much more expensive.

Mumbai
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5. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

Sorry, that's 17 days not 7.

Southern California
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6. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

If you want to see Six Flags you will need a car or to take a tour. It is possible to get there via public transit but involves 3 changes and takes a very long time.

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7. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

Locals never seem to recommend staying up at Universal but if the price is right it is worth the few minutes tram ride up and down the hill and the 5 minute metro ride to Hollywood. Thousands of tourists stay up at Universal every week and the reviews tell you that most of them are very happy, in fact they are about to build two more hotels.

Santa Clarita transit serves the North Hollywood metro station for $7 roundtrip, the first bus is about 35 minutes and the connecting bus is 10 minutes. The problem is that the last departure from Six Flags is at 6:45pm so you need to exit the park by 6:30pm. (in addition you'll need a cab from Sheraton to North Hollywood Metro station, or it is a walk downhill from the Sheraton and a 4 minute jump on the underground metro). Yes, getting up to Six Flags is a bit of a hassle but driving is no picnic either, especially for a tourist who is not familiar with the scene. Plus there is the time involved in picking up and dropping off a rental car for the day.

You can get an idea of transit times from Universal on www.metro.net. Just plug in "Universal Station" as your departure and for instance "Venice Beach" or "Six Flags" as your destination.

Edited: 03 March 2013, 18:09
West Hollywood...
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8. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

For next time, instead of flying into massive LAX from another U.S. city (like Houston) consider flying into Bob Hope Airport (airport code: BUR) which is in Burbank. adjacent to Universal Studios (and therefore Hollywood). Transferring from BUR to Universal or Hollywood is faster and less expensive than from LAX and the airport itself handles only 1/10th of the air traffic of LAX (and no international travel) so it's much easier and quicker to get through BUR than through LAX.

Regarding your hotel, while Scott has played the role of 'bad cop', I'll play the role of 'good cop' and say that, yes, Universal is 'a little bit away' from 'the center of things', but given the cost of the hotel and it's amenities, it's certainly a viable option.

It's true, though that the '1 minute tram ride down the hill' coupled with the '5 minute metro rail ride to Hollywood/Highland, comes out to be a lot longer than a 6 minute transfer. Here's why:

The trams run once every 15 or 20 minutes (less frequently in the evenings) so you've got an average 'wait time' of, say, 9 minutes. Then, it takes about 3 minutes to walk from the 'tram stop' to the corner and then to the metro rail station (you'll need to wait for the pedestrian 'walk sign' to turn green in each direction); then you'll need to descend 2 levels to the platforms.

At some point, you'll need to purchase tickets for the red line. If you buy a DAY PASS, you'll only need to do that once per day. (It's $5 and is good for unlimited rides on the metro rail and metro buses). If you don't plan to use enough transit to warrant buying the Pass, then you'll need to purchase tickets before every trip.

So, on your way to the platforms, you'll need to stop at the ticket lobby (one level below the street and 'queue up' to buy your tickets from the vending machines. With 8 of you, this could take 2 or 3 minutes.

The trains run only once every 12 minutes (therefore, an average 'wait time of 6 minutes); then the transfer (5 minutes); then you 'll need to ascend 2 levels to the street (1 to 2 minutes). So, that's about 23 minutes, If you head out in the morning, return in the late afternoon, 'freshen up' and then head out for the evening, the '6 minute transfer between the Sheraton and Hollywood' will take a total of an hour, 32 minutes (2 return trips, each day).

Every once in a while. you can take a taxi into Hollywood (or back to the hotel) to speed things up a little. The taxi ride is about $12 and takes about 10 minutes WITHOUT TRAFFIC.

For your trip to Santa Monica/Venice, I'd hire a car; otherwise, it will take 90+ minutes via 3 conveyances to get there. For the return, the transfer will take closer to 2 hours since many of the 'express buses' stop running in the early evening.

Besides the cost of the car hire, you'll need to add petrol and parking so it will be an expensive day, relatively-speaking but having the freedom to explore our coastline by car would be worth it.

Fremont, California
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9. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

We have stayed at the Sheraton and I would not stay there for an extended period of time. While our room was nice, our view was of a congested freeway. You were basically locked into Universal type things with a walk up and down the hill to the area (the tram was always full from those who took it from Metro up to the park.). There is no dedicated tram for hotel guests. It would be far better to stay in Hollywood itself and ability to walk around and see things, etc, from there. In your price range Hollywood Celebrity Hotel will work well

http://www.hotelcelebrity.com/

You will appreciate being in a place with more things to do.

As someone who has actually stayed in both Hollywood area and Universal area, I will just tell you - look else where. (I guess that is bad cop role???).

We have stayed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood area and its our lodging of choice with free snacks any time of day and a 24 hour pool and a continental breakfast each day included. They have the nicest staff around - and just plain wonderful location. but it will be higher than $150 - but with all the perks, it could be worth looking at as well. We also liked it that it had a large refrigerator and stove (not many cooking utensils) but a great place to warm up left overs, etc. from the large dinners you usually get when ordering at restaurants. just wanted to mention it - although beyond your price range you are looking for.

http://magiccastlehotel.com/

tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g32655-d84502-R…

Edited: 04 March 2013, 03:37
Mumbai
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10. Re: Questions on Sheraton Universal as a base for touring LA

Back after a work trip.....

I made bookings at Comfort Inn near Hollywood Walk of Fame. Rates are fitting my budget and they seem to be located very well in terms of Hollywood area sightseeing as well as proximity to the Red Line. They also have free parking for the vehicle we will rent to visit Six Flags and then onwards to las Vegas. Hopefully it will work out.

I had visited Los Angeles more than 25 years ago and remember driving up a hill from where we could park at an overlook which gave amazing views of the city. It was late evening and we had sat there for some time watching the sky darken and all city lights coming on. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the road. Could it be the road leading to Griffith Observatory? Or is there any other road?