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First time in LA - which area to stay in?

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New Brunswick...
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First time in LA - which area to stay in?

We're going to LA for 4 nights at the end of September for the first time and feeling quite overwhelmed with my research so far. Wondering which area of the city would be best for us to stay in while we're there. LA just seems so spread out!! We plan on travelling via public transportation during our time there and sightsee, eat great foods and have fun. Thank you for your suggestions!

Rancho Santa...
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1. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

Why are you not renting a car? This is a major decision.

What is your itinerary? Be precise.

What is your nightly budget for accommodations?

New Brunswick...
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2. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

Renting a car...not sure yet. Just feel that we'll waste so much time in traffic and not to mention parking costs. Also not sure if we feel comfortable driving in LA.

No itinerary yet...want to decide where to stay first.

Hotel budget is around $200/night.

Manhattan Beach...
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3. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

LA's public transit system is vast, but unfortunately so is the metropolitan area, so it can take forever to get places.

LA is fairly easy to drive and navigate. Our streets are nice & wide. The freeways can be a bit intimidating because of the density of traffic and speed (or lack of).

If you are constrained to public transportation then you do have to give some forethought to which sights you want to see.

I like Santa Monica. It is an urban area with the hotels, beach, shopping, and restaurants all within walking distance of each other. It is not totally central to most tourist sights, but it is pretty good. I am also told that it is well connected to the bus system.

Santa Monica...
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4. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

You'll spend more time on buses than you would if you had a car - almost double the time trying to get anywhere without a car.

Santa Monica is the nicest in September, which is a very hot month, but your budget is too low for SM.

First decide on a car, then choose the area. Your budget and no car dictate Hollywood, but that's not an ideal place to stay, unless you like stay near tourists rather than locals.

Read our FAQs on Where to Stay at the top of the LA forums topics list. Your question is asked daily, read the other threads to get more info.

Manhattan Beach...
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5. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

When you are comparing places to stay you can go on Google Earth, pick a hotel location, and then get a routing, either via public transportation, car, or walking, to a tourist sight that you want to visit. This will give you a feel for how easy it is to get places.

Burbank, California
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6. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

It all depends on what you want to do and see really. If you are planning on public transportation thats ok, but make sure you're near a major street where you're more likely to catch a frequently running bus on 15-30 min intervals vs 45-hr intervals in less travelled areas.

If you're planning to go to say Universal Studios make sure you're near a METRO stop and you can take the Redline up.

If you are planning to see "Hollywood" and Beverly Hills "Rodeo Dr" and Venice Beach. You'll want to stay somewhere close to streets like Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd, La Brea Ave, Highland Ave, Fairfax Ave. These are all major streets with frequent bus coverage that'll take you to and fro these areas West to the Beach and East into Downtown LA & and North and South. Good luck.

West Hollywood...
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7. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

Okay, let's get organized. Papi has it right. There is no way to advise you as to the location for your hotel or if you'll need a car until you come up with an itinerary. That's not to say that you need to give us the name of every attraction you plan to visit but it DOES mean that we need to have an idea of the neighborhoods/districts that you'll be visiting.

L.A. is vast but what you might not be aware of is that, often, visitors to our city visit neighboring cities and counties as part of their vacation. For example, Disneyland is a popular tourist destination but it is not in the city of Los Angeles -- nor is it even in the same county as Los Angeles. It's in the city of Anaheim which is about an hour from Los Angeles by car. By the time you queue up to park at Disneyland and make your way from your car to the entrance to the Park, it's more like 90 minutes from the city of Los Angeles. Interestingly, the transfer via public transit between Los Angeles to Disneyland is also 90 minutes, proving that so many of the claims that you'll see on this Forum that using public transit takes 2 or 3 times as long as using public transit just aren't true. (More on this below).

Here's a map of the immediate Los Angeles metro area which shows the major neighborhoods and nearby cities as well as some landmarks. The Pacific Ocean (not shown) runs along the western edge of the map; the ports (San Pedro and Long Beach) are off the lower right-hand corner of the map and Anaheim (Disneyland) is also off this corner (further south than the ports):

…flickr.com/2695/4304287666_3f60e03695_o.jpg

As you can see, LAX is at the 6 o'clock position; Santa Monica (a major beach community, just outside of the city of Los Angeles) is at the 9 o'clock position, our downtown is at the 3 o'clock position and Universal City (home to Universal Studios) is at high noon. The city of Beverly Hills is the most centrally-located district in the immediate metro area but it's very expensive.

It helps a lot if you look over our FAQs section (the first link in our list of topics). You need a computer so see it (not a mobile device). Without a computer, use this shortcut:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g32655-i61-k506308…

This content includes a lot of useful info, e.g. 'Itinerary Ideas', public transit info', tips on picking the perfect hotel, places to go for more info about L.A., etc, etc.

Do look these areas over and, perhaps, make a new posting with specific questions about what you read about. Asking 'where should we stay' and 'what should we do' is an exercise in frustration because we don't know what interests you and there are hundreds and hundreds of attractions in our metro area (big and small, famous and not-so-famous) so we can't begin to know which ones might interest you.

Here's a list of the top 300+ attractions. (link and SCROLL DOWN for the list)

tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g32655-Activitie…

Click on the name of the attraction for a brief description and look over the traveler reviews for each. If you find some that interest you, ask us about them and perhaps, we can assist in putting together a practical itinerary after which we can help you pick a neighborhood for a hotel, help you decide upon a car, etc.

So, let's talk a little bit about driving in Los Angeles. As someone who drives AND uses public transit, I have a pretty good idea about how public transit works in L.A. I live in West Hollywood (see map) which is a fairly central area (popular with visitors).

The notion that you'll spend hours and hours on buses if you don't have a car and that, if you do have a car, you'll be zipping from place to place in just a few minutes is just silly. Yes, buses go more slowly than cars do but there are many factors to consider:

Our RAPID buses (painted red) stop very infrequently so it's very close to driving in terms of transfer speed. Add to that, when you arrive at your destination by bus, YOU'RE THERE but when you drive to a location, you have to find parking. Entering a car park, driving up the ramps, looking for a space, finding your way to the elevator/lift, and walking to an attraction can take 15 to 30 minutes. (The last time I visited Santa Monica by car, it took 25 minutes from the time I entered the car park behind a large queue of other drivers until I reached my final destination. Upon retrieving my car, it took the same amount of time (25 minutes) because, in Santa Monica, you don't pre-pay, so you queue up to scan your ticket to see how much you owe.

Those who are in favor of driving never mention the time it takes to park and unpark (at your hotel, as well). They also don't mention the time it takes to get the car from the car rental office, the time it takes to refuel it (perhaps, more than once) and the time it takes to return it to the car rental office and then WAIT FOR and ride the tram back to the airport.

Another factor to consider is that metro RAIL is UNCONDITIONALLY faster than driving. So, for example, if you stayed in Hollywood and transferred to the center of downtown, you could do that on the red line in 15 minutes. The alternative, driving on the Hollywood Freeway, is an experience that can take twice as long -- or longer (plus the time it takes to park in downtown L.A. -- which is expensive and time-consuming since the car parks are underground and are often immense).

Lastly, Los Angelenos, especially those that were born here, are accustomed to driving so the thought of using public transit is a 'step down' for most people. To me, (I grew up in New York where almost no one had a car), using public transit is great in many instances because you're free to sightsee and you don't have to hassle with parking. (Another hassle associated with renting a car is that if you explore an area -- like Santa Monica which is somewhat spread out -- you need to transfer back 'to get the car' at the end of your day of touring. If you're using public transit, you only need to get onto the bus that's closest to your last tourist destination and you're on your way back to your hotel. Easy!)

So, do some research, decide upon a rough itinerary and re-post with questions. One last thing....

Another favorite scare tactic on this Forum is to tell you that if you stay inland (away from the coast) during September that the heat (climate) will be unbearable. Posters will paint a picture of people like myself, on our hands and knees, exhausted, dragging ourselves through the street, begging for water -- while those in Santa Monica are singing and dancing in the streets.

Let me clarify this for you. Yes, there are days in September in which the temperature can get into the 90s in central L.A. On those days (which are relatively rare), temps at the beach are usually 10 (or more) degrees cooler. But, these 'hot days' aren't every day and the worst of the heat is in the early to mid-afternoon (before and after that, it is cooler).

More importantly, the only time it's important to compare the temperatures AT HOTELS in 2 different neighborhoods is if you plan to laze by the pool or at a nearby cafe midday. If, on the other hand, you'll be out touring throughout the metro area, it's not important at all how hot the neighborhood is AT YOUR HOTEL. All hotels are air conditioned and all buses and rental cars are as well. So, for example, if you visit Universal Studios (which is in one of the hottest (temperature-wise) areas in L.A., it will be just as hot at Universal if you're staying in Santa Monica as it will be if you're staying in Hollywood.

Happy researching!

Corona del Mar, CA
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8. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

If you don't rent a car you limit your ability to easily sightsee, get to the best restaurants and limit the areas people can recommend that you stay.

Santa Monica...
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9. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

HopSkip, in August/September, I am definitely singing and dancing in the streets in Santa Monica, and panting for air and water downtown - and my time is split between the two. Given the choice, I would spend 100% of my time in SM in the hot months.

Burbank, California
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10. Re: First time in LA - which area to stay in?

HopSkipJump has it on point. Good information for any visitor to LA. The issue of driving can be discussed at length, but generally speaking driving in LA is definately an experience on its own. The thought of getting in your car from your hotel to go to XYZ sounds convienient, but if you time it wrong, you could be stuck on one of our famous "freeways" for an hour or more to get from point A to B. Not knowing who is "we" in your post can't say if you're going to go to Disneyland and Universal Studios and have family fun, vs venturing out into the weee hours of the morning visiting the "Sunset Strip" and that type of scene.