Los Angeles (Part 1) – Introduction & Where To Stay

Los Angeles Downtown

After finding some pretty amazing fares to Los Angeles (here and here) it occurred to me that my one-time-home may need a bit of an introduction for anyone who hasn’t been. With that in mind here’s the first in a series of blog posts about one of the coolest places I’ve lived:

Los Angeles is a city that people love to hate. It’s cool to bash LA because LA is terrible at standing up for itself. People love to talk (endlessly) about how “fake” everything and anyone in LA is and how there’s “no culture” to be found. People drone on about the bad traffic and the smog and get all worked up about how “everything is so spread out”. Most of this complaining is nonsense.

Los Angeles DowntownDowntown LA

In this series of blog posts I’m going to dispel some of the myths surrounding LA and pass on some tips and suggestions for anyone looking to visit.

Here, in Part 1, I’ll be taking a quick look at a few of the negative comments aimed at the City of Angels and passing on some suggestions for places to stay. Future posts will look at places to visit and things to do & see (sports, culture/education, entertainment, shopping and more).

Let’s get a few things straight about LA before I go any further:

Is LA “fake”? No more so than any other city in the world. If you work in the movie business (“the industry”) I’m sure there’s a lot of fakeness that goes on (they play at make-believe for a living!) but the people you’ll meet day-to-day are no different from people in any other major metropolis.

Is there bad traffic? Sure there is. If you head on to the 405 at certain times of day you’ll see why some call it the West LA parking lot and if you suddenly decide that it’s a good idea to drive through the middle of Hollywood along Hollywood Boulevard you’ll probably meet a car or two, but how’s this different to most other major cities?

Most of LA’s roads are based on a grid system which means it’s not exactly tricky to find your way around.

Los Angeles Grid SystemAn example of the LA grid system – not that tough to navigate.

More importantly, if one road is too busy for your liking there’s a very good chance that a parallel road is moving a lot quicker – if more people realised this there may be fewer hold ups for everyone!

Is LA spread out? Yes. And that’s why you rent a car. If you don’t want to rent a car then LA probably isn’t for you. Neither is Orlando. But that doesn’t seem to stop people from going there.

Is it true that there’s no culture? This is the one complaint about LA that annoys me the most because there is a TON of culture to be found – and you don’t even have to look that hard to find it! I’ll get into this more further into this series of blog posts but the idea that there aren’t educational and cultural things to see and do in LA is just wrong.

So, now that we’ve got that lot out of the way…..

Where to Stay:

Unless you’re visiting just to take the kids to Disneyland (in which case you should probably stay in Anaheim) I’d stay in or around West Hollywood (WeHo).

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Why? Well….Beverly Hills is too expensive, Hollywood isn’t nearly as nice, Downtown is too far away from most the things you’re likely to want to do and Santa Monica is nice but, again, too far from a lot of the attractions you’re probably going to want to visit. WeHo is pretty much central to it all.

Immediately to the west of WeHo is Beverly Hills, immediately to the east is Hollywood and over the hills, to the north are the Valley, Studio City and Universal Studios.

Accommodation-wise, when staying in Los Angeles (and WeHo in particular), my preference is to use AirBnB. LA is similar to New York in that hotels can be very expensive – even not very good ones – so best value can often be had by renting a studio apartment or a condo for however long you’re going to be in town.

If you’d prefer to have all the amenities of a hotel then the one I’d pick would be the Best Western Plus Sunset Plaza Hotel – it’s my go-to hotel in LA. The rooms are pretty nice, the location cannot be beaten and, price-wise, it’s comparatively reasonable (if you have AAA membership the prices get even better).

Best Western Sunset Plaza

The hotel is in WeHo, sits on the famous Sunset Strip and is a short walk to Katana and the restaurant-row of Sunset Plaza. If you’re prepared for a slightly longer walk then the whole of WeHo is at your disposal as are some of the nicer restaurants in LA including, Nobu, Koi & STK.

If you decide that WeHo isn’t for you then here are a few other suggestions in neighbouring areas:

Hollywood isn’t really my thing but I appreciate that many want to visit it and see what it’s all about. As far as hotels go, the best mix of convenience, affordability and quality is probably the Lowes Hollywood Hotel (once the Renaissance Hollywood). It’s located at the junction of Hollywood and Highland and is just yards from the best known sights of Hollywood like the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre (where all the handprints/footprints are). It’s also 2 minutes walk from a Metro station (yes, they have those in LA) from where you can catch train to Downtown – useful if you plan on catching a game at the Staples Center or visiting the Grammy Museum.

Hollywood Chinese Theatre

As far as Beverly Hills goes, you’re not exactly going to find a bargain. If this is where you want to stay then expect to pay for the privilege. Beverly Hills is home to the Peninsula, a Four Seasons (the Beverly Wilshire) and, of course, the Beverly Hills Hotel – all are very very nice properties but come with some truly “impressive” prices. If you’re looking to strike a balance between luxury and cost then the best option is probably L’Ermitage.

Located next to the Beverly Hills police station (made famous in Beverly Hills Cop), L’Ermitage is no more than a 10 minute walk from the heart of Rodeo Drive and it’s only a little further to the stores on Wilshire. It also happens to be just a 10 minute walk to one of my favourite LA restaurants – Spago as well as a considerable number of other eateries that Beverly Hills offers.

Beverly Hills Police Department

Beverly Hills Police Department – beats your local police station doesn’t it!

Popular Hotels to Avoid and Why:

  • Andaz Sunset Blvd – Located opposite the Best Western but more expensive, impersonal and, in my experience, noisy. Vastly overrated on TripAdvisor.
  • The W Hollywood – Too expensive for what it is and too trendy for its own good. The location isn’t that great either (unless you plan on hitting the Hollywood clubs in which case it’s perfect).
  • The W Los Angeles/West Beverly Hills – there’s no such place as West Beverly Hills and the W is nowhere near the real Beverly Hills – it’s actually by UCLA in Westwood. Add to that the fact that it’s overpriced and you’ll hopefully see why I don’t recommend it.
  • SLS Beverly Hills – about 2 yards inside the Beverly Hills city limits but nowhere near anything that you’d probably associate with Beverly Hills. The property itself is fine but they charge high rates for a very ordinary location.

Look out for Part 2 in this series in which I’ll take a look at some of the things you can see and do when visiting Los Angeles – not all are the obvious tourist-y things you’ll see in travel magazines 🙂