To Live & Die & In LAX: How To Ditch The Airport & See LA Like A Local

Woman overlooking skyline of Los Angeles

My father used to always tell me, “timing is everything in life.”

After all the years, I find that statement still continues to ring true every day. A few weeks ago, I was traveling through Los Angeles for a quick work trip. The plan was to fly into LA on a Monday, create some website content for a fashion and lifestyle company, and then fly out that Wednesday night.

However, fate seemed to step in and alter my travel plans. That Wednesday, as I arrived to LAX, I noticed a little commotion. Well, it just so happens, that little commotion was anything but little.

Somehow, the LA department of water and power had struck a power line and cut out all power to multiple terminals in LAX. When I say I’ve never seen such a catastrophe in an airport, I mean it. I lived in LA for nearly a decade of jam-packed Thanksgiving flights and Christmas travels, but nothing had even come close to this madness.

So, after about 3 hours of being told to wait, board, de-plane, and go back through security again, I realized “screw this.” Why battle the TSA and every other traveler? So, I canceled my flight, scheduled another one for Sunday, grabbed an Airbnb, and decided to enjoy the vibes of L.A. for a couple more days.

The true beauty of life is realized in the moments when we’re unknowing of the future. Where we journey outside our comfort zone and experience the moments that make us, us.

So, the next time you have a layover when traveling for work, don’t sit at the airport bar hacking away on your laptop, head out and explore, meet new people, experience new things.

Next time you’re flying into a new city on a Friday morning, don’t fly out that same night just to get home. Extend your trip to Sunday, and make the most out of it.

No matter where you travel or when you travel, take care of your business first, and then focus on collecting some life-changing experiences.

How To Sum Up Los Angeles:

LA is my favorite city on this big blue dot. Not only did I come of age in the city of angels, but there’s nowhere on earth with such an electricity present. The second you land in LA, it’s almost as if the millions of dreams and aspirations boiling at the surface instantly hit you. The weather is the best, the entertainment is second to none, the food is as bold as the street art, and the people, we’ll it’s LA, the people are beautiful, inside and out. Brave the traffic and get yourself some west coast hospitality, LA style.

Have 2-4 Hours To Burn? Grab A Quick Bite & Explore The West Side

If your travel plans for LA consist of a long layover, or if you’re being proactive about the possibility of a missed flight, don’t let it get you down. Get out of LAX, and explore this one-of-a-kind city and live like a local, even if it’s just for a couple hours.

Venice

If you’re looking for a hip and exciting area to explore in LA on a shorter time frame, Venice should be at the top of that list. It’s a stone’s throw from LAX, and there’s always new restaurants and bars popping up amongst the young and vibrant beach-loving crowd. If ocean sights, sounds, and sustenance weren’t enough, the people are one-of-a-kind. What more could you want?

Grab A Quick Bite
Close-up of In-N-Out Burger sign
In-N-Out Burger

When you’re on the west coast, it’s a must to grab In-N-Out, and luckily there’s one right outside of LAX. If you’ve never had this little gem, it’s a California staple. Their menu is simple, they do burgers, fries, and shakes, but they do them incredibly well. If you’re into cheesy-and-onion’y goodness, do yourself a favor and ask for your burger or fries “animal style.” Or if you like a little spice, then add chopped green chilis, you won’t regret it.

Hinano Cafe

If you’re looking for a burger joint as funky as the Venice beach boardwalk, then you have to check out Hinano café. It’s an amazing little sandwich shack that’s been a staple at Venice beach since 1969. Hinano is the kind of place where you go in looking for a burger and a beer, and you leave four hours later with a new group of best friends, wondering how you survived without this place.

The Rose Venice

Want something a bit more upscale during your short layover at LAX? The Rose should be your first, and maybe only stop. This lofty, SoCal bohemian spot has two patios, plenty of outdoor seating, incredible pastries for breakfast, and an over-the-top lunch menu that’ll leave any foodie wanting more. Treat yourself like the star you are at Rose.

Get some sand between your toes
Buildings along a street with the letters V-E-N-I-C-E strung from one side of the street to the other
Venice Beach

There aren’t many beaches in America, nor the world, that have the beauty and the excitement that Venice Beach shares. No matter the time, day or night, the boardwalk is always buzzing with street hustlers selling their wares, or locals trying to get to their surf session. Do yourself a favor and make a stroll down the Boardwalk a must for your next trip to LA.

Fun Surf LA

While you’re putting your feet in the sand, you may as well get your toes wet too, and that means surfing. There are countless surfing organizations available on or around Venice Beach, and Fun Surf LA is one of the best. So, whether you’ve never been up on a board before, or if you’re a seasoned surfing vet just looking to rent a board, an hour of surfing can do unlimited things for the spirit and psyche.

See Some Life-changing Graffiti
Man taking a photo in front of a wall with graffiti
Pico Blvd

I’ve been a graffiti enthusiast for over a decade, seen art all over the globe, and there aren’t many cities in the world that have tours meant to solely view street art and graffiti. LA is one of them, and Pico is one of the best. If you’re looking for some new photos for Instagram, or just looking to get an art fix, do yourself a favor and trek Pico Blvd to view some of the best street art in the world. Plus, it’s free. Who doesn’t love free?

Santa Monica/Playa Del Rey

Just another five to twenty minutes down the road (depending on traffic) lies Santa Monica and Playa Del Rey. If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale than Venice, this is it. Amongst the Italian sports cars and Eastern European models, you’ll find some of the best shops and restaurants on the West Side.

Let your inner foodie out
Bottle of wine with two glasses sitting on a table at a restaurant
Tumbi

Something you don’t find much of in Santa Monica is Indian food. And, thank the heavens that Tumbi has made its way into the mix. Get a bottle of wine and enjoy this modern-meets-street-food twist on Indian cuisine. From chicken tikka wraps to buttered chicken “school style” lunches, they truly have everything. And don’t forget some of the chili garlic chutney, it’s out of this world.

Rustic Canyon

Fancying some quality farm-to-table dining without all the glitz and glam? Then Rustic Canyon is the spot to be in Santa Monica. They’ve been doing incredible seasonal dishes since before farm-to-table was a “thing.” If you’re looking to impress some clients or to just treat yourself, please do yourself a favor and make a stop at Rustic.

Shop Till You Drop
Clothes hanging on racks at a store with the reflections of people in a mirror
Brat

There’s a saying in Paris, “let the city dress you.” I feel the same way about LA. Where most people will tell you, the Promenade is the place to go when you’re looking to spend some cash on new threads. That just goes to show you how little they truly know about the Santa Monica. Avoid the tourists and check out Brat, a truly unique clothing and gift shop. Get some funky and one-of-a-kind pieces that are sure to make any out-of-towner feel like they’re a West Side local.

The Closet Trading Company

Ladies, look no further than this gem if you’re in the mood for some designer clothing at unbeatable prices. The Closet Trading Company has been selling slightly worn, designer and premium brands for the last 15 years, and it’s certainly made a name for itself amongst the other clothing shops in Santa Monica. Wanting a new handbag or a set of heels? Just drop on by and see what they’ve got. You can even trade in your own clothing for credit towards something that caught your eye.

Have A 4-8 To Burn? Experience Some True Los Angeles Vibes

Finished your meeting early and have hours before your flight? Looking for an interesting place to take your clients? Check out these LA gems for some food and experiences you all can appreciate.

Silverlake

About 10 minutes east of Hollywood, amongst the countless hills, lies the hipster paradise that is Silverlake. If you’re looking to escape into a world of vintage thrift stores, vegan eateries, dive bars, and organic eats, look no further than Silverlake.

Hike Some Secret Stairs And See La’s Skyline
Man at observatory overlooking dusk skyline of Los Angeles
Micheltorena Stairs

Now, I know, walking stairs doesn’t sound like the most interesting activity you could partake in while in Los Angeles, but don’t let it deceive you. The hidden staircases amongst LA lead to some of the most breathtaking views around. Start with the Micheltorena stairs and see how you’re feeling after that. If you want more, give the Google machine a search for more and see where it leads you.

Get Some Fresh Eats And Treats
Street market with boxes of fresh fruit under an awning
Silverlake Farmers Market

If your travel plans put you in L.A. on a Tuesday or a Saturday, you must make it over to the Silverlake Farmers Market. Now, it’s not as big as 3rd St. Farmers Market, but forget about the size, because it’s void of any tourist activity. This is a farmer’s market by locals for locals. Get some walking shoes on and bring your backpack, cause there’s no limit to what you’ll find.

Enjoy A Meal With Some Locals
Gourmet meal on a restaurant table full of wine glasses, bread baskets, and utensils
Blair’s Restaurant

L.A. is by no means a city filled with spectacular Italian food, I’ll be the first to admit that. However, Blair’s is one of the best-kept Italian secrets this city has to offer. If you’re looking for one of the few places in Silverlake where people who actually live in Silverlake frequent, make a stop at Blair’s. And, don’t forget to get the meatballs.

Weho/Fairfax

West Hollywood and Fairfax, what else to say other than a total melting pot. A place where Orthodox Jewish men walk side-by-side with graffiti artists and skateboarders. Amongst the boutiques and mom-and-pop shops you’ll find some of the best restaurants, coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, and vintage clothing stores.

Walk Melrose, And Don’t Forget The Back Alleys
Car parked in front of building with neon sign at dusk
Melrose Ave

Melrose avenue is no stranger to being known as a hub for shopping and boutiques, but what most don’t realize, that behind these boutique shops are some of the most common areas for LA’s most elusive street artists to portray their work. The long stretch from La Brea to Fairfax will boast not only incredible coffee shops, vintage stores, and delectable restaurants, but one-of-a-kind art pieces

Get A Laugh, Or Two
Close-up of The Comedy Store neon sign
The Comedy Store

When thinking of “must dos” on Sunset Blvd, the Comedy Store quickly rose to the top of that list. This staple in stand-up has been making people laugh since 1972, and rightfully so. Literally, anyone and everyone in stand-up has performed here, and there’s no telling who will walk through the doors on any given night.

Thinking About Extending Your Los Angeles Trip A Day Or More?

Explore LA Like A Local

Like most urban metropolis cities, they take time to get to know and explore. And LA is definitely one of those. However, if you have ample time to burn before your next travel date, here are some essential and travel tested experiences that LA has to offer.

Check out Downtown’s Design District
People in an art museum
Art Share L.A.

This old factory was completely transformed into a non-stop art exhibition gallery that showcases some of the street’s best works, as well as hosts exclusive speaker series and events. If you’re looking for a different type of artistic environment to hang your hat at for a few hours, you must make your way downtown and check out Art Share.

Angel City Brewery

L.A. by no means has a shortage of eclectic watering holes, but Angel City Brewery is kind of in a league of their own in the city. This warehouse was transformed into a brewery back in 2013 and since then has been making some of the most delicious beers L.A. has to offer, in an environment that speaks for itself. Long story short, it’s an awesome brewery, check it out.

Get Some Music To Fuel Your Soul
Crowd cheering at outdoor concert with streamers and light show
The Greek Theater

Nestled high amongst Griffith Park lies the Greek Theater. One of the most intimate and majestic outdoor music venues that L.A. has to offer. Their summer concert and event series never disappoints, so if you’re looking for a little live music underneath the SoCal skies, don’t miss out on the Greek.

The Hollywood Bowl

Right across the 101 lies the Greek Theater’s larger sibling, the Hollywood Bowl. Without a doubt, it’s the most known outdoor music venue that L.A. has to offer, and the historic acts over the last 40 years have solidified this place as a must for any music buff. Their summer music series is limitless as far as the acts go. If you’ve got a free night or two to burn in L.A., we highly suggest one of them is spent at the Bowl.

Run Off Some Steam
Aerial view of Hollywood sign along a mountain with homes below
Runyon Canyon

If you’re looking to get out and explore or just do a little light exercise, make it a must to put Runyon Canyon on your list. The trails are perfect for a light jog, and the scenery is nothing short of astounding. It’s by far one of the most Instagram’able photo opportunities to show you’re getting your physical hustle on.

Experience “The East” In L.A.
Buildings with red decorations strung from one side of the street to the other
Chinatown

One word, Phillipe. It may seem weird to send you to a French dip sandwich shop in Chinatown, but this is L.A., everything is weird. If you like sandwiches, and who doesn’t, please make this stop essential for your L.A. trip. From turkey to roast beef, they have a sandwich to please any pallet, and be sure to ask the servers to give it a dip so you can enjoy all the meaty-juice-goodness.

Koreatown

If you’ve got some time to burn in L.A., making your way over to Koreatown is a must. Amongst the liquor stores and Korean BBQ spots lies California Donuts, a local staple in the community for almost three decades. They’re open 24/7/365 and are constantly serving up some of the best and most beautiful donuts in the whole city. If you’re looking for something a little more savory than sweet, check out Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, one of the premier Korean BBQ spots in the city.

Enjoy Your Travels To LA!

All of us at Speck Travel hope this piece has been helpful in your mission to make the most out of your business travels to LA. So, next time you find yourself at LAX, or any city, get out there, make more memories, and take more with you…

If you have any favorite spots in Los Angeles that we should be writing about, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

Take your videos, selfies, and pics, and share them with us #TakeMoreWithYouLA


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