I run into a lot of folks on the tour who stay near LAX just because they didn’t know where else to go. Let me tell you, that is the last place you want to stay in Los Angeles. The answer to the title question depends on what you’re interested in, and how you like to travel. Of course I’m a big advocate for DTLA, but it is not for everyone. Downtown is walkable, accessible to public transport, and full of retro, modern and everything in between; it is the nexus of the most culturally diverse city in the world. That being said, it also has a seedy underbelly us locals and tour guides have learned to navigate, but a visitor may find off putting, or… exciting.
If you stay at the beach, or on the west side, and rent a car, you’ll probably be trapped on that side of the city once you experience our epic traffic. But there is plenty to do over there. A bike ride from Santa Monica to Redondo beach will give you a glorious day of exploring beach cities immortalized in the movies. LACMA and the Original Farmers Market is another great LA day. Star spotting on Abbot Kinney and Malibu’s Trancas Country Market would fill up another day.
Hollywood is lively, but also a bit seedy. If you’re looking for the velvet rope club scene and pool party action, this is the place for you. Although honestly, you’ll be hanging out with a bunch of other tourists, and you won’t see any hint of movie making other than plastic Oscar statues in the chotchke shops that line Hollywood Blvd. That being said, I have some recommendations for vintage Hollywood lovers. See a movie at the Chinese Theater, The Egyptian or El Capitan; they still show movies, and the theaters are beautiful inside. Don’t miss the time capsule Musso and Frank’s; Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemmingway all drank here and it hasn’t changed much since; have a martini in the dining room bar, or breakfast on the cafe side. Take a walk up to the Hollywood Bowl, you can explore during the day; see a show there or the Ford Theater for ultimate summer nights concerts. Do the Walk of Fame, and make Capitol Records and the Frolic Room (a notorious Bukowski haunt) your end point. Definitely make time for the Griffith Park Observatory.
If you’ve got what my mother liked to call “champaign tastes and beer money” DTLA is for you. Many high end hotels can be had for short money if your timing is right. Bonaventure, Biltmore or the Mayfair and The Line (a bit further out) are all great DTLA options. The Freehand has shared rooms available for around $50 with a swanky lobby and roof top pool bar, and you could throw a rock and hit 5-6 great bars in the neighborhood. The Broad, Hauser and Wirth, the Last Book Store, Olvera Street and the LA Public Library are all free cultural institutions not to be missed.
Of course, where ever you stay, I guarantee you’ll learn more about LA’s culture and history in 2 hours on one of our tours. The Historic Core and More Tour will teach you things about all parts of this city and how it came to be, plus they’re still making movies in Downtown LA.