Turn a stopover in LA into 48 hours of relaxation

Los Angeles is famous for its huge, white sand beaches and the people who flock to them. The locals surf, play beach volleyball and work on their tans.

In summer, the water's around 20 degrees celsius, and it doesn't tend to drop drastically for winter. 

Here are my suggestions for what to do when you're killing time in Los Angeles

Chill with a book

For New Zealanders used to a grass-edged, tree-lined beach, be warned - there is little to no shade on most LA beaches. Those planning to spend a few hours should bring along a shade tent or umbrella, otherwise make your trip short and sweet - that sun is punishing.

While you're lounging around, how about cracking into some Californian fiction? Joan Didion writes elegant, lovely prose - try her 1977 classic A Book of Common Prayer to bring a little evil breeze into your summer laze around. Or the oh-so-sad-but-wonderful The Year of Magical Thinking - there's a lot of reflecting on time spent in LA in this non-fiction work about the year following Didion's husband's death.

Los Angeles' famous traffic.
Los Angeles' famous traffic. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Ditch the rental car

As a giant, sprawling metropolis, LA's traffic is almost as famous as the Hollywood sign. Ditching the rental car and using Uber or Lyft to get around is much easier and cheaper than paying for valet parking or wasting precious time circling the block. 

Far less famous is LA's Metro system. It's nowhere near as comprehensive as the New York subway or the tube in London, but it's cheap (US$1.75 per trip) and does a good job of getting you between Hollywood, Downtown and Santa Monica without sitting a traffic jam.

The La Brea Tar Pits museum.
The La Brea Tar Pits museum. Photo credit: Getty Images


If you're a natural history nerd or a big fan of Game of Thrones, the La Brea Tar Pits museum provides fossils galore, and an impressive wall covered in the skulls of dire wolves.

The park itself is free and provides a unique and bizarre sight - black bubbling ponds of asphalt, one of them huge. 

These are the 'tar pits' from which thousands of fossilised animals and plants have been extracted - including the almost entire skeleton of a mammoth. Palaeontologists are still working today, and if you head to pit 91, you can see them painstakingly extracting remnants.

Entry to the museum costs US$15. Inside, you can see the fossils themselves and somewhat dated animatronics. If you decide to pay for entry, jump on one of the free tours to make the most of it.

The amazing architecture of The Broad.
The amazing architecture of The Broad. Photo credit: The Broad


There are some truly impressive collections of art in Los Angeles' museums, but it's hard to know where to start. There's the Broad, the Getty and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) for starters. The Getty is an incredible museum, but one you'll need to set aside at least half a day to enjoy. It has sprawling views of the city and intimidatingly large collections. If you are visiting the Getty (you definitely should), it's worth getting an audio tour or tour guide. 

For a more bite-sized experience, there's the impressive MOCA, in Downtown LA. The museum's collection includes works from Rothko and Jackson Pollock. If contemporary art makes your head spin, there are excellent tours - make use of them.

Infamous In-N-Out burger. The one next to LAX is a great place to go plane-spotting.
Infamous In-N-Out burger. The one next to LAX is a great place to go plane-spotting. Photo credit: Getty Images


If your impression of LA is largely gleaned from E! then you may think LA is all salad, sushi and poke bowls. But if you visit the City of Angels and don't go all-in on Cali/Tex-Mex food, you're doing it all wrong. Amazing Mexican can be bought on any budget - find a roadside taco truck and get a delicious taco for a buck or two, or sit down at a restaurant and get something a bit pricier. Our favourite was the deliciously simple tacos from popular Los Feliz joint HomeState.

Another institution you shouldn't skip is a good old American burger. Again, it's hard to go too wrong whether you go cheap or fancy. On the cheaper end, retro-styled Californian burger chain In-N-Out burger is famous for its simple, classic menu and hand-cut fries. If you crave something a little fancier, Umami Burger has a wild range of rich and tasty burgers, including the Impossible Burger that caused a political fuss back home earlier this year. 

Anna Bracewell-Worrall is a political reporter for Newshub.