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Where to Stay in LA - Best Locations

Picking the Best Los Angeles Hotel Neighborhood

Including pros & cons of each Los Angeles hotel area,
With an emphasis on safety and convenience

This page helps you pick where to stay in LA. You'll find pros and cons of each Los Angeles hotel neighborhood.

You'll also find very frank discussions of safety—the areas to avoid.

Location, location, location is the mantra of the southern California real estate business, and location should also be your top priority. More so than in most cities, choosing the right area where to to stay in LA can make the difference between a safe, convenient, and enjoyable visit and one that is not.

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Maps

For Los Angeles area hotel neighborhood maps, click on—

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Then put in the city (Los Angeles, Hollywood, etc.) for links to detailed maps.

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Your hotel choices include—

  1. Downtown Los Angeles (most leisure travelers should avoid)
  2. Hollywood (generally avoid eastern area)
  3. West Hollywood, Beverly Hills & Century City
  4. Santa Monica & Marina del Rey
  5. Westwood Village, Bel Air & Brentwood
  6. LAX - Los Angeles International Airport (avoid cheap hotels here)
  7. Redondo & Manhattan Beaches
  8. Burbank, Universal City & Glendale
  9. Pasadena
  10. Long Beach Airport
  11. Long Beach
  12. Disneyland (Anaheim) & Orange County (another page)

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1. Downtown Los Angeles

Unless you have specific business, a sports event, or a convention to attend in downtown Los Angeles, you are probably better off staying elsewhere.

Unlike most cities, nearly all the popular places to visit are not in or adjacent to downtown. The beaches, amusement parks, stars on Hollywood Boulevard, the Sunset Strip, Hollywood Bowl, and Beverly Hills are all elsewhere.

Think of downtown Los Angeles as a government center and the location of the energy and banking businesses.

This is not to say that you will have nothing to do in downtown Los Angeles. The vibrant Music Center, Staples Center (Clippers, Lakers), USC football, and Dodger Stadium are all in or near downtown, as well as a major convention center.

Moreover, the atmosphere of the center city has very much improved in recent years. Downtown has actually become hip.

More and more downtown workers live downtown, as well as students, which brings more activity and more safety to streets at night. More restaurants and entertainment options stay open in the evening and on weekends.

Unless there is a special event, you can find great hotel deals downtown.

On the other hand, homelessness still spills over into eastern downtown core especially at night, although much less so than in the past. Nevertheless, most people will feel quite uncomfortable walking east of Broadway at night.

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Picking a hotel in downtown Los Angeles

Nearly all 3- and all 4-star hotels are in the best areas.

The locations of most lower-cost hotels and motels, which ring downtown Los Angeles (especially to the west) do not instill nearly as much comfort.

Avoid booking lower quality hotels downtown, unless you have verified the suitability of their locations and, if you have a car, the safety of their parking.

Most travelers should book budget hotel choices in other areas.

Adults and families with teenagers may have a far more enjoyable stay choosing a hotel on the western side of Los Angeles in one of the areas described below, such as Santa Monica.

Families with younger children may prefer to stay closer to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm.

Amtrak and Greyhound passengers also have alternatives to downtown LA.

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2. Hollywood

Avoid staying in eastern Hollywood—avoid staying more than several blocks east of Vine Street.

Other than immediately around the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex (Chinese Theatre, Kokak Academy Awards Theatre), the Fairfax area, and several purely residential neighborhoods, much of Hollywood has sadly become rundown and crime ridden. For the most part, you are just not as safe as in areas to the west.

Many budget travelers choose to stay in Hollywood because of its famous name and array of low-cost accommodation. This is a mistake.

Deterioration mars much of Hollywood. Not as bad as the area around the Greyhound terminal downtown, Hollywood nevertheless offers a startling abundance of violent and nonviolent crime, hard drug abuse, homelessness, and prostitution.

If your purse permits, stay in adjacent West Hollywood or in the Hollywood area immediately around the Hollywood & Highland. These are where the better hotels are.

Also consider the Fairfax district and Beverly Hills. All are convenient to the tourist attractions of Hollywood.

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3. West Hollywood, Beverly Hills & Century City

When deciding where to stay in LA, Beverly Hills, Century City, and West Hollywood are convenient and reasonably safe bases for visitors to Los Angeles.

Do not let the name Beverly Hills mislead you. You CAN find moderate-cost hotels (by LA standards) in this area.

These cities offer proximity to the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, and the entertainment of West Hollywood and its Sunset Strip. Moreover, you easily access fine shopping, top restaurants, and some of the finest hotels in the United States.

Century City is a large shopping, entertainment, and hotel complex adjacent to Beverly Hills. Here you find the ABC television network and the Fox film and television studios

Want celebrity sightings? Try Gelson's Market in Century City during off hours. Leave them in peace, however.

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4. Santa Monica - Venice - Marina Del Rey

I highly recommend Santa Monica in the western part of Los Angeles, not far from Los Angeles International Airport.

Santa Monica offers the closest thing Los Angeles County has to a traditional resort town, and it is a nice one. Nearby Malibu also offers a resort atmosphere, but has nearly no hotels.

The first large groups of American citizens to winter in Southern California did not stay near the ocean. Mostly from the flat Midwest or Texas, they wanted to be near the mountains in Pasadena. Consequently, this region never developed the great resort cities along its shores that you'll find in Florida.

In contrast to Florida, Angelenos preserved their coastline. Except in Malibu, nearly all beaches are easily assessable to the public and not blocked by private development.

In Santa Monica, you do not have to stay in a more expensive hotel to access the beach easily. Everyone has equal access. In fact, just two hotels in Santa Monica—Loews and Shutters—actually adjoin the beach, a public one.

Santa Monica offers great restaurants (in all price ranges) and shopping, a variety of reasonably priced and first-class accommodations, and the most convenient public transportation in southern California. Overall, you are in a safe and uplifting area.

You are a hop away from Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Malibu, the Getty Museum, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area, and all of western Los Angeles. Outside of rush hour, reaching downtown Los Angeles takes about 25 minutes by car and Universal Studios perhaps 30. LAX is a few minutes away by Big Blue Bus or airport van.

Due to its location, Santa Monica hotels tend to be more expensive than those in less convenient areas.

Venice, near Santa Monica, can be dangerous at night. It offers little accommodation other than hostels.

Between Venice and LAX, just a few minutes from Santa Monica or LAX, Marina del Rey has a large yacht harbor (which you've seen in countless films) surrounded by upscale hotels, apartments, condominiums, and restaurants.

If you want to marry an airline pilot or other well-to-do professional or corporate leader, base your stay in Marina del Rey, which is a very "in spot" for wealthier singles and divorcees.

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5. Bel Air, Brentwood & Westwood Village

Just south of Beverly Hills, UCLA and other students crowd into Westwood Village for dining and entertainment. This is a lively and fun area.

Located between Westwood Village and Santa Monica, largely residential and quieter Brentwood offers few hotels and motels and one less famous resident since OJ Simpson moved to Florida and then to prison.

Adjacent Bel Air, the former home of President Ronald Reagan and current home of Nancy Reagan, has just two hotels, including the luxe Hotel Bel-Air.

Bel Air (part of the City of Los Angeles) may be the wealthiest neighborhood in the U.S. Its lush gardens certainly make it one of the prettiest, with Its homes and gardens frequently used in film and television.

If you can find suitable accommodation, Bel Air, Brentwood and Westwood Village offer a convenient and uplifting base for your southern California visit. You are just a few minutes from Santa Monica Beach.

6. Los Angeles International Airport - LAX

For the best hotel values in where to stay in L.A, you'll likely get the most quality for the least price by far.

On the other hand, the LAX area presents significant safety concerns.

Especially if staying more than one night, avoid budget and moderate-cost hotels in this area, as well as hostels. Nearly all of these less expensive choices are located in unsafe and even gang-ridden neighborhoods.

Deluxe hotels cluster just outside the Century Boulevard entrance to the airport in an area that is safer. Even there, walk only among other travelers along the busiest streets day or night.

Conditions deteriorate markedly as you move eastward along Century Boulevard toward and beyond the Interstate 405 Freeway (the San Diego Freeway). A few less expensive airport hotels are found south of the airport in El Segundo, which make better choices.

Airport vans offer frequent service to Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, and other safer areas. Seriously consider using one of these or a rental car (staying on busy streets) to reach a more comfortable area where to stay in LA You will also likely end up closer to what you want to visit.

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7. Redondo & Manhattan Beaches

Somewhat isolated from the main tourist areas, non-pretentious Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach serve up a sun-oriented California lifestyle. Fronting miles of fine public beaches, these cities attract flight crews based at nearby LAX, as well as seemingly countless party-hardy young singles.

I like this area, but you really should have a car to reach other areas from here.

8. Burbank, Universal City (Universal Studios) & Glendale

Jay Leno works here. Bob Hope and Audrey Hepburn did. So did Walt Disney and Marilyn Monroe, who worked at a munitions factory in Burbank during World War II.

This surprisingly non-chic area is home to Walt Disney, Sony Pictures (Columbia Pictures), Universal Studios, and Warner Brothers, as well as the NBC television network. Most offer tours.

Based in Burbank, Universal City or Glendale, you are just a few minutes away from the heart of Hollywood (but much safer) and downtown.

Although you can choose from a wide range of accommodations, happily Alfred Hitchcock's Bates Motel at Universal Studios go longer takes in guests.

Other than at Universal City Walk, you will not find much nightlife in this area.

Burbank Airport makes for a less hectic arrival point than LAX, especially if you wish to rent a car.

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9. Pasadena

Located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, Southern California's first resort town has become best known for its New Year's Day activities. In this city of roses, you'll find some of the finest residential architecture in the United States, including many turn-of-the-century craftsman-style homes such as the Gamble House (as in—you guessed it—Proctor & Gamble).

Convenient to downtown, Burbank, the Norton Simon Museum, Cal Tech, and the Huntington Library and Gardens, Pasadena makes a less conventional, but good base for a visit to Los Angeles.

You should have a car in this area. You will not be convenient to beaches.

10. Long Beach Airport

¡Bienvenitos JetBlue passengers!

If you are departing very early or arriving late, reserve a hotel here for just one night. Otherwise, staying in this area will isolate you from most LA area tourist attractions.

By California standards, you are not terribly far from Disneyland, but why not stay closer to what you want to see and do?

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11. Long Beach

If you plan to board a cruise ship at Los Angeles or Long Beach harbor, stay in Long Beach one or two nights.

Basing a longer stay in Long Beach means spending too much time commuting to southern California attractions. Long Beach does offer a fun day cruise for all ages to Santa Catalina Island.

"Twenty- six miles across the seas
"Santa Catalina is a-waitin' for me
"Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance, romance"

Actually, the island sits 22 miles across the sea.

The sheltered shore of Long Beach offers neither great ocean swimming nor a resort atmosphere. Stay in nearby Huntington Beach in Orange County if you would like these.

12. Disneyland (Anaheim) & Orange County

For help selecting an ideal area where to stay in LA, check out "How to get a Disneyland area hotel discount: Picking the best location."

Other neighborhoods

Most other areas in or near Los Angeles are of interest mostly to those who have business or family near them.

However, Studio City offers many of the same advantages as Burbank and Universal City. Also, Van Nuys makes a convenient overnight stop for those driving through Los Angeles, as it has many lower cost chain motels just off Interstate 405.

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Have a great time after picking the ideal hotel where to stay in LA!

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