Los Angeles International Airport, better known as LAX, is at the epicenter of America’s massive and booming aviation industry. As a mega-hub connecting Europe, Asia, and Latin America with the United States and beyond, LAX sees over 60 million passengers per year. And that means a lot of passengers spend a lot of layovers here.
Click to skip ahead:
How much time do I need to leave LAX airport on a layover?
The Top 12 Things to do inside LAX airport
How do I connect between the terminals at LAX?
What is there to do outside LAX airport on a layover?
How long does it take to get through security at LAX?
How long of a connection is enough at LAX?
Though people used to dread passing through LAX, Los Angeles has made massive strides (just like New York’s LaGuardia) to turn LAX from an abyss of never-ending traffic to a welcoming sanctuary. In fact, I’d say it’s now become my favorite airport in the United States! (Perhaps due to Delta’s awesome SkyClub outdoor terrace).
LAX is better connected to the city, offers more retail options and lounges than ever before, and has solved many of its inefficiencies to become a pioneer in making layovers great again. So if you’re looking for the best things to do on a layover in LAX, short or long, you’ve made it to the right place. Welcome aboard.
Affiliate notice: thepilotwhoexplores, LLC may receive commission (at zero cost to you) as an affiliate with several providers of links in this article.
The 12 Top Things to Do on a LAX Layover Without Leaving the Airport
Here are the top 12 things to do inside the airport on a layover at LAX:
- Visit the awesome UFO-Shaped LAX Theme Building
- Enjoy epic local dining
- Go shopping at the Tom Bradley International Terminal
- Grab a nap at a day room near the airport
- Relax at a top-notch lounge
- Unwind with a massage inside the airport
- Admire incredible airport art
- Stretch your legs by walking across the now-connected terminals
- Learn about LAX aviation history at the Flight Path Museum
- Enjoy family time at one of the Kids Play areas
- De-stress inside a complimentary yoga room
- Get ahead with work with complimentary WiFi
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is not just a place to catch your flight; it’s a world in itself. With its bustling terminals and diverse amenities, LAX offers passengers plenty to do while waiting for their flights.
And ever since the SkyWay project was finally completed, all the terminals at LAX are interconnected, making it easier to explore all the amazing venues LAX has to offer – regardless of the airline you’re flying on.
Whether you’re an aviation enthusiast, a foodie, or just looking for ways to pass the time, here are the top 10 things to do inside LAX.
1. Visit the awesome UFO-Shaped LAX Theme Building and go Plane Spotting on the Observation Deck
If you’re fascinated by planes (like me), head over to the iconic LAX Theme Building. Inside, you’ll find an observation deck. From here, you can watch planes take off and land against the backdrop of the stunning L.A. skyline. It’s a free and thrilling experience that’s perfect for aviation enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.
The panoramic views of the airport runways and the surrounding city are simply breathtaking, making it an Instagram-worthy stop.
Just note that you will have to exit the TSA secure zone and re-enter for your next flight.
2. Delight Your Tastebuds With Local Favorites
LAX boasts a wide range of dining options that showcase the diversity of Los Angeles cuisine.
Savor delicious tacos at Loteria Grill in Terminal 5, or indulge in a juicy burger at Umami Burger in Terminal 4. For epic shrimp & grits, head to Native by Nyesha at Terminal 3.
There’s no need to settle for mediocre airport food when you can sample the best of L.A. right here.
3. Go on a shopping spree
LAX is a shopper’s paradise. From duty-free shops with high-end brands to boutiques selling quintessential Los Angeles souvenirs, you can find something for everyone. Head to Tom Bradley International Terminal for luxury shopping, or explore the terminals for unique gifts and local products.
My personal favorite at LAX? Tumi, for sure. Though a bit less budget friendly, they only offer high-quality bags and accessories to make traveling as easy as possible.
4. Snag a nap at a nearby day-room hotel
One of my hacks to solving jet lag that has truly transformed the way I travel is this – day rooms.
If you can catch even an hour or two power nap between flights, you feel like a totally new person. It’s brilliant.
Luckily, LAX has some pretty great hotels offering day rooms nearby. My favorite 3 are:
The Hyatt Regency at LAX is my favorite for one simple reason – you can literally walk to it right from the airport. No need to call and wait for an annoying hotel shuttle, no drama, just walk towards the “IT” lot and keep going. It’s right across the street, with an awesome location right on Century Boulevard.
It’s a great hotel and I’ve always slept super well there.
Second place for the second closest hotel at LAX, the Courtyard by Marriott LAX Airport. Though it’s just a bit farther than the Hyatt Regency, it’s significantly cheaper.
Though this one is too far to walk to (unless you love hiking in traffic), the Residence Inn by Marriott at LAX often has the lowest rates for both day rooms and night stays near the airport.
5. Relax in one of 20 (Mostly) Awesome Airport Lounges
As the second busiest airport in the United States serving over 90 international destinations, it’s no surprise that LAX sports over 20 lounges. Chances are that the airline you’re flying on has one – or that you can access others for free via your PriorityPass membership.
If you’re flying in business or first class, check with your airline for details on lounge access at LAX. Otherwise, if you have an American Express Platinum Card, you are entitled access to the Centurion Lounge at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT).
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention Delta’s massive new LAX SkyClub (between T2 and T3) featuring a gorgeous terrace overlooking the northern runway complex. It’s truly brilliant.
And if you don’t have any of these things, don’t worry. There are still some lounges you can access.
Not a PriorityPass Member yet? Right now, you can become a member for as little as $74 per year.
Lounge with paid access at LAX
If you’re looking for lounge access at LAX but don’t have any membership or a business/first class ticket, you still have options for lounges. By terminal, these include:
Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT)
Star Alliance Lounge Business Class
Even if you’re not a special Star Alliance member or flying in business/first class, you can still buy entry into the Star Alliance Business Class Lounge at TBIT in LAX. It will put you back $75 for a maximum stay of 3 hours.
You can book your spot in advance online.
AA Admirals Club
Entry into the AA Admirals Club at Terminal 4 in LAX is available for purchase online and on the spot (if available) for $79 or 7,900 AAdvantage® miles.
AA Admirals Club
Entry into the AA Admirals Club at Terminal 5 in LAX is available for purchase online and on the spot (if available) for $79 or 7,900 AAdvantage® miles.
Alaska Airlines Lounge
Entry into the Alaska Lounge at Terminal 6 in LAX is available for purchase online and on the spot (if available) for $60.
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
Day passes are unavailable for Maple Leaf Lounges, but you can opt to add lounge access to Premium Economy, Latitude, Comfort, or Flex fare tickets booked on Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, or Air Canada Express.
These add-ons will cost you between $49 and $79.
American Eagle Regional Terminal
AA Admirals Club
Entry into the AA Admirals Club at the American Eagle Regional Terminal in LAX is available for purchase online and on the spot (if available) for $79 or 7,900 AAdvantage® miles.
6. Unwind completely with a complimentary massage
For an epic way to completely unwind on your next layover at LAX, look no further than BeRelax Spa.
Their services include massages, facials, nail care, hair services, and waxing. Expect to pay around $20 for a 15-minute chair massage, $50-60 for a 30-minute massage, and up to $95 for the pic “head and toe” treatment. Facials and other services are similarly priced, making BeRelax Spa a convenient option for travelers seeking a quick relaxation session at LAX.
But the best part? Many of these services are complimentary for PriorityPass members.
The two LAX locations are:
- Terminal International Tom Bradley, Gate 154
- Terminal 1 Gate 12
7. Admire Amazing Art Installations
Art lovers will marvel at the remarkable art installations scattered throughout LAX.
The Los Angeles World Airports has a designated art program with a mission to “enhance and humanize the travel experience at LAX” by presenting up to 20 exhibitions a year throughout the airport. You can keep tabs on the latest artwork here.
And why not treat it like a scavenger hunt with the family? See how much artwork you can find scattered across the airport in one layover!
8. Go on a nice long, beautiful walk – without having to leave the airport!
One of the coolest things about the recent renovations at LAX airport is Delta’s brand new SkyWay, which has finally enabled all of the terminals at LAX to be connected.
This means you can walk for miles around the airport – all with gorgeous views on the taxiways, airplanes, and airplanes coming in from all corners of the world.
Pretty awesome if you ask me.
9. Learn About Aviation History – Right at LAX!
Discover the fascinating history of aviation at the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum, located just outside the airport. This educational museum showcases the evolution of air travel and its impact on Los Angeles, making it an ideal destination for history buffs.
Admission is only $5, though you will need to exit security and get here by rideshare or taxi.
10. Enjoy Family Time at one of the Kids Play Areas
Traveling with children? LAX has you covered with designated kids’ play areas in Terminals 2, 5, and 7. These spaces provide a safe and entertaining environment for your little ones to burn off some energy before the flight.
11. De-stress in a Complimentary Yoga Room
Stressed from your travels? LAX has two yoga rooms in Terminal 1 and Terminal 6. They offer a quiet space for relaxation, stretching, and meditation, helping you unwind and rejuvenate before your journey.
12. Stay Connected with Free Wi-Fi
Lastly, for the digital nomads and those who want to stay connected, LAX offers complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the airport. Catch up on work, connect with friends and family, or stream your favorite shows while waiting for your flight.
Check out these other awesome Ultimate Airport Layover Guides: ATL | AMS | ATH | CDG | LAS | LGA | LHR | SEA | SFO | and more!
You have a long layover at LAX. Should you leave the airport?
Though LAX has become a wonderful haven with all of the recent updates, there are some epic sites outside the airport that truly display LA’s vibrant culture and natural beauty. And luckily, they’re all quite accessible from LAX on a layover.
From the world-famous skate rink at Venice Beach to the even more famous Hollywood Sign, the Los Angeles area definitely merits the time and energy to explore – turning your otherwise boring layover into a mini-vacation.
How long do I need to leave LAX and return for my next flight?
The honest answer is about 7 hours. It depends on a couple factors;
- Are you arriving to LAX from an international flight? If so, you’ll have to go through customs, then back through normal security again (regardless of if you’re transiting to another international flight). Depending on how long it takes to get through customs, your options may become limited.
- What time is your connecting flight departing? If it’s between 4PM and 10PM, you will have to contend with rush hour traffic. Same for flights departing between 8AM and 12PM.
- Are you enrolled in TSA PreCheck, or better yet CLEAR? These options can give you the confidence to leave the airport knowing that security won’t take nearly as long coming back through. It makes a huge difference particularly at LAX.
- Are you checked in your for next flight, including baggage (if checking it)? Waiting in line to check in will add considerable time to the process.
- What’s the weather like? Inclement weather can severely impair LA traffic – especially since it’s so rare.
In terms of planning for time on your LAX layover, you should arrange to have:
- Around 2 hours of transit time roundtrip/return to downtown Los Angeles, Malibu, or Hollywood, with up to 45 minutes extra just for congestion at LAX itself.
- About 1 hour (to be safe) to get back through security (or <5 minutes if you have CLEAR)
- Additional time to check in for your next flight if you haven’t already done so
- About 15 minutes to walk to the gate.
You should try to arrive at the gate before boarding time. This normally leaves 1-3 hours to explore the Los Angeles area on a 7 hour LAX layover!
So all of that being said, in my opinion, a 7 hour layover is the perfect/”sweet spot” amount of time to leave LAX airport and go explore. Plus, there’s more to see (and many closer options) than just the city!
The Top 12 Places to Visit from LAX Airport on a Layover
Here are the top 12 destinations to visit from LAX airport on a layover:
- Venice Beach
- Santa Monica Pier
- Howard Hughes Promenade (HHLA)
- Griffith Observatory
- Downtown Los Angeles
- Getty Center
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
- In-N-Out (yes, In-N-Out!)
Click the above links to skip to additional details, including the time it takes to travel from LAX!
While LAX is undoubtedly a gateway to the world, these nearby attractions offer a taste of the diverse experiences Los Angeles has to offer. From beachfront relaxation to cultural exploration and thrilling amusement parks, there’s something for every traveler just a short distance from the airport. So, if you have a few hours to spare during your layover or a day to explore, consider these top 10 destinations to make the most of your visit to Los Angeles.
1) Venice Beach
Venice Beach might just be the most popular hotspot near LAX, and for good reason. From the iconic boardwalk to the world-famous skateboard, a truly chill California vibe, surfing galore, it’s about as SoCal as it gets.
How to Get There: A 15-minute drive from LAX.
Why Visit: Iconic beach boardwalk, street performers, and a vibrant, eclectic atmosphere.
2) Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica hosts fun-filled amusements, oceanfront dining, and spectacular sunsets. A visit here combines classic seaside entertainment with scenic Pacific Ocean views. And in the surrounding streets, you can find delicious cuisine to suit all sorts of budgets – from burritos to fine dining.
How to Get There: Approximately 20 minutes by car from the airport.
Why Visit: Amusement park rides, games, ocean views, and the famous Pacific Park.
Explore the epicenter of the entertainment industry, witness the famous Hollywood landmarks, and revel in the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of countless stars. There are also some fun hiking trails in the hills up towards the Griffith Observatory.
Did you know you can book a helicopter ride with stunning views of the Hollywood sign?
How to Get There: About a 40-minute drive from LAX.
Why Visit: World-renowned entertainment hub, Walk of Fame, and the iconic Hollywood Sign.
Top Tip: For a fun adventure, go on a Hollywood and Celebrity Homes Adventure Tour in an open-air bus.
4) Howard Hughes Promenade (HHLA)
The Howard Hughes Promenade is a vibrant open-air shopping and entertainment complex. With its inviting atmosphere and an array of options for shopping, dining, and entertainment (such as a Cinemark 18 & XD theater), the Howard Hughes Promenade offers a delightful urban escape for locals and travelers alike.
Bonus: it’s really close to LAX!
How to Get There: It’s only a 10 to 15-minute drive from LAX!
Why Visit: Awesome shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and even a movie htatre.
5) Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory offers you a chance to discover awe-inspiring city vistas, fascinating astronomical exhibitions, and a chance to stargaze through powerful telescopes, all while enjoying a taste of Los Angeles’s natural beauty.
How to Get There: Approximately 45 minutes by car.
Why Visit: Stellar city views, astronomical exhibits, and a glimpse into the cosmos.
6) Downtown Los Angeles
Though not necessarily the #1 tourist hotspot, downtown LA does offer cultural attractions like The Broad museum, diverse culinary delights, and historic architecture that embodies the heart of the city.
How to Get There: A 30-minute drive from the airport.
Why Visit: Cultural attractions, historic architecture, and The Broad art museum.
7) Getty Center
If you love art, don’t miss out on visiting the Getty Center. Here you can see world-class art collections, experience stunning architectural design, and take leisurely strolls through beautifully landscaped gardens with captivating views.
How to Get There: Around 30 minutes by car.
Why Visit: Stunning architecture, impressive art collections, and lush gardens.
Malibu is well-known for hosting some of the world’s richest celebrities in waterfront mansions, and there’s no doubt why.
Here, you’ll find pristine beaches, meandering coastal drives, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrities in this charming, upscale beachside community.
How to Get There: About 30-40 minutes by car.
Why Visit: Beautiful beaches, scenic coastal drives, and celebrity sightings.
9) Universal Studios Hollywood
Dive into movie magic with thrilling rides, behind-the-scenes studio tours, and enchanting adventures in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The only problem here is that the time might pass you by too quickly!
Make sure to book your tickets ahead of time to save time so you can start riding as soon as you arrive!
How to Get There: Approximately 35 minutes from LAX.
Why Visit: Theme park fun, movie studio tours, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Top Tip: Book a Skip-the-Line/Front-of-Line Pass to maximize your time
10) Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
I you only have the chance to visit one place in LA, Beverly Hills is it. From the ultimate swanky luxury boutiques, to the most ridiculously upscale restaurants, Rodeo Drive is a great place to revel in the glitz and glamour of one of the world’s most famous shopping areas.
How to Get There: A 30-minute drive from the airport.
Why Visit: Luxury shopping, upscale dining, and celebrity-spotting.
11) The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
As one of the world’s leading centers of art, LACMA is simply a world of art and culture with a vast collection of masterpieces, immersive exhibitions, and stunning outdoor art installations like the iconic Urban Light sculpture.
How to Get There: Around 30 minutes by car.
Why Visit: Renowned art collections, outdoor installations like the Urban Light exhibit, and cultural experiences.
And of course, how could we forget the world famous In-N-Out featuring the most picturesque, spectacular views of airplanes arriving at LAX from around the globe.
Even if In-N-Out isn’t your thing, or you’re not really a burger aficionado, this West Coast chain is truly off the chain! And the views here are unforgettable.
How to Get There: Take a rideshare or taxi to 9149 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045
Why Visit: Why not?!
How to explore the Los Angeles area from LAX on a layover
1) Renting a car
One of the most flexible ways to see as much as possible on your LAX layover is by renting a car. Many companies are available, but I find that renting as a Hertz Gold or 5-star member saves an enormous burden and amount of time as you can pick nearly any car off the lot and just drive.
The only downside to renting a car at LAX – that is, at least until the airtrain is completed next year, is having to take a shuttle to the rental car lot. This can be extremely time consuming (perhaps taking up to 50 minutes each way).
This makes signing up for a private tour, or arranging transport much more attractive – especially if you’re tight on time.
2) Join a tour
Whether you take a taxi or rideshare to the meeting point or arrange for pickup right at the airport, it’s often most time efficient to sign up for a tour.
You can truly learn about the history and fascinating details, mystery, and lifestyle of Los Angeles and all of its famous (and infamous) inhabitants.
Here are some tours that you can take while laying over in Los Angeles:
3) Hire a driver/private tour guide
4) Public transportation (LightRail + buses)
Though the LightRail project isn’t set to complete until next year (it WILL be amazing), there are some public transportation options still. However, none of them are good, so I don’t recommend pursuing this option.
Where can I store my luggage at LAX?
Though LAX itself does not offer an official luggage storage center, LuggageHero offers several locations around the airport.
Other options include checking in your luggage or simply renting a car and keeping at in the trunk (at yo own risk).
How long of a connection minimum is enough at LAX?
International to International
Though it may surprise you if you’re not used to transiting within the United States, you always have to clear customs on entry to the US – even if you’re transiting to another international flight.
So if you’re transiting Los Angeles from an international arrival, even if transiting onwards to another international flight, you will have to clear customs.
This can easily take up to two hours on a bad day. And you still have to go through security screening to board your next flight.
- Up to 2 hours to clear customs – usually less
- Up to 1 hour to get through security screening for your next flight
3 hours minimum is recommended for an international transit at LAX. If you have Global Entry (which comes with TSA PreCheck), you can reduce this down to 1 hour and a half.
Recommended Read: How to clear US Customs Fast
Domestic to International
Here, if you’re booked on one ticket for your connection through LAX, you can connect in as short as 45 minutes. However, if you’re booked on separate tickets, it could take longer;
- If you have checked baggage, you may have to exit the secure area, and check your baggage in for your next flight. Ask the ticket agent on your flight to LAX.
- Even without checked baggage, you may have to connect between different terminals. Luckily, they’re all connected via walkways, but it can still be as long as a 30 minute walk from one end to another.
In this case, it would be wise to have at least 2 hours to connect.
International to Domestic
You will have to clear customs at LAX, which can take up to two hours (much less with Global Entry).
Upon entry into the United States, you will have to re-clear TSA security. This can take up to an hour.
Always include additional time if you need to check in for your next flight or have checked baggage. All checked baggage entering the United States has to be re-checked after arrival.
You should plan 3 hours for an international to domestic transit at LAX. If you have Global Entry (which comes with TSA PreCheck), you can reduce this to an hour and a half.
Domestic to Domestic
If you’re booked on a single ticket, domestic transfers at LAX are usually rather quick. However, you may still have to walk 15-30 minutes between terminals.
Plan to have at least 45 minutes between flights if booked on one single ticket, and at least 2 hours if you’re on two separate tickets.