As you might have read previously, I’m a southern gal from Nashville and Hubby is from Down Under way. So, when we travel to Australia for a visit, we nearly always fly through Los Angeles. Typically when flying from this direction, we leave Nashville in early evening only have a few hours layover in LA before boarding the long flight to Brisbane. But, on our last trip, we flew Virgin Australia for the first time (instead of Qantas) and the connecting Delta flight left Nashville super early, arriving in LA around 10 am.
We had an entire day in Los Angeles because the flight to Brisbane didn’t leave until 11 pm. Flying with Virgin Australia was over $1000 cheaper (!!) for the four of us, so we figured it was worth making the most of a day in La La Land for that kind of savings. And there was no way we were spending 11+ hours inside LAX. Read on to see how we spent our day. We had so much fun!
How We Spent Our 11-Hour Layover In Los Angeles
We didn’t have to collect any bags as they were checked all the way through to Brisbane, so that was a bonus. We just had our carry-on backpacks. We hired a car ahead of time using Fox. We caught a shuttle outside of baggage claim to the car rental place and had the car in less than an hour and were on our way. They were super cheap, very organized and all the cars looked new and clean.
We drove to La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of metropolitan Los Angelas. I had never even heard of this place until I started looking for ways to spend our layover. These tar pits are natural asphalt seeps that have been seeping up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years. Wow. Over many centuries, the bones of animals that were trapped in the tar were preserved and have been excavated. They still have current excavation projects going on. Big D was studying prehistoric life just before we left, so what a perfect opportunity and fantastic field trip!
Over many centuries, the bones of animals that were trapped in the tar were preserved and have been excavated. They have what has been found displayed in the museum. They still even have current excavation projects going on. Big D was studying prehistoric life just before we left, so what a perfect opportunity and fantastic field trip!
It was easy to get to, and parking was a cinch. It was about 11 am when we arrived, so we decided to have lunch first. There was a little strip of restaurants just next door, so we chose Counter Burger. It’s a build your own burger joint and was really good. We hadn’t eaten anything decent the entire day (and had been up since about 4 am), so it was perfect. Afterward, we walked a few restaurants further down to Starbucks, grabbed a huge coffee, then carried on to check out the tar pits.
The tar pits are amazing. There also are little seeps happening all over the place. Some spots had traffic cones over them with a “Goo!” sign on it. The boys loved that. We walked around outside marveling at the goo for a while before going inside the museum. Once inside, we watched the Titans of the Ice Age movie. It was really well done and just long enough. We walked around the museum and fossil lab, and took the Excavator Tour, which I highly recommend. The boys both asked great questions throughout the tour and were really engaged. It was so interesting and honestly, the whole experience was better than I had expected.
A Walk in Hollywood
We finished at the museum around 4 pm, so we had just enough time for a drive to Hollywood Boulevard and a little exploring. We parked and took a quick walk around, snapped some photos in front of the Hollywood sign, were accosted by quite a few crazy buskers, checked out all the cool signatures in front of the Chinese Theatre and poked around this huge candy store with a giant M&M art collage of Eminem. Get it? Brilliant.
And then there was this crazy Spider-man thing happening in front of Jimmy Kimmel’s studio. There were hundreds of people dressed up like Spider-man for the premier of the “Spider-man: Homecoming” trailer on that night’s show. It was a sight to behold.
After checking out the Chinese Theatre, we hopped back into the car and made our way back to the car rental place. We left early as we were paranoid about LA traffic. Good thing as the GPS kept sending us down crazy streets where we had to make our way across multiple lanes of busy traffic. It was nuts. We caught the free shuttle back to the airport with plenty of time to eat some dinner and allow Boo time to burn off even more energy (not sure where he gets it!) jumping around the airport play area while Big D slept.
It was a fantastic day and a really fun start to our vacation. I loved that we weren’t sitting around the airport for too long before such a long flight. We were all properly tired out. Well, most of us.
Two things that really stuck out was 1) how cheap the rental car was for the whole day and 2) how easy it was to spend a fun day seeing something in between flights with such a long layover.
We will definitely do it again if it works out. I have read other great suggestions of heading to Manhattan Beach or the Getty Museum, grabbing a famous In-N-Out Burger, or the Points Guy has all sorts of recommendations of things to do based on how long your layover is.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t be nervous about leaving the airport when you have plenty of time. We had a blast!