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Frequent Flier: How to have a car-free weekend in LA

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

LA without a car

LA and cars go hand in hand. Ask those who live there or visit often, and they'll tell you that everyone drives in LA. But we're here to say you don't have to. In fact, getting to know this diverse California city without having to drive is much easier than you might think.
Frequent flier
Frequent Flier

LA without
a car

LA and cars go hand in hand. Ask those who live there or visit often, and they'll tell you that everyone drives in LA. But we're here to say you don't have to. In fact, getting to know this diverse California city without having to drive is much easier than you might think.

Couple in Santa Monica

LA without a car — yes, it is possible

As much as traffic is a way of life in LA, if you don't want to drive, you don't have to. The key is to situate yourself in the right neighborhood, at a hotel that offers an array of sites and activities within walking, biking or metro-riding distance. In particular, Santa Monica, downtown LA and LA Westside. We have the scoop on where to stay, how to get around and what to see during your stay in these spots that are conducive to going car-free in LA.

Santa Monica

If there's one neighborhood in LA made for car-free fun it's Santa Monica, and there's no better place to stay during your visit than the Shore Hotel, located on Ocean Avenue right across from the beach. The luxury boutique hotel puts sustainability first but doesn't compromise on style. When you're ready to explore, head directly across the street from the hotel to get to the beach for a swim or a walk along the 3.5 miles of sand, or make a stop at the Santa Monica Pier, where you'll find an amusement park, an arcade, a carousel and a wide range of other fun activities for kids and kids at heart. Satisfy your urge to buy (or just browse) at nearby 3rd Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only area filled with shops, cafés and restaurants, or at Santa Monica Place Mall. While we did all of our exploring on foot, including an informative walking tour of the area, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus is another easy way to make your way around.

Once you're ready for a break from sightseeing, take a three-minute walk from the Shore Hotel to Tikkun Holistic Spa for an intense yet muscle-relaxing massage you won't soon forget. The innovative spa offers many unique treatments aimed at boosting energy, improving mood and helping people live their best lives. End your day with a meal of fresh seafood at The Lobster at the Santa Monica Pier across from the Shore Hotel.

The Original Famer's Market at the Grove

LA Westside

Anyone seeking some art and culture should base themselves in LA Westside at the chic and charming Hotel Wilshire. No car is needed to spend you days checking out some of LA's best museums along aptly named "museum row." We had a great time checking out the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (so much to see you'll want to make multiple visits), the Petersen Automotive Museum (interesting even if you're not a car lover), the Craft and Folk Art Museum and the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, all within a five-minute walk from the hotel.

If you need a break from museums, another must-see within walking distance is The Grove, a pedestrian outdoor mall, and the landmark Original Farmers Market, filled with a dizzying array of food stalls and merchants selling everything from baked goods to seafood to gourmet goodies. To get there, make a left out of the hotel, a left on N. Fairfax Avenue and keep going until you hit W. 3rd Street. The whole trip shouldn't take you longer than 20 minutes, 15 if you're a fast walker. Or grab a bike from the hotel to speed up the trip and cover even more ground. Hungry? Make sure to have at least one meal at the Rooftop on Wilshire, where Chef Eric Greenspan (you might recognize him from Iron Chef America or The Next Iron Chef) is cooking up fresh, creative takes on American classics. The atmosphere is elegant while maintaining a relaxed vibe, perfect for unwinding after a long day of museum hopping.

Downtown

Start your stay in downtown LA at the sleek and stylish JW Marriott LA Live. Walk out of the hotel and downtown LA is at your fingertips. No need to rely on a car here; there are numerous attractions, bars, cafés and restaurants within an easy jaunt from the hotel. If you want to go further afield, the property is conveniently close to two metro stations: Pico Station and 7th Street/Metro Center Station.

Mere minutes from the hotel and where we made our first stop you'll find the Grammy Museum. Music lovers will be instantly intrigued by the multitude of interactive exhibits, meant to inform and spark new interest in artists you thought you were already familiar with. Following the Grammy Museum (give yourself at least two hours here), you may be ready for some fresh air. Located in front of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) is Grand Hope Park, a pleasant patch of green space to relax before continuing your exploration of downtown LA on foot.

Make sure to make a pit stop at foodie haven Grand Central Market. From authentic Thai street food to seafood tacos to deli sandwiches, Chinese food, produce and more, this is the place to go when you're hungry. We were overwhelmed by choice and wanted to eat everything we laid eyes on. Following your snack, head across the street to Angel's Flight Railroad. It wasn't up and running during our visit, but when it is, you can take a ride on what's purported to be the world's shortest railroad. Take a walk through the eclectic jewelry district, the largest jewelry district in the world with over 5,000 wholesale and retail shops selling any kind of bauble you can think of, and then wind your way back to the hotel for a break before dinner.

Up next

Pack your bags and join us next time when Frequent Flier heads to some of the must-see spots in Guatemala.

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Photo credit: anouchka via iStockphoto
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