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2 Week Vacation in LA and San Diego. Hotel Advice?

2 Week Vacation in LA and San Diego. Hotel Advice?

Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 06:18 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 34
2 Week Vacation in LA and San Diego. Hotel Advice?

Dear Fodor Friends,

We are planning an end of year trip to LA (December 19-25) and San Diego (December 25-30) with a final night at the airport before we fly out home December 31.

I haven't been to LA in more than 20 years (when I stayed with friends who were then living in Malibu) so I have no personal experience to draw on.

Are you an Angeleno or frequent LA visitor who would you like to lend some cells brain and help us plan where to stay?

We will have a rental car and want to spend our days doing mostly "cultural" things in LA (Getty Villa, Getty Museum, LA Museum of Art - including the free Friday night Jazz concert), Museum of Television & Radio, Skirball Cultural Center, Griffith Park & Observatory, Pueblo Los Angeles, La Brea, Farmer's Market, Huntington Library & Gardens, Gamble House, Queen Mary, Scorpion Submarine, Seal Beach Wildlife Refuge,)

Things like shopping, (Rodeo Drive, etc.) or visits to Disneyland/Universal Studios don't interest us at all. (We've been to the Disney/Universal versions in Orlando, had a good time, and don't feel the need to repeat the experience.) Lunch will probably be on the fly while we are touring, but we do like a nice dinner.

We were hoping to spend between $100-$150 a night including tax and parking. Any kind of included breakfast would help. A big pool for swimming laps would be great (but probably not an option.) We're not big fans of "hip" "modern" hotels (Their decor always seems cold instead of welcoming and their furniture always seems uncomfortable)

We would love to be in an safe area where there are restaurants or places to enjoy at the end of the day.

We've never had this much trouble picking a hotel! Unlike other cities we've visited (Seattle, Portland, SanFran, Chicago, etc.) LA is so spread out that we fear we will make the wrong decision no matter what we pick and time is running out...

I've been round and round on Fodor's, Frommers, TripAdvisor, plus all the discount travel sites (Kayak.com, Hotel.com, Otel.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, etc.) and my head is just swimming...

We've looked at at least 60 hotels.
So far we're considering:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles - Downtown LA as cheap as $90 a night on Orbitz.com but parking is $32 per night, no breakfast. High "WOW" factor in the lobby, but very mixed reviews on TripAdvisor.com with lots of angry negatives.

Hotel Figueroa - Downtown LA as cheap as $94 a night on Otels.com, plus paid parking. Funky decorations al a 1002 Arabian Nights, but concrete floors, and very mixed reviews on TripAdvisor.com with lots of angry negatives.

Hilton Checkers - Downtown LA $130 a night on Hotels.com, plus paid parking, no breakfast.

Hotel Angeleno - $160 a night on Orbitz.com with Free parking. Already more than we really want to spend. Hip and modern, but location seems good despite complaints about highway/freeway noise...

Beverly Garland's Holiday Inn kin NORTH Hollywood at $99 a night. Positive comments on Trip Advisor.com, but location seems a drawback?

Best Western Gateway Hotel Santa Monica - $139 a night, no breakfast, but an IHOP at the ground level. Is Santa Monica worth the compromise? Will we still end up driving to most places for dinner, anyway?

Inn At Venice Beach - $151 a Night plus paid parking. Has a free continental breakfast. Seems "quaint" but friendly. Positives about customer service, but is this too far south, too far away?

Portofino Yacht Club @ Redondo Beach - Rooms at $151 plus $15 parking on travel.hotels-and-discounts.com, no breakfast. Rooms seem bright, cheery, welcoming, but the location seems miles away from anything...

Is there something we are overlooking? Can you provide some advice? All replies will be gratefully appreciated!

(And we haven't even cracked the books on San Diego yet! Gulp!)

jlsct is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 07:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,265
Hi jlsct,

Welcome to L.A.! It is tough choosing a hotel that would be convenient to all of those attractions.

The Hotel Angeleno would be pretty well located for all of your Westside activities, as would the Santa Monica hotels.

I would strike the downtown hotels off of your list. Looking at your activities, you would only need to spend one day in downtown L.A. I would also strike out the Portofino. It's about a 15 minute drive just to get to a freeway from there.

Other suggestions: The Farmer's Daughter hotel. Very centrally located near The Grove/Farmer's Market area. Not sure if Xmas week rates would fit into your budget, though.

Manhattan Beach/El Segundo suite hotels. There are several suite hotels (Springhill Suites, Summerfield Suites, TownPlace Suites) not far from LAX in the Manhattan Beach/El Segundo area. These offer free parking and breakfast and most have swimming pools. They usually run from $100-$150 per night. They are close to both the 405 and 105 freeways, and many great restaurants.

Your list sounds impressive, but I would suggest the following additions:

Walt Disney Concert Hall tour
Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach
Whale Watching out of Long Beach www.2seewhales.com


lvk is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 08:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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I don't agree with lvk that you should not consider downtown.

The only one off of your list that I might not consider is Hotel Figueroa which has a reputation as a backpacker-type hotel. Checkers gets good reviews from a few people I know from business downtown. Have you looked at the Omni or the Miyako in Little Tokyo? Because it's not the season for business visitors or conventions, you should do very well downtown. Not only do you have more than a day planned around downtown, but Pasadena is closer to downtown.

I was also going to suggest the Hotel Angeleno or Farmer's Daughter.

Sights convenient to downtown or in downtown:

Griffith Park & Observatory (make a reservation), Autry (Museum of the American West in Griffith Park);

Pueblo (Olvera Street),

Near the base of Olvera Street is the new Chinese American Museum although I thought it worth maybe 30 minutes, donation requested.

Also add the Japanese American Museum in Little Tokyo.

There are two Modern/Contemporary Art Museums downtown, MOCA and the Geffen Contemporary (www.moca.com).

And do visit the Disney Concert Hall.

mlgb is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 09:34 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 136
Hi there,

I live less than a mile from Beverly Garland's Holiday Inn and it's an okay hotel. Looking over your list of "to do's", it might be a good choice as long as you watch your timing, and not try the freeways at rush hour. It's probably 20 minutes away from most things on your list (again, watching the time your battle the freeways). The Queen Mary and Long Beach/Seal Beach would be the farthest away. Also, there are alot of good restaurants in the Studio City area that you can find. I know you said you weren't interested in Universal, but Warner Bros does give a great VIP studio tour without the rides and "amusements". It's a great way to see a working studio.

As for pools, you might want to rethink it ... I know they are predicting a couple of days up in the 90's this next week, but all in all, it's been too cold to swim or sunbathe.

Enjoy your time here .... and feel free to ask more questions as they arise.

DeniceRG is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 09:38 AM
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In L.A., we stay at Marina del Rey's Marriott Courtyard. It has a small outdoor pool. We get the LMU rate of $130, with free parking. Not sure if that location would work for you, though.
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 09:49 AM
Posts: n/a
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 09:58 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 18,442
Although there won't be much traffic that week, I wouldn't think the beach communities are very convenient to your itinerary. That would include Mariina del Rey. There is no reason to go farther west than the Hotel Angeleno, especially in December.

LMU= Loyola Marymount University?

Once you decide on a location, try chow.com for restaurant recommendations. It won't really matter where you stay, you can pretty much get anything you want at any time. Might be fun to do the Sunday brunch at the Queen Mary.
mlgb is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 10:18 AM
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Yes, sorry, LMU= Loyola Marymount University.

I looked up the Angeleno, and since it's a Joie de Vivre property, I would trust it. We've stayed at their property in S.F., and they are a very good management company.

P.S. Everytime we're in L.A., we like to drive Sunset to the beach (where Gladstone's is). There's a nice-looking simple motel right on Sunset, near UCLA or Brentwood, with free parking in front. I can't remember its name, but I am always interested in whether it's still a good place to stay. Believe it or not, my husband and I stayed there many, many years ago, when he was in the military stationed in CA. Does anyone know its name and if it's nice enough?
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 03:25 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 34
Many Thanks to All Who Wrote: you really are the most amazing group of people! Please keep your ideas and suggestions coming...

I should have mentioned in my original post that we will visit the Queen Mary, the Scorpion, (I checked by telephone --- and yes they are open on Christmas Day...) and perhaps even the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge if they permit as we drive from Los Angeles to San Diego on December 25.

(We were looking for something to do that day so this was a perfect fit: check out of hotel, drive to Queen Mary, etc. tour around, arrive in San Diego by dinnertime to check into our hotel there. Any ideas about San Diego hotels ? )

We will definitely include the whale watching idea on our agenda, and maybe even a daytrip to Catalina (although that seems unlikely given the amount of stuff we are trying to wedge in between a.m. December 20 and p.m. December 24...)

I keep looking at the map (you can't imagine my headache! smile...) and keep coming back to the Millennium Biltmore downtown. At $95 a night plus parking, it seems like a steal, even if we will have to go elsewhere for dinner. [We will definitely remove the Figueroa from our list...]

The original Pueblo of Los Angeles is just to the north of the Downtown core, Chinatown just a bit farther, Mission Rd/Huntington leading to the Huntington Library the Mission San Gabriel, and the LA Arboretum is just to the east, Sunset leading to Vermont and the Griffith Park/Planetarium is reasonably close by to the north, 9th Street/Wilshire leading west to the Farmer's Market, LA County Museum, and La Brea is a straight shot.

Only the Getty Museum Getty Villa, and the Skirball seem far from the Millenium and the Downtown core. I suppose if we want time at Santa Monica or Malibu we can do a museum (Getty, Skirball, Hammer, etc.) in the morning/afternoon, then spend time during the late afternoon/sunset in SM or Malibu before heading off to dinner there...

We figure we will return home most afternoons around 6:00, poop out for an hour or two, regroup, and get back in the car to drive for dinner.

We have 5 nights and would like 5 nice meals.

While we love an undiscovered bargain (al la Alamo Square Seafood Grill, and Chapeau! - both are in San Francisco) we don't mind spending up to $80-$100 per meal (for two, including tip) if the quality warrants. Fine French, Interesting Italian, Great Greek, Seafood, Chinese all appeal to us. (We also love Tex-Mex, but have a place here is Washington D.C. - Cactus Cantina - that is so wonderful we actually had our wedding reception there, so we are not sure if other places will match our expectations.)

Any more dinner ideas you'd like to share? Fabulous food finds that should be shared? Meals so marvelous at prices so paltry the calories must be damned? Please let us know!

I love a good discussion (debate team in my younger years, don't cha know...) and am happy to entertain any arguments that we are making the biggest mistake of our holiday traveling lives. If you can convince us other wise, please do! So please: read on, write on, rant on! We love to "hear" what you are thinking!

Many thanks (and hugs)!

jlsct is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 03:45 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 136
Ciudad in downtown L.A. (it's on Figueroa, across from the Bonaventure) is great ... ate there about 2 months ago.
DeniceRG is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 03:46 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,149
Look at the reviews for the Hollywood Orchid Suites Hotel. It has free underground parking, kitchens, a pool, is near Graumann's Theater. Rates look good and the reviews are almost unanimously favorable.

I haven't stayed there yet, but have booked it for later in the month when we will meet up there with our daughter and her husband who now live in Costa Rica.
jtrandolph is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 04:26 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,037
If you stay at Checkers in L.A. (I have a buddy who stays there often, and he likes it), you can take the metro from Pershing Square to Union Station (hop on the Gold Line toward Pasadena, and within 1/2 hour you'll hit the Mission Street station.

Get out and walk one block to Bistro de la Gare, a nice, reasonable French restaurant in South Pasadena (link below). It will fall in within your 80-100 dollar range. Most of the waiters and the owner are from France, and we really enjoy eating here. It is closed Monday and Tuesday for dinner.


If you wanted to walk a few blocks from that same metro station, you will hit Il Briganti, a very good and reasonable Italian restaurant. The service can be a little slow, but the food is very good.


Pasadena also has a ton of good restaurants like Cafe Bizou, Saladang (Thai), Arroyo Chop House (pretty expensive), Celestino's (Italian), Cafe Santorini and this little gem: Azeen's Afghani Restaurant - 110 E Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103 - (626) 683-3310. Very reasonably proced and very good.

In a little area called Larchmont, near downtown or Hollywood is a restaurant named Girasole. Little (only about 20 tables). Owners are from Venice. Bring your own wine. No corkage. Romantic little spot. Almost everything we have had here is good. The panecotta with berries or warm orange cake with a capuccino will top off your evening. Very reasonable prices here.
225 1/2 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004-3706
Phone: (323) 464-6978

Checkers is very near the Walt Disney Music Hall (there are tours). Plenty of good restaurants in downtown L.A., but they are pretty pricey, since the Patina Restaurant Group owns a lot of them.

In San Diego, my home away from home, my favorite Italian restaurant is Aqua al Due on 5th in Gas Lamp area. The other Aqua al Due is in Florence. Try the Riso al Gorgonzola e Martini Carnaroli (rice sauteed in a gorgonzola and vodka sauce). It is a really good risotto. Then follow up with iletto all’Aceto Ba!samko, which is a hand carved fillet mignon topped with a balsamic vinegar glaze.


Croce's (owned by the late singer's wife) restaurant is just up the street and still good after all these years. Gas Lamp is a fun place to hang out with plenty of good restaurants and bars.


Another part of San Diego with good restaurants and a fun place to hang out is LIttle Italy. My favorite restaurant in Little Ital (although there are many good ones) is: Buon Appetito.

Info: 1609 India Street - San Diego
TEL: (619) 238-9880

Have a great trip.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2007, 08:36 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 653
Please search under my screen name for a recent posting about SD restaurants. I, too, recommended Buon Appetito (and Little Italy in general) but would also direct you to the dozens of interesting restaurants in the Hillcrest area. Arrivederci and Sambuca are good Italian choices there, but the area abounds with more "exotic" cuisines (Afghan, Moroccan, tapas, etc.)

For the Petco Park area (in downtown, a few blocks east of the Gaslamp district) I would suggest Cafe Chloe. In Mission Hills (sort of between Hillcrest and Olod Town), try Parallel 33.
d_claude_bear is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2007, 09:21 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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d_claude_bear is right about Hillcrest area. A few years ago I ate at a place called Kemo Sabe (actually interviewed their chef for a story). Enjoyed the food (a lot of Asian fusion dishes as I recall), and the presentation of the food was just as interesting as the meal itself. Maybe d_claude knows if this place is still serving good food.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2007, 11:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 18,442
Downtown LA restaurants... You will find plenty nearby even at night. The restaurants in your hotel are worth looking into (Smeraldi's was a favorite lunch stop for years).

Chow.com can help you with other recommendations.

A few that you might want to consider:

Water Grill

Roy's (their price fixe dinner is quite the bargain)


Cafe Pinot

Pacific Dining Car (24 hour steaks) or
Nick N Stefs, another red meat place
and a bit more trendy in decor

In J Town (Little Tokyo) Suehiro is a cute little casual cafe

Ciudad is a good suggestion.
mlgb is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2007, 12:13 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Those L.A. restaurants listed above are all pretty good, but just know you will be hard-pressed to get out of any of them spending only $80-100 for two, especially if you want some vino or cocktail.

There are so many great little neighborhood haunts in the L.A. area, I find it hard to swallow the downtown prices, so I meander to nearby areas and eat cheaper (and in many cases, better).

The Silver Lake area, while eclectic in taste, has some good restaurants. The Cliff's Edge (neat outside patio with heaters...Italian/Mediterranean menu) and Blairs come to top of mind. Parking can be a hassle in Silver Lake, though.

When I meet my wife downtown for a play or concert, often times we just have appetizers and drinks, and even that can cost a good deal of money. The Patina Group seems to have a monopoly on the downtown L.A. restaurant biz. Of their restaurants, I like Zucca and Nick & Steph's the best.

At Nick & Steph's get there just before the after work crowd and get a place on the patio for a cool look at L.A. skyline. You can order bar food and drinks. Zucca has a decent happy hour menu in the bar that is one of the best deals I have seen recently downtown.

If you do eat downtown, it is usually much more lively on weeknights, when you get the after work crowd. The weekends can be dead.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2007, 12:25 PM
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Hello Maitaitom--

Kemo Sabe is going strong--open only for dinner. It has a wonderful asian/southwestern USA fusion menu. The same exceptional chef/co-owner, Deborah Scott, also runs Indigo Grill in Little Italy (India and Cedar Streets), which also has inventive food, large portions, and a real "buzz" atmosphere.
d_claude_bear is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2007, 12:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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mmm.. hard to spend $80 for 4 at Suehiro. And I think Roys is an amazing bargain at $35 for 3 courses. Little Tokyo is active on weekends. I didn't list the sushi places as I'm not a big fan, but there are quite a few.

The others all are in response to "nice dinner."

For entertainment listings downtown, there's an online guide at downtownnews.com. There's more than you think. e.g., Pete's at 4th and Main (take a taxi or shuttle, don't walk) is open til 2 am 7 days a week, with jazz night on Tuesday til 1 am. www.petescafe.com
mlgb is offline  
Old Dec 6th, 2007, 08:43 PM
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Again, many thanks to all who chimed in!

I haven't had a chance to start doing restaurant research (via Zagat, Citysearch, TripAdvisor, FoodTV, Chow.com, etc,) but I will start with your suggestions and go from there. We have no doubt we will find at least 1 terrific dinner each in Downtown, West Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica/Malibu/Venice. (I'll be back asking for more advice in the next week to 10 days!)

In the mean time, I did want to post some information on the hotel bargains I was able to uncover. Both deals are still active, so if you are going to LA or SD soon or have friends who can benefit from the info, you might want out what I have learned...

We appreciate all the recommendations and exhortations to stay in West Hollywood or Santa Monica, but we mapped out our trip and realized that we slept Downtown
we could save a bundle of money ( I was determined to stay with a total rate of not more than $135 for hotel and parking before tax), get a "better" hotel than what we might be able to afford in a "hipper" location, and be reasonably close to a variety of locales.

We figure that we will save time not driving across town everyday by picking one locale for each of our 5 days (1. Downtown, 2. Farmer's Market-Museum Row, 3. Hollywood(?)- Griffith Park, 4. Pasadena, 5. Getty Center, Santa Monica-Venice 6. Queen Mary, Scorpion on the way to San Diego.)

We'll certainly be close to the Downtown attractions, Farmer's Market-Museum Row, Griffith Park. We'll be closer to Pasadena than if we stayed in Malibu, SM, or Venice.
The only time we will drive across town will be to the Getty Center and we will top it off with a late afternoon or dinner at Malibu/SM/or Venice. When we finish we will be driving back into town at the end of the day with what we presume will be less traffic by LA standards...

I am not sure why Downtown gets such a bad rap, but by the end of the day after dinner (9:00? 10:00?) we will be pooped and ready for bed. I am pretty sure we will be glad to be sleeping in an area without a lot of nightlife or rowdy tourists.

After much deliberation (Beverly Garland @ $99 a night, Millennium Biltmore @ $95 a night, Figueroa @ $94 a night, Checker Hilton @ $130 a night, Best Western SM @ $135 a night, Inn @ Venice Beach @ $151 a night) we actually settled on the Los Angeles Omni on Olive Street near California Plaza.

I snagged a fabulous rate of $104 a night using Kayak.com to connect with Skoosh, who had the lowest rate. I booked the room on Tuesday night.

Everyone on TripAdvisor raved about the Omni (not a single unpleasant review - unlike the Figueroa or the Millennium Biltmore) and we will be close to Disney Concert Hall, Museum of Contemporary Art, Grand Central Market, Angels Flight Railway up Bunker Hill, El Pueblo Los Angeles, etc.

*Today (Thursday) the Skoosh price now jumped to $122.40 per night
*Travelocity.com = $233.44 (With a $50 Gas Card Rebate for Paying With VISA)
*PerfectEscapes.com = $249 a night
*Priceline.com = $249 a night
*Expedia.com = No Availability
*Hotels.com = No Availability
*Orbit.com, = No Availability

I have no idea why Skoosh has cornered the market on these Omni rooms, but at $104 a night (compared with $249 all over the place from lots of other discount sites,) I am thrilled. With any luck, there will be enough empty rooms to upgrade us to a room with a view of the California Plaza fountains!

So, I am really happy with our LA choice (which took me 2 weeks of research! Whew!)

San Diego came a lot easier.

I was starting to spin my wheels all over again when I got an e-mail from Hotwire TravelTicker. (I almost never even look at Hotwire because I need to KNOW where I'm sleeping before I pay the freight, but TravelTicker seems pretty good.)

TravelTicker offered rooms at San Diego's Manchester Grand Hyatt for as little as $159 a night with a $100 hotel rebate which could be applied directly to your hotel bill or used for anything on property with a minimum 2-night stay. The link takes you directly to the Hyatt website.

But the promotion curiously listed blackout dates in the middle of our proposed stay (December 25-December 30)

But I followed the link anyway and found I COULD stay during those nights. I actually broke our stay into two separate reservations to save even MORE money (Excuse please, but - Yeah for me!)

By booking the first 3 nights as a State Government employee (my husband works for a State University, so we qualify) we paid $110 per night X 3 nights.

I then went back into the system, reserved the final 2 nights, used the Code "TT304" to reserve a room at $159 a night X 2 nights, and qualified for the $100 bonus.

I checked with Hyatt Reservations and they said both reservations carried the same the room category.

(Even a non State-government employee could repeat the prices by booking the first 3 nights using the FIRST option for Code "TT304" at $129 a night X 3, and the last 2 nights by using the SECOND option for "TT304" at $159 X 2 with a $100 bonus. The trick was to break it up into 2 separate reservations!)

Here's the link:

If you are considering going to either Los Angeles or San Diego in the next few weeks, I think both these hotels are great choices, so hopefully someone else can benefit from all my research!
jlsct is offline  
Old Dec 7th, 2007, 08:03 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 136
Sounds like you got some great deals. I've worked out of the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles, and it's a good hotel. The third floor takes you right to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

While in downtown, I strongly suggest taking a tour ... Redlinetours.com offer some great walking tours of the city .... taking you into some gorgeous buildings. Their office is in the lobby of the Bradbury Building. Check them out, I think you'd really enjoy it. They also do Hollywood Blvd. walking tours. I've taken both the tours, and have thoroughly enjoyed them (and I'm a tour guide!)

Enjoy your time here!

DeniceRG is offline  

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