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LA is way more than just Los Angeles. In fact, when many outsiders think of Los Angeles they conjure up images of movie sets, beaches, and iconic hillside buildings and signs, but many of these actually fall outside of the official borders drawn for the city of Los Angeles. For outsiders, Los Angeles becomes the label for all of Los Angeles County and the sights belonging to cities like Santa Monica and Hollywood. Don’t be disappointed though — all this means is there are more places to explore and more options when deciding on where to stay in Los Angeles.

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Santa Monica

Perhaps the most tourist-friendly city in the Los Angeles area, Santa Monica combines beaches, diverse shopping, and an abundance of places to grab a bite to eat. Easily one of the most popular subjects of Los Angeles postcards is the Santa Monica Pier. Jutting out into the Pacific, the wooden structure has plenty of activities. From many miles away, people can spot the famed Ferris wheel, which looms over the whole pier. Families and friends can also enjoy carnival games and kid-friendly roller coasters. For the aforementioned food and retail options, head to Third Street Promenade where shops include big names like Apple, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Sephora, and Armani. For entertainment, visitors can catch a film at the Broadway Theatre or can watch the many buskers and street performers impress the crowds.

Stay at: The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows

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By Next Trip Vacations

Malibu

Perhaps both the bastion of Los Angeles surf culture and the stereotypical home of the rich and famous, Malibu has multiple sides to it. Isolated by the northern foothills of LA and the Pacific Ocean to the west, much of Malibu’s development and history have been influenced by its remoteness. While it’s only a few miles north of Santa Monica, Malibu is only really accessible by the Pacific Coast Highway, two lanes both in and out. For those wanting to take advantage of California’s famous weather (or infamous if you’re a bitter East Coaster), try surfing a try at Surfrider Beach, sunbathe on El Matador or Zuma Beach, or take a hike in Malibu Creek State Park to Escondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains. Everyone else can have a few leisurely sips at the picnic tables of Malibu Family Wines or eat at one of the many amazing restaurants with ocean views.

Stay at: Gated Beachfront Penthouse

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By Airbnb

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West Hollywood

Right in the thick of the action, West Hollywood is a good representation of Los Angeles: trendy, quirky, and creative. Tourists will be pleased with the access to Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. Hollywood Boulevard being the home of must-sees like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where celebrities are immortalized with golden stars lining the street, and the Chinese Theatre, famous for its architecture and stars’ handprints in cement. Meanwhile, Sunset hosts some of the best comedy clubs in Los Angeles and Chateau Marmont, a historic hotel known as a former hidden haunt of many celebrities. These days West Hollywood is best known for its nightlife. All kinds of people flock here for the various clubs and bars that range from hip to grungy. West Hollywood is also one of the gay-friendliest areas in the world, being home to a number of fun LGBTQ bars.

Stay at: 4 Bedroom Hollywood Charmer

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By HomeAway

Manhattan Beach

South of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles International Airport, along the coast, are what are known as “The Beach Cities” or “The South Bay”. Rapidly getting discovered by Angelinos and tourists, the beachside towns for many years were quiet and not talked about much. Nowadays, they are more developed and hot places for people to migrate away from some of the denser populated areas of LA. Chief among these cities is Manhattan Beach. Activity in Manhattan Beach centers along Manhattan Beach Boulevard, a street that sharply descends from an inland portion of the Pacific Coast Highway all the way down to the Manhattan Beach Pier. The pier itself has a small, interactive aquarium on the end of it. The beach, meanwhile, is a popular spot for surfers and beach volleyball players consider it a mecca for their sport. As the city and residents have become more upscale, Manhattan Beach has also become a major destination for foodies with awesome restaurants like MB Post, Little Sister, Arthur J, and Fishing with Dynamite headlining.

Stay at: Unobstructed Ocean Views from The Strand

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By HomeAway

Downtown LA

Even just five to ten years ago, if a tourist told a native Southern Californian they were staying downtown, the local would probably respond in one of two ways: “why?” or “be careful.” These days, DTLA is currently in the midst of a renaissance. With new high-rise apartment buildings, a creative revitalization of formerly rundown areas, and investment in entertainment have all caused dramatic change. While there is still plenty of grit in parts of downtown, the area around Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers of the NBA, has been developed into LA Live, a place to see a concert, get dinner, or enjoy a game.

Stay at: JW Marriott at LA Live

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By HRS | Hotel reservation

Venice Beach

The days of negligently ignoring Venice are long gone. After becoming a bohemian destination, Venice is now a hipster haven. From trendy bungalow living to juice-cleansing at vegan diners to small batch clothing stores, this isn’t exactly the Dogtown of lore, but instead a popular place to be. To fully embrace this vibe head to Abbot Kinney Boulevard for good coffee or one of their legendary First Friday celebrations. Venice Beach hasn’t completely changed though. Walking on the boardwalk will still put anyone in the path of some interesting characters. The outdoor gyms at Muscle Beach, seaside skate park, and numerous bong shops are all still going strong.

Stay at: Bungalow by the Beach

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By HomeAway

Marina del Rey

Just down the road from Venice Beach is Marina del Rey. The actual marina of Marina del Rey is officially the largest human made harbor, as over 5,000 boats “lay anchor” there. Accented by tall glass apartments that reflect the light of the nearby ocean, Marina del Rey is an attractive city. One of the cities most impacted by the influx of tech jobs, del Rey, along with a couple of other local towns, is being now referred to as “Silicon Beach.” While there may not be a headlining attraction here, outside of the beach and restaurants, it is close to plenty of activity, including the canals of Venice Beach.

Stay at: Marina del Rey Hotel

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By Booking.com

Beverly Hills

Synonymous with glamour, for travelers looking to do some shopping, there are few places in the world better to stay than Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive is the premier area to go spend some money. Stores include high-end fashion stops like Coach, Louis Vitton, Tiffany & Company, and Burberry. Celebrity-seekers can catch any number of tour buses that drive around parts of Beverly Hills to see the homes of various stars.

Stay at: Montage Beverly Hills

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By Prestigia

Long Beach

Just about as far south as anyone can go in Los Angeles County before reaching Orange County, is Long Beach. A mini metropolis in its own right, Long Beach is home to the Port of Long Beach — the second busiest port in the United States after the Port of Los Angeles, which outside of arbitrary borders is the same place. Needless to say, this area is crucial to the economy of the U.S. But that isn’t all that Long Beach has to offer. In the seaside downtown district, there are popular destinations like the Queen Mary, a former cruise liner from back in the Titanic days, and The Aquarium of the Pacific, one of the best aquariums in California.

Stay at: Hotel Maya

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By Booking.com
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