From Sunrise to Sunset… How to Spend a Day Near LAX

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is a major hub, so chances are you’ll find yourself hanging out there with a layover sooner or later (particularly if you are heading overseas). Why waste the time in the airport or brave rush hour traffic when there is SO much to do right around the airport. With or without kids, there are some seriously cool places to spend a few hours. Below are 6 ways to spend some time in the LAX area, all of them 5 miles or closer to the airport. Because really, whose got time to waste in a city as cool as Los Angeles?


1. Visit a Museum

Whether you prefer land or air, we’ve got you covered!

Flight Path Museum (1.7 miles from LAX)

Located literally adjacent to the flight line, the Flight Path Museum is an amazing place to take a stroll through aerospace history. Sure, there are hundreds of models, but the vintage posters and uniforms were the real star of the show for us. For the real airport geeks you can even watch the planes take off and land with the air traffic control radio nearby. We’d be shocked if you left not wanting to rewatch Catch Me If You Can (2002) starring Leonardo DiCaprio!

  • Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 1000 – 1500
  • Admission: Free for members, $5/person donation is requested from non-members
  • Parking: Free



Automobile Driving Museum (1.9 miles from LAX)

Not content to just admire aircraft? Well, travel just a bit further and you’ll be at The Automobile Driving Museum. Again, this place is fantastic, whether you have kids or not, as it is one of the very few classic auto places we’ve been where they actually encourage you to get in and experience exactly what driving some of these machines would be like. As an added bonus, in the back left corner there is an entire play area with Hot Wheels cars and a big track to race them on. Needless to say, Miles could have stayed here for HOURS.

  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday (closed Monday), 1000 – 1600
  • Admission: Suggested Donation $10/Adult, $5 /Child (11-17yo), $8/Seniors, $25/Family of 4, Children under 10yo are free, Military Free
  • Parking: Free




2. Stroll Manhattan Beach Village (5.0 miles from LAX)

Looking for a little sea breeze to balance out the canned air you will soon be breathing at 30,000 feet? Head to the Manhattan Beach area for great scenery, that perfect 70 degree California coastal weather, and tons of cute shops and restaurants for you and your littles to explore. The area is super cute and has got a great “village” vibe making it the perfect place to stroll.



3. Eat & Indulge in some California Craft Brew

The Proud Bird (1.7 miles from LAX)

There isn’t a shortage of places to eat in L.A., but if you are looking to get out of the terminal for some fresh air and plane watching, The Proud Bird is the perfect choice! Good menu choices including their BBQ burger which comes with a hefty serving of crisp veggies, as well as some great craft brews. Cash in on “happy hour” from 1600 – 1900 and enjoy a pint. May we suggest the Blood Orange Wit by Refuge Brewery? It was so good, we later found ourselves visiting their brewery in Temecula!

  • Hours:
    • Lunch: Monday – Saturday, 1100 – 1600
    • Brunch: Sunday, 0900 – 1400
    • Dinner: Daily, 1600 – ?
  • Parking: Free

The Proud Bird Tip: Patio Seating between 1600 – 1730 offers three-course early flight menu. Happy Hour runs 1600 – 1900, Monday – Friday at the bar or on the patio with various items on special for $4, $5, $6 and $7.


There is a really nice outdoor seating area out back with tables within a few hundred yards of landing aircraft. For plane spotters it is absolute heaven…we saw a few ANA flights from Tokyo come in that instantly made us miss Japan. It wasn’t quite open when we were there, but there is a very cool airplane themed kids playground in back as well. Kick back, have a brew, and let your kids get all that energy out before the flight!


Simmzy’s (4.7 miles from LAX)

Looking to enjoy more of the village vibe of Manhattan Beach? Hit up Simmzy’s. The joint is known for burgers, but they’ve also got some good salads for you veggie lovers as well. The real draw, however, is their selection of local California craft brews. Check out the Slo Brew Mango Squeeze if visiting during the summer, it’s brewed in San Luis Obispo and Britt found it delicious. Wiki Stix for the kids are provided, which always provides a nice source of entertainment for our littles.

  • Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 1100 – 2300 and Friday & Saturday, 1000 – 2400
  • Parking: There is street parking out front, but it fills up quickly. There are 12 parking lots around Manhattan Beach at reasonable cost (we found most metered parking spaces here take credit cards).



The Kettle (4.6 miles from LAX)

Need a menu that is sure to please #allthepeeps? The Kettle, also located in the Manhattan Beach Village, may be the perfect spot to check. Lots of seating, good service, booths available and a very extensive menu. Wiki Sticks are also provided at this joint as well which was a nice surprise!

  • Hours: Open 24 Hours
  • Parking: There is street parking out front, but it fills up quickly. There are 12 parking lots around Manhattan Beach at reasonable cost (we found most metered parking spaces here take credit cards).



4. Race down City Sand Dunes (4.1 miles from LAX)

Kids’ got energy? One of our priorities when traveling is to find a park that our kids will love and will…well, let them be kids! You’ll find folks here at Sand Dune Park working out and others playing with their kids. If you are an adult and going to workout you’ll need to make a reservation before visiting, however, if you arrive with children you won’t need one (assuming that you don’t just ditch the kiddos once inside). 60 minutes per person per day is the limit, but we found that more than sufficient. Yes, the kids are gonna get a little sandy, but that will pay dividends when they are worn out and sleeping on the flight! If you really have a long time, you (or your kids) can even catch a shower in the lounge before your flight (just one more reason why Priority Pass makes our Top Travel Essentials list!). As an added bonus there is also a small neighboring park!

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free!
  • Parking: Free, just find a spot along the neighborhood street. As always, be aware of the street parking signs.


5. Walk Along Manhattan Beach Pier (and feed your sea-creature-loving-kiddos curiosity at Roundhouse Aquarium)  (4.9 miles from LAX)

What’s a trip ( or even a layover) to LA without sand and surf? If you’ve got animal lovers on your hands then also make sure to pop into the FREE Aquarium (donations suggested) at the end of the pier. It’s a small space, but there is a touch tank for the littles with some monster starfish as well as California’s state fish, the Garibaldi, which is on display upstairs. The aquarium is ALWAYS the highlight of any trip for Miles, and this was no exception.




Roundhouse Aquarium (5.0 miles from LAX)

  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 1400 – 1900 and Saturday & Sunday, 1000 – 1900
  • Admission: Free, though (as a non-profit) recommends a donation of $2 per person or $5 per family
  • Parking: There is street parking out front, but it fills up quickly. There are 12 parking lots around Manhattan Beach at reasonable cost (we found most metered parking spaces here take credit cards).

6. Catch a Sunset with Toes in the Sand (4.9 miles from LAX)

Is there really a better way than to end the day with toes in the sand, ocean waves, and beautiful sunset hues blanketing the sky? Nope. We didn’t think so. You’ve got your choice between Redondo, Manhattan and Dockweiler beaches…pick one and enjoy!

  • Hours: Sunset, duh.
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: There is street parking out front, but it fills up quickly. There are 12 parking lots around Manhattan Beach at reasonable cost (we found most metered parking spaces here take credit cards).



Happy Travels!

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