An L.A. Layover at the Beach

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 8, 2009

Q. Can you suggest something to do near Los Angeles International Airport? I arrive on a Friday in April at 5:40 a.m. and leave at 12:30 p.m.

Alexandra Bernstein, Kamuela, Hawaii

A. Actually, the question isn't so much what to do as what's open during your crack-o'-dawn layover. Because most of the shops, museums and attractions around town don't get going till 10 a.m. or so, you're pretty much limited to the beach. But that's fine, because what better way to get a glimpse of Southern Californians at play? And LAX is just minutes from several beach towns.

Just remember to allow at least an hour after your outing to get back through security and to your gate.

Taking a taxi is quickest and easiest. To avoid traffic tangles, stick to the beaches immediately north or south of the airport, such as Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach or Redondo Beach. Robin McClain of LA Inc., the city's tourism office, recommends Venice, about a 15-minute drive ($20 to $25 one way). Its 22-mile boardwalk is packed with hikers, bikers, skaters, walkers and street performers in various stages of undress: "the whole L.A. thing," McClain said. You can walk along the beach until the rental shops open, then get your own bike or skates. Mornings are chilly, so take a jacket.

The town's cafes start to open at about 7 a.m., McClain said. Her favorite: the Rose Cafe (220 Rose Ave.), which serves up legendary breakfasts on its patio or at indoor tables.

Then head for Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The mile-long stretch between Venice Boulevard and Main Street is lined with galleries, shops and restaurants. The only caveat is that, in keeping with the town's laid-back vibe, many places open at their leisure. So, another option: Have an elegant breakfast overlooking the ocean at Shutters on the Beach or Casa Del Mar, two luxury hotels in nearby Santa Monica.

I've accumulated enough miles with United to earn a free ticket anywhere they fly. Since connections add time and stress to any itinerary, how can I identify all the international destinations United flies to directly from Dulles? The route map on their Web site is difficult to read.

Eric Hathaway, Vienna

First, a lesson in airline terminology. "Direct" is not the same as "nonstop." A direct flight stops in one or more cities en route to its final destination; "direct" just means you don't have to change planes. A nonstop flight makes no stops along the way. So to avoid layovers, specify nonstop.

For a list of Dulles's nonstop flights, go to the airport's Web site, (which also has info on Reagan National). From the Dulles International Airport column, click on "Flight Schedules," then "Flight Guide." The guide lists destinations, airlines, flight times and number of stops, if any. Nonstops are in boldface type. Scroll to the bottom of the guide to find international flights, which are listed separately. Schedules can change at any time, so double-check everything with the airline.

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