How to fill your time at LAX, whether you’re traveling with kids or flying solo
THE BEST OF THE TERMINALS
The Los Angeles International Airport—LAX, to its friends—sprawls over nine terminals. So the challenge isn’t finding something to do while waiting for your flight—it’s finding the very best thing. Here are some recommendations to help you fill your time, your belly, and your suitcase at the busiest airport in the West.
Two favorite Los Angeles food experiences roll up to LAX’s Terminal 4 every day in the form of the Kogi Truck (their Korean tacos might be one of the greatest fusion experiments ever) and the Border Grill Truck, serving ambitious Mexican fare as brought to you by L.A. food maven Susan Feniger. Another L.A. Mexican favorite that has set up shop at the airport is Lotería! Grill, with two locations, in Terminals 5 and 7. Angelenos love their diners, and so does LAX; try Ruby’s Diner in Terminal 6. For something almost unprecedented in the world of airport cuisine, you can now sample vegan entrees at Real Food Daily in Terminal 4.
If you’ve got a bit of time before your flight, LAX offers a number of seated dining experiences. The Tom Bradley International Terminal is home to fresh, modern Mexican food at Cantina Laredo. Expect familiar favorites like fajitas with unconventional ingredients, like artichoke hearts. Feeling pescatarian? Visit Gladstone's 4 Fish in Terminal 3, where you can enjoy grilled fillets and crab cakes. More Italian? Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza brings classic Neapolitan style to Terminal 4.
BEER, WINE, & COCKTAILS
If you’ve got time to kill, why not drown it at one of several offbeat drinking establishments at the airport? In Terminal 5, you can rock and roll all night while enjoying comfort food accompanied by either a cocktail or one of the 30 or so beers on tap at Rock & Brews Concert Bar & Grill. The place is owned in part by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the band Kiss, and live music happens frequently. Featuring less music but slightly more ambitious, Southern-accented food, there’s Engine Co. No. 28 in Terminal 8. For something a little more refined, sip vodka and nibble caviar and blinis at Petrossian, one of the swankiest airport bars imaginable. It’s located, naturally, in the International Terminal.
Cinnabon, be gone. La Provence Patisserie and Cafe brings a touch of French sophistication to airport snacking with its array of macarons and mini-tarts. It’s in Terminal 4. If you’re craving candy, skip the M & Ms and Mentos and treat yourself to Terminal 1’s Treat Me Sweet. You’ll find bulk hard candy and more elegant boxed chocolates and truffles, too. Marmalade Café in Terminal 8 is a good bet for a pastry snack, and don’t forget about Pinkberry. LAX has three of the cult-favorite frozen yogurt stands; two in the International Terminal and one in Terminal 1.
There’s a Starbucks in most of the nine terminals at LAX, but try a taste of something that you can’t find at every airport. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf may seem like a coffee empire itself, but it’s a born-and-bred Los Angeles company. Find them in Terminals 5, 7, 8, and the International Terminal. You can while away even a long layover with free WIFI, apple fritters, and small-batch roasted java at Terminal 7’s Klatch Coffee. They’re a smaller, Southern-California based company with only five locations in all, so it’s easy to feel good about patronizing them. In the International Terminal, enjoy more not-so-average-joe at LAMILL, a boutique roaster based in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood.
Nobody shops like an Angelino, and not surprisingly, LAX is a fine place to spruce up your closet or living room. If dodging decked-out celebrities has your luggage looking a little shabby by comparison, treat yourself to a stylish new rollerboard, messenger bag, or briefcase at TUMI. The Tom Bradley International Terminal location focuses on the iconic brand’s travel accessory line. Similarly chic totes can be found at upscale Market 8600, in Terminal 6. Make sure you’re set on reading material (remember, books never need charging) at the airport outpost of Hollywood’s Book Soup, in Terminal 7. If you’re feeling splurgy, the International Terminal has more brand-name cachet than you could ever fit into one vacation, including Bvlgari, Coach, Armani, Michael Kors, and local hero Fred Segal.
See’s Candies was founded in Los Angeles, so you can justify a little indulgence by telling yourself you’re buying local. They’re hard to miss, with outposts in Terminals 1, 4, 5, 6, and the International Terminal. Monsieur Marcel, in Terminal 5, sounds French, and many of the goods sold there are indeed from co-founder Stephane Strouk ‘s native country. But the business is an L.A. institution and the shop features many local artisanal goods you can take home, as well.
Gear up the L.A. sports fan in your life at Magic Johnson Sports in Terminal 5. It’s not just for Lakers swag; stock up on Dodgers, UCLA, USC, and other SoCal team apparel. Or you can bring home a little California beach style, say some board shorts or flip-flops, at SOL Surf in Terminal 1. Terminal 5’s I Love LA is a great place to pick up some classy souvenirs. Banish the thought of shot glasses and coffee mugs—you can find those anywhere. Here you’ll find goods from some little L.A.-area brands you may have heard of, like Disney and Guess.
Traveling with kids can be stressful, but traveling with a nursing child can ratchet up the anxiety to unbearable levels. Luckily, LAX has one of the best networks of Mothers’ Rooms in the United States, with one currently located or soon to open in every one of the nine terminals. Finally, moms on the move have a safe, private place to breastfeed and otherwise look after the needs of the youngest travelers.