March 1, 2018
Our Guide to L.A. Parking
By: Karina Anastasia Roche
Many out-of-town travelers have heard of L.A.'s nefarious traffic, but may not be prepared for the slow but silent death of the parking scene. Forewarned is forearmed, so we've created a guide to parking so that our guests can plan ahead of time for a stress-free vacation in this beautiful area. Some of this is common sense, and some of it you just need to know.
While we try to seek out free or inexpensive parking when possible, sometimes there is no alternative but to pay for parking. Meters are often the least expensive option if you need to park for a couple of hours (let's say for dinner), but, of course, they fill up fast during peak hours. For the least amount of stress, pay for a spot in either a public parking structure or a lot. Fortunately, we have not found valet parking to be a necessity most of the time, but in a few areas it might be the option least likely to give you a migrane. Note that if you are visiting hot-spot tourist destinations, such as a theme park, parking can be as expensive as $25 per spot and up. Prepare to pay for parking when in L.A.
Naturally, the season--and even time of day--will determine largely the availability of parking. If you're traveling in the summer, parking will be crammed with locals and tourists alike vying for a place to leave their vehicle while vacationing. Play it smart and plan your day so that you arrive before the main crowds. The exception is on red-hot shopping days (such as Black Friday) when everyone in the world is filling the malls: for such occasions, we actually recommend you choose an activity that is more off the beaten path, like visiting one of our many stunning state parks.
Most beaches in the area have paid parking lots. While you might have to do some driving around, you'll likely find a spot in one of these lots. You'll also notice a long line of cars piled up by the sidewalk alongside Pacific Coast Highway. Where signs permit, many locals take advantage of this free parking, although it can be dangerous getting out on the driver's side when cars are rushing past you at 50 miles per hour. Some parts of the highway, however, are quieter and street-side parking more spacious. Make sure to read the signage carefully, and use your best judgment if you choose to park like these more daring locals.
The parking culture will vary depending on the area. Remember, when people say they're going to L.A., they mean the greater Los Angeles area, throughout which the famous destinations are sprinkled. Downtown, Hollywood, and Santa Monica are known for being congested, but they have many parking structures that will relieve the parking struggle if you're willing to pay up (usually these spots are in the range of $10). There is a fair amount of meter parking, but those spots, of course, fill up quickly. Try to find a parking lot or structure that is a central location for the attractions you're looking for in the area: pay the flat rate, and then walk. In some areas you might find score free neighborhood parking, if you're lucky to find the right street and don't mind walking.
Most museums in Los Angeles have designated structures--and some, like the two Gettys, are the only parking option you will have (for the Getty museums, parking is usually $15, but admission is free). Museum parking is generally more reasonable, although for those museums open on holidays, large crowds are to be expected.
Shopping Malls & Centers
If you're visiting an area like the Third Street Promenade, The Grove, or Calabasas Commons, there is usually always enough parking in the structures, Black Friday and the like being the exception. Especially considering that malls result in having to carry many bags of products, just use the parking structure or lot. While you'll undoubtedly pay for parking in Santa Monica or The Grove (in Beverly Hills), if you're visiting the Calabasas Commons or the Westfield Topanga Mall, parking is free--what a welcome surprise!
Laws & Signage
As to the legal particulars of parking in L.A., if you read signs carefully and pay attention to the color of the sidewalk, you'll steer clear of getting a ticket. Many horrors stories about L.A. parking tickets usually are the result of drivers misunderstanding confusing signs, or neglecting the smaller print at the bottom of the sign--so read carefully before you lock and walk away (see a list of common signs here). You can read the list of specific rules, but most of them are common sense anyway. Don't park in red or yellow curbs or within 15 feet of a fire station or hydrant. White curbs are for passenger unloading, while green curbs allow you to park for 15-30 minutes Monday-Saturday, from 8AM to 6PM.
DO Rent a Car
After all this, you might be considering not renting a car in the first place. For the most part, this would be a mistake. L.A. is an enormous, sprawling city--the urban layout is not made for public transportation. While services like Uber and Lyft are certainly more affordable and flexible than taxing your way around the city, if you're planning to truly enjoy the area, do rent a car. It will give you more freedom and will likely be less expensive--emotionally and financially. Of course, if you are planning to go out for drinks, we highly recommend using one of these driving services.
Millions of tourists come to L.A. every year, filling the roads--and parking spots. Take these tips into account and leave L.A. feeling refreshed, not exhausted from travel and the headaches of transportation. Then soak in the benefits of your hard-earned time off with a quiet night or two away from all the noise: book your stay with us in Topanga Canyon--you'll always have a parking spot here.