FEW 2011 Local Information
(1) Getting to LA
Burbank is closer to Downtown and to campus, and often has cheaper flights on Southwest, but it has poor public transit links, apart from being across the street from the Amtrak station. Depending on your schedule, you might get lucky and catch a commuter train directly from the airport into Union Station. However, you're probably better off taking a taxi or an airport shuttle, which will be cheaper and more convenient from BUR than from LAX, unless you've decided to stay on the beach.
LAX is the best option, if you'd rather not take taxi or rental car, and also has by far the most flights on most airlines other than Southwest. From LAX, you can take the FlyAway bus to Union Station, where you can connect to the Metro rail lines. When you arrive, you pay $7 at the kiosk. Taxis may take slightly longer and be slightly more expensive than from the Burbank Airport.
The Long Beach airport is quite isolated, and probably isn't worth it unless you're getting an extremely good deal on your flight on jetBlue. Definitely don't use the Ontario or Orange County (John Wayne) airport unless you really know what you're getting yourself into.
(2) Getting to Campus
It takes about 15 minutes to get between campus and Downtown on the bus. Real-time arrival information for most buses can be found here (if accessed from a GPS-enabled smartphone it will find the closest bus stops to you and arrival times for each bus). The most relevant buses will probably be the 81 and 910 (aka the Silver Line). Unfortunately, the F Dash is not part of the NextBus system yet. Unfortunately, the rail line to campus won't open until November. From other parts of town, you'll probably have to drive (see parking info below), but ask a local (or try the transit search on Google Maps).
The best transit between Downtown and USC is the F Dash. It's $0.35 a ride, and comes once every 10 minutes, and it has a stop immediately at the philosophy department (Exposition and Trousdale). The closest stop to the Millenium Biltmore is at 5th and Flower, across the street from the public library. Unfortunately, it only runs from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm, Monday to Friday, and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekends, so you'll only be able to use it a few days.
The next best option is the 81 bus, which costs $1.50 and runs at least once every 15 minutes until 8:00 pm, and keeps running (though a bit less frequently) afterwards. The USC stop is at the southeast corner of campus, at Figueroa and Exposition, which is about a 7 minute walk across campus from the philosophy department.
The southbound stop closest to the Millenium Biltmore is at 5th and Hill. You can also catch the 81 along Hill St. north of 8th (even as far north as Chinatown), or at 8th and Flower, 11th and Flower, or Figueroa south of 11th. Northbound, it may drop you off a block or two away, because of one–way streets.
It's also possible to take the Metro Silver Line bus, but it's more expensive and slightly less convenient than the others.
If you drive to campus, the best place to park is Parking Structure A – enter campus at Vermont and 36th, buy a parking permit at the kiosk for $8, and follow the directions to parking. It's also possible to park all day for free in the neighborhoods west of Vermont, though it can be a bit of a hike. The neighborhood is not the nicest, but it's generally safe. Before driving, check Google Maps for traffic information – it can easily take two or three times as long to do the same drive at different times of day, especially if your trip involves the 110 by Downtown.
(3) Where to Stay
Graduate students should get in touch with the local organizers (Kenny and Shieva) so that we can try to arrange for a local grad student to host you.
For others, we recommend the Millenium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles, which seems to have rooms for $140 a night (either single or double occupancy). This hotel is a couple miles from campus, and in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, which has many restaurants and cultural activities in walking distance, as well as good public transit links both to USC (where the conference will be held), and many other parts of town (but unfortunately not the beach). From LAX you can take the FlyAway shuttle bus to Union Station, and then either the Red or Purple line to Pershing Square station, and walk two blocks west on 5th St.
There are also other hotels in the area with good public transit access, ranging from fancy boutiques like The Standard Hotel Downtown, to some cheaper places in Little Tokyo or Chinatown. If you find an incredibly cheap hotel in Downtown though, be sure to check the location – if it's farther east than Main St, and not in Little Tokyo, then it may be in Skid Row.
For those that would prefer to stay within walking distance of campus there are two possibilities: the Radisson Hotel Midtown (about $140 a night), at 3540 S Figueroa St; and the Vagabond Inn Los Angeles (about $70 a night), at 3101 S Figueroa St. However, there are only a few dinner and evening activity options in the area, and public transit to and from the airport is difficult, so Downtown may well be preferable.
It's of course also possible to stay in other areas of town, but then you'll probably have to rent a car and deal with traffic in the morning, and parking on campus.
(4) Restaurants and Bars in Downtown
Click here for a useful annotated Google map.
(5) Other Attractions
Note than in Los Angeles, unlike most other major American cities, it is impossible to just hail a taxi on the street. If you want to take a taxi somewhere, you'll have to call for one in advance (though you can often find them immediately outside bars at closing time).
At Exposition Park, across the street from USC: A free rose garden, The Natural History Museum of LA County – it doesn't compare to the ones in New York or Washington, but has some very interesting collections (especially from the California gold rush, and a rare Megamouth shark). The California Science Center– this is fairly disappointing for a science museum, but has a good IMAX theater. I haven't checked out the Aerospace Museum, the California African American Museum, or the Los Angeles Coliseum (where the USC football team plays, and site of the 1984 Olympics, and the former home of NFL football in LA).
In Downtown: The Staples Center – home of the Lakers and Clippers (NBA), and Kings (NHL). Disney Concert Hall – home of the LA Philharmonic. Gustavo Dudamel conducts works by Brahms and Gubaidulina during the weekend of FEW. LA Public Library – the front entrance of this building is a great public work of art, covered in examples of historical writing and ideas, ranging from aboriginal art of Australia and Cassini's observation of the rings of Saturn to texts in Esperanto and Morse code.
Along the Red Line subway:
The La Brea Tar Pits are the world's largest collection of Ice Age fossils. They are also a former petroleum extraction site, and the tar is still bubbling.
The LA County Museum of Art is immediately next door. They are about 45 minutes away on the 720 bus (catch it along 5th street in Downtown, and take it west to Fairfax Blvd). The trip is somewhat faster by car, going straight down Wilshire.
West Hollywood is the center of LA's nightlife, both gay (along Santa Monica Blvd) and straight (the Sunset Strip, along Sunset Blvd). Unfortunately, it's basically impossible to get there on public transit. There are also many bars, restaurants, and clubs in Downtown, though they are not quite as densely packed.
Disneyland – most likely you'll need to drive (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic), but you can apparently take Amtrak to Anaheim and catch a shuttle (or catch an Anaheim Angels baseball game).
The beaches are lovely and have many different attractions, from the Santa Monica Pier to the more '60s–era feel of Venice Beach, to Muscle Beach, and the extremely fancy houses on the Venice Canals. Driving is the most reliable way to get there, but from Downtown one can take the Big Blue Bus, which takes about an hour to get to Santa Monica Beach (longer during rush hour). Just north of Santa Monica is Malibu – it's very difficult to get on and off the road though.
There are other beaches south of the airport, but it takes longer to get there and I don't know of any particular attractions that make them better than Santa Monica or Venice.