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July 2, 2019

Best Hotels and Travel Tips for Each of the Top 5 Collegiate Athletics Programs in Los Angeles

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Echo Park Lake with Downtown Los Angeles Skyline, Adoramassey (Own Work)
Echo Park Lake with Downtown Los Angeles Skyline, Adoramassey (Own Work)

When thinking about global hubs for collegiate athletic excellence and performance, it’s tough to list many regions more established than Los Angeles. The city has a known reputation for creating top-tier athletes that often move on to the professional level and become all-time greats. As a high school athlete, this may seem like a daunting legacy to live up to, but one aspect of this process that shouldn’t cause stress is college visits. Los Angeles can seem like a chaotic city that is difficult to navigate, but it is undeniably home to some of the best college athletic programs in the world. That’s why we have created this guide to help high school athletes who are looking to visit some of these colleges in the L.A. area have a great experience outside the college visit itself. Primarily, we focus on the best hotels to stay in for specific universities, as well as more information on that area, including food options, driving and walking distances, and even a few attractions.

Because of the sheer amount of colleges in the greater Los Angeles area, combined with how spread out the region is, we have chosen the best hotel to stay in for each of the 5 primary Division 1 sports colleges in or near the city: UCLA, USC, Cal State Northridge, Loyola Marymount University, and Pepperdine. We also include distances from each hotel to the 4 other colleges in case you are looking to visit multiple colleges in a single stay. 

1. Kimpton Hotel Palomar Los Angeles Beverly Hills (Best for UCLA Visit)

Located in West Hollywood, the Kimpton Hotel is our recommendation for the best hotel to stay in for high school athletes visiting UCLA, either alone or with family. It’s a modernized boutique-style hotel that offers a quiet, calm environment in the midst of a busy city setting. With rooms starting at $190 per night, this is a relatively good deal considering its location. It is actually less than a mile from the UCLA campus, which is either around a 15 minute walk or less than a 5 minute drive. However, having been to this campus multiple drives, I would definitely advise walking, both to campus and for eating, as parking can be a nightmare everywhere in the city. Overall, out of all the hotels in the Westwood area that are in close proximity to UCLA, we recommend the Kimpton Los Angeles Beverly Hills as a good balance of value, luxury, and location. 

Cost: $190 per night (single queen-sized bed, other options available at higher prices)

Distance to UCLA Campus: 0.8 miles

Amenities: Pool, Free Internet, Business Center, Concierge, Restaurant, Fitness Center, Pets Allowed

Food Recommendations:

  • Fat Sal’s Deli (0.8 miles) – American style sandwiches stacked to the brim with fixings. I recommend the Fat Texas: bbq pastrami brisket, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, crispy bacon, grilled onions, cheddar & mozzarella, fries, mayo, and honey bbq sauce all on a garlic hero. Just make sure to hit the hotel’s fitness center afterwards!
  • Gushi (0.8 miles) – Korean style BBQ and teriyaki with large portions, in styles ranging from plates and bowls to street food and fried rice. Favorite include the Kalbi Plate (Korean BBQ ribs), sweet and spicy pork, ramen, and spicy rice cakes. 
  • Bella Pita UCLA (0.7 miles) – A casual style Middle Eastern restaurant that specializes in making homemade pita bread sandwiches you can customize with a condiment bar. The menu includes falafel, steak, basterama (dry cured NY style steak and cheese), chicken, koftah (specially seasoned ground beef), fried cauliflower, and many dressings, including tzatziki, hummus, garlic sauce, and tahini. 

Nearby Attractions: The location of the Kimpton makes it in close driving distance to the Santa Monica Beach and Pier, Getty Museum, and Beverly HIlls and Rodeo Drive. If time permits during your trip, we definitely recommend you visit as many of these places as possible, to get a feel of the surrounding environment of the campus in case you end up having the choice to go there. 

Distance to Other Prominent Sports Colleges in Driving Distance:

  • USC – 12.3 miles
  • Cal State University at Northridge – 17.9 miles
  • Loyola Marymount University – 10.3 miles
  • Pepperdine University – 20.1 miles

2. Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown (Best for USC Visit)

Surprisingly, there aren’t really that many quality hotels in directly close proximity to the USC campus. Luckily, however, there are a plethora to choose from in downtown Los Angeles only a few miles away. Our pick for best hotel for high school athletes visiting USC is the Hotel Indigo’s flagship location in downtown L.A. Located in a centralized urban hotspot, this hotel offers a ridiculously high value given where it is, at a solid price of $179 per night. Although it is not in close walking distance to the campus of USC, it is located on the edge of downtown closest to its campus, giving it an edge in distance and traffic compared to other hotels in the area. In fact, it only takes about 10 minutes driving to get to campus. 

Cost: $180 per night (single queen-sized bed)

Distance to USC Campus: 2.7 miles

Amenities: Pool, Restaurant, Fitness Center, Business Center, Pets Allowed, Concierge, Refrigerator in room

Food Recommendations: 

  • CAVA (2.6 miles, right next to USC Campus) – Mediterranean cuisine for those looking for a healthier option that won’t break the bank. Their main menu items are a build-your-own bowl, with different greens and grains, including arugula, baby spinach, saffron rice, and black lentils, as well as eggplant and red pepper dip, hummus, feta, and roasted tomato with harissa. 
  • Myungrang Hot Dog (3.9 miles) – Although a little farther than other options, this joint is truly one of my favorite places to eat in Los Angeles. They offer specialty hot dogs that are deep fried in batter and crispy breadcrumbs, with a variety of unique sauces like cheesy mustard and sweet chilli that you can add yourself. There are also variations with hot dogs wrapped in cheese and fried or even with fried potatoes all around. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, try the hot dog fried in squid ink batter!
  • Thai by Trio (2.0 miles, close to USC) – A Thai and pan-Asian restaurant serving soups, noodles, and stir-fry in a bright, modern setting. Menu favorites include fried tofu, tom yum soup (spicy and sour with chicken, lemongrass, mushroom, and kaffir lime leaves), spicy noodle soup, and thai milk tea boba. The perfect place to enjoy a hot meal and sweet drinks afterwards. 

Nearby Attractions: Being in downtown L.A., there are infinitely many things to do while staying at Hotel Indigo. Just in walking distance, there is a place to book downtown LA walking tours, the GRAMMY Museum, L.A. Live, Staples Center, and the Los Angeles Convention Center, just to name a few. Even if your visit of USC takes up only a small portion of your trip, you’re guaranteed to never have a dull moment during your stay. Also, USC is the closest college out of the ones on this list to the Griffith Observatory, which will give you the best view of Los Angeles you can find!

Distance to Other Prominent Sports Colleges in Driving Distance: 

  • UCLA – 12.6 miles
  • Cal State University at Northridge – 29.8 miles
  • Loyola Marymount University – 17.7 miles
  • Pepperdine University – 28.0 miles

3. Courtyard Los Angeles LAX/Century Boulevard (Best for LMU Visit) 

Since Loyola Marymount University is in close distance to LAX, one of the busiest airports in the world, there are an ample amount of hotels in its proximity. Our pick for the best combination of value of quality is Courtyard’s LAX location. Being less than two miles from LMU’s campus, it can either be an extremely short drive or a moderately long walk. If you’re coming into the Southern California area by plane, the hotel offers a free shuttle to and from LAX. Despite being directly adjacent to an airport, the soundproof rooms allow for peaceful and quiet nights, giving you enough rest for your visit at a very reasonable price of $150 per night. 

Cost: $150 per night (single queen-sized bed)

Distance to LMU: 1.8 miles 

Amenities: Breakfast, Free Wifi, Fitness Center, Meeting Rooms, Airport Transportation, Restaurant, Shuttle Bus Service

Food Recommendations: 

  • In-N-Out (0.5 miles) – a California staple for those coming to visit from out of the state. A simple menu featuring hamburgers, fries, and shakes. I recommend trying animal fries – crispy fries smothered with grilled onions, cheese, and special creamy sauce, as well as the neopolitan shake, which combines their chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors.
  • The Original Rinaldi’s Deli and Cafe (0.1 miles) – an Italian deli serving hot and cold sandwiches, pasta, breakfast items, and salads. They also serve pescatarian and vegetarian friendly options, as well as smoothies for a sweet finish. Crowd favorites include the Italian Combo sandwich, made with Boar’s Head Pepperoni, salami, ham, lettuce, tomato, provolone, and Italian dressing, and the Ripcurl Riley, made with mayo, spicy peanut sauce, pineapple chunks, sesame teriyaki, and provolone. 
  • Aliki’s Greek Taverna (0.6 miles) – Greek cuisine with original, fresh ingredients, many of which are imported directly from Greece. Popular dishes include the gyro plate, greek salad, baklava, mousaka (layers of potatoes, eggplant, ground beef, and feta, topped with bechamel sauce). 

Nearby Attractions: LAX is a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, meaning Courtyard at LAX has many attractions nearby centered around the beach. This includes the Manhattan Beach Pier and California Dream Tours, which includes boat rides and whale watching. There are also other nearby attractions, including the LAX Theme Building, Automobile Driving Museum, and The Forum. Most importantly, LMU is only a few miles away from downtown LA, which on its own has a multitude of family-friendly attractions. If you have a full day’s time, definitely go to Universal Studios Hollywood if you can!

Distance to Other Prominent Sports Colleges in Driving Distance: 

  • UCLA – 10.7 miles
  • Cal State University at Northridge – 26.4 miles
  • USC – 11.1 miles
  • Pepperdine University – 24.6 miles

4. Best Western Canoga Park Motor Inn (Best for CSUN Visit)

Cal State Northridge isn’t in an urban area like the colleges we’ve looked at so far – rather, it’s north of downtown Los Angeles and in a more suburban location. Therefore, there are not many hotels to choose from in a very close proximity to campus, but a good selection is available in short driving distance. Our recommendation for best pick is Best Western’s Canoga Park location, about six miles from CSUN’s campus. Furthermore, it’s a cheaper option compared to the other hotels we’ve recommended because it is further away from the epicenter of Los Angeles, at less than $140 per night.

Cost: $137 per night (single queen-sized bed)

Distance to CSUN Campus: 5.6 miles

Amenities: Heated Pool, Free Parking, Free Wifi, Hot Tub, Self-Serve Laundry, Breakfast Included, Microwave and Refrigerator in Room

Food Recommendations:

  • Daglas Drive-in (0.1 miles) – An old-fashioned American drive-in with large portions, specializing in burgers, fries, and ice cream floats. Popular choices include bacon cheeseburgers, the hot pastrami sandwich, and a few Mexican options such as carne asada tacos. 
  • D’amore’s Pizza Connection (0.5 miles) – Italian eatery dishing out Neapolitan pizzas, subs, pasta, and other classic Italian entrees. Specialty items include garlic knots, margarita pizza, baked ziti, and chicken parmigiana. 
  • Johnny Pacific (1.1 miles) – A simple restaurant serving California-inspired cuisine. Menu standouts range from chicken satay skewers (grilled chicken with house-made southeast asian peanut sauce served with sticky rice and side salad) to meat empanadas, where you can choose from beef, chicken, beef tinga, ham and cheese, kailua pig, cajun sausage, chicken al pastor, bbq pulled pork, and chorizo with potato. 

Nearby Attractions: Since it’s not in an urban hotspot, there aren’t as many attractions nearby CSU Northridge and the Best Western in Canoga Park as there are with other colleges we’ve looked at. However, it is a good place for family fun, with nearby bowling alley Winnetka Bowl, Calabasas Commons, Architect Escape Rooms, and several locations for helicopter tours of the greater Los Angeles area. Also, if you’re willing to make the drive, this is the closest college in LA to Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Distance to Other Prominent Sports Colleges in Driving Distance: 

  • UCLA – 14.9 miles
  • Loyola Marymount University – 25.0 miles
  • USC – 27.0 miles
  • Pepperdine University – 18.6 miles

5. The Anza Hotel (Best for Pepperdine Visit)

With Pepperdine University being beachside in one of the most expensive places to live in California, we decided not to go with one of the few hotels in Malibu in closest proximity to campus, as not many people can afford to stay in those locations. However, there are many more affordable options nearby in Calabasas, the best of which being the Anza Hotel. A little less than 10 miles from campus, it may seem like a long distance, but there shouldn’t be much traffic at all because of how far Pepperdine is from the hotspots of LA. Starting at slightly more than $150 per night in a premium location, the Anza provides high value while maintaining a luxurious environment. 

Cost: $158 per night (single queen-sized bed)

Distance to Pepperdine Campus: 9.2 miles (about a 15 minute drive)

Amenities: Heated Pool, Free WiFi, Restaurant, Business Center, Fitness Center, Pet-Friendly, Microwave and Refrigerator in Room

Food Recommendations: 

  • Shibuya (0.2 miles) – A high quality Japanese sushi restaurant nearby the Anza Hotel. Some of the popular items on the menu include seared bluefin tuna, jalapeno pepper tuna, albacore, salmon roe, sweet shrimp, baked crabs, and even sea urchin!
  • Pedalers Fork (0.2 miles) – Rustic restaurant specializing in making modern American meals using only the freshest organic ingredients sourced locally. Favorites include truffle pizza (alba black summer truffles, seven cheese blend, white sauce, and truffle pearls), avocado toast, rock shrimp ceviche, and the hot chicken sandwich.
  • King’s Fish House (0.1 miles) – An upscale seafood establishment that serves both a multitude of seafood options as well as some American dishes. With more than 10 types of oysters, 6 types of chilled shellfish, Maryland soft shell crabs, wild Alaskan halibut, and even fried farmed Mississippi catfish, you’re sure to find something unique you’ll love at this fish house.

Nearby Attractions: Other than the previous attractions we have mentioned in or near Los Angeles, which require a fairly long drive to reach, there honestly isn’t much to do in Calabasas and Malibu besides enjoy the beauty of the natural greenery and beaches surrounding you. This is truly a place to relax and escape from the noise and stress of city life. We recommend visiting some of the many beaches or parks in the area and breathing in the fresh air around you.

Distance to Other Prominent Sports Colleges in Driving Distance: 

  • UCLA – 17.9 miles
  • Cal State Northridge – 11.9 miles
  • USC – 30.0 miles
  • Loyola Marymount University – 28.0 miles

So, there you have it. Those are our picks for the best hotels to stay at for high school athletes visiting colleges in Los Angeles. If you are planning on visiting more than one of these schools, we advise you to pick one of the hotels we picked that is closer to the other college(s) you are visiting rather than trying to find another hotel that’s in the middle of them. Los Angeles is an incredibly large city, so it won’t do you much good in terms of decreasing total traveling time.

All in all, we hope this list helps make your trips easier by having to stress less about where to stay, what to eat, and what to do.