The $14 billion in improvements at LAX have stolen the show, but the airport is not the only place that's getting a face-lift.
Check out the nearby hotels on Century Boulevard for a happy surprise for out-of-town guests or for you if you have an early flight.
There are new hotels and several others undergoing major renovations, adding eye-catching designs inside and out, opening fun restaurants and becoming chic, happening places.
Surprise. Whoever heard of an airport hotel being a happening place? They're adequate for a one-night stay and as a place to stash your car for a few days, but certainly not places you'd want to spend a weekend or a week.
But the hotels near LAX take off, so to speak.
Many have lower rates than at similar downtown accommodations. They're convenient to the airport, of course, but they are close enough to Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and other Southland attractions to be used as a base. (Perhaps a good place to stash your visiting cousins from Iowa during the holidays?) Many have a cool vibe and cushy rooms.
"The hotels here are stepping up their game," said Laurie Hughes, executive director of Gateway Los Angeles, the business improvement district that covers the LAX neighborhood.
"They really have to. After one renovates, the others need to in order to be competitive."
Hughes, who has been working for LAX improvements for 17 years, is proud of the way the neighborhood is developing.
"We've gone from barbed wire, cargo facilities and nude bars to upscale hotels and places to eat," she said.
"We have 8,000 hotel rooms. What we've needed is amenities like restaurants and things for people to do. Now, hotels are putting in restaurants on their first floors.
"Sometimes, I feel like I've died and gone to heaven."
Here's a look at some of the changes:
The new hotels
The H is new — one of just a few hotels to open near LAX in decades — and a step up stylistically from many airport-adjacent facilities.
It was created from the skeleton of a 12-story office building, so the ceilings in its 168 rooms are high — more that 11 feet, adding a spacious feel. There's also a big fitness center with 1,270 square feet of workout space and a comfortable lounge with luggage lockers, a shower and work space for guests with flight times that don't line up with check-out/check-in times.
Guests also can get to know Hannah, a robotic butlerthat brought me a bottle of water and a snack and is available to deliver goodies to guests (and their kids) in their rooms.
Other features include a pool and a lobby-level restaurant, Waypoint Kitchen, with wonderful comfort food such as mac 'n' cheese ($9) and jumbo meatballs ($12).
An open-air top-floor deck offers dramatic views of the runways below as well as a 180-degree panoramic snapshot of the L.A. landscape, from the ocean to the Hollywood sign.
Info: H Hotel, 6151 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 215-3000. Doubles from $229. Airport shuttle. Parking packages available.
Families — or travelers who are staying several days — might like this new hotel, which offers rooms with kitchens.
Homewood Suites, also a Hilton Hotels brand, shares the H building, taking up the bottom six floors while the H rooms occupy floors 7-12. Like H, it opened in October.
Both hotels have check-in counters on the ground floor and share some facilities, such as the pool, a business area and Waypoint Kitchen.
Like H, Homewood's 158 rooms have high ceilings and great views of the runways, albeit from lower floors. The decor and amenities aren't quite as plush, but the ease and cost savings of having a kitchen is a bonus.
There's also a free breakfast, which H doesn't offer.
Info: Homewood Suites, 6151 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 215-3300. Doubles from $259. Free Wi-Fi. Airport shuttle. Parking packages available.
Imagine lazing in a spacious swimming pool on a warm night, watching stars in the sky and the colorful columns of kinetic lights that mark the LAX Gateway.
Does that sound like an airport hotel?
Yes, it's just one of the many cool features you'll find at the Hyatt Regency LAX, the closest hotel to the airport and another new face on Century Boulevard.
The 580-room hotel, which opened earlier this year, is the only Hyatt Regency in the L.A. region, adding an upscale vibe to the airport area.
It also has one of the largest presidential suites in the area, a ballroom, a conference center and a gym with views of the city.
"We have invested the last two years in redesigning not only the hotel but associated services to give travelers back more of their time to stay connected to family and work," said Ken Pilgrim, the hotel's general manager.
A highlight is the hotel's ground-floor dining options. Unity LA features neighborhood flavors from across Los Angeles, including drunken noodles from Thai Town and carne asada from Boyle Heights.
Here's a tip for travelers getting ready to fly out of LAX: Stop at Unity LA for dinner with the friend you've asked to take you to the airport. Get your pal's parking ticket validated, then take the hotel shuttle to the airport.
You can have a nice dinner and your friend can avoid the airport lines.
Info: Hyatt Regency LAX, 6225 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; (424) 702-1234. Doubles from $289. Free Wi-Fi. Airport shuttle. Parking packages available.
If you've driven along Century in the last couple of weeks, you couldn't help but see the scaffolding that's hiding the Hilton Los Angeles Airport from view.
Its updated look will feature exterior lighting that will change colors, thanks to 40-foot vertical light bars. There will be lighting on the walls and inside the covered porte-cochere.
The hotel's interior also has been renovated, including new paint, carpet, light fixtures and artwork.
Info: Hilton LAX, 5711 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 410-4000. Doubles from $164. Free Wi-Fi. Airport shuttle. Parking packages available.
For a great panoramic view of Los Angeles, try watching the world fly by from the new 18th-floor M Club Lounge at the top of the LAX Marriott.
The hotel also is renovating more than 1,000 guest rooms and suites, plus public areas and restaurants at the lobby level.
There's also a new sports bar, Champions, and the hotel's Latitude restaurant and JW Steakhouse have been updated.
Info: LAX Marriott, 5855 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 641-5700. Doubles from $179. Free Wi-Fi, airport shuttle. Parking packages available.
Did it all start here? The Sheraton Gateway completed its renovations a year ago, spending $43 million to upgrade the guest rooms, lobby, public spaces and restaurants.
It pulled out all stops to transform itself into a resort, with restaurants that connect to the pool deck and its fire pits and cabanas.
For those looking for a view, the 15th-floor Club Lounge offers a panoramic vista of the airport and the city.
Info: Sheraton Gateway, 6101 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 642-1111. Doubles from $199. Airport shuttle. Parking packages available.
Millennials take note: Here's a hotel that's designed just for you. The Renaissance Hotel LAX, a block off Century at Airport Boulevard, is in the process of turning itself inside out to welcome a younger crowd, adding new decor, live music and Studio 12, a whiskey and craft beer bar.
"We're a smaller hotel, with 500 rooms, and more intimate than most hotels here, so we're doing something that's new for this area," said Reggie Dominique, the general manager.
The hotel has completed lively changes on its ground floor and public areas and now is working on renovating rooms, hoping for completion in May.
Info: Renaissance Hotel LAX, 9620 Airport Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 337-2800. Doubles from $259. Free Wi-Fi. Airport shuttle. Parking packages available.
The $14-billion renovation of LAX continues with the goal of turning the outdated airport, one of the busiest in the country, into a high-tech gem by 2023. Here are some of the highlights:
—Reduction of traffic around the airport, thanks to an automated people mover and two transportation centers to handle shuttle buses, taxis and travelers using a new light-rail connection.
—The addition of a car rental facility that will consolidate more than 20 car rental offices into one location north of Century Boulevard.
Construction of new roads and improvement of nearby streets, including Sepulveda, Aviation and West Century boulevards, 98th Street and West Arbor Vitae Street.
— Two updated terminals. Officials plan to tear down and rebuild parts of Terminals 2 and 3 to ease crowding at security checkpoints, make it easier for passengers to get to their gates, and give aging areas of the terminals a makeover.
—Expanded resort development along Century Boulevard, offering more restaurants, music venues and other vacation-oriented businesses.
The airport's modernization is only one part of the story. Investors and airport officials are also excited about the $2.6-billion stadium that is being built for the Rams and Chargers in nearby Inglewood.
Century Boulevard's hotels will be an ideal place to stay if you're planning a football weekend.