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In sprawling Los Angeles, location is everything. The neighborhood you choose as a base can make or break your vacation. If you plan to spend your days at the beach but stay Downtown, for example, you're going to lose a lot of valuable relaxation time on the freeway. For business travelers, choosing a location is easy: Pick a hotel near your work event -- don't get on the freeways if you don't have to. For vacationers, though, the decision about where to stay is more difficult. Consider where you want to spend most of your time before you commit yourself to a base. But wherever you stay, count on doing a good deal of driving -- no hotel in Los Angeles is convenient to everything.

The relatively smog-free beach communities such as Santa Monica and Venice are understandably popular with visitors -- just about everybody loves to stay at the beach. Book ahead because hotels fill up quickly, especially in summer.

If they're not at one of the beach communities, most visitors stay on the city's Westside, a short drive from the beach and close to most of L.A.'s colorful sights. The city's most elegant and expensive accommodations are in Beverly Hills; a few of the hotels in these neighborhoods, such as the Beverly Hills Hotel, have become visitor attractions unto themselves. As well as being one of the focal points of L.A. nightlife, West Hollywood is also home to the greatest range and breadth of hotels, from $300-plus-per-night boutique spots to affordably priced motels.

There are fewer hotels in Hollywood than you might expect. Accommodations are generally moderately priced and well maintained but unspectacular. Centrally located between Downtown and Beverly Hills, just a stone's throw from Universal Studios, Hollywood makes a convenient base if you're planning to do a lot of exploring, but it has more tourists and is less visually appealing than some other neighborhoods; the trendier parts; however, are quite congested at night.

With the exception of a couple quirky boutique hotels, Downtown lodging options are generally business-oriented, but thanks to direct Metro (L.A.'s subway) connections to Hollywood and Universal Studios, the demographic has begun to shift. The top hotels offer excellent deals on weekend packages. But chances are good that Downtown doesn't embody the picture of L.A. you've been dreaming of; you need a coastal or Westside base for that.

Families might want to head to Universal City to be near Universal Studios, or straight to Anaheim and Disneyland. Pasadena offers historical charm, small-town ambience, easy access to Downtown L.A., and Stepford-Wives beauty, but driving to the beach can take forever.

Rack Rates -- The rates quoted in the listings are the rack rates -- the maximum rates that a hotel charges for rooms. But rack rates are only guidelines, and there are often many ways around them. Always check each hotel's website for package deals and special Internet rates.

The hotels listed in this guide have provided their best estimates for 2012. Be aware that rates can change at any time and are subject to availability, seasonal fluctuations, and plain ol' increases.

The prices given in this guide do not include state and city hotel taxes, which run from 12% to 17%, depending upon which municipality the hotel is based in. Most hotels in densely populated parts of the city charge for parking (with in-and-out privileges). Also, some provide a free airport shuttle; if you're not renting a car, check to see what your hotel offers before you call a cab.

Pet Policies -- I indicate those hotels that generally accept pets. However, these policies may have limitations, such as weight and breed restrictions; may require a hefty deposit and/or a signed waiver against damages; and may be revoked at any time. Always inquire when booking if you're bringing Bowser along -- never just show up with a pet in tow.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.