When you think of Los Angeles, you think of style, swagger, glamour and celebrities. What you probably don’t think of are the words child-friendly or family-friendly. But truth be told, LA is a diverse city with something to offer everyone. The entertainment capital of the world is also bustling with museums, aquariums, beaches and a whole lot of other stuff for well-rounded family fun.
On our recent vacation in with extended family, we rented a car (read 11-seater Passenger Van) and based ourselves in West Hollywood (WeHo) and I highly recommend that you do too (for both). Its central, close to Hollywood & Beverly Hills and a destination on its own. It is home to the legendary Sunset Strip and the West Hollywood Design District is urban and chic and worth a visit too.
Here’s a list of my Top Things to Do in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, with Kids in tow.
1. Catch the Sunset from Griffith Observatory
A 25-minute drive from West Hollywood, Griffith Observatory was one of our favourite places in LA – equally great for adults and kids. The observatory, perched on top of a hill, offers spectacular views of LA and the iconic Hollywood sign. The best time to visit is in the evening so you can experience the stunning sunset over LA and capture it.
At Griffith, you can look through telescopes, explore exhibits and see a live show in the planetarium. Time your visit such that you can watch a show at the planetarium and catch the sunset after. Get there early to purchase tickets for the show and then go through the exhibits while you wait for the show to begin. Tip: Check show timings on their website beforehand and note that children under 5 are admitted ONLY to the first show each day. Since we went in the evening, that meant that 1 parent had to sit out with our 2-year-old while the other watched the show with the twins.
After the show, look through the rooftop telescope if you can, but do not underestimate the portable telescopes on the ground either. We missed the rooftop viewing and queued up for one of the lawn telescopes and got to see Saturn – big and clear with the ring and all – it was really cool.
2. Walk with the Stars, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood. Glamour. Fashion. Celebrities. Right? Well, when you’ve got a 6-year-old or two, it might end up being more about Avengers and Transformers. The world’s most famous sidewalk boasts more than 2,600 stars but what I remember best about the Hollywood Walk of Fame is Spiderman, in fact, Spidermen. Red Spiderman, Purple Spiderman, Black Spiderman – they were everywhere. I also remember Batman, Avatars, Tinkle Bell, and clothes soiled by ice lollies; followed by vague memories of searching for George Clooney and Brad Pitt, or at least their hand prints. Well, the kids have their superheroes and I have mine!
Heroes and superheroes aside, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is quite a fun way to spend a morning. Kids are guaranteed a gala time, your pocket, not so much! Keep lots of singles handy (not what you’re thinking, jeez) as you’ll have to tip all those characters after the pictures.
If you want to buy some souvenirs, stop at the Hollywoodland Experience store. Also on Hollywood Boulevard are Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe it or Not, in case you’re in the mood for more.
Tip: Hollywood Boulevard is obviously crowded but we didn’t have any trouble finding parking. Had to pay US$ 20 though (for unlimited parking) but that doesn’t pinch when you’ve paid S$19 at Paragon’s carpark several times.
3. Family Beach Fun at Venice Beach, followed by a stroll around Venice Canals Walkway
Venice Beach is the perfect place to spend a lazy evening while the kids play around in the sand. It is beautiful and clean and equally good for kids and adults.
After the beach fun, stroll around the Venice Canals Walkway. The dreamy canals make for nicer pictures around dusk (when we visited, the canals weren’t too clean and this was obviously more visible in broad daylight). However, the beauty of the canals actually got highlighted when the sun started setting.
Or, you could visit Santa Monica beach and pier – take your pick.
4. Get a Feel of the Good Life at Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive
I absolutely loved this part.
And honestly, a trip to the Los Angeles area would be incomplete without a visit to this epicentre of fashion, style and luxury. Besides, designer showrooms and Lamborghinis aside, the Rodeo Drive is a beautiful street in itself. This upscale shopping street in Beverly Hills is just a short 10 minute drive from WeHo. Ideally, you should walk around the street, indulge in some people watching and probably shop too. But we had no intentions of hopping in and out of luxury shops with 3 kids in tow (including a 2-year-old who’s a runner). So, hubby and I took turns getting off and walking around Rodeo Drive while the other one drove the kids around as they snacked in the car (gotta love them snacks sometimes).
After Rodeo Drive, we drove around the area and nearby roads (S Santa Monica Bl, Canon Drive) and then around the posh Beverly Hills neighbourhood. I highly recommend just driving around the areas, it gives you a feel of the good LA life.
5. Walk along Sunset Strip and visit an American Diner
The iconic Sunset Strip (a 1.6 mile stretch along Sunset Boulevard) in West Hollywood has a reputation for being a nightlife hotspot (besides shops, restaurants and bars). You’ve probably seen in more movies than you care to remember, but you can’t really go bar-hopping with kids in tow now, can you?
So, visit the Sunset Strip during the day. Park the car, walk around a bit and perhaps shop at Sunset Plaza. Instead of a bar, visit an American Diner. We happened to find a parking spot just a few steps away from Mels Drive In and I needed coffee, so we went in. Turns out Mels is a very popular chain. I thought it was cool – the interiors were typical diner-like, with a vintage feel, complete with booth seating, stools, open kitchen and a jukebox. The atmosphere is just right for families (at least in the day when we visited) and they even have a kids’ menu, so you can bring the kids right in and while they’re waiting for their shakes, they can drop a coin in the jukebox and have some fun.
6. Visit a Themepark or Three
With 3 kids 6 and under, we decided not to hop around from park to park but instead choose one park and do it well. If you’re travelling with toddlers or pre-schoolers, Disneyland is a good choice as they have a lot for younger kids.
We stayed in Anaheim for 2 days, spending a day in each of the two Disney Parks and I have to say that two days were barely enough for Disneyland. The kids and adults had a gala time – a big highlight for the children was seeing the Disney characters and a bigger highlight was meeting the “real” Avengers. All in all, two great days, after all, it’s not known as the happiest place in the world for nothing!
Tip: Anaheim is just 30 miles away from West Hollywood so you might be tempted to drive up and down from LA. Please don’t. With the traffic, you’ll spend a considerable amount of time driving and trust me you don’t want to do that after spending 12 hours at Disney.
Where to Stay & Eat in Anaheim:
You’ll probably be spending the entire day at Disneyland, so this is one time when you don’t need a luxury hotel. We stayed in a 1 Bedroom Suite at Residence Inn Marriott. The suite had a spacious Bedroom and a Living Room with a comfy sofa bed for the kids. There is also a kitchenette attached to every suite. The hotel is family-friendly and a short 12-minute walk from Disneyland. It is also close to a Wallgreen’s and several restaurants. We had an amazing all-vegetarian meal at The Cheesecake Factory, just a 10-minute walk away. There are several other restaurants in the area. There are also several other hotels in the area, most have suites to cater to families.
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