Los Angeles with Kids: A Perfect Family Day
The Los Angeles area has plenty to entertain younger kids, with the beaches alone providing endless days of fun in the sun. But because the city is spread over nearly 500 square miles, you're going to need a plan -- and a car -- to make the most of your time while you're here.
Start your "sun-day" out right with breakfast at Back to the Beach Cafe (445 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica; 310-393-8282). The menu is basic -- pancakes, bagels and omelets -- but will please even the pickiest eaters, and the location, which is right on the sand, can't be beat. Grabbing a bite to eat with the sand between your toes will set the mood for the rest of the day.
When you've had your fill of breakfast and beach, drive south on Route 1 to theSanta Monica Pier. Walking along this popular dock (which is open 24 hours a day, year-round) is a thrill for young ones, and the beach scene -- filled with seagulls and sailboats -- will be sure to entertain them. But the most fun will come from Pacific Park, an amusement park that includes a vintage carousel, bumper cars for little ones over 3, and a Rock'in Pirate Ship (plus rides for bigger kids and adults.) Admission is free, and you can go online to buy discounted unlimited-ride wristband for kids ages 7 and younger for $13.95 ($18.95 for older kids and adults). There is also an aquarium at the pier to enhance kids' ocean experience with education on local sea-life. Admission to the aquarium is $5, and is free for those 12 and younger.
The ocean air will make your crowd hungry, so travel north up the gorgeous strip of ocean-side road that is the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1), where the drive itself is the attraction. About 28 miles from Santa Monica, you'll find the perfect lunch spot -- Bob Morris' Paradise Cove (28128 Pacific Coast Highway; 310-457-3273). This lesser-known Malibu gem offers an extensive sandwich and seafood menu, but keep an eye out for the sign -- it can be easy to miss (the sign and entrance will be on the left). It's worth the wait for a table outside, where kids can run around on the beach until the food is ready.
After lunch, head back south along the coast on I-10 E to Hollywood Boulevard and Grauman's Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd.; 323-464-8111). This Hollywood landmark will engage kids with its Chinese art and architecture, and those that are slightly older can look for their favorite celebrity's handprints. But the most fun will be running into the out-of-work actors and actresses dressed as movie stars and superhero characters (just beware, the impersonators work for tips).
Next stop on your family vacation day: Griffith Park (4730 Crystal Springs Dr., Los Angeles; 323-913-4688). Make your way from West Hollywood to the Glendale area. Head to the Los Feliz entrance for pony rides, or enter further to visit the Los Angeles Zoo and Travel Town, a railroad museum.
If you want to stretch your legs, you can hike to the Griffith Observatory from Fern Dell Drive (grab a map from the visitors center or download one online -- Griffith is a big park with a lot of winding roads). The hike is easy enough for kids, about 30 minutes, but if you're bringing toddlers, you might want to bring a backpack carrier in case they get tired. Admission to the observatory is complimentary; but know that it's closed on Mondays. If you're not interested in hiking, parking is available right next to the observatory. Views are priceless -- so be sure to bring a camera.
The Griffin Observatory also contains the Samuel Oschin Planetarium -- something worth sticking around for. The shows run afternoon through evening and tickets are $7 for ages 13 and older, $5 for ages 5 to 12, and free for kids under 5 if they sit on the lap of an adult during the show.
Post-observatory, head down to The Waffle (6255 W Sunset Blvd., between Argyle Avenue and Vine Street, Hollywood; 323-465-6901), where kid menu options include mac 'n cheese and Wee Waffle Burgers. By the time dinner is done, the little ones will be down for the count, and you'll have wrapped up a perfectly spectacular family vacation day in Los Angeles with kids.
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