*Disclaimer: This is actually a list of things to do in LA and Orange County! But since I have family in both places, I tend to just mesh the two :)*
Last week, I took the kids to LA to visit my family. So . . . instead of a Kickin' it in SA this week, I thought I'd do a Kickin' it in LA! Southern California has so many fun things to do, but here are my top ten things to do with kids when visiting!
1. The Beach. Of course! You can't go to California without visiting the beach! My favorite family-friendly beaches are:
Baby Beach and Doheny in Dana Point:
Baby Beach is a bay, so it doesn't have waves--perfect for babies to splash around! There is even an area for kids roped off in the water to keep them from any of the boats and/or stand up paddle boarders coming in and out of the water. And speaking of . . . this is a great beach for Stand Up Paddle Boarding! It's so fun and anyone can do it! Throw your kids on the board and take them for a ride in the bay. There are a bunch of places that rent boards, here is a link to Dana Point Jet Ski and Kayak Center right in Dana Point. They're located by Doheny, another great beach for families!
With a huge grassy field above the shoreline, this beach is a great place to have a picnic or let your kids run around!
Manhattan Beach: Anywhere by the pier is perfect--then just walk around the charming beach streets and grab a bite to eat!
And if you're in Orange County (the Dana Point and Laguna beaches, specifically), make sure to catch a ride on the free trolley that runs up and down the PCH stopping at all the best beaches. This was a huge hit with our kiddos!
Here we are at Oak Street in Laguna Beach after taking the trolley. It's great because it's just a short walk down the stairs from downtown Laguna to the sand! And if you go to Laguna Beach, be sure to grab a pizza from Gina's Pizza--soooo good!
2. Hike to the Hollywood Sign.
This is a fairly easy hike--approximately a mile and half each way, or 3 miles total (this is a guesstimate, anyone have an exact distance??? I was finding differing answers when I tried to look it up . . . anyway, it's not too long!). It's not very steep; my 3 year old was able to make this hike without assistance, but with lots of rest stops and water breaks :)
To get to the hike, take the 101 to Gower St. and turn North (I think--turn towards the hills :)) on Beachwood St. Take Beachwood all the way up until you can't drive anymore. (You may see signs for Hollyridge St./Hollyridge Trail--you're in the right place!) Once you get to the top and you're off the asphalt, there is a dirt path the makes a sharp right. Take that trail and continue on your way! You will be continually going towards the left across the hills towards the Hollywood sign. Once you reach a paved road, going to the right will take you up and above the sign. This path is a little bit more strenuous than going to the left. Going left will take you to a large look-out spot below the sign. This is the path that we take, and it's great! (Neither path will take you all the way to the sign, which is off limits to anyone other than people in the movies I guess!)
Make sure to take hats and lots of water! Happy hiking!
3. Griffith Park.
One of our very favorite things to do in LA is to take the train ride in Griffith Park! We rarely visit California without making at least one stop at Griffith Park! At only $2.75 a ticket for a train ride with pony rides and playgrounds nearby, you can't lose!
And speaking of playgrounds . . . Shane's Inspiration Playground is just down the road from the train station and pony rides (follow the signs towards the carousel--bonus, there's also a carousel!) inside Griffith Park. This park is universally accessible to people of all ages and abilities. It is so much fun! And don't forget your scooters and bikes because there's a little path for riding with a pretend gas pump and everything.
4. Take the metro rail (train) to Chinatown or Little Tokyo. Both are located on the Gold Line. The train is free for kids under 5. Taking a train for many suburb-living families is a novelty in and of itself, but once you get off, you'll have fun exploring the many souvenir shops! And don't forget to grab some ramen, sushi or dim sum before hopping on the train back home!
5. Dodgers Game. Take me out to the ball game! And Dodger Dogs (hot dogs) are the best! Go Blue!
6. Pirate Ship Playground at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, formally known as Reese's Retreat. This playground is big and fun and your kids will enjoy being the captain of the ship! Add in some exercise for mama by pushing the kids in the jogging stroller or pulling them in a bike trailer as you join the many locals exercising around the Rose Bowl. The distance is just over 3 miles all the way around and makes for a great workout!
7. The Americana at Brand. Located in Glendale, this is a nice outdoor mall, but it's lots of fun for kiddos too! There's a beautiful fountain with water shows to watch, a free trolley that runs around the perimeter, and when the kids need to run around and take a break from shopping, there's a playground. And, currently, they have a Kids Club program every Tuesday from 11am-1pm with entertainment, free food, and activities for kids. They also have a farmer's market and petting zoo with pony rides on Saturday mornings! In addition to all this, plus having great stores and a movie theater, they also have great amenities. Make sure to take advantage of the family bathrooms, indoor play area, and changing/nursing rooms! The Americana makes shopping enjoyable for everyone!
8. Disneyland! What's a trip to Southern California without going to Disneyland??? Or, at least to Downtown Disney . . . If Disneyland isn't in your budget or you just don't have the time to make it happen, go grab dinner and window shop in Downtown Disney. They've got a bunch of great restaurants, and family friendly places such as Rainforest Cafe as well, which is fun for kids. My kids love checking out the huge Disney Store, as well as the many other fun toy stores along this strip.
9. LA ZOO. Pretty self-explanatory :) We always love a good zoo day!
10. Good Eats. What's a trip to California without some good food?!
Some of my favorite places to eat in LA/Orange County are:
Las Golondrinas: the best Mexican food you will ever have! Or at least I think so :) Their carnitas and their breakfast burritos are TO DIE FOR. And they have mini bean and cheese burritos that are the perfect size for little hands!
The Dragon: Korean/Chinese food in Koreatown. Since my brother served an LDS mission in Korea, this has become a family favorite. (The website makes it look fancier than it is--we always take kids and they are very accommodating.)
Ramen: in Little Tokyo. I don't have one specific restaurant, all of the ramen places at which we've eaten have been great!
Casa Bianca Pizza Pie: in Eagle Rock. Super good pizza.
Auntie Em's Kitchen: in Eagle Rock for breakfast or lunch! Or brunch!
Kogi BBQ Taco Truck: On the move! Track it down and have yourself the best Korean BBQ taco you've ever had! Or the first one you've ever had ;) But believe me, it won't be your last!
Blue Fish: in Montrose. My very favorite sushi restaurant. It is so good--I recommend the Montrose Roll and the Popcorn Lobster! I'm craving it now . . .
What are your favorite things to do in LA or Orange County? I'd love to hear! And feel free to drop me a line with any questions!