los angeles & santa monica: for kiddos

The Santa Monica/LA  area is amazing for a quick getaway, even with little ones in tow. Here’s our itinerary:

Day One

arrival: If you are flying in, skip the chaos of LAX and catch an early morning flight into Burbank’s Bob Hope airport.  Deplaning on the tarmac is fun for the kids and will instantly put you in SoCal vacation mode. Pick up your rental car; anything topless (convertible, Jeep, etc.) is well worth the added expense when you are driving along the coast. Just make sure it has the trunk space you need for all that kiddo luggage, and (if you don’t have one on your smart phone) a navigation system.

breakfast: From the airport, head straight away to Hollywood. Open at 7:30am, The Waffle has a mile-long menu that reads like a kid’s breakfast wish list: chocolate waffles with whip cream, sticky bun waffles, red velvet waffles with cream cheese frosting, etc. The menu also includes plenty non-waffle breakfast fare. The cool retro vibe, outdoor seating, and local dogs lounging on the patio with their breakfasting owners make it fun.

activity: Griffith Park. There’s a lot happening here and it’s all on the cheap; the amazing observatory (free admission; kids under 5 can only go to the first planetarium show of the day at 10:45am on weekends); train rides, merry-go-round, and lots of park help burn energy. Plus, you’ll love the stellar views from the observatory rooftop over LA all the way out to the ocean. With older kids you might consider parking the car along the street at the lower level of the park and hiking the steep dirt trail up to the observatory.

lunch: If you want to stay around the park, try the Trails Café for lemonade and the hot dog on a stick wrapped in flakey dough (vegetarian dogs available too!). Beware that the wait for food can be on the long side. Seating is at outdoor picnic tables.  If you are ready to leave the park, head back to Hollywood for Tender Greens – cafeteria-style seasonal salads, soups, sandwiches, carved meat, and best-ever mashed potatoes. There’s valet parking in the back (afterall, this is Hollywood) and the restaurant is within walking distance to your next activity (just make sure you OK it with valet – a good tip helps – to leave your rental there for a couple hours after you lunch).

activity: Catch a movie at Arclight Hollywood. The historic location, reserved plush seating, gourmet popcorn, cafe, bar, and premium technology make this the best movie-going experience you will ever have (even if you are watching another kiddie pick). If there isn’t a family-friendly movie playing at Arclight, head over to El Capitan – the lavish and old-timey Hollywood theater rotates Disney films and boasts a Disney-themed soda fountain next door.

hotel: After the movie, the kids can nap in the car as you drive to Oceana Hotel Santa Monica. This hotel is perfect for families – large upgraded suites, eager staff, in-room babysitting, and a boutique hotel vibe.  Check-in is a breeze (call ahead to make sure your correct room is ready); valet up front and your bags will be whisked to your room. Reserve hotel babysitting for the evening in advance – you’ll need it to head out for an adults-only dinner. The kids can swim while you relax by the pool with a refreshing drink (and maybe a bite to eat? try the mushroom tempura…), or you can all head across the street to the miles-long park with ocean views.

dinner: Order up some dinner poolside or in-room for the kids. Once the babysitter arrives you’re off to nearby Via Veneto ($$$) or Hosteria del Piccolo ($$) for a superb Italian supper.

Day Two

breakfast: If it’s Sunday head to the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Local vendors serve up fresh pressed juices and memorable hot breakfast plates that you can eat at outdoor tables while listening to live music. After, little ones will love the pony rides and petting zoo. Grab SoCal’s greatest espresso/hot chocolate down the street at Intelligentsia.

activity: Take a walk from Intelligentsia to Firefly + Kid Firefly for some shopping. Then, drive to Santa Monica Pier. Grab a phosphate, egg cream, or malt from Soda Jerk and enjoy the rides. arcade, and shops.

lunch: Take a drive up the coast to John’s Garden – a sandwich/smoothie shack that serves healthy fare (plus requisite pb&j) at picnic tables in a park setting.  The kids can mingle at the playground while you wait for your food to arrive.

activity: Head back to the hotel for swimming/napping, or to Third Street Promenade (pedestrian-only outdoor shopping district) for more shopping. Kids will delight in the animal topiaries, whimsical fountains, and street performers. The whole family will enjoy a turn through the eccentric SoCal offerings at Kitson.

dinner: Enjoy ocean views and fresh seafood at Duke’s, where kids will love the housemade chicken tenders and Hula Pie.

Day Three

breakfast: Pick up some pastries at Huckleberry before driving to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport; kids can eat their breakfast at the fun outdoor public viewing decks.

activity: Spend the morning on the beach.

lunch: Drive to Beverly Hills and picnic 90210-style. Pick up supplies at Joan’s on Third. Little ones can split the huge grilled cheese or crustless pbj. Take your bags of gourmet food to nearby Beverly Hills Garden Park (where kids can climb on the iconic sign) or  Will Rogers Memorial Park (where kids will enjoy the fountain filled with turtles and fish; you’ll love gawking at the surrounding real estate) before hopping back in the car to the airport!

 

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