Everyone wants the perfect vacation, which is sometimes hard to achieve if the kids are complaining, tired or frustrated (as traveling children often are). Luckily for parents, the odds in LAare stacked in your favor. This is the capital city of family-friendly things to do, and our attractions can entertain even the grumpiest, most demanding visitors. Use these itinerary options to ride the next big coaster, experience the city’s landmarks and finally understand what it means to say, “That’s So LA.”
DAY 1: Getting to Know Universal
What better way to treat the kids to a morning that’s just for them than Universal Studios Hollywood? Start off with the classic Tram Tour, with classic surprises like Jaws up close and personal or dramatic sets from movies like War of the Worlds. Then take them to explore the ever-popular Adventures of Curious George play area, known for its 500-gallon water dump and water pistols the size of cannons. For something drier but no less tame, direct them to the Shrek 4-D experience and the Simpsons Ride (40-inch height requirement), both of which offer the latest in technology and laughs.
Set up lunch at one of Universal Studios’ dining options. Louise’s Pizza and Pasta, Mel’s Diner and Hollywood Grill are all great choices. Afterward, head down the escalators to the lower lot, where classic rides like Backdraft, the Revenge of the Mummy (48-inch height restriction) and Jurassic Park (46-inch height requirement) induce enthusiastic screams from blazing fires, hairpin turns in the dark and 84-foot raft plunges. We assure you, it’s safe!
After a long day at the park, your family will enjoy one of the restaurants at Universal CityWalk, the entertainment complex right outside the amusement park. Andrew’s Panda Inn offers delicious Chinese dishes, Buca di Beppo re-creates family-style Italian culinary flair and Camacho’s Cantina combines live Mariachi music and yummy Mexican cuisine.
If the kids are still up for adventure, set them up with iFly, Universal CityWalk’s indoor skydiving experience. End the day with souvenir shopping at the Universal Studios Store or Dodger’s Clubhouse Store.
DAY 2: Westside Family Fun
Start this day off at La Brea Tar Pits, where saber-toothed cats, mastodons and wolves frozen in time help kids learn about fossils and the earth’s history. The on-site Page Museum delves into further details about the animals that lived here 40,000 years ago.
Point your group toward Pentimento for lunch. It’s a prime dining spot at the nearby Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Afterward, visit the museum’s Costume and Textile Collection, an exhibit that fascinates kids with all its various costumes, fabrics and weaving techniques. Change gears by getting your family revved up for the Petersen Automotive Museum, where some of the world’s most rare and beautiful cars are housed. They’ll ooh and ahh at old Ford roadsters and BMW’s line of hydrogen-powered sedans.
After a day at the museums, head over to the Original Farmers Market. Tons of stalls offer a variety of foods, ranging from tasty pastas, root bear floats, barbecue, Japanese noodles and delicious desserts — whatever you can think of, the Farmers Market probably has it, and the kids will love the atmosphere of the outdoor setting.
After dinner, shop around at The Grove next door. With its charming pedestrian streets and waterworks spouting from the picturesque fountain every 30 minutes, it’s a picture-perfect environment for the family. Plus, The Grove’s red trolley, which loops around the mall, is a favorite among children, while Pacific Theatres features the latest movies from Hollywood.
DAY 3: Santa Monica Morning
You can’t come to LA with the family without heading to the beach. Unleash your kids at Santa Monica Beach, which offers beautiful sand, lots of activity and all the necessary amenities. They can build sand castles and play in the water while you rent umbrellas and catch up on your reading.
Lunch at Perry’s Café & Rentals, which started out as a hamburger and hot-dog joint. Now it serves up a variety of casual dining options, and if you don’t want to leave your spot on the beach, take advantage of the café’s butler service, which will come and serve you right on the beach.
Afterward, rent bikes or rollerblades from Perry’s and cruise down The Strand, a 22-mile paved path along the beach with awesome people-watching opportunities. If the family is looking for more excitement, take them to Pacific Park to play with high-tech bumper cars and numerous rides as well as classic carnival games like Skeeball and Wack-a-Mole.
A fun place to have dinner is at The Lobster, a Santa Monica legacy. Family-owned and operated, the folks here know their seafood, and its fun, laid-back atmosphere caters to families expecting a memorable meal.
End the night with a bit of SoCal theatre at Santa Monica Playhouse, which specializes in fairy tale productions of “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel” and “Three Little Pigs.”