The City of Angels for Families

Genie Davis September 21, 2010 1 Comment

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Los Angeles may be known as the city of angels, but the sprawling delights this city offers your own little angels makes it a great family destination.

Universal Studios King Kong

Entrance into King Kong 3D at Universal Studios

World renowned amusement parks and attractions abound, and there’s plenty of off the beaten track activities too, from the beach to the mall. Our favorite amusement park is Universal Studios, just a few minutes north of Hollywood itself. After parking, you’ll walk through the kitschy open air City Walk, a shopping enclave with fun to hip chain stores featuring clothing, candy, toys, and souvenirs such as Abercrombie and Aahs. Home also to similarly cool but corporate restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe and a large AMC theater with IMAX screen, the design of the area is its strongest appeal. Your kids will love the neon signs and giant media screen. A particular favorite in our family is the neon image of King Kong, seasonally decorated. There’s also an absorbing variety of street performers, vendor carts and even dancing fountains. One caveat, your kids will really want to run through these fountains so bring dry clothes if you want them to fully enjoy this experience unless it’s the hottest of summer days.

By the time you reach the iconic rotating Universal world globe at the park’s entrance, your kids will be stoked to enter the theme park on a red carpet and explore the newly designed King Kong exhibit in 3-D and laugh along with Shrek 4-D’s interactive audience experience. Best of all though is the studio tour. Riding on comfortable trams you’ll view studio sets and get an entertaining and educational view of how movies are made while you rest your feet! We love the similar combination of education and participatory entertainment at the Special Effects show, too.

Our kids have always enjoyed the furry celebrities showcased at the Animal Actors stage, and the manic musical tribute to the Blues Brothers near the park entrance.

And as noted, Universal is pretty close to the ‘real’ Hollywood too. Kids of all ages will enjoy the over the top architecture at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, not to mention the cement hand and foot imprints and bronze celebrity stars from all eras embedded in the sidewalk around it. The Hollywood Walk of Fame presents a chronology of Hollywood celebrities and stretches across an impressive five acres of city sidewalks from Hollywood Boulevard to Sunset. The first star of over two thousand stars was awarded in 1960, to film actress Joanne Woodward.

Inside Hollywood and Highland courtyard mall next to the Chinese Theater, you’ll find cool architecture based upon DW Griffith movie sets; and among other shops and fast food enclaves, the ultimate kid distraction and souvenir, Build a Bear Workshop, where your kids make their own custom teddy bears.

Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles CaliforniaEqually entertaining and absolutely free is the classic view of the Hollywood sign. This great landmark is often difficult to capture in a photo, but is easily snapped from the pedestrian bridge on the third level of the mall.

Just across the street from Hollywood and Highland, you’ll find the Hollywood Wax Museum and Hollywood’s outpost of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not “museum” empire, which can provide even more kitschy fun. Ripley’s is best for tots over age three, this was the first time our kids enjoyed the experience. For young kids of any age, do skip the house of horrors section.

Looking for lunch? Classic LA restaurant Musso and Franks just down the street seems like it stepped out of the pages of a Raymond Chandler noir, and indeed the establishment was a hot spot in that era. Opened in 1919, this classic grill is an attraction in its own right. It’s also surprisingly kid friendly, with delightfully light funnel cake style pancakes served until late afternoon, and welsh rarebit – basically melted cheese on toast – a huge hit with my kids when they were small.

Speaking of commercial attractions, there’s another mall that makes the cultural-must-do list for tourists – for the view as well as the scene. That would be the Grove, south of Hollywood proper in the Fairfax district. The Grove is also an outdoor upscale mall; live music is frequently offered, and celebrity sightings are frequent. The ersatz European architecture and cobblestone by ways make this a pleasant afternoon stroll. And the view – well, it’s phenomenal. Make your way to the roof of the parking garage and see 360 degrees of the Los Angeles basin. From Santa Monica to the West to Downtown to the East – and on a clear day, mountains and ocean, too – it’s a beautiful and orienting look at the city, outdoors, and free.

Downtown Los Angeles CaliforniaThe Grove also adjoins the best dining bargain in Los Angeles, the Farmers Market. Another historical find, originating in 1934 this comfortable, casual, open air market place still offers fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, candies, baked goods, and flowers. It also houses a variety of enticing food stands from crepes to hummus and plenty of tables to consume your purchases. It’s the perfect grazing solution to picky eaters, and the commotion and commerce are pleasant to share. From Moishe’s famous parsley salad (taboule) to Patsy’s classic pizza, you’ll find something for everyone. Some venues do offer sit down service.

Speaking of food: check out Canter’s deli – authentic, funky, inexpensive, great potato pancakes on Fairfax, near the Grove. Fantastic kids choices – or just share an adult order; friendly, old fashioned service, the kind of staff who won’t just tolerate your kids, they’ll tell them how cute they are, and bring them a free piece of bagel or crackers if they’re too hungry to wait for dinner.

Just down the street from Canter’s is the Los Angeles Museum of Art. Our kids loved exploring the beautiful outdoor sculpture garden; the museum offers family days with hands on art programs for kids and free admission, check the museums website at http://www.lacma.org for weekend dates. Any day of the week, the museum provides excellent viewing and kid friendly sites such as the circular Japanese Pavilion.

More Los Angeles highlights in my next article…

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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One Comments to “The City of Angels for Families”
  1. avatar More Los Angeles Adventures – South Bay Beaches « Tots and Travel – Family Vacations and Reviews says:

    [...] my last article I talked about some great Hollywood area family destinations. And of course there’s Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Sea World to the south of LA [...]