West Hollywood for Halloween FamiliesNovember 15, 2011 No Comments
Going to the “West Hollywood Halloween Carnival” now in its 23rd anniversary year may not be the first Halloween activity you think of for small children, but if you live in, or are planning to visit the greater Los Angeles area, think again. First of all, it’s an event you’ll always remember, and perhaps one you’ll enjoy annually, as an alternative to the hassles of trick or treating and subsequent sugar rush or attending paid events. Second, its an impressive and famous event, the second largest and well known in the Southland area, topped only by the Tournament of Roses New Year’s Day Parade.
What more could you want? Fantastic costumes, friendly people, live music, all free – yes, that’s right, free. While advertised as an adult gathering, over the years more and more families are participating – either dressing up or just doing it the easy way and watching the scene unfold. It’s a hip family activity, a great sightseeing event, and lots of fun for kids of all ages. This year we saw a lot of strollers and babes in arms, as well as wide eyed toddlers riding on their parents’ shoulders. Grade school children still clutching trick or treat buckets were rewarded with free candy handouts at various restaurants along Santa Monica Boulevard where the event takes place; but candy isn’t really the point, and there’s no trick or treating per se along the route. Seeing the incredible, imaginative costumes, and joining the joyous throng is the point. We saw no costumes more risque than show-girl-feathers, and the gore factor was limited too.
Family Friendly Costumes
Which left small children to happily view recreations of the Royal Wedding, spacemen, Angry Birds – the digital game, not characters from Hitchock’s The Birds – Carmen Miranda, Charlie Chaplin, angels, zombies, Gumby, and more. This year MTV staged a pop concert featuring Swedish pop diva Robyn; other stages featured costume parades, disco dancing, and acrobats. Food vendors offer pizza, corn on the cob, funnel cakes – standard fare that the kids will love. And West Hollywood’s Santa Monica boulevard offers its own eclectic fare from a popular vegetarian restaurant to several pizza purveyors, French, Greek, and there’s even a major grocery store option in the form of a Pavillions store.
While more than half a million people descend on Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny and La Cienega, foot traffic never stalled out for us, and the constantly changing parade of costumes kept our group ranging in age from babyhood to teenagers and adults more than content. Movement is slow though, don’t expect to walk up and down the Boulevard in a rush. It took us a leisurely two hours to loop through.
We enjoyed the crisp, quick Asian fast food at Fresh East, a relatively guilt-free and child-friendly stop featuring fairly low sodium takes on cuisine from garlic noodles with tofu to salmon and broccoli. This stop is reasonably priced, with organic corn-based eating utensils, too. Our kids liked the melon-ade. Another dining option: on Melrose you’ll find a branch of Le Pain au Quotidien with some excellent, reasonably priced salads, soups, quiches, and sandwiches served at individual tables or at a long communal table in the center of the restaurant. A haven of calm, family friendly and reasonably priced, with a wonderful lentil and avocado salad that will make veggie believers out of the pickiest eaters. You can even find a vegan quiche on the menu, a rare and soy-free find that’s delicious. Of course there are good old fashioned omelettes and tuna salad sandwiches too. A bit farther away down Melrose, check out the “healthy” baked and organic donuts at FoNuts for a fun, and autumnal feeling snack. They had pumpkin, lemon, and maple flavors along with sprinkles and glazed when we were there. In the same area you’ll find wonderful sandwiches at a petite shop called Simple Things – nothing could be more simply delicious than a vegetable sandwich that includes sweet potatoes. The kids love it – and it’s good for you, too. Each of these off-the-main-drag spots provide a good respite to the crowds and the walking if you need to take a break.
Unless you live or are staying within walking distance of the event, the place to park is in one of the public parking garages from Robertson west into Beverly Hills, which seem to have plenty of room throughout the evening. One caveat: that of course is the one part of the evening that isn’t free, with prices about double the posted day time rate. The Pacific Design Center on Melrose also has a lot of available parking at a slightly higher price. Arrive early, as you should with children in tow, and check out the Beverly Center, the massive enclosed mall on La Cienega as a parking option from the east end. Here parking is the most reasonably priced, no special event pricing, and as an extra bonus, it gives you access coming and going to restroom facilities in the mall that won’t have the long lines of Santa Monica Boulevard or find you resorting to the porta-potties set up on the street.
Other than people watching, snacking, and taking those dozens of photographs you’re going to be snapping, what else is there to do? The day before the big event, or up to the evening of, there’s Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch just down the street on Doheny. The Oregon farmers who bring in a bumper crop of pumpkins also offer pumpkin carving and painting, and decorations including Indian Corn and hay bales. They have branches around the city, but this is one of the biggest, with requisite petting zoo and scarecrows to pose by.
So start planning your costumes for next year – and treat your children to a unique happy Halloween.