L.A.'s Family Activities
February 12, 2013
Los Angeles provides abundant and easy fodder for its critics, but as I often say “those who hate LA don’t really know LA.” I relocated to the city in 2001 and still learning my way around and discovering new gems, thus it would be inconceivable for anyone to find the best the city has to offer in less than a week while also trying to engage in the conference. My exploration and constantly expanding knowledge of the city came largely through my life as a parent of a now nearly 16 year-old girl. In this column, I share some of what I know for those of you visiting with their families so that you can explore and learn to love the city as I do. First, a few caveats: 1) I will avoid destinations that you all know such as Disneyland and Universal Studios, as well as places discussed in Rob Kent’s column of a few months ago; 2) there is no denying that the city is enormous and sometimes difficult to navigate, so for the uninitiated it is recommended to consult with locals about the best time and mode of transportation; and 3) there is no way this short essay could ever be exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. Many of you who live here or know the city well will undoubtedly have your own recommendations to share. I focus mostly on outdoor activities because there is a strong likelihood it will be sunny and you’ll want to be outside.
Kids of any age are going to want to visit at least one of the beaches and their neighboring communities. Warn them that the water will be cold, certainly in the 60s that time of year. Santa Monica and Venice are relatively easy to get to and offer plenty to do. Aside from water activities, you can rent bikes. Santa Monica has the Pier with overpriced rides and games as well as many restaurants. The beach is family-oriented and a nice place to spend the day. Near the beach is Third Street Promenade, a festival marketplace offering many restaurants, shops, and street entertainment. Just south is Venice Beach that is more suited for teens and beyond. You can easily rent a bike and ride from one end to the other. Not a bad way to spend a day.
Other great beaches to visit include Malibu, Huntington, and Laguna.
Hikes and Natural Areas
Los Angeles is full of great hiking spots ranging from easy to very strenuous. A couple that may be of interest to young ones are the hike to the “Hollywood” sign and the Bat Cave, also known as the Bronson Cave Trail in Griffith Park, from the Batman television show.
Another popular hiking spot with great views and often seen in films is Runyon Canyon.
There are many other great hiking trails nearby but these are a couple to whet your appetite.
Nearby gardens include Huntington, Descanso, and Los Angeles Arboretum.
Television and Movie Studios
Young ones would probably get a thrill from watching one of their favorite television shows being filmed. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advanced, especially for those that are popular. Nickelodeon and Disney Channel shows are available for viewing. Some have a minimum age, so check when you reserve.
You also can take the kids to get a behind-the-scenes view of how television and films are made. Such tours are available at Warner Brothers ($49), Sony Pictures ($35) and Paramount Studios ($48). Reservations are highly recommended for these tours and some do not allow young children, so be sure to check before making a reservation.
Los Angeles is a sports mecca and the AAG Conference occurs at a time when you may be able to watch the Lakers and Clippers (NBA), Dodgers and Angels (MLB), and hopefully, the NHL’s Kings and Ducks (currently on strike). The Lakers are home against the New Orleans Hornets on April 9; the Golden State Warriors on April 12; and the San Antonio Spurs on April 14. The Clippers are home on April 10 versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Warning: tickets can be very pricey, especially for the Lakers. Check resale and discount sites such as StubHub. Both NBA teams and the Kings play at Staples Center located at LA Live which includes the Grammy Museum, Nokia Theater and Club Nokia and many restaurants including the ESPN Zone.
Dodger Stadium is easily accessible from the conference hotels and is a great place to watch a game.
Los Angeles is also a haven for art fans and more than a few are worthy of mention. LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is well worth a visit and has free live jazz concerts on Friday nights. The Getty Museum is quite spectacular with beautiful gardens to walk around and great views of the LA Basin. The Getty Villa in Malibu is dedicated to the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. Admission to both Getty museums is free, but there is a fee for parking. The MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) also has great exhibits and is fairly close to the Conference hotels. Other museums that may spark an interest in some of you are: The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, The Museum of Death in Hollywood, The Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits, The Museum of Tolerance, Peterson Automotive Museum, and the Griffith Observatory. For a complete list of museums visit http://www.losangeles.com/museums.
(Magi Media / Wikimedia Commons)
Despite Angelenos passion for driving, there are several neighborhoods worthy of a walking tour, all of which are close to the conference hotel. Olvera Street is the oldest part of Downtown LA and consists of many historical buildings as well as a Mexican marketplace and many good places to grab some tasty Mexican food. LA’s Chinatown is a stone’s throw from Olvera Street and includes what many of you will see in Chinatowns around the world—good food and shopping. Situated on the edge of Chinatown is Phillipe’s Sandwich Shop which claims to be the home of the French Dip sandwich. With its sawdust floors and casual ambience, most kids will likely enjoy themselves (it’s also easy on the pocketbook!). Also, in close proximity is Little Tokyo with its own share of great restaurants and interesting sites such as a Buddhist Temple and the MOCA. Hollywood, Venice, and Santa Monica, also make for good walking tours as does Downtown LA.
A Few on the Cutting Edge
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place to many of Hollywood’s stars and founders and stars than anywhere else on earth. Among the dearly departed you can find here are: Johnny Ramone, Jayne Mansfield, Cecil B. DeMille, and Douglas Fairbanks.
Older and mature kids may enjoy the Dearly Departed Tour, which takes riders on a tour of “celebrity death.” One of their tours shows passengers street scenes from more than 50 films around the area. Another is the Helter Skelter Tour that visits the sites of the Tate and LaBianca murders. A third tour offered by this company visits “last breath locations” of such celebs as Michael Jackson, River Phoenix, and Bela Lugosi as well as the hotels where John Belushi and Janis Joplin never got around to paying their bill. It claims to be a “light hearted look at the dark side of Hollywood."
A last activity worth mentioning are LA Gang Tours which claim to be “saving lives, creating jobs, and rebuilding communities--one LA tour at a time.” These tours are founded by a former gang member who is now actively involved in working toward peaceful solutions and alternatives for gang and potential-gang members. The tour educates people about LA’s inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions.
Let the debates begin about what to do with your kids in LA. Chances are the weather will be superb, so get outside as much as you can, especially those coming from colder climes. Consider this just a starting point for your research. Dare I say, “Feel free to contact me with comments or suggestions.”