Visiting Los Angeles With Kids

11.18.14

There are a million travel articles about how to visit Los Angeles with kids and they will tell you a lot of the same things. Go to Disneyland, go to the beach, try the El Capitan. I have been able to be Disneyland free for at least the past five years, “go to the beach” is lame, it’s like someone just points West and says, “go”, and though the El Capitan is a great place to see a movie, it’s what you do before and after that matters.

I’ve partnered with Expedia to bring you some tips for visiting Los Angeles with your family.

Los Angeles is the nation’s second largest city in terms of population and the sprawl here is something you really can’t comprehend until you show up. We’re incredibly diverse and every neighborhood has it’s own unique personality. Rent a car, unless you are rich, and I’m talking filthy rich then you can rent a car and a driver. If you plan on drinking (even a little) use an Uber car, this way everyone can be safe.

Studios, Screenings, Shows and Theaters

If the kids are 8 or older a tour of the Warner Bros lot could be a lot of fun. There’s a VIP tour that’s just over two hours and a Delxue tour that’s five hours long and includes lunch. If your family is pop culture obsessed spring for the Deluxe Tour, it’s super spendy at $250 a person but if you’ve never been around the entertainment industry it’s a once in a lifetime event. Call 877-4-WB-TOUR to book.

Warner Brother Studio Tour

Warner Brother Studio Tour Photo Credit mysentimentexactlee.com

If the kids are younger or if you’re looking for more of a theme park experience Universal Studios is a great option. I must warn you though, parking there can suck the joy out of the day. I’d recommend taking Uber (use this link to get your first ride free) or the train. The Red Line is at the base of the hill and there’s a shuttle that will take you up and down, it runs every 10 to 15 minutes. If it’s summertime be sure to bring sandals and a change of clothes for little ones, there are a lot of opportunities to get wet. The theme park is fun but be sure to not miss the studio tour. It is a working studio and you’ll learn a lot about how movies are made, also it’s a nice time to sit a bit and regather your strength.

If you’re going to see a kid movie there really is no better place to see one than the El Capitan. Again, parking is a nightmare so just make sure to do it at Hollywood and Highland. I know you think you’ll save time with valet parking but you won’t. Just drive down super low in the structure and park near the escalators, you’ll have several hours free parking there if you validate at the theater. You’ll want to get there early because there’s a great organ player and it’s a really novel experience to sit in the balcony. There’s a Ghiradelli store connected to the theater so if you want a cup of coffee you can pop in there and grab one before the movie starts and enjoy it at your seat. You’ll want to skip the candy at the concession and instead get a cream puff at Beard Papa after the show, which is halfway up the stairs closest to the corner inside Hollywood and Highland. I’ve found that most employees don’t speak much English at Beard Papa but they’re very kind, treat them well.

El Capitan Theatre
6838 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(818) 845-3110

Beard Papa
6801 Hollywood Blvd # 153
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 462-6100

Los Angeles is diverse

Koreatown: Pop into the Korean Cultural Center (which is oddly Koreatown adjacent) and learn a bit about the culture, find out about this week’s events and then GO! Explore and be sure to have some Korean BBQ. Oo-Kook is all you can eat and highly recommended.

Oo-Kook
3385 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone number (213) 385-5665

Korean Cultural Center
5505 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 936-7141

Sawtelle: Just park your car somewhere near Sawtelle and Olympic and wander. All the restaurants are good, Giant Robot is a fun indie store brimming with Japanese toys, desk accessories and tees. Be sure to have some Japanaese food. I know that there are burger places here but there are burger places everywhere. Try some ramen or some sushi, wander, get lost a little and if you want to decompress the Hashimoto nursery is really quite calming.

Hashimoto Nursery
1935 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 473-6232

Giant Robot
2015 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 478-1819

Tacos! There are great tacos all over the city, in fact there are blogs devoted to finding the best ones but my personal favorite is Cactus Taqueria. Try them over on Vine or their new location in Studio City. When you’re done with your tacos you can stroll down Tujunga and enjoy the shops or pop around the corner to Woodbridge Park.

Cactus Taqueria Studio City
11401 Moorpark St
Studio City, CA 91602
(818) 754-8119

Cactus Taqueria Hollywood
950 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 464-5865

Woodbridge Park Studio City
11240 Moorpark St
Studio City, CA 91602
(818) 769-4415

Food Trucks: If your city has food trucks you can thank Los Angeles. 25 years ago Los Angeles’ teenagers and manual laborers knew that some of the city’s best Mexican food came from taco trucks (affectionately called The Roach Coach). Koji changed the landscape with gourmet fusion tacos and an active twitter stream and now food trucks are popular nationwide. If your kids aren’t into art then you can trick them into going to the museum by heading over to LACMA for lunch. The food trucks are always across the street on Wilshire. Everyone can grab exactly what they like and then take it over to the sculpture garden at LACMA for a picnic. Who knows, the kids may want to wander in. Be sure to check the museum’s website because they often have great exhibits for the kids.

LA County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 857-6000

Food: Every year Jonathan Gold, the LA Times Food Reporter, puts out a list of the 101 best restaurants in the city. Here’s the list, you can sort it by rank, name or price (which is handy when kids are growing). May I recommend starting with a Pastrami Sandwich from Langers?

Going to the beach do’s and don’ts: 

  • DON’T go in the morning unless you want to wear a jacket.
  • DO pay for parking. I know you think you’re saving $8 but when you’ve carried kids across hot sand the next four blocks are going to feel like a marathon
  • DON’T sunscreen when you get there. That’s too late. Sunscreen the kids before you put them in the car and then do it again and again and again and again
  • DO bring plenty of water and fruit to snack on. There are vendors but they’re slow and not very good. Stop at a grocery store and get something from the deli case
  • DON’T swim without a lifeguard. We have riptides that will pull you back out to sea and exhaust you.
  • DO learn what to do if you’re caught in a riptide. Swim sideways until the current subsides and you can safely get back to shore.
  • DO take a surf lesson.
  • DON’T take a surf lesson with any random schmo. Try the Malibu Surf Shack, they’re rad.
  • DO bring baby powder with you. Dust it liberally on sandy bits and even if you’re a little damp the sand will dust right off of all of you.
  • DON’T go in the water after it’s been raining. I know our winter looks a lot like your springtime but after the rains our oceans are filthy. You don’t want to be in them.

Most of all enjoy yourself. Los Angeles is a great city for families, and if you see me be sure to wave.

My Family is Weirder Than Your Family

09.7.14

My Mom and Doc are in New York City for her BFFs from Kindergarten’s 50th anniversary surprise party. This means that Mom and her BFF have been friends for approximately 900 years, give or take a few.

In any event, My Mom’s been texting and emailing pictures of her trip as she goes.

First they had a snafu with the packing.

wire hair terrier suitcase

Then they arrived in the city, fortunately without the dog in the suitcase. I received an email with the subject line “NY after dark” and this photo was the only content.

new york city garbage

My aunt was copied too and she replied with her view at twilight, which is actually quite lovely.

maine at twilight

My cousin hijacked it all demanding that we all fight cancer.

fight cancer

And then we all chatted about how buying pepper spray is way more effective than a breast self exam.

Mom is super excited that Russ and Daughters is expanding

Russ and Daughters

But really? Ugh, pickled herring and smoked trout have got to be root causes of the diaspora. That place is 90% disgusting with a little lox thrown in to placate people like me.

So basically they’re just like every other retired Jewish couple from LA. One of which loves to visit New York for no good reason and the other to revisit her childhood which seldom went past 18th street. Right up until this point we’re a family like yours. We visit old friends, notice trash, dote on our animals, laugh at pinkwashing and eat food that isn’t very good but brings back memories.

Then I get this picture. There’s no explanation. There’s nothing about Doc losing his mind. There’s no mention of a half a century working in hospitals. There’s no attempt at logic. There is just my Step Father getting acupuncture from a blindfolded man on the street.

And there I am left wondering. Did they trick me into thinking they are normal? Could this be normal? There’s a storefront so they can’t be the only patients, can they?

 

Luxe Rodeo Drive: The Perfect Sleepover Staycation

08.13.14

Earlier this summer friends and I had an amazing dinner at the Luxe on Rodeo Drive. I’d mentioned that it’s the perfect place for a staycation so we pulled out our calendars and they gave me a pair of rooms Monday Night. The most difficult part of a staycation with The Luxe Rodeo was figuring out my kids’ schedules.

I love a good hotel and Jane and her friends love a hotel sleepover. There’s something totally irresistible about crisp white linens, sumptuous beds, blackout curtains and room service. I am also unabashedly high maintenance and when I see that a hotel has a four diamond rating from AAA I know that there’s a good chance I’ll be pleased with the service (and I was).

We checked in to the Luxe Monday afternoon and the girls needed to get themselves ready. They were going to have dinner at On Rodeo, which has the trifecta of fun, delicious and fabulous for people watching. I met a girlfriend for dinner around the corner because the girls wanted to have a sophisticated dinner and I was not invited (I was, however, allowed to pick up the tab – yay me?).

happy kids luxe beverly hills

While they got ready I wandered outside and hit up Fendi, Gucci and Prada. It’s not that I wanted to go shopping it’s that they were clearly in view from my window and it wouldn’t have been a good hotel write up if I didn’t visit the neighbors, right? Also, I’m searching for the perfect cross body bag for every day and I’m pretty sure I found it but somehow that feels like a bigger commitment than buying a house. I know, I’m weird.

After a little shopping my Mom and Stefanie showed up to the hotel. We were taking a look at the rooftop because I have a big birthday to celebrate with Mr. G this year and Jane has a Sweet Sixteen in the Fall. We all agreed that it’s a spectacular place for a party. The views are magnificent, it’s private and we already know that Luxe provides excellent service because we’ve spent a zillion hours nibbling with them.

I didn’t take a good picture of the view from the rooftop so I’ll have to go back and get one.

luxe rodeo rooftop

Stefanie and I walked around the corner to the South Beverly Grill where the drinks are good enough that you don’t notice the prices on the menu. We had a fabulous time chatting and catching up and planning our next adventures. She’s headed to Vietnam and we’re headed to Polynesia. As we wandered back to the hotel for some coffee and dessert we found the girls playing around on the steps over at One Rodeo.

If you stay at the Luxe you’re basically trapped in a zone that you’ve seen every inch of on TV and in the movies. It’s a playground for the rich and since there’s no entry fee you can sort of hang around the playground and watch and enjoy.  The girls ran back up to Sprinkles and had ice cream with cupcake tops.

There is a hotel on Rodeo Drive not more than one, just one. It’s a street that is known everywhere you go. Just say “Rodeo Drive” and folks know what you’re talking about.

If you’re looking for a central location this will suit you. It’s just a few minutes to the beaches or downtown, Westwood is nearby if you want to visit someone at UCLA or if you’re like me and you just don’t want to be home for a night it’s unbeatable. Right now I’m seeing rates around $360 with AAA, if you have dinner for four up the street at Crustacean you’ll be spending that before the tip.

If you’re looking for a resort the Luxe isn’t for you. The rooms are updated and clean but they don’t have spa bathrooms or a pool. There’s a fantastic outdoor area that’s more serene than scene. If you’re looking for a resort type hotel I would not recommend anything in Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills is urban and you’re there for the shopping and the touristy stuff. If you’re looking for a resort head to Santa Monica or hide out in Bel Air. You can always grab a salad and spend an hour or two at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s pool but it’s small and tired.

If you’re looking for the charm of a European Hotel without the cramped quarters and snootiness then the Luxe is the right place for you. There are less than 90 rooms, well appointed and they’re ready for international travelers. When I went under the desk to plug in my two phones, ipad and computer I saw this. It’s really quite handy when you don’t have a multitude of converters.

luxe beverly hills international travel

I’m excited to plan a party with Luxe. The kids’ school has had their galas at the Brentwood location and everyone was tickled with the space and the service there. The rooftop in Beverly Hills has an air of exclusivity and I like feeling like I’m on vacation 4 miles from my house.

Travel Tips:

  • It’s a boutique hotel on a street that goes to sleep by 10pm don’t worry about requesting a high floor, they’ll all be mostly quiet
  • Weekdays are low key, my room was next to an elevator and was completely quiet
  • The second floor has a patio between the buildings. If you’re a smoker or need a place for a toddler to run around without traffic this is a good floor for you
  • Try the bread pudding, it’s happiness on a plate
  • Enjoy breakfast at On Rodeo – people watch and relax

 

New Orleans as a Solo Woman Traveler

07.2.14

Much has been written about New Orleans. It’s a culturally rich city that birthed Jazz, Dixie and American’s first pharmacists. The air in New Orleans is sweet with humidity and blossoms, spices and music. New Orleans is more than a city, it’s a culture and a way of life.

In addition to being a cultural hub and a fabulous vacation destination New Orleans has a booming film industry (I’m not supposed to endorse that because of runaway production) and if you’re interested in learning more about that my friend Stan Gill actually left Los Angeles for NOLA and has a great blog for you to read. In 2012 New Orleans had more than 9 million visitors and nearly 25% of them were there for business either conventions or general business.

The monkey business you can figure out on your own. If you want to eat too much, drink too much and dance all night New Orleans just might be paradise. The food is some of the best in the country, the drinks are plentiful and the music, well the music is pervasive and sublime. Finding a good restaurant is as simple as tossing a rock. If you’re traveling to New Orleans as a woman alone what could you possibly do?

If you’re from LA or New York (and a good many visitors to New Orleans are) like me there’s a good chance that you’ll be startled when everyone calls you “Baby”. It doesn’t come out like a squicky baby but a soft French tone like bebe. Take off your feminist hat and acknowledge you’re being spoken to. This threw me for a loop but after a bit I came to enjoy it. Getting called baby in New Orleans is now music to this Angelino’s ears.

If you’re traveling solo in New Orleans there’s no reason to hide in your hotel room but if you want to start your trip off right you’d be wise to drop into the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (addresses, phones and URLs will be included at the bottom of the post for all bolded locations). There’s an actual revolving carousel right smack in the middle of the bar. Grab a seat at the bar and you’ll slowly get a view of the room.

I happened to have been staying at the Hotel Monteleone and my two drinks at the Carousel bar were free. Why? You ask. Because upon my check in I handed the front desk clerk $20 and requested a room in a high floor away from an elevator and said the magic words, “I appreciate anything you can do for me.” As is often the case it was the best $20 investment of the trip.

After you’ve had some sips at the Carousel Bar you’ll want to stroll down Royal Street and window shop (or just shop) in some of the galleries and antique shops. I was absolutely smitten when I happened upon the Bevolo workshop where they make gas and electric lights. The craftsmen there were making the same lamps that have graced the French Quarter for 65 years. By Los Angeles standards this is a very old business but I was about to find out that by New Orleans standards this is still relatively new.

If there was one piece that I would want to bring to my home from New Orleans an outdoor gas lamp would surely be it.

Also an Royal Street is James H Cohen & Sons where they sell antique weapons and coins. You don’t have to be a gun nut to want to see dueling sets and weapons from the Civil War. Ladies, just be careful and stay on the left side of the store, the right side of the store is filled with old and sometimes ancient coins that have been made into jewelry. I don’t even like jewelry that much and I was tempted.

My favorite gallery was AFA. At the moment they have an artist there named Nicoletta Ceccoli whose work is simply breathtaking. I’m not sure that I won’t be calling to have something shipped to me. Everything on their walls was incredible.

Royal street is lined with artists and galleries. Do yourself a favor and stroll up one side and down the other. You’ll also want to keep an eye peeled for Touchdown Jesus at the St. Louis Cathedral.

Wandering off of Royal Street I found myself at Hove Parfumeur which is the South’s Oldest parfumerie. I am a huge fan of solid perfumes because they travel well and the scents are both easy to layer and not overwhelming. I picked up three at Hove. If you loved Jo Malone before it was bought by Estee Lauder Hove is a must visit destination.

There are museums all over the French Quarter and they’re tucked away in the most surprising places. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum sits on the site of the apothecary of America’s first licensed pharmacist. It’s a relatively quick visit and at just $5 for an adult I’d recommend it. Around the corner at Arnaud’s Restaurant there’s a Mardi Gras Museum. Like much of New Orleans it’s said to be haunted. I’d recommend popping into Arnaud’s for dinner ahead of time and just quit whatever diet it is that you’re on because the duck bread they bring out before the meal is worth every hour you’ll need at the gym to work it off. There’s a World War II Museum that I didn’t get to but I’m told is fabulous and since it’s right over on Magazine Street there’s plenty of shopping and dining nearby.

Speaking of dining I had a few not to be missed meals in New Orleans. As a solo female traveler I found these spots to be welcoming. Acme Oyster House or Deanie’s is a great spot for crawfish boil. At Deanie’s they give you boiled red potatoes when you’re seated instead of bread for the table and the spices are perfection. I was late for the crawfish season so they were small and I’m sure the locals frown upon eating such substandard mud puppies but I couldn’t help myself. I love them. Coop’s Place was my favorite food in the city and also the least expensive. It’s like walking into Cheers only in the South.

I’d always heard people talk about praline pie and I’d (wrongly) assumed that pralines are synonymous with pecans. They are not. Pralines are a kind of candy that we learned to make over at the New Orleans School of Cooking but I’m here to tell you that not all pralines are created equal. Head over to Aunt Sally’s for some of the best pralines in New Orleans. I like them creamy.

So long as you’ve had your crawfish, your gumbo, your jumbalaya and your pralines you might as well sit a spell and have beignets and coffee at the Cafe Du Monde. I don’t love donuts and I’m pretty sure I won’t have another for twenty more years but there’s something special about parking yourself right there at the French Market and having a plate full of gluten and sugar washed down with a cup of good chicory coffee. If you sit long enough (like more that 20 minutes) there’s a good chance that there will be a parade going right past you.

New Orleans is a town that knows how to have fun. The days are filled with Second Lines. A Second Line is the parade that happens after the parade, you know the folks who hop in after the fact and dance and march along. Second Lines often feature brass bands and always made me smile. I don’t know how much I’d enjoy it if I had somewhere to be but the pace is definitely slower in NOLA. In fact I had a very difficult time slowing down my gait.

I took one morning off and decided that a plantation tour is the way to go. I really don’t know much about history so tours like these are a lot of fun for me. I feel like I’m constantly learning. The tour I tried picked me up at my hotel at 8.30 in the morning and we visited two plantations. First was the Laura Plantation and the tour was spectacular. We had a very serious tour guide who gave us a 90 minute history lesson that was fantastic and I highly recommend. Next we were shuttled to the Oak Alley Plantation which is much more grand than Laura but the tourguides were dressed in period costume and didn’t seem to know a whole bunch. It was overcrowded and disappointing after Laura BUT the grounds are extraordinary and walking them was a joy. Plus there were some vintage Model T’s at Oak Valley that I really enjoyed. If you don’t want to drive Cajun Encounters was very convenient and priced fairly.

There are things that should be done in very city. Outlet shopping and gambling. There’s a Harrah’s Casino over on Canal Street and I popped over there to play a little blackjack then I headed over to the shops at the Riverwalk where there’s a brand new outlet mall. They have a Neiman Marcus Last Call as well as a Cafe Du Monde in the food court. The food court is made of walls of glass that looks over the Mississippi River. While you’re there be sure to pop into the NOLA Tropical Winery for free samples and Wine Smoothies. Yes, really.

NOLA Tropical Wines

Bourbon Street doesn’t hold much appeal for me at night but in the afternoon it’s good for a giggle. Meet my new friend.

Untitled

 

 

Places to visit:

Acme Oyster House
724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-5973

AFA Gallery
809 Royal Street New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 558-9296

Arnaud’s
813 Bienville Ave, New Orleans, LA 70112
(504) 523-5433

Aunt Sally’s Pralines
810 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 524-3373

Bevolo
318 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 552-4311

Cafe Du Monde
800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544

Cajun Encounters Tour Company
(504) 834-1770

Carousel Bar and Lounge
214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-3341

Coop’s Place
1109 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-9053

Deanie’s Seafood
841 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA
(504) 581-1316

Harrah’s New Orleans
228 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Hove’ Parfumeur
434 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 525-7827

James H Cohen & Sons Inc. [Antique Weapons And Coins]
Antique Shop
437 Royal St (at St Louis St), New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-3305

Laura Plantation
2247 Louisiana 18, Vacherie, LA 70090
(225) 265-7690

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
514 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 565-8027

NOLA Tropical Winery
500 Port of New Orleans Place Suite 144. New Orleans, LA 70130
504.522.1555

Oak Alley Plantation
3645 Louisiana 18, Vacherie, LA 70090
(225) 265-2151

The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk
Port of New Orleans Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-1555

World War 2 Museum.
945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 527-6012

Street Performers getting ready ask that you Stan Hur

Music is everywhere

Revised: Art is everywhere

Cars at the Oak Alley Plantation

Laura Plantation

Slave Quarters at the Laura Planatation

Opoli App: Limousines On Call, No Pricing Surprises

06.29.14

opoli logo Last week I went to a launch for Opoli. It’s an interesting app and it’s taken everything that’s right about Uber and made it just a little bit friendlier for both consumer and driver. Here’s the gist of the Opoli app (and website too).

Drivers pay a monthly fee to be included in the Opoli fleet. I am unclear on just how much this fee is because I’m not licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission so I can’t be your driver anyhow.

Opoli is an app that you use basically to hail a car service. It might be a Tesla, a towncar or an SUV. The app required no instruction for me. You click to request a car, it could be that you’re looking for one right now (as you would with Uber) or that you’d like to schedule an airport pickup (hello real live convenience!).

In any event you put in your pickup address, the time and day you’d like to be picked up and the number of passengers and then (this is where the app is really different) you enter your drop off location. The app then suggests the amount of money you should pay and you can either accept this or modify it. Your request is then sent out to cars in the area and they can either accept your price or counter with another price. You can accept or keep going. With my second ride on Opoli I was looking for a ride from an event to my house and the app suggested $35, apparently there was a driver in the area who wanted to be doubly sure he got the gig and countered with $30. Fine by me!

Once you agree to the price your credit card is charged. I am madly in love with apps that keep me from having to find cash. Currently tipping is cash only but I’m told that tipping within the app is a feature that is coming soon. I love that while the ride is active you can see where the car is. Hello safety for kids in cars.

Of course the added layer of protection includes that you’re only dealing with professionally licensed drivers who are required to carry commercial insurance. It looks like Opoli has it’s eye on the hotel industry next and I’m curious to see what they’re planning there.

In the interim I have 19 coupon codes to give away for Opoli. Each code is good for $50 of fares. You’re welcome. There was supposed to be 20 of them but I gave one away to my husband’s assistant because she has become one of the most important women in life. In fact I was tempted to give her 19 of them and do a giveaway for one but I thought the folks at Opoli might notice and that would suck. It wouldn’t suck if I gave her $950 worth of Opoli credit, it would suck if we got caught and I always get caught. So, I have 19 codes to give away.

You’ll need to be in Los Angeles to use this so be sure to only enter if you live in LA or if you’ll be here within the next month or so. Then you can use your car service to take me out for cocktails or something.

Update: I’ve been notified by Opoli that it’s not a limousine service as not all vehicles are limousines, you may get a Tesla or a Town Car, some kind of SUV or Black Car service. I’m pretty sure you won’t get a Batmobile but I’m also thinking that if you get the Batmobile that will be pretty awesome. All drivers are licensed through the Taxi and Limousine Commission so even if you aren’t in a limousine you can totally pretend you are. Caphiche?

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