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Visiting Los Angeles With Kids

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

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.

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.