A vacation in Los Angeles can take on many forms, but the stereotype (and most popular) involves tours around the homes of famous people, learning to surf some of the country’s best waves, and partying all night along Melrose Ave or the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. What else? The weakening dollar has seen more overseas visitors coming to LA for high-end shopping at The Grove, Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade. The giant movie theaters like Graumans’ Chinese and the Mann Bruin (in Westwood) are also pretty common pit stops for tourists. It’s all good; a trip to Los Angeles usually takes on an entertainment-industry appreciation type of flair. This is, after all, the entertainment capital of the world.
But LA isn’t all about hoping to spot Britney or Lindsey or Paris climb out of their limos, despite what glossy magazines might lead you to believe. For a family-friendly, kid-oriented vacation in Los Angeles, I recommend putting a day aside for a theme or amusement park. The best are Universal Studios Hollywood, the Santa Monica Pier, and (it goes without saying) Disneyland. Other kiddie favorites include Travel Town, the Griffith Park Pony & Wagon Rides, and (a bit further away) Legoland.
People of all ages, children and adults alike, often go to the La Brea Tar Pits. The location is convenient, although it wasn’t part of some urban planning; the tar pits pre-date Los Angeles by at least 10 thousand years. It’s interesting to consider that the geologic history of this part of the country still bubbles up, occasionally — and sometimes, right on Wilshire Boulevard! Be warned: The smell is as bad as you’d expect million-year-old tar to be. Yep: Pretty bad. Kids really like it, despite the prehistoric stench.
Other LA spots that are equally popular for tourists of all ages are the Aquarium of the Pacific (in Long Beach, around 30 minutes south of LA), the LA Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the California Science Center, Griffith Observatory, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. This last one, the Natural History Museum, has the especially appealing Ralph M. Parsons Discovery Center for children. My kids have spent hours here, enjoying the tactile experiences of the user-friendly exhibits.
Now, children historically get bored at art museums, particularly those that don’t cater to the underage crowd. Nevertheless, Los Angeles has so many interesting museums, it makes me wonder why it has a reputation for being devoid of culture. My favorite museums in LA are the Getty Center, the Norton Simon Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Villa (this is separate from the Getty Museum), and the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Others include the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, California African American Museum, Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Hammer Museum, and the Museum of Latin American Art. Children may get more restless here than at, oh, Disneyland, but hey – it’s not all about the kids, is it?
No, it’s not. And it’s not all about the latest star sighting, either. Tourists seem to flood Los Angeles seasonally, all wanting to see two or three of the same things: Famous people, surfers, and wild nightclubs. The next time you’re considering a vacation here, please remember that there is so much more.