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Things to do in LA with a 10-year-old

Dec 2009

My 10-year old son and I are going to LA in December and we're looking for recommendations of places to go and things to see. I checked the archive info and it's pretty dated. Other than the Tar Pits, Griffith Park and Santa Monica Pier, any other recs? We plan to check out the LA County Museum of Art too. We'll be there about 3 days. Thanks! Rebecca


I'm transplanting from L.A. to the E. Bay in a month. I love L.A. Here are some things I love to do in December: -the LADWP Holiday Light Festival. http://www.dwplightfestival.com/ You walk from the LA Zoo parking lot along a road decorated on both sides with wonderful light scenes. It's a reasonable walk (not too long--just enough), you go at your own pace and buy churros along the way. If you can make it, go between 12/4-17 when it is ''vehicle free''--open only to pedestrians. Definitely a better experience to walk.

-As for Griffith Park itself, after the big burns of last year, hiking trails are pretty exposed, dusty, and without much vegetation. Same goes for walking/hiking opportunities in the San Gabriel mountains... much more recent and devastating burns.

-At the California Science Center, they have an interesting-sounding exhibit called ''America I Am. The African American Imprint''. Of note, it has an original copy of the Declaration of Independence on display, among other things, I'm sure... I haven't been, but if that doesn't interest you, the rest of the Science Center is pretty fun, with plenty of things to do, and free (except for the IMAX, and sometimes you need to make reservations for exhibits) http://www.californiasciencecenter.org/Exhibits/SpecialExhibits/america-i- am/america-i-am.php-

-For a glimpse into the entertainment industry, you can always go to Universal Studios, but also see tapings of shows. I've been to tapings of the Tonight Show. It's fun, you get to be a part of the audience, and it doesn't take all day...http://www.nbc.com/tickets/

I have recommendations for places to eat and other things... gardens, parks, lots more. email me if you want more... Jeanne


The Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire is lots of fun: http://www.petersen.org/ as
My sons spent a week in LA with their my mother for over 10 years and she took them to just about every museum and amusement park in LA. Here's a list of the museums I can recall off the top of my head that my sons enjoyed (in no particular order)

Peterson Automobile Museum (http://www.petersen.org/)

Autry Museum of Western Heritage (http://www.autrynationalcenter.org/) which is next to the LA zoo (http://www.lazoo.org/)

The Getty Museums (http://www.getty.edu/) The Getty Center complex is quite impressive and has some great views on a clear day.

California Science Center (http://www.californiasciencecenter.org/)

The Griffith Park Observatory (http://www.griffithobservatory.org/)

Travel Town (http://www.laparks.org/grifmet/tt/index.htm). I went there as a kid. Great if you like trains. It is located in Griffith Park

http://www.museumsla.org/ has some good info. LA native


I was born in LA and my 4-y.o. son and I still fly down there all the time. One of my fave eating spots is Toi on Sunset ... it's a Thai restaurant all done up in full-on punk/rock-n-roll style and our entire family (including my 73-year-old mom!) just loves it. You will really know you're in L.A. when you eat at Toi! http://www.toirockinthaifood.com/sunset/index.html I also recommend Pizzeria Mozza, founded by Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. The pizzas are the best I've ever had, and they treat kids like royalty there. Of course the Santa Monica Pier is a fun visit, as well as Griffith Park, where I believe you can rent horses to ride. Oh and be sure to get a Pinkberry frozen yogurt while you're in L.A. We always do! Lisa in Oakland

Fun cheap things to do in LA area?

March 2009

I'm temporarily working in Torrance (just south of LA) and am looking for suggestions on fun, relatively inexpensive, things to do and places to go. This is my first time down here. I know about the Getty museum, beaches, studio tours, but am wondering what other suggestions do you all have? Music venues, theatres, museums, other stuff? Or is there a book or website that could help me? The area is so large it is overwhelming! new to LA


There are lots of things to do but tend to be wide spread. Check out the following: www.arboretum.org www.huntington.org www.descansogardens.org all of which are in the San Gabriel Valley area. Thought these would be worth noting since they might be off your radar but worth the effort to see. Rick
One of my favorite places in LA is the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), which is a world-class museum with exhibits which run the gamut from classical art to a small but wonderful collection of American Art, from the colonial period to arts and crafts furniture and pottery. (There is an awesome forty-foot long David Hockney painting, Mulholland Drive, which is the first thing to greet you as you get off the elevator to the American galleries). The museum is easily accessible by mass transit on Wilshire Boulevard (a main east-west street), and you can also park (this is what I usually do) in the parking lot for the La Brea Tar Pits, which is right next door to the museum. This latter is a wonderful place, especially for children, since you can see the actual tar pits, bubbling with gases out front, and inside the museum they have giant mammoth skeletons, skulls of prehistoric predators, etc.

Another personal favorite is the Gamble House in Pasadena (easily accessible by freeway), near the Rose Bowl, which is one of the most famous examples of Craftsman architecture in the United States. They have excellent tours of the house, beautiful gardens, and a wonderful gift shop. Parking is easy right in front of the Museum. Pasadena itself is also really worth exploring; there is an original 50s style cafeteria right on the main street.

Enjoy LA! It is a fabulous city, full of things to do, and it would take a lifetime to see them all.

P.S. The pier in Santa Monica is also a fun thing to do with kids, since it has a ferris wheel, a pier with many shops, and is right on the beach. It would be easy to combine a visit to the Pier with a visit to the Getty Museum, since the Getty is just a short drive up the coast on Hwy. 1 (for the Getty, you have to reserve ahead, which is easy to do online). Jim


The Nuart theater is a cool place for catching indie film. It is in West L.A. http://www.landmarktheatres.com/market/LosAngeles/NuartTheatre.htm

Also, if you're star struck, you can watch for celebs on Robertson Blvd., especially at Ivy's. Check on You Tube for a preview - recently Sharon Stone was filmed there. You'll get a good taste of the scene. Robertson also has a lot of cool boutiques and antique stores.

L.A. Access is a good guidebook. Has a good variety of architecture, restaurants, significant buildings, and history. Grew Up There


Oh yes, I grew up in LA, and whenever I go, we head to the Museum of Natural History, the LaBrea tarpits, and the Museum of Science and Industry. We rent bikes at the Santa Monica pier, and ride to Venice beach. jj
Here are a few more ideas: walking along Hollywood Boulevard, trying to figure out who on earth those people with stars in the sidewalk are. Not to mention looking at some genuinely freaky people and some lavishly restored old movie palaces.

The Farmers Market is free, though one is likely to spend money on food there. If you like shopping mall as spectacle, you can go to The Grove shopping center adjacent, ride the 1/5 mile trolley, watch the dancing fountains etc. (The fountains are pretty spectacular -- my daughter could spend an hour watching them and walking through the water area when she was in preschool.)

For people interested in contemporary art, there are clumps of galleries in Chinatown on (pedestrian!) Chung King Road, in Downtown in various places in the historic core, and in Culver City on Washington Blvd. centering around La Cienega Blvd.


I recently went to the Getty Villa near Santa Monica which is free to enter, you just need to reserve the ticket and parking online. The concept of a reproduction Roman villa is fascinating to older kids and the setting is spectacular. They have one of the best children's activities rooms I've ever seen, plus the museum itself has some really stunning stuff, nicely explained. The cafe seemed slow and expensive (we didn't try it) but I don't think they'd stop you bringing your own picnic. Fiona
Hi- I grew up in LA and there are many cheap things to do with kids. I have a almost 6 year old girl and almost 3 year old boy. We like to visit La Brea Tar Pits(my father is a docent at the Page Museum), The Grove/Farmers Market(they have story time during the week on the grass, plus a water show and koi in the pond), Griffith Park has pony rides and train rides for a couple $$. A day at the beach is always so gratifying to the kids as well- hit up carbon beach, nicer, not as crowded and you will spot some celebs. good parks..look at beverly hills, the one on comstock, across from Aaron Spelling mansion is great. have fun! jill b

Where to Stay in LA Area

Aug 2005

We are going to see the King Tut exhibt at the LA County Museum of Art on Wilshire Blvd. in LA. The zip code is 90036. Pls. recommend a place to stay. The places very close to the Museum are fairly cheap but had really scary reviews, like people hearing gun shots outside their windows and almost being mugged. I can't afford to pay more than $100-$115 per night, but definately want to be safe. I'm worried about LA traffic too, so need something within a decent distance, but in a safe neighborhood. Pls give hotel name and address if possible. Thanks Sarah


I would book a hotel near LAX through expedia or orbitz. The traffic in LA isn't nearly as bar as it is rumored to be. The comfort of your hotel room will more than make up for the 20 mins it may take you to drive to the museum. The area around the museum (Miracle Mile/Beverly Hills ajacent) is alright if you live there but a decent hotel is going to cost you. I booked the LAX Raddisson for the first time this spring and loved it! Feel free to email if you have questions. tia
If I were you, I'd go onto a website like Expedia or Priceline to look for a motel in Santa Monica as close to Wilshire Blvd as you can get. Then I'd take the Rapid Bus down Wilshire to the museum. You could take your rental car and it would be easy, too. The museum is in a neighborhood that has nice apartments and homes, but horrible temporary accomodations. Wilshire can be dangerous very late at night, but it isn't so bad in the evening that you couldn't take the bus back to Santa Monica at 9 PM. Santa Monica is a nice, touristy beach town that will give you plenty to do when you get out of the museum. It is about 45 minutes away from the museum in traffic. It could be more or less depending on the time of day you are traveling and what is going on at any given moment on Wilshire. Santa Monica is adjacent to Westwood (UCLA's neighborhood), then you'd travel through Beverly Hills, then you'd reach La Cienega and the museum. The La Brea Tar Pits are there, too. I'm from LA, and if I was going to see King Tut, this is what I'd do to save myself aggravation. Contact me if you want to discuss what the area is like. Take care, Christina
Regarding your post about wanting to go visit the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles - the area that you are staying in is pretty safe. I'm very familiar with it. If you stay within walking distance of that museum, you should be fine. I'm sorry I don't have any hotels to recommend but the Wilshire/La Brea area is safe, I can't picture who would be shooting guns. Anonymous
Try the Farmer's Daughter on Fairfax.It's a short drive from the County Museum and across the street from the farmer's market, which is a great place to get a meal (sort of like a very good, ethnic food court) plus you can pick up fruit, etc.

There's also the Ramada Inn in West Hollywood. The neighborhood is gay and friendly. It is across the street from a Whole Foods and two blocks away from a nice playground. (Most of the kids there seem to have Russian immigrant parents/grandparents.) Another short drive from the County Museum. When you go to LA, be sure to ask about parking charges, because that can add a substantial amount to your costs.

Have you looked at Trip Advisor? That's a good place to check out hotels. Crime is not a big problem in these parts of LA, but walking is pretty unpleasant outside of West Hollywood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. carol


I have stayed at the Del Capri on Wilshire. Its been a couple of years since I've been there so I don't know the latest rates. The neighborhood is lovely and the facility has a tray of breakfast foods brought to your room each morning. The pool/courtyard is lovely too. Always ask about AAA rates or other group rates if you are a member.

In April, my kids and hubby and I stayed at the Best Western in Marina Del Rey. Beautiful, homey rooms and right on the beach. It was around $115 a night for a second floor room on the street vs beach side. Don't know what the rates are this time of year. It is a little drive to Wilshire but not too bad! It is very close to Venice beach. Here is a link to peek at that place http://travel.yahoo.com/p-hotel-374396-best_western_jamaica_bay_inn-i I know there are lots of decent and even nice places around. Mary


May 2005

Re: 10th Anniversary romantic getaway
The Beverly Hills Hotel has beautiful rooms, views, a nice pool, and, in December, a shot a nice weather. If I were in your shoes, I'd pick the Beverly Hills Hotel, given the time of year. anon


Beach Vacation in So. Cal

June 2003

We are looking for a place for a family holiday in So. Cal for one week (July 28-August 4). Anyone with a recommendation for a rental (hotel suite) near the beach (e.g., Venice, Santa Monica)? Or, a friend wanting to do a house exchange (to Berkeley)? Our children are 2 and 4 y. Jed


I stayed at the CalMar Suites in Santa Monica last December. I believe it used to be a '50s era apartment building at one time. My unit consisted of 2 bedrooms, bath, livingroom, and full kitchen, with pots, pans, dishes, etc., all very clean and tidy.It has a pool, and the managers on duty for the 3 days I was there were very friendly and attentive. The rates at that time were approx. $120/night. When I made the reservation I told them that I would be arriving late (after 11 p.m.) They had a safe, hidden place where they stashed a key for me to pick up, and I ''officially'' checked in the next morning. It is located 1 block from the 3rd St. promenade, which has nonstop street entertainment of every kind, restaurants, and movie theatres. It's approx. 2 blocks to the beach and pier (carnival-type rides and atmosphere.) I parked my car (off-street parking)and didn't drive it again until it was time to drive back to the Bay Area. I really enjoyed my stay there and would definitely go back. Their web site is www.calmarhotel.com Mari

Things to do with kids in Downtown LA

11/99 Any suggestions for good places to go with kids in and around LA? I'm specifically interested in anything in the downtown area, as my husband and I will be at a conference and will be switching off to do things with the kids (well, actually a 4.5 year old and an infant). But, we're happy to hear about anything that's fun! Thanks!
If you're going to be in the Downtown area, don't miss Travel Town in the great outdoors of Griffith Park!! It's a fairly short drive from downtown (I assume you''ll have a car) and has been a huge hit with all the kiddies we know. There are lots of trains for kids to climb on and explore and it's basically open every day. It's located on the back side (Burbank side) of the park, and the closest freeway exit is Forest Lawn, but ask the hotel staff exactly how to get there. Griffith Park itself is akin to Golden Gate Park in S.F. i.e huge, urban and basically safe.The L.A. Zoo and the Griffith Park Observatory are also there. There are playgrounds and lots of other activities for kids, but I don't know specifics. Again, ask the hotel staff for more info. Have fun!!!

In downtown you should make sure you get to Angel's Flight. It's an old "trolley-like" ride (short and cheap). At the bottom is what I call the Mercado Central - not sure what it's real name is but it's a Latino market place, just like you would find in Mexico or Central America. Horchata is highly recommended on any visit to the Mercado Central. At the top of Angel's Flight is the "Water Court" (again my name for it - not sure what its official name is). It's on the top of the structure across from the top of Angel's Flight. There used to be excellent concerts on Fridays at Noon.

There is a wonderful (or highly wasteful considering this is the desert) fountain by the Music Center. It's got perhaps 60-120 spouts set in the pavement. The height of the water varies from off to 20 feet. It's really fun for the kids. If you take a suit you can try to get through the fountain without getting wet (good luck :).


Olvera Street (Mexican town) + El Pueblo de Los Angeles, 125 Paseo de la Plaza
Japantown + Japanese Am. Musuem, 369 E. First St.
Children's Museum, 310 N. Main St.

Driving to LA

Nov 2004

Driving to LA with 18-mo old twins

Non-CA natives, infrequent traveler by car, not super excited about this trip, but it is better than hosting (for me right now). Any tips? I-5 or 101? Places to jump off (e.g. if we went 101, we could stop at the Dennis the Menace park in Monterey....). Personally, I wish we could skip the holidays this year! Wendy


We drive to LA often with our twins When our twins were little, we began travel at dinner time. I fed the kids in the car while my husband drove I-5. We made one stop to change diapers, get coffee for the adults, and let the little ones play at the indoor play structure (usually around 7:30pm). I brought light up/wind up crib toys that play music to help them unwind and get to sleep. As they grew up, I used a small tv/vcr, and now a dvd player to help time go by faster. Good luck. Susie - Twins by the Bay
I was born and raised in Pasadena so we do this trip frequently because my kids adore seeing Grandma for the holidays. It seems daunting at first but we've got it down to where we actually enjoy the time together.

My advice is

(1) Leave as early as you possibly can--we usually pack the night before and try to be out of the house by 4:30 am so the kids sleep in their jammies until we stop for breakfast. I pack a change of regular clothes and dress them in the car before we go into the restaurant.
(2) Take I-5, it's the fastest
(3) Stop for breakfast at the Harris Ranch (VERY kid friendly) which is the midpoint of your journey. After breakfast, we let them run around out back by the fountain. We have an entire collection of plastic ''rocket'' cups which come with the kids' meal. They love these.
(4) For the 2nd half of the journey, they get to open one, possibly 2 brand new toys (a new coloring book, a cassette with a follow-along picture book, a new toy car--whatever suits)
(5) We stop at a rest stop just before the grapevine, stretch our legs, use the bathtroom, perhaps get a little treat from the vending machines (they have push pops).
(6) Arrive in L.A. by lunchtime. We let Grandma know via cell phone to get lunch ready cause we're almost there.

We repeat the same routine for the trip back but without the brand new toys since Grandma usually has presents for them during the visit.

Best of luck with your holiday travel. Go Bears!


We drove down to LA from Oakland(and back) countless times when my three kids were small and our best bet was to leave as early as possible and take I-5. 101 is more scenic, but not worth the extra few hours it takes. We'd pack a bag of toys (always a few new things) for them to play with and a bag of snacks to keep them munching. There are several rest stops along the way for diaper changes and space to run around to blow off steam. We'd always make one stop midway at a restaurant just to give ourselves a break. My husband hates ''children's music'' so we'd blast the oldies station and sing our lungs out. I probably have a selective memory, but our trips to LA to visit grandma and grandpa were always fun. I hope yours is too. Jan
I drove back and forth between Berkeley & L.A. several times during my undergrad., with my 7-8 yr. old. Take the I-5, by all means! You will save at least 2 hours. There are parts where radio reception is not that great - so I would recommend a good tape/CD; they'll probably sleep most of the way. If it's cold enough, you may see snow right before Frazier Park - that's right past the ''grapevine''. One year, I let my son out to play and he had a blast. I've tried the I-101 route once - all it did was add HOURS to the trip.. even stopping to sightsee - was a drag as we just wanted to get to where we were going... Good luck. Gizella
i like to get the pain overwith quickly and while little one is sleeping. our last drive with the wee one we drove the 5. Harris Ranch is midway between the bay area and LA: great rooms, fun pool, good food, reasonable rates. we left here around 8 in the evening, arrived at harris ranch at 11:30. transfered sleeping baby into one of the rooms in our suite and hung out. got up in the morning, ate breakfast, swam in the pool and ran around, gassed up, and got back on the road a little early for naptime, and she slept most of the way. Julia
If your goal is to drive to LA as quickly as possible take the 580 to I-5 and leave after 8pm so there will be no traffic and the kids will sleep. However, never drive the I-5 on the sunday after Thanksgiving! The traffic is horrific and there is nowhere decent to stop.

If you plan to drive during the day and have the time to take a nicer route than definately drive the 101. (I wouldn't take a sidetrip to Monterey unless you have tons of extra time however because it will add 45 minutes to your drive each way from the 101!) There are lots of places to stop on the way down:

Make it to Gilroy and stop at the outlet center. There is a carters store where the kids can cruise around and play with toys for a bit. There are nice bathrooms with changing stations. There is a Fresh Choice restaurant (good for kids) and coffee places too.

There is a central California chain of restaurants called Margie's Diner that serves huge portions and works well for toddlers. They are near the highway, one is Salinas, one in Gilroy, one just south of San LUis Obispo, and one in Goleta just north of Santa Barbara.

There is a nice rest stop between King City (which is a notorious speed trap by the way!) and Paso Robles where the kids can run around on the grass. I usually bring a ball in the car.

In Paso Robles the old downtown square is lovely and it has a nice playground for kids. It's not far from the highway. There is a F Mclintocks Saloon right near the square which is a fun place to take kids and has good food.

About 30 minutes south of Paso Robles is San Luis Obispo and they have a great downtown main street area built near the creek. That is a nice place to stretch your legs.

About twnty miles south of Santa Maria are two state beaches/camp areas called Gaviota Beach and Refugio. Refugio has an exceptionally beautiful beach with shady palm trees that you can see from the highway. It's lovely there and the kids can run around. You can pick up a picnic in Pismo Beach and eat it there or dirve some more and eat it at Refugio.

In Goleta (suburb just north of Santa Barbara) is Goleta Beach Park. You take Hwy 218 towards the SB airport and UCSB (it's a super short highway) Take Sandspit Exit just before you reach UCSB campus and turn left. a few yards later turn right into the beach park. There is a great playground there literally on the sand, good restrooms and a fantastic restaurant called the Beachside Bar Cafe which has great food and outdoor seating too. There is a super long pier you can walk out with the kids. It's very fun.

In Santa Barbara there is a new children's park right on El Cabrillo blvd which runs parallel to the beautiful palm tree lined beach. If you like Denis the Menance Park in Monterey....this one is 10 times better.

Let's see, Ventura has some great public parks too and beaches the kids can toddle around. and then Ventura is 90 minutes north of LA (without traffic).

the 101 is scenic and there are so many places to stop and hang out for a while if the kids get cranky in the car. If the kids are sleeping where you had planned to stop than you can drive on and stop an hour further down the road.

Have a nice trip! Christa


And I thought driving to LA with one kid is tough! Take I-5, it's faster. Stop at the Peach Tree Resturtaunt in Marysville for food. It's approximately half way. They have an amazing collection of tin lunch boxes! And a peach orchard the kids could run around in. They have a great gift shop with a kid's coloring book section...stuff like that.

There are several rest stops that are spacious and grassy. I'd suggest, since the kids are so young, don't waste your money at theme parks. Just hit a rest stop for 20 mins and let the kids run around on the grass. Have a picnic, pet some dogs... don't fuss with strollers and long lines and tickets and other people. It's an 8 hour drive. It'll only add to the stress. I'm a native Californian and have traveled up and down milliona of time. This is the fastes and easiest way to complete the drive almost stress free.

Oh, and a secret traveling tip: Dramamine! It's a motion sickness tablet you can buy over the counter. My kid gets sick in the car and it really helped AND the side efect is sleepiness. So, she'll sleep for hours and the trip just floats on by!

Good luck and uh... Happy Holidays! Alena


We just made the LA drive with our then-15mo last month, and the best advice I have is to start the drive right before bedtime, if at all possible. The freeway (I-5 if speed is your goal) is less crowded and, best of all, they conk right out and sleep most of the way there. The only downside is you get in tired and they're fresh and ready to go, but if you're seeing family, hopefully you have a built-in sitter who could let you catch some zzzs. If night travel isn't possible, bring some favorite CDs, small toys, or a LeapPad-type thing if you have one. And bring a towel or window-shade for daytime travel - 5+ hours with the sun on one side of the car is brutal. There are pretty good rest stops along I-5 where you can get out and change a diaper and let toddlers run around on the grass during the day. Bring a ball to get them moving at the rest stop and burn off some energy. Jeni
We've driven to LA once or twice a year with our twin daughters ever since they were born (now they're 5). We always take I-5 because it's significantly shorter than 101. 101 is much pretier, but that's only really an issue for adults. Kids are equaly entertained/bored with beauty or semi trucks, so we choose the shorter route! We always pack plenty of car-toys, and for the past several years interactive toys like leap pads. We always have lots of snacks ready for them as well. And we always make one stop at some fast-food chain with a play place so the kids can run for an hour while we watch and eat a little, and then hit the road again. We let the kids play the whole time, only stopping some to take a drink, and then they eat in the car after we head out. This is typically a dinner stop, and then sometime after dinner they fall asleep for the rest of the trip which is also a great way to get many miles covered painlessly!

For some trips, it's more convenient to arrive not late at night, so we've driven most of the way as described above, then stop at a hotel in Grapevine (just before heading over the hills into the LA basin). The next day we get a nice breakfast out and have only about two hours to get all the way to our relatives' house to arrive at about lunch time.

We've also tried flying, but by the time you get to the airport early enough, rent a car in LA and drive to your destination it's taken almost as long as to drive plus it costs a lot more. Mike


may I suggest something that is probably one of the most powerful tools of parenting and long distance traveling that has come about since the invention of the automobile. It is The Portable DVD Player. I think there is a god named after it. Deeveedious, the god of peace and quiet. I know you asked for places to go and with twins, you may already know this bit of wisdom but I couldn't help myself. erin
Because your kids are 18 months I recommend several things. You want to be in the car as little as possible, so you should take I-5. It is a lot shorter, nothing to look at, but it won't matter to your kids. Also anything is exciting to an 18 month old, so if you just stop at a rest stop and play chase for 20 minutes they will think that is very exciting. When we go on road trips of that length we try to leave early in the morning so the kids sleep for a good portion of the trip and then we stop for breakfast when they wake \ We usually leave at about 4AM or 5AM, but it has worked out best to leave really early. Try to have a good attitude if you can. It helps alot. There is one stop just this side of the grapevine (so pretty far south) that is a good one for kids. It is a state park that used to be an old army fort. It's called Fort Tejon. There is some grass to run on and logs to jump off of and not much else, but my kids can have a really good time there. Kids music also helps. lots of road trips
There's one important thing that nobody seems to have mentioned yet: If and when you stop for a meal, you have to let young kids run around and play for a while BEFORE you sit down in a restaurant. It's just not reasonable to expect them to go straight from sitting in the car to sitting down for a meal.

That's why fast food places with play structures are good, and so are rest areas when the weather's good, but Harris Ranch and the TA ''truckers' mall'' (next-to-last exit before the Grapevine) are more pleasant indoor places for the adults to hang out while the kids run for a bit.

My son loves the fountains at Harris Ranch (there's a small one indoors and a larger one out, at the opposite end of the hall from the restaurants), the restrooms are really nice and include both plenty of diaper-changing space and mini-sized toilets for the newly potty-trained, and there is a little shop that sells travel toys along with gift items, a few books, candy, etc.

The TA place is not so upscale but is a good place to stop in bad weather or in the middle of the night or very early morning. In one building there are a couple of fast food options, a coffee shop, a convenience/gift store and a few vending machines, a video games room, and large restrooms with changing tables. There's enough hallway space for a bit of leg- stretching. There's a gas station across the way.

Mom of kids with grandparents in Orange County


Various Other Areas

11/99

Venice Boardwalk
Santa Monica Pier (amusement park)
Santa Monica Beach playgrounds
Travel Town in Griffith Park
Venice Canals (slow and leisurely - great for a walk)
LA County Museum of Art has kids stuff - check with them
Museum of Science and Tech
Museum of Nat History
La Brea Tar Pits (my 4 year old loved this - your mileage will vary)
and
Some place with a big mouse running around everywhere(?). Sounds weird.

Pasadena

If you're near Pasadena, there's a wonderful children's museum there called Kidspace. My son loved it at that age.

Santa Monica

Linda (6/99)
Santa Monica is a wonderful place for a child.  We moved to East Bay
after several years in West LA.  Just off the top of my head:
1.  The beach.  This can be a big outing with sunshades and equipment or
just a nice walk with a stroller.  If the weather is nice your child
will not tire of this outing even after several days of the same thing.
2.  The tot lot in the middle of the canals (Venice).  This is a
fabulous place to meet other toddlers.  It is a small, neighborhood park
and most kids know each other.
3.  The 3rd Street Promenade.  My son was always wild for this outing.
Lots of activity to look at.  3rd Street is just a shopping street like
Solano Ave or College Ave--but a million times better.
4.  UCLA.  There are lots of big green lawns and easy uphill walks with
rather safe stairs.  Excellent for getting a kid so tired he'll sleep
when you pop him into his stroller so that you can sit under a tree and
read your handy book
5.  Will Rogers Park in Pacific Palisades.  I don't remember the busline
but the park is free if you walk in.  A huge park with polo horses on
some weekend days.  If your child is a good walker there is a 1 mile
walk with wonderful views that has a short patch of moderately-steep
walking at the very beginning.  After that, the walk is fairly easy--but
it is a circle without a short-cut off of the mile.
6.  A zillion more things--others will mention some I'm sure.  Have fun.

Sojeila

9/99 Can anyone recommend any nice but inexpensive places to stay in Santa Monica, Pacific Palasides or Topanga (all California) for two adults and a 2 1/2 and 5 year old. We need something for 2-3 nights over Thanksgiving weekend and if a dog was welcome too well that would be a major bonus.
In Santa Monica, we stayed at the SangriLa (?sp) Hotel (?Motel) on the road along the ocean. I don't remember the cost; but It was not much different from a regular hotel room in that area. The building is done in an art deco style, and must have been an apartment building at one time. Many of the rooms are suites with full kitchen. We had a bedroom, living room and kitchen. There is no restaurant, or room service, but they do serve a fairly full continental breakfast in a room on the first floor. We stayed there when my sons were 1 and 2 1/2 years old; everyone was friendly and helpful. It's a short walk to the beach and a short walk to the shopping street - ? 4th street. I will definitely stay there again with young children. Having the kithchen was very convenient and the two rooms worked very well. You can take some breakfast to your room, or go down for a quiet cup of coffee in the am. We ate most of our other meals with family. I think they may even take pets.
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