When we were living in La Jolla, San Diego with our three young kids for a few months we made the three hour trip to spend one day in Los Angeles. We were in the middle of a full year of traveling around the country with our kids. Prior to this, I had never been to the West Coast before.
Our goal was to see the city, to see some of the touristy highlights and get a feel for what L.A. was like. We made stops at the Griffiths Observatory, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica.
For the drive I made pumpkin muffins and we packed a picnic lunch. While traveling over the last year, we learned that we preferred to bring and eat our own simple sandwiches and fruit rather than eating out for breakfast and lunch. Eating out can get expensive, and I’m often disappointed at the quality of the food vs. the price when we try to find a place to eat on the go.
Our first stop was the highly rated Griffiths Observatory. Entry to the observatory is free. There’s a lot to learn inside the observatory and we marveled at the telescopes and exhibits. It also has incredible views of the city of Los Angeles. Perhaps the biggest attraction is the view of the famous “Hollywood” sign in the hills. It’s also the location where a few scenes of La La Land were filmed. I recently rewatched the movie and was so excited to recognize the location and know that I had been there on our travels!
Hollywood Walk of Fame
We ate our picnic lunch in the car in the parking lot (no food is allowed on site) and made our way to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was definitely more fun for me than the kids to see the stars of the Hollywood actors. But I also had fun pointing out the “Mickey Mouse” star, which the kids at ages 4 ½ , 2 ½, and 1 (who can’t yet read), briefly acknowledged. We made the short walk over to the TCL Chinese theater. In front of the theater there are handprints and footprints of various actors including the actors who played Harry, Hermione, and Ron from Harry Potter.
Note that this area, while fun to make a quick stop, was not the nicest area. We were there in the middle of the day and stayed for a very short time and did not linger. Especially with little kids I would not recommend spending much time here. Its crowded and can feel a bit overwhelming.
Our next stop was Rodeo drive. There is public parking on Rodeo Dr. just beyond the “The Rodeo Collection” a sort of mini-outdoor shopping area set back from the street. This is on the north side of Rodeo drive. Driving south it will be on your right. We walked up and down Rodeo Drive window shopping. I wondered whether any of the other shoppers walking along the sidewalks were buying anything in the high-end shops. Though I didn’t see too many people carrying shopping bags. After hunching over our phones searching, we also wondered if we could find a place here for dinner. In the end, we figured we’d end up spending a ton of money and would just be stressed out with tired kids in a fancy restaurant.
So we drove to Santa Monica in search of a low-key well rated taco place called, Blue Plate Taco. It is located along the boardwalk by the beach.
When I hear Santa Monica, all I can think of is the Sheryl Crow Song, “All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun". The song continues, “until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard”, which I’m sure influenced me to want to visit.
We parked in a lot that was a bit sketchy, and later saw that there is a city parking garage on Colorado Ave and 4th St. which seemed like a better spot. After as short walk, we ate at Blue Plate Taco which was quite good. The restaurant is fun, relatively easy with kids and well decorated.
However, I was a bit disappointed by the area. This may be because my only context for Santa Monica is the Sheryl Crow song or my sunny view of California in general. I was expecting good things, but it wasn’t our favorite. It was quite busy and crowded. The boardwalk with restaurants and shops was separated from the beach by the highway Route 1. It was not the most scenic or relaxing spot. We were exhausted from a full day of exploring, which I'm sure played a roll in our feeling for the place. So, we walked up and down the strip a little, but did not make our way over the highway to go down to the pier. We wrapped up our day here and made the drive back to San Diego.
One Day in Los Angeles with Kids Summary
Despite the ups and downs, we all had a great time exploring L.A., learning a lot about a part of the country that I had never been too before. To have some sort of context for how such an important part of the country operates was really exciting and eye opening. It even allowed us to experience the intensity of the traffic that the area is well known for.
The kids had a good time taking it all in, even though it wasn’t a particularly kid-centric day. They really enjoyed the observatory, but spent a good amount of the other activities looking around from their comfortable stroller seats.
One Day in Los Angeles with Kids Trip Summary:
- Griffiths Observatory (free entry)
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Rodeo Drive
- Santa Monica and Blue Plate Kitchen
- Griffiths Observatory
- If you have other recommendations in LA, put them in the comments below. I’d love to hear what other fun things there are to do.