At the end of March we traveled to Los Angeles for spring break. The winter in Chicago this year wasn’t too terrible, but still, by this time we’re always ready for something bright. Brainstorming where to go for our family trips has quickly gone from Tim and me choosing places, to seeing what ideas Orlagh and Iris have too. We had just watched La La Land and the girls had lots of questions like: How does she fly through the air? Is he really playing the piano, he’s so good! Can you stop and dance in the streets like that? They were so excited about the magic of filmmaking and the pretty parts of the city. Tim and I have been to L.A. on many occasions for work or for brief stays with siblings, so we already loved its blend of city and ocean. It made choosing L.A. an easy pick.
Driving around Los Angeles can be maddening. With that in mind, we kept our destinations relatively close (not more than an hour by car) and planned to go during non-peak hours. We fit in lots of amazing food, beaches, culture and a theme park in six days.
Loews Santa Monica was home base. It checks a lot of boxes, especially if you’re traveling with kids: beach access and a poolside room; Santa Monica Pier with rides and an aquarium; easy bike rental. Plus it’s casual and light-filled with plenty of lounging space around the hotel. We walked the shores and rented bikes to take through Venice Beach (where the girls stopped for henna tattoos). We picked up light groceries for the room along fourth street promenade and went for the best sushi.
Early the next morning we headed to Universal Studios. If you arrive in time and don’t mind paying a little extra for parking, you can grab a front gate spot for the theme park. At the end of a long afternoon, it was great to be steps away from our car with a tired little one. We spent most of the day being wizards like Harry Potter. As film lovers, the tram ride through four acres of movie sets with historic notes gave a great look behind the scenes. We heard some of the best noodles were in Japantown, so after, we found Sawtelle Boulevard for the most delicious ramen.
The Getty sits above L.A., nestled in the hills, and was definitely on our bucket list. The open spaces and gardens made for a calm, meandering visit with the most incredible sweeping views. Guests can choose to take a pretty tram ride to the entrance or walk up the lush hill. There’s a fee to park, but admission to The Getty is free. Friends told us to stop in nearby Brentwood Country Mart, so we started the morning there with coffee and muffins and returned for a casual taco lunch.
My favorite day was our afternoon in Malibu lounging on the beach at Paradise Cove. The tide pools and soft shores gave us hours of exploration and play. With no crowd and a beach cafe nearby, we parked ourselves on towels until late afternoon. We hit the legendary shack, Reel Inn, on the way back for plates of fresh grilled fish. We spent the last full day walking the mile-long Abbot Kinney Boulevard with its diverse shopping and restaurants — it’s near the hotel and was a great and casual way to wind down our vacation.
STAY | Loews (Santa Monica) | Modern, spacious; beachfront access, close to the historic Santa Monica Pier and ferris wheel.
EAT | Tsujita LA (Japantown) | Known for delicious rice bowls and ramen. SUGARFISH (Santa Monica) | The simplest sushi. Caffe Luxxe (Brentwood) | Pastries and coffee. Frida Taqueria (Brentwood) | Casual taco stand. Reel Inn (Malibu) | Cold beer, fish market and laid-back restaurant. Wabi (Venice) | Traditional Japanese menu and sushi.
DO | Universal Studios (Hollywood) | Theme park and CityWalk promenade. Paradise Cove (Malibu) | Beach day with tide pools. The Getty (Los Angeles) | Exhibitions, art, architecture, amazing views of Los Angeles.