Got Kids? TOP THINGS TO DO IN LA WITH KIDS!

Photo: @Ographr

Photo: @Ographr

Top things to do in Los Angeles WITH KIDS— the second part of my VISIT LOS ANGELES series. (See the first post on TOP FREE THINGS TO DO IN LA). The City of Angeles has gems for children that are worth carving out time whether you are a local and looking for fun things to do this summer or year round, or vacationing on the West Coast.

There are many lists out there, but these are my curated picks from the past few years running around LA with Huck and Hayden. Nothing is sponsored, by the way…I’m so often asked these questions, I just decided to jot it all down.

THE HUNTINGTON GARDENS

CHILDREN UNDER 4  ARE FREE.

If you follow me on stories, you see how often we are at “The Gardens.” I truly love the wide open spaces, the unbelievable selection of different gardens and cultures. It is an amazing experience for kids of all ages. My suggestions for first time visitors:

If you live in the area, buy a family membership for about $150 or so. It will pay for itself quickly and you can also bring a guest (there are rules to how many and adults verses kids, please check). Otherwise, check photo below for pricing. 

I recommend giving yourself some time if you are paying the day rate. There are several places to eat throughout the gardens, but you could also pack a picnic. If you want to see it all, I would give myself a good 3-4 hours, maybe more. Get a map- there is a lot to see! Make sure you don’t miss the Botanical Garden, the Children’s outdoor museum and the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, where you can also grab a bite to eat on site. The Art galleries are worth visiting, but may be more of an interest to you, not the kids. If your child likes water, there are fountains and streams in the children’s section. I make sure we have a swimsuit that dries easily or a change of clothes. You don’t have to, but the younger ones tend to get wet. We definitely use a stroller for Hayden, FYI. There are stroller and wheel-chair accessible ways throughout the entire garden.

THE SKIRBALL MUSEUM

The Noah’s Ark Exhibit is not to be missed. From my experience, it seems to interest children until the age of around 11 or 12. ADMISSION IS FREE for children under 2 always and FREE for everyone EVERY THURSDAY on a first come, first serve basis starting at 11:45. Huck had the best time here when he was 3, and now Hayden is taking after him. It’s incredibly inventive, educational and historical (even I enjoyed it!). Plenty of activities to keep your interest, keep them occupied (ropes to climb, lightning to “make,” etc), and don’t miss the Family Art Programs.

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Courtsey of Museum

Courtsey of Museum

MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

I have heard AMAZING things about this Natural History museum in Los Angeles, so I felt the need to include it. My usual rounds of the Natural Science and History Museum is in Houston with my parents and Hayden, so I added the text from the website. While writing this column, I’m making a separate list to take Huck and Hayden asap and I’ll update this with my thoughts!

Discover your world past and present. See dinosaurs in our new Dinosaur Hall, including the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series. Get the behind- the- scenes look at how scientists work on fossils at our Dino Lab. See 240 specimens, including skeletons from mastodons to whales, animal dioramas from North American and Africa, and more.Stroll through our extensive Nature Gardens, and discover true stories about plants and animals in our Nature Lab. See and touch more than 2,000 spectacular specimens displayed in our Gem and Mineral Hall, and enter into the vault to view diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and other exquisite gems. Our Butterfly and Spider Pavilions are open seasonally. Here you can wander through the changing ecosystem with over 30 species of fluttering butterflies all around you, or witness arachnids up close and personal. source: website.

Courtesy of Museum

Courtesy of Museum

Courtesy of instagram/museum

Courtesy of instagram/museum

BACK AT THE BEACH

I’ve talked about how Back at the Beach Cafe is one of my favorite spots in between Santa Monica beach and Malibu before (like in THIS POST HERE). I LOVE it.

PROS: Enjoy lunch while your toes feel the sand. Let the kids play on the playground on the beach right by the patio all in front of the ocean. If you aren’t responsible for any kiddos, btw, sit under the umbrella and enjoy a glass of wine. You are steps away from feeling the water on your feet! It's adjacent to the Anneberg Beach House, which is worth a visit, too.

CONS: Parking. On a good parking day, there’s inexpensive paid parking right in front… on a crowded summer weekend, it takes a long time to find parking and can take a while to get a spot at the restaurant outside on the patio. Indoor seating can be reserved for tables of 6 or more. You can also make reservations through the Anneberg for parking and a pool spot, which I would highly recommend if you want to make a day out of it.

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FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE

Right here in LA county, there is a little slice of New England seaside in the Marina called Fisherman’s Village. It definitely has some instagram worthy photo-ops, but I would only make a trip to Marina Del Rey if I was 1) staying nearby or 2) going on a boat ride. The village is still in need of a bit of renovation, however, there are restaurants and stores open that are charming.

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

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SANTA MONICA PIER

You’ll most likely get some great photos here, but I describe my reticence in the first segment of these posts HERE. If you’re visiting the area in an off season, I say go! But it gets very crowded otherwise. Still a famous site to see and kids love festival type games and rides, so it’s a must have on this list.


ECHO LAKE PARK

Rent a pedal boat and have a picnic in the park that dates back to 1860! After the extensive renovation, pedal through the lake or walk the path lined with palm trees with the Los Angeles skyline as the back drop. Have a bite at Beacon while you’re there!

LA BREA TAR PITS

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Again, this made the list on the first segment, but it bears repeating here because kids love it. Right here in the HEART of LA, you get to experience the Ice Age. The LA BREA TAR PITS next to the L.A. County Museum of Art is the most significant source of prehistoric fossils ever excavated. These fossils have made their way into museums around the world, but the largest collection is here at the Page Museum. It's free to wander the park and look at the tar pits and outdoor exhibits. During the summer, you can watch the excavators at work

ANGELS FLIGHT RAILWAY

Remember Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams riding this Angles Flight railway in THE NOTEBOOK? Well, maintenance is now complete and it is open! If you have reason to go to Downtown LA, this is a MUST SEE or must ride! I must say I had forgotten about this historical landmark until Katherine Kelly Lang and B&B producer Casey Kasprzyk added it to their Bus Tour! It’ll be one of the best dollars you spend in LA! And totally instagram worthy;)

Image: instagram

Image: instagram

TRAVEL TOWN

When Hayden was barely a month old, we took our first family outing to Travel Town to do something fun for Huck. This is a great space for kids to explore old trains, learn about the rich 150 year-old heritage and roam around. ADMISSION IS FREE. Train rides are a nominal fee (around $3) and really fun for younger kids. Bring a picnic to have a snack at a picnic table. There are limited snacks available on site.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIO TOUR

If your kids are a bit older (at least 8), your family might consider a studio lot tour to see behind the scenes of where the magic happens. This site does a great job at breaking down all the tours in town, prices and age limits. If you are a fan of a show (like FRIENDS, for instance, you might get a kick out of sitting on the couch at “Central Perk!”), take that particular tour! I’ve been on all the lots and seen the tours drive by. Generally, they are all pretty informative and fun. If you keep your eyes peeled, there’s a great chance you’ll see stars of shows walking around. I hear Universal reenacts the plane crash from WAR OF THE WORLDS, has fire, etc—- plus you get to spend the rest of the day at the Universal park! Most people I talk to after they take a tour rave about it! The studios are located all over the city, so make sure you plan your day’s events around traffic and parking.

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Scroll down on my post HERE where I give away a great secret for kids that love music. Many concerts at the bowl have FREE rehearsals during the day with easy (nearly VIP) parking and so fun for the kids to run around and get a “private” day concert.

If you’ve done any of these activities and have some tips, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS. I want to continually update this post so it stays current. Looking foward to your thoughts and if you have anything to add.

Happy Summer with the kiddos!!

xoxo

AAJ

MERRY MULTITASKING with AUTOTRADER

Who wants a new car for Xmas?? NOT ME... but, read why I changed my mind?! 

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Y’all.... I’m opening up here. First of all, this blog post is sponsored by Autotrader, but you know me.... these thoughts are definitely my own. If you frequent this blog or communicate with me via social media, you may know a few things about yours truly already.
Secondly, I can be indecisive. I deplore it and am WORKING ON IT. Finally, I don’t love change. WORKING ON IT. 

Something you probably DON’T know about me is this: I have outright owned my car since January 2005. Yep. In one month, it will be 14 years. I’m not sure what all that says about me, I’ll let you all make your own opinions (and feel free to share in comments cause I’m curious). 

All this to say, Joel wants me to get a new car for Christmas. I kept saying NO NO NO, I like my car. I take care of my car. It has served me well and is still very safe. But now, even my parents are chiming in....they think I will appreciate driving my children around in an updated vehicle with back up cameras and all the added safety components. 

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Ok. Fine. I will say when I get my car serviced and they give you a dealership “loaner,” it is tempting to want that upgrade!! But who has the time it will take to do this?? So, I put it off. I mean, I still haven’t picked that chandelier I’ve discussed with you! (oops, that was a confession). I can barely get to the grocery store! This is the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most hectic. So many little things to attend, gifts to remember to buy. It seems everyday, I remember somewhere else I WANT to be. Holiday school performances, charity events, etc. My husband, kids and work obviously take a great deal of attention. So, when I finally have a moment to myself, I usually want to go for a run or yoga. Or sleep. (Or catch up on my shows, am I right??) Not go car shopping. UGH. It sounds overwhelming. 

When AutotraderAccelterate reached out to partner for Christmas, it seemed serendipitous. I thought, ok, if I needed ONE MORE SIGN to do get this car thing done, here I have it. I wanted to test it out to see if was really helpful before sharing anything with y’all. I started using their online (mobile, iPad, computer) service Accelerator. I could easily get so many answers from my fingertips. This is a merry-multi-tasker’s dream!! Could I trade my car in for anything? Or should I donate? What is the safest model out there right now? If we have another baby (I KNOW, A WHOLE DIFFERENT CONVERSATION), what vehicle comfortably fits THREE CAR SEATS. (Oh.MY.Goodness). Am I now only able to drive a minivan or are there other options?? 

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According to USNews.com, more people buy cars in December than any other month. Are any of you adding car buying to your already busy to-do list? It does make sense. People want to get inventory off their hands by the end of the year, make sales quotas, donate a car for tax purposes (and to be a good person- wink, wink!). So, the heat is on for me to make this transition 

You may already be using accerator, but if you’re not, I highly suggest checking it out. It does so much of the work for you. I put the kids to bed, pour a glass of wine, get cozy and shop for a car. On my own time. In my own weird, picky way. #MerryMerry to me! 

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They do so much of the work before hand. (Did you know an average buyer spends 3 hours in the dealership completing their deal. WHO HAS THAT TIME??) To learn more about car shopping online, look HERE.

Here’s the deal: So, basically, #AccelerateWithAutotrader has a search algorithm that drives more relevant results for you. It also has Kelley Blue Book so you purchase with expert, up-to-date data and pricing info. You do all the hard part with your hot cocoa in bed at home (even the majority of the paperwork, credit, etc), then all you have left to do is SHOW UP, TEST DRIVE AND SIGN on the dotted line. So, depending on how exciting my car driving adventure will be, I’m allotting under an hour on my schedule. No joke! Drop off gifts, go GET MY NEW CAR, pick up dry-cleaning, pick up Huck after school. Look at me, being decisive and getting stuff done. 

PLEASE, let’s encourage each other just to be decisive and get stuff done if you’re in the same boat. If not, feel free to encourage meeeeee! I’ll be reading all the comments today;)

xox

AAJ

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CREATIVE WOMEN

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Yesterday was a day full of creative energy. I wanted to share a few thoughts in case some of you are like me and need a little nudging to make things happen. 

You know how you meet people occasionally and you say, "Let's get together!" The intention may be pure, but the follow through fails? Well, recently Ami Desai, Lisa Breckenridge and Jamie Greenberg found ourselves chatting away at an event. We said we would get together soon. But, you know, we ALL say that. We actually followed through!! 

Jamie (celebrity makeup artist) had to work, boo... (with Kaley funny enough!) but we STILL KEPT OUR PLANS. Lisa made lunch for us (if you're not following her blog and stealing her amazing cooking tips, you're welcome!) and Ami and I indulged as we all took notes for our future project. 

I left feeling full (literally full from food, but also full of ideas!!). I've felt like I needed something like this, so I'm grateful we connected. 

Sometimes, it's helpful to rearrange schedules and prioritize certain gatherings. It's not always easy, I know. Especially with kids. But, it is worth it when you find that group of people that inspire and encourage and excite. Share if you have a story... it might help someone out of a slump. Changing things up occasionally is good for the creative spirit. 

xoxo

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Oh and for those of you interested, the green floral dress I'm wearing is really versatile. I put it up on the liketoknow.it app. In case sizes sell out HERE, it's available HERE, too. It's Eliza J, a brand I've been wearing lately and like.  I'm wearing a 2. It came in the mail and was ready to go (no steaming required like some things!). Many of you DM'd me that you bought the blue and white striped fit and flare from the same brand that was featured in this post. Hope yours is working out, cause I love mine! For the green dress, it's fun with simple strappy sandals or even flip flops during the day. I wore dangled earrings because I wasn't with Hayden who loves to play with them, but usually I wear my studs!!

 

 

WEEKEND GETAWAY! Nautically Speaking...continuing my love of STRIPES

Joel, the baby, Oscar (yes, we took the dog!) and I met my sister and her boyfriend this past weekend in Mission Beach. It was a spontaneous decision and ended up being lovely. I think it was really good for us to get away for a bit! There's something about a change of scenery that's good for the soul. Even if we are having a "staycation" for the weekend, I have a to-do list running in the background of my mind. Laundry, clean car, organize this or that. Hayden loved being with Jordyn (my sister) and Cody, being in the pool, looking at all the boats. I love weekend getaways via car. They are more affordable and easier to pack. But, the downside is they end quickly. And Hayden doesn't always sleep as well when he's not in his own crib. Full disclosure, I still haven't finished this Vanity Fair magazine I'm holding. LOL. #toddlerlife

I packed super quickly...a package from Nordstrom had just arrived, so I grabbed the sunglasses and striped shirt out of the box. A couple of posts back, I shared some of my favorites from the Nordstrom sale in a photo. The shirt (with such cute pockets) sold out, but just came back in stock in all sizes. I paired it with wide-leg white pants, but next time I would try for high waisted white jeans like these from the Gap. How cute are they??

I don't think stripes ever went out of style, so to say they are back is silly. But they are everywhere. Along with polka dots (I ordered this polka dot shirt and wore it this past weekend to a different event- will post soon). 

This shirt is classic and affordable. Looks expensive, but only $35, which is a plus. I love the nautical, summer feel. Would be a very cute outfit for July 4th, too. 

I added some bright white, fun sunnies and so glad I did. I got stopped!! Ladies asking where I got them. My favorite thing is to report how affordable they are, "Go order them! They are $14!!" Great sunnies can change a whole look, in my opinion. I appreciate expensive, high quality ones, too, but sometimes it's nice to change it up and not break the bank. Especially while I have a toddler! 

(scroll to the bottom past the pictures for a few quick questions and recommendations)....

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Ok... add to the list! What screams summer to you?? I'd add read a good book (or a magazine!). I need a good book, rec, btw! Have you just finished one you'd highly recommend? Promising myself I'm gonna see more beach sunsets, too. I DO live very close to the beach if I can make it out there. And what's the one thing you would pack if you were heading out this weekend? 

xox

AAJ