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).

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

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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’re restaurants and stores open that are charming.

FYI- the Marina is very close to Venice and Santa Monica, as well as LAX. So, if planned properly, could be an easy stop to end the day and watch the boats sail into the sunset.

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

TAX DAY REFLECTIONS with a PRO

Hi everyone. Happy After Tax Day!! If you’re like us, you’ve taken a look at your deductions, credits, spending verses saving habits and promised yourself to make changes in 2019.  I recently blogged about financial matters.  I was surprised how many of you visited the blog post, asked questions here or via email and wanted to know more. This is NOT a sponsored post. But, after chatting with Morgan McGovern, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share our conversation. CFP® professionals are held to strict ethical standards and take a holistic approach to financial planning, so I felt comfortable taking her your questions and reporting her answers.
As parents, we have to think about summer camps or childcare, vacations, saving for college, retirement, life insurance... it’s a lot. Money is a terrible master but can be an excellent servant. If you’re interested in ways to make 2019 a financially better year for your family, keep reading. 

Just a shot that was taken when I was going through questions on turbo tax a bit ago. This exact top is (so comfy, boyfriend cut) on sale in plus sizes. I linked exact cut and other options below;)

Just a shot that was taken when I was going through questions on turbo tax a bit ago. This exact top is (so comfy, boyfriend cut) on sale in plus sizes. I linked exact cut and other options below;)

MONEY AND RELATIONSHIPS For many married couples, money is such a trigger in their relationship. “Money is tied to emotion,” McGovern said. She encouraged couples to take the time to figure out what their values are independently, as a couple and as a family. “Your spending and your saving habits should align with your core values. You ideally should spend not only your money, but also your time and energy, on the things most important to you and your family.” When you understand this logically, it’s easier to implement when things get emotional. 

There’s a plethora of reading material out there about relationships and money. Get ahead of the game. Know what works best for you and your partner before it becomes an issue. Are your values currently aligning as a individual, couple and family? I think this is a great exercise for all of us to sit down and write out our values once a year. Values are based on our core beliefs that determine our priorities.

RETIREMENT VS SAVING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION I got a considerable amount of DMs from people stating they’re more worried about saving for their children’s college fund than retirement. I imagine this is true for many Americans. I appreciated McGovern’s response: Education costs are increasing but retirement costs and healthcare costs are also increasing. The most important thing to remember is that loans can be taken out for children’s education, but you cannot take out loans for retirement. That really struck me. And inspired me to add more to retirement every year. It’s a discipline; saving is a way of life. 

TAKING FULL ADVANTAGE OF TAX CREDITS AVAILABLE The “child tax” credit has doubled for 2018 to $2,000 per qualifying child. There’s also a family tax credit, now known as ‘The Credit for Other Dependents’. McGovern explained that it’s important to be well informed of all the potential credits and deductions offered to us each year. Professionals learn your family dynamic and history, and can help you understand the best way to implement new policies, as opposed to someone plugging numbers into a program.  No matter how little or much you make, there are opportunities offered to each of us which we should take full advantage.

For us, we’re a blended family and child tax deductions currently do not apply for both boys. It’s imperative to know legally what your options are. (Plus, I work in Canada sometimes, from home a lot of the time, have a corporation, etc.) I feel more confident having another set of expert eyes look over our taxes and help plan.

BUT WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL and start planning for retirement? What if I don’t have a lot of extra money right now? “The best time is now. It’s always better to do it sooner than later,” she said. “The more time you have to save anything, the better.” But it’s never too late, either. There are always OPTIONS. FIND out what ALL yours are! As far as being able to afford a professional, she explained there’s a number of different fee structures with a CFP® pro; there’s both comprehensive and modular planning options, and some advisors charge an hourly fee if that works best. Why not take a list of questions and sit down for an hour?

Specific Note for today: I’m heartbroken looking at the footage of Notre Dame today. My family and I had the privilege of getting to visit. I’ve luckily been able to go several times in my life. I look back and am grateful my mom and dad make it a financial priority to travel together. That didn’t happen without planning. Today is a sad reminder that there’s no time like the present to make a plan to make things happen. 

So, I hope this gets you thinking! If you want more info on a professional like Morgan, I urge you to check out letsmakeaplan.com. It’s an easy and very resourceful website. I like their blog. But, mainly I want us to continue this conversation often. Share your ideas and tips on planning for your future. A few of you had excellent advice in the comments of the last post. Do you make sure to put money in a pension or a 401K every year? Are you relying on property for your investments? How diversified are your investments? And (this has always been important to me) do you have a nest egg put aside for emergencies? Do your research and figure out what works best for YOU.