Wanderlust {Los Angeles}

While I regret to report that we are no longer able to make our holiday trip to San Francisco for Honey’s cousin’s wedding due to his new job and other unplanned expenses, I am beyond thrilled to that we are still making plans for a once in a lifetime trip to celebrate John’s 10th birthday and my 40th.  I’ll collect your ideas for each leg of our trip one at a time so that I don’t miss out on anything.  Our very first stop with be Los Angeles!!!!!!


After talking with my LA neighbor, I do have some ideas on what we want to do, but y’all know I’m a super planner.  And I know y’all are full of amazing and incredible ideas.  So, I would love to have you weigh in on the must-dos, must-eats and must-sees of LA.

  • We are planning to have a two full days in LA, with travel days before and after.
  • We will have the littles with us (7 and 10).
  • It will be spring.
  • We will rent a car.
  • Right now we have a hotel booked on points in Beverly Hills.  But I’m open to other ideas.

Here are ideas on my tentative list so far.  I have not researched much about these places, tips, tricks, where to eat or how to string this trip together in a logical manner.  I am also sure I am missing things and that’s where Y’ALL come in :-)

  • In & Out burger on way in to town
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Venice Beach
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Show at El Capitan (because we looooove Disney)
  • Walk of Fame
  • Griffith Park Observatory
  • And the Magic Castle… because I am OBSESSED.  Anyone know a magician?  Anyone?  Anyone?

So, if you will, post your thoughts in the comments.  I’ll compile them later for everyone to use and I will definitely report back as we firm up our plans!!!


PS. Disney items ordered from the Dixie Delights Shop by Sunday 9/6 will ship out on 9/10.  Orders placed after 9/6 will not ship until 10/1.

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40 thoughts on “Wanderlust {Los Angeles}

  1. This will be an amazing trip! I have no tips, as I’ve never been, but can’t wait to read the suggestions!

    Happy Labor Day Weekend! xo

  2. Yay!!! Though I researched it a bit for our trip, we never made it to LA, but I can’t wait to see your list, as we will get back there again. I do hear that Griffith Park Observatory is a great place to see the sign. I also had on my list to take the kids to get hotdogs at Pink’s. :)

  3. I went to LA for the first time last year and had a great time! I really liked the behind the scenes tour at Warner Bros. They take you on the back lot and to a sound stage; it’s very well done. (If you were a fan of GIlmore Girls or PLL, you can see the town square!) The LACMA museum was also awesome and had some great kid focused exhibits. Have a great time!

  4. I have a feeling the next leg of your trip includes Hawaii and MAYBE Aulani?! If so, I will be drooling over your posts and living vicariously through you!! Can’t wait to hear!

  5. I follow your blog religiously and love how much you love Disney! We pretty much eat, sleep and breath it around here! We’re leaving for Wilderness Lodge tomorrow and then onto the Disney Dream on Monday!!!!
    We were just out there for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary celebration in July. You will LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!!!! If you can, go down to San Diego for a night or two. The kids really enjoyed it. We went to the USS Midway and to La Jolla to see the seals which come right up on the rocks! You could do this in a one night stay really. It’s just so beautiful and not too far to drive.
    Give yourself plenty of time in Disneyland. We had 3 days, which we thought was plenty, but really wish we had had one more day.

  6. We went for the first time almost two year ago. We were there for the Rose Bowl. If you are considering other places to stay we enjoyed The Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey, which was lovely. We rented bikes from the hotel and made the beautiful ride to Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, etc. There are many places to rent bikes along the boardwalk and that was a great way to cover a lot of ground. I would definitely recommend it. Two restaurants that we enjoyed were on Washington Blvd. in Marina del Rey & Venice. They were Cafe Buna (open for breakfast & lunch) and 26 Beach Restaurant. You can find reviews for them on Yelp. We still talk about the meals we had during that vacation ?. Have a great trip!!!!

  7. You might just take a bus tour if it includes some of those things. The traffic is bad and the parking is worse. It ends up taking so much time to do all that.

  8. I used to live in LA also and think you have a great list so far! Restaurant choices are endless but you must eat at Mendocino Farms! There’s one close to Beverly Hills and you will not regret it. It’s a quick-service, order at the counter type of place, but dreamiest sandwiches.

    Griffith Observatory is best at evening/sunset. Lots of people have telescopes out and are willing to share. I would also add the Getty Museum if you have time! It’s beautiful and I think your boys would have fun (plus I think it’s free)!

    When you do the walk of fame and all of that there are tons of little buses that show you celeb homes, cool sites and things. These are total tourist traps but I’ve done them and had a great time!

  9. Since you are staying in Beverly Hills, You have to shop on Robertson Street. My favorite place to shop. While down there eat at the Ivy. Great food and almost sure to see a celebrity or two. In and Out is a must. There is so much to do. I live in CA and haven’t seen half of what is out here. I live a couple hours away from LA but love to visit and take in the sites and shop on Robertson St.

  10. My town!
    1. If staying in Beverly Hills, I suggest having a meal at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro. I think the bistro upstairs is better because the menu is bigger, but I could be wrong. If you go, try the en jar rillettes aux deus saumons for an appetizer. Delish! There is a grassy area outside the restaurant for the littles to run around. (If you have any chance of an adults only meal while in LA, let me know and I can give some wonderful suggestions where we go on date nights.)
    2. There is an In N Out next door to the airport (if using LAX). Very easy after picking up a rental car. There are many around LA, though, so no worries. You might want to check out online the “secret” menu, like fries animal style.
    3.When going to El Capitan (which is great), I HIGHLY suggest Madame Tusseaud’s wax museum across the street. I know it sounds weird, but it is so fun! (You can get discounts online.) You can pose with spiderman on the ceiling (by turning your camera upside down), golf with Tiger Woods, dance with Patrick Swayze on the log in Dirty Dancing…We just took our girls for the second time (they had been begging) with a group of friends and all the kids and moms loved it (Dads were at work, although my husband had fun when he went with us before). There is also a 4D Avengers movie at the end of it (don’t miss it, it is easy to not notice). El Capitan and the wax museum are also in the same area as the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the stars and hand/footprints on the ground for the walk of fame. We always park at the Hollywood and Highland Mall (enter on Highland Ave, just on the north side of Hollywood Blvd. and get it validated at one of the places in the mall (El Capitan might validate as well.). Oh, the littles would love the candy store in the mall called Sweet! Hollywood. You can even design your own candy bar for them to make right in front of you and it has a room of gross candy which all the kids thought was so funny.
    4. Santa Monica – A fun way to see the beach area is to rent bikes. Lots of bike rental places on the boardwalk. This way, you can get an overview of the area. Santa Monica is very “normal” and upscale, while Venice is very “interesting.” Don’t worry, it is still very safe. Venice has an area where people are doing skateboarding tricks, usually a drum circle is going on somewhere, and there is a wall on the beach that people can spray paint. You will have no doubt when you ride bikes when you have entered Venice on the boardwalk. The Santa Monica pier has rides. Groupons pop up now and then for ride wrist bands. I’ll try to remember, next time I see them, to let you know. Also, at the end of the pier are people fishing and, if you’re lucky, a sea lion that wants an easy meal. I’m sure the littles will love to see the surfers and volleyball players (people surf and play volleyball here year round, lots of the dads in our group of friends surf in the morning before work). I hope you get to see some dolphins, but you never know when that treat happens. On the south side of the pier is the original Muscle Beach. The littles would probably like to play around here. Huge rings the people do tricks on, ropes to climb, the longest swings I’ve ever seen, bars that people do tricks on, etc. There are also playgrounds all up and down the beach. And, of course, the littles can play in the ocean. Oh, I just thought to let you know that you will see homeless people in LA. It is very normal for us and we don’t even think twice when we see someone talking to themselves, but I’m guessing it might be the littles’ first time seeing this, so just a heads up. (Nothing to worry about at all though.) On the pier, there is a fish and chips place and a Bubba Gumps. There is also a Mexican restaurant, but it is nice for the view but please do not judge Mexican food by that restaurant and I would not waste a California meal by eating there. So many fabulous true Mexican food places around LA and for some reason the one at the pier is not one of them. Also in Santa Monica, just up from the pier, is the Third Street Promenade. The road is closed to cars and has lots of stores and street performers. On the south end of it is the mall (most of our malls are open air). Most (maybe all) of the shopping in Santa Monica is very high end (Tiffany’s, Bloomingdales, Coach, Louis Vuitton, etc.). There are also two other shopping/restaurant/walking areas, Montana Ave. and Main St.
    5. Magic Castle – Funny tidbit, our pediatrician performs there! If you let me know the dates, I can post on a moms board if anyone can get tickets for you. We still haven’t been, but this reminds me that we had been talking about going.
    6. Driving tips: In the morning, traffic heads from east to west (everyone is heading into Santa Monica. In the afternoon, traffic heads west to east (everyone is leaving Santa Monica). By next Spring, the train into Santa Monica should be running (they just finished the track and started testing the trains a couple weeks ago), so may help a little, but we’ll see. Try planning your driving to be going the opposite direction of everyone else. The Google map and Waze apps help a lot.
    If you have any questions, just ask. Have fun!

  11. If you have never been to Disneyland, you simply MUST go! It’s the original, Walt is everywhere! We’ve been out there twice (stay at the Grand Californian), it’s one of my most treasured family trips!

  12. Great plans so far……San Diego is a great choice as well…..southern beaches are great(since i live close and go to them) Balboa Island charming they have a ferry….so many beautiful spots.
    City bus tour would be your best bet….some one mentioned that. I think you would get more
    out of it and dont have to deal with traffic. Regan Library is great but further in the valley.
    Not sure if anyone mentioned Disney Land. Good luck on your planning, and dont try and cram too much in one day. Enjoy!

  13. So fun!! We visited In an Out in Las Vegas while we were there on our vacay this year. Milkshakes are really good..hamburgers just ok in my opinion but having heard about in and out for years, I had to try it. We were in Cali almost ten years ago to see our youngest son off to China for his teaching job there. We loved the pier and the shopping in Santa Monica was good too. Your boys will have a great time. My husband had traveled out there with his job but it was my first and only visit. I loved the temps and NO BUGs but the smog was not fun with my allergies. I would love a return visit.

  14. You got the most important ones on the list in my opinion…In & out burger (it will change your life!) and the Magic Castle. I will check with a magician friend about that one.
    Keep in mind traffic is just horrible there ( we were just there last summer as part of our Aulani Hawaii trip). Also Sunset Blv in our opinion was one to skip…
    Have a blast!!

  15. Amanda we did almost everything on your list when we took the family there 3 years ago. If you have time you should try and take the kids to Universal Studios and of course Disneyland and Disney Great Adventure…they are right next to one another. Very exciting trip!!

  16. If you’re into historic (for SoCal) Union Station is pretty cool. Across the street (more or less) is Olvera Street.

  17. Oh I’m excited for you, sorry I’ve never been there so I can’t give you any tips but I’m looking forward to hearing what the rest of your trip will be xx

  18. In-N-out : Animal Style Protein style cheeseburger, animal style fries, and a lemon- up!

    Chinatown perhaps? You mentioned springtime, I wonder if you’d be able to catch a Dodgers game? If so, must go to Phillipe’s and get one of their yummy sandwiches!

    If you have time, you have to go the famous Din Tai Fung in Glendale/Arcadia for some good Chinese dim sum eats! My favorite soup dumplings place!

    If you happen to go to the Glendale location, then you must stop at Porto’s Bakery for some potato balls, empanadas, guava cheese rolls, etc.

    I agree above about Mendocino Farms! Order the pork belly Banh Mi! Super delish!

    There’s The Grove, Grand Central Market, and LA Farmer’s Market, San Antonio Winery, Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, and San Gabriel Mission if you have time!

    You have to hit up a beach while you are in OC for Disneyland! I’d recommend Corona Del Mar or Newport Beach!

    If you have some time, San Diego would be nice! USS Midway is a great place, as mentioned up above! Balboa Park, SD Zoo or Animal Park, there’s Legoland in Carlsbad, Carlsbad has their flower fields in the spring, Downtown SD is always fun!

    Hope that helps!

    Chi/oishieats on IG

  19. Amanda, You have some great ideas on your list. I grew up in the LA area and I have hosted many visitors throughout the years.

    I’m going to be honest. Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach are unusual – to be sure – but they are also dirty, crowded, and way over-priced. There are so, so many fun things to do in Los Angeles I would highly recommend rethinking those stops. If you want to go to the famous California beaches, I would recommend Malibu (a few minutes north of Santa Monica). Beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean!

    You will LOVE El Capitan theater! It is wonderful.

    Because you have the boys with you, I would also recommend the La Brea Tar Pits (very close to Beverly Hills). It is an amazing experience. I would also recommend breakfast at the Original Farmer’s Market and then a trip next door to The Grove. Tons of fun!

    Please let me know if you have any specific questions.
    Michelle from simplysantabarbara.blogspot.com

    1. Just thought is pass on the tidbit that I think in the past it may have been dirty. It is super clean and upscale in Santa Monica now. They don’t even allow smoking anywhere in the city (including apartment buildings and condos and the beach).

  20. My husband went to LA a few years ago and recommended Rodeo Drive, the HOLLYWOOD sign and to take a spin through a Beverly Hills neighborhood. Hope this helps!

  21. We visited LA from Australia 3 years ago and loved every minute of our stay, we stayed at the Andaz in West Hollywood and it was fantastic, they have a free “Happy Hour” every evening down in the main foyer, coffee and pastries each morning in the main foyer and a free mini bar with sodas, water, chips and nuts etc, the bus stops almost at the front door to do the hop on hop off tour which we found amazing. it is right next to Starbucks and the Saddle Ranch Chop House which I think Honey would appreciate ( they also provide a free “dessert” of candy floss)

    The littles would probably also love dining at Bubba Gumps on Santa Monica Pier, it is lots of fun!!
    Can’t wait to read all about your amazing trip.

  22. LA tips – the Farmers Market is amazing. Go to the Pier during the day because that place at night time did not come off “safe” to me. Kinda sleazy with people selling tons of junk and just very sketchy.

    You can horseback ride in Topanga Canyon and it is beautiful. I’d skip Santa Monica all together and head up to Mailbu.

  23. I am so sad to hear you are not longer headed to San Fran! My fiancé and I took a trip to California back in May hitting San Fran, Route 1, Disneyland, and ending in Los Angeles. Our favorite thing in LA, by far, was a semi-private tour of the city. We used Blue Sky Tours which you can check out here: http://www.bluesky-tour.com/home.html. I will warn you that the website is not the best and you do seem to have to make your reservation fairly far in advance. We booked a half day tour and were able to see (and have plenty of time to enjoy) the walk of fame, Mulholland drive, pueblo de los angeles, walt Disney concert hall, and lots of other tourist attractions! We don’t have any children, but another couple on the tour did and it was very family friendly. Each tour has only 4-10 people, so the guide can make sure you get to see the things that are most important to your family. This saved us from having to drive around LA (and park) which was horrible when we did have to do it. I really cant say enough great things about this tour company and if you look up other reviews of it online you will see that I’m not the only one!

    I do think the boys would love La Brea Tar Pits, which is free and very interesting. We really enjoyed eating lunch at the “farmers market” which is huge and allows everyone to eat something different. The original Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank was also a ton of fun for a meal. Chocolate coke became my favorite thing there. Griffith Observatory is amazing for the whole family, but be aware that if you arrive close to sun down (which is the best time to visit) parking will be a nightmare and you will probably have to hike quite a bit to get to the observatory.

    We also loved the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, but I’m not sure how much the boys would enjoy this. There was a lot of nostalgia in seeing some of the sets and props from our favorite shows. They did have a huge area full of batman and harry potter stuff, so that might be appealing.

    You may feel differently, but we found Santa Monica Pier to be a bit disappointing. We were on our way to Disneyland, so maybe that made it seem underwhelming. Venice Beach was a similar let down. It was very very dirty and there really wasn’t anything there that impressed us. We also attended a Dodgers game and did not find that to be a fun experience. While we are glad we visited the walk of fame, people were very pushy there and we were turning down rude sales offers for most of our visit. Unfortunately, the city is not even a little bit pedestrian friendly and parking is a nightmare. Be ready for that!

    Wow that was a long comment, I hope it is helpful!

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