Wanderlust: Los Angeles Days 1&2

Y’all, we are back from a once-in-a-lifetime kind of sixteen-day trip to Los Angeles, Disneyland and Hawaii!!  I’m still not exactly sure how to document all of our travels, experiences and magical moments, but I’m bound and determined to figure it out.  Not only does this little blog serve to share our adventures with all of y’all, but it is also our very own online memory book.

I was fortunate enough to have TWO wonderful friends that are both recent transplants from LA PLUS all of you that provided so many great ideas when I started planning!!  I thought it would help to show a little itinerary first and then go into all the fun stuff day by day.  The Los Angeles leg of the trip was my littles’ “something to do” gift that they got for Christmas so I wanted to ensure that we had great fun for everyone involved.

Los Angeles with Kids – Itinerary

Day 1
Travel from ATL > LAX
Dinner at In-N-Out
Check in to Beverly Hilton

Day 2
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Breakfast
Griffith Observatory / Hollywood Sign
Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round
Mendocino Farms Lunch
LACMA / La Brea Tar Pits
The Original Farmers Market Dinner
Walk of Fame
Zootopia at El Capitan

Day 3
The Ivy Breakfast
Rodeo Drive
Beverly Gardens Park
Getty Museum
Santa Monica Pier
Diddy Riese Snack
Il Forno Caldo Dinner

Day 4
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Breakfast
WB Studio Tour
Stalk Disney Studios
The  SmokeHouse Late Lunch
Drive to Disneyland

Now, all the gory details on how we kicked of our trip…  First things first, Daddy-O and Mother drove us to the airport.  They were SO SO SO kind as to watch Elsa and house sit while we were away AND act as our car service to and from Hartsfield.  The littles LOVED their first flight.  I never want to forget the moment right before we got on the plane that Whit said “I CANNOT WAIT to see the buffet on the plane!!!!!!!”  LOL.  He just didn’t know!  I promised pretzels or peanuts in flight and a yummy meal on our arrival.  Well, we flew American out there and they don’t so much as give you anything but a drink in a cup!  Crazy.  But, when it was all said and done, I was relieved that we navigated our first flights with two kids, seven suitcases, four personal items and a booster seat.  Oy!



When we got to LAX we were SO confused on what to do next.  We finally figured out you just move to the median and wave down the van for your rental car.  I rented cars for both weeks (LA and HI) through Costco and Budget had the best prices for a mid sized sedan.  I booked these super far in advance and paid $177 for the week in LA and $190 for the week in HI.  I also recommend signing up for their FastBreak program (free) because we literally skipped what looked like an hour wait to get our car.

Nestled in our Chevy Malibu (John LOVED it because Lassie from Psyche drives one), we made our stop A1A In-N-Out.  Oh.My.Gosh.  This was a highlight of the entire trip!!!!!  We could not even believe the drive thru line and we were starving so we dined in.  We all got burgers, shakes and animal style fries.  MMMMMMM….  


Sufficiently stuffed, we navigated to the Beverly Hilton.  We have Hilton points and I asked our LA friends months ago which Hilton property to choose, both practically screaming THE BEVERLY HILTON.  I mean, this is where the Golden Globes have been held for over 50 years, not to mention the Oscar Nominee luncheon and pre- Grammy Gala.   Richard Nixon gave his last press conference here, Whitney Houston died here (tragic), JFK and Marilyn spent the night here… together, Angelina plunged in the pool her in her gown after winning a Golden Globe, and the list goes on.  It’s just the kind of place that was beautifully galmorous, but also steeped in history and mystery.  Not to mention, it was a fantastic location at the crossroads of the iconic Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards. Speaking of which, I can’t tell you how many times I sang the Sheryl Crow “Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard” diddy.  Probably a thousand.


The lobby is just spectacular, and I was immediately swooning over and frantically photographing the flowers.



Our room was in the Wilshire Tower and this is when we had our very first little piece of pixie dust for our trip….



… we were upgrade to the Penthouse floor!!!!!!!!


We unpacked for this leg of the trip and pretty much fell asleep right away!  The next day we were up and at ’em early.  The time change worked in our favor and we had zero problems adjusting.  Our first stop was Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  Bestie S is also from California and she used to always rave about Coffee Bean when the rest of everyone I knew was all Starbucks all the time.  When I was in Vegas last year, there was a Coffee Bean in the Venetian right at the elevator bank that went up to my room.  So I tried it.  Annnnd immediately fell in love.  I was SO excited to bring Honey and the boys for the first time and get that ice blended deliciousness.


Our first real stop of the day was the Griffith Observatory.  We knew the littles would adore the astronomy museum and we were thrilled to use it as a vantage point of the famed Hollywood sign.  The building itself was just gorgeous in every detail!



First we explored all of the rooftop decks.  The views were just incredible, and the littles loved posing with it in the background.





Inside, the huge observatory is FULL of interesting and interactive space and astronomy themed exhibits.  We spent a good couple of hours exploring everything and didn’t even buy tickets to the planetarium show (the times did not work).  John studied moon phases and planets this year and loved “knowing” all about these things.  See – missing a week of school IS educational :-)






We had a good family laugh at the Uranus section…


We ALL got to hold a crazy heavy and crazy old meteorite.  I think they said 40,000 years old!!!


If you go to Griffith Observatory, I’d go early!  They open at 10AM and parking was already nuts at 9:45AM.  But, Honey let us out to explore and eventually found a place right in the front lot after not too long of a wait.  Admission is free, which is wonderful for a museum of this caliber.  They do sell tickets to the planetarium show, and I would suggest buying these as soon as you arrive.  By the time we realized you had to have tickets we were at the end of our visit and the next show didn’t start for another hour.  I think they were around $7 each.

When we finished up here, we drove down to Griffith Park to ride the Merry-Go-Round.  I do realize this probably wouldn’t make most “must-do” lists for LA, but as hard core Disney fans, it was right up there at the top!  You see, Walt Disney had “daddy day” with his two girls every Sunday.  He used to bring them to the Merry-Go-Round and sit on one of the green park benches while they rode.  It was in this very spot that Walt was inspired to create a large scale gathering site that the whole family could enjoy.  And the rest is history.



I sat on every bench, just in case it was “the one” while we waited on our ride.  I made Honey take my picture on every bench as well.  There were maybe eight other people there total so it was a short wait and I’m sure they could not figure out what the crazy bench-squatting lady was doing.  Well, as we were getting off the merry-go-round, I spied a green bench tucked back under the tent cover and literally bee-lined for it!!!!  Yep… the ACTUAL bench!!!!!  I was so delighted!!!  (And later confused when a matching bench was seen in Disneyland, LOL.)


The merry-go-round was a nostalgic, fun little pit stop and was well worth the few dollars to ride for a Disney fan.  And, if you aren’t a total Dis-nerd, we learned the carousel has also made an appearance in many a movie.  Two of my favorites are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twins!!  Walt’s Barn, home to his original railroad collection, also calls Griffith Park home now.  It is only open the third Sunday of each month and is free to visit.  Sadly, it didn’t line up with our visit.

We stopped for a divine lunch at Mendocino Farms on the recommendation of our LA friends.  It’s just a quick little sandwich, soup and salad spot, but it is absolutely wonderful!!!  They also had the yummiest drinks all made with cane sugar on their fountain machine.  All of the blue and white gingham made me feel right at home.



Our next stop was LACMA – Los Angeles County Museum.  I can’t barely call this a “stop” because we only explored the outdoor exhibits.  We knew we were going to Getty the next day and didn’t know how well it would go over with the littles, as well as the fact that Rain Room tickets were sold out when I started checking in February.  They adored the outdoor spaces, especially Lamp Light and Penetrable.





Adjacent to LACMA are the La Brea Tar Pits.  It’s almost unbelievable that located right in the middle of LA are these active tar pits.  For tens of thousands of years, tar has seeped up from the ground in this area revealing full, preserved skeletons of thousands of ice age creatures.  Whit was super excited to visit these after reading a book about the Dire wolf whose 44,000 year old remains bubbled up out of them!!


There is an ongoing forty-year excavation in Pit 91.  It was so interesting to not only read about it, but see what it looks like in progress.  

The flags denote current fossils they are working on – blue is a sloth, orange a dire wolf, red a horse and green a saber toothed cat!


There are little spots of tar bubbling up all over the site.  Most are marked with orange cones, but some are not.  I’ll let y’all guess how this went down…  yes, we had one child with tar all over his hands.


We did not enter either museum, but just paid the $15 parking fee and explored the outdoor activities.  It was a fantastic stop and one I’d highly recommend!

By this time we were ready for a late day snack so we headed over to The Original Farmers Market.  This isn’t a stop I would have ever thought of, but one of my LA girls said it was worth it and, of course, she was right!!!  I love to know the history of places I visit and was intrigued that this little 1934 establishment has been visited by many stars and is truly the original farmers market.  The littles were so in awe of the hubbub of activity, smells, cuisines and sights.  It was as if they just couldn’t take it all in!  Everyone picked something different.  John a giant pickle, Whit a dipped ice cream cone, me the most authentic and delicious beignets and Honey a donut.  In fact, the donuts looked SO good that we took home a bag for breakfast in the room the next morning!





At this point we headed to Hollywood & Highland to walk the Walk of Fame.  I know, I know… it’s super touristy.  But we were tourists and I’ve always wanted to see those stars.  Honey and I loved reading the names, and the littles got into finding ones they knew.  We had no idea there was a star for Snow White and Mickey Mouse.  How fun!!







We ended our incredible, fun filled day with a movie at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre.  The El Capitan opened in 1926 as “Hollywood’s First Home of Spoken Drama”, with its history dating back to Hollywood’s inception as the center of the entertainment world.  The theater was converted from a playhouse to a movie theatre in 1941 and was restored to its original splendor by Disney in 1989.  I purchased tickets to see Zootopia online well in advance and we had front and center seats in the first row of the balcony.  Our evening started with a wonderful concert of Disney tunes played on the spectacular 1929 “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ.  There are four keyboards and 37 ranks of pipes, each representing a different musical instrument!!  It was truly amazing and wholly entertaining.




After the organ descended into the orchestra pit, we were so delighted to learn that there would be a pre-show with guests from a local nature center.  They brought on stage a rabbit, a fox AND a sloth and taught us all about them.  (These are three key characters in Zootopia.)  It was fascinating and the littles were enthralled.




THEN the lights dim and we think the movie is going to start.  But Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps come dancing and singing on the stage!!!!!  The audience went “wilde” (I had to).  I think that these sorts of pre-show specials are common at the El Capitan.


If you haven’t seen it yet, Zootopia is wonderful!!!  It’s definitely one that we’ll buy to watch again and again.  Oh, and I must say that Honey and I both commented on how incredibly wonderful ALL of the cast members were.  Every single one smiled, asked about our day, where we were from, if they could get us anything, etc. etc. etc.  On the way out we were treated to Nick and Judy ears, which we proudly wore out onto the streets of Hollywood… not turning a single head.  I think we were more unusual when we had on normal clothes and no odd hats :-)


I don’t even know how late it was when we got back – probably close to 10.  We literally crashed!  Speaking of which… I am recovering and am about to do the same.

More to come soon!!


Los Angeles
Day 1 & 2 | Day 3 | Day 4  |  GoPro Review


14 thoughts on “Wanderlust: Los Angeles Days 1&2

  1. LOVED the first part of your trip report! And you used my very favorite format–day by day, including meals and snacks! That way, we can enjoy your fun trip vicariously! We are actually taking our very first trip to Disneyland in just a couple of weeks, but we will not have time to do any of these extra things. That just means that another trip will be a must! :)

  2. What fun. Especially the Griffith Park carousel and bench that Walt sat on. It’s on my to do list if I ever make it out there. I never knew Mickey had his own star. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love that you have this blog to document this for those precious boys. Reminds me of trips with my two children who are grown now. Keep enjoying life!

  4. You took my dream trip!!! I’m taking notes on everything you did. Finding Walt’s bench and riding the carousel is a must!

  5. Love your necklace. Please share your source.

    Also, what type of luggage did you use for your family? I feel overwhelmed with options.

  6. Looks like the Beverly Hilton was the perfect place to stay while in LA…and I agree with you that you just have to do touristy things while you are there! I mean – how often do you get to see the stars on the Walk of Fame?!! Loved the “buffet on the plane” comment! That’s a classic!

  7. What a fabulous itinerary! So glad you had such fun! Jealous of In-N-Out – an animal style burger is on my bucket list!

  8. Wow! That is A LOT of luggage! How often did you all change outfits? My family of four travels for 3 weeks every summer and we easily fit into two 29″ suitcases and one 30″ rolling duffle. One carry on for all our us. I could not imagine shleping all that luggage! And the luggage fees! Oh my!

    1. You are a much more astute packer than me, I suppose. We had one outfit for most days and I packed some dresses for certain nights out. Tons of layers though – our temps ranged from 60-85 over the course of our two weeks. The kids and Honey used all of their clothes. I did have a couple of things I didn’t wear but not enough that we could have reduced by even one suitcase. None of mine are as big as yours – 24″ carryons and 26-28″ checked.

  9. My husband and I went this past November to LA and Disneyland for my annual Disney Earmarked conference, and we did a lot of this, but I still want to go back with kids and do it again plus the other stuff you did that we didn’t. I am wondering if I can get him to agree to take the kids this November for Thanksgiving. :)
    I love your blogs, especially the Disney info! Keep doing what you are doing.

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