I’m really excited today to bring you a guest post from Virginia Cunningham, a Los Angeles-based writer and mom. While I think I would fit in better in New York than California (except for the weather, of course!) I am totally into Hollywood happenings, and have many preconceived notions about what it would be like to live there. Here, Virginia is sharing the truth, with tons of ideas for what regular families can do when in L.A. (It’s pretty high on my bucket list, so hopefully I’ll be referencing this post again soon!)
Real Mom of L.A.
When people think of Los Angeles, the image of red-carpets, scandals and high-end shopping is what they see— not exactly high-ranking items on kids’ to-do lists. Yet, raising kids in LA is extraordinary; there’s so much for them to know and experience. Living in LA isn’t all glitter and glamour; there are many days when we just hang out at the mall or park. But, when the weekend rolls around, the fun begins!
Our children love adventures, and there are plenty of those in Los Angeles. From Disneyland to the mountains around Santa Barbara, to the Joshua Tree Desert and the beautiful beaches around San Diego, LA has so much to be explored within a short drive.
The best way to find the hidden treasures of Southern California is to seek advice from a local, so here are some foolproof excursions for moms who need a tour guide in the Golden State:
Even if you’re visiting from Zimbabwe, there’s a good chance you’ll want to take your children to Disneyland. But if your little thrillseekers are above toddler age, think about Six Flags Magic Mountain. Six Flags has some of the most extreme roller coasters in the world, and its various speed-passes allow you to spend less time in lines. Tots won’t want to miss Legoland, and if you’re venturing into SoCal during the fall, the Halloween fantasia of Knott’s Scary Farm is a must.
For smaller children in particular, the obvious tourist destinations in Hollywood probably won’t mean that much—Barney and the Wiggles have yet to get their stars; however, if you explore beyond the Walk of Fame and tours of celebrity homes, Tinseltown offers some better-kept secrets that you and your kids will adore in equal measure.
If you’re staying with friends rather than a hotel, the Hollywood Farmer’s Market is a stone-cold must. A true institution among townies, this Sunday morning tradition just off Sunset Blvd. is much more than just a place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Visitors will feel part of the city in no time, and the wholesome family vibe is incomparable.
Your kids can pet baby goats from local cheese and dairy producers (Soledad Goats), get their faces painted or jam with other children in a DIY music playpen. And yes, the produce and local specialties are amazing; not only will you be supporting independent growers and artisans, you’ll also know you’ll be feeding your little ones sustainably and organically.
Almost every tourist knows about the famed Hollywood sign, but not everyone is aware you can leisurely trot underneath the sign on horseback at Sunset Ranch. Don’t worry— the pace is very kid-friendly, and the horses are naturals with the little ones. The ocean view from historic Griffith Park is breathtaking; the tour guides’ cowpoke patter is hilarious, and you get to see the site of the original Batcave.
For music lovers, both the L.A. Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl have a number of summer programs aimed at turning younger ears onto music, and the nighttime electricity of the Bowl brings out a sense of childhood wonder in everyone.
The natural wonders of California are truly like nothing else, so if you’re looking for some downtime after an amusement park, make time for some at least one of the eye-popping seascapes scattered around greater Los Angeles. Orange County is great for beaches, and the historic mission of sleepy San Juan Capistrano makes for a great retreat.
If you’re willing and able to do a little driving, the beaches and state parks of Malibu are hard to beat. Matador Beach is particularly inspiring, and your kids may actually get to see dolphins gamboling in the distance. Malibu has its share of gently sloped hiking trails that are perfect for kids— the mix of waterfalls and misty green hills truly feel like a fairy tale.
Even for locals, part of the fun of Los Angeles is exploring— it would take a lifetime to overturn every fun-filled destination. While you can get around without a car if you need to, it’s not recommended for newbies. Some of the best fun is to be had cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway in search of the best fish taco stand. As long as you know where you’re going, getting a little lost can be a great idea. Have fun!
I just had to know if Virginia has run into any celebs while out and about in L.A., so I asked her! Virginia’s response: “I’ve seen Kristen Stewart while shopping at a vintage store on Ventura Boulevard and once saw Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian leaving a restaurant I was going into for breakfast! It can be a bit surreal seeing celebrities in regular grocery stores and shopping at Target right next to me but honestly now that I have lived here most of my life it doesn’t even surprise me much anymore.”
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer and mother of three in the Los Angeles area. Her writing specializes in health, travel, tech and marketing. She also works with Northwest Pharmacy. As a local of L.A. herself, she often goes on adventures around the city with her family.