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How To Vacation In LA Without Turning Your Kid Into A Kardashian

If you don’t want to take your kids to LA because you think it puts them in dangerously close proximity to Kardashians, you’ve got it all wrong — they live in Calabasas (which is, like, an hour away). And, while no trip to the City Of Angels would be complete without the obligatory walk down the Walk Of Fame, LA is also teeming with beaches, trails, farmers markets — IN & OUT!! — and scenery people watching even your kids will be into (if you run into Bieber, that is). (Which you might).

All hotel and restaurant recommendations come care of the family travel experts at Passported; check out their full Austin guide here.

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Tips From A Local Dad

If you’re wondering what an LA dad does with his own kids, meet Rob Bruce. He’s so LA, he directs things like the wingsuit action sequence in Transformers Dark Of The Moon or the snowboard sequences in Point BreakPoint Break!! — for a living. In between takes, you’ll find him, his wife, and his 7-year-old daughter cruising the city’s endlessly family friendly West Side, doing stuff like this.

  • Spend Sunday at Santa Monica Farmer’s Market: Because you sort of have to, right? “This is a ritual for many families. The food is great, produce amazing — and kids love the petting zoo, activities and music. It’s fun for everyone, and very family oriented. It’s also just great farmer’s market to load up on the best of California’s organic produce. (Don’t miss the world famous Harry’s Berries strawberries.)”
  • Fly High in the Butterfly Room At Los Angeles Museum Of Natural History: A room full of insects you want to land on you. It exists. “Who doesn’t want to spend time in a space filled with nothing flying butterflies? It’s worth the trip just for that, but the museum itself is pretty good too. Kids will love all the different, hands-on attractions.”

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  • Hit The Santa Monica Pier And Aquarium: It’s the backdrop in pretty much every California movie for a reason — and a must-visit for kids. “Thanks to the rides, restaurants, aquarium, nearby ring swings, volleyball courts and jungle gym, this is pretty much a one-stop-shop for families; not to mention, a great place to people watch. Plus, it’s proximity to the 3rd Street Promenade make it convenient to some nearby shopping and good restaurants.”
  • Take Surf Lessons With Zuma Surf And Swim (ZSS): If you go to California and don’t surf, it’s like you didn’t even really go. “Zuma Surf and Swim is hands-down the best surf lessons in L.A. They pick a beach that curtails to your location, skill set and even show up with all the gear. The Sanson brothers who teach it are also legendary Malibu surfers — they teach kids ocean swimming skills in addition to planning ocean & nature adventures.”
  • Explore the Malibu Tide Pool: This is pretty much the best way to teach your kids oceanography without taking them to a museum. Plus. it’s a lot prettier. “First, use your smart phone and look up a tide chart. Then, if it happens to be dead low tide, make it a priority to explore the tide pools at Paradise Cove, Latigo Point or Big Dume. My daughter loves to hunt for sea anemone and other fun creatures. (Just don’t pick them up or touch!) But either way, kids love to splash on the shore, play with the eelgrass and just walk the shoreline.”
  • Eat More Than One Slice At Pitfire Pizza: If you can believe it, there is actually a place that serves carbs in LA. (We didn’t say they couldn’t be gluten free, though.) “This is like Shakey’s Pizza for hipster parents. The food is delicious, healthy and the place is great for families. Kids get clay and waxy sticks to play with, while mom and dad have PBR on tap. And everyone should get soft serve ice cream over home made cookies with caramel and sea salt. Trust me.”

HOTELS

Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows

Family Vacation Guide to Los Angeles

BASICS

  • The Fairmont overlooks verdant Palisades Park and below it, the Pacific Ocean.
  • Within walking distance to Downtown Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, hip restaurants and bars, and the beach—the main attraction.
  • A swimming pool, private beach club, luxe spa, 24-hour fitness center, a popular restaurant and a nighttime hot spot are the highlights at the Fairmont.

BEDTIME

  • A Fairmont Palisades room is the most economical option, available with two queen beds or one king bed and a view of the resort gardens. Request a crib, rollaway bed or connecting rooms when making your reservation, either online or by phone.
  • Rooms and suites at the Fairmont are divided into two towers, one with ocean views and one with garden views. There are also 32 bungalows on the property, ideal for larger groups or families.
  • Microwaves and mini-fridges are available on request as well.

BESTS

  • In addition to the on-site pool, guests can get a lift down to the sand at the Miramar Beach Club in the hotel’s topless Jeep Wrangler. Once on the sand, sunbathe under umbrellas and borrow boogie boards, volleyballs and sand toys all free. Snacks, meals and soft drinks are served on the sand. The club is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are also beach volleyballs games on summer Saturdays and a pool & beach concierge who can help book SUP and surf lessons.
  • Amenities at the Fairmont for kids are both thoughtful and fun. Children under 12 can pick up a stuffed animal toy chest at check-in and beach toys for sand castle construction. For teens, the Fairmont has a fleet of BMW beach cruisers, perfect for checking out the beach path. Food from the kids’ menu is free for children under 5 and children 6-11 may order food from the regular menu for half off. Babysitting services can be arranged ahead of time or as soon as 24 hours in advance
  • Pets are welcome at the Fairmont and can even receive day care, walks, spa treatments and massages from Healthy Spot, a local pet shop. If you get inspired to adopt a new furry family member during your stay, the hotel will also arrange a visit to the No Kill Los Angeles adoption center nearby.

BUTS

  • If noise is a concern, ask for a recommendation when making your reservation—the Bungalow (not the room option but a popular bar and lounge at the hotel) parties late and is close by. It’s a nice, casual dining option if it’s not too busy.
  • Booking your reservation may look pretty straight-forward and likely more expensive than other hotels in the area, but it’s worth it to call and give the front desk as much information about your needs as possible. The Fairmont often gives upgrades and other perks for traveling families.
  • If your plans in Los Angeles include activities all over the region, staying in Santa Monica may involve spending a lot of time in the car. It may not be your best bet.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

Family Vacation Guide to Los Angeles

BASICS

  • A block from the beach and close to both downtown Santa Monica and the Main Street shopping district.
  • The hotel has an in-house spa and a pool with a nice ocean view and cozy firepits after sunset.
  • There are several restaurants and lounges on site that serve both healthy options and vacation treats late into the night.

BEDTIME

  • A Standard room or a Pacific-Select room are the most economical options, available with two double beds or one king bed and a small balcony. Standard rooms don’t have ocean or pool views, while Pacific-Select rooms do. Cribs are complimentary and available on request. Rollaway beds cost $25 per night.
  • Loews often has a special deal or package available at booking for families, like the Sprout Dream Stay Package, which includes gifts and free meals for kids throughout your stay. Ask for the available deals at booking.
  • The hotel prides itself on being as kid-friendly as it is adult-friendly. If you need anything to maintain a bedtime routine during your stay, from baby bathtubs to child safety kits and nightlights, just call the concierge.

BESTS

  • There are parks on either side of the hotel, including the recently opened Tongva Park. If that’s not enough room for your kids to run around, take them one block west to the original Muscle Beach, complete with rings, swings and sandy stretches. The Santa Monica Pier is also a short walk away, with an aquarium, arcade, amusement park rides and Ferris Wheel, and kid-pleasing restaurants. Walk to the end at sunset and watch for dolphins.
  • The hotel is right in the middle of two great areas for shopping, sightseeing and eating—Downtown Santa Monica and Main Street. Both are within walking distance.
  • Loews has many thoughtful amenities for kids and teens, like a “kid’s closet” filled with toys, books, DVD’s, strollers, and other helpful items. For teens, Loews has a video game lending library, free music download credits and a list of recommended attractions geared toward teens. Sometimes there’s even freshly spun cotton candy in the hotel lobby.

BUTS

  • Check-in time is 4pm, which is a little later than most hotels in the area.
  • Parking is valet-only and it’s $40 per day. There is a rental car desk in the hotel, so plan ahead for the days your trip requires a car and you’ll save that day rate.
  • Loews isn’t quite as stylish as other hotels nearby, like Shutters On The Beach and Casa del Mar, but it’s decidedly kid-friendly for all ages.

The Beverly Hills Hotel

Family Vacation Guide to Los Angeles

BASICS

  • The Beverly Hills Hotel, known as the “Pink Palace,” is one of the most famous and storied places in Los Angeles. From its famous regulars (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon and countless others) to its distinct style and impeccably manicured landscaping, it’s a must-visit place, whether you’re a guest or stopping by the Polo Lounge for a drink and slice of (equally famous) chocolate cake.
  • Its sister property is the Hotel Bel-Air, a true retreat with lush gardens in the hills, and guests have full access to the amenities there as well. A complimentary limousine will take you between the two hotels.
  • The hotel is a mix of private bungalows, suites and guest rooms. Wandering the grounds during your stay is an absolute must.

BEDTIME

  • If you’re just traveling with an infant, a Historic guestroom is the most economical option—cribs are allowed free of charge but rollaways are not. If you need a rollaway bed, they are complimentary and allowed at the junior suite level and above. Grand deluxe rooms also have queen-size sleeper sofas, but call ahead to confirm.
  • There may be a family package or discount available when you make your reservation. The hotel frequently offers half off the second guestroom (connecting rooms subject to availability) when you book one at full price. The deal also includes a $150 daily breakfast credit, a complimentary bottle of champagne for adults, a welcome gift for kids, and up to two dogs can stay for free as well (normally there’s a daily $35 charge).
  • The experience of staying in one of the hotel’s 23 bungalows is unmatched, certainly in Los Angeles. Each has a private plunge pool or spa, outdoor shower, and the perks are almost endless: complimentary airport transportation and champagne are just the beginning.

BESTS

  • The pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel is a true highlight, perfect for a relaxing day or afternoon. Kids will love the underwater speakers that play famous movie music all day. On warm summer days, treats will appear poolside like popsicles, mini soft-serve ice cream cones, fruit and more. On top of that, kids are served free beverages everywhere in the hotel, all day long—even milkshakes.
  • The Polo Lounge and the other restaurants and cafes are almost as famous as the hotel itself. The people-watching and conversations you’ll overhear make for true only-in-LA experiences. Celebrity sightings are all but guaranteed.
  • You can walk to Rodeo Drive and other Beverly Hills landmarks. For more sightseeing in the area, the hotel offers complimentary transportation in a five-mile radius. The hotel has wonderful amenities for a relaxing vacation, and it’s centrally located for exploring much of LA.

BUTS

  • The hotel is a very popular venue for all kinds of events: weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and other private parties. Call ahead to see if any of the areas of the hotel will be closed during your stay.
  • The Beverly Hills Hotel has made headlines recently because of its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, who has legalized harsh punishments (including stoning) for homosexuality, adultery and other crimes. Though routine protests and public boycotts have subsided, there is lingering opposition to the hotel and its ownership.
  • Regardless of the package or deal you may (or may not) have secured at booking, you will be paying Beverly Hills prices for just about everything.

RESTAURANTS

Breakfast
Huckleberry Cafe
A favorite stop for a breakfast burrito or a casual brunch. Lines can get long, so come early with restless kids.

Lunch
Gjelina
A hip and family-friendly spot for delicious pizza, you’ll want to go for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Family Vacation Guide to Los Angeles

Facebook / Malibu Farm / @ullagumus

Snack
Malibu Farm Pier Cafe
On the Malibu Pier, Malibu Farm is the perfect place to dine with little ones after a day in the sun. The locally sourced food and drinks are fresher than fresh, and the kale smoothie is in a category of its own! For kids, order the sweet corn pancakes — every pint-sized guest (including our own) was happily eating them.

Dinner
Rose Cafe-Restaurant
Industrial interiors pair with pretty garden patios for indoor and outdoor dining. The uber-fresh Cali cuisine is a best pick for lunch or dinner.

Date Night
The Tower Bar
Grab a parents-only cocktail and do some celeb-spotting at this hip bar in the Sunset Tower Hotel.

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