In our fourth city guide (previous ones include San Francisco, Cincinnati and Nashville), we invited our friend Marisa as guest editor to share with us her top picks for food and fun when traveling with the babes to sunny Los Angeles. Take it away Marisa!
It seems to always be sunny in Southern California, but summer is here full force and there are tons of places to check out around the greater Los Angeles area! We live close to downtown LA and the cities east of there so I will highlight our favorite spots around here.
Southern California is a place where most people drive their own vehicles around everywhere and most visitors will rent a car. There are other modalities (such as the LA metro) but in general, be prepared to pay for parking when driving around. LA traffic is pretty horrible but driving in non-peak times is not so bad!
Lavender and Honey
This unassuming spot in Pasadena is hip and offers the best bites to eat and delicious drinks to savor. The decor is modern yet charming. They offer a delicious toast bar (think avocado toast, Goat cheese/lavender/honey toast, peanut butter and banana, etc...), a sandwich bar, a salad bar, and various drinks. My favorite drink is their Honeybee latte and my daughter's favorite item is their milk and cookies or the birthday toast (because of the sprinkles, of course!). Parking is free and easy in the adjacent lot.
There are several locations within Los Angeles County. Not only is this a child friendly place to eat, but it is also dog friendly with it outdoor patio area. One of our favorite child friendly places to eat is Tartine Manufactory in the mission. Urth Caffe pretty much has it all- fresh baked pastries, organic food choices, and a drink menu that includes espresso drinks to Boba drinks. My favorite drinks are the matcha green tea latte and the Spanish latte. The line appears long during busy hours but moves quickly so do not be too intimidated if you see a line to order.
Mother's Beach in Long Beach
Mother's Beach is an ideal place to visit with young children. The water is shallow and without waves since the beach is off of the waterways and canals of Alamitos Bay rather than directly on the ocean. There are lifeguards on duty. Parking is easy in the adjacent lot or you can find free street parking. If the kids are tired of swimming or playing in the sand, there is a playground area between the beach area and parking lot. I recommend bringing a beach tent or umbrella, snacks/drinks, sunscreen and towels. It can get crowded on the weekends but it is still worth the trip! A public restroom and rinse area is easy to access.
Grand Park, located in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), is a fun place to visit and beat the heat in its fountains and splash pad. This uniquely situated park is nestled between the city buildings in downtown Los Angeles giving it a unique vibe. There are many special events and festivals held there throughout the year, but it provides easy summertime fun for young children. Sit at one of the surrounding tables and watch your kids splash around on the very expansive splash pad. Walk over after eating at many of the hip DTLA restaurants, take the LA metro, or drive and park in the paid lot. There is no entry fee for the park but be prepared to pay for parking in the area.
Southern California Children's Museum
This indoor playspace located in Pasadena, California is the perfect amount of entertainment indoors for toddlers and young children. It is a great place for your kids to explore especially on days when the weather is not ideal for outdoor play but you still want your kids to get their energy out. There are pretend play areas in every corner and they hold special events for holidays that include themed crafts, book readings and music events. All of the toys and play structures are designed to utilize children's imagination and all of their senses. There is a break room with tables so that you can eat snacks or a meal in between all the playtime. I recommend bringing your own food or drinks as the snacks available to purchase are fairly limited. The area is wide open yet enclosed enough that you can keep your eye on your child without hovering. The team at Oh Joy also painted a feature wall inside for those who like taking pictures in front of colorful walls! Admission is currently $8 for entry and they allow re-entry for the whole day if you want to leave and go eat at the neighboring restaurants for lunch and come back to play. The museum is located near old town Pasadena so after some playtime, you can do some fun outdoor shopping while in the area.
Kids Space Museum
The Kids Space Museum located near the famous Rose Bowl in Pasadena is fun location for children of many ages. There is a dedicated infant and young toddler room while the remaining outdoor and indoor areas can be fully enjoyed by older toddlers and elementary school aged children. It is easy to spend hours here exploring the various centers for play and outdoor adventures. Bring appropriate clothes and shoes for water play as kids love to wade through the small stream and play with numerous water tables. The kids love to make mud pies or climb the rock climbing wall! They can ride bikes on a small track or participate in interactive music sessions. There is a small store and area where food is sold (which is better than average) but feel free to bring your own food as well. Admission is $13, free for infants less than one year old. Parking is free and ample in the adjacent lot. They also have free family nights which you can check out the specific dates on the site: kidspacemuseum.org.
Los Angeles County Arboretum
The Los Angeles County Arboretum is situated in Arcadia California. Although not specifically for children, this is a great location to visit for nature lovers of all ages and there is plenty of space for younger kids to run free and older kids to explore. There are wild peacocks roaming around and the Arboretum is napped out into periods continents. Hidden within the Arboretum are a waterfall and a queen's cottage. This is a beautiful place to visit and parking is free. Some areas are not shaded so I would recommend bringing a hat and sunglasses.
Marisa lives in San Gabriel Valley with her husband Jeff and their two toddlers, Lei (3) and Luke (1), and two maltese, Obi and Owen. You can follow their adventures on Instagram @i_heart_loo.