Behind the Scenes at Starship for Littles
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.
We're back with our third city guide series (you can read about Nashville here and Cincinnati here) featuring San Francisco! We invited Nicole to share with us her top picks on food and fun when traveling with little ones in San Francisco. Take it away Nicole!
Summer is here and it’s time to plan those family trips! If San Francisco is on your list of places to visit, here are a few of my family’s favorite things to do in the city.
Normally there are a variety of transportation modalities that can be taken including bus, MUNI (the local light rail), BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) a subway system within the greater San Francisco Bay Area, Caltrain (the train), as well as uber, lyft, taxis, and your own personal vehicle. Each location will mention some element of parking as many people choose to drive in the city for convenience sake when they have a young child.
A little Italian brunch venue nestled in the outer richmond. A real hidden gem! We like it because it serves a variety of sour dough pizza for both kids and adults. But if you just like cheese, like our son, then you’re equally good to go. An excellent place to eat including with a variety of food including grilled grapefruit with crushed pistachios, waffles, “green eggs and ham” pizza and more. The decor is very typical of San Francisco, modern yet interesting. The wallpaper is made up of Bay Area icons eg. Angela Davis, Joe Montana, and Alice Waters to name a few. We attended during Sunday Brunch, which as a busy time, but we still got seated fairly quickly. Friendly staff and family friendly vibes which was excellent for out family. Although it may be difficult to get to, there is local bus transportation if you’re taking public transportation or you can easily drive there by private vehicle. There is metered parking on Clement street, and a local paid lot across the street. The restaurant does not have designated parking.
There are several districts within San Francisco and one with particular history is the Mission District. One of our favorite child friendly places to eat is Tartine Manufactory in the mission. Located at 595 Alabama St., San Francisco, CA 94110, Tartine Manufactory is a bakery/bread shop that also serves locally grown organic food. There’s an option to buy fresh breads and pastries for take out, or the option to eat at the restaurant. This is an excellent place for kids to see how bread is actually made as there is an area where they can see the actual production of fresh bread. They can watch in wonder as they see bags of flour being crafted into the bread they will eat later. All bread and pastries are made at the facilities. If you’re here with your little one for breakfast (which starts around 7:30AM PST), options include cracked barley porridge with coral cherries, maple coconut flakes, cinnamon and yogurt or a roasted strawberry tartan with laychee cheese, toasted hazelnuts, basil, and olive oil. If you’re here with your child for lunch, options include an assortment of warm sandwiches and fresh garden salads. Dinner portions are more hearty and include dishes of swordfish, porschetta sandwiches, and roasted chicken. The line can be somewhat long during busy hours, especially lunch since there are a lot of tech companies located close by. Located in the mission district of San Francisco, it is close to public transportation via the 16th and Mission BART station. There is no designated parking for the restaurant but there is street parking available, although it may be more difficult to park during peak hours. So public transport or Uber is highly recommended.
Salt and Straw Ice Cream
What better way to celebrate summer than with ice cream. Although its often cold in the city (even in the summer), ice cream like Salt and straw is just as enjoyable. Try their lavender ice cream if you’re open to trying something new.
Ocean Beach is an excellent place to bring your young ones if they love the sun, sand, and water of the famous San Francisco coastline. Of note, there is no lifeguard on duty and public restrooms are sparse and few between. You can bring a blanket to sit on and enjoy a picnic in the sun with your family. Often times the beach is quite cold, so be prepared (bring coats), especially if it is cloudy. Options for older children can include horseback riding or surfing, although the surf at Ocean Beach is notoriously choppy, and the water is cold, and hence a wetsuit is recommended. Ocean Beach rests along the great highway, which is the west-most street in San Francisco and runs between Sloat and Geary Ave. For those with older children and want a walk, you can walk the length of ocean beach and hike to fort fusion via the sand dunes to the south of Ocean Beach. There is ample free parking along the beach, either at the south end at the corner of Sloat Ave and Great Highway, or at the north end by Fulton Ave and Great Highway. If these parking lots are full, there is parking along great highway as it ascends the cliffs and becomes Geary Ave. When you arrive you will encounter great swathes of sand and beaches for your little one to run around in. There is no parking fee and no fee to use the beach.
Stow Lake is one of the most beautiful places to visit with your young child in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Stow lake is located in the heart of golden gate park and is accessible via public bus (no MUNI or BART access) or by private vehicle. Options include hiking around the path surrounding the lake or hiking up the small mountain in the center of the lake. Your younger ones will love watching the ducks, turtles and fish swim in the lake. For older children, you can rent a paddle boat or row boat from the boat house during business hours and boat around the canoe. There is easy access to a public restroom by the boat house. If you come during the spring, there may be a chance you can see baby ducklings in the water! There is a small parking lot next to the boat rental house and there is ample free street parking around the perimeter of the lake. The lake is located off of Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy Drive.
The Academy of the Sciences
The Academy of the Sciences in San Francisco is a natural history learning extravaganza for your children. It’s a combination of a zoo, aquarium, rainforest, museum, planetarium all mixed into an educational enriching environment. This treasure trove of exploration include an imax planetarium with various programs showing throughout the day (included with admission). You can walk into a live rain forest and explore each layer of the canopy with live butterflies and birds flying around you, and even dive underneath the water and watch the rainforest fish swim above you. The roof of the actual building is an eco-garden and is alive. There is an area to explore the coral reefs and depths of the ocean as the entire basement of the academy of sciences is an underwater adventure with live fish. The coral reefs will remind your little one of many pixar films such as Finding Nemo (TM), Finding Dory (TM), and Little Mermaid (TM). There is paid parking directly underneath the facilities, or free parking along the street of JFK or MLK drive, but do require a short walk. The academy of sciences is located at 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118. General admission for adults is $34.95, $24.95 for children ages 4-11, $29.95 for children ages 12 to 17 as well as students and seniors. A cafe inside serves food and there is easy access to bathrooms.
De Young Museum
The De Young Museum and excellent area for young children. Located across the main quad of Golden Gate Park, directly across from the Academy of the Sciences, the De Young Museum has easy access to bathrooms, and has a cafe to get food for your young ones. Unknown to many, certain parts of the museum are free of charge. The observation tower, as well as the main lobby, main foyer, cafe, and outdoor sculptures are all free of charge. There is a fee to go upstairs to the galleries and to go underground to visit the special exhibits. Parking and public transport are similar to that of the academy of the sciences since they are so close to each other. The outdoor sculpture garden is interesting and allows your little ones to spread their legs and run around a bit to explore the area.
The San Francisco Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo is an excellent place for your young ones to explore some animals. Parking is available at the zoo for a fee, or you can park along the street for a limited amount of time and walk to the zoo (which may be a bit far for young children). We recommend parking within the zoo lot and paying the fee. Public bus is available for those wishing to take public transportation. The zoo has ample access to bathrooms, and food is served in several locations within the zoo. There is a small train where your children can ride around, as well as various fun activities they can engage in. Animals including a rhinoceros, giraffe, monkeys, hippos, gorillas, and tigers and lions can be seen. There is also a petting zoo and area to feed farm animals with easy access to sinks so your kids can wash their hands afterwards.
Nicole lives in San Mateo, California with her husband and son. You can find her on instagram @eatsleepplayblog or her blog www.eatsleepplayblog.com.
In our second city guide series (you can read our Nashville city guide here), we caught up with Katie from Cincinnati, Ohio to share with us her top spots for food and fun during weekend travels with kids in tow.
To Eat:The Eagle OTR
Living in the city with two little boys means we've got the family dining circuit pegged! My first choice is hands down The Eagle - not only do they have the absolute yummiest fried chicken I've ever tasted, but the space is both hip and family-friendly. There are probably 10 side options for under $6 that the kids will go nuts for - think spoonbread, mac n' cheese, biscuit with jam, and cheddar grits! We are always shocked at how cheap our bill is because the food is amazing! Pro Tip: Visit The Eagle about an hour before you'd like to eat to put your name on the wait list, then walk one block west and visit Washington Park while you wait. There is a playground and a ton of green grass to play, you can even grab a beer from the deck. It's a win-win!! After dinner grab dessert at Holtman's Donuts - you don't need directions, just walk out the door and follow your nose. :)
I don't know about you, but I LOVE Mexican! And Nada serves up delicious Mexican fare in a beautiful city-center location. We mostly eat here in the summer because their patio is amazing, the kids love to watch all the city traffic go by and you feel like your finger is right on the pulse. My boys love munching on the homemade tortilla chips and us grown-ups usually split an assortment of tacos (the Baja fish is my fave!). With a cold Mexican beer or margarita on the side, it's heaven!
Another city favorite of ours is Americano Burger Bar. We don't eat beef so their California Turkey Burger is our go-to but I've heard all of their burgers are amazing. You can choose to sit inside where there is a shuffle board and foosball table for the kids to mess around on, or enjoy your meal out on the patio (I'm obsessed with eating outside all summer long). My kids love going here because they have yummy vanilla shakes, and as long as they behave (I'm not above a little bribery) they get to share one for dessert. :)
To Play:Washington Park / City Flea
If you're lucky enough to be in Cincinnati during a City Flea Saturday then you're in for a real treat. This urban flea market is one of my favorite things about summer downtown and all of the vendors are local. Located inside our city's urban park, you can shop for vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, and beautiful plants and ceramics all in one spot. Food trucks line the street and live music sets the scene...with a splash pad and playground too, you AND your kiddos will have a blast!
We live just four blocks north of Carol Ann's carousel and you better believe we have to stop in every time we walk past. It's almost never crowded and for $2 your kids can choose to sit on any of the unique animals (think cicadas, flying pigs, and gorillas). Pack a swim suit if it's hot and enjoy any of the four different water play areas nearby. Smale Park is just south of the carousel and is located right on Cincinnati's beautiful river front. There are a ton of things to keep the kids busy and the view of the Roebling suspension bridge into Kentucky can't be missed.
We love to visit the CAC all year round. Depending on the age of your children you may choose to explore the entire museum. If you have little ones then you can just go straight to the top floor and visit the "Unmuseum" - here your kiddos are free to run around and play with the rotating interactive exhibits. They even have an area stocked with every art supply imaginable - you could spend all day up here and the best part? Its FREE! Pro Tip: Before or after you explore the museum grab a coffee in the lobby at Collective Espresso (it's amazing) and relax on the big couches while your kids play with the interesting toys set out for them.
On a cold, rainy, or too-hot day we escape to the Red Balloon in Pleasant Ridge, about 10 minutes north of the city. Not only is it a fun indoor place for the kids to run and play (they have an assortment of toy options for all ages from a jungle gym and slide to trains and blocks) but their food is healthy and delicious too!! I crave their thai peanut salad all the time, it's so unique and good! They offer a play/eat combo that covers unlimited time in the play area plus a kid's lunch for just ten bucks...can't beat that!
We're excited to kick off our new City Guides blog series focusing on the top places to take kids on your weekend travels. First up is Music City- Nashville! We invited our friend Lauren, mama to Liam, to share with us her top spots for food and fun.
There are so many quality burger spots in Nashville but the one we keep going back to is Burger Up. We have a major addiction to their burgers and fries. Liam even insisted that we went there for his fourth birthday. Pro-tip: go to the East Nashville location. It's usually a lot less crowded and they have a huge covered outdoor patio. This is a great place for all members of the family as it has vegetarian burger options, delicious salads and FRIED MAC & CHEESE BITES (what?!).Mas Tacos
If you’re in the mood for amazing tacos (who isn’t?), few places in town come close to Mas Tacos. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, but my top recommendations are their World Famous Tortilla Soup, fried avocado tacos and street style corn (elote). The environment is super laid back, perfect for families or a casual taco tuesday date night. (They only take cash so be sure to bring some or use their ATM inside).
Treat yo self. I find that when I go to a new city, my eyes are set on finding the best treat places. So with that being said, I could easily name a handful of places for Nashville but let's just focus on GELATO! They make their gelato fresh daily and usually have a different selection of flavors each day. My favorite flavor combo is dark chocolate and coffee.Fenwick’s 300
My all time favorite meal of the day is …..brunch! Something I look for in a brunch place: low-key, delicious and family friendly. Fenwick’s 300 is all of that and more. They have roomy booths, a large wrap around bar and a walk up coffee bar for all your local coffee needs. My top recommendations are the Bacon + Egg Fried Rice or French Toast but everything on the menu is amazing so you can't go wrong.
Sevier ParkIt's a local park/playground that we frequent because of its great layout and convenient proximity to other places. We often take Liam to the park to meet up with friends and then take a short walk over to Las Paletas for a delicious homemade popsicle. Sometimes on Sundays a few food trucks set up shop in the parking lot, which makes for the perfect afternoon of food and fun. And be sure to stop by the park to buy some local produce at their farmers market, which is held May- October on Tuesday afternoons from 3:30-6:30pm. This park is located in the 12 South neighborhood which is a walkable area filled with local shops and restaurants including one of our other favorite treat places (I think you're seeing a pattern here.... we love sweets), Five Daughters Doughnuts. The neighborhood is also home to the “I Believe in Nashville” mural -- an infamous selfie spot for tourists.
Opryland HotelTry to make your way over to see the inside of the Opryland Hotel. We love to escape there when the weather's not so nice (either too hot out or too cold). The tropical plants and flowers will make you feel like you're in Hawaii without the expensive ticket and long flight. It's a beautiful place to visit with huge waterfalls and even a guided tour boat ride ($$). If you want to save $20 on parking, then make sure NOT to park inside the gates of the facility. Instead, park on the outskirts of the mall (across from the movie theater) and walk over underneath the path covered by an awning.
Splash PadIf you're looking for a free way to cool off during the summer heat then take your kids over to the Cumberland River splash pad. It's located right next to the Cumberland River with walking access to downtown Nashville. So when you're done checking out all the things down Broadway or seeing the Johnny Cash museum, you can walk over the pedestrian bridge to enjoy the cool water and great views. There's also a free parking lot near the splash pad that you could park at to walk over the bridge to see downtown instead of paying for parking on the other side.
Nashville ZooThe zoo is worth checking out if you are staying longer than a few days. They are currently expanding and improving so there is always something new to see. The giant wooden playground is worth the visit alone. The coolest exhibit in the zoo has to be the kangaroos. It is a walkthrough exhibit where you can pet the kangaroos if they hop onto the trail. Make sure to visit during the morning hours when the kangaroos are more active.
Lauren lives in Nashville with her husband and son. You can find her on instagram @laurenallyson.