Part 1 of this blog post deals with the summary of our LA trip. For a detailed itinerary please check out Part 2 of the post.
Whenever we travel, I encourage my daughters to research some places and activities they want to include on the trip. I also ask my teenage daughter, who is a pretty adventurous eater, to research places that she wants to eat. This kind of cooperation and planning helps them get familiar with the destination. Learning about highlights of our destination in advance always makes the trip more enjoyable for them, and for me!
Getting Ready, Watching Movies
One favorite pre-trip activity is watching movies to dig up interesting facts and see famous locations in advance.
Before our L.A. trip, we watched Speed. In that famous finale, Keanu Reeves speeds up the train, jumps the tracks, and he and Sandra Bullock are catapulted onto Hollywood Boulevard, right next to the Chinese Theater. We definitely knew we’d be visiting this famous site!
Bonus: we went by Keanu Reeves’ house on a Celebrity Home tour. The girls knew who he was because of the movie.
We also watched La La Land, a much more recent movie that the girls already knew and loved. We watched it again for beautiful scenes at the Griffith Observatory, which we visited during the trip.
When the girls were younger, we used to travel with two suitcases: one for the adults, and one for the kids. Now that they are older, they definitely don’t want to share the same suitcase with each other anymore. So we plan for more luggage!
I help them by creating a packing list when they insisted on packing their own suitcases. I have to say that I enjoyed watching them learn to save space by rolling up clothes or putting socks into shoes. It’s never too early to learn how to pack well!
And I made sure to remind them of my other essential packing tip: only pack your suitcase ⅔ full, so you have enough space to bring back souvenirs.
As for me, I certainly over-packed this time! I only wore about 60% of the clothes I brought.
Whenever, wherever I travel, of course, my trustworthy Petit Blue Julia Everywhere Tote is my carry on. Since we took a budget airline this trip, I used the bottom compartment to store snacks and water for the flight - what a great use for an already great bag! The Julia Everywhere Tote also worked perfectly as a beach bag in Santa Monica, so I didn’t have to pack an extra bag just for the beach.
You need to have a car in L.A. Period.
Public transportation there is not as extensive or reliable as in most other major US cities, and most of the streets don’t even have sidewalks. Use Spothero to find cheap parking.
Best Things To Do in L.A. with Teens/Tweens
Celebrity home tour
Some people may tell you it’s not worth the money, but we couldn’t disagree more! We loved the whole experience. Not only do you get to take that legendary drive on Mulholland Drive but you also get amazing views of the Valley. The view from the top was simply spectacular! Plus you get to enjoy how fun driving in L.A. can be when you don’t have to do it yourself.
We booked the Ultimate Hollywood tour. They are so iconic that it’s Ultimate Hollywood buses you see on TV shows.
Although your chances of spotting the actual celebrities at their houses are very slim (we mostly saw gardeners), it’s still fun to identify houses together with your family. Our favorites were Tony Stark’s mansion from the Iron Man movies, the Playboy Mansion, Bruno Mars’ house, and my daughters loved seeing where Miranda Cosgrove from iCarly lives.
Other highlights included seeing Keanu Reeves’ sports cars in his open garage and Leonardo DiCaprio’s mom taking out the trash. My younger daughter also claimed she saw Charo sitting on her couch, watching TV. Celebrities are just like us!
The Grammy Museum
The Grammy Museum is a must-visit for young music lovers. The collection of interesting Grammy memorabilia is really impressive. My girls especially loved seeing all the costumes worn by performers at the Grammys over the years. There are also interactive displays that bring you up-close and personal with the music and the musicians. You can even get in the action yourself. We loved playing as a “family band” and making our own tunes in the sound booth!
Jamming at the Grammy Museum
Hollywood Studio Tour
We chose the Warner Brothers Studio Tour for our taste of Hollywood movie magic. This tour takes you inside all aspects of movie production, and the super-knowledgeable tour guides share with you all the amazing, behind-the-scenes movie studio secrets.
My favorite part of the tour was definitely the visit to the Central Perk set, the coffee shop from Friends. I love that show. My girls, however, loved that we got to see the actual set for The Ellen DeGeneres Show. We also toured past some actual Batmobiles from the Batman movies, costumes Wonder Woman and Aquaman, and lots of memorabilia from Crazy Rich Asians.
Hung out at Central Perk Cafe during the studio tour
Be warned: at 3 hours, this can be a long tour. And don’t expect to see any actual shooting - live sets are usually closed to tours.
Hiking the Hollywood Hills
If you or your kids are up for it, head uphill to the Hollywood sign. It takes about an hour and a half to get there, so plan for the weather. When we tried the hike, we decided that the morning was too hot, so we changed our plans and hiked to the Tyrolian Tank. We still got a very nice view of the Hollywood sign and took some great pictures of us in front of the sign. This shorter hike was only one hour, round trip, which was perfect.
Don't forget a picture with the Hollywood sign
We also recommend the short hike to Griffith Observatory. This is a great spot to get a bird’s-eye view of the Valley. And you must go there for a sunset view of L.A. If you time your hike to arrive at sunset, you can use the telescope at the Observatory (made famous in La La Land). Public viewing via the telescopes starts after the sunsets.
Outside the City
Catalina Island is just over an hour away by boat from L.A. It is picture-perfect and a popular destination for local Angelinos. There is so much to do on the island. You can rent a golf cart or book a Jeep Tour to explore further. On the other side of the island, there are even bison. If you would rather relax, grab a lounge chair at Descanso Beach Club. Make sure you call ahead to reserve a lounge chair or cabana for the day. The beach can get crowded.
Picture perfect Catalina Island
Closer to L.A., rent bikes to explore the coast for Venice Beach from Santa Monica. It is only 20 minutes from one beach to the next, so make sure to slow down for sightseeing and enjoy easy California pace. Don’t miss the famous skateboard park along the way.
This is my teenager’s favorite clothing brand. She normally shops online, and sometimes we find some of their styles in Nordstrom or PacSum. But she was so excited to visit their real California shops! She loved shopping at the Grove, but the Brandy Melville at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica was even bigger. She loved it!
The millennial makeup and skincare brand only has two permanent stores in the U.S.: one in New York and one in L.A. You must check out the Melrose Avenue location if you have teenage girls. The store is small and you need to wait in line to get into the store, my girls loved that part of the experience, too. They loved trying out the lotions and lip balms inside, and you can get a fun tote bag to bring home if you decide to make any purchases.
Waiting to get into the Glossier store on Melrose Avenue
I always have trouble finding clothes for my tween daughter. She doesn’t like Gap or Old Navy and prefers styles less fancy than Crewcuts. The clothing offered at Tillys in L.A. fits her style perfectly. This is a must-visit if you are in Santa Monica.
Button Mash: An Asian fusion restaurant that has tons of vintage arcade games and craft beer. Must try: spam fried rice, dan dan noodle
Spam fried rice
In-N-Out Burger: Must try when you are in CA, great tasty burgers at Mcdonald’s price, don’t forget to ask for a free sticker when you are there
Lou, the French on the Block: Cute little coffee and pastry shop in Burbank, a nice break before or after the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, try their Creme Fraise yogurt parfait
Original Farmer’s Market. Lots of tasty options for the family. Highly recommend the fried chicken from Fritzi Coop.
U-Zen Sushi: Great neighborhood sushi restaurant, their teriyaki salmon is my favorite.
Philz Coffee: A third-wave coffee shop started in CA. LOVE their Iced Coffee Rose and Mint + Mojito, so unique and refreshing. Just found out that they opened one in Wicker Park!
Descanso Beach Club in Catalina: Food is good, great outdoor seating for beachgoers. Make sure you call and reserve lounge chairs for a relaxing day on the beach.
Any fruit salad stands. You can find lots of this type of stands at Santa Monica beach. Must try their mixed fruit salad with lime juice and chili powder.