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Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

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Central City...
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Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

I am planning a vacation over Christmas break for my family. DH, 3 DD (ages 18, 9, & 8) and myself. I plan extensively for our family vacations because I thoroughly enjoy doing so and I have learned everything goes better when I am very familiar with the location before we go. I regularly use tripadvisor and have already spent a substantial amount of time reading through forum posts and reviews regarding LA.

I have booked a suite at Orchid Suites due to the size of the rooms, price, and convenient location to a metro stop. I prefer to use public transportation when possible because it is an experience my children do not get at home. (We live in rural Nebraska.) We are not opposed to renting a car in Hollywood if it would be more convenient for a particular day trip. We are used to spending a lot of time in a car but are not excited about spending our vacation in traffic jams.

We will be spending a week in LA, but are not planning to do any amusement parks. The crowds are just too big over the holidays. (We learned that the hard way during a vacation to Disneyland several years ago.) We typically like to sleep in and then head out for 5-6 hours of sightseeing. We prefer to finish up our day with an evening meal at a sit-down restaurant within walking distance of our hotel.

That gives you a little background. Here are my questions:

**Some ideas of activities "off-the-beaten-path" where we can get away from crowds when we have had enough of the regular tourist things.

**A suggestion of a concise resource that lists nearest metro stops for specific attractions.

**Suggested age-appropriate tv shows, movies or books that show LA attractions. (I have learned from experience that my children enjoy recognizing/knowing a little about what they are seeing.)

**Particular tours that are especially interesting for kids.

My children are probably a little unusual in that they enjoy historical kinds of things (as long as we have done the applicable "pre-teaching"). One of our best family vacations was to Washington DC, but they also love a laid-back beach environment. The activities I am definitely planning on right now are the Walk of Fame, evening movies at the Hollywood theaters, Warner Brothers Studio, the Grammy Museum, and a day at Long Beach. Santa Monica is definitely a possibility but I am wondering if a beach-day at a less crowded location would be better.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated. Thanks so much!

SoCal
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1. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

A beach day may not work out weather wise at Christmas and the water will be really cold. Unless there is a heat wave, the beaches will not be crowded at Christmas. The kids will probably like Santa Monica with the pier and a few rides. The weather may not be good for actually going to the beach so I would keep that flexible.

All tourist type attractions will be busy to packed. You may want to include the Natural History Museum, La Brea Tar Pits/Page Museum, Griffith Park (check out their web site, lots of attractions there including a very good zoo and the observatory), USS Iowa, Olvera St., the Getty and the CA Science Center (book Space Shuttle res in advance). The kids always liked the wax museum, Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley's near your hotel.

Edited: 10:09 am, August 01, 2014
Norwich, United...
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2. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

> Suggested age-appropriate tv shows, movies or books that show LA attractions.

There's a lot of relevant videos on YouTube, often as part of a longer road trip video or playlist. Try searching for each place, attraction, street, road or highway. However, you'd definitely need to check that they were appropriate for young children.

You might like to try these, made by a young French couple: https://www.youtube.com/playlist…

Santa Monica, CA
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3. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

I, personally, love your travel style. We usually have visitors who come for 2 days and only want amusement parks; it's so refreshing to stretch the brain in other directions!

**Some ideas of activities "off-the-beaten-path" where we can get away from crowds when we have had enough of the regular tourist things.

Look at Griffith Park and the Santa Monica Mountains. Griffith has great things to do for all ages: horseback riding, hiking trails, the LA Zoo (a real gem that is priced well for families, too). A day trip to Malibu for the tidepools, running down the giant sand dune, and poking around rugged beaches is a favorite of mine.

**A suggestion of a concise resource that lists nearest metro stops for specific attractions.

I think you'll find some good information by looking at the Starline HOHO tour stops and see if their maps give you some insight.

**Suggested age-appropriate tv shows, movies or books that show LA attractions. (I have learned from experience that my children enjoy recognizing/knowing a little about what they are seeing.)

500 Days of Summer is a good movie for interesting downtown LA shots. LA Story is a must-see for the quirky side of Angelinos. If you can rent any of the Huell Houser TV Shows: California Gold, a local PBS show. That man could wax poetic about the most humble store, it just made you happy to be a Californian!

http://www.calgold.com/

***My children are probably a little unusual in that they enjoy historical kinds of things (as long as we have done the applicable "pre-teaching"). One of our best family vacations was to Washington DC, but they also love a laid-back beach environment. The activities I am definitely planning on right now are the Walk of Fame, evening movies at the Hollywood theaters, Warner Brothers Studio, the Grammy Museum, and a day at Long Beach. Santa Monica is definitely a possibility but I am wondering if a beach-day at a less crowded location would be better.

Definitely spend a day in Santa Monica. Our beaches are only really packed during the heat of summer, otherwise, they are nice and quiet. Santa Monica is a family friendly city and you and your kids will love it. I suspect you won't want to see Venice Beach, which is decidedly into the drug culture. But if you can, rent bikes and ride the beach bike path, it is flat and great fun.

We get pretty lucky most Decembers in that we tend to have a nice warm-up at some point, so hopefully you can experience some 70 degree weather, but it is more likely to be in the 60s, which isn't exactly bad!

Other things you may want to look into:

Downtown LA walking tour - great architecture, lots of murals, DTLA is a rising star again.

Natural History Museum - our Dino Hall is quite spectacular.

California Science Center - next to the Natural History Museum, it's the home to the Endeavor Space Shuttle.

LaBrea Tarpits. This is a great, small museum and you can see the tar gurgling from the earth, too, that really amazed me in the center of a city.

Botanical Gardens - do take a nice walk in one; the LA Arboretum is a good choice. Lots of plants are in bloom year-round and this garden is a great one with kids. On a weekday, you are likely to have the garden to yourself, too.

Edited: 10:53 am, August 01, 2014
Los Angeles
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4. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

Be advised that many tourist attractions are not near Metro stops at all. For those, you need to use our bus system for at least part of the trip, or go via private ride (Uber, Lyft) or taxi. Info on Metro and most buses in our area can be found at www.metro.net.

In any case you would probably do better to use the trip planner at www.metro.net, or Google Maps public transit directions, to figure out how to get to each attraction from where ever you will be setting out from. It will tell you the best way to go which may or may not involve the metro (meaning our subway and light rail train system).

Beyond that, generally the web sites for most attractions will include information on how to get there, and will mention if there is a nearby metro stop.

Santa Monica...
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5. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

The idea of walking to dinner from the Orchid Suites and having that hotel be the one you come back to each night, doesn't sound good to me. The neighborhood is not conducive to this, it's all tourist traps and kitsch. Yes, there are a handful of restaurants that are not awful, but mostly, that neighborhood isn't very relaxing (although it might be, in December).

Can you change your hotel? I would recommend The Elan, the Orlando, the Le Montrose Suites, anything in Santa Monica... all of these would offer a better neighborhood for relaxing after your day of sightseeing, with fantastic restaurants nearby for dinner.

Just because you want to offer the public transportation experience when traveling, LA is not the city to rely on it , solely, it's not the place for this idea. The bottom line is that you really need a car here, or else too much of your vacation is spent trying to get someplace, transferring buses, etc. I highly recommend mixing it up here. Get a car, you'll be happy you did. Take the bus only when it's convenient and direct (which it usually is not).

Central City...
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6. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

Thanks for the great information! I will add LaBrea to our must-do list. I want to see the bubbling tar too! The Botanical Gardens are a good fit with our 18-year-old who works in a greenhouse and is into horticulture. Is Griffith Park doable without a car?

Central City...
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7. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

We lose flexibility when choosing a hotel because of needing 5 people in a room. I liked the apartment-style rooms at Orchid to give us a little additional space. Is there something similar in a different location?

Santa Monica, CA
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8. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

I recommend you start to plot your visits using Google maps or the metro.net trip planner just to get a feel for how much time transit will take. For example, to get to Griffith Park Observatory, plug that, plus your start point, into the trip planner, and see how long and how many transfers it will take via mass transit. When you do this for a few of your planned activities, you'll have a better idea of times and other things you might want to do instead (or plan a rental car day).

One thing I think your family would love would be Malibu - wild, open, empty, lots of great beaches, tidepools, a sand dune to run down - but you have to rent a car to drive the 28 miles of it to enjoy. There is no other way.

Here is a link, from Top questions on the right hand side of this page, regarding 5 or more persons in a room:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g32655-c172178/Los-An…

Southern California
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9. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

Public transport to Griffith Park only runs on the weekends, it is a really big place so unless you are only going to visit the observatory, car would be better for this location.

Santa Monica, CA
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10. Re: Planning questions (sorry this is so long)

Sorry to be confusing, I just used the observatory as an example of plotting your outings. If you'd like, choose the LA Zoo instead for my example. Griffith park is enormous; there are other places besides the observatory and you can reach some via mass transit