Pop Over to the Poppy Festival

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Sure, you know that showy little orange blossom is California’s state flower. But it’s also the star of an eye-popping and dazzling family festival. Head to the Antelope Valley, home to one of California’s most bountiful crops of desert flowers to soak up some sun, listen to the music and bask in the brilliance of the poppies.  It’s the last chance to catch these beauties until next year!

photo: Anita Ritenour via Flickr

Planning Your Visit
The first you need to that the festival takes place April 22 & 23 in the town of Lancaster. Afer several years of no rain and few poppies, this winter’s drenching means that the hills are alive with healthy poppies. According to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: “The east end of the park is covered with poppies and patches are starting to fill in around other areas!  We do not expect a full carpet of poppies across the park, but many other flowers such as goldfields, lupine, and lacy phacelia are also creating a mosaic of color that changes daily.”  The blooms should last through April, making this a perfect time to head east, young family!

photo: Dianna M. via yelp

Though not as big—or ominous—as the Land of Oz (where Dorothy encountered the fields that put her to sleep), the Poppy Festival is spread out across 55 acres and features hundreds of exhibits, activities, presentations, performances, plus plenty of food n’ shopping ops. Don’t forget to wear plenty of sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and bring a sweatshirt. Sure, it’s the desert, but the weather can be unpredictably windy or stormy.

kids on ride

photo: California Poppy Festival

What to Do
Do bring the camera and gaze at the fields, snapping some stellar shots of the kids in the blooms. But then, head to the center of the festival—kiddos need action and luckily there’s plenty of that here, with enough variety to keep everyone happy. There are three stages: one for music, one for dancers and the final one is the Adventure Zone with an Exotic Animals of the Rainforest show multiple times each day.

poppy7photo: California Poppy Festival

But that’s not all. The festival takes their “Always Something New” motto seriously, and there are crafts, mural painting, reptiles, birds, and insects to meet, a car show on Sunday and an arts n’ crafts marketplace where you can find handmade wooden toys, soaps, hammocks, clothes, pottery and everything in between. Everywhere you look there’s something new to explore.

photo: Varint via flickr

The Antelope Valley is more than just poppies. It also happens to be known as “America’s Aerospace Valley” and is home to cutting edge leaders in aerospace technologies, who will also be swinging by the festival. So countdown and get ready to let your imagination take off at some way cool space and aviation presentations.

32218_419405369881_4952500_nphoto: California Poppy Festival

Where to Eat
With so much scrumptious chow to choose from, even your most finicky foodies will be happy. You’ll find the good old festival faves like funnel cakes, corn dogs, and kabobs; or hit the international market for exotic bites from far and wide. For more freshly picked, swing by the Farmers Market for juicy fruits and veggies, and while you’re there you can also pick up some gourmet snacks and spices. Oh, and of course, don’t forget the poppies!

poppy4photo: California Poppy Festival

Admission & Getting There
To save time and avoid the lines, buy tickets online before the festival. At the festival tickets are for sale for cash only (there are ATMs near the entrance). Kids under 6 are free, 6-12 year-olds, seniors and military personnel are $5 and adults are $10.

The Poppy Festival is located at Lancaster City Park, just off the 14 freeway, about 90 minutes from Los Angeles. Parking is free and complimentary trams shuttle regularly between the parking lot and festival entrance.

poppy6photo: California Poppy Festival

The California Poppy Festival
Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park
43011 N. 10th Street West
Online: poppyfestival.com

Have you been to the Poppy Festival? What is your favorite memory?

—Jennifer Wolfe

Remedies For Spring Break Fever

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5 days. 4 walls. A couple of kids. No plans. What are you gonna do? (Insert foreboding music here….) Spring Break is bearing down fast upon us, and if Winter Break was any indication, it’ll stop showing mercy around noon on Day One. So if you don’t have a fancy trip planned to the exotic reaches and beaches of the universe (we don’t either), don’t worry, we have a few cheap tricks up our sleeve that will keep kiddos of all ages happy, and give wallets of all sizes a break.

gettyBe King or Queen of the Getty
Travel back in time and across the sea for a 19th century escapade through Queen Victoria’s beloved Scotland. No time machine? No problem. We’re talking about the Getty museum’s family festival, Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography. Revel in the splendid stylings of Highland bagpipes, join in lively music hall melodies and dancing, and even take a 19th century side-trip to Japan with a shortened performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, The Mikado. Your mini-monarchs can make their reign at the Getty complete by designing their own crowns and tiaras – fancy or funny style – while they are there. Check the website for more details about this and other family festivals at the Getty. Hint: if you can’t make the festival, the exhibit runs daily and a trip to the Getty is always fun!

Where: Getty Center,1200 Getty Center Dr., West LA
When: Saturday, April 12 from 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Admission: Free, no reservations required.
Online: getty.edu



Come On Get Crafty
Every Saturday participating Michael’s locations open the doors for their own Kids Club where budding artists can create whimsical crafts using paint, wood, canvas, looms, and other materials.  Each week features a different theme and craft type, and sessions start every half-hour from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Where: Michael’s (various locations)
When: Saturdays 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Admission: $2 per child
Online: michaels.com


Discover an Underwater World
You don’t have to travel very far to explore kelp forests, mud flats, and tidepools. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro offers interactive exhibits and outdoor programs for marine life scientists of all ages.

While you’re there explore the the aquarium’s coastal park and its tidepools, salt marsh and beach. (Note: Low tide is the best time to explore tidepools. Check here for a tide chart.)

Where: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Dr., San Pedro
When: Tue through Fri from Noon to 5 p.m.; weekends 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: Suggested donation of $5 for adults and $1 for children and seniors.
Online: cabrillomarineaquarium.org

Monrovia waterfall

Hike to a Waterfall
We know the mere mention of hiking starts sends most kiddos running for the hills (or away from them, to be more precise). But promise a waterfall and watch them turn right back around. (Go ahead, try. We’ll wait). Ready? Our most winning wet hikes with kids are: Monrovia Canyon Park, with several flat and shady trail options plus a nature center to launch your trek; Sturtevant Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains, a 3.25 mile, dog-friendly hike to a 50 foot cascade; and the stroller-friendly Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains which takes you to some real bone-fide LA ruins (yes, LA has ruins) on the way to the falls. All this amidst sweeping views of the ocean. Who needs Hawaii? Check the websites for trail maps, parking info and occasional trail closures. (Note: Despite the drought, all of these waterfalls are flowing, although water levels may be lower than usual for this time of year.)


Gone Fishin’
We know you’ll probably stick to Gelsons for your marine morsels. But the kiddos can catch and release* all over LA at any of our tried and true fishing holes. First on the list is the newly renovated  Echo Park Lake  (yes, that  Echo Park), which is stocked regularly and also has a playground and paddle boats. Best part? Square One Café sits right on the dock, which means fishing for them, artisan snack for you.  If you’re looking for something a little more beachy, trawl out to Santa Monica Pier which has its own bait ‘n tackle shop in case you forget the worms.  Troutdale, in the Agoura Hills, has a stocked lake and plenty of helpful folk to help make sure newbies catch their limit.  Got some non-fishing kiddos with you? Head to Lake Balboa in Van Nuys, which has lots of green space, bike trails and a playground in addition to its seasonally stocked lake.
*Note: kids under 16 do not require a fishing license, but if you plan to cast a line, you will need one in any public venue.

grand park

Park it Downtown
Who says you have to board a plane to visit a new city? We say put on your walking shoes, grab a camera and be a tourist in your own town.  Leave the car at home and jump on the Metro Red Line to the Civic Center stop, where you can start your day at Grand Park, an urban oasis that begs for a blanket, picnic, and good book. Don’t worry, it also boasts plenty of space for kicking a ball and a huge fountain where, on a warm day the kids can splash to their heart’s content while you sip on an frozen latte from the fountain-side Starbucks. (May we suggest a change of clothes for the kids?)

Grand Park is a short walk from architectural and cultural gems like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Bradbury Building. Stop for lunch or a snack at Grand Central Market. Then slow down, rest up and snap some city shots from the nearby Angels Knoll, a hillside park with great city views.

(Note: This route is walkable, but each of these attractions is conveniently located near a Metro Red Line stop in case little feet start losing steam. Check here for complete info on fares and maps.)

kasey, shane, mo

Bless Your Beast
Come on down to Olvera St., home of the bustling, open-air Mexican Marketplace – and don’t forget to bring Fido, Fluffy or even your pet Python for the annual Blessing of the Animals, an all day event featuring yummy food, traditional music and an animal parade in this vibrant little corner of the city.

Where: Olvera St., located across from Union Station on the Metro Red Line
When: Sat., April 19th from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: Free
Online: calleolvera.com

skate board
Like, Drop into a Pool, Dude
They want to play Skate 3 from dusk till dawn. You want some fresh air. So do everyone a solid and take them to a real skate park where they can have their own epic ride (and maybe even get some lessons).  Or just watch – even the littlest guys love watching big kids catch air.

Some of our favorites are Verdugo Skate Park in Glendale and Valley Park in Burbank which both have playgrounds and ample picnic areas; and Marsh Skatepark, adjacent to the Glendale Narrows section of the L.A. River and bike path .

(Note: if you plan to skate, most skate parks require you to have proper protective gear and sign a waiver before entering. Some charge a nominal fee at peak hours. Check websites for details.)

Golden Road Brewing2 via Facebook

Take a Factory Tour
Looking for a way to spice up Spring Break for the older kids? How about a tour of the 650,000 square-foot Sriracha factory . Here they’ll discover the secret to the peppery Rooster’s success – and why Dad insists on putting this mystery sauce on everything from hot dogs to watermelon.

Where: Huy Fong Foods, Inc., 4800 Azusa Canyon Rd, Irwindale
When: Mon. through Fri. between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., by appointment only.
Admission: Free
Phone:  (626) 286-8328
Online: huyfong.com

If you’ve got bigger little rockers under your roof check out the Fender Factory Tour to see how music really gets made (the instruments, that is). The 60 minute tour includes a visit to the “Dream Factory” for a firsthand look at Fender stringed creations. (Note: Kids under 9 are not admitted and all Factory tour guests must wear closed-toe shoes.)
Where: The Fender Visitor Center, 301 Cessna Circle, Corona
When: Mon., Tue., Thur. and Fri. Tours at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Admission: Adults, $10; -$10;  Teens, $6; Kids under 13, free.
Phone: (951) 898-4040
Online: fender.com

Want more tours?  We found other favorite food tours in town.

What are your favorite Spring Break activities? Let us know!

– Jennifer Wolfe

Photo Credits: Analise Dubner, Jennifer Wolfe, Richard Meier via Creative Commons, familymwr via Creative Commons, Jennifer Arrow, Sarah Bowles, Golden Road Brewing via Facebook, Rafael Castillo via Creative Commons and the Annenberg Space for Photography

Drummin’ With a Starr: Ringo at the Grammy Museum

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Nearly fifty years after a little band called The Beatles first sauntered onstage at The Ed Sullivan Show, The Grammy Museum offers fans young and old a rare opportunity to take a trip back in Beatle time.  On exhibit now through March 2014 is Ringo: Peace & Love, where visitors can get to know the beloved Beatles drummer and all his creative genius.  What’s that you say? You’re worried the kids will whine their way all the way through this nostalgic blast to the past, hustle you forward towards the exit to the iconic beat of I’m-bored?  We’ve got you covered. This isn’t your standard, stuffy don’t-touch-it kind of museum. Ringo has been inspiring kiddos to pick up their own drumsticks for years, and in this interactive exhibit he’ll even show them how.  So unless you’ve got plans to spend the day in an Octopus’ garden in the shade…Drum roll please!

family rock band

Drummin’ With A Starr
Sure this exhibit has some of Ringo’s original drum kits that you can ooh and ahh over. But if you’ve got kids that like to make some noise – and we gotta ask, is there another kind of kid? –  they’ll be happy here for sure. Let them trade up all that clanging-pots-n-pans-on-the-kitchen-floor practice for a turn on an actual drum set. Pull on some headphones and take a boom-chick lessons from Ringo himself as he appears on a video monitor mounted to the drum kit.  Will it launch them towards their own future as a rock-n-roll legend? Hard to say.  But we know they’ll have a whole lot of fun.

kid drums

Sing In The Land Of Submarines
When they’ve had their fill of drumming and thrumming, your musical mighty mites can sail on over to the interactive recording booth and sing along with Ringo to Yellow Submarine. The booth will record their rendition, and play it back for them to hear. Kiddos can even listen to their isolated vocal tracks, just like the pros (By the way, we know you’re curious. Step into the booth and croon your heart out.  Go on, we won’t tell. )  Your kiddo more the behind-the-scenes type?  They can also visit one of the exhibit’s real mixing stations and take at crack at balancing  instrumental and vocal tracks of Ringo’s 1967 recording of “With A Little Help From My Friends”.  Best part? They’ll need very little help from Mom, leaving you plenty of time to explore by yourself.

Starr Stylings
It’s hard to imagine going through our closets and digging up old threads worthy of a museum exhibition – unless of course our wardrobes include an original pink Sergeant Pepper suit donned on the cover of one of the top selling albums in rock-n-roll history. (Yeah, ours doesn’t either.)  Here you’ll find that original hipster getup and other familiar Ringo garb, along with handwritten song lyrics, photos and video clips from the Fab Four’s coolest moments. There is even mockup living room where you can recline on the couch with your future rock stars and watch on TV that famous  Ed Sullivan show from 1964 when the Beatles first hit the American scene.

After a hard day’s night –er – afternoon of pipes n’ percussion with Ringo, what could be better than that? We can’t think of a thing.

grammy museum

Musical Notes:
Ringo: Peace & Love is on exhibit at the Grammy Museum through March 2014.

The Grammy Museum
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles in the LA LIVE district.
Phone: (213) 765-6800.
Hours: Weekdays from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm and weekends from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm.
Tickets:  $12.95 for adults,  $10.95 for kids 6 and free for five and unders.

Online: grammymuseum.org/on-display/special-exhibits/ringo-peace-love

– Jennifer Wolfe

What’s your favorite interactive museum exhibit? Tell us about it here.

Photo credits: Jennifer Wolfe and biofriendly via Creative Commons

5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do at the LA River

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When Angelenos plan a day outdoors, we usually think of a trip to the beach or hike in the mountains. In fact the last thing we might imagine is heading down to the river since LA doesn’t have a real river, right? Wrong!  The LA River is slowly but surely emerging from its reputation of a dry, concrete culvert, renowned only for the big car race at the end of Grease. But if you’re not a T-Bird, Scorpion or Pink Lady with greased lightin’ ready to burn up the quarter mile, what else is there to do on the LA River? Plenty.

bike LA River

Bike It
Sure there are some kid-less hipsters you know who do multi-mile bike trips on weekends while you’re schlepping back and forth between ballet and soccer. But I’ve got kids on training wheels, you say.  Come on down to the river, we say.

There are plenty of family-friendly routes that are just perfect for post-Saturday morning activities.  Check out the Sepulveda Basin bike loops, which meander near the river and run through Lake Balboa Park and Woodley Avenue Park, home to beautiful Japanese Gardens ($3 entrance fee). On the east side, the Glendale Narrows bike path near Atwater Village leaves the freeway behind and offers an exceptionally green ride with plenty of shade, diverse wildlife and several parks and spots along the shore where your little bikers can rest their legs and watch the gentle whitewater bubble on by . Check online for a complete list of trails.

kids at LA River

Bird It
With over 200 species of birds calling the river’s 52-miles home, there’s a lot to squawk about. Tip-toe over to Duck Park in Elysian Valley to spy on majestic Blue Herons, eagles, and yes, ducks.  Bette Davis Park and the Glendale Narrows, both near Atwater Village, are also popular spots for our flying friends who enjoy hanging out on the tall sycamore and oak trees. Or head north to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area in the Valley where you can loiter on lookouts around the man-made lake. The Basin is also home to the super kiddo-friendly Lake Balboa . With playgrounds, grassy fields and fishing ops, you can chill and watch a bird take flight while your own little chickadees  spread their wings and fly around –  kiddo-style.

Great blue heron river louis rishoff

Pocket Park It (at the Narrows)
The Glendale Narrows is a ten mile stretch of river between Griffith Park and the Elysian Valley that is perfect for a family stroll or bike ride. Along the way, take a break for a picnic at one of the multiple  little pocket parks  that have sprung up  along the Narrows.  Picnic tables, drinking fountains, a yoga garden, a serpentine river rock,  the landmark Great Heron gates, and a life-sized metal mountain lion are just some of the things you’ll find as you park-hop through the Narrows.  (Scavenger hunt, anyone?) Our favorite park at the Narrows is Marsh Park which features a wild-life themed play area, expansive green lawn and  – get ready all you parents with teens and tweeners – a way-cool skate park just adjacent on Marsh St (kids too small to skate love to watch the big kids, too).

Marsh Park serpent

Catch It
Fishing may not exactly leap to mind when you cruise down the I-5 along the cement section of the LA River. But grab a pole and bucket and think again!  The most popular fishing hole in these parts is Lake Balboa which is seasonally stocked with rainbow trout, large mouth bass – and weekend crowds.  Want something a little further off the beaten path? Check out the shores along Glendale Narrows where carp, tilapia and catfish are just some of the fish your tots can trawl for along the natural sandy bottom. Note that fishing is only an officially sanctioned activity at the Narrows in the summer, and people over 16 will need a license (available at most sporting good stores).

fishing on the LA River

Explore It
Kiddos will have a blast exploring the nature next to the LA River at the Mommy, Me and the River nature program for children at Marsh Park. This hands-on program will introduce your little one to a different topic related to nature and the river each week, such as how animals move, the 5 senses, and shapes in nature through books, charades, songs and short walks. Marsh Park also hosts monthly campfires where your little night owls can roast marshmallows and sing songs ‘round the fire. Check the website for details.


Want more ideas? Check online for up to date information on bike riding events, paddling the river, the annual volunteer clean-up days and more.

The LA River: thelariver.com
Friends of the LA River: folar.org
FOLAR on Facebook: facebook.com/LosAngelesRiver
What are your favorite spots along the river? Share them here.
-Jennifer Wolfe
Photos by: Analise Dubner, Jennifer Wolfe and the Mountains, Recreation & Conservation Authority press kit

Roller Retro Family Fun at Moonlight Rollerway

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Flashback time:  The lights are low.  Your banana clip is perfectly coordinated with your Benetton shirt.   The cutest guy in 7th grade shrugs at you and you giggle and take his hand for couples skate as “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” starts to play.  Best. Day. Ever.  Until now, when you can recreate the retro roller fun with your favorite dates of all time – your kids. Nestled on a corner of an industrial stretch of San Fernando Road, Moonlight Rollerway is one of those places you could drive by 1000 times, and never know is there. But roll up here on any day of the week and you’ll wonder if you’re the only one in town that didn’t know about this place: it’s hip, it’s happenin’, and it’s a whole lot of fun.

roller skate kid

Blast From The Past

Skaters young and old have been zipping around Moonlight’s patina floor since 1950, although back then it was known as Harry’s Roller Rink . Today the place is owned by Dominic Cangelosi, a legend in the roller-skating world for his thirty-year career as a skating organist  -some say the most famous in the world.  Mix that up with the disco balls above your head and that psychedelic 80s carpeting below your feet, and you will indeed feel like you’ve just stepped back in time to your own vintage childhood.

roller skating

Just For Kids

The very best time to come to Moonlight Rollerway with your kiddos is during Saturday morning Kids Skate from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm.  Come a little earlier and they can take a children’s beginner class (parents welcome), which includes skate rentals and the skate session after class. During all weekend sessions you and your mini whiz-on-wheels can really get down with some old-school games like Red-Light-Green-Light, Four Corners, The Chicken Dance, and yes, you guessed it, The Hokey-Pokey.  Try that on wheels. (And then get up, brush off, and try again.)

R Light G Light

Stop by the snack bar for some pizza,  corndogs, funnel cakes and other fun foods, or brake for some arcade games, although there are only a few: roller skating is the real star here, so lace up and roll on.

claw game

Skate-Date, Anyone?

Look, we weren’t going to mention it; we know you’re looking for cool things to do with the kids, but since you asked: Yes! This is a great place for a grown-up date too. Especially on Tuesday nights when you can skate back in time to the sounds of live organ music piping out across the floor. So get a sitter, find your banana clip, and go “Back in Time” (hum along with Huey Lewis now).

moonlight Rollerway skaters

Skates and skills seeming a bit rusty? Brush ’em off and try the adult beginner class before the session – you’ll be up to speed in no time.

roller skate lesson

Roller-Skate Skinny: Know Before You Go

  • Check the schedule: Some skate sessions are adult only and the rink closes occasionally for private parties and maintenance. Be sure to check the website for details before driving over.
  • Leave the gum and cell-phones, cameras and head-phones in your bag: all are prohibited on the rink for safety reasons.
  • Parents can stay on the sidelines and watch for free; all other patrons must wear skates.
  • You can rent regular roller skates for an additional cost, or bring your own. Roller-blades and in-line skates are acceptable to bring, but not available for rent.
Moonlight Rollerway
5110 San Fernando Rd.
Glendale, CA 
Phone: (818) 241-3630
Online: moonlightrollerway.com


 Do you have a retro place to have fun with your family? Share it here. 

-Jennifer Wolfe

Photo credits: Katya Shaposhnik,  Jennifer Wolfe and Jason Lander via Creative Commons

Calling All LEGO Lovers: See the Art of the Brick

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Let’s face it. We live in a LEGO world.  They are piled high in multi-colored mountains around the kids’ rooms, slowly but surely encroaching on every living space in our homes: hidden plastic pellets, laying in wait for hapless feet. Brick by brick our budding builders have erected interlocking worlds inhabited by space ships, robots, pirates, castles, cars n’ creatures –only to destroy and rebuild, destroy and rebuild.  We’ve spent a small fortune feeding the dragon but still they WANT. MORE. LEGO.


Before heading back to the LEGO store (where you inevitably will drop beaucoup bucks), detour over to The Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale which is currently hosting The Art of the Brick®, an exhibition featuring more than 30 astonishing sculptures crafted solely from LEGO bricks and rated by CNN as “one of the top twelve must-see exhibitions in the world.”  We’re talking life-size LEGO-people, towering crayons, and heady creations  that will blow minds and drop jaws, young and old.  This is LEGO art that will amaze you as much as your kiddo (and required neither the drive nor the money that a trip to Carlsbad will run you…).


The Ultimate Brick Master
The artist, New York based Nathan Sawaya, started out just like your little brickmaster, spending endless childhood hours in the LEGO land of his own room. Today he uses nearly one million standard LEGO bricks to construct his plastic masterpieces (try fitting that in the toy box at home) and spends six figures annually on supplies.

Working In Studio

Interlocking Ingenuity
We love that Sawaya has abandoned the old LEGO stand-bys. You won’t find Starfighter vehicles or Hogwarts Castles here. (Although there is a castle of another sort…) These whimsical brick creations will no doubt inspire your kiddos to think outside the cardboard box they came in.


One of  Sawaya’s best-known sculpures, Yellow, features a, well, yellow man ripping open his torso as yellow plastic bricks tumble out.


Another one, Green, is a life-size man lifting his head off of his body. Gray (anyone else noticing a theme here?) depicts a man pulling aside curtains for a peek at the world.


Along with mind-bending pieces of an avant-garde flavor, there are also more familiar images that will stun and surprise with their precision. Check out a national monument….


…or imagine a world, like, more peaceful, man.


Kiddos thinking of trying this at home? Clear their schedules and a large room: they’ll need about a month and nearly 25,000 bricks for just one of these life-size LEGO-fellas.


But here’s a little secret: plans are in the works to bring your little brick artists their own mini-Yellows to build at home. Click here for more information.

Wanna make a day of it? 
The Art of Brick exhibit will only take a short time to walk through. But while you’re at the museum, check out the permanent displays, and enjoy the sweeping views and serenity from the gorgeous terraces outside.  You won’t find this at the LEGO store.

Forest Lawn is also a hop, skip and jump away from Travel Town and LA Live Steamers (should you happen to visit on a Sunday), so couple your LEGO adventure with a train adventure and you’ll have one happy little kiddo.  (Just remember to pack snacks, as none of those places have choice comestibles!  And nothing but nothing ruins an outing faster than starving kiddos.)

Nuts n’ Bolts
The Art of the Brick is on view now at the Forest Lawn Museum through July 21st, 2013. The museum is open every day except Monday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission and parking are always free.

Forest Lawn Museum
1712 S. Glendale Avenue,
Glendale, Ca 91205
online: forestlawn.com  

Do you have any LEGO hot spots that we don’t know about? Tell us about it here! 

–Jennifer Wolfe

Art of Brick photos (in order of appearance): Think, Erica Ann, Yellow, Gray, Rushmore, Peace By Pieces, Xray by artist Nathan Sawaya, courtesy of www.brickartist.com; additional photos by Jennifer Wolfe and floodllama via Creative Commons

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Blink-and-you-might-miss-it: this hidden haven is an impressive 605 acres that you might never find, nestled in the canyons between Beverly Hills and the Valley. What’s really cool about this place is how it seems grown up on the surface (with miles of hiking trails and generous bird-watching ops) but still has the heart of a kid which means your kiddo will love it too. In fact, the easy 1.4 mile Reservoir Loop begs for a scavenger hunt. Shelled and slithering reptiles? Check.  A three-acre lake and a duck pond? Check and check.  A Chumash teepee, towering Redwoods, a birdsong choir – and easy parking to boot? Hunt no further: Franklin Canyon has it all. 

chumash teepee

Nature’s Up, Dude!
From the parking lot, head straight to the Sooky Goldman Nature Center where your kiddo can get up close and personal with a mountain lion (much tamer in its stuffed state), or play who’s who with animal bones and (ew factor alert) mock animal scat. Mom and Dad can browse the impressive library  stocked with books by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and other eco-enthusiasts, or just get comfy in a big chair and gaze out the window.  There’s even a chart listing hourly animal sightings- think TMZ for birds n’ beasts. Forget you your water? You can purchase it here along with a few other snacks and sundries and get ready to hit the trail.

hiking trail

Escape to Mayberry, Sorta…
Behind the Nature Center, trip through the amphitheater to Franklin Canyon Drive.  Walk a short distance and you’ll see a small stoller accessible staircase that connects to the wooded trail leading to Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir.  (You can also just stay on the paved road for a smoother stroll).  With its tall evergreens and reedy grass dancing gently in the breeze, this serene spot might make you think you’ve teleported to a quiet little east coast lake; in fact the reservoir doubles as the Mayberry fishing hole in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show. Actual fishing is not allowed so leave the poles at home and bring your binoculars instead: you’re likely to spot any number of feathered friends: wrens, ravens,  geese, hawks and  California quail are just a few of the birds that live and vacation here.


Hangin’ with the Locals
Continue on halfway around the reservoir and cross the road to Heavenly Pond, or as we’ve fondly dubbed it, Turtle Island. In spring and early summer you’ll find dozens of these guys and gals  sunbathing on rocks and branches, or paddling under the fountain spray with their Wood and Mandarin duck-buddies.


Take a tip from the turtles and kick-back for a while: Heavenly Pond’s shady banks make this a perfect spot for a lazy hob-nob with the wildlife.


Kiddos bored with bird-watching? Spread out the picnic while they try out their tree-hugging and tightrope practice.


As you make your way back around the other side of the reservoir, stick to the wooded trail and you’ll be rewarded with a visit through the Redwood Grove. Continue along the dry riverbed and you’ll arrive right back where you started.


Know Before You Go:

  • Franklin Canyon Park facilities are open from Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Easiest parking is all the way at the bottom near the Nature Center.
  • Drivers beware: there are motion sensor cameras at several intersections in Franklin Canyon.  A “rolling stop” will reward you with an expensive ticket.
  • The Reservoir Loop is dog and stroller friendly, with plenty of picnic tables, and and conveniently located restrooms (because they always have-to-go before you’re ready to leave.)
  • Make a day of it by hitting Tree People and the very popular Fryman Canyon  trail, right across Mulholland Highway.


Franklin Canyon Park
2600 Franklin Canyon Dr.
Beverly Hills, Ca 90210
Phone: 310-858-7272
Online: lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=14

Do you have a favorite hiking kid-friendly hiking spot? Tell us all about it here!

–Jennifer Wolfe

Images courtesy of Jennifer Wolfe and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy via facebook

Los Angeles’ Closest Island Getaway

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So you’re stuck in traffic, day-dreaming of a place to get away from it all.  Perhaps a beautiful island.  An unpopulated, unspoiled little island – where traffic noises are unheard of (literally) and peace and serenity reigns supreme. Then – honk! – the light changes and you remember you live in LA: where traffic is a fact of life and an island like that would take at least a day (and a few thousand dollars) to fly to.  Right?  Wrong.

Take a trip to Anacapa Island the smallest–and closest–of the Channel Islands, eleven miles off the coast of Ventura. Cruise across the sunny sea through a shroud of fog to emerge on your own Galapagos-like sanctuary.  It’s a couple of hours, yet a whole world away.  It’s great for a relaxing girlfriend or romantic getaway, but it’s also a perfect place to explore with kids.


Clapping Seals, Flapping Birds
Step off the boat and be greeted by the lonely homing call of Anacapa’s lighthouse, happy barking seals and sea lions, and most notably, the occasional cries of hundreds of seagulls that would send Tippi Hedren running for cover. Fear not!  These are not the angry birds of a Hitchcockian nightmare; predator-free Anacapa is the proud birthplace of nearly every seagull in California, along with many other endemic species of wildlife and plants. If you visit in spring you’ll ascend Anacapa’s towering lava cliffs to a breathtaking forest of Giant Coreopsis that blanket the island in brilliant yellow.


Get Packing and Get Packers
No cries of  “Are we there yet” on this trip – getting there is half the fun.  Hop an Island Packers ferry in the morning and arrive at Anacapa in less than an hour.  Along the way, get up close and personal with sea lions lounging on buoys. Snap pictures of the dolphins, like, surfing in the wake of the ferry, dude. If you’re lucky you might even spot a few whales making their annual 10,000 mile journey between Baja and the Arctic waters. (And you thought getting across town from Silverlake to the Westside was hard.)  Boats leave daily from Ventura and Oxnard harbors. Check the schedule as time of departure changes with the day of week and season.


You’re On Island Time Now
After you dock plan to spend about four hours on Anacapa, which has a two mile loop trail that even the tiniest tyke-hikers can manage with ease.  Leave the stroller at home unless you fancy the idea of lugging it 157 steps up a steel rung ladder from the dock; Bjorn babies and Ergo-mamas will be much happier.


Once on top, volunteer rangers provide narrated tours of the island or you can strike out on your own to Inspiration Point, Cathedral Cove, and Pinniped Point for breathtaking views of kelp forests and cove dwelling sea creatures below.  (Take care to stay on paths and away from the soft dirt cliff edges at all times.)  Break for a leisurely lunch at the picnic tables, or at the small campground along the trail.  Stop off at the visitor center and discover the rich history of the Chumash people, and the underwater world of this island lost in time.

anacapa trail

Key Things to Know Before You Go

What to bring: Anything and everything you want to eat! There is no place to buy food or drinks (not even water) on Anacapa Island, so stock up.  Make like a Boy Scout and “Be prepared”, or your kiddo just might make you “Be miserable”.

What to wear: One word: layers. The ferry ride gets chilly, especially as it makes it way through banks of fog that often surround Anacapa. Once on the island there are no trees or shade, so a floppy hat will be your best friend. Sunscreen is a necessity, too.  Keep a sweatshirt handy for the fog that rolls on and off the island throughout the day.

When to go: Spring is gorgeous and not too hot, but summer and fall adventures are lovely on the islands as well.  You can even come in the winter, as the parks are open year round, but to be frank, kids (and therefor YOU) won’t enjoy the boat ride here as much when the temp turns frigid.

Can you stay?  Well, yes, you can.  Camping is permitted (with a reservation and $15 fee), but as you have to tote every single thing you’ll need for your visit with you, it’s not a very kid-friendly camping experience.

Got big kids? We have to admit, while we love leisurely hikes with tots on this tiny refuge, if your family consists of more active tweeners and teens, they might prefer visiting Anacapa during a restoration day, held weekly throughout spring and summer.  Volunteers help rid Anacapa of non-native ice plant and work in the island nursery.  Ferry transportation is provided free of charge and students are always welcome.


Online: nps.gov/anacapa.htm

Have you taken an island trip to Anacapa? Do you have any tips for visiting this family-friendly destination with kids? Let us know in the comments below. 

–Jennifer Wolfe

Photos courtesy of Analise Dubner, Derek Lohuis via the National Park Service, and Infernal fox via Wikimedia Commons