A Kid’s Guide to the Venice Canals in Los Angeles

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Looking for something fun and out of the ordinary? The Venice Canals are a perfect outing for families of all ages. Moms love tucking their little bundles into the stroller for a scenic walk while older kids dart around looking for ducks and race across the many arched bridges.

Tucked just a few blocks from the famous Muscle Beach and Venice Pier, this network of man-made canals were built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as a homage to Venice, Italy. Back in the day gondolas took tourists on a tour while today small boats and canoes belonging to homeowners are moored along the route. Four canals stretch east-west, Carroll, Linnie, Howland, and Sherman while the Eastern and Grand Canals run north-south. This quaint neighborhood feels like a hidden pocket of Los Angeles, and the quiet atmosphere and fresh, ocean air does wonders!

When to Go: Year around, which is why we love this easy trip. During the winter months, the temperatures may be chilly and foggy (with cooler temperatures stretching into the spring) while the summer months provide cooling ocean breezes.

How to Get There: Aim for the intersection Dell and South Venice Blvd. Heading West on Venice Blvd., this will land you smack in the middle of the canals.

Parking: Parking is plentiful if you make the trip on a weekday. Look for spots at the top of the canals. Street cleaning is Tues. from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., so parking can be difficult. Weekends are always busy so hedge your bets and get there early.

Good to Know: Beachside is always cooler than expected, so always have a light jacket or cover up on hand. Yes, even in the summer!

What to Do:  The walkways and bridges make a fun runway for kids of all ages to explore. Armadas of ducks float along the canals, the occasional pelican swoops in for a bite of fish, plus there are plenty of butterflies, squirrels, and housecats that make for a fun game of I Spy. Note that while most of the sidewalks along the canals are shielded by bushes, there are open spaces for the kids to get close to the water, so you’ll want to keep a hand on little ones. Signs are posted requesting visitors to not feed the ducks, but you might want to pack a few morsels of bread, just in case (wink wink).

Lunch Spots: Abbott Kinney is a short 5-10 minute walk from the canals and is brimming with places to shop and eat. Lemonade (1661 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice) is the closest destination and situated on the corner of Abbot Kinney and Venice. The chic buffet serves up light salads, specialty sandwiches, and the kid-perfect macaroni and cheese—not to mention refreshing blueberry lemonade. A surefire food fix is Abbott’s Pizza Company (1407 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice) where you can grab a slice or order up a pie.

Cost of Trip:  Free, unless food or other souvenirs are desired.

Bonus: For some retail therapy for the children, hit up Burro Goods on Abbot Kinney (1409 Abbot Kinney, Venice). The boutique has lovely gifts, adorable clothes, and unique books and games.

First and third photo courtesy of Lara Burnap; second photo courtesy of Emily Stanchfield via Creative Commons

—Lara Burnap

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6 Magical Swimming Holes in Los Angeles

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So you’ve exhausted the public swimming pool circuit and visited our family-friendly SoCal beaches, why not shake things up with a dip in a natural swimming hole surrounded by rugged beauty? From lava rock pools and babbling brooks to waterfalls with wildflowers, we’ve rounded up the coolest natural swimming spots close to Los Angeles—all kid-tested and Mother (Nature) approved.

Do The Wet Rock Hop: Eaton Canyon

Water shoes are a must for this 1.5-mile hike to the 50-foot waterfall at Eaton Canyon Falls. Along the way, there are plenty of streams to stomp through and rocks to hop across with the big falls payoff at the end where you can splash around and dip your feet into the chilly water to cool down. If your kids lack the stamina for a walk to the falls or are just too small to traverse over slippery rocks, there are a few smaller trails (and picnic areas) behind the Nature Center on which to set your tiny trailblazers loose.

1750 North Altadena Dr.
Pasadena
Online: ecnca.org

Hike and a Swim: Cooper Canyon Falls

This 1.5 mile moderate hike into the back country of the San Gabriel mountains not only provides a splashtastic swimming hole (with fish!) to play and float around in, but in wet years, you'll get a waterfall to boot. What we love about this swimming spot is the workout you get before jumping into the water to cool off. Add to that, a chance to overlap with the Pacific Coast Trail for part of the route. 

Good to Know: To access the swimming hole, you'll need to scramble down some rocks (there is a rope provided to assist with this) so if you have little hikers, maybe wait until they are older to try this spot out. Purchase of an Adventure Pass is required and cost $5 per day. Or better yet, purchase the $30 Forest Adventure Pass and use it all year long.

Burkhart Trail
Pearblossom, CA
Online: fs.usda.gov

Wading, Waterfalls, and Wildflowers: Switzer Falls

Switzer Falls/Bear Canyon hike, one of Angeles National Forest’s shining jewels, is blanketed with nature-made swimming spots making it a wonderful outing for your small splash seekers. There sure are plenty of fresh water pools and streams that will delight the masses but the masses tend to show up especially on weekends at the entrance where families settle in for picnics and wading in the Arroyo Seco Creek. If you crave less commotion, head about a mile downstream where waterfalls and wildflowers abound. At the fork in the road, veer off to Bear Canyon Trail which loops back to the stream and takes you to a decent size cascading waterfall and a swimming hole surrounded by rocks. Bring water and sunscreen—those non-shaded areas get hot.

Insider Tip: Don’t forget to get a $5 parking pass before you arrive at the local Sports Chalet, as the trusty park rangers won’t forget to give you a ticket if you don’t have one!

Angeles Crest Hwy. (Angeles Forest Hwy,) Switzer Truck Trail
Altadena
Online: modernhiker.com/hike/hiking-bear-canyon-and-switzer-falls

Free Falling: Sturtevant Falls

Ranking as the most challenging of our swimming hole hikes at 3.7 miles, the out-n-back Sturtevant Falls trail in the San Gabriel Mountains is still super family-friendly with a mostly flat and shady trail. There are three modest water crossings, perfect for rock-hoppers of all ages so grab some walking sticks (and water shoes) and kick off your wet and wild adventure in style. The payoff is a stunning fifty-foot cascade that plunges into a shallow pool where your wildlings can wallow around in ice cold (mountain fed) water to cool off after the long trek. Strollers and streams aren't a great match here, but we’ve seen plenty of Ergo, backpack and sling-toting parents ambling through these parts. 

Insider Tip: The required $5-$10 adventure pass for parking is available at the pack station (or at any local REI or Sports Chalet store.

Chantry Flats Rd., Angeles National Forest
Arcadia
Online: everytrail.com/guide/sturtevant-falls

Swim in a Lava Lake: Malibu Creek Rock Pool

Grab your little explorers, pack a lunch, bathing suits and sunscreen and head out for a scenic adventure to one of the coolest spots around. Just 25 miles from downtown LA, the Malibu Creek Rock Pool has something for everyone. Parents will love the wide, flat and well-kept path that is a perfect hike (just 3.5 miles round trip) for smaller walking feet. Kids will go wild for the volcanic rock-lined pool surrounded by giant boulders (you may also recognize this spot as the setting from the Planet of the Apes).

Insider Tip: The water is icy cold so make sure it’s a hot day. If swimming isn’t in the cards for you and your posse, no problem. This is a great spot for a picnic, skipping rocks or simply marveling at the bravery of the cliff jumpers and rock climbers. This popular weekend spot does get packed so make sure to head out early (or on a weekday) to get a jump start on the crowds.

Good to Know: Due to the damage from the Woolsey Fire and recent rains, the trails may be closed. Please check the website and call before going to this location.

1925 Las Virgenes Rd.
Calabasas
Online: parks.ca.gov

Walk With The Wee Ones: Solstice Canyon

One of our favorite waterfall hikes, Solstice Canyon offers a variety of small but refreshing natural watering holes that look like they jumped out of the pages of a fairytale. Stunning vistas, architectural relics, and a splash-able pool at the base of a trickling waterfall are just some of what this very accessible 2.5 miles round trip jaunt has to offer. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, this trail provides a stroller friendly hike to the water, which makes it perfect for the whole family.

Insider Tip: This is an extremely popular recreational destination and gets packed on weekends, so plan accordingly.

Good to Know: Most trails have reopened after the Woolsey Fire but please check the website and call before going to this location.

Corral Canyon Rd. at Solstice Canyon Rd.
Malibu
Online: nps.gov/solsticecanyon.htm

To see what Red Tricycle Editors are up to this month, follow us on Instagram!

—Lara Burnap & Meghan Rose & Jenifer Scott

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Uh-Oh. Did your babysitter really just tell you that she has plans of her own? The nerve! As much as you love your little rugrats, a night away with your significant other is a must. No sweat, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve–like these great date-night drop-off spots where your kids can play so mom and dad can have a little one-on-one time. Most places require a reservation so get your name on the list, pronto!

The Realm Creative Academy 
If you want a sure thing every Saturday night, then Santa Monica’s Outside the Box is the perfect place. This wonderful play center offers a variety of crafts, scheduled games as well as just straight up playtime, whether kids want to pound on the piano, read books or run and climb. Each weekend offers something different and it’s usually a small group of children. While walk-ins are welcome, reservations are encouraged, and if you have kiddos under the age of 3, call ahead to make sure they have ample hands.

Bonus: The OtB folks are willing to extend hours if parents request it–just ask!

When: Saturdays, 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Cost: $12 per hour, $8 per sibling

The Realm Creative Academy
400 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, Ca
310-399-1139

Golden State Gymnastics
For special occasions, or when you can plan your schedule far enough ahead, Golden State Gymnastics offers a semi-monthly parent’s night out. The two upcoming events are themed for Valentine’s Day and Spring Fling, respectively. The party with gymnastic activities, games, dinner and more. They’ll even send your little tumblers home with a goody bag to commemorate their evening. Keep Golden State Gym in mind and check out their website–you may be able to take advantage of the next Parents Night Out extravaganza. Minimum age is 4 years old.

When: Saturday, 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm, check website for dates
Cost: $35 early bird enrollment, $30 for siblings, $40 at the door

Golden State Gymnastics 
1828 N. Keystone Street
Burbank, Ca
818-558-1177

Pamper & Play
One of the few spots on this list that is open 7 days a week, Pamper & Play is super clean and safe and well-staffed. They host drop-off play sessions once a week, so you can always count on them to offer you a few hours of uninterrupted “me” time. Perfect for ages 2-12, your kiddos will have access to free playtime, crafts, and activities. Their schedule of Parents Night Out changes weekly, so be sure to check out their calendar to find out when their next event is happening.

When: Weekly, see calendar for dates
Cost: $20 for the first hour, $ for each additional hour (up to 4 hours), $5 for each additional sibling

Pamper & Play
2279 Westwood Boulevard
Los Angeles, Ca
310-441-0797

GymnastiKids
Three hours of fun and fitness will ensure your babes will come home and crash. At Gymnastikids in Pasadena, the kids ages 3 and up can jump on trampolines, play games in the foam pit, build forts, scale rock walls and so much more. And best of all, no experience is necessary, so it’s a great way to discover a new skill. Reservations required.

When: Saturdays, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm, see website for dates
Cost:
$35 for the first three hours, $10 for an additional hour (until 9:30 pm)

Gymnastikids
2237 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, Ca
626-796-5437

The Awesome Playground
Winner of Red Tricycle’s Totally Awesome Award for Best Indoor Playspace, The Awesome Playground promises a fun-filled evening for your kiddos while you enjoy a well-deserved break. While you’re out and about, your kids will be busy with fun games, activities, and crafts. They’ll even feed your kids too; pizza, snacks, and drinks are included. Reservations highly recommended, as space fills up quickly, call 323-256-2467.

When: Select Friday nights, see website for dates
Cost: $10 per child/hour, additional siblings $8 per child/hour, 2 hour minimum reservation.

The Awesome Playground
5158 York Boulevard
Los Angeles, C
323-256-2467

Fit Kids Gym
This Redondo Beach gym only offers two date nights a year; one around Halloween and one around Valentine’s Day. They’re hosting their Valentine’s Day drop-off event this Saturday, giving you the perfect chance to plan a special night with your squeeze while your little tumbler learns to swing and somersault about.

When: Saturday, February 9, 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Cost: $39 per child, $31 for each additional sibling

Fit Kids Gymnastics Center
2641 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
Redondo Beach, Ca
310-297-9550

Where is your go-to spot when you need to escape the kids for a few hours to yourself? Share your drop-off spots in a comment below. 

— Lara Burnap

photo credit: The Realm Creative Academy website, Golden State Gymnastics facebook page, Pamper & Play facebook page, Gymnastikids facebook page, The Awesome Playground facebook page, & msburrows via flickr

6 Great Places for Indoor Fun

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No matter the season, it’s always good to have some indoor play space options in your blistering-hot-or rainy-or way-too-freezing day bag of tricks. Following are some creative spots where kids can let loose, and you can relax knowing they’ll be making a mess somewhere other than your apartment.

1. Beyond a romper room, the five floors of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side aim to make learning fun. Check out the daily calendar for activities like mural painting and puzzle time. And be sure to tour EatSleepPlay, a national arts and literacy program to encourage healthy habits in kids that’s Michelle Obama approved.

2. The Art Farm in the City is your one-stop playspace that has just about everything kids love. Kids ages 1-8 can engage in everything from petting animals to arts & crafts and cooking. Arrive early on Saturday and Sunday mornings for a chance to feed some of the animals by hand. Check out their schedule for an impressive list of classes and workshops offered on a daily basis.

3. In search of a cheerful space fit for an imp or a woodland fairy? Then visit The Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center in Murray Hill. Housed in the American-Scandinavian Foundation, it’s open to the public on Saturdays. This space, renovated just last year, will ignite little imaginations with the ‘please touch’ wall, Lego corner, mushroom house and reading theater.

4. Call ahead to reserve your spot at City Treehouse in Chelsea. If you can’t be outside, this hands-on nature themed learning play space is the next best thing. Founded by a mother of twin girls, it boasts the largest indoor water play area in the city, a two-story tree house with a slide and hideout cave.

5. On a quiet block in Prospect Heights in the back half of a Blue Marble Ice Cream Shop (homemade creamy deliciousness, coffee and baked goods) is The Brooklyn Learning Garden. There’s an array of programs––open play, preschool 101, discovery camp––to keep a range of ages entertained in either the tidy indoor play space featuring all wooden and educational toys or interactive backyard.

6. As the world’s first museum designed for kids (founded in 1899) the Brooklyn Children’s Museum knows a thing or two about what kids really want. Interactive exhibits like Totally Tots will hold the fleeting attention of kids under five. And older kids will find plenty to explore in the charming cityscape World Brooklyn or current Pattern Wizardry exhibit that explores patterns with music, mirrors and kaleidoscopes.

Where do you take your kids for some indoor creative fun? 

— Laura House

Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Children’s Museum

A Favorite Anytime Destination

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If you’re anything like us, we love to explore our favorite outdoor destinations during this pleasant time of year. One must-visit destination is the Santa Monica Pier, which was built in 1909 and is a family-favorite for many Los Angelenos. Even if you aren’t impressed by its history, you’ll still pass an easy afternoon at this beachfront amusement park with plenty of activities and the blue Pacific at your fingertips. Your kids can kick in the sand, search for dolphins or hit the nearby playground, located just south of the pier with plenty of swings, monkey bars, balance beams and more. Plus, there are always plenty of characters to watch—jugglers, roller skaters and more.

You could easily pass the afternoon being entertained by its a carnival-like atmosphere. Traipse down the pier past stands brimming with cotton candy makers, funnel cakes, face-painting, caricature drawings where you’ll find an old-fashioned arcade boasting everything from Dance Dance Revolution to Skeeball and air hockey. There are also plenty of games where kids can win stuffed animals and other fun goodies. Older kids will dig the Ferris wheel and five story rollercoaster located at the end of the pier, and won’t hesitate to join you when you hop on the 1920’s carousel with the younger ones.

Also fun for the family are the bike rentals available for touring the beachfront walk. Visitors can peddle tandem bikes, scooters, and even chariots to hook onto your bike.

Approximate travel time: Depends on where you live and the traffic conditions on the 10. Peak rush hours are best avoided for ease of travel. Santa Monica is approximately 8 miles from Hollywood area and about 15 from Downtown.

What to see: The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is perfect for a short visit. Located under the carousel towards the beginning of the pier, the aquarium has interactive exhibits and fun craft projects that help teach tykes about the ocean and its inhabitants.

Possible lunch spots: Kids love Hot Dog on a Stick, which is located just below the pier on the beach. Take your corndogs and lemonade and sit on the beach for an impromptu picnic. There are tons of other lunch destinations in the area, from the pricey Lobster to an old-school soda fountain called Soda Jerks the kids will love. At the end of the pier is the conveniently located Marisol restaurant, not the best food, but the view is unbeatable.

How to dress: Temperatures are usually a bit cooler with the marine breeze, in winter months you will want a warm sweater or jacket; on some summer days, a light sweater. Santa Monica can be 15 degrees cooler than Downtown/Hollywood, so keep that in mind before heading out. Most important? Sunscreen.

Need to know: While parking at the pier is convenient, it costs $7 weekdays and $8 on the weekend. Just a few blocks away, parking is free for the first 2 hours at Santa Monica Place.

Cost of trip: Inexpensive.

Online: santamonicapier.org

—Lara Burnap

Red Tricycle’s Guide to Disneyland!

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It truly is the Happiest Place on Earth, and even to those first-timers daunted by the thought of Disneyland, it’s totally worth it, with a bit of planning. These tips will help you make the most of your family vacation—whether it’s a day trip from Los Angeles or San Diego or a journey from the Northwest.

Timing is everything
As you’re sifting through the family calendar in search of the perfect day, be sure to keep in mind the months when crowds are smaller–namely late fall, early spring and the winter months. Remember, it is Southern California so February is not that cold! The holiday season is particularly delightful as Disneyland transforms into a wintry wonderland with thousand of twinkling lights, a huge Christmas tree, and a fantastic fireworks show each evening. If you’re heading out during the school year, avoid the crowds by checking the local school district calendar for days off.

Where to Stay
Yes, it can be a fantastic experience to settle into one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels as they offer great perks such as convenience, character breakfasts and early park entrance. But there are more affordable and equally convenient options with the nearby Good Neighbor Hotels. The Tropicana Inn is a great choice as it’s a five minute walk from the resort—a perfect option for nappers. Plus, if they have availability, the hotel will give you a later check-out for a moderate surcharge. It’s a great option for local Angelenos as it provides a home base during your Disney day (with a one-night stay).

Ticket Tape
Instead of shelling out the full price at the gate, check for deals at Costco. The wholesale company often has multiple day deals that add up to big savings. If the deals apply only to Los Angeles area residents (it happens sometimes), start thinking about who you know in LA! Don’t you owe them a phone call?

What to Bring
Park rules say you cannot bring in food or drink to the theme park, but countless parents tote in snacks and drinks (including bottles) without any problem. Considering how much a bottle of water costs, it will help your bottom dollar tremendously to BYO and will give you a little extra for splurging. If you decide to bring lunch food, there are lockers just outside the gates (as well as inside) where you can store more items. You may also rent a stroller if you don’t want to lug yours on the airplane. And lastly, pick up some glow sticks at a local drugstore before you come so when night falls you can break out dozens and do up the kids. You’ll be glad you did when you see the hideous prices charged by the park for their glow gear.

Plan Ahead
The World of Color water and light show in California Adventure’s Paradise Bay is not to be missed. Ensure great seats by making a reservation at either Ariel’s Grotto or the Wine Country Trattoria. The prix fixe menu ($18.99-39.99/person) includes tickets to the preferred viewing section—up close and totally worth it. There’s also a picnic lunch option available ($15.99/person) with great seating as well.

Be Prepared
Avoid impatient kids and aching legs by scouting for short lines. You can get real-time info on which rides have the shortest waits by downloading an app for your phone. Check out Ride Hopper Lite, Parktastiq Disneyland iGuide, and Disneyland Mousewait.

Fast Times
Fast passes are the key to an efficient visit. These passes give you a specified time to return–say from 9:00 am – 10:00 am–and allow you to slip into a shorter, designated line. There are about 100 for each time slot, so the passes go fast. If you miss your time, you can go back later. Remember, you can only get one at a time, so work with your line app to create a plan of attack. Buzz Lightyear and Woody fans, listen up: Adventureland’s Toy Story Mania ride does not have the fast pass option, so hit it the first thing in the morning when lines are the shortest.

Day One
Begin the day by taking the monorail to get the lay of the land. The kids will get amped seeing all the rides and will be able to get an idea of what they don’t want to miss and it’ll help you navigate your way through the park. Kids particularly love It’s a Small World, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Casey Jr. Circus Train, the Storybook Land Canal Boats and the parade at the end of the day!

Pit Stop
A crucial resource for parents of little ones is the Baby Care Center (also known as the Lost Children Center…always a good thing to know about!). Complete with private breastfeeding rooms, plenty of padded changing stations, little potties, and little to no wait for these, as opposed to the other restrooms, this clean, quiet spot is worth planning your pit stops around.

Trading Up
If your kiddo’s into collectibles, you’ll want to consider the pin trading program. It’s a good way to get your children to interact with Disney employees, display mementos of their favorite characters with pride, and break the ice with fellow tots. Want to save a bundle? Invest in a bulk load of trading pins on eBay ahead of time. They run nearly $7 a piece at the park. For two kids, 30 pins is a good number over a 2-day trip.

Where’s Mickey?
There are hundreds of Mickey Mouse silhouettes throughout the park, make a daylong game out of finding the hidden Mickey’s. To get a jump start on it, hit up a couple online sources like the Hidden Mickey Guide (or check that app you downloaded) and lead your little spies in the right direction.

Autographs!
If your child is a total Mickey fanatic, be sure to show up at Mickey’s House in Mickey’s Toon Town, with an autograph book (sold at the park) and a black Sharpie (better than the pens sold with the books). Also, hit up the Princess Fantasy Faire for a signature from one of the Disney princesses…sometimes the lines get too long at their other appearances at other spots in the park to give autographs to all the kids waiting.

Breakfast With the Stars
Another way to ensure that your kid gets to meet his or her most treasured character is to book a spot at one of the character breakfasts. They have them at the PCH Grill and Goofy’s Kitchen, among others.

Parental Controls
Think that Disneyland with the kids equals no fun for Mom and Dad? Think again! It’s a little known secret that adults with kids in tow don’t have to stand in line at the adult-only rides like Space Mountain. Simply let the people working the ride know you’re with your family and they’ll steer you off to a shorter, designated line. Then mom can take a spin while dad watches the kid and then switch it up for the next ride.

Foodie Favorites
There are some items worth splurging on, such as the Corn Dog Cart. Dog aficionados consider Disneyland’s corn dog cart to be one of the best you’ll find (hence the line). The cart is usually located on Main Street, near the first aid center. The enormous, footlong dog is cooked to order, yum. Another favorite is the Dole Pineapple Whip just outside the Tiki Room. And no trip to Disneyland is complete without a Churro, it’s a must!

Resources
For basic information about Disneyland, call 714-781-4565 for pre-recorded information about Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. For a list of ride closures, dial the same number and press 5. Or go to the Disneyland website’s listing of park hours and click on the date of your visit for a full list of rides closed for maintenance. If you need to speak to an actual person, call Guest Communications at 714-781-7290.

We want to hear from you! What tips do you have for family hassle-free fun at the Diz? What takes the trip from fun to over-the-top ecstasy for your kids? Let us know in the comments below! We’ll pick a random winner from the comments below for a super cute Red Tricycle Kiddie T’shirt!

—Lara Burnap

Fine Dining with Kids in Los Angeles

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Let’s face it, the words fine dining and children are not synonymous. But there are times when you just want to go for it. Maybe your sitter has been M.I.A. for too long or your family is planning a special occasion and you want everyone there, tots included. So why not skip the pizza joint and go gourmand. But first, a few things to keep in mind: The earlier the better. A reservation that is too close to bedtime is a recipe for disaster. Going earlier means that the kids will be kept on schedule, the restaurant won’t be slammed and you’re more likely to receive your food in a timely manner.

Be realistic – Don’t expect to linger over a bottle of wine and dessert because the kids are only going to keep in check for so long. And be prepared to make a few trips away from the table so kids can shake out the ya-yas. Lastly, it’s always a smart idea to check the menu online for options your little ones will eat or call ahead to see if the chef is willing to adjust their menu to something kid palatable. And don’t forget to make sure high chairs are available. Bon Appetite!

Boa Steakhouse
If it’s good enough for Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s tykes, then it will work for you! Though the restaurant does not boast a kid dedicated menu, they do have a variety of appealing sides including the kiddo-pleasing mac ‘n cheese, sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes, and even spaghetti and meatballs.

Two Locations:
9200 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood
310-278-2050

101 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica
310-899-4466

Katsuya
Sushi? With Kids? Nope, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. The menus vary from location to location, but tyke try-able standards such as edamame, vegetable tempura, and chicken teriyaki are available at all the locations. The Brentwood location serves up Robata, grilled skewers of meat, seafood and veggies that will always please little ones. Perhaps the best family choice is Katsuya at the Americana with its kids menu, which sports chicken teriyaki, tempura, California roll and even a sushi kids meal for brave little souls. Plus, the Americana is the most laidback of the SBE chain. The Hollywood location is doable but probably the most unreliable of the lot.

Four Locations:
11777 San Vicente Boulevard
Los Angeles
310-207-8744

702 Americana Way
Glendale
818-244-5900

6300 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles
323-871-8777

800 W. Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles
213-747-9797

Osteria MozzaPizzeria Mozza
Mario Batali’s pizzeria is perfect for everyone. After all, it’s pizza! There are plenty of appetizers that might make a little one happy, including arancine alla Bolognese (rice balls with cheese and proscuitto in a meat sauce) and meatballs, plus they have pizza margherita (cheese) but let your kids know that pepperoni isn’t on the menu; the finnochiano without the Fresno chilies is the closest bet. As for the fancy side, Osteria, there are pasta dishes like the agnolotti with butter and sage or the garganelli with Bolognese. And if you ask kindly, they just might serve up a plate of plain old pasta tossed with butter and cheese for finicky souls.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Avenue
Los Angeles
323-297-0101

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles
323-297-0100

When you want to ditch your old reliable eatery and have a night out at a fine dining establishment, where does your family go? When eating out with kiddos in L.A. are there any tips that we’ve missed?

– Lara Burnap

5 Restaurants for the Best Dim Sum in Los Angeles

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“Nooooo!” How many times have you heard that refrain while asking your kids to try something new? More than you can count. Children love to be in charge of what goes in their mouth, so heading out for dim sum is a great change of pace. And you can’t find a better dining option as this is traditionally a family outing with every age present from grandpa to the newest little one. Servers swing carts past the tables with an array of steaming bites stacked sky high and the servers will happily lift up the lids for a peek so kids can ogle the goods before they try. Some of the standards that appeal to tiny taste buds include Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings), Char Sui Bao (steamed pork buns) and sticky rice, and who knows, maybe your little one will dig into chicken feet! And if nothing will do, there’s always white rice and Jell-O. Plus, every kid loves the novelty of eating with chopsticks. Here are a few of our favorite dim sum spots around Los Angeles.

Empress Pavilion
The downtown location makes this arguably one of the most popular dumpling houses, hence the painfully long wait (especially on weekends). We recommend arriving prepared with snacks and toys. But and if you forget, the plaza shops are loaded with inexpensive diversions that will help quell rumbling bellies. Not working? Grab a snack from the take out counter perpendicular to the restaurant. After dining, make a day of it by roaming the shops in Chinatown or heading over to Olvera Street.

988 North Hill Street
Los Angeles
213-617-9898

NBC Seafood
Dim Sum snobs insist the best dumplings are found in Monterey Park, the “other” Chinatown about 10-15 minutes from downtown (depending on traffic, naturally). Recently renovated, this spot serves up the usual steamed and fried bites but a few favorites are the crispy “triangle” dumplings stuffed with green onions, pork and shrimp. Kids love checking out the tanks filled with crabs and fish. Just don’t inform the kids where their gilled friends eventually end up.

404 South Atlantic Boulevard
Monterey Park
626-282-2323

Capital Seafood
Among the usual dim sum goodies, this upscale spot serves up a sweet almond milk soup topped with a flaky puff pastry that is lip-smacking good that you can order from your server (you won’t find it on the carts). The dumplings are light and fresh, though on busy weekends the carts can feel like they take forever to arrive so if you can’t find what you are looking for, do as the Chinese and get up and find it!

755 W Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park
(626) 282-3318

Din Tai Fung
The first U.S. branch of this Taiwanese dumpling house is famous for its juicy pork dumplings, a soup dumpling that you slurp out the broth encapsulated inside with the pork filling.  It does have a host of other dumpling options but we recommend the steamed bao packed with green vegetables and pork or the pounded rice cakes, a dish of pork, vegetables and rice pounded into flat little cakes. They also have a great selection of steamed veggies, including bok choy, green beans and spinach. There are two restaurants back to back known as the “old” and “new”, but they share the same kitchen. The new side is larger so the wait is somewhat shorter. Take note that Din Tai Fung is just down the street from the Arboretum, so we suggest making it a full outing.

Two Locations:
1108 S. Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, Ca
626-574-7068

1088 South Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA
626-446-8588

Bao Dim Sum House
Looking to stay closer to home? This spot on Beverly Boulevard serves up all the favorites in a sleek, modern atmosphere sans the cart. In addition to har gow, shu mai, pork buns, spare ribs and the like, Bao also dishes out noodle dishes, rice plates and even a Chinese chicken salad. The reasonably priced lunch specials are a great way to go if you’re making this an outing with other friends.

8256 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323-655-6556

– Lara Burnap

Top 7 Pancake Restaurants in Los Angeles

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Nothing says good morning like a big stack of pancakes oozing with syrup. Los Angeles is home to some delicious cakes, ranging from the decadent (did someone say Red Velvet?!) to healthy buckwheat and everything in between. So whether you and your kids like it old school with buttermilk or chock full of chocolate chips, there is something for every taste bud.

Du-Pars
The light, fluffy and downright delicious buttermilk pancakes make this old school diner a perfect place for families. The wait is never too long and the friendly waitstaff are great about delivering crackers or sliced bananas to tide over growling bellies. The kids order is delivered with a choice of bacon or sausage and a side of eggs to make the carbo-loading a bit more complete. For a Sunday outing, the Studio City location is across the street from the Sunday Farmer’s Market which boasts a petting zoo and bounce houses.

Two Locations:
12036 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, Ca

Farmers Market
6333 West 3rd Sreet @ Fairfax
323-933-8446

EAT
This North Hollywood spot is a favorite among locals for its low key atmosphere and reasonably priced meals. The cakes are straight to the point: buttermilk, chocolate chip, Oreo, banana nut caramel and fresh berries and banana. Equally tasty is the French Toast, specifically the frosted flake, strawberry and banana topped with strawberry butter. If you have little ones still in a high chair, keep in mind the restaurant only has one high chair so it can be a scramble. If your kids aren’t booster seat ready and you have a compact version that is easy to bring along, do it!

11108 Magnolia Boulevard
North Hollywood, Ca

The Griddle
The excruciatingly long wait on the weekends is daunting, but if you’re on toddler time it’s easy to get there before 9:30 am, while the twenty-somethings are still in bed. The choices are endless from the old-fashioned buttermilk to crazy concoctions like Hear Me Roar with Frosted Flakes and strawberries, Sow Your Oats with cinnamon, honey and rolled oats and the sinfully amazing Red Velvet Pancakes. Note that the pancakes are massive and the standard order arrives with a three-story stack of cakes, so we recommend sharing or ask for a single stack. Not finding your flavor? Then opt for the Strawberries and Cream Waffle decked out with a brown sugar sour cream topping.

7916 Sunset Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90046
(Corner of Sunset and Fairfax)
323-874-0377

More Than Waffles (pictured)
Waffles may be the name of the game at this family-owned spot with almost two dozen types of waffles, but the pancakes are right up there. Kiddos with a sweet tooth can dive into chocolate chip, pumpkin or fresh berry or opt for a healthier option like organic granola or oat bran. Those in need of gluten-free meals can dig into the buckwheat cakes, which get rave reviews all around. The owner is great about working with customers who have food allergies, whether it’s no-dairy or gluten-free, she has a solution. The crepes are served up sweet (nutella, Hot Apple and lemon cream) or savory (ham and cheese or a variety of other options). And while yes, there can be a wait, they do take reservations for parties of five or larger.

17200 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, Ca
818-789-5937

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House
Ask a South Bay resident where to get your syrup on and they’ll tell you this beachside place is the place to go. There is a flavor for everyone including buttermilk, buckwheat, multigrain, strawberry, blueberry, chocolate chip and more. The kids menu includes dollar cakes and a pancake combo complete with eggs and bacon or sausage. Service can sometimes be slow and the wait is achingly long during the weekend so either arrive early or bring snacks and entertainment to keep the kids happy.

1305 Highland Avenue
Manhattan Beach, Ca
310-545-5177

Jacks n Joes
The Flapjacks at this Downtown spot near USC are reasonably priced and oh so good. Great for gluten-free eaters, they offer the choice of buttermilk or buckwheat as well as the de rigueur crazy combos such as the pineapple-doused Hula Girl, the peanut butter and banana-filled Pudgie Elvis and the crazy shapes delivered in the WTF? flaps—great for little imaginations.

2498 S Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, Ca
213-748-4-JNJ

John O’Groats
A Westside breakfast favorite, John O’Groats serves up a handful of fluffy, lip-smacking good pancakes. The kiddo-approved pancakes include applesauce, lemon, mango macadamia nut and the famously delicious buttermilk. Parents will like that they can steer kids to options like the high-fiber buckwheat or seven grain granola.

Two Locations:
10516 Pico Boulevard
West L.A., Ca
310-204-0692

16120 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, Ca
818-501-2366

Did we miss your family’s favorite pancake spot? Let us know in the comment section below!

– Lara Burnap

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When kids complain, “I’m bored,” take a trip to Exposition Park. Brimming with educational opportunities and plenty of outdoor space, it’s a perfect mix of culture and fun for the whole family. Located across the street from University of Southern California in Downtown Los Angeles, Exposition Park is a collection of museums and sports arenas. The park was established in 1872 when 160 acres were set aside for agricultural purposes. In 1913, the space was revamped to become Exposition Park and anchored with the California Museum of Science, the Rose Garden (pictured) and the Natural History Museum. Today the park also boasts the California African American Museum, the new IMAX Theater, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which both the USC Trojans and the LA Galaxy call their home field, the Los Angeles Sports Arena, and the Olympic Swim Center.

The park boasts wide green spaces for kids to get their wiggles out and a new playground across from the Natural History Museum. In addition to the museums and sporting events, there are plenty of special happenings throughout the year, ranging from concerts to food festivals.

When to go: Anytime! Naturally, weekdays have fewer crowds and more school groups. Check the calendar on the website for special events at the various museums or the stadium. If it’s a USC game day, we recommend planning for another day!

What to see and do: The Natural History Museum is a must on the cultural to-do list. Families can explore California’s rich past, from the mammals that once roamed the lands to the people who settled here. Plus, there are fantastic exhibits on dinosaurs, ice age mammals, insects, and much more. Best of all, your dinosaur loving kiddo will be in prehistoric heaven with the sightings of the Megamouth Shark and more. Plus, check the schedule for the Dinosaur Encounter, a live puppet show with a bigger than life T Rex. It is quite lifelike, so some young children might find it scary. Be sure to check out the Butterfly Pavilion, a unique ecosystem boasting more than 55 different butterfly and moth specimens and the Spider Pavilion for the bug lovers.

The California Science Museum is another kid favorite with an aquarium and plenty of hands-on models for tinkering. There’s plenty of science to be discovered, check out the Ecosystem exhibit featuring everything from how a species adapts to its surroundings to the process of evolution or head over to the Discovery Room where the kids can check out helicopters, big magnets and more. The IMAX Theater has rotating films and is great for older kids.

Got a soccer or football fan in the family? Then the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the place to catch a game. Summer features the L.A. Galaxy led by baller David Beckham (so there’s some eye candy for mom!) while the fall lends the space back to the American footballers of the USC Trojans. Game schedules are easily located on the Exposition Park website.

Lunch Spots: Pack a lunch and settle into the benches overlooking the Rose Garden for a lovely afternoon or head over to the play area across from the Natural History Museum where park tables and benches are plentiful. The California Science Center also boasts a Taco Bell and McDonald’s in the downstairs café as well (the café food itself leaves a bit to be desired).

How to dress: Depends on the season! Summer months require a light sweater as the museums are much chillier than the blazing outdoors. In the winter, it may well be warmer inside than out, so light layers are appropriate. If you plan to visit the gardens, keep in mind it can be windy as the downtown buildings can create quite the breeze.

Need to know: No need to find parking outside of Exposition Park, there’s plenty available for $10. Looking for parking outside of the area means a longer walk and possibly spending even more for a space. Save your energy and time!

Bonus: Mark your calendar for the annual Fourth of July Extravaganza. The festivities begin around noon and end with an hour-long firework show. Live music, food, carnival rides and more make this a great way to spend Independence Day. In addition, check the calendar for other great events from the Outdoor Cinema Festival to concerts and more.

Cost of trip: Moderate. Natural History Museum admission is free to children four and under, $5 for those ages 5-12 and $12 for adults. California Science Center and the Rose Garden are free.

Online: http://www.expositionpark.org

—Lara Burnap