Kid-Friendly Getaways: Los Angeles
L.A. is chic, cultured, and cool. Trust us, your kids will love it.
EVERY TRIP I’ve ever taken to Los Angeles has been filed under “adult time” until I took my 5-year-old to Venice Beach. We ate in restaurants serving Cali-minded food so delicious, she didn’t once ask for chicken fingers. We picked up souvenirs in smartly edited shops, spent mornings at the beach, and reveled in legit nature walks. L.A.’s rebirth as a town with an actual, you know, soul has been well documented. What’s lesser known: It’s made for a kid-friendly getaway. Nowhere is this more true than in Venice, a solid home base from which you can venture out into other buzzy neighborhoods. Here’s how to actualize your beach-culture-food fantasy weekend with your brood.
LET’S GET LUNCH.
Start at Clutch, a Cali- Mexican roadhouse with memorable tacos and a michelada that’s beyond. “They also have a great vibe and a good burger,” says father of two Josiah Citrin, a two-star Michelin chef and owner of Santa Monica’s Mélisse.
SNEAK IN A FEW SHOPS.
Go to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, where some of the obsessively curated stores include playroom fixtures as decor. At Aviator Nation, you can peruse the preposterously soft hoodies while your crew knocks around on the Ping-Pong table or scores tattoos from the vending machine. Both kids and grown-ups are bound to get sucked in by the excellent book selection at Burro. When you’re done, bribe the kids with a “flight” of scoops from Salt & Straw so you can browse the minimalist desk accessories and hand-dyed cotton towels at Japanese home-goods shop Tortoise General Store.
BURN OFF ENERGY.
Spend an hour (or three) along the canals, where kids can run around the pedestrian bridges and check out the ducks, and you can hold back tears of envy as you gawk at the idyllic beach houses. Or “cruise down the Venice boardwalk by bike, then make a corndog-and-lemonade stop at the Hot Dog on a Stick near the Santa Monica Pier,” suggests Antonia Lofaso, a mom and the chef at Venice mainstay Scopa Italian Roots.
Snag a table on the patio at Rose Cafe, a restaurant bustling enough to muffle the outdoor voices the kids are still using. You’ll have the roast chicken (and a bottle of rosé); they’ll have the Italian Stallion pizza. Or if the kids are up for it, consider a quick drive to Santa Monica. “We always like Manpuku, a Japanese barbecue spot where you grill your own meats,” says Citrin.
SOAK UP SOME CULTURE.
The Broad, a $140 million contemporary-art institution, speaks volumes about L.A.’s cultural revival. For a kid-friendly tour, download the app Looking with LeVar (as in Burton from Reading Rainbow). Book a reservation to skip the standby line. Get lunch at Grand Central Market, a food hall that has some of the city’s best Thai, barbecue, and Mexican.
OR GET MOVING.
Take a hike in Griffith Park. The Fern Dell trail directs you to the Griffith Observatory, where the much-’grammed lightning-producing Tesla Coil rips almost hourly. Reward yourselves post-trek with sandwiches at the Trails café. Or hike in Temescal Canyon Park instead, says Lofaso: “It’s filled with hidden waterfalls and has gorgeous coast views from the top.”
SCOPE OUT THE SKATERS.
Skateboard fanatics (or anyone who appreciates that Southern Cali Dogtown vibe) should head to Maui and Sons, a beachside skate-and-surf general store. The approachable staff offers lessons in Venice’s famous skate park and makes it a lot less intimidating to enter the pit.
HAVE A NIGHT OUT.
Milo & Olive in Santa Monica is the neighborhood family restaurant of your dreams, says Karen Hatfield, mom of two and owner of go-to brunch spot Sycamore Kitchen. Kids will love the garlic knots and pastas; you’ll appreciate the standout wine list.
GET CLOSER TO THE WATER.
Check out Santa Monica’s Annenberg Community Beach House, where there’s plenty to keep kids busy: a pool, a toddler splash pad, and volleyball nets. Or head up the Pacific Coast Highway, a quintessential I’m-in-Cali experience. Malibu’s epic beaches are only 40 minutes away. Before you go, swing by Gjusta, a deli that serves both baklava croissants and banh mi, and have them pack you a picnic.
CHILL BY THE SEA.
Lay down your towels at Surfrider Beach, one of the most iconic breaks in the world (which also happens to have parking and nearby bathrooms). For a slightly wilder stretch of sand: Head north to El Matador Beach, where kids can splash around in tide pools, explore sea caves, and dig for sand crabs.
EAT NO-FRILLS SEAFOOD.
Plan on dinner at Malibu’s Reel Inn. Grab one of the picnic tables outside on the patio, eat insanely good fish, and start thinking about your return trip.
Never drive crosstown during rush hour — 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. These are windows to live by.
About the author: Candice Rainey is a writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Elle, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler, Marie Claire, Glamour, Lenny, WSJ Magazine, Men’s Journal, and other national outlets.