Los Angeles with Kids

For the last 10 days, my brother Morgan and his five children (plus his wife and our mother) have been in Los Angeles. That means I've had to think about a humongous group, with lots of different tastes and attention spans. Here's what we ended up doing.

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Places

The Broad Museum - Tickets are free, I just had to get them in a month in advance. We killed time before our timed entry at the park on top of Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Bob Baker Marionette Theater - This was my first time going during the day, during their regular hours for kids. The entire show is about an hour, and there's an ice cream party after! Make sure you bring $5 in cash for parking.

Santa Monica Pier - Who doesn't love an amusement park? Be prepared to wait for rides. Avoid traffic in/out of the parking lot by using the free 2-hour lots in Santa Monica and walking.

Hollywood Walk of Fame - I mean, what is more iconic than this? I guess the Hollywood sign.

Griffith Park Observatory - With this large a group, not everyone can be expected to hike up to the building. My brother dropped them off then hiked up from the free parking at The Greek Theatre.

Natural History Museum - The kids didn't love this place. Maybe it's because it's really small compared to the NYC one that they're used to, or perhaps it's because they were burned out (they were supposed to leave 2 days previously, but their flight got cancelled because of the Bomb Cyclone). At any rate, they barely looked at the exhibits and instead ran around in the outside garden, throwing dirt at one another.

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Chevalier's Books - My favorite independent bookstore in the world, because we go almost every single day with Julius (who they love). All four of the little ones sat in the children's section and read quietly for a good 20 minutes.

Venice Canals - We only spent about 10 minutes here, but it's always fun to walk around and look into people's houses.

Vista Theater - They were playing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the perfect movie to bring our two nephews. Popcorn is cheap and there is SO MUCH ROOM between the rows.

The Getty Museum - It's weird that I've never done a blog post about one of my favorite museums (though I did one about the Getty Villa). I didn't make it on this outing, but I think this was the family's favorite. Lots to see/do, plus a fun tram ride up from parking. ALSO IT IS FREE.

The Grove/Farmer's Market - We saved this for last, since the family was taking a red eye and needed time to kill before LAX. It's the perfect place since there's everything from an American Girl Cafe to Barnes and Noble to a Dylan's Candy Bar.

cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery in LA

cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery in LA

Food

Fresh Brother's Pizza - I ordered a bunch of pizzas for the family while they were driving from LAX. They are super-conscious of food allergies, and they make a really good vegan/gluten-free pie. Plus, I was kinda blown away by their chopped salad!

Crafted Donuts - I actually stopped by Dominique Ansel's newly opened LA bakery for cronuts (above), but at $6 each, they were too expensive to buy one for every single person (I did get one for my mom, though). The answer - equally chic and delicious Creme Brûlée Donuts. Just $12 for an entire half a dozen.

Erin McKenna's Bakery - One of my nephews has a peanut allergy, so it was fun to be able to take him into a bakery where he could pick anything he wanted. Plus, it's all gluten-free for me to enjoy too!

H-Mart - We wound up hitting the Koreatown grocery store a few times so my mom could a couple Asian side dishes. They have such a variety of dumplings, which the kids all loved.

Paris Baguette - My mom's birthday is in January, so we celebrated it together. This bakery has affordable cakes (I got a rich chocolate one for under $40) plus they throw in some free candles and a cake slicer!

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Palms Thai - It's been forever since I've been to this Thai restaurant (I usually just get takeout). They used to have a Thai Elvis who performs, which I thought would be fun for the kids, but he's no longer there. It's huge, so even though they don't take reservations, we were seated after about a 15-minute wait on New Year's Day, when they were packed.

Santa Monica Place - All the restaurants near the Santa Monica Pier had a 30-minute wait for a group of our size, so we wound up going to the food court at this nearby mall. There were plenty of options for everyone, plus there's an indoor playground in the middle of it all.

Maggiano's - I heard this place was great for all sorts of food allergies. Plus, it's located conveniently at The Grove/Farmer's Market (see above). Vincent, our server, was incredible. I forgot his name, but he handled our group like a pro and even got my niece to eat a few more bites of her dinner, which is unheard of.

Lao Tao - My mom is used to the OG Taiwanese/Chinese restaurant. I loved bringing her here to try the beef noodle soup. The kids loved the popcorn chicken and sweet potato fries - but beware of the spice factor on the dumplings! Plenty of outdoor seating at the picnic tables, too.

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P.S. This is the house we rented for the first part of their stay and it was perfect!

Bob Baker Marionette Theater

I have been meaning to get to The Bob Baker Marionette Theater all year. The one time we did find a free weekend to go, we made the rookie mistake of not buying tickets online. This place is MAGIC.

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Our friend Suki had her birthday party here - they rented out the theater for the evening, with live entertainment...

...puppets of course...

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...dancing, pizza, and 2 kegs. Obviously when you go with the kiddies there is no alcohol, but they do have an ice cream party post-show! Hurry and catch this gem before they close for reconstruction at the end of the year - right now it feels like it's stuck in time. More info on their website.

The Museum of Ice Cream

When The Museum of Ice Cream first opened up I was intrigued. But not enough to buy a ticket right away. That was stupid. It became like the hottest ticket in town for months. So when they extended their stay in Los Angeles, I set my alarm and waited an hour online to buy tickets. As I paid the $30 non-refundable, non-transferable price tag, I immediately questioned my decision. Months passed. As I saw more and more photos people hanging out in the same rooms full of bananas, all of them taking the same picture - lounging in the sprinkle pool - I started becoming worried that it wouldn't be worth it. So did Abe. All our plans revolved around this weekend - "Oh we can't do that, because we have to go to the Museum of Ice Cream." I even had to leave my acting class two hours early because of it.

Abe decided he did not want to go last-minute. I didn't want to force him, so I asked Melanie Maras to be my guest instead. We made a video below.

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Each room has "art" that kind of reminds me of a glorified Dylan's Candy Store. The place is crowded, with lines to take photos. The people who work there are REALLY HAPPY and they make you dance, come up with team names, clap loudly, and shout in order to pass through.

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I will admit, The Sprinkle Pool was cool. But we were barely in there before they chased us out. It also smelled like feet, but I felt I needed to take advantage of my well-earned photo op.

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I wish I had gone when it first opened, when tickets were cheaper, before it was overhyped. I feel so basic.

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I Ate My First Krusty Burger

When people ask about my big brother Morgan, I always describe him as Bart Simpson.  I would be Lisa, except not as book smart.  He was the troublemaker, and I was the kid who never got in trouble.  And we fought a lot.  Except when we were in front of the television - then we got along fabulously.  We watched all the things together - including The Simpsons.  When cable first came along, you had to press buttons on a box to change the channel.  I can still remember what it felt like beneath my fingers, and if you pressed two buttons at once, you could hack into the paid stations like HBO.  It was our bond, the television.  Where mom and dad couldn't bother us and we could escape into other families' lives.

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Now we are grown up.  And this trip to Universal Studios together is actually pretty healing.

Along with breakfast at Harry Potter World, we head into Springfield to check out Abe's work on The Simpsons Ride, plus lunch at Krusty Burger.  I get the veggie version, which comes with a pile of soggy crinkle cut fries.  Sadly. this is a very lackluster meal.  The veggie patty reminds me of the cafeteria food in college, and that is not a good thing.  However, the Lard Lad Donuts (in the video) are not only the best deal in Universal Studios Hollywood for $5, but also the most delicious.  More Springfield theme park food options below.  See if you can spot the Flaming Moe!