Joe Namath Lived Here

My friend, Mary Ann, and I had been traveling in a Ford Expedition with her three kids and my daughter for ten days. We had spent the last fun night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio (click here for info). We were headed home.

After driving to the shores of Lake Erie to get photos with another of the Great Lakes (we’d visited Lake Michigan in Chicago earlier in the trip), we plugged in my home address as our destination. I was driving, and Mary Ann was the navigator. Did I mention Mary Ann is a really good navigator? She had her phone and an atlas, and she would use the Roadside America app (highly recommend) to find fun things to do. We had a nine hour drive ahead of us. We were just getting started when Mary Ann said, “If we go 40 minutes out of our way, our kids can add Pennsylvania to their list of states they’ve visited.”

I looked at her and said, “If we do, will it take us anywhere near Beaver Falls?” Mary Ann looked at the map and said, “Yes. Why? What’s in Beaver Falls?” I got excited, because I’m a crazy Joe Namath fan.

Immediately, I said, “Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls! Look and see if they have any kind of monument to him anywhere in Beaver Falls!” She looked it up and learned there is a plaque honoring Joe Namath at the Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls.

We were on our way.

Of course, Mary Ann made fun of me for knowing Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls. “Only YOU!” she said. Any self-respecting football fan knows Joe Namath (aka Joe Willie, or Broadway Joe) is from Beaver Falls! He had played quarterback at The University of Alabama; of course I knew he was from Beaver Falls. Growing up in Alabama, I heard about Joe Namath my whole life, and I remember, as a child, getting to stay up to watch him as a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I’ve had a crush on Joe Willie my whole life.

Everybody remembers the story about Joe Namath being heckled at a Pre-Super Bowl III press conference. A Baltimore Colts fan yelled some smack about the New York Jets, Namath’s team, at him from the back of the room, and Joe responded, “We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.” And he was right. The Jets won. During his football career, he famously wore a fur coat on the field, and he did pantyhose commercials. He owned a nightclub called Bachelors III in New York, much to the dismay of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. I spent some time with Rozelle in 1989, and we talked about Namath. Rozelle seemed to like him by that point. Namath had swagger as a player, and he has swagger now, at age 74.

While I love Joe Namath most of all football players, I just love football. I told Mary Ann a story recently about meeting another of my favorite football players…totally by chance…and I said to him, “You’re from *****! I worked for the newspaper there for a while when I was in college!” Mary Ann said he probably thought I was a stalker, because a 50-yr-old woman shouldn’t have such knowledge. Well, I do have the knowledge, and I’m not a stalker. It’s just the kind of useless information I tend to remember about people.

In fact, just this week, Mary Ann called me, saying, “Don’t fail me now. My son and I have a bet.” Then she put me on speaker phone and asked, “What town is John Mellencamp from?” I immediately responded, “John Mellencamp is from Seymour, Indiana.”I heard her son groan in the background. She had bet him I would remember, and that crazy kid doubted me. (We visited Seymour earlier in the same road trip.) Bahahaha! Again, I am a walking wealth of useless information.

It was raining when we arrived in downtown Beaver Falls (for more about Beaver Falls, click here). It was gray and dreary, and while a city doesn’t show as well in the rain, we could tell Beaver falls was a quaint, charming town. It’s a beautiful, historic town on the Beaver River. Lots of very nice people live there.

Joe Namath lived here.

It was easy to find the Carnegie Free Library (for info, click here). Mary Ann had put it into the navigation system, but it was right on what seemed to be the main street through town, Seventh Avenue.

We pulled up in front of the library, and the rain was not letting up. We parallel parked (I have mad parallel parking skills)right in front of the library, hoping the rain would pass over.

After  a while, we knew it wasn’t going to clear up. Mary Ann and I took turns getting out of the car to take selfies with the plaque honoring Joe Namath in the pouring rain… but we got the selfies! We had driven to Beaver Falls just for Broadway Joe! In case you don’t know this about me, Joe Namath is on my short list of people I want to meet. If you’ve met him, don’t tell me. If you meet him, you can tell him about the crazy lady who drove to Beaver Falls just to get a selfie with the plaque honoring him.

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In front of the Joe Namath plaque in downtown Beaver Falls, PA, at the end of a 10-day road trip, standing in the rain. Good times!

As for the photos, Mary Ann and I laughed at how terrible we looked and got ready to drive back to Charlotte. I don’t remember what Mary Ann looked like, but in my selfie, I look like a mom who has been on a ten day road trip with four kids…standing in the rain.

We turned around to go back through town, and as we drove, we noticed Oram’s Donuts. Mary Ann and I wanted to stop and get some donuts, but the children were ready to get home. To this day, we regret not going into Oram’s. As we drove past, we caught a glimpse of a woman ordering a doughnut…the same woman had asked me for bus fare a few minutes earlier. I guess she decided she didn’t need a ride more than she needed a doughnut. I regularly look at the Oram’s website just to torture myself. According to their website, they have been in business for 77 years, and they make their donuts “the old-fashioned way, concentrating on quality and taste.” You can see their website here. While you can’t order donuts for shipping, you can torture yourself with the pictures. You can purchase Oram’s coffee mugs. Mary Ann and I have declared we will return to Oram’s in Beaver Falls.

I’m guessing Joe Namath knows all about Oram’s.

We stopped at Sheetz in downtown to fill up with gas, and according to the computer, we could drive 530 miles on that tank of gas. According to the navigation system, we had 490 miles to travel to Charlotte. I planned to make it without stopping again, unless someone needed a bathroom break.

We passed to the west of Pittsburgh and headed south. Darkness fell while we were in West Virginia, with hours to go. At some point, Mary Ann was getting sleepy, and we all sang a rousing rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer” from beginning to end…the kids thought it was hilarious to sing about beer…inappropriate, of course, but funny.

I was driving, and I wasn’t remotely tired. The kids dozed off while we were in Virginia, and Mary Ann made it to the North Carolina state line before nodding off.

We made it home on that tank of gas and pulled into the driveway at about 2:30am.

If I ever get to meet Joe Namath, I’ll have to tell him about the detour we made just to get selfies with his plaque beside the Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls. And who knows? Maybe one day, Mary Ann and I will make it to Oram’s. When we do, I’ll post lots of photos and reviews of every doughnut flavor they have!

Till then, we’ll have to keep torturing ourselves with the pictures on the website.

And Joe Namath…well, I’ll just have to keep crushing on him.

Safe travels!

Kelly

Eastvale Bridge over the Beaver River, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

To read about other parts of the road trip, see previous posts. 

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Chicago! Chicago! (Epic Road Trip, Part 3)

For years, my friend, Mary Ann, and I talked about going on a “crazy road trip.” What we really want to do is drive Route 66. My friend, Neill, wants to go too. We haven’t figured out the particulars yet, but if we take all the kids, we’ll have to get a big ol’ Partridge Family bus, which actually could be pretty fun. I think I’ll look into that. I wonder if anyone rents Partridge Family buses? (And before you think I’m wrong there, “buses” IS the plural form of “bus”. “Busses” would be the plural form of “buss,” which means a kiss.)

Three years ago, Mary Ann and I loaded up her three kids and my one kid in a Ford Expedition, and we took a different crazy road trip, saving Route 66 for another time. It was a kid-friendly, casual clothing road trip…totally about seeing Americana. I’ve written before about the fun we had on the first two legs of the trip, and here is Part 3. Every part of the trip was exciting and fun. Every part of it was not perfect, but sometimes, that’s what makes the best memories.

In my post a few weeks ago about Part 2 of our epic road trip, I told you we made it to Chicago safely. We made it there in pouring rain, but we must have brought the sunshine with us, because the rain stopped soon thereafter.

We had only planned to be in Chicago for roughly 36 hours, so we hit the ground running. We checked into the hotel, and as I said in Part 2, our room looked out on the John Hancock Center, making it easy to find our way back from anywhere in the city!

We stayed at the Hilton Suites Magnificent Mile…not a luxury hotel, but perfect for a family stay, as every room in the hotel is a suite. It is conveniently located near good restaurants, Lake Michigan, tourist spots, and luxury shopping (which we were not doing on this trip). To see the website for the Hilton Suites Magnificent Mile, click here. The rates were good, and the staff was incredibly helpful. I wrote one of my most raving TripAdvisor reviews about this hotel, because the employees there are helpful, courteous, and friendly. You can see my review and the manager’s response here. (Scroll down to my review, titled “Wowed by the service!”)

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We let the valet take the car (he came down the street in the rain to get it when I waved to him) and had the bellman bring everything up to our suite, and then set out on our first adventure in the city. After traveling all day, we had four hungry kids on our hands. Since this trip was casual, we needed to go somewhere that would welcome us casually dressed and with four kids in tow.

The concierge recommended Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen on Walton Street, which was just a few blocks from the hotel…an opportunity to stretch our legs after being in the car all day. The food was good, and the atmosphere was perfect for our motley crew. Located in the Magnificent Mile area, this restaurant was most accommodating for us. If you’re in Chicago and looking for a casual dinner place in the Magnificent Mile area, this could be the place for you. See their website hereMary Ann had the Tennessee Hot Chicken and said it was “OK,” but I had the Backyard Burger and thought it was fantastic. Even more special was the service. Our waiter, Taylor, took the time to write down the kids menu for us, since there wasn’t one available. We would definitely return with kids!

We turned in early that night, but the next day, we wanted to cram in as much activity as possible, because it was the only full day we had in Chicago.

We got up and starting securing reservations/tickets for the things we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to see as much as possible in one day, so we opted for an architectural tour by boat, a two hour bus tour of downtown, and a visit to the top of the John Hancock Center.

Everything started great. Our first order of business was the architectural tour by boat. We all loved it. Not only did if offer beautiful views of the city, but it also offered an opportunity for the kids (and adults) to see how the system of locks works from the river to and from Lake Michigan…fascinating for all of us. We highly recommend this tour, which you can book here.

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Going through the lock

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Chicago Skyline

After disembarking, we made our way to the nearest restaurant with a menu we liked. That restaurant was Sweetwater Tavern and Grille on Michigan Avenue…kid friendly. We all tried fried cheese curds for the first time there. Surprisingly, I had never had them, even though I’d spent a lot of time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 80s and early 90s. We unanimously declared them delicious! We also ordered beignets, and these two gulf coast girls who grew up eating beignets gave them two thumbs up! You can check out the Sweetwater website here. To try fried cheese curds in the Charlotte area, you can visit Culver’s just off Carowinds Boulevard in Fort Mill. Check out their website here. If you decide to visit, go on an empty stomach and try their Butterburger and fries too. Then, top it all off with their frozen custard or a shake…all delicious.

After lunch, the bus tour took us on another architectural expedition…all very impressive in downtown Chicago. We purchased tickets and boarded the bus tour very close to the boat dock. Anyone can point you in the right direction. We visited the world-famous bean and Navy Pier before heading up to the John Hancock Center. The observatory there is now called 360 CHICAGO and offers breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan. When we were there, the TILT, an added attraction at the top of the center, wasn’t working, but we loved all the photo ops we had. This is a must-do, and if TILT is in working order while you’re there, you have to do it too. Check out the website and purchase tickets here.11221940_10207249962952203_752868439303655523_n

And this is when things got wonky….Mary Ann wanted Garrett’s Chicago-Style Popcorn, which I hear is amazing but I didn’t want to stand in line (over an hour!) for popcorn. You can see their website here. I knew my daughter wanted to visit Sprinkles for some cupcakes (click here) while we were there, so we split up, and Mary Ann took her kids to Garrett’s while we went to Sprinkles. We had planned to meet up for dinner, but my daughter wanted to go to Dylan’s Candy Bar and Cafe, while Mary Ann had a special place in mind for some Chicago-Style pizza.

In the midst of all this, Mary Ann’s daughter broke her flip flop and had to have new ones. Fortunately, when that happened, my daughter and I were in a cab headed for Dylan’s. We missed out on that “fun.” Since the American Girl Store was nearby, Mary Ann went there and paid a terrible sum for some flip flops for her daughter. It has been three years since this trip, but I feel pretty sure Mary Ann is still making her daughter wear those flip flops to get her money’s worth out of them…never mind that half her foot hangs off the back of them now!

So, while Mary Ann and family picked up a Chicago-Style pizza and brought it back to our suite, Milly and I enjoyed Chicago-style hot dogs at Dylan’s. She also ordered a mocktail called the Pink Cloud Lemonade…fun presentation and delicious! You can see their website and menu here. I should probably thank Mary Ann for letting me try the Chicago-style pizza and the popcorn after we got back to the hotel.11063784_10207249651824425_7273607532132704225_n

After a crazy busy day, it was time to pack up and turn in. We had another busy day ahead of us.

The next morning, we got up, checked out, and started our drive to Sandusky, Ohio, where we would be meeting friends from Columbus, Ohio, at Great Wolf Lodge. Of course, Mary Ann and I can’t drive straight through. We absolutely could not drive through South Bend, Indiana, without stopping in at Notre Dame. While there, we visited the stadium for some photos and shopped in the campus bookstore. We also got some photos with “the dome.” If you’re a Notre Dame fan, you won’t like this: we also pretended to take photos with the “girlfriend” of former Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o. See below. She’s standing between us…haha. Also, it was a road trip, so we were wearing comfortable attire…don’t judge.10438925_10207256465434761_5891661285876443717_n

Upon leaving South Bend, we traveled a little north, just so the kids could say they’d been to Michigan, and then we continued on to Sandusky, where my friend, Jennifer, and her daughter were waiting for us at Great Wolf Lodge! For information about Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, click here. It doesn’t get any more kid-friendly than Great Wolf Lodge, and fortunately for us, they also have a bar!

Great Wolf Lodge was the perfect place for us to relax for the night before our big trip home. The kids all played in the water park, and the moms all relaxed next to the outdoor pool.

The next morning, we were homeward bound…but we took a little detour to a small town in Pennsylvania…for a funny reason. Read about that later in the final post about the road trip…coming up soon.

We highly recommend a trip to Chicago with your family. Our stay was so brief, it was just a teaser, but we will be going back.

Maybe one day we will make that Route 66 trip too. Know anyone with a Partridge Family bus?

Happy Trails!

Kelly

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Hooray for Hollywood! Must-see LA

Hooray for Hollywood

Where you’re terrific, if you’re even good

Where anyone at all from TV’s Lassie

To Monroe’s chassis, is equally understood.

–Hooray for Hollywood

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It’s no secret to our friends that my daughter and I love visiting Los Angeles.

As many times as we’ve been, we’ve never done everything we wanted to do. Friends often call me before they go and ask what they should do with their families when they visit. It’s difficult to say, because there is so much to do. I send them a list (a long list) of things to do, but I usually mark which ones are the ones people will ask them about later. That’s what I’m giving you here…the quintessential Los Angeles family-friendly places to visit. Like the Empire State Building in New York, these are the things people will ask you about later.

When you plan to be a tourist, wear comfortable shoes, and wear layers. In the LA area, the weather can change quickly from warm to chilly and back, so be prepared.

***All of my suggestions are based on family trips and are listed in alphabetical order.***

261365_2273227074989_3597282_nBEVERLY HILLS There is a lot to see and do in Beverly Hills, and lots of photo opportunities. Rodeo Drive is known for its high end boutiques. Most first-time visitors love to get photos under one of the Rodeo Drive street signs. People watching is great, and if you pay attention, you might recognize a celebrity or two. I’ve seen several celebrities on Rodeo Drive during the day, so keep your eyes open! (For info on Rodeo Drive, click here.) There are shops, shops, and more shops throughout Beverly Hills. Stroll down Beverly or Canon for some different boutiques and restaurants. The Blvd Restaurant at the Beverly Wilshire is easily accessible from Rodeo Drive and a nice place to have lunch. Make a reservation in advance. Ask for a table on the patio for good people watching (for info click here). Beverly Garden Park on Santa Monica Blvd is a beautiful green space with a giant Beverly Hills sign providing a great photo backdrop. Real Housewives fan? You’ll want to make a reservation in advance to dine at Villa Blanca, owned by Lisa Vanderpump (info here) or Sur (info here), located in nearby West Hollywood. The Paley Center for Media is a fun museum at the corner of N. Beverly Drive and S. Santa Monica…a nice air conditioned place to get some “Hollywood” info and buy souvenirs (info here). *The photo below is John O’Hurley of Seinfeld fame. He was at a traffic light next to us in Beverly Hills. I had met him years 20 before on a flight from Atlanta to LA, so I talked to him while we sat at the light. *
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DISNEYLAND The original Disney theme park opened in 1955 and is located in Anaheim, a short drive from Los Angeles. The drive is an easy one on the freeway. If you’ve never been to the original Disney theme park, it’s worth a visit. Smaller than Florida’s Disney World, it has a much more intimate feel. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the gate. For more information, click here.

 

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GRIFFITH PARK AND OBSERVATORY Another iconic spot, you will recognize it from movies like LaLa Land and The Terminator, and from television shows like 90210 and Keeping Up With The Kardashians. A municipal park covering more than 4,300 acres, Griffith Park is a great place for hiking and taking photos of the city below, and it offers a great vantage point for the world-famous Hollywood sign. Trails within the park offer closer access to the sign, but the decks around the observatory offer great photo ops without the hike. Admission to the park and observatory is free, but there is a nominal charge for the planetarium shows. Tickets can only be purchased at the Planetarium. Griffith Park is accessible on foot from Hollywood Blvd (1.5 mile walk) or by car. Parking can be scarce, and there is sometimes a $4 charge for parking. I prefer to take a car service. For information on Griffith Park and its attractions, click here.

THE GROVE The Grove is a large shopping area home to Dylan’s Candy Bar and The American Girl Store. There is also a Sprinkles Cupcakes located here. To see a full listing of stores and attractions at The Grove, click here. There is a large Barnes and Noble, and I always check the events there before I go, because they often have book signings…sometimes celebrities you would recognize. You can check online in advance here. My daughter and I have encountered some celebrities shopping at The Grove. We saw a girl from Dance Moms, and last time, I was shopping in Nordstrom Shoes next to a well-known Hall of Fame former football player (Pittsburgh Steelers).

HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME Something everyone needs to see once, and once is probably enough. It’s not the cleanest part of town, and maneuvering through the tourists and the “characters” can be challenging. BUT, you don’t want to miss it. This is where you will see the sidewalk stars on the Walk of Fame. For info on star ceremonies or to locate your favorite entertainer’s star, you can check the website here. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is here, and kids love the opportunity to take photos with the “stars” inside (info here). The El Capitan Theatre, built in the 1920s, is also here.  El Capitan was converted from a show theatre to a movie theatre in 1941 for the screening of Citizen Kane. Movies are shown daily, and it’s a beautiful setting from a bygone era for watching a movie. For info on the theatre and showtimes, click here. *Beware: the “characters” on the street are not official representatives of any studio. If you take photos with them, they expect $$$*

 

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IN-N-OUT BURGER Just go. It’s one of those things you have to do. There are locations all over town, but we prefer the one in Westwood, near UCLA, on Gayley Avenue. Everyone will ask you when you get home if you had In-n-Out, so just do it. Order your burger Animal Style. See their menu here.

 

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MALIBU Everyone should visit Malibu at least once. We’ve been a few times. You can drive straight up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica. Park near the Malibu Pier and watch surfers from the pier. Take some photos with the sign in the background. At the end of the pier is Malibu Farm Cafe, a counter service restaurant (walk in only), and at the start of the pier is the Malibu Farm Restaurant (accepts reservations), a table service restaurant. Both are farm-to-table and offer great views. For info on the pier and both restaurants, click here. For shopping, visit the Malibu Country Mart or The Malibu Lumber Yard, both located just off the PCH and full of retail shops and restaurants. Again, these are places you might see some celebrities. Geoffrey’s, located on the PCH, is a 70-year-old legendary hot spot for lunch or dinner, having served JFK and Marilyn Monroe, among others. It offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. Reservations suggested. For info on Geoffrey’s, click here. For shopping in Malibu, check out Malibu Country Mart, where you’ll find different stores and possibly spot a celebrity or two. Pepperdine University is also in Malibu. If your kids are with you and they like Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101, lots of the outdoor scenes were filmed on this campus. For info on visiting the campus, click here.

PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES This is an historic area in downtown LA that was the original settlement that eventually became the city of Los Angeles. The area is home to numerous historic homes (the oldest one in LA!), museums, exhibits, and the famous Olvera Street Market, an iconic Mexican marketplace open since 1930. For more info on Pueblo de Los Angeles, click here. 

 

419598_3582456844915_30828700_n.jpgSANTA MONICA PIER You’ve seen images of Santa Monica Pier in movies (Forrest Gump, Hannah Montana: the Movie) and television shows (Charlie’s Angels, Three’s Company opening sequence). More than 100 years old, the pier offers historical walking tours from its Carousel Bldg on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am and noon. The pier is also the official end (or beginning) of Route 66 and the home of Pier Park, an amusement park featuring a rollercoaster, ferris wheel, and more. The ferris wheel offers beautiful views, and where else are you going to ride a rollercoaster on a pier? Be careful walking around, as the boardwalk is uneven. There are restaurants and vendors along the pier and numerous photo ops. I recommend photos with the ferris wheel in the background, one with the Route 66 sign near the front of the pier, and one along the rail with the beach and Pacific Ocean in the background. Another good photo op: the main sign at the start of the pier. For more information on the pier, click here.

 

IMG_0215SPRINKLES CUPCAKES The original Sprinkles Cupcakes is in Beverly Hills, on Santa Monica Blvd. Sprinkles offers the world-famous 24-hour Cupcake ATM. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s worth a visit.  (They also have a location at The Grove, as mentioned above.) Sprinkles also offers delivery. For more info on Sprinkles, click here.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS A working movie studio and theme park. Ride the various thrill rides and tour the studio facilities. Many of the rides and attractions are linked to popular movies. Harry Potter Wizard World is most popular, and other popular attractions are rides and experiences based on Jurassic Park, Transformers, Despicable Me, and more. If you like amusement parks, this could be a fun experience. I haven’t visited, because we have an excellent amusement park in Charlotte (Carowinds), and I prefer to spend my time in California doing other things. If this is your thing, though, you’ll likely love it. For more information, check out their website here.

VENICE/VENICE BEACH Home of famous Muscle Beach, a skate park, a freak show, and free spirits, Venice Beach is a must-see. Rent a bicycle in Santa Monica and ride down to Venice Beach along the beach bike path. There are lots of bike rental shops from which to choose. Walk out to the Pacific to stick your toes in the water. Spend some time watching the skaters at the skate park…they are amazing. Shop some of the vendors along the boardwalk and just take in the scene. Enjoy the street performers and artists, and soak up some sun! In Venice, stroll down Abbott Kinney Boulevard, a few blocks off the beach, where there are varieties of boutiques, coffee bars, and restaurants. Check out the Venice Canals while you’re there too. For more info on Venice Beach, click here.312713_10200977986596714_1094907258_n

All of these places can be covered in two or three days, if you get an early start and plan well, with the exception of the amusement parks. You should allow a full day for each. Maybe Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Beverly Hills in one day, followed by The Grove, Hollywood Blvd, and Griffith Park. You can eat at In-n-Out for one meal and enjoy a cupcake from Sprinkles for dessert. This is just a sampling of what the city offers for tourists, but these are iconic spots. There are so many more things to do (see below for a list of more). We’ve been countless times and still have things to check off our list.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Kelly

MORE PLACES TO SEE AND THINGS TO DO:

Hollywood Museum

Sky Slide (see photo at right, it’s a clear slide from the 70th floor to the 69th floor on the outside of the US Bank Bldg in downtown LA)25354018_10215003092335592_3751396268366778484_n

Hollywood Bowl

La Brea Tarpits

Getty Villa and Gardens

Greystone Mansion/Park

Reagan Presidential Library (Simi Valley)

Lakers Basketball at Staples Center

Dodgers Baseball

The Broad Museum

Museum of Ice Cream (tickets are hard to get…must book well in advance)

Museum of Tolerance

Westlake Village

Paramount Studios Tour

Warner Bros Studios Tour

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