Mother/Daughter Fun

I was talking with a friend in carpool today about my recent vacation with my 15-yr-old daughter. We met my friend, Jennifer, and her 15-yr-old daughter in Los Angeles for several days. Jennifer and her daughter used to live in Charlotte, but they moved to Ohio about 11 years ago. Luckily, we still get to see them at least once a year, when we go on a mother/daughter vacation with them.

While I was talking with my friend in carpool today, she said she had never gone on a vacation with just her daughter, and she didn’t know how her husband would feel about it. I said, “Call it a mother/daughter vacation, and it takes on new meaning!” And it’s true! There’s nothing wrong with a little special mother/daughter bonding time, right? My husband never seems to mind. Of course, he is probably grateful for some peace and quiet around the house. He’s probably thinking, “Don’t let the door hit ya in the …”

We’ve been lots of places on mother/daughter vacations…Los Angeles, New York, Upstate New York, Vermont, Maine, Puerto Rico, and more. Every trip is different, but my goal is always to have lots of opportunity for us to share some fun and chat too! For example, it’s fun to shop in Los Angeles, and it becomes a shared experience. On our last trip there,  Jennifer and her daughter introduced us to a new store, and it turned into an all-morning shopping experience! My daughter found a few things before heading to the fitting room, and I just kept finding more stuff for her to try on! We chatted as we shopped, and then we went to a nice, leisurely lunch…another good chat opportunity. When we’re home, going out to dinner or lunch with me doesn’t sound so appealing to my daughter, but on vacation, it’s fun, because we can try new restaurants and new cuisines.

In Puerto Rico in the summer of 2017, we bonded over climbing a waterfall and exploring a bioluminescent bay. At night, we always played games together…Scattergories, Spot It, Pictionary, etc. Great fun…and we made some awesome memories together.

But sometimes a vacation isn’t possible. Maybe there are time constraints, or it’s just not in the family budget. Maybe you need to have some mother/daughter bonding time near home, and that’s fun too. There are some things we can do without having to go on “vacation”:

  • Have a staycation together.  There’s something special about staying in a hotel and ordering room service. There are some great hotels for that in the Charlotte area. Our two favorites are the Ballantyne Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, but there are lots of options out there. Most cities and towns have relatively inexpensive places nearby, if that’s what you’re looking for. Maybe you don’t want room service. Maybe you want to order takeout through PostMates or bring in your own food? When we go for a staycation, we check in as early as possible. Sometimes we just hang out in the room and watch movies or football games together. Sometimes, we go down to the pool or spa. Sometimes we go out for dinner. But we always order breakfast through room service. Even a one-night staycation is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my daughter.
  • Thrift store shopping together. This is a total bonding experience, because thrift store shopping is no fun alone. It’s a lot more fun to dig through all the merchandise with someone else. And when you find something absurd or interesting, it’s fun to turn to your daughter and say, “Oh my! Did you see this?” We love thrift store shopping. My daughter has purchased some of her very favorite t-shirts at thrift stores in the Charlotte area, and you know how teens love t-shirts. At the Salvation Army Family Store, located at 1011 Central Avenue, we have found some great items. Also, one of my very favorite pairs of pants, some cute stretch cotton camouflage jeans, came from Buffalo Exchange, located just down the street at 1521 Central Avenue. I get more compliments on those camouflage jeans, and I paid about $9 for them.
  • Binge watch a series together. Different people enjoy different series, but I have friends who have loved watching Gilmore Girls with their daughters. I will propose it to mine, but I’m not sure how much interest she will have. We used to watch iCarly, Zoey 101, and Drake & Josh together. And later, we would watch Pretty Little Liars together. Neither of us watches a lot of TV these days, but maybe we should schedule a TV marathon. Lots of series are offered on Amazon and Netflix. Find one you will both enjoy. Maybe we should revisit some of those old shows! My husband occasionally leaves town, so next time, I’ll let my daughter pick a series, and we can watch that and eat popcorn and Sour Patch Kids to our hearts’ content!
  • Spend time outdoors together. In Charlotte, we are fortunate to have the US National Whitewater Center nearby, but most cities have some sort of outdoor activities. Atlanta has Stone Mountain. Find an activity that would be fun as a mother/daughter duo or with another mother/daughter. We’ve done the Whitewater Center with friends several times, and it’s always fun! We love zip lines and ropes courses, so this is right up our alley. If you’re anywhere in the southeast, it’s pretty easy to get to Abingdon/Damascus, Virginia…bike the 17-mile (downhill) Virginia Creeper Trail together. It’s a little over three hours from Charlotte, but easily done with a one-night hotel stay in the area. And there are lots of inexpensive hotel options in and around Abingdon and Damascus. Or spend a night in Asheville, NC, and visit the Biltmore!
  • Take a class together. I have friends who have taken cooking classes or exercise classes with their daughters, and they loved it. If you live anywhere near a Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, it’s likely they offer one-day cooking events or classes. Just taking a quick look at the Sur La Table website (click on the name of the highlighted business), I see several upcoming opportunities, but you must sign up in advance. Same with Williams-Sonoma…check the website. Learn to cook a new dish or set a beautiful table! Cooking’s not your thing? Maybe try a spin class at Cycle Bar or Flywheel. Or learn how to knit together at a local yarn store. In Charlotte, my favorite is Charlotte Yarn on East Boulevard. If you don’t want to take a class together, maybe you take an afternoon to teach your daughter a skill you have or teach her how to cook a favorite family recipe.

So, if you can do a mother/daughter vacation, I highly recommend it. If not, maybe you just find some bonding activities to do. I love knowing I’m making memories with my daughter. She will be leaving for college in just 3 1/2 years, and I want to make sure we’ve done as much as possible before she flies the coop!

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Social Experiment

The American South and Midwest have reputations as friendly places, while the West and Northeast have reputations of being less so. On another note, people in the West are perceived as creative, and people in the Northeast are perceived as less inhibited. A 2013 study by the University of Cambridge supports that. You can see the results of the study here. After reading that today, I started thinking about our own little social experiment we conducted in Beverly Hills a few years ago.

Southern California: beautiful weather, beautiful people, good food, creativity, and good people-watching. My daugher and I love to go. We’ve been, as my mother used to say, “umpteen times.” That means we’ve been a lot. Today, we are embarking on another adventure to the Los Angeles area. We love visiting. Is it different than other parts of the country? Yes, and that’s part of what we love. Different parts of the country have different cultures and different attitudes, and that’s a good thing. How boring would our country be if there weren’t differences? Why bother visiting another place if that’s the case?

We love visiting the LA area, but would we want to live there? The bloom might fall right off the rose if we lived there. I’ve had to explain to my daughter on more than one occasion that living there isn’t the same as visiting. If you live there, real life gets in the way. Plus, you don’t live in a hotel with fantastic room service, and really, that’s part of the charm.

The first time I took her to LA, we were standing in line at a coffee shop, and my then 7-yr-old daughter looked up and said, “I want to live here, Mom.” The lady behind us heard her and leaned up to say, “Oh, honey. You don’t want to live here. People aren’t nice here like they are where you’re from.” Maybe she heard the southern accent? I had to take a few minutes after we sat down to explain that there are lots of nice people in LA, but I thought the lady meant they don’t wave to everybody and speak to everyone on sidewalks like we often do.

My friend, Mary Ann, who lives in Mobile, Alabama, and her son went with us on our next trip to the area. One day, as we were walking to breakfast at a restaurant about a mile from our hotel, we decided to conduct a social experiment by saying “good morning” to everyone we met on the sidewalk. We got all sorts of responses. Some people gave us sideways glances and moved farther away on the sidewalk, clutching their bags more tightly as if they thought we were trying to mug them. Others ignored us altogether. But there were three who were thrilled. One said how refreshing it was. Another hugged us and thanked us. And yet another had an entire conversation with us, starting with, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

We felt pretty sure we would get different results in the South.

We came home to Charlotte and tried the same Good Morning Experiment at our local Neiman Marcus, thinking the socioeconomics would be closest to Beverly Hills. About two weeks after the initial “experiment,” my daughter and I strolled through Neiman’s, and I greeted everyone we encountered with “Good morning!” My daughter didn’t even notice, because I do it all the time. Here’s what happened: no one looked at me like I was going to mug them. Every single person smiled, and most responded with a pleasant “good morning” in return. One had two gifts in her hand for her young daughter and stopped my daughter to ask which one was better for a young girl. Two or three complimented my shoes. And not one person looked at me like I was strange for greeting them.

I considered trying it in my favorite Target store in Charlotte but realized it wasn’t necessary. I speak to everyone in there every time I go anyway. I’ve even made friends in Target!

On our next visit to LA, we were with friends from the Northeast. We hadn’t discussed the social experiment. We were having breakfast in a restaurant one morning when a gentleman walked past our table on his way to the deli case and smiled. I smiled back and kept talking. When he passed again, he smiled again. I smiled and gave a little wave…it’s what I do. Apparently, he walked past two more times, and I smiled back without even realizing it. As we were leaving, he stopped me at the door. He told me he and his wife were dining in the back of the restaurant and decided to see how many people smiled back when he walked to the deli case. He said, “I smiled at every person at every table I passed, and you were the only one who smiled back. Not only did you smile every time, you waved!” I told him about our previous social experiment, and we all had a good laugh.

I’m not saying I’m always friendly and in a happy mood, and everybody in Charlotte isn’t always friendly either. The “results” of our “experiments” were interesting, though.

That’s not to say there aren’t friendly people in LA. I know some fabulous, friendly people who live there, and I hope to see them when we are there this time. Every time we go, we meet delightful people…every time…LOTS of great people. We’ve met people who treated us like old friends or family. We’ve met people who have welcomed us to their city with open arms…lots of fantastic people.

I can hardly wait to introduce our “newbies” to the places and people we love, and I’m looking forward to spending time with this fun group. We won’t be the most beautiful, skinniest, or most wealthy people in the city, but we can try to be the happiest and most friendly!

Maybe we will conduct another social experiment of some kind on this trip. Ideas?

Share The South

Y’all might think I’m crazy, but when I travel, I make friends. It’s what I do. It’s my thing.

Therefore, when we return to places, I like to take regional gifts or gifts that represent something about me or where I’m from: the South. For example, when we visit Los Angeles, I have a few friends I like to see, and I try to take a little something for them, because some of them have never been here. It’s fun.

Sometimes, it’s something obvious that I take. If the person knows I went to The University of Alabama, I might take a Bama sweatshirt or t-shirt. But I can’t take the same thing every time. It’s fun, to me, to search for interesting places to purchase stuff that represents North Carolina, Alabama, or just the south in general.

Since it’s summertime, we try to make a few more trips than the rest of the year. During the rest of the year there’s that thing that messes up all our travel. It’s called school.

This summer, we have a few trips planned, and I’ve been looking for the perfect southern gifts to take with me on my trips. You know, lots of people all over the country still think we don’t have paved roads or shoes in the south. They think we still cook everything in lard. But with my gifts, I like to introduce them to the real south. Sometimes it’s funny stuff, and sometimes not. But here are a few of my favorite places to get southern gifts.

THE BUTTERCUP GIFTS AND STATIONERY: The Buttercup on Providence Road in Charlotte has great gifts for everyone, and a lot of them represent the south. They have college mascot gifts, personalized stationery and other gifts, jewelry and art by southern artists, and a lovely assortment of other unique gifts you’d be proud to present to that hotel concierge who fielded all your crazy questions before you traveled. Their website can be accessed here, but they have a much bigger assortment in the store.

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THE BITTER SOUTHERNER GENERAL STORE: A friend recently sent me a text and shared this fun website with me. It’s called The Bitter Southerner, and they offer lots of funny gifts with a southern theme. Some of my personal favorites are t-shirts listing the first names of well-known southern authors; sweatshirts featuring one of our favorite southern sayings, “Bless Your Heart;” t-shirts that simply say “Mayo and Tomato;” baseball caps; automobile license plates…you’ll have a great time perusing this site. They even have The Bitter Southerner Coffee Club, a membership plan through which they ship the recipient coffee from “some of the best coffee roasters in the South,” according to the website. Take a look at their offeringshere.byh-sweatshirt_1024x1024.

LOCALS ONLY CHATTANOOGA GIFT SHOP: Another friend told me about a gift shop she stumbled upon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they offer all sorts of Southern fun stuff and delicacies, including one of my favorites…Miss Shelley’s Southern Jam. They offer four flavors of her jam, and many of my friends could tell you they are fantastic jams, and they make great gifts. In addition to this, they offer all sorts of Chattanooga merchandise, Moon Pies, Southern seasoned grits, and See Rock City birdhouses. People who don’t live in the south might not be familiar with the iconic See Rock City rooftops on barns, but this is a fun way to introduce them. This is a fun website I highly recommend. See their website here.

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PAPER SKYSCRAPER, CHARLOTTE, NC: This store on East Boulevard in Charlotte is chock full of gifts that represent Charlotte and North Carolina. I’ve purchased all sorts of gifts there…lowball glasses with “704” (our zip code) on them, bourbon-infused honey, candles made in Charlotte, cans of Bertie County peanuts, books about Charlotte, and postcards galore. If you’re looking for gifts that represent Charlotte or North Carolina, this is a great place to shop. You can get information about the store from their website here, but to purchase from them, you’ll need to go in for a visit…and it will be fun when you do!

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CORNER COPIA GARDENS AND GIFT SHOP: I’ve written about this one before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Corner Copia Gardens and Gift Shop is located in charming Fairhope, Alabama, a lovely small town on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. It is owned and operated by a childhood friend of mine, Michelle Prouty Johns, who has had a lifelong love of plants and gardening. If you find yourself in the area, it’s worth a stop to see the lovely and sometimes rare plants she has in stock and purchase some fun stuff from the gift shop. She opened the gift shop to supplement the gardens in the off-season, and she has some great gifts, including “air plant jellies,” head-shaped planters, and lots more. If you stop in, please tell her Kelly sent you! She doesn’t have a website, but you can check out her Facebook page here.

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SOUTH GEORGIA PECAN COMPANY: My friend, Linda, who used to live in Valdosta, Georgia, introduced me to South Georgia Pecan Company a few years ago when she gifted me some Chocolate Amaretto Pecans that were absolutely heavenly. She even advised me to keep them in the freezer…it just enhances the flavor. Since then, I’ve gifted them to a few folks myself. The company also offers other types of pecans, gift baskets, and even Southern Pecan Pies, a treat indeed. While you’re at the website, check out their great t-shirts too. They would make great gifts for taking on a flight…easy to get through security. And if you’re not from the south, it’s pronounced puh-KAHN down here. You can order directly through their website here, but if you call them for any reason, please don’t say pee-can.

THREE GEORGES CANDY: Three Georges has been a staple in Mobile, Alabama, for a hundred years. According to a story on the WALA-TV website, the store was opened in 1918 by three Greek immigrants “who, you guessed it, shared the same name: George Pappalamporous, George Spero, and George Pope.” The store is located on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile, and it should be on your list of places to visit if you find yourself on the Gulf Coast. If you want to try one of their old recipes, go for my favorite, the Heavenly Hash, made up of marshmallows and pecans smothered in milk chocolate. A little bit goes a long way, but everybody in Mobile knows about Heavenly Hash. You an order directly through their website here, but visit if you can.

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I also enjoy sharing books or magazines about the south (click on title for more info): Southern Living Magazine,Our State Magazinefrom North Carolina, Mobile Bay Monthly Magazine, Charlotte Magazine, Southern Home Magazine, and more. Earlier this year, I picked up a photo book about Charlotte from Paper Skyscraper and sent it to a friend who has never visited. Short stories are great too. For a book of short stories about the south, there is The Signet Classic Book of Southern Short Stories, which you can purchasehere.

So, there’s an assortment of places you can find trinkets, apparel, or foods that represent the South. Since I’m going on vacation soon, I plan to put in my orders this weekend. My friends, old and new, that I see on vacation this summer will receive a little piece of the south from us. To me, it’s fun to show them where we’re from, just like it’s fun for me to learn about their homes.

I need to get busy finding things to take, because if I don’t get things done early, I’ll be “as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” (I thank my Daddy for sharing that little saying with me.)

Mother/Daughter Traditions

This Mother’s Day will be my first without my mother. My sweet mother died in December, never getting to see 2018. As anyone knows, the “firsts” are tough. It has me thinking about things we used to do together.

One thing we used to do together was clean silver. Doesn’t sound like much of a tradition, right? I know, it sounds tedious, and it can be, but with Mother, it was fun. When I lived in Mobile as an adult, once a year, usually in December, we would clean silver. I would go to her house on a Sunday afternoon, and she would bring out all her silver and the silver polishing cream. We would sit for hours, polishing silver, talking, and laughing…always laughing. Our hands would ache, but we would keep working…and talking…and laughing…and working. After a few hours, everything was sparkling, and the holidays could begin. Every time I clean silver now, I think of her. I’m grateful for that memory.

I have found a much easier way to clean silver. I tried the aluminum foil dip method, but it didn’t work like I thought it would, and it created a sulfuric odor. I found Connoisseur Silver Wipes and tried those. They worked like a charm. With very little effort, my silver comes clean with these wipes. I highly recommend. You can purchase them at Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, or online at Amazon here.

When I was a little girl, she and I would make the traditional Easter Bunny cake together…you know, use one circular layer for the face, and use the other circular layer to make ears and a bowtie. At the holidays, we would make what we called a Marshmallow Cake, but I think some people call it a popcorn cake. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s very festive, and it’s what we did. Marshmallows, butter, peanuts/cashews, M&Ms….it makes a lovely treat, especially if you use red and green M&Ms. I’ve known people to throw in other things too…chocolate chips, pretzel pieces…you pick your favorites.img_85301.jpg

Once my daughter turned four or five, Mother would make biscuits with her every time we visited. I’m so glad they did, because it’s a good memory for my daughter. This year at school, her English class put together a cookbook of recipes, and my daughter’s contribution was the buttermilk biscuit recipe she learned from my mother. When I told Mother, she was thrilled, and now that she has passed, I’m even more glad my daughter chose that recipe and more glad they had that “tradition.”

After I was married and while Mother still lived near Mobile, for birthdays or other special occasions, we would have brunch at The Grand Hotel Resort in Point Clear, Alabama. She never wanted to go for holidays, because the crowd was crazy, but for birthdays, it was great. I remember going for several of her birthdays, for a few of my birthdays, and I remember meeting our family friend, Polly, for brunch there one Sunday. I specifically remember going for my 40th birthday. My daddy had died the previous fall, so it was a bittersweet celebration. My husband and daughter were there too, and we got some cute photos of our daughter playing on the hotel lawn by the bay.

 

It’s funny how these traditions start. Sometimes, you do something once, and you don’t realize it’s something you will continue.

Back in 2011, my friend, Leah, and I took our then-seven-year-old daughters to Los Angeles. It was a special trip. I had gotten passes for the girls to visit the set of the Nickelodeon show, iCarly, which was the hottest show on Nickelodeon at the time. Milly had fallen in love with the show when she was about four, so she was a long-time fan. The girls were excited, and frankly, so were the moms!

When we took that trip, it never occurred to me I would start taking Milly to LA every year, but I do. It has become a mother/daughter tradition. We have a favorite hotel, favorite restaurants, favorite foods, favorite shops, and now we have friends we love to visit. Every time we go, we make a point of seeing places we haven’t seen before, but we make sure to visit all our favorites too. Often, we take friends with us. Lots of times, she and I have talked about how it is our mother/daughter tradition, and I tell her I hope we will continue to do it till I’m really old. Maybe one day she will have her own daughter and continue the tradition with her. Don’t get me wrong. I plan to keep going as long as I can! We are making memories she can carry with her for a long time.

I wish I had started doing annual trips with my mother when I was younger. I wasn’t an only child, so sneaking off for mother-daughter trips wasn’t as easy. Plus, my brother always adds an element of humor whenever he’s around. We wouldn’t have wanted to leave him behind anyway. Daddy was funny too.

In 1997, though, I did take Mother on a trip we talked about for years afterward. We went to Mexico City, and it was a glorious, fun trip. I’ve loved Mexico City since 1982, when I visited with a group from high school. Mother and I covered as much of the city as we could in four or five days. The first day we were there, a Sunday, I decided we would go to Chapultepec Park like the locals do on Sundays. Chapultepec Park is Mexico City’s version of Central Park. It’s covers over 1600 acres, and it is the home of Chapultepec Castle, which sits atop a hill with a view overlooking the city. We walked all over that park that day, visiting the castle and the zoo, which was the first zoo outside of China to successfully breed giant pandas. It was a great memory for us that would have made a wonderful tradition.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it has me thinking of all sorts of things I used to do with Mother. Mostly, we laughed, and that’s a great memory. Her compassion and sense of humor were unmatchable. We miss her, but we are thankful to have great memories.

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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. 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). 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. 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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