My favourite destination… California, USA

My love affair with Los Angeles started almost a decade ago when I first set foot on the dusty palm tree lined sidewalks.

I was in town for an epic family gathering with my relatives of Armenian decent to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. Then, a film and media student, the lure of Hollywood studios and the infamous Dolby theatre (home of the Oscars ceremony) captured my ambition.

A picture of Esther, founder of the site, in Hollywood in her early twenties.
Exploring Hollywood in my child-free early twenties!

Although my wishes to be a part of the film industry faded, my interest in the mega city continued to flourish. Recognising that the land of dreams, glamour and valet parking was not a true portrayal, I became fascinated with the idea of Los Angeles as a living, breathing representation of juxtaposition. LA is hailed as one of the most glamorous cities in the world, and some parts are; there are beautiful beaches, parks and enviable residential and shopping areas. But the sun bleached billboards echo a tarnished, neglected side of Los Angeles’ personality where things aren’t so sunny with some residents living in segregation, depression, addiction and poverty.

Hollywood boulevard is undeniably one of the best examples of this, where entertainers’ names embossed in stars in the pavement, culminating in a collection of famous handprints imprinted in slabs of concrete in front of the legendary Mann’s Chinese theatre. This is where the cream of the crop gather in designer ball gowns and tuxedos for champagne, celebrations and film premiers, it is also an area of LA over-saturated by tourists, littered with sex shops, liquor stores, Scientology centres, poverty and drug abusers. Hollywood seems tangled and confused, with notoriety as the home of some of the most famous, wealthy humans on the planet and its rich history of crime and tragic deaths.

It’s no wonder that when I returned to California for the first time as a mother, I had far more of an affinity with the quieter, less polluted city of San Diego. Los Angeles, where my little sister and I once found ourselves stranded at the beach after we’d spent hours having her arm decorated with a tattoo of pin-up Betty Page, and where my best friend and I had once had a hell of a trip to the Museum of Death, seemed less enthralling and had lost its hold it once had on me.

 

Don’t get me wrong. Los Angeles is a really fun place to visit with kids and a few of the places we specifically enjoyed were the La Brea Tar Pits, a geothermal archaeological site where Noah got up close to some extinct creatures, the quaint neighbourhood of Pasadena, where we discovered a fabulous pirate themed park (unfortunately, our original plans to visit the Kidspace museum were scuppered due to it being closed for the day) and then we had so much fun in Santa Monica playing on the beach, practicing our acrobatics and watching tightrope walkers. There are also two Disney parks in nearby Anaheim.

Noah plays on the beach in Santa Monica.
There’s lots of fun to be had in Santa Monica.
Noah tries to climb a rope on the beach.
One of Noah’s first ever rope climb attempts!
Noah in the La Brea Tar Pits museum.
Making surprising discoveries at La Brea Tar Pits.

I think older children would really love the thrills of Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain (almost all roller-coaster theme park in the desert) and some may appreciate going on a studio tour, Warner Bros. do a great one.

Between Los Angeles and San Diego is a pretty seaside neighbourhood called Laguna Beach. This was a breath of fresh air after the 11 hour flight, with a congested two year old, from the UK to LAX. If I am ever blessed enough to have the opportunity to live in the US, this little town would be my first choice. Think pristine beach, independent arty shops and a laid back vibe. Noah got a chance to paddle in the ocean and, after that long flight, he was more than ready to stretch his legs and do some climbing in the small playground located right on the beach.

Another hour or so driving, we reached the town of Carlsbad, ready to check into the Legoland Hotel. The foyer is an outlandish glimpse into the world of lego, with a towering castle as a centerpiece, surrounded by lego brick filled moats.

Our Pirate themed suite consisted of a double room, separate kids room with bunk beds, lounge area and bathroom. Walls were embellished in colourful lego sculptures. There are plenty of surprises at the Legoland resort, our favourite being the safe to crack in our room to get access to lots of Lego goodies and Noah found the ‘whoopie cushion’ in the hotel’s corridor hilarious.

Our sleep was not great those first couple of nights! Not that our beds were not comfy enough (they were), but Noah was experiencing some pretty intense jetlag and he’d brought with him a relentless cough. This is when I was surprised to find that cough syrup for children does not seem to exist in the US.

In the morning, after a buffet style breakfast, this finally happened.

Noah is asleep in bed.

When he eventually roused, we were set loose in the Legoland Park where everything really was awesome! For a theme park, it was lovely to walk around, with luscious, unusual flora that we just wouldn’t find in the UK.

Noah really enjoyed the rides but what really captured his attention was a show featuring acrobatic fire fighters.

Noah watching the fire station show at Legoland.

Away from the rides, we had the opportunity to look around mini land (miniature Lego models of places around the world) and the magnificent Star Wars exhibition that features an enormous model of the iconic Death Star (you can also see this at Legoland Windsor).

Star Wars Death Star made out of Lego
Lego Death Star from Star Wars.

We had two whole days to explore the resort and on the second day we decided it was time to splash about at the Legoland Water Park.

On our third and final morning, I woke up in my pirate bed as a thirty year old. What a way to start your birthday. It was time to leave Legoland. We were starting to adjust to the time difference by this point.

Birthday cake

We had heard about the famous San Diego Zoo and we’d decided our final day in San Diego would be spent there. Sprawling across one hundred acres of hilly terrain, navigating the zoo can be very tiring on the legs! Luckily, there are open air buses you can take for a tour around the park.

Esther and Noah sat on a lion statue at San Diego Zoo.
My 30th birthday at San Diego Zoo.

I’ve never been a huge fan of zoos but the habitats in San Diego zoo are surprisingly large, shrouded in the most amazing greenery, so it is easy to forget where you are. The organisation, that began as a rescue operation, works extremely hard to conserve wildlife and prevent extinction of species. It’s a wonderful place for a walk with a youngster, with some phenomenal sights.

Reminiscing about the visits I have made to California just makes me want to go back! We would especially love to spend more time exploring the beach towns between LA and San Diego. What are your favourite things to do or places to visit in the golden state?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ruth says:

    Laguna Beach looks and sounds amazing! I went to Chicago last year and I’d really like to go back to America and see other parts of it. 🙂 I’m also absolutely desperate to go to San Diego zoo, so I might have to use this post as the basis for my future trip, whenever it may be!

    1. Aww I hope you make that trip! San Diego Zoo is beautiful! And I didn’t get into it in the blog but San Diego is a lovely city, with a lot of Mexican influence and nautical vibe. It’s great to walk around or hop on and off trolley buses. I’ve never been to Chicago but its on my to do list 🙂

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