One thing most first-time L.A. tourists do when they arrive in the city, at least the sun-loving ones, is plan a beach day. Well, that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on traffic. L.A.’s premier beach locale is famously Santa Monica — see countless songs and movie scenes — and for a few days or more with the family, it’s definitely worth the hike.
While getting there is no easy feat, staying can be budget-friendly if you have a savvy head on your shoulders and a beach-loving crew in tow.
First thing’s first, hit the beach. The Santa Monica Pier and sandy beaches are all free to enter, so beach, play, surf and explore until your heart’s content. Borrow some beach blankets from your Airbnb or hotel; if they have a pool, they can be pretty accommodating. If you want to explore more than the sandy shores, head to the Pier for some old-fashioned boardwalk fun with the kids.
Once on the Pier, there will be a few tourists traps — avoid them. Don’t fill up on cuisine and claw machines (fine, maybe one game or ride) just yet, there’s more do in Santa Monica worth your hard-earned cash. Walk along the boardwalk, take your pictures and move along — save your appetite for later.
One of the best ways to experience Santa Monica’s cuisine is by finding a local food truck, which your teens and adult children will be impressed with. If taco night is a favorite in your house, you’re in the right place. Walk along Santa Monica Boulevard in search of Ruben’s Tacos Truck, El Paladar Oaxaqueno Taco Truck or the mecca, Santa Monica Food Truck Lot. All eats are incredibly affordable, authentic and delicious.
With a full day of beaching, dining on tacos and wandering through town, you’ll find streets of shops, some pop-ups with discounts and sales, and others high-end for window shopping only. The kids will love the dependability of live music along the streets, long sunny days and incredible sunsets at night — think of the family photo ops with the sun setting behind the Pacific as your backdrop.
Enjoy the city at your own leisurely pace; it is a laid-back beach town, after all.
Depending on when you visit, the city always has something going on, some even free. Check out the calendar here and see if your visit coincides with any local, free fun your whole family can get in on.
Similar to its sister property Mall of America in Minnesota, American Dream Mall in Newark, New Jersey, 20 miles from Manhattan, is a destination mall to travel to for shopping and family fun. However, where Mall of America dedicates 45 percent of its square footage to entertainment and 55 percent to retail, American Dream Mall flips those figures.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
Fans of country music can explore Tennessee’s rich musical legacy across all 95 counties with hundreds of landmarks and attractions on the new Tennessee Music Pathways route, inspired by the latest documentary from Ken Burns.
There is something to be said for hitting a city’s most iconic neighborhoods, even if there is a steady stream of tourists milling about. On the other hand, there’s something delicious about discovering neighborhoods not yet on the tourist track.
As a teacher introducing artists and art museums to my French and Spanish students, I learned a key technique for museum visits: Don’t overstay their attention span! One hour is ample time and, for some youngsters, start in the museum shop where they can discover a few things they want to see firsthand. For most, a finale in the garden or museum café for ice cream or a meal is welcome.