Los Angeles vacation things to do list
March 25, 2022 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Help me in finding fun/unique/normal things to do on a family vacation to Los Angeles, please!

Hello friends! For the first time in a long time my family will be taking a trip out west. I love California and am excited to be headed back. We're going to be in LA from June 15-21.

Special details:
Two kids, 12 & 14
Two adults
Will have a car for half the days and aren't planning any day trips outside the area (no trip longer than 2 hours drive time)

Things we're pretty sure on doing:
The Getty
Some studio tour(s)

Things we like:
Outdoor hikes
My daughter loves murals and clothing
My son loves skateboarding and is interested in surf culture
Both kids love record albums
Good mom and pop Mexican food

Any suggestions for on-or-off-the beaten path places that you'd recommend? Anything happening between June 15-20 that is unique? So much flux over the past couple of years that current information is really helpful.

Thank you for any guidance.
posted by zerobyproxy to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is very weird and amazing.
posted by tangosnail at 7:19 AM on March 25 [8 favorites]

Point Fermin Park in San Pedro with beautiful views of the cliffs and ocean. While down there take a harbor cruise - world's busiest harbor.
Avoid Disneyland at all costs!
posted by charlesminus at 7:23 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

Would your son like a surf lesson in Santa Monica maybe?

If you'll be near San Pedro on a weekend evening, there (used to be anyway) quite the scene at Ports O Call (a fisherman's wharf type place) with tons of families doing Karaoke and sitting at picnic tables eating amazing fish cooked to order (you buy the whole fish at one counter, then carry it to another where you tell them how you want it cooked, very fun and DELICIOUS and very reasonably priced). I haven't been there since the pandemic though so you might want to call ahead. It is outdoors in the breeze, but it did get pretty crowded in the old days.

A day trip by boat to Catalina to either snorkel or ride the glass bottom boats/ziplines?

Long Beach could be a great place for a day. They have tours (by boat) of the industrial shipping port, where you can see the container ships unloading, they have a military ship you can tour, a german submarine you can tour, a really good aquarium, and LB harbor is the takeoff port for lots of whale watching boat trips (blue whales - huuuuge and often very plentiful). Long Beach is right next to San Pedro btw.

Seeing the space shuttle at USC would be a must-do on my list also.

And La Brea Tar Pits and its museum are extra super neat. More fun for the kids than LACMA and Getty by far.

Where are you staying? That will help people give recommendations.
posted by bluesky78987 at 7:39 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]

Maybe obvious, but you must go to the Last Bookstore; while you're there, it's worthwhile to duck into the Bradbury Building nearby.
posted by carrienation at 7:40 AM on March 25 [6 favorites]

If any of the family has a soft spot for prehistoric life, combine the LACMA visit with a look around La Brea Tar Pits and Museum next door.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:42 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]

Good mom and pop Mexican food
It's not mom and pop, but Guelaguetza Restaurante is fantastic. Absolutely mom and pop and really great is Tonny's in Pasadena. (Not a misspelling.) It pretty far from most of LA, but it is on the way to the mountains.

I always tell people to visit both the Museum of Jurassic Technology and the Center for Land Use Interpretation, which are on the same block and in a fun part of town.

For records, Amoeba is well worth a trip unless you happen to live next to one of their other stores.
posted by eotvos at 8:15 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for these suggestions! Creating a list in Google Maps of all of them! I haven't been to the tar pits since 1974! The Shuttle!!! Jurassic Technology? YES! The Last Bookstore seems like a cleaner version of The Strand! Amoeba is one of my favorites but I have only been to the shops in the Bay Area. San Pedro looks super chill and picturesque. Please, keep them coming!

We will be staying in Westchester for a good portion of our trip.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:46 AM on March 25

Also came in to recommend the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

For records maybe Amoeba on Hollywood Blvd.

For skating there's the skatebowl on Venice Beach.
posted by dobbs at 8:58 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

Another vote for The Last Bookstore! While you’re downtown, check out the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising’s scholarship store where you can find all kinds of low-priced clothes, from student projects to donations from alumni designers. You could find racks of wedding dresses or shirts with skulls knitted into the back or 500 vintage-style swimsuits. You just never know! Call ahead for hours.

If you do go to San Pedro, it’s worth checking out the Korean Bell, a monument overlooking the ocean. Conrad’s, a Mexican restaurant on 6th Street, is fantastic and has an extensive vegan menu, if that’s a concern. The Fish Market is open but the rest of Ports O’Call will very likely be under construction, as most of it was razed to make room for a new waterfront project in the last few years. There are also a couple of outdoor skate parks in San Pedro, if that would interest your son.
posted by corey flood at 9:08 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

Westchester is my hood! Our local Indian food place is really good: Taj India Palace on Lincoln near Manchester. Also Cinco is a great (or at least really good) Mexican restaurant on Manchester. The In-N-Out by LAX (Sepulveda/Westchester Parkway) is famous for good reason and there's a park if your kids like watching planes land at VERY close range (with or without a burger). Hiho is a newish burger joint in the Marina with super delicious burgers and an absolutely stunning outdoor patio that looks out on the Marina. Not a destination restaurant, but great if you're nearby.

Another fun activity is you can rent kayaks in Marina Del Rey (and probably paddleboards, idk) and paddle around the marina. There are sea lions so you can view them in their element (don't approach obvy).

There's also an easy bike trail from the Marina up to Venice beach, although I don't know the logistics of it.
posted by bluesky78987 at 9:09 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

My favorite bookshops are The Last Bookstore (Downtown) and Skylight (Los Feliz). Skylight also has a wonderful art books annex right next door.

If you’re downtown, Tacos 1986 has a mushroom option on its menu that is one of the very best tacos I’ve ever tasted. Guisados is also extremely good. People will also probably recommend Grand Central Market—skip the lines at Eggslut and get donuts from The Donut Man. You may luck out and be able to get the peach donuts if they’re in season that early.

If you’re doing any hiking around Griffith Park, definitely bop down to Los Feliz for Skylight. That stretch of Vermont also has a couple vintage clothing stores and a skateboard shop and some other little places that are fun to pop into.

And now that I say all this, I have realized that these two neighborhoods are some of the best for getting around on your non-car days—the red line connects Los Feliz and Downtown LA, and there’s a shuttle bus that can take you up to the Griffith Park Observatory. (Although, check the timing, I feel like it might be limited.) One could absolutely do downtown in the morning, hop on the red line to Vermont/Sunset, take the shuttle up to the observatory, hike down, then grab dinner and shop in Los Feliz.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 9:41 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

try to stay for a night at the magic castle hotel which will get you into the Magic Castle. it's awesome.
posted by wowenthusiast at 9:43 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

Unlike the strand, the last bookstore doesn't have public toilets ( nor good android connectivity ). However, those at grand central market nearby are clean and stocked.

The Japanese American museum downtown.
posted by brujita at 11:08 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

Old downtown is interesting. For good casual Mexican food in old downtown (kinda near-ish Last Bookstore/Bradbury) the food court in Grand Central Market has some swell options. There's also an odd little funicular (Angel's Flight), LA Central Library, and the Museum of Contemporary Art LA nearby.

Personally I didn't care for the Studio tour we took. Preferred random gawking around Hollywood, Sunset Strip, Mullholland Drive, Santa Monica, and Venice.
posted by ovvl at 11:22 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

Watts Towers
posted by lathrop at 12:53 PM on March 25

The Cove Skatepark review A trip to the Venice Beach area of Santa Monica could be an enjoyable day trip for your family. There's a very long Promenade along the Pacific Ocean where you can rent bicycles, skates, and probably surfing equipment. A nice, long sandy beach. Lots of murals on the buildings. Different food choices from very basic to luxury. Some tony art galleries like the LA Louver. I included a review of The Cove skate park here so you can get a sense of the course and see if you would be comfortable with it. Some bodybuilders with an outdoor gym. A few blocks north is the Third Street Promenade, an open air mall market with lots of very interesting shops and good food. They should have their own website with current Covid information.

It will be crowded during that time of year, so parking will be a challenge. If you can park a few blocks away and walk in to the area, there's a whole lot of fun thing to do.

Santa Monica Pier has outdoor music, and a simple amusement park with basic rides. They should have a website dedicated to the layout and current Covid information which you can check for updates. I hope this is useful information, and you have a really enjoyable visit.
posted by effluvia at 2:05 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]

If you're near The Museum of Jurassic Technology, check out Tacomiendo... great Mexican food hole-in-the-wall. The local cult classic walk-up resuatrant Tito's Tacos is nearby as well, but I think that's more of a "you had to grow up with it" acquired taste.
posted by Temeraria at 4:19 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]

No trip to Los Angeles is complete without eating at a Taco Truck.
Here's a good guide to them plus other interesting restaurants: LATaco.com
posted by conrad53 at 7:25 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]

Off the beaten track, Deukmejian Wilderness Park in La Crescenta has a newly installed 26-foot mosaic mural + hiking trails.
posted by ContinuousWave at 11:58 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. I want a MARK ALL AS BEST checkbox! Can't wait to check out your recommendations!
posted by zerobyproxy at 12:04 PM on March 29

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