We set out mid-morning on Tuesday, and stopped for lunch at Irvine Spectrum and some play time at Heritage Park in Irvine. Then we got back in the car and drove to the first real stop of our trip: Randy's Donuts!
|The doughnut promised land.|
For those who aren't familiar with this SoCal landmark, I'll just say that it is so famous that one of the kids at our school built a model of it for his "California Landmarks" project.
The doughnuts were pretty good. They have all three types of doughnuts: cake, glazed, and (my favorite) old-fashioned. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to visit again, but I'm more of an ice cream person than a doughnut person.
After our pit stop, we drove on to our hotel in Santa Monica, which was a surprisingly quirky Days Inn. It had a bit of an art deco vibe and a rooftop sun deck with plaques naming US presidents. It also had a comfortable room and an OK free breakfast, so I have no complaints.
For the first evening, we headed down to Venice. We wanted to show our kids the canals. It happened that my parents (who were meeting up with us in Santa Barbara) were in Santa Monica that night, too, in a hotel just a few blocks from ours. So we all headed to Venice. We parked near Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey, and let the kids have a short play on the playground. Then we walked into Venice and strolled the canals.
Unfortunately, we happened to be there during one of the times in which they drain the canals (to keep the water from getting stagnant), so the canals weren't quite as impressive as we remembered from earlier visits. But they were still a nice place to stroll, and the kids liked looking at the different houses along the paths.
|Usually, there is more water.|
We had dinner at C&O Trattoria, which is a very family friendly place noted for an unlimited supply of garlic knots (which, to our surprise, both of our kids liked) and for the sing along to That's Amore. We managed to hang on just long enough to see the sing along (some of us even participated), and then we walked back to our car.
The next day, my parents headed to The Getty. We had considered going there, too, but decided our kids would enjoy it more in a few years. Instead, we headed to the Santa Monica pier to be stereotypical tourists.
We got to the pier waaaay too early. Our kids start their days at 7 a.m., if we're lucky enough to get a little bit of a sleep in. So we were down to the pier not long after 9. Nothing much was open there until 10, and the amusement park wasn't open until 11.... so we walked a short way to the original muscle beach location. Petunia liked the tall swings, and Pumpkin had fun climbing the ropes and trying her hand at the rings.
|Harder than it looks|
Between muscle beach, the arcade, and just strolling the pier, we killed enough time to be able to go on a couple of rides at the amusement park. The kids chose the Ferris wheel and the bungee/trampoline thing.
|The view from the Ferris wheel. We had lunch at the place with the yellow roof.|
They'd have done more, but we didn't want to spend that much, and anyways, it was time for lunch. The Mexican place at the end of the pier was not bad at all, which is surprising for a restaurant that can rely on its location for a constant stream of customers. After lunch, we walked out to the waves and the kids had fun getting their feet wet. We only pulled them away from the beach with a promise of more beach time once we got to Santa Barbara.
|Happy children. And a bear. Petunia wore her bear a lot this trip.|
We also strolled Colorado Street. Petunia was impressed with the dinosaur fountains. Pumpkin wanted to get a treat, but I held her off with a promise of ice cream at a really good place I remembered in Santa Monica Place mall. But that ice cream shop was gone, so we had frozen yogurt at a pretty average place instead. Then we walked over to Tongva Park because we wanted to see it and because we thought the kids could use some playground time. It is a nice park, but I didn't take any nice pictures there, so you'll just have to take my word for it..
After some park time, we went back to our hotel for a bit, then headed out again in the car. We were meeting friends in Encino for dinner. Although Encino is quite close to Santa Monica, there is no good route there at rush hour. (Really: go to Google Maps and check how long it takes to drive between Santa Monica and Encino at 5 p.m. on a weekday, and then check it again at 10 p.m.. If you've never understood why people complain about LA traffic, this will probably make it clear.)
Our plan was to leave early and drive over to Westwood and then up to Mulholland Drive. We'd then drive along Mulholland and down into Encino. This worked... sort of. There was a lot of traffic along Wiltshire until we got past the 405 and the kids got impatient in the back seat. Then Google Traffic showed an accident on our route up to Mulholland, so I rerouted us on the fly... right into Bel Air. I half expected to be blocked by a gate, but we were not. And to my surprise, the kids LOVED this detour. They were really impressed with the big fancy houses, and happily pointed out which ones they'd like to own as we worked our way through Bel Air and Beverly Glen up to Mulholland. Then we managed to miss every single scenic pullout on Mulholland, and just drove along it and then down into Encino, again through a neighborhood of very nice houses.
Dinner in Encino was delightful. It was great to catch up with our friends. And by the time we were done with dinner, traffic had cleared, and we could take the direct route back to the hotel.
All in all, it was a nice short visit to one of the most tourist-friendly parts of LA. The next day, we got up and headed north to Malibu... but I'll pick that up some other time.