Southern California Fun in the Sun!

I am originally from Southern California and still have family living there. So, we are very familiar with all the sights and hotspots. I often travel there with my husband and two young daughters, ages 2 and 4.

California Pizza Kitchen

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

I went to school in Los Angeles, and this has to be one of my personal favorites for Great Food! I highly recommend the BBQ Chicken Pizza... it's so good they have made a frozen pizza that is sold in select markets in the west coast! The drinks here are great as well, good for a dinner out with the girls or maybe even a date night with your hubby. But, don't feel like you can't bring the kids. This place is kid-friendly too and has meals that the kids will love.
California Pizza Kitchen
207 South Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California, 90212
+1 310 275 1101

Character Dining at Goofy's Kitchen

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

Character dining is the only way to go when you have little children that are enamored with the Disney characters. Share an amazing experience with Goofy and his pals at this winningly whimsical buffet with many inventive culinary surprises. Goofy's Kitchen is a great place to throw birthday parties too, so if you are celebrating a big day, be sure and come party Disney-style! Plenty of great choices for kids of all ages, including: Mickey Mouse shaped waffles, Breakfast lasagna, peanut butter and jelly pizza and Goofy's Hot Chocolate Cake. Don't forget to bring your cameras to take a souvenir snapshot of your Gawrsh-darn favorite Disney Character. We visited with Minnie Mouse, Goofy's nephew, Pluto, Daisy Duck, and others. The kids all got out on the dance floor with Minnie for a Beach Party dance, and of course my daughter had to take front and center. She had a blast!!
Goofy's Kitchen
1150 W Magic Way
Los Angeles, California, 92802
(714) 956-6755


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

Disneyland is great, but I'm going to give you some insight on how to see the best things in the park:

First get a map! Look up which characters your children are interested in seeing and selectively go to those spots during their viewing time. Don't just walk aimlessly looking for characters or you won't find them. Each character now has a particular location in the park that they are stationed and a schedule by which you can come visit them.

Get a Disney FASTPASS as often as possible. This is a way to avoid the long lines, not like the old days of waiting in line for hours at a time. Again, look at the map and plan out what rides are a must for your visit that day. Get a Disney FASTPASS for the rides that normally are quite the wait. That allows you to go on another ride and then go back to the popular ride and literally cut in line! You can only hold one FASTPASS at a time, so as soon as you use one, go get another! Great rides that are a must: Star Tours, Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Indiana Jones Temple of Doom. The little ones will love all the rides in Toon Town and Fantasyland.

For Dining inside the park there are several great places to eat, but for a great sit down place... eat at the restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean. Here there is good food and a very cool atmosphere!

If you have children this is a must for your visit to Southern California. Spend the money, your kids will talk about Disneyland for years to come and then they will take their own kids... just like you and me!

Disneyland Park
1313 South Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, California, 92802
(714) 781-4000

California Adventure

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

Although this park is adjoined with Disneyland, a separate ticket is required, or you must have purchased a special ticket that will get you into both parks (which of course is more expensive). California Adventure is a fun place, but not created for the very young or very old... unlike Disneyland. It doesn't have many kiddie style rides for very young kids and the cool rides have some pretty strict height requirements. This is a good park for kids about seven and up. My daughter was four the last time we visited and she couldn't ride much... we spent most of our time in the Bug's Life area. This was cool to her because she's real keen on this movie and its characters. She even got to take a picture with Princess Ada. They have a handful of kiddie rides in this area, but that's pretty much it for California Adventure other than the huge ferris wheel for all ages. For older kids, there is a fun roller coaster or two.

The absolute highlight for us is the Character Dining at Ariel's Grotto! If you are not familiar with this concept and you have children, you are missing out! At Ariel's Grotto, a restaurant in California Adventure, they serve a 3 course dinner, which is moderately priced, while you are visited at your table by Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale... and the main feature, The Little Mermaid, remains perched on her sea sled at the front lobby of the restaurant. The food was excellent and my daughter got to lead the characters in a Congo line with musical instruments and dancing around the restaurant and out on it's patio. Seriously, this was the COOLEST thing I've ever seen! Just think about how long you wait in line to see characters and how anxious the kids are to meet them in person, let alone have Goofy sit down at your table and pretend to eat your daughter's dinner and have Minnie Mouse hug and love on your 2-year old while she squeals in delight during her 2-3 minute visit to your table. My daughter visited Ariel 10 times during our meal and even sang "Part of your World" with her, note for note. Awesome. Don't miss this experience.

Disney California Adventure Park
1600 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, California, 92802
(714) 781-4565

The Huntington

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

The Huntington is an Art Gallery, Library, and botanical gardens. All of which are spectacular.

I studied Art History at UCLA and actually took a class at the Huntington, where our classroom was right in front of the artwork on the floor of the museum! The Art Collections are distinguished by their specialized character and elegant settings. The Huntington Gallery, originally the Huntington residence, contains one of the most comprehensive collections in this country of British and French art of the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition to being home to ever-popular Gainsborough Blue Boy and Lawrence's Pinkie, the Gallery also has special changing exhibitions. The Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art brings together American paintings from the 1730s to the 1930s, a permanent exhibition devoted to the work of early 20th-century architects Charles and Henry Greene, as well as changing exhibitions. Some of my personal favorites are the works by Turner.

The Library houses famous pieces and rotating exhibitions. I've seen a special exhibit for Abraham Lincoln that was moving. It featured letters and documents that were important during his presidency and Civil War movements.

The Botanical Gardens are a nice combination with the Museum galleries and library. The weather being almost always in the '70s in Southern California, you are certain to have a nice stroll in these gardens divided by geographical regions hosting plant life and animals from the appropriate countries and lands. My parents are avid bird watchers and find this to be an amazing spot to see some unusual birds.

If you are looking for a day of art and culture, look no further.

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
Los Angeles, California, 91108
(626) 405-2100

Best Beaches in Southern California

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

Best beach for kids: MARINA DEL REY - The beach has a sheltered cove so there is no big wave for mother to worry about the kids in the water.

Coolest beach spot: MANHATTAN BEACH - home of famous LA athletes like Shaquille O'Neil. The beach scene resembles an episode of Baywatch. It's mostly a mid-20's crowd at the bars and night clubs. El Porto Street is known for its great surfing and boggie boarding. There's plenty of jogging and rollerblading along the Strand, which runs along the beach front. There are plenty of beach restaurants in this small, yet popular beach community.

Most eccentric beach: VENICE BEACH - You'll be entertained by just walking up and down the beachfront walk. Beach front or "street" performers and flea market type bargain shops rule this artsy community. Home of the famous outdoor Venice Beach Gym. This beach has been seen in endless amounts of movies like White Men Can't Jump and TV shows like Pacific Blue and MTV's Real World. Maybe you'll even run into the turben guy on roller blades with the electric guitar, or at least lots of women struttin' their stuff in those California thongs.


Best all around beach: HUNTINGTON BEACH! This place has it all. My sister used to lifeguard this beach and lived right around the corner from the pier. She will boast about the nightlife, restaurants, friendly people, daily entertainment, shops and sunshine. And the water is nice too!

Next best all around beach: SANTA MONICA - Santa Monica State Beach is one of the widest and most popular beaches in the Los Angeles area with everything from an amusement park on the pier to volleyball. I lived 9 blocks from the beach in the 90s and loved the location! The bike path goes for miles directly underneath the Santa Monica Pier north and south with an easy ride southbound to crazy Venice beach. On the pier, the Pacific Park amusement center offers a nine-story Ferris wheel that provides a bird's-eye view of the city and coastline. There is also a 1920s vintage carousel, plus skeeball, air hockey, pinball, video games and more. A bait and tackle shop on the pier serves fishing fans. Shack shops serve snacks of raw octopus. Not far is the original Muscle Beach. There are free live concerts Thursday nights during the summer months. Just stay out of the water; it tends to be dirty and pretty nasty.

Gay beach: LAGUNA BEACH has always been known for its gay community. But, after all, you're in Southern California, so there's a gay population at each of the beaches. Laguna beach also features great art collections and shows from local artists.

Just south of Laguna Beach is a little place called CRYSTAL COVE. It's somewhat isolated and is lined with beachfront homes, one from the movie beaches. That for sure is my beach of choice. Good surf, clear water, no crowds and great sun.

Six flags Magic Mountain

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

Like all 6 flags parks, this place is great for the young at heart and adventure seekers! Magic Mountain features some of the greatest coasters ever created and are featured on many TV shows that showcase the nation's or world's best coasters. Don't miss Viper, Batman, Freefall, Ninja, Superman, and X. If you are traveling to SoCal with teenagers, don't miss this place; they'll love it!!
Six Flags Magic Mountain
26101 Magic Mountain Parkway
Valencia, California, 91355
(661) 255-4100

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

As you've been reading through my SoCal journal, you've probably learned some about me and my educational background. I went to school at UCLA and studied Art History, and actually worked for over a year at this museum in the Education Department. I taught small children about art and color, or really at times the children taught us about how to view art without expectaions or rules and limitations.

This museum is enormous. It features all types of art from all different cultures and all types of art movements in the permanent collections. That includes American Art, Ancient and Islamic Art, Chinese and Korean Art, Costume and Textiles Decorative Art, Japanese Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, Photography, Prints and Drawings, South and Southeast Asain Art, and European Painting and Sculpture.

The neat things to see at this museum are the exhibitions. There are many exhibits that travel the nation and the world to be viewed at distinguished museums such as LACMA. These exhibits can feature an artist, a movement, an artistic medium, or even a culture or era. These---in addition to the permanent pieces---are what makes LACMA a must see on your visit through Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, California, 90036
(323) 857 6111

Queen Mary

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by jkpike on July 2, 2004

This is an extraordinary experience on a huge boat, the Queen Mary. This boat does not sail, it's in the water, but permanently docked for tours, hotel accommodations, and fine dining. I have experienced all three of these activities and they make Southern California a unique experience. The self-guided tour is a bit dry, but discusses the history of the boat, its ghostly legends and it's functions and experiences. The fine dining is generally rented out for big parties and events like school dances (my senior prom was here) or weddings. There are 13 beautiful Art Deco Salons for events of every size and over 15,000 square feet of Outdoor Space. The hotel rooms are actually a little cramped as would be expected on any cruise line. Because this is a boat, the rooms are fairly nice, just half the size you'd want, especially when you consider how much you've paid for that room!
Queen Mary
1126 Queens Highway
Long Beach, California, 90802
+1 562 435 3511

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