Sunday, May 7, 2017

Our Family Holiday to California - Part 1 - L.A

We are just back from an amazing family holiday to California!
I have to say it was truly wonderful and everything we had hoped for. We travelled around for just over 2 and a half weeks and filled our time with so many beautiful memories and experiences. 
This family trip was something I dreamt of years ago and had planned for months. I wanted all of us to have the best time possible and it really was the best family holiday we have had so far!

I shared some photos of our trip on social media and received lots of questions about our itinerary, hotels, flights and travelling as a family of 5 that I thought I would put together a blog post documenting our trip and sharing a few more details on everything we got up to........

I'm going to break up the trip into 7 blog posts -each separate place we travelled to and the best spots to visit etc plus a post on my travel tips. So let's get started on part 1.

Our L.A Story............

Day 1 - Santa Monica / Venice Beach

We arrived on an early morning flight at LAX on Easter Monday. I specifically waited for Easter, Spring break and any other major holidays to be over so we wouldn't hit too many crowds during our stay. Whether we fluked it or not, we had the perfect trip and nothing was too busy or crowded.

Our first stop after clearing customs and picking up our luggage was Avis to pick up a rental car. We took a shuttle bus from the airport and picked up our minivan (Dodge Grand Caravan). We made sure we got a GPS system that also doubled as a mobile Wifi hot spot that allowed up to 5 devices to be connected at anyone time with unlimited data. It was $22 a day and an absolute lifesaver! We never got lost and had access to wifi at all times.  Seriously great for checking out an address, shop name, opening times etc and those essential Instagram posts ;)

Simon drove while we were in the U.S and was great at driving in unfamiliar areas and on the wrong side of the road! We had heard nightmare stories about L.A traffic but we didn't get caught up in it. I think the freeways get pretty hectic between 4pm and 7pm so we avoided these when we could.

We decided to stay in L.A for 3 nights and our hotel for the duration was the Shore Hotel right across from the beach and pier in Santa Monica. It was the perfect location! We arrived around 9.30 am and were given early access to our room as we had sent them an email early in the week to organise this. We really appreciated being able to do this as it was sooo good to check in and freshen up with a shower after the flight, pop on some clean clothes, eat breakfast and have the whole day to explore ahead of us. We wanted to beat the jet lag so our plan was to stay awake all day and get on L.A time. We managed to do this and it really worked! 

We decided that the best way for us to explore the pier and beach front from Santa Monica to Venice was to hire bikes and ride along the bike paths and stop wherever caught our eye. Simon had booked bikes online from the Santa Monica Bike Centre which was just around the corner from the hotel.
As the 2 youngest boys would struggle to ride that far Simon hired a bike with a little trailer attached for Jasper + Noah to sit in and Finn and I got our own bikes to ride.

First stop was Santa Monica pier for a wander and a ride on the rollercoaster and Ferris Wheel.

We then got back on our bikes and continued to ride along the paths towards Venice Beach......

It was an interesting ride and such a contrast. Beautiful beaches, blue skies and palm trees, skateboarders and cool people watching but there were also stretches of paths with homeless people and their possessions alongside them. It was an eye opener to both sides of L.A.

We stayed out riding stopping along the way for about 4 hours and were then ready to head back,  have an early dinner and catch up on some sleep ready for our next day.

Day 2 - Rodeo Drive / Griffith Observatory / Melrose + Fairfax / NBA Playoffs

We drove to Rodeo Drive for a wander and stopped for a coffee and pastry. The boys loved seeing all the fancy cars parked along the street. We then drove past the Beverly Hills Hotel on our way up to Griffith Observatory. Lots of paparazzi around so someone interesting was obviously there!

We then headed up to the Hollywood Hills to the Griffith Observatory to see the Hollywood sign and check out the view of L. A.  It was so cool to catch glimpses of the sign as we drove closer!

Parking at the Observatory was easy, we saw lots of people parking quite far away and walking to the top of the hill but the parking was only $4 an hour. Well worth driving to the end and saving yourself the walk! The view from the Observatory was great and you could get the full scope of how large and spread out the city is.

Our next stop was lunch at In n Out
We had been told how great the burgers were and they definitely lived up to the hype! I wasn't ready for how busy it would be but we were lucky enough to snag a table.

Finn had his own list of shops that he wanted to check out so after lunch we drove over to Melrose Ave and Fairfax for him to have a browse. He was stoked to meet up with the shop owners he follows on You Tube + Instagram and he bought a pair of sneakers to add to his ever growing collection!

Before we left Australia Simon and Finn said that they were keen to see a basketball game if possible and it worked out that the NBA playoffs were happening while we were there. Simon bought us tickets to a game at the Staples Centre - the L.A Clippers vs Utah Jazz. Wow, what an experience!
I'm not a huge sports fan but the atmosphere was unbelievable and it definitely was a highlight of our L.A stay. If you can get to a sports event while in the U.S do it! It's a whole other level! You can get great seats for as little as $30. We parked in a private car parking lot nearby and walked over to the Staples Centre.

Day 3 - Malibu / Shopping at The Grove

After a busy day the day before we had a sleep in and a late breakfast and then drove out to Malibu to take a look. It was cool for the surfers in the family to check out the beaches and the different surf breaks. The younger boys had a dip in the freezing water before we had lunch at Malibu Farm.

We then drove back into L.A and had a browse around the shops at The Grove and dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Love that place! I love to have lots of options on a menu!

That was our last full day in L.A before we headed to our next destination. I''ll have another post up tomorrow about our stay in Southern California.

I wanted our first few days in California to be pretty relaxed in case we were suffering from jet lag. I had lots of things on my list that we could pop in and do if we were in that particular area. I've added my list below of all the things I wanted to check out while we were in L.A.........

L.A Restaurants
Joan's on Third
Blue Plate Taco
Shake Shack
In n Out
Brentwood Country Mart
Frida Taqueria
Malibu Farm
Sprinkles Cupcakes
Mr Holmes Bakehouse

L.A Shopping
The Grove
Third Street Promenade
Abbot Kinney Blvd
Montana Ave - Santa Monica
Fairfax Ave
Melrose Av

L.A Things to See
Malibu Beaches
Griffith Park + Observatory
Rodeo Drive
Santa Monica Pier
Magic Castle
Knots Berry Farm
Manhattan Beach
Hollywood sign
Sports game

We stayed at The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica. They were great to deal with before our trip with questions on early check in, bike hire, restaurant recommendations etc.

We returned to L.A for a couple of days before we flew home but I'll share what we got up to then in a later post. If you have any questions about our trip so far, let me know!

All my photos were taken on my phone as I couldn't be bothered to carry around a bigger camera. Simon also had his GoPro for us to use to capture the family shots. 
So hard to get a good pic of all 5 of us!

You can read Part 2 - Newport Beach/Laguna here
Part 5 - Las Vegas here


  1. What a fantastic start to the trip, can't wait to read what else you guys got up to on your holiday! I really like LA, it's incredibly diverse and I think quite similar to Sydney in some respects.
    Daisy xo

    1. Thanks Daisy, yes so many different sides to L.A. We had the perfect weather to explore it too which was fab! x


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