Last month we ventured to Los Angeles for our first long distance vacation with Lennon. We were excited for some sun and relaxation and even more excited that my mom and sister were joining us (ahem babysitters ahem). Perry and I have been to Los Angeles on multiple occasions (3 times for me and 4 for Perry) as has my sister, Melina so the great thing about this is there wasn't much planning involved and we didn't feel like we needed to run around to see every attraction that LA has to offer. My mom and dad visited in the 1980s for their honeymoon so it had been a long time for her but she was not fussed about what we did and was just happy to not be sat at a desk. Being a place we had already visited and having the extra hands made LA a great first choice for our first family trip. Here's how it went down!
After surviving Lennon's first plane ride (or more so our first plane ride with a baby in tow), we took a courtesy shuttle to Payless Car Rental to rent a car. Having read the reviews, we were anticipating a long line and a long line is what we arrived to. We couldn't complain though with the ridiculously cheap rate of . We waited about 45 minutes to see an agent that then directed us to a location in the parking lot to pick out a car of our choice. There were no cars left in the category we selected so we got to pick one from the next level (which worked out in our favor as we had a LOT of baggage). Despite having 1.5 stars out of a possible 5, the staff does really try their best and the rates are unbeatable! (An aside: what is even more unbeatable? It cost us only $27.50 to fill up at the end of the trip....5 days of driving all over LA! I couldn't believe it)!
The one stressful thing there was about planning this trip was the accommodations. We were trying to keep spending to a minimum but the exchange rate was not improving. When Perry and I visited in 2013, we stayed in the Hollywood Downtowner Inn, a budget hotel/motel that was in a very convenient location and had everything we needed at a price that didn't break the bank (and included breakfast on top of that). We booked a room at the same hotel for a nominal price of $475 US and since there would be 4 of us, that worked out to a price that fit the budget. We contemplated booking two rooms but with the exchange rate being the way it was, we thought we would just keep the one room, especially since we weren't planning on spending much time in our room. My one concern was how Lennon's bedtime would work out, especially since there wasn't another room to put him in. We looked at booking a room at Embassy Suites which we have stayed at plenty of times before and would have worked well as the rooms offer a living room and bedroom and would allow us to put him to sleep in the bedroom while we unwinded in the living room. The rates were much more though and we figured we could spend that money elsewhere (and seeing as we have a 5 week trip to Europe booked for the upcoming month, it made sense to us to not prioritize staying in a pricier hotel). We called the Hollywood Downtowner Inn to see if they had a family suite and they mentioned they had something in the works but would not be ready for our arrival. I called a few days before as well to see if the suite was ready but the representative I spoke with was a bit vague. We brought along the playpen and thought we could set it up in the kitchenette and move it to the room when we would go to bed or just bring him into bed with us when we went to bed. We had no idea how it would work and just thought we would play it by ear. It had been a long day and we were exhausted so we were really looking forward to getting some rest.
We finally arrived to the hotel at about 9:30pm - way past Lennon's 7 o'clock bedtime - and the lady at front desk had the best news for us after such a long day of travel: we had been upgraded to a suite! I was so happy, I could have kissed her! They had a suite after all but it is not bookable online as sometimes they rent it out long term. The suite had two bedrooms, a kitchenette and a bathroom. It was basic but just what we needed as we could put Lennon to sleep in our room and unwind in the room my mom and sister were sharing. We were very excited about this and it just made our day. We slept VERY well and when we awoke the next morning: time to explore LA!
Our first full day included a stop to the airport to pick up my sister (she took a different flight due to work obligations). Since the airport was close to the coast, we headed to Venice Beach for a stroll and some people watching. I don't find Venice Beach to be anything that spectacular but it seems like a must do when in LA. I would have loved to rent a bike and go for a bike ride but we weren't in a situation to do that yet. We watched some street performers, enjoyed the blue skies and palm trees and browsed the plethora of tourist shops.
Next up was the "nearby" (as far as LA is concerned) Santa Monica. We always enjoy our visits to Santa Monica. We had intentions of walking the pier but we spent a lot of time eating a late lunch by which point our parking was about to expire so all our time was spent on the Third Street Promenade with the intention of returning to Santa Monica later in the week for that mandatory walk on the pier. We made a quick stop to Diddy Riese for some delectable cookies and ice cream sandwiches on the way home and then we called it a night. Diddy Riese is definitely worth the visit, even if its not anywhere nearby!
The next day was spent at Universal Studios, but that deserves its own blog post (coming soon).
Our third full day was spent at The Farmers Market and The Grove shopping centre followed by a drive around Beverley Hills to gawk at the beautiful homes.
Day 4 - our last full day in LA - was spent touring cemeteries where some notable Hollywood stars are laid to rest. The cemeteries were beautiful and a real contrast from the hustle and bustle of LA. We first stopped at Hollywood Forever cemetery as it was very close to our hotel. The information center in the cemetery sells maps showing who is buried where. There are a LOT of Hollywood greats buried here, many from before our time but there were some very recent burial such as Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Mickey Rooney and even a tribute to Toto, the dog from the "Wizard of Oz".
We then headed to Forest Lawn Memorial Park which is massive in comparison to Hollywood Forever. There is no map indicating who is buried where but we followed a very detailed "tour" from Seeing Stars to see some resting places. The one that we were most interested in seeing was Michael Jackson's but he is buried in a highly secured area in a part of a the Great Mausoleum that is not open to the public. So we had to settle for being in the same building as him. The cemeteries, as morbid as some may think them to be, were actually a nice change from the go go go of LA and they really were beautiful!
Following the two cemeteries, we headed back to Santa Monica for a feast at the Cheesecake Factory, a walk on the pier, and a return to Cheesecake Factory to get some cheesecake to go. Yes, out of all the places we could have dined at in LA, we chose the Cheesecake Factory. We are big fans and we don't have CF in Canada so for us it was a must! Lennon also needed his first Cheesecake Factory experience! We think he enjoyed it, don't you?
Santa Monica pier is somewhere we have been every time we have traveled to LA. Every trip has included the same photo ops: the Bubba Gump/Forrest Gump bench, the Route 66 sign, the pier, the welcome sign, the ferris wheel, amongst others. I recommend it for some good 'ol Americana fun, people watching, a scenic stroll and a nice sunset!
Our last official day, we had a flight back home at 8pm so this allowed for one last stop (it would have allowed for many more if we didn't have a baby as everything takes soooo much longer but no complaints)! We headed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We have been to the Walk of Fame every previous trip as well and weren't that interested in returning this time but there was one star we had to visit, and we did so on our way to the airport for a little photo shoot (of which the photos have not been edited or cropped).
We just couldn't resist! We also got some family photos in while we were at it:
It seems to be that Ringo is Lennon's fave!
And that was our last stop before heading to the airport to fly back home! It was a fun 5ish days. It took forever to get going in the mornings (very rarely did we leave the hotel before 11am) but once we got going, we had a lot of fun exploring LA. Huge thanks to Yiayia and Auntie Melina for all their help! It really made things so much easier.
If I could give any tips for a first trip with baby, it would be to go somewhere you have been before, are familiar with, or somewhere that doesn't involve a lot of planning or running around to see lots of attractions and to go somewhere where there may be relatives (or invite along a family member or friend)...the extra hands, if you can get them, make a huge difference, especially if you plan on doing lots of excursions and running around. Of course, this is just from my own experience, but if you get overwhelmed with too much family or extra hands, there are trips that are easier than others (I imagine an all inclusive resort would be amazing as a first trip!)
Now to see how we get on in Europe! Check back soon for our day at Universal Studios and to see how we get on in Europe!