As I watched my three-year-old daughter, Lola, furiously packing her suitcase with dolls, I wondered if the American city of Los Angeles was really the best choice for a family holiday. As a child, I was privileged enough to have family who put travel before anything else and, while we did enjoy the odd beach holiday in Portugal, European cities replete with local galleries, museums and memorials usually dominated. So, it was with a touch of parental guilt and a lot of skepticism that I planned to take Lola to a place I presumed to be vacuous, devoid of culture and, as I imagined, very hedonistic.
Tattoo parlours, a sea of metal fire escapes, coffee bars and leather shops sprang to mind when I visualised the City of Angels. Heaving traffic, bad air quality, lots of enhanced breasts and budding actresses surely defined the infamous Southern California capital. Yet, many friends with children had been and loved it. So, I pushed my parental guilt aside, reminded myself Lola was lucky to be getting on an plane anywhere, and flew to LAX with my daughter and her little suitcase by my side.
Where we stayed
The Langham Huntington in Pasadena was our first stop and proved an absolute oasis after such a long flight from London. Wide-awake long before dawn (thanks to the inevitable jetlag) the sun rose to reveal Pasadena as a glorious area of LA, totally different to the urban hubbub I imagined it to be. Basketball-sized flower heads bulge from immaculate window boxes, lawns go on as far as the eye can see and the houses rival London housing estates in size. The roads are wide and it is impossibly quiet. The Langham Huntington blends beautifully within its surroundings (mainly because it’s neighbouring houses are the same size as this stunning hotel) and it was a wonderful option with a young child.
Adjacent to the reception desk is a small children’s library, loaded with books that young guests can borrow or keep: anyone who has flown with children, the gear one requires and heavy books to boot will understand what a lovely touch that is. The shaded cabanas next to the outdoor pool that resides in the very centre of this gorgeous property make a day in the sun a reality with young children and the array of food items both for adults and children meant we didn’t need to leave unless we wanted to.
Next up, was the sensational Peninsula in Beverly Hills. This is one of those hotels that leaves you wondering what you ever did to deserve such a delectable stay. The immaculate detailing and breathtaking décor of this Beverly Hills beauty left me wondering if I really had checked into a family-friendly hotel, but as we entered our room and found Lola’s own teddy bear and Disney bed, I knew we were ok. The latter was, quite literally, a little girl’s bed adorned with the images of several recognisable Disney princesses (I don’t need to mention how well that went down) and I smiled as wide as she did when I saw the size of our bathtub. We slept like, well, princesses and woke to breakfast in the outdoor Roof Garden restaurant, which perches elegantly next to the rooftop pool of the hotel. The hustle and Beverly Hills bustle below seems a world away from this buggy-friendly space. The menu marks items that are low in fat and cholesterol and we both dined on delicious fresh fruit before heading to The California Science Centre.
Finally, we checked into the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. A veritable icon on the Hollywood hotel scene, it was as wonderful as anywhere else we were lucky enough to spend a night. Again, the outdoor pool served as a gorgeous space of respite from the LA heat, Lola was considered every step of the way (she even had her own child-friendly products in the bathroom). The flowers around the hotel (though nothing to do with children, I know) are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and the outdoor pool was another spot I fund impossibly hard to pull myself away from (they provide their own brand sun cream which is very useful) and the adjacent Cabana restaurant is a relaxed, shaded spot to enjoy a family lunch without having to go anywhere.
What to do
Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens was probably the biggest hit with Lola. Go early in the morning to avoid the intense heat that hits the city after lunchtime and do check out the children’s area where little ones can brush goats, pet rabbits and play. The Aquarium of the Pacific is wonderful and a must for parents and children alike, as is the infamous Getty Center. The Natural History Museum is next door to the fantastic California Science Center where Lola spent a magic afternoon flitting from the kelp forest in the aquarium to the children’s play areas that are all based around learning. The Huntington Library is also a must. Designed to teach little ones about the basics of fire, water, earth and air, we moved happily between the rainbow room (where prisms of light intersperse with mist so Lola was convinced we were playing within an actual rainbow), composed music with pebble chimes and made waves in the sonic pool (do remember to pack a swimsuit).
Where to eat
The restaurants mentioned at each hotel are all fantastic options, especially if you’re in LA with really small children and want to avoid the car as much as possible (if we talk about the weather all the time in the UK, Los Angeleans chat traffic, and with good reason). If you fancy a stroll through Beverly Hills, there is a fantastic restaurant called The Farm on North Beverly Drive, just a few blocks from Rodeo Drive. With an inviting children’s menu and very relaxed ambience, it’s ideal for families.
When to go
Any time of year is lovely but we flew out in early April and the weather was perfect. If you go during the summer months, the prices will be higher and the city, naturally, much busier. The temperature never falls particularly low though so it’s a great option for escaping the English winter.
How to get there
We flew from Heathrow directly to LAX airport. There are multiple flights daily that fly directly to Los Angeles and there are also smaller airports in nearby Burbank, Santa Ana and Long Beach.
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