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Los Angeles travel guide

Aug 6, 2018

3-Day Los Angeles Trip-Planning Tips

Kids have little patience for history and art unless they’re inclined or are on a field trip with their friends. With their family members, wires short circuit a little faster. As much as LA is about glitzy Hollywood destinations, splashy nightclubs, sprawling beaches and unique cultural hotspots, there are also many kid-friendly attractions for the little ones!

So, where do we begin? Let’s start with putting together a simple, doable, budget-friendly 3-day trip that will keep the kids engaged and adults sane. The secret is in slotting in an activity or two during the day...or night, depending on what you like... into the schedule. You could pencil it in between their naps on the rented charter bus or find a place where there’s something for them to do while YOU explore.

With the all-year amazing weather in Los Angeles, it means ANY TIME of the year is a good time to visit. Avoiding big summer crowds and paying exorbitant prices for admission is possible. So, without further ado, let’s get started with a mind-blowing Day One in LA.

Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, California

LA Trip Plan for Day One: Whipping Everyone into High Gear

Universal Studios Hollywood

100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

The child in you will smile your way through the door and you can easily spend the entire day going from ride to ride to ride. The lines can be grueling, so, if you’re celebrating a birthday or giving the tickets away as gifts, it pays to get the VIP Pass or Express Pass.

This way, you can indulge in Harry Potter rides and simulations, Flight of the Hippogriff, Fast and Furious, King Kong 360 3D, Kung Fu Panda, The Walking Dead, Despicable Me, Jurassic Park, Transformers, The Simpson and Revenge of The Mummy. Otherwise, there are other fun attractions like The Universal's Animal Actors, WaterWorld, Character Sightings, Silly Swirly Fun Rides, Special Effects Studio, Super Silly Fun Land and The World Famous Studio Tour.

The Exclusive or Limited VIP Experience is for those who would like to start their day off bright and early with a light breakfast. After that, you'd be escorted through popular themed rides, enjoy exclusive park benefits like special seats, savor delicious lunch courtesy of the Universal’s very own executive chefs, and enjoy VIP entry into the park. It’s basically celebrity treatment at the heart of Hollywood. It’s hard to beat.

visiting LA Universal Studios with the family

Universal Studios tips:
  • Come early!
  • If you can afford it, purchase the VIP Pass
  • Sunscreen. Need we say more?
  • Hydrate and wear the right footwear
  • Get ready to spend the entire day at the park
  • Start the day off with the Studio Tour FIRST to get the basic idea of what you can expect
  • Bring a change of clothes for the kids. WaterWorld.
  • Parking is expensive. So, it encourages groups to pool money together and get their own charter buses for the trip. It will be worth the headache.

Be Awed with the Awesomeness of Sunset Boulevard

We think you can only pack so much thrill into one day so, to take things down a notch, how about a cool view of the sun setting in the horizon, dream-like drives away from urban turbulence, and a host of restaurants, pubs, and quaint food outlets to chill out with the kids in?

And remember us talking about how to strike a balance between getting what your kids want and what YOU want out of the trip? Well, this is one. Sunset Boulevard was once known for its active nightlife in the 1950s and a street prostitution hub. It is now a known home to landmarks like Nickelodeon on Sunset, Crossroads of the World, Hollywood Athletic Club, Hotel Bel-Air, Book Soup, UCLA, Rock Wall, Beverly Hills Hotel, Comedy Store and the Directors Guild of America headquarters.

Tease your palates with tantalizing dishes (costly as the experience may be) at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Spago, if your budget allows for it. To sample true blue Old Hollywood-style glamor, either stay or eat at Chateau Marmont Hotel. As it regained its reputation as an LA iconic landmark, the hotel was featured briefly in the 2016 hit film, La La Land. The hotel bar is open from 12am - 7am so, if you want to chill till late, that would be no problem at all!

beautiful sunset off California coastline

  • Chateau Marmont Hotel
    Address: 8221 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046
    (323) 656-1010
  • Ta-Ke Sushi Restaurant
    8866 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
    (310) 659-6580
    Hours: Mon to Thur 12pm - 3pm, 6pm - 11pm; Fri 12pm - 3pm, 6pm - 12am; Sat 6pm - 12am; Sun 6pm - 11pm
  • Amarone Kitchen & Wine
    8868 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
    (310) 652-2233
    Hours: Daily 5.20pm - 10pm
  • Carney's Restaurant
    8351 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069
    (323) 654-8300
    Hours: Sun to Thur 11am - 2am; Fri and Sat 11am - 3am
  • Hunan Cafe
    7986 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046
    (323) 822-1208
    Hours: Mon and Tues 12.30pm - 11pm; Closed on Wed; Thur and Fri 12.30pm - 11pm; Sat and Sun 4pm - 11pm
  • El Cochinito Restaurant
    3508 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
    (323) 668-0737
    Hours: Daily 11am - 10pm; Closed on Monday
  • Icy Rush Co.
    2148 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
    (213) 908-5703
    Hours: Mon to Thur 12pm - 10pm; Fri 12pm - 12am; Sat 11.30am - 12am; Sun 11.30am - 10pm
  • Yogurtland
    5541 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
    (323) 461-0091
    Hours: Daily 11am - 12am
  • Goldstar Bakery
    5216 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
    (323) 741-8522
    Hours: Daily 7.30am - 8pm


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food from Hunan Cafe California - Facebook

LA Trip Plan for Day Two: Being a Beach Bum in Santa Monica

If Santa Monica was known for just one thing, it would have to be its beaches. Stretches upon stretches of beautiful white, sandy beaches are open but the Santa Monica State Beach is best for families because of its cleanliness, sheer size and strategic location to other fun attractions. When you’re done with the beach and its pier, street performers put on street shows right outside. Always a walk away from the beach, there are kid-friendly restaurants, bars, and clubs to hop into.

You can zip your way around the beachside with a rented scooter, walk or jog along the 3-mile iconic shoreline, enjoy skateboarding, bike riding and in-line skating at The Cove Skatepark, take wonderful pictures at the 3 community gardens a stone’s throw away from the beach, sign up for cultural and art programs with The Camera Obscura Art Lab, or enjoy world-class performances at the historic Miles Memorial Playhouse.

santa monica beach pier, California

Spend a few hours swimming, playing volleyball, building sandcastles, surfing or sunbathing along the beaches and then head over to a neighboring cafe or restaurant to fill up.

Experienced, professionally-trained lifeguards man on the beach and there are modern amenities like bathrooms and shower stations throughout it so you don't have to scuttle around looking for them. People love the beach so much that they go out of their way to ensure that visitors respect the grounds as much as THEY do...and that’s a cool thing to do!

Hitting the Santa Monica State Beach

Santa Monica State Beach
Pacific Coast Hwy, Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 458-8300

If you’re hitting the beach, keep the following numbers handy, for both information and emergencies.
Lifeguard tower numbers:
  1. (310) 394-3261
  2. (310) 458-8491
  3. (310) 458-8695

Sunset stroll in Santa Monica 🌴✨ #socal #pamtree #sunset Photo by @whitneybearr

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The Cove State Park allows for bicycle riding, skateboarding, in-line skating with full amenities of bowls, ramps, stairs, pool with tile coping and more. Registration of $10 for Youth (6 - 17), $15 for Santa Monica Residents, $16.50 for Non-Residents and protective gear (for everyone) is required. They do not permit those age 6 and younger into the park while those under the age of 12 must have an accompanying adult too. Other non-permitted items include food, drinks, glass bottles, and pets. Please check its official website for more information before making your way there.

The three community gardens
are romantic and educational for people of all ages. It’s, after all, a unique learning garden, with throngs of people coming from all over Santa Monica into the gardens to start their own patches of plants, shrubs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

The Camera Obscura Art Lab is all about hands-on activities related to the local art and cultural scene. In the meantime, it is always curtain call time at The Miles Memorial Playhouse. Located 8 blocks away from the main beach area, the playhouse has been providing its community with affordable, experimental and mind-blowing entertainment since 1929. Programs like Downbeat 720, the Santa Monica International Teen Film Festival, Fireside at the Miles and its hosting of dance and theatrical events from all around the country is well known.

Restaurants, cafes and quaint diners to check out around Santa Monica:
  • Takuma
    2627 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
    (310) 586-7469
    Hours: Daily 6pm - 11pm
  • Ingo's Tasty Diner
    5487, 1213 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
    (310) 395-4646
  • Bazille
    220 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
    (310) 752-4110
    Hours: Monday to Sat 11am - 8.30pm' Sun 11am - 7.30pm
  • The Upper West
    3321 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
    (310) 586-1111
    Hours: Mon to Thur 11.30am - 3pm, 5pm - 10pm; Fri 11.30am - 3pm, 5pm - 11pm; Sat 5pm - 11pm; Sun 5pm - 9pm
  • The Misfit Restaurant and Bar
    25 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
    (310) 656-9800
    Hours: Mon, Tue and Wed 12pm - 12am; Thur, Fri and Sat 12pm - 1am; Sun 10.30am - 11pm
  • Bodega Wine Bar
    814 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
    (310) 394-3504
    Hours: Daily 8am - 1am
  • Bruno's Italian Restaurant
    1652 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
    (310) 395-5589
    Hours: Mon to Sat 11.30am - 10.30pm; Sun 4pm - 10.30pm

LA Trip Plan for Day Three: Slaying The Third Day with Maximum Throttle

Being the final day of the short LA trip, we think you should fill it up with as many memorable things to do as possible. It’s time to hop on the rented charter bus and head out to iconic landmarks, historic sites and, if time permits, some museums. And here are a few options to choose from.

Anaheim - Disney but Not Disney

Truth be told, Anaheim is the kind of shopping destination, dining haven and entertainment paradise that deserves an entire day on its own. With kids, we’d say you should spend at least 3 to 5 hours touring the sprawling city. Located smack in the middle of Disney resort, it is fondly nicknamed “shoppertainment center”. As it should!

The main reason for its construction in 2001 was to provide a break from thrilling rides and let visitors continue to enjoy the countless Disney-themed outlets without stacking it too high. It’s a place to slow down after a trip to Disneyland, enjoy a meal or beer in an open-air cafe, find a place to people-watch or take pictures. It has many outlets for souvenir shopping for your friends back home. Since we’ve excluded Disneyland for this trip-planning article, we assume you’d like to shop for something “Disney” to mark your trip to LA.

And if you’re not keen to watch a movie while on a holiday (there’s Netflix everywhere you go and you can watch a movie any other time, anyway), the entertainers roaming along the streets will have you in stitches.

Santa Monica Pier

200 Santa Monica Pier A, Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 458-8900
Opens 24 hours a day

"Eclectic" is a word that would summarily define the experience at Santa Monica Pier. It gives your mind a quick brush stroke of what the city of Santa Monica is like from a historical and modern perspective.

There's the one-of-a-kind, family-friendly Pacific Park, carousels hippodrome from the 1920s, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, shops, Playland Arcade with over 200 types of games, a trapeze school, an over-the-water Ferris Wheel, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and restaurants of all kinds to enjoy. In summer, families head out for weekly outdoor concerts, movies, and kid activities. So popular is the pier, it was featured in films like Charlie's Angels, South Park, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Mod Squad, 24, 90210, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Criminal Minds, Modern Family and Lucifer, just to name a few.

The historic landmark of LA is the perfect place for a romantic walk, a weekend outing and celebratory night-out with friends. The timeless 100-year-old wooden wharf serves as an entertainment and cultural hub for both tourists and locals alike.

Whichever way you wish to spend the last day of your vacation in LA, to either live it up till the wee hours of the morning or to spend an hour having lunch with your family, the decision is yours to make. But one thing is for sure - it will be unforgettable. And don’t forget, this is also where modern fads are often created so, you might experience the next “viral thing” on the internet before it hits the internet. Charge your smartphone.

California Science Center

700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037
(323) 724-3623
Admission: No fee for entrance into the center's permanent exhibits and galleries. Additional fees required for special events, exhibits, and IMAX)
Hours: Daily 10am - 5pm
There’s nothing to complain about this place! It’s free, it’s fun, it’s awesomely huge, it’s always changing, the people are friendly, there are hundreds of animals and plants to explore and learn about, there’s an IMAX (which is NOT free, by the way) and it’s an amazing experience for both kids and adults alike. The science center is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is affiliated with the Smithsonian Affiliations Program, and is a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. It’s got an iron-clad backing, as you can see.

With over 100 permanent exhibits like Ecosystems, Creative World, World of Life, Air and Space Exhibits, Aircraft, Human Spacecraft, and Robotic Spacecraft, the California Science Center is the West Coast’s largest science center. It is also home to the largest (at the point of writing this article - it’s LA, you’ll never know when things change) IMAX screen in all of LA, measuring up to 7-stories high. We know the kids are on a break but fun, relatable interactive learning WHILE on a break can’t be a bad thing. And if time permits, there are other interesting attractions within an earshot from the science center, namely The African American Museum, The Rose Garden with its beautiful fountain and restaurants to patronize.

Tips for visiting the California Science Center:
  • Arrive as early as possible during weekends but after 1pm (after grabbing lunch) on weekdays of fall, winter, and spring
  • Grab advanced tickets online for Special Exhibits, IMAX and Endeavour
  • Check social media, the website or the Information Counter to get an overview of the day's events
  • Don't miss Creative World, Ecosystems, World of Life if you're visiting with kids age 7 or younger
  • Expect to crowd-wrestle during weekends with throngs of tourists and other vacationing families
  • They no longer hand out single-use plastics as a roll-out of their environmentally friendly new practices. It helps keep fishes and marine animals safe, so, let’s be a part of that positive movement.
  • Wear the right footwear because there will be a lot of legwork.

Attractions nearby:

Griffith Observatory

2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hours: Tue to Friday 12pm - 10pm; Sat and Sun 10am - 10pm; Closed on Monday
Admission: $7 for Adults, $5 for Students with ID and Seniors, $3 for Children (5 - 12); Free Admission for Children age 5 and under

The best time to visit the observatory is towards evening, just before the sun goes down. With sunlight still streaming in, you’ll get to see the beautiful park for what it is, instead of having to poke around the park in the dark (the park is open as usual until 10pm but normal sight is admittedly a little underwhelming in the dark).

No admission fee is required for entrance into Griffith Park. The reason people advise you to visit just before sundown is that the 4,100-acre natural chaparral-covered, landscaped municipal parkland is also a popular picnic spot in the United States. At the elevation level of between 400 and 1,600 feet above sea level, it offers a refreshing vantage point and is an amazing way to cap off your trip, complete with postcard-ready pictures of the Hollywood Sign, the cityscape of LA, mountain ranges, sun, and sky.

You can find and join interactive programs, explore indoor and outdoor exhibits which include the Gunther Depths of Space, and other new exhibits on its lawn and terraces. Free telescopes, in the meantime, are strewn throughout its property for free use. Their website and social media are updated with details related to their monthly youth programs if you're interested. 

Conclusion of your 3-Day Family Trip to Los Angeles

There’s only so much you can pack into three days but we trust we’ve got the top attractions covered. It will be fun for BOTH kids and adults alike! The kiddos will have fun playing at a theme park while getting lots of opportunities for Instagram pictures with their favorite TV or movie characters. We also snuck in a few hours of peace and tranquility at a garden or park, and then you can upend everything about the "vacation" by letting them learn about nature and science outside of a classroom!

All of this while pigging out at wonderful diners, packing in the night with a trip to a chic wine bar, and then wake up to a full day of events like an "escapade" to an Escape Room and then a trip to Disney-themed shopping destination.

Rent an Affordable, Private Charter Bus for a Tour of Los Angeles is Your Best Bet

comfortable travel with a rented private charter bus in Los Angeles CA

Getting a personalized charter bus tour around Los Angeles based on your own personal preferences, the age of your children), people in your group and special requirements will make a world of difference. Most organized tours are pretty rushed although there’s nothing wrong about joining them if you’re trying to get the best bang for the buck.

Sometimes, however, the charter bus tour can be tailor-made to suit your own terms. This list is not an end-all, be-all. You’re free to add and remove as you wish while surfing the internet and organizing your itinerary. Bus Charter LA is the ground transportation company you’d want to get in touch with if you're looking for a reliable charter bus company in Los Angeles. When you contact us, consultation and a free quote are based on what you need for ground transportation. Call 1-800-304-1993 right now or complete this online form and submit it and we’ll get back to you with an absolutely obligation-free quote right away!

We hope to hear from you soon!

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