March saw us visit the USA for the first time. Yes, the first! After multiple trips to Europe and a few Asia and pacific travels, we had yet to step on US soil!
In some ways it was may have been because of all the countries in the world, the USA is the one most likely to be like Australia… And definitely there were plenty of similarities! But there were some awesome differences too!
As our visit was mostly an extended stop over on either side of our Dominican Republic trip, with our time spent in and around Los Angeles. So we had to maximise what we could see & do while there, with only a couple of days either side. That’s where A Day in LA Tours came in!
A Day in LA Tours is the number one rated Los Angeles tour company on Trip Advisor so we had high expectations! But we also knew a full day tour with small kids isn’t always smooth sailing.
Our kids were 4.5 and almost 2 at the time of our trip. Prone to boredom, restlessness and tired not just from all the excitement, but also some lingering jetlag… 2 days after a long haul flight! But aside from a couple of brief moments of crankiness from our youngest before her afternoon nap on the bus, they had a great day too! WOOHOO!!
A DAY IN LA TOURS WITH KIDS
Our tour kicked off at Santa Monica where we were greeted at sign in with fruit and the very iconic Rasta Bus. Already a great start when touring with kids… bananas and a cool bus!!
Then onwards to Venice Beach for our first stop of the day… and the beginning of our entertaining and informative commentary from our tour guide and driver, Brett. And our first stop was right beside this impressive mural!
There are so many incredible murals in Los Angeles and quite a few make an appearance around Venice Beach, where they have commissioned many local artists to create captivating pieces. This one is a take on the Orsen Wells 1958 film “Touch of Evil”, which was filmed along Windward Avenue where the mural is located.
Being our first stop, we weren’t sure what to expect. In fact, having done so many guided tours around Europe and Asia, we actually expected a walking guide for each stop with a bit of free time here and there. Not the case. We were dropped off with fantastic information and ideas on what to do and where to go and about 40 minutes to explore the area. Free to do as we please!
As family travellers, this was the perfect option for us because it meant exploring at our pace with the kids and if we had to stop for a snack break or toilet stop more frequently, it didn’t mean holding up the group! YES!!
We headed towards the Venice Beach Skate Park first up and watched a couple of skateboarders doing their thing. It was fairly early in the day still so not a lot of activity at that time of day. That was much the theme around most of Venice Beach at this time actually. Even Muscle Beach was empty of any muscle men going about their routines. Disappointing… HA!
Then onto the bus we went, onto our next destination, enjoying the detailed commentary along the way. To Beverly Hills and the famous Rodeo Drive.
This was our least favourite spot of the day but still fantastic to see such an iconic street. Where the rich and famous shop! We didn’t dare go into any of the shops. They were not suitable for children… or our budget!! But we did take a stroll along Rodeo Drive and admire the pristine shop fronts, before resting for a bit with the kids, who were starting to get restless and hungry! It doesn’t take long… always bring snacks!
Our next stop was one of our favourites… because just as much as we love travelling the world, we also love sampling the food of the world too and our lunch stop during the tour was the Farmers Market.
Situated right next to the Grove outdoor shopping centre, the Farmers Market is essentially a foodie paradise. We were tempted to come back and spend the next day there just sampling all the foods.
On the day we settled for a bowl of gumbo each… which was fantastic! And the kids enjoyed a stack of pancakes. Of course we followed with a homemade ice cream, from the award winning ice creamery. So many options… YUM!!
With full bellies it was time to head up to Griffith Park and up to the Observatory.
Griffith Observatory is closed on Monday’s which was when we did our A Day in LA Tour, but that’s okay as there isn’t really a lot of time to see the observatory in detail. What the big appeal up the top of Griffith Park is actually the view of the Hollywood Sign. It’s still pretty distant up there but very cool to be able to see it from up high.
But be warned, especially if you are visiting with young children – it gets awfully windy up there, even on a nice spring day like our visit. The wind was so crazy it knocked our youngest on her butt at one point and gave us all some pretty crazy hairstyles!
Afterwards it was back on the bus and by this time our little miss was getting very tired and had a bit of a nap on our way to our next stop.
And our next stop just happened to be one of the most iconic in Los Angeles – Hollywood Boulevard.
This part of our tour was chaos as is expected in a place so full of tourists and people attempting to get their big break. But the kids loved seeing all the random wannabe entertainers in dressed as famous people. Captain Jack Sparrow and Edwards Scissorhands had Johnny Depp well represented, Spiderman… 3 of them. Wonder Woman. And plenty more.
Although the kids didn’t understand my fascination with the stars scattered along the sidewalk… but they did enjoy putting their hands and feet in the celebrity prints in front of the Chinese Theatre.
There are plenty of things to do around Hollywood Boulevard, with places like Guinness World Records, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium and Madam Tussauds Wax Museum, as well as a different Hollywood celebrity tour company on every corner.
We didn’t have time for any of that during our free time, but we did get a chance to enjoy some of the craziness that goes with Hollywood.
Then back on the bus and bound back to Santa Monica we go. At this point of the tour we had the option of making our own way back to our accommodations or getting off at different points, however our hotel was near downtown LA so we decided to go the whole way back to Santa Monica with the bus and half the other tour guests.
This gave us the chance to see plenty of other sights along the way, such as the famous Viper Room and Whiskey GoGo, and some of the comedy clubs where well known comic actors got their start. Exciting to see. I love all those little tidbits of trivia and our tour guide was such a wealth of knowledge.
We ended our day by enjoying a stroll along Santa Monica Pier, some fun at Paradise Park… the theme park on the Pier, with our eldest enjoying some of the overpriced rides (tip: the unlimited ride passes are much better value if you want to go on a few rides… we were given one from a family that was leaving. Sneaky). Followed by dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co as the sun set over Santa Monica Beach.
We thoroughly enjoyed our A Day in LA Tours experience. It gave us an extensive and easy way to see many of the Los Angeles sights we wanted to see during our short time in the city, which would have been really challenging otherwise as we did not have a car.
Our tour guide, Brett, was fantastic! He was so full of knowledge and hilarious too, so we were entertained as we made our way between stops with his trivia and extensive info of LA. And of course, the Rasta Bus is pretty cool to ride around in! It has seat belts plus you can request car seats for younger children and they can accommodate this.
One of the reasons this tour was so great for visiting LA with kids is the fact that so much of it involved free time so we could see as much or as little at each stop as we needed to, taking into account tired little legs or extra snack breaks. None of that fast pace follow the leader style tour. Just free time to explore what you wanted to explore, but with enough fantastic tips and recommendations from our guide to know how we wanted to spend our time at each stop.
A Day in LA Tours was a fantastic tour and it was easy to enjoy ourselves even with our mini tourists. We highly recommend it if you have limited time in Los Angeles, or are without your own transport like we were. You will see so much in one day!!
A Day in LA Tours can be booked online via their website. The tour lasts approximately 7 hours, plus extra transit time if you are picked up early from your hotel and dropped back to Santa Monica.
Juice and fruit is provided at sign in first up in the morning, and bottles of water are provided throughout the tour. There are plenty of opportunities to purchase food and other drinks during the free time at each stop, with a lunch stop at the Farmers Market.
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*We were guests of A Day in LA Tours in exchange for review of our experience of travelling with children. All opinions in this article are our own.