8 Reasons VENICE Should Top your LA List

#venicebeach

#venicebeachI absolutely love LA, its many neighborhoods, and all they have to offer, but keeping up with all the fun can be tough! I know, fear of missing out (FOMO), isn’t exactly a real problem is it? Beyond the everyday happenings, which include a multitude of fabulous restaurants, endless shopping opportunities, and entertainment there are also numerous festivals, special events, and pop ups happening all over the city every single day! So little time so much fun!

#veniceOkay, I live here and I feel this way, so I can only imagine how a visitor must feel. How do you decide, with limited time, which of LA’s amazing neighborhoods to visit, and what should you do while there? I can help with that!

#venicebeachIn my humble opinion no trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a visit to the great and wonderful weird that is Venice, so it makes sense to start there! I’ve mentioned a few of these places in my recent post 50 things to do in LA, but thought it might be fun to highlight some of my favorite parts of this eclectic and spirited neighborhood in greater detail! Read on to see where you might you find me on any given day…

A Brief History

#veniceofamerica

Venice, originally called the Venice of America, was founded as an independent city by Abbot Kinney in 1905. In 1926 Venice merged with the city of Los Angeles and is famous for it’s canals, beaches, and of course the famous Ocean Front Walk.

#venicbeach

1. Abbot Kinney Boulevard

#abbotkinneyThe place to be right now, Abbot Kinney is one of the hottest streets in town! Many of today’s most popular fashion brands have stores here, not to mention street art galore, and the many trendy bars, coffee shops and restaurants to choose from. #favoriteplaces

#abbotkinneysunsetWhen I first moved to LA, 16 years ago, this area was still on its way up and had been for a while, but its safe to say it’s arrived, and then some! I like to spend time here on weekdays when it’s a little less crowded.

Current Elliot

#current/elliotOne of my favorite shopping spots, I love the fun, slightly eclectic casual style of Current Elliot. The clothing feels loved, vintage and worn in perfect for beach life.

Salt & Straw

#saltandstrawThe ice cream at Salt & Straw is delicious, but don’t take my word for it, the ever present line around the block should speak for itself. One reason the line is so long… you can sample as many flavors as you want!

Blue Star Donuts

donutsBlue Star is high on my list of LA donut shops, the poppyseed lemon is my favorite… this is saying something as there are over 600 donut shops in LA County!

#instaheaven

#kelseymontaguewings

Don’t forget to stop and take an #instagood picture in between shopping and eating on Abbot Kinney Boulevard!

2. Windward Avenue

#venicebeachThis little street is Home to Menotti’s Coffee Shop, the Venice Sign, and the Venice Public Art Walls You’ll easily find me here at least three times a week!

Menotti’s Coffee Shop

#menottiscoffeeGet the Spanish Latte! I promise you won’t be disappointed when you taste this delicious coffee concoction! Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go there! Then take your coffee for a walk along the beach!

The Venice Sign 

#venicesignOriginally hung across Windward Avenue at Pacific by Abbot Kinney himself, this current version was installed in 2007. Most often lit with traditional white marquee lights, the Sign changes throughout the year in support of various events. Currently the sign is lit for Venice Pride!

Venice Public Art Walls

#venicebeachYou’ll find the Venice Art Walls on the beach at the end of Windward Avenue. The Walls are open for painting every Saturday and Sunday, so if you’re feeling creative grab a can and join the fun! Alternatively, show up during the week to see what’s new!

3. Ocean Front Walk

#oceanfrontwlkVenice’s 2.5 mile pedestrian only Ocean Front Walk is world famous for it’s eclectic mix of locals, tourists, performers, physics, and artists! Not to mention, the selection of sunglasses and t-shirts is world renowned. You never know who or what you’ll discover during your visit, but I can guarantee you’ll have an amazing time, and probably come away with at least one treasure!

#venicebeach
There’s something for everyone on the boardwalk
The Wee chippy

#theweechippyLocated just off  Ocean Front Walk at Westminster, the Wee Chippy is a walk up fish and chips joint, owned by a Scottish fellow. The fish is great, but the chips are easily the best I’ve ever had. Anywhere! I’m serious! The opening hours are: Lunchtime to sunset… good luck!

4. Bike Path

#santamonicabikepathThe bike path in Venice is part of a larger 22 mile long paved path, which stretches from the Pacific Palisades to Torrance! While riding along the Venice section of the path you’ll be treated to the sights, sounds and smells of the Venice beach Ocean Front Walk, as well as the Venice Art Walls, the skateboard park, countless shops, artists at work, restaurants, and all the wonderful weird that makes up the vibe that is Venice Beach.

#venicepride
The view from the bike path… not too shabby!

5. High Rooftop Lounge


The High Rooftop Lounge is the only rooftop bar in Venice, and its location couldn’t be more perfect, only steps from the beach and everything else Venice has to offer.  The food is good, but views are even better! You’ll find the High Rooftop Lounge on top of the Hotel Erwin on Pacific Avenue. Just before sunset seems like a nice time to arrive!

#venicebeach

6. The Beach

Los Angeles SurfingWhy not give surfing a try?! After all you’re at the beach!  No matter if you’ve never been on a board before, sign up for a lesson and you’ll be popping up in no time! If I can do it, so can you! Even if you’re not up for riding the waves, you can still wiggle your toes in the sand while eating an ice cream and soaking up the rays!

7. Public Art Galore

#venice
Painted by NEVER this homage to Venice is at Baby Blues BBQ on Lincoln.

If you’re at all interested in public art then Venice is the place for you! Street art, sand art, light art, and more can be found just about everywhere you look! There really isn’t anywhere that hasn’t been touched by this explosion of public art!

#babybluesbbq
They serve Kool-aid at Baby Blues BBQ! Awesome!
Main Street
#beautifyearth
Lincoln Boulevard
Venice Beach

8. California Dreaming Comes to Life

#heartglasses

The hustle and bustle of the city is all around you, yet there is a peacefulness, the smell of the ocean on the breeze, the sun on your face, and the sand between your toes. Here is where the dream comes alive, dolphins and surfers sharing the same waves, skaters and bikers pass each other on a palm tree lined path, the smell of delicious food and coffee permeates the air, they all come together to create the good vibes that are Venice and the California Dream.


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#venicebeachpinme

Exploring California From Sand to Sea

#anzaborrego

At 560 miles wide and 840 miles long, The State of California is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, and the third largest state in America. No matter your interest: city, forest, valley, mountain, coast or desert, the Golden State has it all. I’ve lived here in both NorCal and SoCal for the better part of 16 years, and there is still so much left to discover! I’ve hardly scratched the surface! Most recently, we’ve been exploring more of Southern California.

Sand to Sea

#anzaborrego

A record year of rainfall (yay rain!) and the resulting flower super bloom prompted our visit to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in the Desert region. I had to see all those amazing flowers! Deciding to go on this little adventure at the last minute meant accommodation choices were somewhat limited, and not finding what I was looking for (yes, I’m a hotel snob) we decided to stay on the coast in La Jolla, the Jewel of San Diego. So, two birds with one road trip… Desert and Coast.

#lajolla

Anza Borrego State Park

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is located in the Colorado Desert in Southern California, that’s not confusing, and is California’s largest state park.

#anzaborrego

As we arrived in the park we noticed that small groups of beautiful flowers lined the roadside, and the scenery did look more green than we expected, but where was this Super Bloom we’d been hearing so much about?

#anzaborrego

We only had one day in the area, and Anza Borrego encompasses 600,000 acres, so rather than looking for the proverbial needle in the desert…

#anzaborrego

#anzaborrego

We decided some advice was in order and the Park’s visitor center located in the small town of Borrego Springs seemed like the best place to get it! The park rangers gave us very detailed directions to a nearby location where we could easily see the flowers.

#anzaborrego

There are many hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult as well as camping opportunities in the area, and if you’re interested the rangers will provide maps and directions. March afternoon temperatures were already in the high 90s, so we decided against hiking, and there were plenty of flower viewing options near the visitor center. We saw some pretty neat desert art installations on our way to the fields!

Anza Borrego State Park California#anzaborrego

The flower fields, as expected were stunning, and walking among them was a joyful experience. There weren’t many bees, strangely, but there were a ton of black ants and  caterpillars, which meant my boys weren’t willing to pose for too long among the flowers, and they definitely weren’t willing to sit down. Hoping for sunset photos, we timed our visit for late afternoon and sunset, which worked out perfectly.

#anzaborrego

#anzaborrego

Anza Borrego is an official Dark Sky, and while I love night photography, my amateur status meant that I wasn’t exactly prepared to take the night photos I had hoped for. Nevertheless we found ourselves a bench outside the visitor center and enjoyed viewing the stars and hearing the sounds of the desert at night. There was a little Saloon down the street from the visitor center where we enjoyed a meal before setting out for the sea portion of our adventure.

Anza Borrego State Park California

 

La Jolla The Jewel of San Diego

#lajolla

La Jolla, a lovely little seaside community located within the city of San Diego, was the perfect place to spend the day exploring. We saw Public art, delicious donuts, and a ton of wildlife, and these were just a few of the fun activities available!

La Jolla Mural Project

The La Jolla Mural project started in 2010 as a way to enhance the local community. The murals are painted or mounted on private buildings and are on display for a minimum of two years! We didn’t have time to view all of them, but loved the ones we were able to find.

#lajollamuralproject

 

Children’s Pool Beach

Just steps from the cute downtown area the coast is lined with lovely parks and beaches. We read that Children’s Pool Beach was a worthwhile spot and we were delighted to discover that our visit took place during the Harbor seal pup season! I loved watching the adorable interactions between the mother and baby seals, and we stayed quite a long while before wandering further up the coastline where we saw sea lions, pelicans, and many mischievous squirrels.

#childrenspoolbeach

There are times during the year when the beaches are open for swimming and scuba diving is permitted as well. We saw divers among the sea lions, and there’s something so special about viewing animals in their natural habitat, but I must admit I’m just fine with my feet on the shore!

 

Donuts

Since our move to SoCal, we’ve been on a quest for the best donuts, so when we came across this donut shop, we couldn’t resist!

 

#lajolla
These gorgeous flowers were alongside the road in San Diego County

Tips & Advice:

  • Anza Borrego Desert State park is a 3 hour drive from Los Angeles
  • La Jolla is a two hour drive from Anza Borrego.
  • The Children’s Pool Beach is closed to public access during harbor seal pupping season, Dec. 15 through May 15, yearly. However, you can view the seals during this time.

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Venice Art Walls: Caution Wet Paint

#venicebeachartwalls

#veniceartwalls

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m a  fan of street art! I spend a good amount of my free time seeking out and enjoying the murals and graffiti art throughout Los Angeles, and lately, any other city I visit. Lucky for me there’s no shortage in LA! Although, It was my visit to Lisbon a few years ago that really awakened my love of this art genre and since then I’ve been hard at work curating my  collection!

#veniceI love art museums too, but there’s something so wonderful about a giant piece of art out there in the open for everyone to enjoy. You might just see it out of the corner of your eye as you walk or drive by, but if you do have the time or inclination, its there for you to admire at your leisure any time of day or night. Stay as long as you’d like, or take a photo, but either way, its there for your enjoyment, no walls, opening hours, admission, or strings attached!

LA’s Mural Moratorium

#veniceartwalls
During the Mural Moratorium  the art walls were the only place”Michelle” could have written her real name.

In my quest to see the art I’ve learned a ton about the culture and the artists behind these amazing paintings, but that wasn’t always possible and even now, many graffiti and mural artists are anonymous, preferring instead to use pseudonyms, in order to protect their identities.

#veniceartwalls

Today there are countless murals throughout the city of LA, but there was a period of 10 years, referred to as the Mural Moratorium, where it was illegal to paint any kind of fine art mural. Anywhere. Even on private property. The penalties included steep fines and even jail time.  Many artists chose to move away…

#veniceartwalls

During my art seeking adventures, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a street or graffiti artist, to create a mural, or paint the side of a building when no one was looking…

The Venice Public Art Walls

#venicebeachartwalls

Thanks to the Venice Public Art Walls, I’m able to find out, and it’s legal!

The Venice Art Walls are all that’s left of the Venice Pavilion, and while there has always been graffiti on the walls at this location, it wasn’t until 2000 that painting them became legal. 2017 is the 10 year anniversary of the name Venice Public Art Walls. The LA Mural Moratorium officially ended in 2013!

#veniceartwalls

The Walls are transformed from week to week by amateurs and professionals alike. One of my favorite Monday morning activities is riding my bike along the beach path to the Art Walls, so I can see what’s new!

#veniceartwalls

Sometimes I see familiar characters, like Snoopy the dog, or Frosty the Snowman, other times, its giant ice cream, or corn on the cob. There are countless sayings, some hopeful, some not, occasionally there are memorials, but no matter what it always smells like fresh paint!

While I haven’t had a chance to leave my mark yet, I did purchase some cans, and did a little practicing at home. Are you interested in making your mark? Every wondered what it might be like to be a graffiti artist? Feeling creative, grab a can and join the fun!

#veniceartwalls

Tips & Advice:

  • You’ll find the Venice Public Art Walls just west of Windward Street on the other side of Ocean Front Walk and the bike path, just adjacent to the Venice Beach Skatepark. The approximate address is: 1800 Ocean Front Walk
  • The Walls are always open for viewing, 7 days a week, but painting is only allowed on Saturday and Sundays on a first come first serve basis between 10 am and 5 pm.
  • A free permit is required before you can paint. Do not paint without one or it will be considered graffiti and you can be fined.
  • Before you can get your permit you’ll need to fill out the Artist Agreement. Permits are given on site.
  • Children under 18 require the presence of an adult, and should only use brushes and rollers when painting.
  • Do get plastic gloves and a mask. Do not wear anything you care about.
  • Did you know that spray can nozzles come in different sizes for better control?
  • Pressing down on the nozzle for extended periods of time is harder than it looks!
  • The Art Walls are available for filming and private events. These photos are from an Autism Fundraiser.

Do grab a coffee at Menotti’s or a bite at The Wee Chippy, both within walking distance, before or after you create your work of art!

Maybe you’re not interested  in creating? The Venice Public Art Walls are also a great place to catch the sunset!

#veniceartwalls

#veniceartwalls


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#veniceartwalls

The Museum of Ice Cream Los Angeles

#museumoficecream

You Scream, I Scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!

#museumoficecream

I love museums, and consider myself something of a museum collector. Over the years my collection has grown and is quite varied including museums about science, art, natural history, diamonds, children, and chocolate to name just a few! We’ve had the good fortune to visit some of the world’s most amazing museums in cities around the globe, so when I hard a museum about ice cream would be coming to Los Angeles, our home town, I knew we’d be adding it to our list! The funny thing is, I don’t love Ice Cream, or at least that’s what I tell myself…

#museumoficecream I’ve been eating the same flavors of ice cream my entire life, at first  it was chocolate chip mint. Every. Single. Time. At some point I switched to Pralines and Cream and that was my flavor. These days, I have been trying to branch out a bit more in the flavor department. My current favorite is salted malted cookie dough at Salt & Straw.

Anyway…

What is the Museum of Ice Cream & Will Their be Treats?

#museumoficecreamThe Museum of Ice Cream is a temporary interactive art installation featuring not just ice cream, but all things ice cream related. The only real purpose, as far as I can tell, is to provide pure joy and happiness and they’re really good at it!

#museumoficecreamAlong the way, you’ll see and experience a ton of silly fun from ice cream sandwich swings, to giant popsicles, and scratch and sniff wall paper! Along with all the silly fun, there will be endless photo opportunities! I loved that they incorporated some of LAs most famous icons into the installations.

#museumoficecream
Doesn’t this remind you of another famous sign?

Of course you can’t have an ice cream museum without treats! A lot of them! We sampled Gummy bears, ice cream of course, mochi and a number of other delicious items all of which came with the price of admission!

The Bad News and The Good News

Okay, so as you can probably guess this place is very popular, which also means high demand. The bad news is that tickets for the limited Los Angeles engagement have already sold out, but the good news is that there will be other locations! If this sounds like something you might like to experience you’ll want to visit the Museum of Ice Cream’s official website and sign up for information about upcoming locations.

#museumoficecreamThe Museum of Ice Cream is located inside a converted warehouse in the DTLA Arts District! Everything including the outside of the building is Pink! Did I mention Everything!?

The phone is ringing, and it’s for you!

Upon arrival, you’ll gather in this adorable room where you’ll hear about the Museum of Ice Cream, and directions on how to proceed. The museum is one way only so remember to take your time. Your first stop will be in the Ice Cream Hotline room, do stop and have a listen. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Go Bananas!

You’ll receive your first ice cream treat inside the next room! Our flavor was Earl Grey, but the flavors will change!

Not all the rooms have treats in them, some are just photo opportunities, or immersive experiences. The mint room smelled deliciously fresh, and I really loved the mochi, which just happened to be chocolate chip mint! Serendipity!

Silliness ensued at the video station!

These giant popsicles were so cool, and we had a lot of fun posing with them before heading to the gummy bear room! We have gummy bear fanatics in our house, so this was a favorite stop!

These tiny cones look like ice cream, but they were actually scoops of cookie dough!

You had me at Sprinkle Pool!

The sprinkle pool was easily our favorite experience in the entire museum! The feeling of immersing yourself into a pool filled with 100 MILLION sprinkles is equally weird and great!

If you’re wondering, the sprinkles aren’t real, they’re plastic, so don’t try to eat them! I’m still finding sprinkles around the house, and even though I zipped my bag the sprinkles found their way in, but I don’t mind, in fact I kinda like it!

Our last stop in the museum was a game room of sorts with this fun ping pong table, a giant swing and a gift shop. We were offered freshly made delicious and very pink pancake ice cream sandwiches.

Our visit to the Museum of Ice Cream took about 90 minutes, and we all agreed that it was a really fun family experience! We ate five different treats and participated in everything the museum had to offer.  Do you Scream for Ice Cream? If so, what’s your favorite flavor?


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50 Things To Do in Los Angeles

#dtlaskyline

Have you noticed all the lists online lately? Me too! This recent trend has alerted me to the fact that I’m not alone in my love of lists. What’s even more fun than making a list? Crossing things off them, of course! It’s so satisfying!

#losangelesmuralIn a city as vast as Los Angeles, on any given day, there are countless opportunities for tourists and non tourists alike. So many, in fact, it wouldn’t really be reasonable to try and list them all, so for the purposes of this list I’m drawing the line at 50* places.

50 Things to do in Los Angeles* (and Surrounding Areas)

1. DTLA Arts District
Location: 812 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles

#peacegoddessDTLA

The revitalization of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) is nothing short of amazing, especially the Arts District! Biking, street art, restaurants, shopping and more… I guarantee you’ll love it and with so much to see and do multiple visits are in order!


2. LA Art Tours – Graffiti/Mural Tour
Location: 533 Colyton St, Los Angeles

#dtlagraffititourA walking tour of DTLA is the perfect way to view the city’s vibrant mural and graffiti scene and get the lay of the land. The tours are lead by the artist themselves, and you’ll not only be viewing amazing artistry, but you’ll learn all about the culture and lingo of these incredibly talented locals.


3. Pie Hole
Location: 714 Traction Ave Downtown Los Angeles

#pieholeDTLA

Whether you like it savory or sweet you’ll be guaranteed a unique and tasty treat at the Pie Hole, We love the DTLA location, but with 5+ locations throughout the greater LA area you have no excuses! I wish I could show you a photo of the pie, but It never lasts long enough to take a photo!


4. Walt Disney Concert Hall
Location: 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

#waltdisneyconcerthall

If you’re a fan of architecture, the symphony, or both then you’ll want to consider a visit to the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. If nothing else it provides an amazing backdrop for those #Instagood pics!


5. The Broad Museum
Location: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles

The Broad Los Angeles California

If you only have time to visit one museum while in LA, I highly suggest The Broad located in DTLA. Entry to the museum is free, and the collection is top notch! Do keep in mind that advance reservations are required.


6. Little Tokyo
Location: 115 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles

#hellokittyforpresident

The Little Tokyo district in DTLA is the place to go for authentic Japanese dining, quirky shopping and a healthy dose of kawaii!


7. The Last Bookstore
Location: 453 S Spring St, Los Angeles

#thelastbookstore

When I heard about that cool book seller in Downtown Los Angeles that not only sells books but sells them with flair, I just knew I had to go there! With social media on the rise, the appropriately named, The Last Bookstore, might well just turn out to be the last bookstore!


8. Canter’s Deli
Location: 419 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles

#canters

Canter’s, an LA institution, has been serving up their award winning pastrami sandwiches and other deli fare since 1931. Beyond pastrami, other favorites on my list are the Mish Mash Soup, and the High Hat, which is basically a cupcake married to a ding dong! Delicious!


9. Pinks
Location: 709 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles

#pinkschilidog

No trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a trip to Pink’s a true LA institution! Famous for it’s chili cheese dog, Pink’s has been in the same spot on La Brea Avenue for 76 years and if the perpetually long line is any indication, it’s not going anywhere.


10. The Getty Center
Location: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles

#gettycenter

The Getty Center features American and European art from medieval times to the present. Not only is it considered an architectural masterpiece, but it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens and on a clear day the views of Downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean are spectacular.


11. Griffith Park Observatory
Location: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles

Los Angeles Griffith Park Observatory

A visit to the Griffith Park Observatory includes something for everyone! Fabulous views of Downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign, Hiking, The Halls of Space, a planetarium, and a cafe. Entrance to the Observatory and parking are free of charge.


12. La Brea Tar Pits
Location:5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

#tarpit

Are you a history lover? Then you’ll love a visit to the La Brea Tar Pits!  It’s hard to believe that at one time Wilshire Boulevard was once the home of dire wolves, saber-tooth cats, and mammoths, but It’s true! Of course that was 50,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years…


13. LACMA
Location: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

#urbanlight

The largest art museum on the West Coast, it would take multiple visits to see everything LACMA has to offer. Just try and walk by Chris Burden’s Urban lights without snapping a few photos.


14. Peterson Automotive Museum
Location: 6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

#petersonautomotivemuseum

Los Angeles is famous for many things, but one of them is not waking! In fact, just the opposite and as the song says, “Nobody walks in LA!” If you’re a fan of cars, movies, or both, then The Peterson Automotive museum is a perfect for you!


15. Chandelier Tree
Location: 2811 W. Silver Lake Drive, Los Angeles

Chandelier Tree Los Angeles California

The Chandelier Tree, created by, Silver Lake resident and artist, Adam Tenenbaum is a magical piece of art which is located in his front yard! The tree’s restored chandeliers have been collected over time through donations, swap meet purchases and film sets. #instala


16. Hurry Curry of Tokyo
Location: 2131 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles

#hurrycurry

If you’re looking for a unique Japanese cuisine experience Hurry Curry of Tokyo located in  Japantown is the place! Get the White sauce I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!


17. Surf Lessons
Location: Santa Monica/Venice

Los Angeles Surfing

Why not give surfing a try?! No matter if you’ve never been on a board before, sign up for a lesson and you’ll be popping up in no time! If I can do it, so can you!


18. The Grove
Location: 189 The Grove Dr, Los Angeles

IMG_9913

If shopping is on your list, check out The Grove, not only is it home to many  trendy shops and restaurants it also boasts one of America’s tallest Christmas Tree’s!


19. The Hollywood Sign
Location: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Los Angeles Hollywood SignOne of the most iconic signs in the world, no trip to LA would be complete without at least a quick view of the Hollywood Sign. There are a number of viewing spots around town. One of which is the Griffith Park Observatory located in… Griffith Park.


20. Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Location: 6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038

#hollywoodforever

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery, isn’t just the final resting place, of some of film and music’s most celebrated stars, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Judy Garland, and Douglas Fairbanks to name a few, but it’s also a fun and quirky place to see an outdoor concert. Check the official website for the current season’s offerings.


21. Hollywood Walk of Fame
Location: Hollywood Boulevard between Gower and La Brea, Los Angeles

Los Angeles Walk of Fame

Everyone should visit The Walk of Fame, which runs 1.3 miles along Hollywood Boulevard between Gower Street and La Brea Avenue, at least once. There are more than 2,500 stars along the Walk and you’ll be sure to recognize a few of your favorites!


22. Mann’s Chinese Theater
Location: 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles

#graumanschinesetheater

If you’re already in the area visiting #21, make the most of your time and visit Mann’s Chinese Theater too! Attempting to fit my feet and hands into the many celebrity prints, which have been pressed into the courtyard floor is always a fun activity.


23. Santa Monica Beach Bike Path
Location: Santa Monica

Bike Path Santa Monica

The 22 mile long paved path stretching from the Pacific Palisades to Torrance is perfect for biking, running, skateboarding or just plain walking! Along the way you’ll find playgrounds, bike rentals, ice cream shops, burger joints and shopping.


24. Street Art Walk
Location: Santa Monica

#sidecardoughnuts

Go on an art walk! Santa Monica is loaded with street art just waiting to be discovered! The photo above, located at Sidecar Doughnuts on 7th and Wilshire Blvd, is a piece by Bumblebeelovesyou, a local artist, and a favorite of mine! Other fun areas with a lot of  street art are Main Street and Pico Boulevard, both of which are also loaded with fun shops and restaurants!


25. Sidecar Doughnuts
Location: 631 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica

#sidecardoughnuts

Sidecar Doughnuts  is our favorite donut shop on the Westside, and we’ve tried a few. Sidecar’s doughnuts are always fresh, tasty, and popular, so be prepared for a long line, and because your first choice will most likely sell out before you make it to the counter, choose a second. Don’t worry they’re all good!


26. Santa Monica Pier
Location: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

#santamonicapier

Yes, it’s very touristy, but everyone should visit the Santa Monica Pier at least once! Not only does it boast the only over water Roller Coaster in the world, but it also has an adorable little aquarium and an old fashioned carousel!


27. Santa Monica Beach
Location: Santa Monica

#santamonicabeach

Santa Monica is the perfect family beach. It has everything you need for the perfect beach day! Soft warm sand perfect for sandcastle building, a pier complete with amusement park, and tons of nearby shopping and dinning!


28. The Original Muscle Beach
Location: Santa Monica

#musclebeach

Just south of the Santa Monica Pier you’ll find the original Muscle Beach, which features loads of gymnastics equipment, the Chess Park and easy access to the Carousel. My boys and I have always enjoyed trying out all the equipment.


29. Tongva Park
Location: 1615 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica

#tongvapark

Tongva Park is a lovely traditional park just south of the Santa Monica Place Mall on Ocean Avenue. Along with unique play structures, you’ll find beautiful gardens, fountains, and lovely ocean views.


30. Third Street Promenade
Location: 3rd Street between Wilshire Blvd and Broadway, Santa Monica

#thirdstreetpromenade

I’m always up for a stroll and some shopping! Just a short walk from the beach you’ll find world class shopping, restaurants and entertainment at the Santa Monica Place mall and on the pedestrian friendly Third Street Promenade.


31. Montana Avenue
Location: Montana Avenue, Santa Monica

#lovewall

Located just one mile north of Downtown Santa Monica, you could spend all day wandering in and out of the boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants located on Montana Avenue!


32. Menotti’s Coffee
Location: 56 Windward Ave, Venice

#menottis

Get the Spanish Latte! I promise you won’t be disappointed when you taste this delicious coffee concoction! Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go there! Then take your coffee for a walk along the beach!


33. Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk
Location: Ocean Front Walk, Venice

#ilovevenice

Like the sign says, I ❤️ Venice, and not just for the cheap sunglasses and great people watching! No trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a visit to the great weird that is Venice!


34. The Wee Chippy
Location: 1301 Ocean Front Walk, Venice

#theweechippy

Located just off  Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach, the Wee Chippy is a walk up fish and chips joint, owned by a Scottish fellow. The fish is great, but the chips are easily the best I’ve ever had. Anywhere!


35. Venice Beach
Location: Venice Beach, Venice

Venice Beach Los Angeles California

There’s nothing like the beach in Southern California, and when you throw in everything else that Venice has to offer you’ve got nothing short of paradise! Don’t forget your sunscreen!


36. Venice Beach Skate Park
Location: 1500 Ocean Front Walk, Venice

#venicebeachskatepark

Skateboarding as we know it originated in Los Angeles,  so it makes sense that there’s an awesome skatepark right on the beach. Grab your wheels and drop in for some fun, or be a happy spectator either way, all are welcome!


37. Venice Art Walls
Location: Ocean Front Walk, Venice

#venicebeachartwalls

Just next to the Skatepark you’ll find the Venice Art Walls, where every Saturday and Sunday you’ll find them transformed by professional and amateur street artists alike! Feeling creative, grab a can and join the fun!


38. Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Location: Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice

#abbotkinneysunset

One of the hottest streets in town! Many of today’s most sought after fashion brands have stores on Abbot Kinney, not to mention the many trendy bars and restaurants to choose from. #favoriteplaces


39. Rose Avenue
Location: Rose Avenue, Venice

#roseavenue

Completely transformed in the past few years, Rose Avenue, is definitely worth a visit. Lined with one of a kind boutiques, restaurants and markets, there’s a little something for everyone!


40. Malibu Farm Pier Restaurant
Location: 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu

#malibupier

Stay cozy inside on a stormy day or eat out when the sun is shinning, either way the Malibu Farms Pier Restaurant is the perfect little breakfast spot! Locals only! Just kidding, but do check this place out if you’re looking for something a little less touristy.


41. The Getty Villa
Location: 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades

#gettyvilla

Located on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, the Getty Villa is dedicated to the antiquities and features 7000 years of ancient art. Even if antiquities aren’t your thing, The Villa itself is a site to see.


42. Zuma Beach
Location: Zuma Beach, Malibu

#zumabeach

The drive to Zuma, along the Pacific Coast Highway, is spectacular in itself, and when you get there… Sun, sand, and surf. Need I say more?


43. Solstice Canyon
Location: 3455 Solstice Canyon Rd, Malibu

#solticecanyon

Hiking options in Solstice range from easy to difficult, making this a great destination for families and pets! There’s a waterfall, gorgeous views, and even an architectural landmark, all waiting to be discovered.


44. The Beverly Hills Sign
Location: 9439 N Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills

#beverlyhills

You’ll know you’re in Beverly Hills when you see THE Sign! A lovely and iconic place to take a photo!


45. Rodeo Drive
Location: Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

#rodeodrive

First timer or resident, there’s something special about a stroll down Rode Drive.


46.The Love Wall (Wall Hopping)
Location: 8549 Higuera St, Culver City

#lovewall

The Love Wall located at Smash Box Studios in Culver City is just one of the many popular wall murals throughout Los Angeles. Your trip to LA is made all that much more colorful when you include one these fun pieces of street art in the background of all your social media posts! #instala


47. Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Location: 3400 W Riverside Dr, Burbank

#centralperk

Los Angeles, is the home of movie magic, which also makes it the perfect place to find out how all that magic happens! During your visit to the Warner Bros Studio Lot you’ll get behind the scenes peeks into many of your favorite television shows and movies both old and new!


48. Universal Studios Theme Park and Studio Tour
Location: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

#hogwartsexpress

Universal Studios is not just a theme park, but a working movie studio as well! We love the Studio Tour, which is full of fun surprises, and of course there’s Butterbeer!


49. Disneyland Theme Park
Location: 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim

disneyland-1137

They don’t have call it the Happiest Place on Earth for nothing! Yes, it’s crowded, yes, it’s expensive, and yes, despite those things I absolutely love the Magic Kingdom. Checkout my tips and tricks for a successful visit to Disneyland.


50. Huntington Library and Gardens
Location: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

#huntingtonbotanicalgardens

The Huntington Botanical Gardens, has something for everyone! Museums, a library and acres of beautiful and unique gardens, including a fabulous children’s garden!


Living here gives us access to all the amazingness that LA has to offer, however, our family, like many others, often struggles when it comes to deciding how to spend our free time. lucky for us, Los Angeles also happens to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, so hopefully, now that we’ve got this handy list all our problems, and maybe yours, will be solved!

* As fast as we “check things off” we think up more fun and interesting ideas, so stay tuned for 50 More Things To Do in LA coming soon

*Be sure to check official websites for operating hours and ticket prices.


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A Photo Tour of the French Quarter

#frenchquarterangel

New Orleans has many claims to fame, among them its unique architecture, regional cuisine, jazz music, voodoo legends, haunted histories, Mardi Gras and so much more, and while each of the aforementioned deserve recognition in their own right,  for me, it’s the mingling of all these sights, sounds, and smells that make New Orleans so special, a true feast for the senses.

#creolecottage
In some cities this  happy  little cottage might seem a tad bit overdone, but it fits perfectly in NOLA!

No matter how many times I visit there is always something new to discover! I’m constantly stopping to snap a photo of this or that, often multiple times in one block. I always hope that my photos will convey feeling, but in a city as busy as New Orleans, there’s a fine line between a feast for the senses and sensory overload! Do I share the big picture, the small details? What about the scores of tourists in the way, or the parked cars? Include them, or delete? Maybe a little of both?

#stlouiscathedralnight
Late at night is a good time to get that shot with no tourists!

Often, by the time I’ve waited for the car to drive by, or the people to meander out of my shot, I’m half a block or more behind my family. While I’m aware that some of the best shots are captured in early morning or late at night, getting them can prove difficult, as it’s not always the best idea to be out and about on your own, not to mention my family isn’t especially keen on those early morning hours.

#bourbonstreet
Bourbon Street, is tourist hell, but it makes a great photo!

All of the above reasons are why, during my most recent visit, I sighed up for a photo tour with American Photo Safari. I chose the French Quarter tour, and used my mirrorless SLR camera, however they offer tours in other parts of the city, and cellphone users are welcome to join as well.

#frenchquarterangel
Don’t forget to look up when wandering in the Quarter!

Our tour started in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, located just in front of Jackson Square Park, and quite possibly the most photographed building in New Orleans. We spent some time getting to know each other, and our guide Natasha, before doing our best to get some unique shots of this iconic building.

#stlouiscathedral
Even at 9am there are plenty of tourists out and about!

There were multiple haunted stops on the tour including the Cornstalk Fence Hotel on Royal Street, and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street, which is not just haunted, but also claims to be the oldest operating bar in the United States.

#hauntednola
I wonder what he’s thinking about?

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is located on the “good” end of Bourbon Street, if you go consider trying the voodoo daiquiri, which tastes just like a grape slushy, but be warned it packs a punch!

#lafittesblacksmithshop
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is lit only by candlelight, I wonder if the ghosts prefer it that way?

It’s been a few years since people tied their horses up to the hitching post, however, there are many of them throughout New Orleans and they add a great deal of charm to the city’s streets. I’d be surprised if I ever saw a horse tied to one, but never say never in NOLA!

#hitchingpostnola

While visiting NOLA you’re sure to notice the gas lamps located on the street corners, hanging from the galleries and doorways, and along the walls. The French Quarter, just wouldn’t be the Quarter without them!

#royalstreet

During the day, they add an old world charm, but the real magic happens at night, especially in the warmer months, when the lamplight mixes with the humid air creating a magical hazy glow.

Over the course of it’s 299 year history the architecture in the Quarter has been influenced by Spanish, French, Creole and American residents. It’s the combination of these different styles that make the Quarter the special place it is today.

#frenchquarterarchitecture

#frenchquarter

#creolecottage

Beyond the colorful and unique street fronts you’ll find that there’s more than meets the eye, magical hidden courtyards, filled with angels, fountains and lush gardens are just waiting for you to discover them.

#frenchquarter
Go ahead, take a peek, you never know what you might discover!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of the French Quarter, and some of the details that help to make it such a wonderful place to visit and explore!

Tips & Advice

  • A recipe for Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Voodoo drink:
    2 oz bourbon 1 oz Everclear or vodka 4 oz grape juice 1 cup crushed ice
  • Are you wondering how much it costs to keep the gas lamps lit? Around $8 per month, or so I was told.
  • The photo tour is 3 hours, and is suitable for all ages and all camera types.
  • The tour is best suited to older children and adults.

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10 things to do in New Orleans with Kids

#mardigrasworld

New Orleans is a magical place that everyone should visit at least once! I’ve been six times! The combination of history, legend, delicious cuisine, music, grit, and art makes it, in my humble opinion, the most unique city in America! What are you waiting for?! Let’s go! Wait! Are you worried that it’s not kid friendly? You’re not alone…

#stlouiscathedralEach and every time I go to NOLA I’m asked the same questions, ” Are you bringing the kids?”, and “Is New Orleans kid friendly?” The answer to these questions is a resounding YES! My boys have been four times, and if you ask them they’ll tell you it’s one of their favorite places!

Here are just a few of the many fun activities throughout the city for people of all ages!

1. The Audubon Nature Institute

#audubonzooStarting with the obvious, If you have animal lovers in your family then consider visiting any or all three of the Audubon Nature Institute’s sites during your visit, which include the zoo, aquarium and an insectarium. Many of the exhibits feature local creatures and habitats.

You can read more about our experiences in this related post: New Orlean’s Familystyle!

2. Ride The Street Car

#stcharleslineThe Street Cars in New Orleans, aren’t just for show, they’ve been used by locals and tourists alike for 150 years! The original, and my favorite, is the St. Charles line. As the name suggests its route is via St. Charles Street, and a ride on this line will take you through some of the city’s loveliest neighborhoods.

I love everything about riding these historic cars, watching the city roll by from the wide  windows, the fantastic sounds they make, the old wooden benches, even the close proximity to other travelers!

#redcarlineNOLAThe fares are very low, and they run often, so you won’t need a rental car during you visit. Get a lovely view of the city and where you need to go all at the same time!

3. Take a River Boat Ride

#MississippisunsetA really nice way to see and learn about the city is to take a ride on the Great Mississippi River. There are two options for riverboat rides, the Steamboat Natchez, New Orlean’s only steamboat, and the Creole Queen a paddle boat. We choose the Natchez, which conveniently docks on the riverfront just on the other side of the JAX Brewery in the French Quarter.

It’s not only a great way to see the city from a different point of view, but along the way, you’ll learn a bit of history, hear a little jazz, and even have a chance to go into the engine room.

4. French Quarter Carriage Ride

#stlouiscathedral

During your visit you’re sure to notice the many carriages lined up along Decatur Street and clip-clopping throughout the French Quarter. Rides are 30 minutes long and your guide will give you snippets of history and point out landmarks along the way.

Mule Carriage Ride New OrleansI loved getting a chance to see the streets of the French Quarter from yet another perspective.

5. Visit a Museum
#mardigrasworld

New Orleans has a number of great museums, many of which will appeal to children!

Mardi Gras World

New Orleans is famous for a certain holiday revolving around eating, drinking and being merry! No, I’m not suggesting you take the littles to Mardi Gras, but how about Mardi Gras World?!

#mardigrasworld

More than a museum, but also a workshop/showroom, Mardi Gras World is the place to go to learn about the incredible parade floats associated with one of the world’s most famous carnivals!

During your visit you’ll have a chance to try on costumes, watch a short film about the history of Mardi Gras floats and sample a taste of King Cake. Next you’ll tour the warehouse where you’ll see the artists in action and learn how the parade floats (they make as many as 500 per year) and props are made.

The Presbytère

#presbytereThe Presbytèrelocated just to the right of St. Louis Cathedral, was built in 1791. It features two permanent exhibits integral to understanding the city: Mardi Gras, and Hurricane Katrina, my kids found both exhibits fascinating.

In the Mardi Gras exhibit you’ll learn the history of the Mardi Gras celebration, and see brightly colored costumes. A perfect companion to your Mardi Gras World visit.

The Hurricane Katrina Exhibit is very powerful. It gives an in-depth look into what led to the catastrophic failure of the city’s levees, which in turn caused 80% of the city to be flooded. You’ll also hear first hand accounts, and see photos and video clips.

The National WWII Museum

#wwiimuseumnolaThis is a fabulous and very worthwhile museum. The information is very in-depth and includes first hand accounts, an easy to follow flow, and a lot of interactive exhibits. They’ve done a great job of not just telling you about the history, but immersing you in the settings as well.

6. Checkout the Art Scene

New Orleans

The Frenchmen Art Market

The family friendly Frenchmen Art Market is an evening art market located on Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny. We love the atmosphere of an evening market, and my little guy loves drawing with chalk on the floor of the outdoor “living room” locate in the center of the market.

French Quarter Galleries

The French Quarter is filled with art Galleries, which we always enjoy poking in and out of. You never know what you’re going to find and some of the art is pretty inventive. Okay, maybe this one isn’t exactly for kids, but it’s not all about them, is it?

Jackson Square

Jackson Square, centrally located in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, is surrounded by local artisans and musicians day and night. If you’re looking to bring home a prize, then this is a great place to find some more affordable works of art!

#jacksonsquarenola

7. City Park

#cityparkNOLACity Park is one of the oldest and most visited urban public parks in the United States, and after visiting a few times I can see why!

There is so much to see and do, including boat rentals, a sculpture garden, botanical gardens, Storyland, festival grounds, ancient trees dripping with moss (begging to be climbed), and the list goes on… In fact so much so, that I think this place might deserve its own blog post… stay tuned!

8. Food Fun

#cafedumonde
Stop taking my picture, I’m trying to eat my beignet!

One can’t talk about a trip to NOLA and not mention food! Whether you’ve got picky or adventurous eaters in your group, you’ll find something for everyone! Here are just a few casual ideas to get you started.

Cafe Du Monde

#cafedumondeThis should be your first stop. Period. Because, beignets.

Dat Dog

With multiple locations throughout the city you can’t go wrong with Dat Dog. Yes, as the name suggests its a hot dog restaurant, but don’t be fooled, it’s absolutely delicious! Beyond traditional beef they have lots of other options, including chicken, alligator and duck! For the adventurous eaters in your group, consider topping your dog with some crawfish Étouffée, or better yet Étouffée fries!

Jack Dempsey’s

#froglegs

Jack Dempsey’s – After hearing this place offered frog legs, I knew we’d be going! This is fried food heaven, and if you’re looking for an experience this is your place! For those picky eaters, not to worry, there’s chicken tenders, amazing mac n’ cheese and plenty of fries!

SnoBalls

#snowizardcoconut

SnoBalls, delicious icees filled with ice cream, are not just a treat in New Orleans, but on a hot day they’re an absolute necessity! We’ve enjoyed Snowizard’s snoballs on Magazine Street a number of times!

You can read more about our food finds in this related post: Let’s Eat Lunch and Talk About Dinner.

9. Go Ghost Hunting

#piratesalleyNew Orleans isn’t just famous for food, music and art, it’s also haunted! Yep, that’s right, with 300 years of infamous history there’s bound to be ghosts. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the cemeteries, vampires, voodoo and other mysterious happenings, just waiting for you er, to be discovered.

Okay, I’m just teasing, well, that part where I said things were waiting for you… the rest is all true, or at least if you listen to the city’s various tour guides it is!

Okay, Okay, in all seriousness definitely take a ghost tour during your visit! We’ve always loved Haunted History Tours! Choose different tours based on your interests, by day if you want to learn more about New Orleans history or a ghost tour by night if you want silly fun! I’ve done both multiple times and it’s always interesting! Our kids came along too! These are not jump out and scare you tours. They focus on legend, history and humor!

10. Listen to Music

#frenchquarter

New Orleans is famous for its music scene and rightfully so! There are many great music clubs in the city, but with kids in tow, getting to them can be a challenge. However, if you’re looking to hear great music, you really needn’t look much further than the nearest street corner. Meaning your kids will also get to join in the musical fun…

#royalstreet

And because you’re in NOLA you can still enjoy the beverage of your choice anywhere you’d like, so long as it’s in a plastic cup! Cheers!

Tips & Advice:

  • The Aquarium and the Insectarium are located  within walking distance of one another.
  • Exact change is required for the street car, alternatively you can purchase an RTA pass.
  • Carriage rides are on the expensive side $20 (cash only) per person.
  • Mardi Gras World’s shuttles will pick you up free of charge from multiple locations throughout the city.
  • Frenchmen’s Art Market is open from 7 pm – 1 am 5 night a week.
  • Favorite streets to find galleries are Royal and Chartres streets.
  • Ghost and cemetery tours are truly family friendly!

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Day Trippers: The Plantations of River Road

#oakalley

#oakalley

Have you ever wondered what it might have been like to live in another era? Wanted to step back in time and witness what life was like without all the modern conveniences we enjoy today? Maybe you’re happy right here in the present, but wouldn’t mind spending a few hours in the past… I definitely fall into that last category!

#oakalleyA history loving amateur photographer, whose favorite movies include Gone with the Wind, and Interview with the Vampire, it’s no wonder that a visit to the plantations of River Road were on my must see list during our recent visit to New Orleans.

Traveling Back…

River Road is a one hour drive outside of New Orleans, so you’ll want to rent a Time Machine, er, I mean car. The route is easy, and along the way you’ll drive through some pretty unique terrain.

#louisiana

It’s important not to time travel on an empty stomach, so we decided to make a quick detour to 1968 in order to eat at Spahr’s Seafood Restaurant, which came highly recommended by a local New Orleanian.

#spahr's

Spahr’s, located in Des Allemandes, Louisiana, the catfish capital of the universe, was a highlight of the day! Not only did we eat a mountain of delicious golden brown fried food, including catfish, alligator, shrimp, hush puppies, and onion sticks, but we dipped all of it in equally scrumptious sauces! All of this was washed down with sweet tea, and to top it all off we shared a slice of peanut butter pie.

While waiting for our food I noticed an outdoor area that looked pretty and decided to step out for a few photos. The manager, Carl, kindly opened the back door for me, which is when I noticed what looked like a statue in the shape of an alligator right next to the picnic area…

#alligator

Then I noticed the sign…

#bewaresign

Wait, that’s not a statue, that’s an Alligator!

The Plantations

At one time there were as many as 500 plantations along River Road, and while there aren’t nearly that many now, there are still quite a few available to visit. Most offer guided tours, have beautiful gardens, exhibitions, restaurants, and gift shops.

#oakalleyWe had time to visit two, and I chose Oak Alley for it’s magical trees, and Laura, a Creole Plantation for it’s historical significance.

Laura A Creole Plantation

#lauraplantationThe Laura Plantation, originally known as the Duparc Plantation, was built in 1804 – 1805 by Guillaume Duparc a French naval veteran of the revolutionary war. Laura, the great granddaughter of Duparc, wrote about her life on the plantation and her memoirs were published in 2002. Laura’s big house is a traditional Creole style raised house and there are several surviving out buildings on the property including six slave cabins.

During the tour we were given access to not only the gardens, but the big house and the slave cabins as well. There are exhibits about life on the plantation, which can be viewed at your leisure before or after the tour.

Oak Alley Plantation

#oakalleyOak Alley Plantation is most famous for its double row of Southern Live Oak trees which are around 300 years old! The trees run from the river to the house and were planted long before the present house was built.

#oakalleyThere is a lot to see and do at Oak Alley and at least two hours are recommended if you plan to see everything. We arrived later in the day as I wanted to get the afternoon light, but still managed to see quite a lot. Tours of the big house run every 1/2 hour, while the rest of the plantation including the slave cabin exhibit and gardens are self guided.

Before our tour of the big house we stopped for a mint julep, which you are welcome to bring with you on the tour! Photos are encouraged and your guide will be dressed in period costume, which definitely adds to that feeling of stepping back in time.

#oakalley

Once we completed our tour it was time to see the oak trees up close!

#oakalley

I spent a good amount of time taking photos and just enjoying walking among the trees. They’re absolutely stunning and it’s no wonder that so many films, television shows and music videos have been filmed here, Interview with a Vampire and Beyonce’s Déjà Vu music video to name just a few.

#oakalley

#oakalley

A History Lesson

#lauraplantationThe plantation homes lining the great Mississippi River Road are a sight to behold, and to visit them is to take a step back in time and get a small glimpse of what life might have been like for these people 200+ years ago.

#lauraplantationThey provide an important look into slavery and a very dark part of United States history. While it’s not easy to see, and read about the deplorable way these people were forced to live, I’m not one to shy away from the truth. Although it was difficult for my children to see and hear about what took place in the not so distant past, it was also a very valuable and worthwhile history lesson.

#lauraplantation

Tips & Advice:

  • River Road is a one hour drive from New Orleans in Vacherie, Louisiana
  • Laura Plantation can only be seen via guided tour.
  • Tickets can be purchased onsite.
  • The tour is 40 minutes long, and children and strollers are welcome.
  • Parking is complimentary, the gift shop sells snack and drinks, and there are multiple bathrooms.
  • The Louisiana Creole versions of the famous Br’er Rabbit stories were recorded at Laura in the 1870s.
  • Families still lived in the slave cabins at Laura Plantation until as recently as 1977.
  • Tours at Oak Alley run every half hour.
  • Children are welcome, and there is a gift shop, restaurant and restroom facilities.
  • You can stay overnight on the Oak Alley plantation.
  • The trees at Oak Alley have a potential life span of 600 years!

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Portland Oregon City of Roses

#portlandrosegarden

My boys were on Spring Break last week, which we spent in one of our all time favorite cities, New Orleans! There’s just something about it, a vibe that we just can’t get enough of! While I’m sorting through my photos and notes from last week, I thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane and share our visit to another great city which also has a vibe all its own: Portland, Oregon!

Portland Rose Garden-Portland, is just a three hour drive from Seattle (where I’m from), and with so many family friendly activities, great restaurants, and shopping opportunities it makes a pretty great weekend destination! Having spent quite a bit of time in Portland as a youth, It had been years since my last visit, and I was eager to show my kids around. With only two days to explore we wouldn’t be able to see everything, but we did our best to at least scratch the surface!

#rosegardenA large portion of our visit was spent in Washington Park, which covers over 400 acres, and includes the Portland Zoo, The International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Gardens, multiple museums, playgrounds and picnic areas.

The Zoo

We really enjoyed the Portland Zoo, which has a very Pacific northwest feel about it. The forested areas, natural habitats, and lots of interactive exhibits made the entire experience fun and immersive for the entire family. My younger son really enjoyed the children’s area and petting zoo.

The Gardens

#rosesA highlight of our weekend was our visit to the gardens in Washington Park. We had time for both the International Rose Test Garden, and the Japanese Gardens, which are conveniently located next to one another.

Opened in 1917 the International Rose Test Garden is home to over 7,000 rose plants and 550 varieties. They bloom from April through October depending on the weather. Roses are sent here from around the world to be tested for color, fragrance, resistance to disease and other attributes. We loved walking up and down the rows stopping here and there to smell the roses, and reading all the different names. Our visit took place in June, which is the height of the blooming season.

#portlandjapanesegarden

Having loved our visit to Japan, we are excited at any opportunity to visit Japanese gardens, so as soon as we heard Portland had one we were in! We were not disappointed, and since our visit three years ago, extensive renovations and additions were completed, which I’m sure have only enhanced what was already a spectacular place.

#japanesemapleCompleted in 1967 the idea for Portland’s Japanese gardens was first conceived in the 1950s as a way to create a healing and cultural connection to Japan after WWII. Since that time, they’ve received repeated accolades from visiting Japanese dignitaries, and are justifiably a popular tourist destination.

#japanesegarden

Around Town

If you enjoy a bit of shopping and dining, you’re in luck because Portland has plenty of both! The Pearl District and 23rd Street are great places for poking and in out of shops ranging from one of a kind boutiques to the main stream as well as art galleries, coffee shops, wine bars and more!

We loved our meal at Andina a Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl where the food, service and ambiance were all perfect!

Tips & Advice:

  • The Rose Test Garden is open from 7:30 am – 9:00 pm daily and offers free public tours daily at 1:00pm, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
  • Check the website for the information on the Japanese Garden as the hours vary throughout the year. Complimentary tours are included with your admission.

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