What to Do With Your Parents in Los Angeles: Part 1 – East LA

I am an east coast transplant in Los Angeles, and, as such, have many a time found myself in the predicament of entertaining visiting parents. After the first visit where I learned that showing them around my neighborhood could really only fill up an afternoon or two, I became ever-vigilant at finding and taking notes on more “parent friendly” excursions. A lot of these came about because of a project that my friends and I devised to explore more of L.A., and some of them are recommendations from other transplants that also find themselves showing visiting friends and family around the city. I find that the best parent activities take up a solid 2-5 hour chunk of a day, are close by to eating options so that you can pair the activity with a meal, and are a good mix of active and relaxing… I love pairing a morning hike with an afternoon show or beer crawl!

All that being said, here are some of my favorite parent-friendly activities on the East Side of L.A. (I draw the line right around La Brea for east/west, but some of these are right around the line):

  • A favorite of mine located in Pasadena is the Huntington Library & Gardens. This is such a relaxing place to visit, that allows you to go at 100% your own pace. There are both outdoor and indoor components (to escape the heat if it’s getting to be too much), and the mix of nature and history is sure to win with the parents! They have docent-led garden tours on non-free days (side note: the first Thursday of the month is free! another side note: they’re closed on Tuesdays). Swing through Old Town Pasadena on your way out for a bit to eat and stroll down Colorado Boulevard and the historic Colorado Street Bridge.
  • If you have any space or science lovers in your midst, Griffith Observatory is not to be missed! With projected shows in the planetarium every 60-90 minutes, there’s lots to explore before and after…including a fair number of trails up into Griffith Park for those wanting some nature! Depending on where you’re coming from/going to, I highly recommend either a stop before or after the observatory at Porto’s in Burbank or Glendale. A+ parent pleaser. (side notes: Observatory is closed on Mondays and Porto’s closes at 5 on Sundays)
  • If you’re looking for a day-long excursion, I love many a trail within Angeles National Forest. If that sounds a bit too ambitious, there are also lovely drives throughout the park, utilizing Angeles Forest Highway. I highly recommend stopping at the Mount Wilson Observatory. There’s a great self-led walking tour throughout the grounds, and a small cafe open April through November. (side note: be sure to check LA County road closures before making a day of it)
  • Looking for an afternoon of imbibing? Look no further than Downtown L.A.! There are quite a few breweries in the Little Tokyo and Arts Districts. Some of my favorites include Angel City, Mumford, Iron Triangle, and Arts District (be sure to grab a chicken snack at Fritzi, nextdoor). Because they’re all relatively close, it’s an easy area to walk between or grab a quick Lyft.
  • See a show:
    • I have loved introducing my parents to the Hollywood Bowl. It’s such a unique venue that is so different from anything in New England, where they’re from. Plus a solid evening plan, where you can arrive early to relax and dine while the sun sets, followed by an entertaining performance! Visiting on the off season? Don’t worry, the Bowl Museum is open all year round, too!
    • The Pantages is one of L.A.’s destinations for traveling shows (hi, have you heard of Hamilton?), and their calendar is definitely one to keep track of if you have visitors coming soon!
    • While I highly recommend skipping the Walk of Fame and a lot of Hollywood in general, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is an institution of old-school Hollywood. If you’re in the mood for a movie, check out the listings, as it’s definitely a unique experience!
  • Want to deliver a quintessential L.A. experience to your guests? Attending a sitcom or talk show taping will do just that! My favorite resources for searching out tickets are: here, here, here, and here. Want a similar vibe without quite the pressure? Most lots offer tours: check out WB and Paramount for schedules.
  • If the weather is nice, I can’t recommend enough finding a nice park and bringing a picnic. My favorite for this is Barnsdall Art Park, as it offers elevated views of nearby neighborhoods. It’s also home to Hollyhock House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first Los Angeles project, that offers self-guided tours Thursday through Sunday. Hitting Barnsdall on a summer Friday night? Be sure to get wine tasting tickets!
  • And finally, for all you sport lovers, how could a visit to La La Land be complete without eating your weight in peanuts at a Dodgers game?! As the first-ever stadium to get it’s own zip code (90090), the stadium itself is also worth a visit even if it’s off season. They offer tours throughout the year, and before every game!

** Spots you might just want to skip: the Walk of Fame (overrated and WAY overpopulated) and the Hollywood sign hike (it’s just a paved road, and seeing the sign from behind isn’t that special) **

While this is by no means an exhaustive list (two things I have yet to try and may be happening on an upcoming parents’ visiting trip: Travel Town and the Zoo), I hope it helps spark some inspiration the next time you have Los Angeles-bound visitors! Have any favorite LA spots I missed? Leave them in the comments!

Be sure to check back next week for Part 2: the West Side!

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