I don’t know about you ladies, but my husband and I have always liked to make the most of our days off. When we were both working and had different schedules, it was rare we had a day off together so we would try to fit as much into one day as we could. Now that I stay home, we both look forward to my husband’s days off for different reasons. He looks forward to a break from work and a chance to be with his son. I look forward to a break from MY work and the chance to relinquish some of the control of our son.
Five Favorite Family Friendly Field Trips Near LA
Anyone who follows me on Instagram is always asking “does your husband even work??” or commenting that “you guys are always doing such fun stuff!” Yes, he does work. And yes, we really try to do fun stuff. We also have one income now to support two adults, one baby, a dog, a mortgage, two car payments, etc. That means while we like to keep our days full, we also need to keep our pockets full by keeping our activities as cheap as possible. So we try to make the most of our day trips by working in a few different activities rather than driving 45 minutes to do one thing before heading home.
With all that said, one of our biggest challenges on these fun-filled days is maintaining our son’s schedule (which i live by religiously) while getting out and doing special things. My husband usually suggests some off-the-wall idea for the day and then I have to be the one to say, “okay... and when will he be getting his nap?” Unfortunately, us moms always end up being the ‘bad cops’. If you have a baby under six months, you probably don’t have to worry as much about when and where your child naps. For the rest of you, these trips can be possible if you leave after an early nap or have your babe sleep on the way. If the trip home is kind of long, stick around where you’re at and drive home at bedtime.
Here are just five of my favorite locations to visit and some must-do activities while you are there:
1. Long Beach
Long Beach is a great little city not far from LA. In fact, if you want to add a train ride to your day, you can take the metro from Union Station to downtown Long Beach in about an hour. This can be something fun in itself for your kiddos, especially those who love trains. Now once you get down there, the Aquarium of the Pacific is a must. I love all the different fish in the aquariums but also that you can pet the stingrays and see the penguins up close. Check out goldstar.com for discounted tickets if you enter the aquarium after 3pm. This deal is perfect because who really needs to spend more than a couple hours looking at fish anyways? Before or after the aquarium, definitely stop by the Queen Mary. I’ve never been on a cruise and most kids probably haven’t yet either, so they will love it. You can walk right in and explore around the huge 100-year-old ship. There are some tours that require paid admission, but for the most part it’s great to just walk around, check out the miniature models of different ships, and pretend like you’re at sea. Nearby the aquarium is a cute park with a Lighthouse and also a little harbor area with some more cool boats the kids might enjoy seeing. Of course you can’t leave without having a fabulous meal at Hooters… just kidding! There are some great little restaurants along the harbor. My favorite is Tequila Jack’s, known for their awesome Taco Tuesday deals. The kiddos will love the mini bean and cheese chimichangas and you’ll love the margaritas!
2. Santa Anita
If you have never been to the Santa Anita Racetrack, now is the time! There’s only two more months left in the season and it’s super fun for the whole family. There are always different events going on and some great deals on packages you can purchase online before you go. The Turf Terrace package is our absolute favorite. You basically pay $35 a person but get a $35 dining credit at the Restaurant which has the best view of the races and individual TVs on each table. Oh and did I mention a complimentary glass of champagne? Yes, please! On the weekends, there is a Family Fun Zone in the infield with inflatable jumpers and tons of fun stuff for the kids. A family four-pack will run you $46 in exchange for food and Fun Zone vouchers for the four of you. At the ground level, the horses are paraded around before each race so the kids can get an up-close look at these enormous animals. After the races they wind down in another area close by where the kids can pet the horses and sometimes even feed them. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the races, especially if you make a few bets. We try to bet small so we don’t lose too much, but sometimes we win and that makes it even more fun. If you aren’t 100% sure the races are your thing, you can always swing by for a bit and then stop by another favorite of mine. The Los Angeles County Arboretum is just next door and is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Southern California. There are about a thousand peacocks living there and you can find them strutting their stuff all over the place. It’s free the third Tuesday of the month or you can currently purchase a family yearly membership on Groupon.com for only $60. Either option could make a great day trip or could definitely be combined into one day of fun.
3. Manhattan Beach
Part of the benefit of living in Los Angeles is the proximity to the beaches. But if you are like me, you rarely go because it’s such an ordeal and always so much farther than it seems. Even before kids, lugging our stuff down the sand from wherever we had to park was a pain. Now with a baby and all the stuff he requires, it’s even more of a chore. With that said, I have discovered my new favorite beach which I think has the easiest parking options and the shortest trek down to the water. Last time I was there I saw a mom along with two young kids and two arms full of toys and she wasn’t even stressed out! Crazy, I know. Plug in the Manhattan Beach Pier into your GPS and try to find a spot along Manhattan Beach Blvd. or one of the many lots close by. You can walk along the pier, play in the sand or dare to enter the water. The beach is generally uncrowded and surprisingly clean. After you are done with the sand, there are some adorable shops you can poke into if you have time. There are also some great restaurants so make time for lunch or happy hour. Our favorite is Simmzy’s (their fries are to die for) but also recommend The Rockefeller or Rock’n Fish. If you are over the beach or want to wait out traffic a bit on the way home, there’s a great park down the street from the pier called Polliwog Park. It has a lake with ducks that the kids can terrorize while you rest up for the drive ahead.
Lake Arrowhead is a beautiful man-made lake where Hollywood celebs used to vacation back in the day. If it was enticing enough for them to make the trip up the mountain, you know it’s worth it for you too! The best way to see the lake and the gorgeous homes that surround it is by the little ferry. It’s a super enjoyable ride and the kids will for sure get a kick out of it. The Lake Arrowhead Queen boat tour will run you $17 per adult, but it’s worth the beautiful views and the fun little experience. Just above where the boat takes off is a great spot for lunch and a drink. The Lakefront Tap Room has a great beer selection and the cheapest glass of wine I’ve found pretty much anywhere, starting at only $6! Santa’s Village is about ten minutes from the lake and perfect for those who like to keep the holiday spirit alive all year round. Check out prices and hours at skyparksantasvillage.com. Just up the street is an easy, kid-friendly hike at the Heaps Peak Arboretum. If dinnertime coincides with the sunset, Hortencia’s at the Cliffhanger is your best bet for a meal on your way out. It sits on a cliff overlooking the valleys below with an incredible view and some decent Mexican food, too. I love Arrowhead because I feel like I’m really escaping our usual desert climate to what feels like a mini-vacation for the day.
Okay this is a bit of a drive for most Angelenos but what is Temecula known for? That’s right, momma, WINE. Now even if you aren’t a huge drinker, don’t stop reading, hear me out. Wine country can actually be surprisingly kid friendly. Longshadow Ranch Winery in Temecula has horses, llamas, even a small playground for kids. During the weekends, their outdoor patio nearby serves tastings or you can grab a bottle inside and relax at a table while your little one plays and explores. Wilson Creek Winery also has a little playground for the kids and even better, adult champagne slushies for the adults. Not all wineries have play areas but most are still surprisingly kid friendly with large grassy areas where they can play or run around through the grapevines. You’ll be chasing them around like usual but with a wine glass in hand so who can complain? Some of my other favorites are South Coast, Wiens, Ponte and Lorimar. When you’re ready for lunch/dinner, head down to Old Town and check out Public House or one of the many other great restaurants nearby. Take some time to walk around the little town and check out the shops they have to offer. For the kids, make a special stop at the Old Town Sweet Shop to get a sweet treat and possibly one of their small throwback toys. Now obviously drinking and driving is NOT cool, so pace yourselves and make sure to eat or designate a sober driver out of the group.
I hope you all have enjoyed my day trip ideas. Although some are local and some a bit farther, I promise they are all worth the drive if you can make it work. Sometimes what we all need (our children, too!) is a change of scenery to get a bit of a refresh. Ultimately it comes down to living in the moment and trying to have as much fun as you can. There’s nothing worse than spending your life looking forward to something and not embracing each day. So make the most of your next day off and get out there!