Travel

A Winter Week in California

Joanna Goddard family portrait

Are you planning any trips this year? A couple weeks ago, our family went to L.A. to visit Alex’s mom. Traveling with kids is always nutty (flights, jet lag, meltdowns!), but California is such a tonic, especially in the winter. Here were three highlights…

Joanna Goddard and Toby

First, our beloved friend Nicki Sebastian (who broke my heart by moving from Brooklyn to L.A.) came over one morning to snap a few family photos. She has such a knack for capturing people’s personalities, like Toby’s sweet-as-pie nature…

Joanna Goddard and Anton

…and Anton’s rough-and-tumble playfulness! (He’s very into secret handshakes these days.)

Joanna Goddard and Alex

Alex pointed out that the way I’m standing looks like a photoshop error, haha. #wheresthefoot

This year, we also discovered Bird Scooters, the new shared electric scooters. Have you tried them? They’re scattered around the sidewalks; you unlock one with an app, ride it to your destination (for a couple dollars), and then just lock and leave it wherever. Alex and I rode them to dinner one night, and it felt so fun and freeing!

Felix LA

Felix LA

We were psyched to nab a table at Felix, a buzzy Italian restaurant that opened last April. One cool thing: On the menu, the pastas are divided into four areas in Italy — the north, center, south, and islands. We went for the cacio e pepe (from the center) and pappardelle bolognese (from the north), but you could also get seafood pasta from the islands or kale and fennel pasta from the south. I would love love love to go back and try more.

Toby and Anton

But the boys’ favorite things always stay the same: the Venice boardwalk and, maybe most of all, the neighborhood Whole Foods, which has shopping carts that look like cars. They’re always begging to go grocery shopping. Thank you for having us, L.A. We love you. xoxo

Where do you go on family vacations? If you’ve visited L.A. (or live there), what are your go-to spots?

P.S. 10 tips for flying with a baby, and 16 ways to travel with kids (and actually enjoy it).

(Top portraits by Nicki Sebastian. Felix kitchen photo by Alan Gastelum. Felix photo via Instagram.)

  1. Great photos, Joanna! They reminded me of JCPenny catalog – don’t get me wrong, that inspired me to become a full time photographer and part time traveler! :)

  2. randi bellios says...

    Was just in LA with three kids. They obsessed the Bird Scooters..
    We rode them on the boardwalk between Santa Monica and Venice.
    We ate at the most amazing Thai spot…Night Market… we all loved ..
    Atmosphere so fun and the food is so so great!

  3. Jenna Green says...

    Love the family photos! Any chance you could do a review of the ojai valley inn? Thinking about a CA trip this fall and saw your Instagram posts. Thank you!

  4. Stephanie says...

    I just love exploring LA with my kids! One of our new discovered faves is hiking up to the Bronson Canyon Caves in Griffith Park (breath taking!). We get out to the beach once a month which I always love (especially Matador) but since we live in Ktown there seems to be SO MUCH located centrally and east to do with our kids. I guess I just got use to being so close to so many great things living in Brooklyn that living centrally in LA suits us well :)

  5. I just saw those scooters for the first time this weekend – we live in LA and I’m kind of in a rut. We basically just live on Larchmont Blvd.

  6. I moved to LA a year ago and live on the coastal westside and I love it. True, I try to stay out of downtown Santa Monica on the weekends and in the summer, but I still frequent Santa Monica and Venice often. I walk on the beach at least once a week, which is 2 miles from my house and it’s fantastic. I spend a lot of time in Malibu; it’s my favorite place (I’m a beach person). But we do hang out all over LA – downtown, Korea Town, etc – to eat food, explore the neighbors and visit art museums. As long as we mind the traffic times, it’s all doable.

    • I am also a beach person, and New Yorker considering a move to LA 😬
      If I move to LA I 100% want to be within a 15 minute walk from the beach. I’m curious to know why you avoid Santa Monica on the weekends.

    • Lisa says...

      Santa Monica can just get crazy with tourists and whatnot on the weekends. My brother lives there and they tend to avoid the main drag on the weekends as well.

  7. Haylee says...

    Wow, didn’t realize there were so many LA-based CoJ readers! We should organize a meet-up :)

    • Yeah!!!

    • CK says...

      Yes, please!

  8. Laura says...

    Ah Ii’ve been seeing those Bird scooters ALL OVER Santa Monica. I’m always jealous of people riding them.

  9. On Saturday we’re leaving for the UK, then Levi, Finland. My brother-in-law is getting married there in an ice chapel under the Northern Lights.

  10. Alison D. says...

    Joanna, that dress is flawless. I am heading from Brooklyn to LA next week and this really got me in the mood for that California Sunshine (also grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do out there too)!

  11. I just got back from a weekend in Savannah with a few friends and will be flying to LA for a TWIN bday celebration with my twin and our friend will join us. We’ll be staying in Echo Park and so far just have The Broad and dinner at Redbird on the itinerary. Will be adding Getty for sure.

    Any other recommendations? THANKS!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’m sure LA-based readers will have many more recs, but i love these two italian spots:

      * Alimento in Silver Lake. a lovely spot and have the MOST incredible desserts, especially this chocolate pot thing, omg i would go back just for that: http://www.alimentola.com/
      * Little Dom’s in Los Feliz. super relaxed, pub feel. delicious food. http://www.littledoms.com/

    • Pam says...

      I live in Silver Lake and agree with Joanna’s suggestions. Little Dom’s is my favorite place for a cozy, casual italian meal with great cocktails. My two other favorite places that also have excellent reviews are Night + Market Song and Pine and Crane.
      Guisados Tacos is Echo Park is good too.

      As far as activities: Melrose Trading Post is a flea market that happens every Sunday from 9-5 at Fairfax highschool (Fairfax and Melrose).
      Upright Citizens Brigade – (Franklin location) For awesome improv and sketch comedy, celebrity sightings and up and coming/established comedians.
      Groundlings – Similar to Upright Citizens Brigade. Improv and Sketch comedy.
      Griffith Observatory – Park at the Greek Theater and hike up or take a shuttle.
      Also in Griffith Park is the beautiful Fern Dell walk.
      Of course the Venice Canals and boardwalk are nice as well.
      Little Tokyo and the Arts District (walkable from the Broad downtown) are fun areas.
      Echo Park avenue is pretty as well and has some fun shops on it.

    • Pam had some great suggestions (you gotta go to Griffith Park and observatory). Be sure to spend some time in DTLA. I love the rooftop bar at the Ace hotel (had my 30th birthday there a few years ago!). Also my neighborhood in Highland Park is definitely happening. We have two main drags, Figueroa (locals just call it Fig) and York. Both have a ton of eateries, shopping, and bars. Fig also has amazing coffee shops so you can do a good little coffee crawl, hitting up Civil Coffee, Kindness and Mischief, and Mr. Holmes Bakehouse within a few blocks. Oh and vegan food at Kitchen Mouse (also on Fig). Throw in a visit to Sunbeam Vintage or have brunch at Cafe Birdie or Good Girl Dinette and you’ve got a great little NELA morning!

    • Nicole says...

      Pam pretty much hit it out of the park. Only thing I’d add is LACMA

    • CK says...

      Bar Stella for cocktails!

    • CK says...

      oh and you must go to The Trails Cafe before walking up to Griffith Park Observatory. The best Lavender shortbread in the world!

  12. I grew up in Orange County and now live in Santa Barbara, so I’m partial to everything north and south of the LA. Come visit Santa Barbara the next time you’re in California. You’ll love the low key, Riviera vibe!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oooh i’d love that!!!

  13. Sarah says...

    From NYC but currently living in LA here. I love visiting the Noah’s Ark exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center in West LA. Such a fun exhibit for kids… All hands on play but beautifully done. It is free on Thursdays. https://www.skirball.org/noahs-ark
    My second fav place with kids is the Kidspace museum in Pasadena by the Rose Bowl, which also has a couple of fun playgrounds (one that us often called the pirate ship playground too) nearby. Santa Anita mall in Arcadia which isn’t too far from Pasadena also has a cute indoor and outdoor play area for kids in close vicinity to a ton of great Asian restaurants/eateries.

    Love watching the skate park in Venice too. Have you seen the canals there? It was fun seeing your LA pics.
    Felix looks delicious! I’ll have to check that out! Thanks.

    • We loved Noah’s Ark when we went! We live about 10 minutes from Kidspace and have a membership so we go there all the time. It’s the best!

  14. e says...

    what a great trip :)) venice has so much good stuff (eggslut! gjusta/gjelina/gjelina take away!) but so do other neighborhoods. I second the notions for grand central market and salt & straw (such fabulous ice cream) in DTLA. and also: sun nong dan for short rib stew in ktown and los cinco puntos for tacos in boyle heights. down in LA’s south bay, my neighborhood, we have great hiking with tide pools and whale watching in palos verdes, as well as excellent japanese and hawaiian food in torrance and gardena.

    moving to NY this summer. oh LA, i’m gonna miss you so much :/

  15. Pamela says...

    Hehe, I scrolled down to see if anyone had anything to say about Bird and yes, locals! In theory, fantastic idea, but requires more consideration in practice …

  16. Jill says...

    So glad you had fun! I live in West LA and everything you mentioned are things that annoy me about LA. Soooo, it’s nice to put things in perspective and appreciate the small things. (or what drives me crazy about LA – over priced trendy restaurants of the moment, crowded beaches even in winter and those bird scooters, one which recently ran into my car, can you get more LA? Luckily the rider and my Prius was not harmed, again, can you get more LA than that?) Those are gorgeous photos!!!!!

  17. Tracy says...

    Loved the photos from your trip!!!! I’m glad you had such a great time. We live on the border of Santa Monica and Venice. My son is a teenager now, but when he was little he loved feeding the ducks at the Venice canals (there’s also a tiny park there for little kids). Hal’s on Abbott Kinney has food adults AND kids will like – they are very family friendly and the restaurant is nice. La Cabana on Rose and Lincoln is very inexpensive. It has great fish tacos and margaritas – and, a great kids’ menu. Young boys might enjoy the Santa Monica airport – you can sit outside on bleachers and watch planes land while listening to the broadcast conversations between the flight tower and pilots. The Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades is worth seeing (not interesting for kids, but beautiful). If you’re making the trip out here and you have little kids consider making the drive down to Legoland – not at rush hour, but at the weekend – it’s better than Disneyland for young kids – especially boys (Amtrak runs from downtown down close to Legoland, too). The Expo line running between Santa Monica and downtown LA is efficient. The Broad Museum downtown is wonderful – you must make reservations in advance – don’t attempt waiting in line. Thank you again for your great site – I enjoy it so much.

  18. Jana Banana says...

    I live here just South of LA. My favorite spot of all is Balboa Island. Ride the 3 car ferry and grab a Balboa Bar or some adult beverages and amazing food at The Royal Hen. The sunshine is good medicine :)

  19. Charlotte K says...

    My niece and her family (kids 9 and 12) spent Xmas in Venice, CA instead of spending on gifts and it seemed like such a dream vacation with kids! So much to see and do.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great idea to use gift money for experiences!

  20. What a great trip! Flying south in the winter is always nice. We are actually taking a family trip to Seattle this weekend. Just to explore. xoxo

    • elisa says...

      Great timing, it’s supposed to be gorgeous here this weekend! Enjoy Seattle :)

  21. I live in LA and my go to spots are the Getty and Griffith park which is so touristy!! And there is of course sprinkles which I am completely in love with. I guess I do a lot of the touristy things!

    • emmanuella says...

      Same. I’m an L.A. native so I’ve lived here 30…something (eeks, I’m getting old) years and my favorite things to do are still the most touristy. But I always say: tourist attractions are touristy for a reason- they’re fun!

    • Going to LA for the first time at the end of March to celebrate my bday with my twin and our friend. Getty is definitely on the list!!

  22. Our boys’ break overlaps so we are going to check out Pittsburgh for a long weekend! I like your dress too!

  23. Born and raised Angeleno over here! One thing about LA is how varied it is in its neighborhoods/regions. I literally cannot remember the last time I was on the West Side or at those types of beaches (Santa Monica/Venice, etc.) Like, you couldn’t pay me to go over there unless maybe I was spending the night! I live in Highland Park, Northeast LA. I always tell people to go to the Griffith Observatory, and also try to catch a concert at either the Greek Theater or the Hollywood Bowl–both are totally iconic Los Angeles, in my opinion. I also love the Huntington Library and Gardens, especially since I have a 2 year old and she loves the children’s garden there. It’s such a relaxing way to enjoy the California weather. I guess I’m bent toward Pasadena because I lived there for a long time, but I also love the Langham hotel as a splurge!

    • Jill says...

      I’m a West LA native and still live near Holmby Hills/ Century City. But we spend all of our free time in Korea Town and Silverlake, Highland Park and Echo Park. I love my home but it’s a bit boring in West LA! The food cannot be beat on the East side!!! I barely ever go to the beach as well, even though Im about 5 miles away!

    • Helga Thomsen says...

      Ditto on everything here – maybe because I live in Eagle Rock so I have a NELA point of view too. I love downtown. We have relatives visiting from NC this summer and are looking forward to taking them to the Broad and then to Grand Central Market for lunch with a stop at The Last Bookstore. Anyone here in the summer should definitely go to the Hollywood Bowl or the Ford. I also love seeing the Independent Shakespeare Company perform at the old zoo in Griffith Park. Then when you want to escape everything you can hike in Angeles Crest or walk the Arroyo Seco.

    • Nicole says...

      Yes all of this- Huntington Library! Griffith observatory! And for sure for sure forever the Hollywood Bowl!!! Man I miss those days I lived in Burbank…

  24. Lindsay says...

    I grew up near San Francisco but my parents have lived in southern California for many years. I haven’t been all over but I absolutely adore Laguna beach and San Clemente. I also love going at the beginning of September as all the crowds disappear and you have it all to yourself! It’s just heaven. Secluded parks by water at sunset eating in & Out or tacos. I can recommend Eva’s carribean kitchen for a great dinner too. That said, I have to say I do love San Francisco and Carmel by the sea more than southern CA. If you go there, go in late Sept, not summer time. :)

  25. Meghan says...

    This isn’t a family vacation, but I’m actually taking my first solo “fun trip” in what feels like forever! I’m going to Dallas in May for the weekend to see The Popcast with Knox & Jamie live show (and one of my dear friends from college) and I’m SO excited :) My husband travels roughly once a month for work while I stay home and solo parent our kids (3.5 and 1.5…aka the “delightful” years), so being able to fly on a plane BY MYSELF and do something fun in another city is going to be amazing!

    • Kathy says...

      Meghan – have so much fun! I have a similar situation with young kids and a hubby that travels for work and have been dreaming of a girls trip. Enjoy!!!!!

  26. june2 says...

    If I went to LA, I’d go to Sqrl…can’t wait to check out the cookbook. The photo’s here are great, you look sooooo happy! But I guess getting to ride scooters to dinner would make anyone happy, lol!

    • emmanuella says...

      I just recently tried their overpriced jam on toast and it’s definitely worth the splurge for jam on toast!

    • Helga Thomsen says...

      Definitely go and just deal with the parking because everything on the menu is delicious.

  27. Kimberlier says...

    My kiddos are 5 & 7. This year we are driving from LA to Las Vegas and renting an RV for Spring Break. Will then head to Southern Utah- Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches National Parks. PS- we are also bring our puppy! It’s going to be bananas! I can’t wait.

    • Ann-Marie says...

      We did this with my daughter and niece. They got all of the Junior Ranger badges, did great hikes (fueled by snacks at the end), and saw amazing sights. A decade later, the main thing they remember is that Ruby’s Inn at Bryce as a giant pool. Have fun! It’s a great trip.

    • sasha says...

      What a fun trip!! You and your family will love it, southern Utah is magnificent and the weather will be so nice that early.

      Do be careful with your puppy. There are many precipices (staggering, awe inspiring and downright terrifying), they are less roped off and protected than one might expect and the slick red rock, is, well, slick. I’m sure you’ll keep pup on leash, I remember a lot of signage about where dogs are allowed and not.

  28. Kara says...

    I love framing kid travel as “nutty” instead of stressful/difficult, etc, I’ll have to remember that next time I do it!

    The boys’ favorite being the local Whole Foods cracked me up, kids are so funny. My dad was in the grocery business, so every trip we’d check out local grocery stores to see what kind of different products they have or how they were set up. I still love perusing grocery stores on trips.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      me too!!! european grocery stores are so much fun. my grandparents’ town in england has the best potato chip flavors, like shrimp cocktail. and i LOVE french yogurts.

    • shannon says...

      We almost always end up in grocery stores while traveling. I’ll never forget being jetlagged in London and stumbling into a grocery store for a banana, yogurt, and chocolate croissant for “dinner” before falling asleep at 7pm. We even stocked up on PB&J and bread during our honeymoon in French polynesia. It’s a great option to save time and money when you just don’t want to eat a full meal out.

  29. Allison says...

    We just booked our first airplane trip for my 2.5 yr old twin ladies. We’re headed to LA from Kentucky. Reading through your various stories about trips to CA with the boys is helping me build up the courage that I need. The last time we were in LA I was 8 weeks pregnant with the girls, so I know it’s going to be an entirely different experience… a little scared. Please send positive vibes my way in mid May!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you’ll have the best time!!! the california sunshine is just so great :) how cute that you have twins.

    • Kimberlier says...

      If it’s warm, check out Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica- beautiful, art deco public pool right on the beach. There is also a playground, splash pad and a cafe right there. Plus you can walk down to the sand. It’s a great place for families!

    • Morgan says...

      You can do it mama! I have almost 3 year old “twin ladies” (loving that) and we are finally braving air travel this summer for a trip to Austin.

    • Don’t know where you’re staying in LA, but I live in Highland Park (hipster neighborhood ;)) and one of the best coffee shops is Civil Coffee. It’s beautiful, has great coffee, fantastic people watching, and the best part? A huge back patio I lovingly refer to as the Romper Room. It’s where all of us toddler parents hang out and let the kids and dogs run around! You may see me there on a Saturday or Sunday morning. ;)

    • Dana says...

      Travel with toddler twins can be done! We live in NYC but I’m from LA and my husband’s from the Chicago area, so we fly quite a bit with our (almost 3 year old) twin boys. By 2.5, I found they had enough attention span and patience to actually sit in the seat and just play with toys or watch a little movie. But I’ve got an early riser so the time difference kills us on the West Coast. Wake up call at 2 am PT, anyone?

  30. I’m an Angeleno (well currently a West Hollywood-er) and a week (usually) doesn’t go by without me going to Zuma beach for surfing, Largo or UCB for live podcast tapings/improv, I LOVE to walk my dog down Melrose and look at all the awesome street art, and the Downtown LA Public Library is the best of the bunch (plus I get to go to DTLA which I always sort of forget to do).

    I also love Olvera street! A funny story: my mom’s birthday is May 5, and her dad used to take her down there for the Cinco de Mayo celebrations and her dad (the perpetual joker) told her they were celebrating her birthday, and as a little kid she believed him and got SO excited to go to her “street party”! :) He corrected her early enough so she learned to appreciate the REAL celebration, but always loves being there on the 5th.

    I’m glad you had a blast here! It’s my favorite city and I’m so glad I live here.

    • jen says...

      Love Olvera Street. My niece was born on the 4th of July, so, yep, she was told everyone was celebrating her b-day.

    • Omg I love the story about Olvera Street. I grew up taking the MetroLink there for a fun day with my mom and sisters (from Valencia)!

    • Oh my gosh I love the 4th of July story too!! Little kids are hilariously gullible :D

      And isn’t it so great how much LA’s trains are expanding? I can’t wait to be able to get around the city without my dumb car (or spending $$$$ on Lyft).

      Anyway, Olvera street for the win! :)

  31. Claire says...

    Currently at the Getty, enjoying the shady garden and bird calls with my 3 year old. Rarely need to even make it inside the galleries.

  32. Lucy in England says...

    Ahhh this is so lovely! And it looks warm! Was it warm?

    We are just about to take the plunge and book flights from London to LA for a dear friend’s wedding next NYE. With two kids who will be nearly 4 and nearly 2.

    I’m sure they will have a ball when they get there and the flight out will be ok (will use all your hints and tricks) but the jet lag and return leg are already making me feel tired.

  33. Claire says...

    Currently at the Getty, enjoying the shady garden and bird calls with my 3 year old. Rarely make it inside the galleries.

  34. Erin says...

    This post is getting me excited for our family spring break trip to San Diego next week. Would love to tap the CoJ hive mind for recs on San Diego activities that will appeal to 12- and 14-year-old boys. In exchange, I’ll share tips for Austin attractions for this age group.

    • sasha says...

      We went about eight years ago, one of our best family trips.
      Our favorites: Torrey Pines, Balboa Park, Cabrillo, La Jolla cove, all the beaches, especially the dog friendly beach. There’s a wonderful Japanese garden too.
      One of the best days we ever spent as a family was a long morning exploring tidal pools, Balboa Park and sunset fetch at the dog beach.

      You do you, but having been to the zoo and Sea world when kids were tiny, and not being as aware as I am now, those are things I would definitely skip.

    • San Diego native here! We have so many amazing things to do and see here. It really depends on what you’d like to do and where you’re staying.

      It’s still cold here, so you may not want to hit up the beaches, but my top recommended beach is usually La Jolla Shores/La Jolla Cove. It’s always a great place to head to at any age (surfing, snorkeling/scuba diving, kayaking, tide pools, great restaurants, watching the seals, etc.). Mission Beach/Belmont Park has a great historic wooden roller coaster and boardwalk games/arcades. It might be too cold, but Cabrillo Monument in Point Loma has great tide pools. Coronado beach is lovely with the Hotel Del as a backdrop; maybe head to the Hotel Del for lunch or dinner.

      Balboa park is gorgeous and a must see, even if you don’t plan to head to any of the museums (which are fantastic!). I have loved the zoo at any age—they just opened some great new exhibits over the last year, too. Take a walk along the waterfront park downtown and pop in to the maritime museums to see tall ships, a submarine, and an aircraft carrier. Then take a trip in to neighboring Little Italy for dinner.

      Old Town San Diego is a nice place to wander for a couple hours, have lunch, or tour a haunted house. We have so many great restaurants scattered all over the city. There are some fantastic breweries if you like beer and if you feel like driving, about an hour outside the city there are some great wineries.

    • Vicki says...

      Yep! Our zoo is really amazing, even for big kids. There’s also the San Diego safari park, run by the zoo, which has large enclosures and offers lots of extra “adventures” like a ropes course and zip line, but all those extras are $$$! You can’t go wrong with La Jolla shores and La Jolla cove or hiking at Torrey pines. The Maritime Museum down near the harbor is really fun! Have a good trip!

    • Rez says...

      This may sounds crazy town but if you’re up for a real adventure – bring your passports and head to Tijuana! It’s a great day trip from SD and there are some amazing restaurants. A quick google search will point you in the right direction. We live in SD and encourage all our visitors to head over for the day. It’s fun!

      I second Torrey Pines, Coronado Island, etc. You can rent sea kayaks in the beach communities and cruise around. Liberty Station is a cool area to grab some food and walk around. Little Italy’s Farmer’s Market is super cool for people watching, musicians on corners, and delicious bites. There’s a tour you can do down on harbor drive where you go into a submarine, onto the Star of India ship and something else. The battleship Midway May be cool for your sons..

      There are harbor cruises too. Damn this is getting long! Just go to a tourist booth and read the pamphlets!

    • Joaquina says...

      Born and raised in SD. Hit up Balboa Park (lunch/dine at Panama 66), La Jolla cove, Coronado. For cute shops and fun restaurants, spend a few hours in North Park.

    • Erin says...

      Love this community. Thanks for all the fantastic recommendations! I cut and pasted them into my trip document.

  35. Sabrina says...

    A few years ago my retired parents said enough! to Minnesota’s long winters and bought a place in Fort Myers, Florida. We make the trek down there every February and it’s wonderful. My kids are starting to realize that you can have warm weather even in the winter and they don’t want to leave. When we arrived back home in MN my 6 year old said, I’m sick of school. I want to go to the pool everyday and have fun!
    Me too kiddo. Me too!

  36. Cristina says...

    Looks like a wonderful escape! How do you find babysitting services when you travel?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      We have friends in LA, so they recommend their regular sitters. We’ve used Sittercity in Austin and Atlanta, too, and we’ve always found wonderful young women.

  37. Asha says...

    Perfect timing! I’m taking a break from packing for our trip to visit my family in Encinitas (north of San Diego). I’ve lived in Austin for 4 years now but still look for that ocean on the horizon. Looking forward to getting my feet wet and listening to my boys exclaim about “sea crabs” (their description) and make some serious sandcastles. . We ease back into our old routine of beach days and catch up with old friends. Just what I need to rejuvenate.

    • Tara says...

      Hey, North County!! I grew up in Carlsbad but live in Seattle now. Just booked a spring break jaunt to see my parents in Carlsbad and several siblings who are scattered across San Diego (Pt. Loma, Descanso and Oceanside). My boys are 12 and 14 and LOVE Moonlight Beach in Encinitas and are big fans of strolling PCH and checking out the surf shops and frozen yogurt offerings. They like hiking Torrey Pines and trying to spot dolphins. I need to go back every couple of months and jump in the ocean–it’s too cold to do that up here. Have a great trip back yourself!

  38. Lizzie says...

    I just booked flights to Myrtle Beach to spend a week with a friend and her family. I haven’t seen this friend in more than 4 years, and dreaming of this trip is going to get me through the next few months!

    I’ve also never been to the area (actually one of the islands south of Myrtle Beach) and would love to know of fun, kid-friendly things to do…besides, you know, beach time!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so fun!!!

    • Gretchen says...

      Lizzie, don’t miss Brookgreen Gardens, and right across the street is Atalaya, an incredible, empty, Moorish-style castle on the beach!

  39. Meghan says...

    We are hitting up the west coast in May and going to Vancouver, British Columbia.

  40. The next time you’re in LA, ride Angel’s Flight (the boys will love it!) in DTLA and grab a bite at Grand Central Market (Sari Sari is my current fave). The Broad is nearby too.

  41. Elise says...

    Hi,

    Wonderful photos!

    I am curious about the dress too. Oh, for a simple all purpose dress……
    Elise

    • Oh, what a great treat! We’re headed there next week with our six-year-old for spring break. We haven’t been since our honeymoon in 2004!

      Excited to check out your post!!

  42. Hillary says...

    My favorite go-to spots are basically all in DTLA: the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market, and the Broad. Oh, and you can’t forget ice cream at Salt and Straw :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YUM!!!! we love lacma, too, which is fun for both kids and adults. i’d love to go to the broad next time!

  43. Deborah says...

    Yes,! That dress?

  44. Kari says...

    Three highlights are not enough! I want to see more and vicariously live through you! (I’m in snowy Canada so California looks extra magical right now.) Also, you had to have known we’d all want to know where the dress is from… ;) So pretty!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      aww, thank you! it’s from ace and jig: https://aceandjig.com/

    • sasha says...

      Same! More sunshine please ☺️
      We’ve got, I don’t, four more months of winter up here??!

  45. Kate says...

    Can you share links to your rental homes? I remember a similar post and found it so useful. Thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      of course! we actually stayed in the PRETTIEST place in venice. you could walk a couple blocks to the cute stores on lincoln, or walk 10-15 minutes to abbot kinney. the house itself was full of books, games, comfy beds, indoor fireplace, garden with a fire pit, etc. my mother-in-law came to stay, too, and it was perfect.
      https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/select/237988

      the same owner also has two cute casitas on the property for smaller groups (like 1-2 people, or a couple with a baby):
      https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6446853
      https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/237985

      we’ve stayed in a bunch of places in venice over the years, and this was the nicest place we stayed by far. i’d definitely recommend it! xoxo

    • Jo says...

      Omg, is a home tour on an Airbnb ever a possibility?! I am coveting everything in that house!!!

    • Morgan says...

      *swoon* Gah! Can I live here?

  46. lydia says...

    joanna i love your sweet family photos! our favorite ones are always the candids where the photographer gets everyone’s personalities and expressions so spot on. those are the ones that make me teary looking back on them. the way you describe toby in your post (and anton for that matter) made me think of a documentary i just watched on netflix called “the masks you live in” it’s about raising boys and trying to get out from under the culture that’s telling boys to “be a man” from such a young age. i’d love to know if you’ve seen it and if you haven’t what your thoughts are once you watch it. it was powerful and it’s made me reevaluate so much of what i do and say to my 12 year old son. xo

    here’s a link to the trailer just in case you’d like to see it. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hc45-ptHMxo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this sounds amazing, lydia! going to watch it this week for sure.

    • Rae says...

      I would love the issue Lydia just brought up to be a blog post discussion. Changing the cultural expectations on boys seems to me the only way feminism can fully arrive. The space we hold for our boys may be powerful but it is small — we must enlarge it to allow space for all of our children to be respected and feel themselves.

    • Sarah says...

      just watched the trailer. very enlightening. thanks for sharing. i agree that a further discussion into this would be great. raising my own son and wondering how to do it best, and especially in light of all the things in the news lately.

  47. Meghan says...

    I live in Venice and everyday when I get in my car I think, Okay, Meghan- DON’T hit a bird scooter with your minivan. They’re everywhere and often disobeying traffic rules or blazing down the sidewalk. And at the Venice whole foods, I actually try to talk my sons out of the car carts because they are so hard to maneuver and I once plowed into a LaCroix display haha. Your post is making me feel a bit like a curmudgeon! Small differences in attitude between visiting and living in a place, but most days I pinch myself that i get to raise my kids here, and your pictures are lovely.

  48. Laura C. says...

    My family vacations use to be going to my in-law’s, that means Italy.
    People usually tell me: “Oh lucky you, you’re going to Italy!! I say: “NO, I’m not going to a wonderful Toscana cottage, I’m going to my in-law’s”. That’s different.
    I read somewhere that planning a trip although you’re not gonna make it, is a way to fight sadness. SO currently I’m planning a trip to Prince Edward Island. Yes, it’s sooooo far. But it is not impossible, right?
    Jo, every time you go to LA it seems to me that sooner or later you’re going to switch coasts!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oooh, prince edward island looks so dreamy. i totally agree with planning trips you might not even take. it’s so fun just to scroll through rental houses and their pretty gardens :)

    • Maureen G says...

      Laura – Your comment brought back some memories! For 22 years my in-laws were in Ireland. Vacation days were nearly always spent on trips there…and ppl thought I was so lucky to go. Most times we stacked and hauled turf, although one time my husband built a kitchen for his sister…haha!

    • GM says...

      PEI is my favourite place in the entire world! So easy, relaxing and beautiful….make sure to go to Greenwich Sand Dunes, Basin Head, AND if you can… try to book in for dinner at Michael Smith’s restaurant at the Inn at Bay Fortune….The Feast was such a FUN and delicious experience. 100% worth it http://innatbayfortune.com/dining/

  49. edie says...

    Loved this! You’re right – the photographer really captured ya’ll well.

    My friends are headed to San Dieog soon and are hunting for recs. Anyone? So far, their list consists of Starlite, George’s on the Cove, and Communal Coffee.

    • Jen says...

      We just went over winter break! We love San Diego.
      Definitely check out Liberty Public Market. Reminded me of SF’s Ferry Plaza. Amazing food hall with small shops. Crack Shack is a great place to take kids for Fried chicken, beer, cocktails, and the planes literally fly over this restaurant. And if you can get out for an adult night out, definitely get drinks at Polite Provisions and a meal at Cucina Urbana.

    • Laura says...

      The Gaslamp Quarter – very lively and very walkable! and a baseball game at Petco Park, if they’re into that.

    • Colleen S says...

      I grew up in San Diego, so I basically just recommend people go to La Jolla Shores. It’s my favorite beach, although others like to visit the more well known beaches like Mission Beach or Ocean Beach. I also love Old Town San Diego and Seaport Village.

    • I’m a San Diego native. I responded to a comment above, but I’ll copy/paste my response here.
      We have so many amazing things to do and see here. It really depends on what you’d like to do and where you’re staying.

      It’s still cold here, so you may not want to hit up the beaches, but my top recommended beach is usually La Jolla Shores/La Jolla Cove. It’s always a great place to head to at any age (surfing, snorkeling/scuba diving, kayaking, tide pools, great restaurants, watching the seals, etc.). Mission Beach/Belmont Park has a great historic wooden roller coaster and boardwalk games/arcades. It might be too cold, but Cabrillo Monument in Point Loma has great tide pools. Coronado beach is lovely with the Hotel Del as a backdrop; maybe head to the Hotel Del for lunch or dinner.

      Balboa park is gorgeous and a must see, even if you don’t plan to head to any of the museums (which are fantastic!). I have loved the zoo at any age—they just opened some great new exhibits over the last year, too. Take a walk along the waterfront park downtown and pop in to the maritime museums to see tall ships, a submarine, and an aircraft carrier. Then take a trip in to neighboring Little Italy for dinner.

      Old Town San Diego is a nice place to wander for a couple hours, have lunch, or tour a haunted house. We have so many great restaurants scattered all over the city. There are some fantastic breweries if you like beer and if you feel like driving, about an hour outside the city there are some great wineries.

      Also: Lucha Libre is an amazing taco shop experience near starlite. Make a reservation for their champions booth ;-) or if you prefer pizza, I really like pizza e birra which is even closer to starlite.

      If you give me an idea of what they’re in to I can suggest other things, too. :)

    • Joaquina says...

      Starlite is rad! Def a local spot. When in La Jolla, stroll into “We Olive’, head toward the back, sit and drink/nosh whilst enjoying the view!
      Oh and ignore the rec for Gaslamp. It is the worst spot of SD.

    • edie says...

      thank you everyone! very helpful.
      Tina, they’re really just wanting to see local spots and having amazing seafood :) any specific beaches that are “hidden gems”? Perhaps that doesn’t exist haha.

    • Sadly I’m not a seafood person so I’m no help there. There are a few hidden gem beaches, but they’re mostly local surf spots—they’re usually 2hr max parking (enforced, I learned the hard way…a few times), have nothing around them (no bathrooms, restaurants or stores nearby), and terrible parking, but I’ve been going to them my whole life, so I love them. My secret is to use the surfline cameras to decide where to head. It has cameras at the major beaches as well as some local surf spots.

  50. Saundra Williams says...

    That dress! Please do tell…

    • Meg says...

      Ace & Jig! I have it and love it.

  51. So fun! My husband is running the LA Marathon at the end of the month (I know), so we’re trekking out from Denver with our 1 and 3 year olds for a long weekend. I’m not making it sound very relaxing, am I? I’ll be checking back on the comments for ideas though!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that will be really fun!!! which neighborhood are you staying in?

    • Elizabeth says...

      Ohhhh, altitude to sea level! I used to live in Denver and whenever I booked a vacation I’d book a run or cycling race just to use the altitude to my advantage. My best PR happened during a vacation to the beach in Mexico.

    • Fun! Even though it’s not in LA proper, I highly recommend The Huntington Library and Gardens with your little ones. It’s in Pasadena (about 15 min or so outside of DTLA). It’s so stinking beautiful, just that beautiful California light, AND they have a children’s garden which is an absolute hit for kids your daughters’ ages.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES to the children’s garden at The Huntington Library and Gardens. it’s really interactive and magical.

    • We have an Airbnb in Los Feliz. Loving all these ideas!

  52. Gen says...

    That dress is so pretty, where did you get it?

    I live in West LA and have been seeing those Bird scooters everywhere! So happy people (mostly young ones) are using a different form of getting around other than driving, especially here. Its nice that its a public-share system but you can leave the scooter anywhere, unlike bike shares where you typically have to make sure there’s a slot available when you park it.

    • Gen says...

      Thanks for the link! Also next time you’re here, the west side has a Japantown of its own called Sawtelle that has tons of amazing Asian food and dessert, is super walkable and is just off the Expo line. I recently moved a year ago from NYC/Jersey City and having been loving it here :)