USA with children: Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Universal City Walk

Santa Monica with children

It’s now affordable to fly Oslo to Los Angeles

Early in 2016, Norwegian Airlines launched very affordable direct flights between Oslo and Los Angeles, so as soon as we know the school holidays dates for their October break, we made our booking. Oslo to LA return flight €400 cost us per person.

What to do in LA with children: visit Santa Monica!

We obviously spent a few days in Disneyland, so stay tuned for my post about it.

We also visited Santa Monica. It was the end of October and the weather was around 20 degrees celsius. So was the ocean. To our surprised the kids spent a whole hour playing with waves on the shallow beach right next to Santa Monica’s pier.

Santa Monica with children

Singlet and a scarf really? Yeah, although it can be quite warm in the valley, I always forget about the sea breeze! Lucky I packed my (newly bought Tommy Hilfiger Outlet store) scarf with me!

As a former Sydneysider, the beach reminded me a it of Manly beach. You just need to replace the pine trees with palm trees!

Santa Monica with children

We didn’t visit the pier and its attractions. What we can say though is that there was a lot of Pokémon Go activities going on: many Pokéstops full of lures and Pokemons popping everywhere. Lots of Arkanines and Magmars in the area.

Santa Monica with children

What we visited where the public toilets which are very decent!

Then then next stop was the mall where the kids had gelato and where we bought an extra bag to pack all the clothes we bought earlier at outlet stores in Phoenix, where we spent a week with my sister and her family. The mall also had a Disney store, Uniqlo, Bloomingdale’s, Nike store, but the kids didn’t let us visit any of those 🙁

Where to stay with children in LA: The Garland Hotel near Universal Studio

First my husband looked for AirBnB in Santa Monica, most apartments to fit the 4 of us was around $600 per night.  Then he found this hotel, for twice as cheap in North Hollywood: The Garland Hotel

Los Angeles with children- the Garland Hotel

What we loved at the Garland:

  1. Kids friendly rooms with inviting colorful bunk beds ad a private flat screen TV just for the kids
  2. Foosball table. OMG we probably spent a total of 6 hours over 2 days and 2 nights playing (and whingeing for those who didn’t win)
  3. The heated outdoor swimming pool
  4. Great quality fine dining with gourmet options whether you want to share a massive T-bone or are leaning towards a healthy kale salad.
  5. A Pokéstop and a pokemon Go Gym on the premises. That’s priceless.
  6. The decor: modern, designer styled with warm hues
  7. The free old style shuttle bus to Universal Studio departing every hour. It’s a mere 10 min ride to get there.
  8. Bathroom amenities with lavender, mint and other plant based beauty products in a slick packaging
  9. Price: $339 per night

Los Angeles with children- the Garland Hotel
Los Angeles with children- the Garland Hotel
Los Angeles with children- the Garland Hotel Los Angeles with children- the Garland Hotel The Garland Hotel and restaurant

What we didn’t like at The Garland

  • Proximity to the highway and poorly insulated rooms. It’s great when you want to go and visit LA. But when we checked into our first room, the noise from the highway was disturbing. We measured it to be around 40 decibels. That’s a real annoyance. All the kids rooms are facing the parking lot and the highway so it was tricky to change. We had to upgrade to a bigger room, located in another building. Then we had a much nicer view and less noise.
  • Breakfast is not included. The buffet is really nice with bagels, oatmeal, decent scrambled eggs (not too dry and diluted with milk like most hotels), fresh pancakes etc… but it was still setting us back approx $70 for 4 if you include tax and tips.

Universal City Walk

Our boys are 5 and 8 and haven’t read or watched Harry Potter yet. Nor have they watched real movies. they are still into animated movies. As such we decided to not visit Universal studio this time. However we spend two mornings at Universal City Walk which is a shopping strip with lots of souvenirs, restaurants but also brands like Abercrombie and Fitch!

What the boys loved the mos is of course Pokémon merchandise: soft toys, posters, T-shirts, Mega ball key rings…

Universal City Walk Los Angeles Universal City Walk Los Angeles Universal City Walk Los Angeles

Los Angeles with children- the Garland Hotel


Don’t hire a car, use Uber of Lyft

What people do when they visit Los Angeles is to hire a car. We tried something a bit different this time. We used Uber or Lyft and it seems like it worked out better for us:

Save time:

  • Save on the hour you spend to pick up the car from the rental place and the hour to fill up the tank and go back to the car rental area at the airport to return it
  • When you go somewhere you don’t have to worry to walk back to where you parked the car

Save the hassle

  • driving in LA, get stuck in traffic on the 405 with 2×5 lanes
  • parking

Save Money

  • No need to rent a car
  • Parking fee at the Garland hotel is $27 a day
  • Uber to go to back from Santa Monica to the Garland hotel in peak traffic was $27 (took an hour plus a stop to the toilets for the boys!)
  • Going from the Garland to LAX with an Uber XL to fit our 3 big suitcases and bags was $57, no tip needed
  • LAX to Disneyland is $50 in a Uber X and $90 in a Uber XL that fits 6 people plus luggage.

Want a discount code to try Uber? Try this one: D0G76 (it’s a Zero after the “D”)

Want to get free credits with Lyft? Sign up here.

Went to LA with kids? What are your tips and reco?

Los Angeles with children- the Garland Hotel

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.