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La Brea Tar Pits:
5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323)934-7243.

The Page Museum is located at the La Brea Tar Pits, about 45 minutes from Santa Monica in the historical Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles. My kids were fascinated by this child-appropriate museum, just as I was as a kid. It is just right for kids--not too expansive inside, yet surrounded by paths, grassy areas and gardens on which kids can burn off steam after their indoor inquiries are satisfied. The Page Museum is also situated within walking distance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) so families can wander over there afterwards, if time permits.

The Page Museum and La Brea tar pits recreate pre-Los Angeles when animals roamed the basin and then became trapped in the asphalt deposits found heavily in the Rancho La Brea area. This museum is one of the country’s most replete fossil excavations and kids can view skeletons and recreations of Ground Sloths, Columbian Mammoths, Sabertoothed Cats, and Ancient Bison. Over thirty complete skeletons of fossil mammals and birds are on display, as well as thousands of other specimens.

Also of interest are the working laboratories which can be viewed through the windows inside the museum. Kids and adults can enjoy seeing scientists cleaning, examining and working with the fossils.

Right outside of the Page Museum, in Hancock Park, there are several life-sized recreations of extinct animals within a real tar pit, enabling kids to visualize the entrapment that had occurred.

The high quality and diversity of fossil preservation that occurred in Rancho La Brea was because the animals were buried rapidly in the thick tar. This is a very unique museum that kids will remember into adulthood. I never forgot it after my visits there when I was five.

Getty Villa:
17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. (310))440-7300.

You might not think of it as a kid-attraction, but the Getty Villa is fun for kids! Almost hidden in a narrow, wooded canyon in Pacific Palisades, the villa is an amazing re-creation of a first-century Roman country villa. It houses collections of classical Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art and antiquities including ancient Aztec sculptures, vessels, coins, gems, glass jewelry, and a real mummy. The kids’ activity room entertains young visitors for a long time with its hands-on activities such as vase decorating and shadow theatre. The atrium offers lovely gardens and stunning ocean views.

El Cholo Restaurant:
1025 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 899-1106.

Oh, the pleasure of indulging in an authentic L.A. Mexican restaurant! What could be more relaxing than enjoying the servers dish up sizzling meals in their costumed mariachi attire. El Cholo in Santa Monica was established in 1923 and though situated in the midst of trendy Wilshire Blvd, pulls you through a lovely time-warp to Old Mexico once you enter its doors. The old mission-styled adobe building is accented by colorful servers in big hats and hoop dresses. At the time of my visit, summer 2010, kids can order any item for $6.25: nachos, beef taquitos, quesadillas, cheese enchiladas. I enjoyed smoking hot shrimp fajitas, cooked to perfection. My kids were given the same red, white, and blue Popsicles for dessert as the ones sold on the ice cream trucks I remember as a child chiming through the L.A. neighborhoods.

Santa Monica Pier:
200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310)394-8042.

This landmark pier, built on wooden planks, originally opened in 1909. It is home to many seafood restaurants, souvenir retailers, street performers, a vintage merry-go-round, and a marine aquarium. Very pricey, but the kids have a ball on the rides that range from kiddie-paced to upside-down thrillers. My kids enjoyed a moderately fast roller coaster, the famous Ferris wheel, and a huge pendulum ride.

FEATURED RESORT: Meadowood Napa Valley

The Meadowood, in lovely Napa Valley, is characterized by gracious wine country hospitality and a brimming menu of resort amenities: two croquet lawns, seven tennis courts, a 9-hole walking golf course, a 25-yard lap pool, a family swimming pool and a complete health spa providing fitness services such as personal training and luxury treatments. The Meadowood is also a private club and a wine center with two restaurants, The Restaurant, for formal fare, and The Grill, for a more casual atmosphere. Read the full review. More>>