Los Angeles is a sprawling, wildly diverse collection of neighborhoods that some call America’s largest suburb. While this is great for residents, who only have to hop into the car to indulge in a variety of authentic ethnic cuisines, shopping destinations, and more than 100 museums, it can easily overwhelm a visitor with just a few days to see the sights. The good news is that there’s something for everyone in America’s largest county, so plan accordingly. Some will be drawn to the trendy beach neighborhoods along the coast, such as Santa Monica and Malibu, while others will want to explore the kid-friendly attractions in Griffith Park, which range from pony rides to the famed Griffith Observatory. Movie buffs will get a thrill from walking along the Hollywood Walk of Fame of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, but may be more likely to see real stars if they stay at the right hotel.
Written by Liane Bonin Starr
Hollywood Orchid Suites
An affordable choice that wins kudos from guests for its central location (walking distance to the subway, and next door to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Hollywood & Highland shopping mall), Hollywood Orchid Suites may not win any awards for high style (many reviews call the hotel "tired"). However, with the Hollywood Bowl, the invitation-only Magic Castle, Madame Tusssauds Wax Museum and countless other attractions just steps away, guests aren't likely to be sitting in their rooms. Even if the decor is dated, the service is frequently praised by reviewers as being five-star, with free continental breakfast and fully equipped kitchens making the location homey. While the heated pool is small, rooms are spacious and quiet -- outside visitors are not allowed on the property after 9 p.m., so parties are never a problem.
Omni Los Angeles at California Plaza
Staying in business-oriented downtown may seem like an odd choice, but for parents who want to expose their kids to art, dance, fine food and classical music, it's just the place. Downtown is home to the newly-opened Broad Museum, the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the historic Phillippe's The Original restaurant and more, and older kids will appreciate the amazing sights and history right outside their hotel. The Omni is posh, but kids are welcome with a backpack of activities at check-in, as well as cookies and milk with turndown service. Even pets are allowed for an additional fee. There's an outdoor pool and an attached shopping mall as well, and while standard rooms are under 400 square feet, large families can get comfortable in suites that can be double or triple the size of a regular room.
A kid-friendly choice that's close to Universal Studios and Universal City Walk, The Garland The Garland is a little piece of Hollywood history itself. Founded by film and TV actress Beverly Garland, the boutique hotel is updated, but maintains some mid-century retro style befitting its background. The young ones will appreciate Kids Rooms, tiny spaces within a regular room with bunk beds and kids' artwork on the walls to make them feel at home, though grown-ups may balk at the $25-per-night fee for cribs and rollaway beds. Dive-In movies at the outdoor pool are a reason to stay onsite, but a visit to Universal is the primary reason to stay here. Free shuttle service from the hotel makes it even more convenient, though a main metro stop is a short drive away for a quick escape into the rest of the city, too.
This West Hollywood hotel is located on a quiet residential street, but don't assume that means it lacks L.A. glamour. The lobby walls are covered with photos of famous rock stars, many of whom decompress at the Sunset Marquis when not on tour. While the staff is happy to accommodate families with young children, older kids are more likely to be impressed by the hotel's place in rock 'n' roll history and the real rock stars they might see in the lobby or in the onsite restaurant (Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, the Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have all been guests). Even if you miss a star sighting, you'll still have plenty of reasons to enjoy your stay. Many of the 152 suites and villas have full kitchens, king beds and private balconies, and the hotel has two heated pools. The hotel even has its own Nightbird Recording Studios, which can be rented for a fee and are professional enough to have had artists like Christina Aguilera record there. Though the rooms are quiet Ã¢â‚¬â€œ there's a "no party" policy Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the lobby and the adjacent bar can have a decidedly festive atmosphere.
The Magic Castle Hotel
Located just blocks away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Magic Castle Hotelis a boutique Los Angeles hotel of just seven rooms with one very special perk. In addition to offering free laundry service and snacks to guests, the hotel also gives guests coveted access to the World Famous Magic Castle, which is just steps away. A members-only club for magicians and fans of magic (and the only one in the U.S.), the Magic Castle attracts performers from around the world to perform nightly in the last Victorian home still standing in its original location in Los Angeles. With a world-class, upscale restaurant and a host of magical memorabilia, the Castle is a uniquely L.A. attraction, but one that isn't open to the public. The hotel also has full kitchens in each room, a heated outdoor pool, a fitness center and a free continental breakfast.
Loews Hollywood Hotel
With 628 guestrooms and suites and 20 floors, the Loews Hollywood Hotel may lack intimacy, but it makes up for it with Hollywood hustle and bustle. Located a half-block from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and attached to the Hollywood & Highland shopping mall, the hotel is very much a scene. Thumping music is pumped into the lobby and rooms have views of iconic Hollywood sites such as the Capitol Records building and the Hollywood sign. While rooms have either double beds or a single king and the suites can be as large as 3,000 square feet (the Panorama Suite even has a baby grand piano and a dining room table that seats 10), this hotel isn't a great choice for a large family Ã¢â‚¬â€œ maximum occupancy for any room or suite is just four people.
Headed to L.A. for a beach vacation? The Shore Hotel is a contemporary, eco-conscious hotel just across the street from the Santa Monica shore. This doesn't mean visitors get a quiet escape from city life (that street just in front of the hotel is a major thoroughfare), but they do get a prime spot right in the center of Santa Monica's best restaurants, shops, and coffee bars. The hotel has 164 rooms and 30 suites with balconies (request an ocean-view room), and the showpiece is a large pool facing the street. In addition to the pool, the hotel has onsite dining and a fitness center.
The Langham Huntington, Pasadena
Dating back to 1865, the Langham is a Pasadena institution situated in the heart of a quiet residential area. Families will appreciate the Langham Kids program, which presents a teddy bear welcome backpack filled with coloring books. Complimentary s'mores are served poolside each evening, and little ones can even take a two-hour cooking class for an additional fee. There are onsite dining options, as well as an outdoor pool with cabanas. While nothing is within walking distance, Pasadena itself has plenty to offer, such as the Norton Simon Museum (kids are free), Old Town Pasadena's shopping and dining, and the Rose Bowl stadium, which also has a monthly flea market. The hotel has 380 guestrooms, 38 suites, eight cottages and one two-story penthouse, so every family can find a space that fits.
Hotel Casa Del Mar
While hardly a budget choice, this Santa Monica beachfront hotel could be an appealing splurge for the whole family. With suites featuring up to four bedrooms and living areas, there's definitely room for a brood of any size, and the low-key Italian restaurant onsite and poolside dining options make dining with kids stress-free. Proximity to the Santa Monica Pier and its Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, arcade and other amusements is just a 15-minute walk away -- close, but not too tantalizingly nearby that kids won't stop begging to go. Flat-screen TVs and hydrothermal massage tubs make staying in after a day at the beach tempting, but complimentary use of a hotel car, plus access to a bike path (bike rentals are available at Shutters next door) may get your family moving. Be warned: kids may want to play with the automated Zoltar fortune-telling booth in the lobby first.
The Beverly Wilshire
Parents will recognize the Beverly Wilshire from the 1990 movie "Pretty Woman," but even kids who aren't interested in the hotel's extensive history (everyone from Elvis to the Dalai Lama have been a guest) will find something to like about the 1928 building. Kids are welcomed with a Hollywood Walk of Fame cookie with their name on it, and 24/7 room service has options for tykes to tweens including organic baby food. For those who'd prefer to make their own, some suites have kitchenettes and dining rooms. There are even kid spa treatments available. For those who want the complete "Pretty Woman" experience, Rodeo Drive is just down the street. Younger kids will be impressed by the hotel's lending library of children's DVDs, which can be played in the hotel's large guestrooms.
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