Although my troops have been in Los Angeles and West Hollywood many times, we never make the trip without genuflecting to Disneyland at nearby Anaheim. Now that our two older boys are in their teens, "toting the parents around" is no longer necessary. We agree on a place to meet for lunch along Main Street USA, and enjoy the less hair-raising adventures with our younger daughter, while the teenagers do their own thing. (Parental warning here: these independent excursions by my sons have resulted in a half dozen female pen pals from as far afield as Owatonna, Minnesota; Banbury, England; and Cape Town, South Africa.)
My sons don’t leave the house these days without skateboards, and in LA and West Hollywood there are more than 100 venues where kids can skin their knees, rub elbows with the locals and be in harmony with the asphalt. Bike trails, roller-blade courses and beachside bike paths are as plentiful as the "golden arches" and free for the taking. Aussie kids need only say, "G’day, mate!", and they’ll make friends in no time.
As for my daughter, she doesn’t leave home without a shopping list. But she’s not alone. According to the Tourism Industry of America, shopping continues to be the most popular activity undertaken by Australians. Last year, 89 per cent of the surveyed Australians returning home listed shopping as their number one activity.
We certainly shop till we drop. The Beverly Center shopping mall has everything in up-market retail, and department stores such as Macy’s West give deep-pocket discounts to cash-carrying overseas guests. Factory-outlet malls and brand-name shops are also abundant in the LA area.
One of America’s best-kept secrets is the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, located in Griffiths Park. This will blow you and your young ’uns away, with its western wear, firearms of a bygone era, wonderful hands-on activities, props from Hollywood Westerns and insights into Native American culture. And while you’re in the park, you can go for a wonderful horseback trail ride that won’t break the bank or the butt.
If horses aren’t your style, you’ll soon discover you can hire almost anything on wheels along the Los Angeles coast, including tandem bikes with baby carriers, pedal rickshaws, roller blades and motorised skateboards.
And a Los Angeles family holiday would not be the same without a visit to Universal Studios in Hollywood. Our all-time favourite is the back-lot tour behind the scenes on the world-famous trams. Even when we know where the surprises are hidden, they continue to delight everyone aboard and it’s good, clean fun for the whole family.