This list is an addendum to the House Manual the house-swapping family left for us.  You will find a few tourist attractions listed but what I loved were the “insider” notes from a mom who knows “the real deal.”

AMUSEMENT PARKS/OTHER ATTRACTIONS:

All the below attractions are mentioned in detail in the book “Fun Places to go with Kids in Southern California” so look them up for more info. The book also lists directions to each attraction from the closest freeway exit. Check Thomas Brothers Guide to figure out which freeways to take to get to the appropriate freeway exit. All of the below are cool but touristy except for the Aquarium (it mostly gets locals).

Disneyland/California Adventure/Downtown Disney:

Look on web-site (disneyland.com) for hours, admission, etc. Whereas Disneyland is for all ages, California Adventure is geared towards kids a little older (around 6 years and up). You can buy a pass for both parks. Lots to do – you may want to consider spending the night at one of the many hotels nearby if you want to get a couple days in. Weekends are the absolute worst time to go, especially during the summer. Go during the week -it will still be crowded because it’s summer but not as bad. Downtown Disney is a large pedestrian walkway with cool restaurants, shops, movie theater, etc. Fun place to walk through and have a meal. If you do decide to spend the night at a hotel, there are a few that offer breakfast, lunch, dinner or tea with various Disney characters. You can find more info on this on their web-site.

Universal Studios/Universal Citywalk:

Check on web-site (universalstudios.com) for hours, admission, etc. (Haven’t been there in years so I can’t offer any personal tidbits). Universal Citywalk is another pedestrian walkway – very visually stimulating. Has shops, restaurants, movie theaters, Imax theater, etc. Weekends are a zoo (from what I hear) so it may be less overwhelming for the kids to go on a weekday.

Legoland:

Check on web-site for hours, admission etc. (legolandca.com). A bit of a hike (1 1/2 -2 hour drive from South Bay) but it’s very unique. Various parts of the park are geared toward different age groups (toddler/preschooler, younger elementary age, older elementary age) – kids older than I’d say about 10 or 11 may find it boring. There’s a very cool Mini-City part of Legoland that has re-creations of different cities in the US all made out of legos. My favorite part of Legoland – the attention to detail is amazing.

Six Flags Magic Mountain (About an hour drive from South Bay)
Knott’s Berry Farm (About a 45-50 minute drive from the South Bay)

These are the other 2 main amusement parks in Southern California. Look them up in the book for web-sites and info.

Aquarium of the Pacific:

Located in Long Beach about a 20-30 minute drive from the South Bay. Ask for AAA discount. Check web-site to see if they have any special events/programs going on (aquariumofthepacific.org).

El Capitan theater/Hollywood:

It’s kind of a fun, different thing to do. They show the latest Disney family film and put on a stage show before the movie. Sometimes they have other interactive types of games and activities going on as well. Next door is a cool soda fountain/Disney gift shop. Across the street is Mann’s Chinese Theater where they have stars hand and foot prints in cement. Next door to the theater is the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex with restaurants, shops, a cool looking bowling alley called Lucky Strike Lanes and a hotel. If you eat at CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) on the outside patio you can see the Hollywood sign in the distance. This stretch of street is your quintessential touristy “I want to see Hollywood” place to go. You usually see street performers and people dressed in costume offering to take a picture with you or make balloon animals for a tip. Personally, I think it’s a bit grimey but they’ve tried to upscale it a bit with the new shopping complex.

LOCAL SHOPPING:

Downtown Hermosa Beach/Pier Avenue – there are several surf clothing shops, women’s clothing shops, tourist-type gift/souvenir shops.

Downtown Manhattan Beach – a number of cool, trendy (but mostly pricey) clothing shops and gift shops.

Manhattan Village Mall – small mall that has a mix of higher end stores with more average priced stores.

RESTAURANTS

TAKE-OUT/DELIVERY:

I left out take-out menus for various restaurants and pizza places that deliver.

Following 2 places don’t deliver but they’re quick, easy and tasty:

Amigos Tacos – good cheap Mexican food at small hole-in-wall restaurant near 7-11 at intersection of Artesia and Prospect.

Pollo Inka – good Peruvian food and they’re quick. My kids like the roasted chicken, steak and rice. Good for dine-in as well. Have live music on weekends that kids enjoy. In Ralph’s shopping center at PCH and Aviation.

FAMILY FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS:

All of the following have kids menus and crayons and are used to serving families:

Pollo Inka – this is the only one without kids menu/crayons but I mention them because they’re quick and they have live music on weekends that my kids love

Rocky Cola Cafe (Hermosa Beach) – kids meals come with Oreos after dinner. Typical American-type food. Food’s okay but it’s a fun atmosphere for kids and they have great shakes, sundaes and other desserts.

Ruby’s (Redondo Beach)- similar to Rocky Cola Cafe. Great burgers.

El Torito (Manhattan Beach)- Chain Mexican restaurant. Has a good Sunday Champagne brunch. Ask to sit in the patio away from the rest of the diners and you may have the patio to yourself.

Joe’s Crab Shack (Redondo Beach) – food’s not great but fun atmosphere for kids, they periodically crank up the music and the waiters do a dance routine in the aisles

California Pizza Kitchen (Manhattan Village) – pizzas, pastas, salads

Islands (Manhattan Village) – burgers, salads, tacos

Mama D’s (Downtown Manhattan Beach) – always busy and parking’s harder to find if going on a weekend. However, the food’s great and they have plenty for kids to do. They have a big box of small toys outside the restaurant for kids to play with while waiting for a table. Once you’re seated they give kids small magna-doodles and more coloring pages and crayons. At end of meal, kids get to pick a small toy out of the treasure chest and they give out free chocolate chip cookies. They also do take-out.

Chili’s (Manhattan Village) – typical American food

BREAKFAST PLACES

I mention this because we have so many good ones.

Ocean Diner – on Aviation, in Hermosa

Good Stuff – on the Strand, just to the North of the Pier

Martha’s (my favorite, hands down) – on 22nd street, 2 doors up from the Strand

Eat at Joe’s – on the corner of 14th and Hermosa Ave, seat yourself, good cheap food

Sion’s – 253 Sepulveda in Manhattan Beach, old coffee shop atmosphere that has cheap, Great Mexican food

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House – 1305 Highland in Manhattan Beach, good food if you’re willing to wait – there’s always a line

GROWN-UP RESTAURANTS

DOWNTOWN HERMOSA:

Several good restaurants, place is BUSY with a lot of 20- somethings on weekend evenings. My favorites are:

Cafe Boogaloo – fun loud place to listen to good blues music. Food’s good too. Call for music time and go early for dinner to avoid a cover charge/lone. Reservations are a good idea. (On Hermosa Ave. north of Pier Ave.)

Mediteranneo – on the Pier. Serves hot and cold tapas and wine by the glass and bottle. Can eat outside on the Pier. Reservations recommended.

Comedy and Magic Club – fun comedy club that gets its share of good comedians, serves decent food, Jay Leno has a standing gig on Sundays

DOWNTOWN MANHATTAN BEACH:

Fonz’ – steaks, seafood, etc

Rock n Fish – steaks, seafood, etc

Mangiamo – Italian

Cafe Pierre – French

Francesca’s – Bistro

Michi’s – I think more American fare, good martinis

ELSEWHERE IN THE SOUTH BAY

Coyote Cantina (Redondo Beach) – southwestern, good margaritas

LA Food Show (Manhattan Village) – Californian cuisine, good drink menu

VENTURING OUT OF THE SOUTH BAY (but still within 15 – 25 min drive)

Playa Del Rey:

Chloe’s – tiny hole in the wall that’s not much on atmosphere but the food is excellent and more upscale

Marina Del Rey:

Kaya Sushi – GREAT sushi

Aunt Kizzy’s Kitchen – good old fashioned southern cooking

SANTA MONICA, BEVERLY HILLS, HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD

If you’re willing to make the drive (35 min to an hour) and head to any of these areas, they have numerous fantastic restaurants, too many to name. It may be worth the drive just to experience a different part of LA. All of these towns have a very different vibe than the South Bay and they’re very hip areas in their own respect. If you’d like to venture out, I have a few suggestions of how to pick a place:

1) Look towards the back of Los Angeles magazines for a listing of restaurants by area
2) Look in the Zagat guide