Thursday, January 19, 2012

3 days, 3 adventures: Montebello, Downtown & Long Beach

Last weekend our family hosted some friends who dropped in for a visit on their way up north to Tahoe. This wasn't their first time in L.A., so they were itching to see something new. Past trips included Hollywood, the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica and Venice beaches, Beverly Hills, the Getty and the Original Farmer's Market.

We decided our daughter would be the factor in determining some interesting sites to take them. Finding family-friendly things to do in L.A. has become one of our favorite challenges, as we're always delighted with our discoveries and generally pleased with our experiences.

Our itinerary for the long weekend: a picnic and visit to the Montebello Barnyard Zoo at Grant Rea Park in Montebello; breakfast Downtown and a stroll through Little Tokyo; and a day in Long Beach at the harbor and Aquarium of the Pacific.

Saturday started off with preparing our picnic. We drove out to Montebello and arrived early at the park, which was lovely and well-maintained. A tip left on Foursquare advised an early arrival since the parking lot could get quite full, and indeed it did. We were thankful for the tip, which allowed us to claim a great picnic table and get our fill of the playground equipment before it got too crowded. After lunch, we strolled over to the barnyard next door, which was also well maintained with strolling paths, a little pond, and a merry-go-round and mini-train ride (both of which are separate, minimal fees from the also minimal general admission fee of $4). The usual suspects were there, including a chicken coop, a donkey and mule, cows, as well as llamas, emus and sheep - a few the likes of which I'd never seen with 4 horns! - among others. I later learned the 4-horned sheep are called "Jacob's Sheep." (Sadly, our photos of the animals were deleted by a curious baby's fingers, but it's an excuse for us to go back!)

Sunday was a little iffy with the indecisive weather, but we decided to proceed with our plans. We introduced our friends to L.A.'s Metro system as we hopped the Red Line to Downtown's Pershing Square. Breakfast was had at the Nickel Diner where we undoubtedly had to expose our friends to the maple bacon donuts. Then we walked breakfast off with a little stroll down Broadway to view the historic theatres before making our way to Little Tokyo. There, we visited the Japanese American National Museum's Pacific Standard Time exhibit: "Drawing the Line: Japanese-American Art, Design and Activism in Post-War Los Angeles." Our day here ended with some delicious and soul-warming ramen at Daikokuya

Our last day of playing tour guides saw us down in Long Beach. Again, we hopped the Metro, taking the Red Line and connecting to the Blue Line. We spent the first part of the day in and around the Aquarium of the Pacific. The remainder of the afternoon found us meandering along 4th St./Retro Row, weaving in and out of interesting and quirky shops before settling in for a late lunch at Pike Restaurant and Bar.

It was a lot to pack into one weekend. Our friends expressed their gratitude for introducing them to a completely different side of Los Angeles, but it was we who felt most grateful not only to have spent some time with dear friends, but also because, had it not been for them, we wouldn't have had such a rich, cultural weekend.


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