It’s hard to believe that it’s been 5 months since Kevin and I got married in downtown LA. Both our families flew out a week prior so they could spend some time with us. While they don’t expect us to entertain them, we can’t help but pack in a ton of activities.
Our parents have been to LA a few times before, so finding new things for them to explore can be a challenge! That’s when Kevin and I decided to round up our top 5 favorite only-in-LA ideas. Now, I’m long overdue for this blog post. In fact, I actually ATTEMPTED to first write it on the day of our wedding. Yes, in hindsight, I was clearly out of my mind. There were so many last-minute things that popped up. Plus, we ended up running into several out-of-town wedding guests at Philz Coffee (since I recommended it on our welcome letter in the room drop bags). I’m still shocked people read it!
So without further delay, here is our list of some great ways to entertain your parents in LA. Or just about any group with a wide range of interests.
5. Lunch and Shopping at Eataly at the Westfield Century City Mall
Eataly is the combination of two English words: EAT and ITALY. And what can be better than that? Well, I guess a trip to Italy? But with a wedding, let’s just say we needed to prioritize our spending . So I guess we’ll just have to settle on a trip to Century City!
Eataly is known for its wide selection of Italian foods such as pasta, cheese, ice cream and olive oils. But it isn’t all fats and carbs! There is a home goods section along with fresh fruits and vegetables and a coffee bar.
But let’s face it — you come here to eat pasta, pizza and cheese. My parents enjoyed perusing the cheese section. And clearly, Kevin had no issue if they wanted to buy a few. Clearly, the wedding diet is off on any trip here!
Kevin and I had the opportunity to take Eataly’s very first wine and cheese pairing class at “La Scuola” (Italian for “School”). It makes a wonderful date night activity. Our family’s travel schedule didn’t quite align with the class offerings. So we settled for a weekend visit to grab some lunch. It’s still a great experience just to come and look around at all the nifty gadgets and dine on the tasty food.
If you’re hungry, make sure you head straight to the host stand. There are three restaurants at Eataly L.A. We recommend dining at La Pizza and La Pasta. And yes, you don’t need to speak any Italian to figure out what this restaurant is known for! Order some housemade Burrata ($21) and the #1-dish tagliatelle ($25) and you’ll have quite a meal!
4. Check out The Grove and the Los Angeles Farmers Market
The Grove and the nearby Farmers Market is our standing Friday night date activity. So it’s only natural that we take our family here whenever they visit. It’s like LA’s version of a walkable neighborhood. In some ways, it’s like a Hollywood movie set — except with Crate & Barrel, Nike and a movie theater! Kevin’s mom loves all things French so I thought a dinner at Monsieur Marcel would be perfect. Every Friday night, I stop by this all-French market and pick up some dark chocolate and sparkling water (that I stealthily sneak into the movie theater!). But there is also a very cute outdoor restaurant attached to the market. And it always looks so cozy — and oh, so French!
Kevin knew immediately what to order — the traditional cheese fondue (called La Fondue Marcel at $36)! Yes, you had him at melted cheese. We also loved the Chevre Chaud Salad ($10, butter lettuce, warm goat cheese on crostini and vinaigrette dressing). That salad alone makes the dinner worth it. And feels like a trip to France right in the heart of LA!
3. Join the LA Conservatory Historic Theater Walking Tour
We love the Los Angeles Conservancy’s historic theatre district tour. In fact, it was our top recommended activity for all of our out-of-town visitors for the wedding, and the conservancy even sent us some brochures to share. Once the entertainment epicenter of Los Angeles, Broadway was home to dozens of major retail and clothing stores, as well as twelve movie palaces built between 1910 and 1931. Some have stayed – such as the Rialto Theatre (now converted into an outpost of the clothing store Urban Outfitters) or The Theatre at the Ace Hotel (which hosts screenings, concerts). However, some theaters just couldn’t make it after World War II. Driven by the great urban sprawl and our love for cars, families moved into the suburbs of Los Angeles (giving way to the birth of the Valley girls! Ah, thanks for that…).
One of the coolest things we discovered is that the outward appearance can be deceiving with these theaters. Many of these theaters looks VERY tiny from the street, but have thousands of seats.
The tour, which costs just $15 per person, is one of the best bargains around. Held every Saturday at 10 AM (rain or shine), tours meet in the middle of the gaudy Pershing Square Park and run about 3 hours.
The Los Angeles Conservatory has a variety of tours, including the historic Biltmore Hotel (which I did with my mom on a previous visit) and the Last Seats Remaining program, where classic movies are screened in the historic theaters. Our family loved it. Plus you are giving back to help preserve these incredible, historic theaters.
2. Getting a Birds-eye View at 71Above
Nothing will beat the views from 71Above, located on the 71st floor of the US Bank Building in downtown LA. No matter what night you’re booking, you will need to make advanced reservations and pick your table. There is a variety of seating options, but the best spots are the tables along the floor to ceiling windows. And you won’t get a better view anywhere else — 71Above is considered the highest restaurant West of the Mississippi. We loved our meal here over Valentine’s Day, and I knew my parents would have a blast here, too.
You’ll pay for your table upfront (starting at $70 per seat), which will be subtracted from your overall food bill. We’ve eaten at a lot of spectacular places, but this one will really blow you away. It is a prix-fix menu every night with drinks and desserts as extra. And best of all, the food is just as spectacular as the views.
It was just a few days before the wedding, but so relaxing to just enjoy a meal and see the city from above. The lights spread out from downtown as far as the eye can see. And even the red tail lights of all the traffic seem calming. Well, at least from the 71st floor — sipping champagne — and where you don’t have to deal with the glacial pace.
1. See Master Illusions at Black. Rabbit. Rose.
Now, most people in LA have heard of The Magic Castle, a private magic club with celeb fans like Johnny Depp and Quentin Tarantino. But it isn’t for a casual night out and scoring a ticket takes effort. Plus, there is the whole required advanced reservations, formal attire and a sit-down dinner. Oh, and no photos please (unless you’re tricky as a magician and can sneak one in like I did when my parents visited!). Tickets on Goldstar for Black Rabbit Rose run a cool $26 each. There is no required dinner or drinks to be purchased.
We recommend arriving about 30 minutes early and grabbing a drink at the attached bar. We kept our drinks simple – a glass of wine. But they have an extensive cocktail menu with a drink called the Honey Bunny (which smokes!) and the Bullet Catch, a rum and coffee concoction that is topped with a flame. Magic shows are held Thursday-Saturday in the basement of a historic Hollywood apartment building, once home to actors Clara Bow and Stan Laurel. You’ll feel like walking back in time with the prohibition-era bar and themed cocktails. It is a completely different experience than The Magic Castle — much more intimate with a bar and separate theater area that holds at most 50 people. And like the previous visit, the actors focused in right on Kevin and once again pulled him up on stage!
I don’t want to give too much away. So will keep it to just the general info. Shows last about 1 hour and it’s a 1920’s-inspired variety act with lounge singers, a flame eating woman and plenty of magic.
The show is quirky and pretty hilarious at the same time. Food isn’t allowed inside the theater so we recommend that you ask your waiter to make a dinner reservation for right after the show. Or even better yet, call in advance. The lounge is tiny. And the food is fantastic — all Thai from Crying Tiger, which also has a take-out window outside if you prefer to take your food to go. Be sure to stick around for the close-up magic after the show. We were completely ‘wowed’ by the magician who melted forks with his mind. In fact, Aunt Leona was even able to take them home as souvenirs! Just make sure you have some cash to tip.
And there you have it! A rundown of some great activities for your next family visit. Or maybe you’ll just end up taking a nap? In any case, we highly recommend these memorable experiences. And it will at least be less scarring than a visit to the Bunny Museum like on a previous trip with my mom. The place had actual embalmed bunnies — previous pets of the owner — lined up inside glass cases. Oh, I’ll never live that down!