Mel’s Drive-In-Various Locations

Mel’s Drive-In-Various Locations

What: Mel’s Drive-In

Where: Various Locations

For: All Ages

Mel’s Drive-In is a 50’s-themed diner on the Sunset Strip that we found while searching for somewhere to eat in the West Hollywood area.  Mel’s Diner was the restaurant what was featured in the film American Graffitti, and since then, the diner has expanded to include multiple locations in the Southern California area.

The Diner

When you arrive at the West Hollywood location, you pull up to park around one of the last googie buildings in Los Angeles.  This is the only location that is open 24-hours-a-day 7-days-a-week.  Mel’s is continuously shows in TV spots, commercials and movies.  The iconic drive-in, although not in use, can be seen in the parking stalls and outer set-up of the diner.

The vibe of Mel’s can be seen by the structure of the building.  Guests are greeted with a neon jukebox upon walking in.  There are souvenirs available for sale at the cashier’s.  We decided to sit at the bar of the diner.  The wait staff were all uniformed in 50’s-themed attire.  The menu was so long that we had a hard time deciding what to order, but the food came out quickly.  At each of the seating areas was a small table jukebox that allows patrons to pick which song they would like to hear in the restaurant.

The Food

The food was ended up being better than expected.  Ethan ordered a burger, and I ordered eggs benedict.  Both entrees tasted great, and we couldn’t help but order a chocolate malt at the end of our meal.  The malt came in a classic shake-glass with the left overs offered to us in a metal cup.  We inhaled everything that was put in front of us, and we left with our stomachs full.

The Crowd

The crowd at Mel’s consisted of a large mix of people.  There were a lot of guests taking pictures of the diner both inside and outside.  Keep in mind that guests can pay by walking up to the cashier after the meal.  There was also no line when we arrived, but I can imagine that the diner would be busier particularly on weekends in the evening.

Cost

Mel’s was very affordable.  For two entrees, two drinks and dessert we ended up paying $50.  The cost was definitely worth the experience of visiting this iconic Hollywood landmark.

Mel’s Drive-In Information

8585 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

(310) 854-7201

melsdrive-in.com

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Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (TCL Chinese Theatre)-Hollywood

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (TCL Chinese Theatre)-Hollywood

What: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (TCL Chinese Theatre)

Where: Hollywood

For: All Ages

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (recently renamed as TCL Chinese Theatre) is best known for being the historic Hollywood location where past and present celebrities put their hand and footprints into a square of cement in front of the venue.  The Theatre not only hosts promotional events and tapings, but it shows movies with the only Imax theater in Hollywood.

The Theatre

Garuman’s is a Los Angeles Historic Landmark located right on the corner of Hollywood and Highland.  There is an enormous seating arrangement that can seat almost one thousand guests.  There is a list of movies and showtimes on the website.  VIP Tours are also offered, and it allows patrons to learn about the history of Grauman’s from its opening in 1928.

I came to Grauman’s to watch a horror film (although I can’t remember the name of the film for the life of me).  What was very interesting was that when I walked in, I was astonished about the beautiful architecture of the theatre.  The ceiling is a piece of art in itself.  It’s ornate décor and colors makes it a statement piece that is impossible to miss.  A huge red velvet curtain covers the screen before opening dramatically for the main showing.  What was interesting to me was that since I was watching a horror film, the ceiling and walls created somewhat terrifying shadows that freaked me out during the film.

Sophia Lauren

Hand and footprints of past and present celebrities is at the entrance to Grauman’s.  Sid is the name of the former owner of the Theatre, and his name is commonly seen in the writings around the prints.   The Hollywood Walk of Fame (celebrity namesake stars lining the sidewalk) passes in front of the venue.

The Crowd

The crowd is filled mostly with tourists looking to experience Hollywood landmarks.  There are always large amounts of people outside Grauman’s looking at the celebrity hand and footprints.  I would suggest coming 15 to 20 minutes prior to movie showtime to ensure guests’ ability to find their seats and use the facilities before the start of the film.

Historic Photograph of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre 

Cost

Tickets cost $25 to $30 per guest.  Parking is in the Hollywood and Highland structure, and it is validated at the Theatre (make sure to bring your ticket with you).

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Information

6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

(323) 461-3331

tclchinesetheatres.com

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Little Sister-DTLA/Manhattan Beach/Redondo Beach

Little Sister-DTLA/Manhattan Beach/Redondo Beach

What: Little Sister

Where: DTLA/Manhattan Beach/Redondo Beach

For: All Ages

One of my favorite restaurants to go for Southeast Asian cuisine (more Vietnamese centric, but still Asian-Fusion).  I had a restaurant a few blocks away from my office in DTLA, and I loved it so much that I had to take Ethan to the one in Manhattan Beach.

The Restaurant

The vibe of Little Sister is intimate and modern.  The lights are always down low, and there is a small dining area with tables and chairs.  A communal table that sits about twelve people is offered in the restaurant for guests that don’t mind sharing their seating area.  A bar area is available for guests to dine and drink on bar stools.  A full range of drinks are offered.

All of the dishes are made to be shared family-style.  There is a large amount of food that comes out on the plates, so I had to take food home almost every time.  The shaky shaky beef is a must have.  It’s perfectly cooked, has almost zero fat and the sauce is melt-in-your mouth delicious.  I personally love any type of the noodles.  You can check online for the menu that changes seasonally.

The Crowd

Little sister is a very popular restaurant, so it’s always smart to make a reservation.  The wait time can be up to an hour.  Patrons need to make sure that their entire party is present prior to being seated.  Reservations can be made online or by calling the restaurant.  Seating is very close together, so it’s harder to get around if you need to get up and go to the restroom.

Cost

The food is a little more expensive for dishes.  Expect to spend a minimum of $20-$25 per person here for lunch and $30 for dinner, not including drinks.  Keep in mind that there’s a 3% surcharge added onto the final bill.

Little Sister Information

Manhattan Beach: 1131 Manhattan Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

(310) 545-2096

DTLA: 523 W 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014

(213) 628-3146

Redondo Beach: 247 Avenida del Norte, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

(424) 398-0237

dinelittlesister.com

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Stax Bakery & Creamery-Irvine

Stax Bakery & Creamery-Irvine

What: Stax Bakery & Creamery

Where: Irvine

For: All Ages

Stax Bakery & Creamery is located in the University Center across the bridge from the University of California, Irvine.  I attended UCI as an undergrad, and I used to go to University Center almost daily between classes.  There are so many stores and restaurants to explore, and my absolute favorite dessert place is Stax.  I took Skylar there a few years ago, and recently I took Ethan there for dessert after our Orange County Staycation.

The Bakery & Creamery

When you walk into Stax, you’re greeted with a clean and modern restaurant.  There are cookies displayed next to the cashier, and tubs of different flavors of ice cream line the wall.  The menu is straightforward, but there are also so many options to choose from!  I wasn’t sure what to get, so the cashier was kind enough to tell me about all the different types of desserts.

There are Thai-Style rolls, which is ice cream that is spread on a cold stone and rolled up and placed in a cup with individual toppings.  My favorite dessert is the cookie sandwich where you can choose any two of your favorite freshly baked cookies and whatever ice cream you want (you can also opt for the fixed cookie sandwich menu).  All the bread and cookies are made fresh and in-house daily.  There are fifteen unique flavors of ice cream, and the employees help you choose which flavor you want by offering you samples.   You can choose to have ice cream in a single/double scoop, ice cream float, milk shake, or sundae.  There are also ten different types of cookies (including vegan options!).

The Food and Drinks

Stax offers sandwiches, paninis, personal pizzas, salads and empanadas.  There is also a variety of coffee available for guests.  Most of the food is available in the refrigerated section to the right of the cashier.  When we went, it was lunch time on a Sunday and the selection wasn’t very big.  They told us that if we picked out a sandwich or panini that they could heat it up in the back.  It reminded me of the grab-and-go food options that Starbucks offers.

The Crowd

Since this is right across the street from UCI, there are many college students here.  You will also see a lot of families with young children at the University Center.  During the week, employees of nearby businesses come here for their lunch breaks.

Cost

The food cost from $4 to $9 with coffee costing from $1.95 to $3.50.  Thai Rolls are about $7, ice cream is from $2.95 to $5.95.  This is a very good price for novelty ice cream, and the serving portions are very big…each time I went I couldn’t finish what I ordered!

Stax Bakery & Creamery Information

4187 Campus Drive M174, Irvine, CA 92612

(949) 861-2055

staxbakery.com

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Fire + Ice – Anaheim

Fire + Ice – Anaheim

What: Fire + Ice

Where: Anaheim

For: All Ages

My family took me to Fire + Ice for my birthday three years ago, and it was a very interesting experience.  It’s right across the street from Disneyland, and it’s the perfect place to go as a group for some good food and company.  We’ll probably go again to eat after stopping in at Disneyland since they’re in such close proximity.

The Restaurant

Fire + Ice is a create-your-own-meal experience that serves Brunch, Dinner and Lunch at fixed prices.  Guests grab a bowl and fill it with their favorite ingredients before heading over to the sauce bar to add some extra flavor.  There is an assortment of toppings, sauces, spices and herbs for plates.  After patrons have mixed their perfect concoction, they bring it on over to the grill to watch the chefs cook their food.  It takes from five to ten minutes to gather your food and for the chefs to complete your plate, and you can come back as often as you want.  The chef was very personable, and it was nice to chat with him while he was preparing our meal on a huge grill in front of us.

There is both indoor and outdoor seating on the patio.  The patio includes a fire pit and live entertainment on the weekend.  Happy Hour is available all week from 3:00pm-6:00pm.  There is also a full bar available for adults.

The Food

The restaurant offers a variety of Asian, American, Latin and Italian flavors.  I made a few smaller dishes so I could try everything.  This is probably why we ended up staying in the restaurant so long (since it takes 10 minutes to make one dish).  The Asian food includes noodles, eggs, siriracha sauce, bok choy, soy and ginger (just to name a few!).  The American culinary experience includes wings, ribs and burgers.  Latin flavors give choices such as beans, rice and tacos.  The Italian experience focuses on pastas, sausage, meatballs and various herbs and spices.  Each dish that I threw together was cooked to perfection and tasted amazing.

The Crowd

The first time I came here was in the middle of the week during lunch time, so there was no wait.  The second time we attempted to come, there was a 90-minute wait.  I would suggest calling the restaurant to make a reservation or putting your information in online.  If you are able to get in, the experience lasts about an hour to 90 minutes.  Another thing to keep in mind is parking.  When we tried to get in at 5:00pm on a Saturday, we were circling the parking structure for 20 minutes trying to find a spot after finding out about the hour-and-a-half late before ultimately leaving and going somewhere else.

Cost

Brunch costs $14.99 per person for adults and $9.99 for kids ages 4-11.  Lunch costs $11.00 for adults and $7.99 for kids, with dinner coming in at $18.99 for adults and $10.99 for kids.

Fire + Ice Information

1104 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

(714) 808-9757

fire-ice.com

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Mystery Pier Books-West Hollywood

Mystery Pier Books-West Hollywood

What: Mystery Pier Books

All First Edition and Autographed Novels for Private Collections.

Where: West Hollywood

For: All Ages

While exploring West Hollywood on foot, we passed a small entryway that led to a long corridor behind the storefronts.  At the end of the pathway was a small house that was converted into a store.  The sign said ‘Mystery Pier Books’, and we soon found out that it’s one of the most famous independently-owned bookstores in the world.

Literally thousands of books in the store.

The Bookstore

Mystery Pier Books is owned by a father and son team, and it prides itself in selling first-edition and limited-edition books.  Almost all the books are signed by the authors.  One of my favorite was a copy of Jurassic Park that was signed by all the actors in the film, Stephen Spielberg and Stephen King.  Mystery Pier Books has a partnership with many of the higher-ups in the entertainment industry.  With these connections, they can make specially-bound copies of movie scripts with the actors autographs inside.

The corridor that you walk down to get to the store.

There are literally thousands of books crammed into this cramped-but-cozy store.  All of them are kept in near mint condition.  One of my favorite scripts were La La Land, Shape of Water and The Green Mile.  Keep in mind that you can see everything in the store, but you do have to ask the owners to take it down and show it to you.

Some of the celebrities that buy from Mystery Pier.

The Crowd

There were only two other people who walked in briefly when we were in the store.  We spent about half an hour in the store looking at all types of books, scripts and pictures.  We thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the owner, Harvey Jason.  He prided himself by name dropping a list of all the celebrities that have been in the book store to buy from him (apparently Johnny Depp enjoys the store so much that he has a shirt that he often wears during his concerts).  If you are of a particular ‘A-List’ status, the store does close down for private appointments.  Please refer to the website for days and hours of operation.

La La Land Script Signed by Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling.

Cost

I couldn’t leave the shop emptyhanded.  Since everything was so expensive (it is a store for private collectors, after all), I opted for a black tote bag with the store’s logo on the front.  That ended up costing $25!  I was very happy that I left with a souvenir from the shop.  Harvey told me that books can cost from as little as $50 to as much as $100,000 (although you won’t see the expensive ones on the shelves…those are reserved for the special vault in the back).

My favorite movie, The Green Mile script signed by writer/director Frank Darabont.

Mystery Pier Books Information

8826 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069

(310) 657-5557

mysterypierbooks.com

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Tony’s on the Pier-South Bay

Tony’s on the Pier-South Bay

What: Tony’s on the Pier

Where: Redondo Beach

For: All Ages/Ages 21+ at Night

Tony’s on the Pier (aka ‘Old Tony’s’) is a restaurant and bar that allows guests to have an amazing seafood meal while sitting on the Pacific Ocean.  I’ve been here a few times, once for the afterparty of a good friends’ wedding and once for a night out in Redondo Beach with Ethan.

The Restaurant

The restaurant is situated on the pier and has large glass windows overlooking the ocean.  It was especially nice that the décor of the restaurant was completely ocean themed.  There were lobster traps, fishing nets and various sea creatures lining the walls.  Tony’s is open for lunch and dinner, and menus are on the website.  We had a pre-fixed course with soup and entrees.  The chowder was amazing, and the clams were perfect.  I really enjoyed the way Tony’s cooked and seasoned their seafood.  It wasn’t too heavy so that we felt extremely full when I was finished, but it left us completely satisfied.

Top O’ Tony’s

If you walk up the stairs from the restaurant, there is a rooftop bar with live entertainment.  The rooftop offers a full bar and a small amount of seating for guests.  The bartenders were very kind and personable.  There was trail mix on each table for patrons to enjoy while sipping their cocktails.  The view of the Redondo Beach Harbor is best from the rooftop. Happy hour is offered during select dates and times (please check the website for specifics).  The live entertainment has always been a great addition to the bar.  Although the area is small, it felt very intimate with the musicians singing and playing their instruments close by.

The Crowd

The restaurant is open for all ages, with the rooftop bar reserved for ages 21 and over.  The crowd is quieter at Tony’s, with most guests coming to enjoy the live music and ambiance of the restaurant.  Parking for the restaurant is in a prepaid parking structure east of the pier.  Keep in mind that if you decide to take an Uber or Lyft to the Redondo Beach Pier, cell service becomes extremely spotty (no matter which network), so you’ll have a difficult time getting out.

Cost

Lunch costs about $20 per person, excluding drinks.  Dinner will run about $30 per person, again excluding drinks.  At the top bar, cocktails are about $12 each.  Since Tony’s is one of the few restaurants that overlooks the ocean, the price is definitely paid along with the location and quality of the food makes the restaurant and bar worth the price.

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Tony’s on the Pier Information

210 Fisherman’s Wharf, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

(310) 374-1442

oldtonys.com

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The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker-West Hollywood

The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker-West Hollywood

What: The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker

Where: West Hollywood

For: All Ages

I saw this restaurant on Instagram and told myself that I would have to eat here whenever we were in West Hollywood.  Last weekend, Ethan and I got that chance.  The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker (or BBCM) serves modern Californian cuisines with a European Twist.  They have the most amazing craft cocktails and specialty coffee beverages that you will ever see.

The Restaurant

BBCM is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner daily.  Although we didn’t eat at the restaurant, the food that we saw was very aesthetically pleasing.  Guests ordered beautiful food for brunch, including sandwiches, avocado toast and salads.  When we were sitting at the bar, there was a gorgeous coffee machine at the checkout stand of BBCM.

The Drinks

The specialty cocktails are especially great at BBCM.  The guests next to us ordered a triple flight of mimosas in three different flavors.  The Bloody Mary looked spicy and strong (although it was odd that a waiter was in the back pouring out three of the guests’ drinks into a pitcher and filling the now half-full drinks with Bloody Mary mix instead of alcohol.  Ethan ordered a craft cocktail from the menu, and it was the perfect refreshment to a hot day.

Now, let’s talk coffee!  Most of the coffee came out in mason jars.  The real star of the show were the cappuccinos.  The cappuccino that I ordered came out in about fifteen minutes with the most beautiful artwork I’ve ever seen in coffee.  It was so gorgeous that I didn’t want to drink it.  Although I was pleased with the look of the drink, it tasted very good as well.

The Crowd

There were so many people waiting at the front of the restaurant when we arrived.  Patrons can sit at the bar if they don’t want to wait (understand that the bar seating is highly coveted).  Guests can make reservations online, as there is always a wait for a booth or table.

Ethan said that this was the Instagram models’ paradise.  Not only is the food Instagram-worthy, but the crowd is dressed in new Hollywood glamour.  There is also a new store that recently opened at USC village.  Please check their website for hours of operation.

Cost

The bill came in at $24 for one cocktail and the cappuccino.  Although it’s expensive, I definitely think that it was worth the price for the experience and the beautiful coffee that I received.  I would recommend coming here for the pure experience.

The Butcher, The Baker, the Cappuccino Maker Information

8653 West Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

(310) 360-6900

bbmcafe.com

Thanks for reading! If you’ve ever been to The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker, please comment on this post!  Also, if you have suggestions of other places to go in the Greater Los Angeles Area, please let me know by e-mailing admin@la-staycation.com

Sloan’s Ice Cream-Santa Monica

Sloan’s Ice Cream-Santa Monica

What: Sloan’s Ice Cream

Where: Santa Monica

For: All Ages

Sloan’s Ice Cream is a sweets wonderland.  Filled with whimsical decorations, amazing treats and luxury ice cream, it was the perfect place to stop with the kids on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica during a hot day.

The Store

The store is an eclectic group of bright pinks, greens, yellows and purples.  Famous paintings line the walls with ice cream inserted into them.  It reminded me of what a Barbie House would look like in real life.  If I were to give our 4 and 5 year old full reign to decorate a store, this is exactly what they would come up with.

A counter with all types of ice cream is at the front of the store.  More toppings than you can imagine are offered to put on top of guests’ ice cream.  There are assortments of treats offered to the side of the ice cream counter.

Candied apples, brownies, cookies and doughnuts are offered fresh from the bakery.  Desserts of all shapes and sizes are everywhere you look.  A candy wall lines the opposite side of the candy counter.  Bright stuffed animals and toys sit on tables around the store as well.

I tried the kids’ ice cream and it was very good.  It tasted very old fashioned and creamy.  The workers were generous with the amount of candy toppings the kids requested.  Since the scoops were generous, the kids couldn’t finish their desserts.  We would definitely come back to try some other desserts next time we’re in the area.

The Crowd

Although it was extremely hot outside, there was no one in line at Sloan’s Ice Cream.  This may be because there isn’t a very visible sign outside facing the Promenade.  Guests need to walk through two double doors to get into the store.  There is outdoor seating that allows for people watching while patrons enjoy their desserts.

Cost

We told the girls to get one scoop of ice cream each with two toppings.  For the two small scoops and two toppings, the bill came in at $15.  Although this is way more than I want to pay for a small scoop of ice cream, the girls enjoyed the atmosphere of the store.  If you’re looking for a ice cream shop and are on the Promenade, I definitely think that Sloan’s takes the cake.

Sloan’s Ice Cream Information

1315 Third Street Promenade, Unit A, Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310) 394-3940

sloansicecream.com

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Discovery Cube OC/Discovery Cube LA-Los Angeles and Orange County

Discovery Cube OC/Discovery Cube LA-Los Angeles and Orange County

What: Discovery Cube OC/Discovery Cube LA

Where: Los Angeles and Orange County

Summer 2018 Dinosaur Exhibit.

For: All Ages

The kids have been to Discovery Cube OC on many different occasions.  It makes for an entire fun filled day with the whole family.  There is an indoor and outdoor area filled with activities that promote learning.  Each time I’ve been to Discovery Cube OC, I’ve learned a lot of new things that I never knew.

Entrance to Discovery Cube OC.

The Ongoing Exhibits

Exhibits change seasonally (please check the corresponding websites for current exhibits) and are different in Orange County and Los Angeles.  In Orange County, the ongoing exhibits include: Mission Control (kids can complete a space mission inside a replica of the Jet Propulsion Lab’s control room), Helicopter Tour (fly in a virtual helicopter over Orange County’s landmarks), Water Gallery (a scientific look at water’s impact on the planet), Inspector Training Course (learn how to navigate your garden while eliminating vectors), PetersonVille Healthy Kitchen (kid’s cooking class with real food), Interactive Exhibits (cloud ring, rock wall, seismograph, shake-shack, hurricane), Science of Hockey (learn about and play hockey), Boeing Rocket Lab (learn about how rockets work), Discovery Theater (short feature films scheduled throughout the day), Planetary Research Station (learn all about weather on earth), and the Eco Station (save the world as a superhero).

Dinosaur Summer 2018 Exhibit.

The Exhibits in Discovery Cube LA include the Aquavator (descend into the earth’s crust with a special elevator), Discovery Market (learn the importance of making healthy choices when you shop) and Park Science.  The Science of Hockey, Planetary Research Station, 3D Theater, Helicopter Tour (pertains to LA landmarks), Race to Zero Waste and Inspector Training Course is the same as the Discovery Cube OC.

Aquvator Exhibit

There is a small healthy eating area with restaurant in the Discovery Cube.  They offer healthier options of snacks and lunch for the kids.  I can be very crowded around lunch time, so I would suggest going earlier in the day.

Bubblemania Bubble Fest

The Seasonal Exhibits

Currently, there is a Dinosaur exhibit going on for the summer.  I took Skylar here last year, and she had an amazing time looking at the life-sized animatronic versions of dinosaurs.  We’ve also been when there was a Dora the Explorer themed exhibit that taught kids about the rainforest and how to speak Spanish.  One of our favorite times there was when we went to watch Bubblemania and a Bubble Show.  Please check online for information about seasonal exhibits.

With Skylar and my Father at the Dinosaur Exhibit

The Crowd

It gets very crowded on weekends and later in the day.  Parking also becomes harder when there are bigger crowds.  I suggest coming when it opens so that there aren’t many lines for the little ones.

Skylar at the Garden Exhibit.

Cost

Adult admission is $19.95 and children admission (ages 3-14) is $14.95.  Check Living Social and Groupon for any deals to use.  For extra shows or exhibits there is an extra charge per person.  The discovery theater is an extra $3.00 per person.

Discovery Cube Information

Orange County: 2500 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 91705

(714) 913-5040

Los Angeles: 11800 Foothill Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91342

(818) 686-2823

discoverycube.org

Thanks for reading! If you’ve ever been to Discovery Cube, please comment on this post!  Also, if you have suggestions of other places to go in the Greater Los Angeles Area, please let me know by e-mailing admin@la-staycation.com