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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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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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

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Little Jewel of New Orleans-DTLA

Little Jewel of New Orleans-DTLA

What: Little Jewel of New Orleans

Popcorn Shrimp Po’ Boy

Where: DTLA

For: All Ages

Ethan and I first heard of Little Jewel of New Orleans after watching Buzzfeed’s Worth It!  There was an episode about trying different types of macaroni and cheese.  At Little Jewel of New Orleans, they ate the crawfish mac ‘n’ cheese and couldn’t stop raving about it.  So, naturally we had to go try for ourselves…

The Theme

The theme of the restaurant is obviously based on the food from New Orleans, Louisiana.  Little Jewel is both a Southern themed market and delicatessen.  When you walk in, you enter into a marketplace with everything you need for a Cajun-themed meal.  You order at the front counter and then round the corner to see a full deli counter with fresh food made that day.  All of the meats for the dishes are made in-house with the kitchen behind the counter.  In front of the deli counter there is ample seating for patrons with televisions around the dining area.

The Food

I ordered the crawfish mac ‘n’ cheese…and let me tell you…it really was the most amazing macaroni and cheese that I’ve ever had.  It was the right blend of spices and cheeses with a little crunch on the top.  The crawfish and andouille sausage was perfect.  I’m pretty sure that I could eat it every night.

Crawfish Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Ethan ordered a seafood combo.  Although he ended up eating a good amount of my macaroni (it was so hard for me to share!), he told me that the seafood and sauce was perfect.  He’s one of those people that likes spicy seasoning on everything, so it was the epitome of a perfect dish for him.  After dinner, he ate bread pudding, which he also loved.

The food was so amazingly good that Ethan decided he wanted to eat some for lunch so he ordered the Po’Boy sandwich.  He called me after he ate it the day after and told me that it was just as good reheated as it was fresh.  I kind of regret not getting a sandwich for me to take to work the next day.  We will definitely keep this restaurant on the list of places to go regularly.

Gumbo

The Crowd

We came to Little Jewel for dinner on a Sunday.  It wasn’t crowded at all, so there was no wait.  It took our food about 10 minutes to come out, and we inhaled everything.  The restaurant is located in China Town, which is the last place that someone would expect to encounter an authentic Cajun dining experience.

Beignets

Cost

Everything was very affordable at Little Jewel.  With three entrees and dessert, we paid less than $40.  The marketplace is reasonably priced as well.

Little Jewel of New Orleans Information

207 Ord St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 620-0461

littlejewel.la

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Book Soup-Hollywood

Book Soup-Hollywood

What: Book Soup

Where: Hollywood

For: All Ages

This morning Ethan and I had the opportunity to walk around West Hollywood after brunch.  We came upon Book Soup, a small bookstore with floor-to-ceiling books and gifts.  We spent about half an hour in here, and we definitely will to come back to see the new books that come in, as the inventory changes seasonally.

The Bookstore

Book Soup is a small independent book store on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood that’s been open since 1975.  From the outside, it looks like a simple magazine stand.  However, when you venture inside, you’re greeted with a beautiful quaint bookstore.

Not all genres of fiction are represented.  The store specializes in art, film, photography, music and literary fiction (but believe me, this still means a ton of books).  There were tables with top book picks from the staff, and authors even come in for readings often.  This would be a great place to pick up a coffee table book for our home.

The bookstore is very small and cute.  They not only sell books, but there are also autographed editions of popular reads.  Book Soup also sells cards, gifts, vinyl records and cute knick-knacks.  I was able to purchase a book for the kids to read along with an adorable book-themed matchbox.  The entire time I was there I felt like I was in a cozy and hidden Hollywood spot.

The employees are kind and always made themselves available to help.  I overheard them suggesting books to other patrons that were similar to their preferences.  Make sure to check the website for hours of operation.  I will be sure to come back to the store to check out their constantly evolving inventory in a few months.

The Crowd

Everyone in Book Soup were kind and respectful.  It was very quiet, and it felt like we were exploring one of Hollywood’s hidden gems.  It was not crowded at all, and we were able to explore the store freely.  There is metered parking on the street in front of the store.

Cost

The cost of the book that we bought was very reasonable.  I know that I would’ve paid 30% more at a chain store such as Barnes and Noble.  I also saw that the pricing for the gifts was reasonable as well.  I suggest that anyone in the area should take a stop into Book Soup.

Book Soup Information

8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

(310) 659-3110

booksoup.com

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Irvine Park Railroad-Orange

Irvine Park Railroad-Orange

What: Irvine Park Railroad

Celebrating Father’s Day at Irvine Regional Park.

Where: Orange

For: All Ages

Rides and Attractions

The train ride is a family favorite, with patrons able to take a 1/3 scale train around the Irvine Regional Park.  The conductor gives a tour of all the attractions.  The ride takes about 20 minutes to make a full rotation.

Irvine Park Railroad offers bike rentals that can be enjoyed by one person or an entire group.  Since the park is so big, families can explore using a regular bicycle, a tandem bike or a quad bike.  Training wheels are also available for kids that are learning how to ride and double surreys allow up to six adults and two small children.  Helmets are provided with every rental for no additional cost.  Keep in mind that availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is a large lake in the middle of the park that offers paddle boat rentals that can be enjoyed by two or three riders.  Children under the age of 13 are require to wear a life jacket.  There is also a height requirement that can be viewed on the website.

The Orange County Zoo allows patrons to visit animals native to California in their natural habitat.  All animals are domesticated and are rescues that cannot be returned to the wild.  There is a petting zoo where the children can feed and brush goats and pigs.  Various times during the year the zoo will put on family-friendly events.  Crafts and shows are available seasonally.

The park offers pony rides for kids and horse rentals for trail riding.  Horseshoe and volleyball set rentals are available for outdoor group and family fun.  There are also hiking trails that range from one to four miles long.

Party and moon bounce rentals along with party sites are available for rent on a first-come first-served basis.  I would suggest to make reservations four months in advance.  There are two snack bars in the park with food such as hot dogs, chips and ice cream.

The Crowd

There are always a ton of families and groups in the park.  We like to go for the themed events.  For Halloween they offer mazes, face painting, a pumpkin patch, etc.  We recently celebrated a Star Wars themed Father’s Day at the OC Zoo.

Cost

Train rides are $5 per person (children 12 months and younger are free).  Bike rental prices are based on the type of bike rented and time it is rented for.  Please check online for the hours of operation.  Pony rides are $5 each rider.  Moon bounce and party venue rental pricing can be viewed on the website.

Irvine Park Railroad Information

1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869

(714) 997-3968

irvineparkrailroad.com

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Melisse-Santa Monica

Melisse-Santa Monica

What: Melisse

Where: Santa Monica

For: Ages 18+

For my birthday, Ethan surprised me by taking me to my first Michelin Starred Restaurant (two Michelin Stars).  Melisse is a French restaurant with a preset menu crafted by Chef Josiah Citrin.  Although it’s very expensive, it made for a night to remember.

The Restaurant

With Melisse situated in Santa Monica, parking is hard to come by.  I suggest you take an Uber or Lyft to the restaurant.  I did see a valet service parking patrons’ cars in the back of the restaurant.  When you walk in, you’re immediately treated like a VIP.  The tables have white tablecloths and there is a setting with many utensils (I wasn’t sure which fork to use first).  The restaurant exudes a chic ambiance of the French theme.  Ornate décor and chandeliers with soft lighting sets the mood for your dining experience.  The servers introduce themselves and every dish that you will be having that night.  You must make reservations online or by calling the restaurant.  I suggest making reservations as soon as possible, minimally three weeks in advance.

There are options of a four-course, seven-course and ten-course menu at Melisse.  If you opt for the ten-course menu, expect to spend at least two hours in the restaurant.  We had the seven-course menu and were in the restaurant for an hour and a half.  The menus are constantly rearranged and updated, so be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date dining options.

The Food

Although the serving size seems small, the dishes at Melisse really fill you up.  My favorite dish was the caviar egg that came out on an intricate platter.  My other favorite was the pasta with truffles (the truffles are a significant amount more cost-wise).  There were some plates that I generally would not order or try, but I ate everything that was put in front of me.  I felt like each part of the meal was better than the last.  I couldn’t even finish the dessert that was brought out.  This is definitely a restaurant to go to for the complete fine-dining experience.

The Crowd

Everyone was dressed to the nines here.  Men came in suits with ties and jackets.  I wore my Christian Louboutin heels and cocktail dress.  The age range is 18+ because of the atmosphere.  The servers were very knowledgeable about every dish and wine pairing.  They even bagged up our desserts to take home.  Since we went for my birthday, they brought out a special dessert dish and tied our menu up in a sweet reminder of our date.

Cost

Since Melisse is a fine-dining restaurant, you should expect to spend a pretty penny.  Each of us had the pre-fixed menu and two drinks (four total) with a receipt upwards of $600.  I did order truffles (extra $50) on one of my dishes that pushed the bill up (although it was so worth it).  I do know that the yearly DineLA menu includes Melisse for $99 per person (varies yearly).

Melisse Information

1104 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310)395-0881

melisse.com

Thanks for reading! If you’ve ever been to Melisse, 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