Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Hollywood

by Tom Brennan

Believe it or not, my son and I saw a two-headed calf and some shrunken heads on Hollywood Boulevard!  While odd things aren’t that unusual to see in Hollywood, you can find them all under one roof at Ripley’s ‘Believe It, Or Not!’ museum.

The Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not!’ odditorium is one of the main attractions along tourist-friendly Hollywood Boulevard.  You can’t miss it—it’s the building with the green t-rex head poking through the roof on the corner of Hollywood and Highland.  The museum hosts an array of unique artifacts and strange tales collected from around the world by journalist/writer/cartoonist Robert L. Ripley

Upon entering, my 8 year-old and I were greeted in the lobby by none other than President Donald J. Trump– or rather a wax figure of the former T.V. icon.  I am not exactly sure what Donald Trump’s connection is to Ripley’s other than “Believe it or not, he is our president,” but it does make for a fun photo-op, and it sets the tone for what you’ll find inside.

Once through the turnstile, my son and I were off on a self-guided adventure.  I was immediately blown away standing beside a life-sized replica of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man who ever lived (8’ 11”). The model is proportional to what the “Alton Giant” looked like in real life.  Holy cow, he’s big! 


Some of the other incredible items include a cyclops goat, that two-headed calf I mentioned earlier,  a toilet paper dress, and much more.  The Hollywood Ripley’s also features a host of pop-culture memorabilia including a room dedicated to Marilyn Monroe.  There are also a lot of interactive exhibits, games and puzzles, which we really enjoyed. Bring some quarters for the shooting gallery.  And look for a box with a mystery inside—open at your own risk!

There are over 300 artifacts on two floors to discover.  The facility has an elevator if you need help getting around, but one of the highlights was a set of stairs where the steps play notes when you like piano keys.

As with all good things in Los Angeles, be prepared to deal with parking challenges. There is no dedicated parking lot at the museum so you have to utilize one of the lots nearby, which are a few blocks away, and might make for a longish walk for a little one.  We parked across the street from the museum at the Hollywood and Highland complex, which sports a few popular stores and eateries as well as access to theaters, including the Mann’s Chinese.  If you park beneath the Hollywood and Highland complex, however, be sure to get your ticket validated at one of the stores on site or the movie theater, otherwise you’ll pay a hefty fee to bail your car out—Ripley’s does not validate. An even better idea is to ride the Metro red line, which has a stop directly under Hollywood and Highland, and Ripley’s is just across the street!

The museum is open daily from 10am to Midnight.  You can purchase tickets on-line, but walk-ins are more than welcome.

Believe me when I tell you that the Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not’ odditorium is a great LITTLE ADVENTURE in Los Angeles that you and your child will keep talking about long after your visit.

The details:

Hours:Open 364 days a year (not open the night of the Academy Awards ceremony); 10am – Midnight.

Admission Price:Adult (12+) $25; Children (4+) $15

Good for: 7+.  Some of the exhibits might be a little intense for real little ones.

Watch out for:Traffic.  The corner of Hollywood and Highland is a very busy intersection.

Nearby attractions:Mann’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood Walk of Fame, El Capitan Theater, Hollywood Wax Museum, Roosevelt Hotel, Guinness World Records Museum, Metro red line station.

Nearby eats:Hard Rock Café, Baja Fresh, Dave & Buster’s, Mel’s Drive-In Hollywood

Sequoia National Park

There are so many other amazing distractions in California, it’s easy to forget that world’s largest tree, the General Sherman, lives only about 4 hours away from Los Angeles in Sequoia National Park.  That’s right – the world’s largest tree! (Sequoia is also home to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the US, but it will be a few years before we can conquer that!) So add another entry to your bucket list because Sequoia is a must-see for residents of the Los Angeles area.

Sequoia is not a day trip destination, and two nights or more is ideal. Plans must be made well in advance to camp inside the park or stay in one of the lodges, but there is plenty of camping and lodging in Three Rivers, a town only about 10 minutes from the park entrance.

For families with younger kids, once a good place to start your tour is at the Giant Forest Museum. There is parking directly across from the museum. From there you can take a number of short hikes, including the 1.3-mile Big Trees trail, a paved path that leads you through a forest of giant Sequoias.

Look! A bear rock!!


After the Big Trees hike, take the shuttle to the General Sherman tree viewing area. Marvel at it’s size, the largest tree (by volume) in the world. We’re talking about 100 feet wide, 275 feet tall, and it’s well over 2,000 years old. It’s a humbling experience. Once you’ve taken that in, hop back on the shuttle and go to Lodgepole where you can grab a bite in the cafe.


With the family refueled, consider taking the 4.2-mile roundtrip hike to Tokopah Falls. It’s a fairly easy and picturesque hike alongside a rushing river for most of the way. At the end, the trail gets narrow and rocky, but it’s worth it for the view at the end. If you can’t make it to the end, you can still view the falls from other points on the trail.

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The park gets crowded on holidays and weekends during the summer, so arrive before 10 am. if you want to get a parking space. Avoid moving your car by taking the shuttle to different areas of the park. Make sure to take note of the last shuttle times, around 5 or 5:30 pm, otherwise you will have to hike back to your car.

The details:

Best time to go: May – October

Good for: Kids 5+

Watch out for: bears, icy ground certain times of the year, uneven/ rocky ground

Get there: Insterstate 5 north to CA 65 north

Wear: hiking boots, sunscreen, hat, shorts or jeans

Bring: lots of water, snacks, first aid kit, camera

Nearby eats: Lodgepole Deli; The Peaks Restaurant at Wuksachi Lodge; River View Restaurant outside the park in Three Rivers

Biking Ojai

IMG_4446.jpgThe distance from LA to Ojai used to be described as “one CD away.” These days, I’m not sure what that would be in iTunes language, but usually you can bet on an hour and fifteen minutes to get to there. The town of Ojai is enchanting, with mission-style buildings draped with bougainvillea and the scent of sage floating in the air.

Even better, there’s a shaded bike trail that you can take to explore the entire downtown area. The Ojai Valley bike trail runs 9 miles from Ventura to the heart of Ojai, but for families with young children, a ride through downtown Ojai is an experience in itself. You can access the trail in a number of places, but the easiest access is probably from the park. The trail runs behind Libbey Park and parallel to Ojai Avenue, the main thoroughfare.

And speaking of Libbey Park… the recently renovated playground would easily earn 5 stars from most kids.

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You’ll likely be hungry after a bike ride and the playground. Head to Ojai Avenue and start with a honey tasting at the Heavenly Honey Company to tide you over while you choose from one of the many restaurants in the area.

Happy Trails!


The details:

Best time to go: Winter, Spring, Fall

Good for: Kids 5+

Watch out for: streets that cross the bike path

Get there: 101 Freeway to Venture to HWY 126 W to Ojai

Wear: helmet, sunscreen, layers

Bring: bikes, helmets, water, picnic, snacks, first aid kit, camera

Bike Rental/ Repair:  The Mob Shop 110 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023


Just down the road from Joshua Tree, in Yucca Valley, there’s a peculiar attraction known as Pioneertown. Is this a historic Old West town? Well, not exactly. But by Hollywood standards it’s the real deal – it was built in the 1940s to be an Old West movie set. Nonetheless, kids will love that you can go inside the stores and even pretend to be in jail; sit on a wagon, or simply run around and kick up some dust. It’s usually not crowded, perhaps because anyone visiting Pioneertown is at Pappy + Harriet’s, a popular restaurant and live music venue featuring all-ages shows. You MUST make a reservation well in advance to get into this restaurant on weekends and holidays because it seems everyone wants to eat here, both locals and tourists. This could have something to do with the fact that there’s not much around these parts in the way of food. If you don’t have a reservation and can’t survive a 3-hour wait, an excellent alternative is Crossroads, located near the Joshua Tree park entrance.

Pioneertown is located at 5040 Curtis Road, Pioneertown, CA, 92268


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Chinese New Year Parade

LA’s Chinatown is a great place to visit with kids anytime, but it’s even better when giant dancing dragons and martial arts performers take to the streets in the annual Golden Dragon Parade.

The fun starts with getting there. Hop on the subway and take it to Union Station. From here you can either walk to Chinatown, or you can transfer to the Gold Line. Either way it gives you an excellent opportunity to check out Union Station and its gorgeous art deco and mission revival architecture that you’ve likely seen in movies. If you opt for the Gold Line, or happen to be arriving on the Gold Line, get off at the Chinatown Station, and from there it’s short walk latern-lined walk to the Grand Plaza.

Secure a spot along Hill Street or North Broadway. Typically it’s less crowded on Hill Street as you get closer to the beginning of the parade. Note that if you have little ones with noise sensitivity, bring ear plugs and warn them there will be loud noises. There will be lots of startling poppers going off in addition to police officers on motorcycles at the beginning of the parade. The parade tends to be long with many dancing dragons, performers from all over the city, civic leaders and an overall incredible display of colorful costumes.

Before or after the parade, make sure to visit the Grand Plaza shops for trinkets and the Phoenix Bakery for almond cookies and other Chinese sweets.

Now to the best part… where to eat. On the day of the parade, you’ll want to be strategic with your timing when it comes to lunch. Chances are if you go before or during the parade, you may be able to get a table at Yang Chow. If you need a quicker option, head to Philippe, an LA landmark which serves sandwiches in a no-frills environment.