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!!

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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.

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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

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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!

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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

Pioneertown

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. Could have something to do with 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

http://www.pappyandharriets.com

 

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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 it’s 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.