North America

29 Aug 2018

LA | Palm Springs Family Vacation

Qantas Flight

We flew the new Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft to Los Angeles, a game-changing aircraft which has opened up a new era for the airline. The aircraft carries 236 passengers, has light food onboard, flies quietly and boasts fuel efficiency with better air quality in the cabin which accounts for less jetlag.

Groundlink Transfers

On arrival we were met by a Groundlink representative, a private car transfer service. When booking the service, it allows for Groundlink to monitor the flight arrival for their pick-up to match your flight. Sounds good in theory, however, be mindful. On this occasion we had a 2-hour delay in customs. Groundlink offers a 60-minute grace period, thereafter it is 1USD per minute. Our extra cost was US60 plus tax. LA is always a busy airport and it may be a more cost-effective option to nominate the time of pick-up, allowing extra time for delays.

The Mondrian Los Angeles Hotel

For our first night we chose to stay in West Hollywood. This luxury boutique hotel is located in the heart of the West Hollywood Sunset Strip and represents modern chic, excitement and glamour. The Sky Bar boasts skyline views of Los Angeles, and some of LA’s finest pool parties with the latest bar tunes. An effortlessly casual vibe throughout, rooms were spacious and well-appointed. For families, note – children are not allowed to dine in the hotel restaurant after 9pm and the Sky Bar and Pool is adults only on Saturdays.

Restaurant - Tao, Los Angeles

An absolute must dining experience. What a venue! The sister-restaurant to Tao, New York. We loved it, the best Sushi and Shishito Peppers we’d ever tasted.

Santa Monica & Venice

On the weekend we took in the sights of Santa Monica jetting around town on community shared scooters called Bird or Lime. Then went for a walk along Venice Beach where we discovered Abbot Kinney Blvd, which is home to some of California’s finest vegan cafes, coffee and boutique shops and a great place to visit.

Restaurant - Nobu Malibu

Had a fun evening at Nobu, which overlooked Malibu beach, a truly spectacular sunset. It attracts the who’s who of celebrity LA, has a great vibe and good thing we booked weeks in advance otherwise we wouldn’t have got a table. If you can’t get a table, it’s ok, you can still enjoy an evening with drinks out on the deck.

Disneyland & Adventure Park

All parks were a highlight for my 8-year old, especially Disneyland and meeting all the famous characters. First Mini Mouse, then Goofy and Pluto, Micky Mouse – our daughter Madeleine was in awe at the introduction however almost outdone by being invited to play drums with Donald Duck in the characters show. Could it get any better!! Unfortunately, the show was cancelled at the last minute, but it didn’t stop Donald Duck heading out for his last appearance and taking Maddie by the hand to walk about the park before signing autographs. In the eyes of a child, this experience was, in her words.. epic! I’m sure it will be talked about for years to come.

Residence Inn by Marriott, Anaheim

For our visit to Disneyland we chose to stay near the park. Residence Inn by Marriott is a relatively new property, great location and easy walk to Disneyland and Adventure Parks. The apartments were nicely appointed and had excellent facilities.

During the 2-hour drive to Palm Springs, we stopped en-route at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Huge. Everything from Gap to Gucci and Valentino it was all there. Prices were reasonable however keep in mind the conversion to AUD and then add tax and before you know it your bargain purchase is not such good value.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs was a highlight! Well-known for its mid-century architectural heritage and iconic modern mid-century homes, we drove by the honeymoon house of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, Dean Martin, Twin Palms Frank Sinatra estate and Kaufmann House considered as one of the best examples of desert modernism and once owned by Barry Manilow. Since early-1900s Palm Springs has been known as Hollywood’s celebrity playground, the desert away from the hustle and bustle of LA’s a-list showbiz lifestyles. The Palm Springs Cable Car, which is an aerial tramway that travels at 8,516 feet gave us breathtaking views of Chino Canyon and Mt San Jacinto State Park.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Palm Springs

A beautiful hotel high up on the hill of Frank Sinatra drive with spectacular views. We took advantage of the great rates are on offer in Palm Springs during this time as the weather hits mid-30s to 40 degrees. Poolside, it was lovely. Our poolside suite was spacious, including an outdoor patio area with firepit where the kids would come together after dark to toast marshmallows and make S’Mores.

Heading back to LA, we visited the LA Dodgers stadium, the boho chic towns of Los Feliz and Silverlake. Melrose Place was my favourite. A charming street and a must-stop for the fashion enthusiast. Isabel Marant, The Row, Marc Jacobs and a coffee shop called The Alfred. Not only great coffee but it featured a very cool little Italian shoe shop out back in a small room behind the barista. Finally, a touch of retail therapy.

Restaurant - The Ivy, Beverly Hills

After hearing so much about The Ivy, it would have been remiss of me not to visit. We planned ahead as bookings are essential. Surrounded inside and out by an exquisite array of colourful roses, we arrived at The Ivy for our mid-morning breakfast to be met by a group of dapper waiters and escorted inside and being offered a complimentary glass of French champagne. Once seated, my husband laughed asking me if I’d seen the menu prior to arriving to which I responded no. Breakfast prices started from US35 (plus tax) to, from memory, about US79 (plus tax) per plate. No kids’ menu. I’m not sure quite what I expected but we were there, and we were going to enjoy the experience. It did not disappoint. Expensive yes, so too is most of LA once you include tipping. However, my US35 eggs benedict were only one part the 3-courses offered. First course a selection of home-made scones, the best I’ve ever tasted. The eggs benedict was delicious, followed by a generous fresh-fruit platter for each of us. Take home packs of home-made choc-chip cookies too.

The Standard Hotel, West Hollywood.

The Standard is located right on Sunset Boulevard, if that’s not enough in itself, its also famous for the pool scene in Sex in the City. The property is quite unique and known for pushing boundaries on traditional-style hotels. You only have to check out The Box to understand what I mean by this. Quirky, fun, a retro-glam yet casual atmosphere.

Heading back to beachside Santa Monica where we spent the last days of our trip, we stopped in at Brentwood Country Mart, a small shopping precinct that features some exceptional boutiques including Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. Close-by to this affluent, coastal neighbourhood are the spectacular homes of Pacific Palisades and Palisades Park. We dined at Shutters on the Beach, visited Santa Monica pier and strolled along the promenade.

Dining tips (all great options for families) -

Tao, West Hollywood (a must!)
The Eveleigh, Sunset Boulevard (bookings required – happy hour food & drinks 5-7pm)
Tocaya Organica, Sunset Boulevard, Sunset Plaza (happy hour food & drinks 4-6pm)
The Ivy, Beverly Hills ($$$ but worth the experience)
Café Gratitude, Beverly Hills
Gracias Madre, Melrose Ave, West Hollywood*
Crossroads Kitchen, Melrose Ave, West Hollywood*
Nobu, Santa Monica
The Fairmont, Santa Monica
Herringbone, Santa Monica
Plant, Food & Wine, Venice*
The Butchers Daughter, Venice*


Shopping strips -

The Grove at Farmers Market, Los Angeles
Melrose Avenue
Melrose Place
3rd Street
Abbot Kinney
Brentwood Country Mart
Silver Lake, East-side Los Angeles (known as one of the hippest neighbourhoods of LA)
Los Feliz, East-side Los Angeles