Author Topic: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18  (Read 1069 times)

Offline itreu001

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Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« on: August 30, 2018, 01:10:34 PM »
I am posting this trip report as a way to give back to everyone on this site.

We went away for about 9 days to the Southern California Area with our family. We spent a few months researching different things to do using the internet, and guidebooks, to make it smoother and more enjoyable for our kids. As everything else in life, life happens, and hiccups happened. Having the preparation in advance helps you make things more smoothly.

We try to give time to be able to do stuff that we just happen to come across, while at the same time have some time limits so we don't lose the day.

On a trip like this (like any other), I strongly recommend that you travel with a rapid battery charger that can charge at least 4-5 charges while full. I travel with an Anker charger that can give my I-Phone up to 7 charges. Its good for planes, and for while traveling. Its essential. I also suggest having a laptop in the hotel or wherever you are staying, as there are some sites in which you really need a computer to get full searching experience, when you need to do stuff on downtime.

Also keep in mind, our trip was after schoold already started in Southern California. As a result, parking was more plentiful in certain places, and attendence was lower in vacation hotspots.  Some attractions were actually closed during the week(Balboa park carousel and railroad in SD).

We flew on Alaska Air from EWR to LAX. Of our six tickets, we got 4 for free, as I signed up a year ago for two Alaska Credit cards, which gave me two free companion passes, and 62k miles, and then accumulated another 18k miles over the year, so I got another 2 rt tickets for free as well. Not bad for August travel. If you have an Alaska CC, you are also entitled to one free bag per person for each person on your reservation, up to six people, even if you do not pay for the tickets on your credit card. However, instead of getting 6 free bags, I only received 2, as since these are award tickets, each companion pass is its own seperate reservation, so I was limited to only 2 free bags each way. Go figure.  I paid for the ticket on an AMEX platinum card to get the 5x miles for any charges.

We ended up purchasing a few bags to take, but they were covered by my AMEX Platinum travel credit, so it ended up being free. Also we were able to buy snacks for the kids on the flight, and get them reimbursed by AMEX as well as part of the travel credit.

We flew Alaska out of EWR, in their terminal there is no lounges except for the Admiral lounge, so we weren't able to go there with either priority pass or Amex Platinum.

The flight was on an old Virgin America Plane, so there was a screen at each seat with in seat ordering as well. No TV though.

The flight was uneventful. We landed at LAX. We rented a car with Alamo, but through Costco. We booked the car 3 months in advance (minivan) and I checked the prices every few days to see if it went down. If it did, I rebooked and then cancelled the old reservation. We paid at least 50% less than what we should have for that time of the year. We ended up paying $320 all in for a minivan for 9 days in the summer.

We were supposed to stay at an Airbnb in Pico Robertson, in the Jewish Area. We landed at 11am, and the apartment was not to be ready until 4pm. We asked if we could check in early, and were told no.

We got our car,  (made a shopping pit stop on the way) and then went to Fish Grill on Beverly for Lunch. The food was good as always. The kids were happy with the food, and our youngest thought it was chicken. 

We then took the kids to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is where they were desperate to see. We found street parking during the day, and walked around of bit. The area is a bit seedy, reminding me of Lower Manhattan in the late 80's-early 90's. (At least we didn't see open drug use this time). We walked around, and that was it. Each thing is another tourist trap there.

When then drove the kids around and ended up going to Griffith Park to the Observatory. We were lucky as they just opened up the parking on top of the Hill, otherwise we would have had at least a 20-25 minute walk to get parking there. Its parking metered spots at $8 an hour. (At least the meters all take cc). We had some beautiful views of the city (what you can see through the smog), looked around the free museum, and left.  We did not stick around for the show or the planetarium.

We then drove back to check in to our airbnb.

We then went to our Airbnb.  It was a disaster. The apartment had one tiny ac in a bedroom that wasn't able to cool the bedroom. They probably needed an ac that was 3 to 4 times more powerful. The rest of the apartment had no ac. It was about 82 degrees in the bedroom, and about 90 in the rest of the place. It was cooler outside. There were 2 other fans in the apartment. It was not livable.  The windows had ripped screeens, and it was a first floor apartment in LA, and we werent too keen on having the kids sleeping with open windows.  We reached out to the "host" and to airbnb, and they wouldn't do anything. The best they could do, is tell us we could buy more fans and airbnb would reimburse us. The "host" didn't even respond to us.  Oh well.  Time to go.  Hopefully we will be able to resolve it in a legal fashion going forward. Lesson Learned. The problem with Airbnb is that there is no other room in the hotel to give you. If it sucks and is unsuitable, you are left to dispute it with Airbnb, or your credit card company.  The lesson also learned is that there are Airbnb scam artists out there and some of them are even "frum".

We then went out to dinner with the kids. We needed a family friendly place, and we settled on LA Burger Bar on Pico. The food was good.

We then left and booked a room in Embassy Suites LAX. We were very happy there and stayed there from Tuesday through Friday morning. It only sucked that we were now an extra 15-30 minutes from all the kosher establishments and other attractions on the north side of LA. They had breakfast each morning. The place had a pool We had to pay for parking though.  We had a "premium suite" so we basically got free candy and drinks for the rest of our trip there.  There's a new coffee bean at the Hampton Inn around the corner. Although there is no hechsher on the establishment, all of their stuff was kosher, and had a hechsher on it.

Wednesday morning, we decided would be an outdoor day. We had breakfast, went to Coffee Bean, and then started out in Venice Beach. We were there in the AM before all the interesting charachters showed up. (Although we apparantly saw some Youtuber on the basketball court). If you are looking for the variety, you need to get there later in the day, if you want quiet, the AM was good. Since we got there in the AM we found parking on the street.

We then drove up the coast and went to the Getty Villa. It is a must see. In Order to go, you must reserve a timed ticket to the Villa, which is found on their website. Admission is free, BUT parking is $15, and (get this) they do not allow you to enter unless you park. The timed ticket MUST be paper. You cannot show them a ticket on a phone. The ticket gives you an hour grace time before and after your time. So, as we did, if your ticket says 11am, you can enter the parking lot as early as 10am, and as late as 12pm, but not earlier or later. Try to park on the upper levels of the parking garage, as to enter the Villa, you have to exit "up" rather than "down".

The Getty Villa is like nothing you have ever seen. Its a modern day American Palace. Additionally, its a museum that is flush with cash, and has the most staff of any museum I have ever seen. There is also a kids room/section with stuff for them to do as well (arts/ projects). We spent about an hour there. It was well worth it.

We then continued up the coast to Malibu, and went to Fish Grill (again) for lunch in Malibu. The food was good and you get to eat kosher food outdoors in Malibu. There is no East Coast equivalent to this.

We then went another 15 minutes to the beach. We decided to go to Zuma Beach. Since school was out it was empty. This beach is about 2 miles long with parking ($12). You can park on the PCH for free if you found a spot on the side of the beach. The beach has showers, lifeguards and 2 snack shops (cash only). If you need time at your car to load and unload I suggest that you spend the $12 to be able to do it in the parking lot, and not on the highway.  We discovered after we left, that this is where they filmed Baywatch there.

We then drove back later in the afternoon to get dinner in LA. We stopped for ice cream in Santa Monica.  On the way we went to Ralph's on Pico to pick up some stuff. They have a full kosher section with prepared take out, and kosher bakery at affordable prices. We then ended up going out for dinner.  For the second night in a row, we tried to go to Jeff's, but it was just mobbed each night with nowhere to sit.  We ended up at Pico Kosher Deli. The place looks a bit run down, but the food is delicious. We then went back to the hotel exhausted.

The next day we went to Universal Hollywood. It took about an hour to drive there from the hotel. We did breakfast in the hotel and Coffee Bean as well.

The park opened at 10am. We were at parking at 945am. If there is any advice I can give about Universal is to pay for preferred parking. Its a difference of $10, but the best $10 you will spend in the park. Unlike other amusement parks which are in the middle of nowhere and have land for parking lots, Universale Hollywood has parking garages. The regular parking garage is a good 20 minute walk from the front of the park no matter if you are first or last. The preferred parking, is at the front gate. You take an escalator to get in. It saves you time in the start of the day and the end of the day when you just want to go home.

As you can imagine, we did the preferred parking. We were in the park in 5 minutes. We bought tickets online in advance at a discount. We ordered from "Tickets at work" but undercover tourist had discounts as well. You need to look around online for the cheapest price in advance.

Park of Universal's profit is to tell "fast passes" that allow you to skip the line on every single ride. It adds about another 40-50 per ticket if you buy it in advance and about 70 per ticket if you upgrade in the park. We did not do it. We could not justify spending so much on top of a 100 ticket in the park. Anyway, the way we did the park it would not have mattered except for the last ride we were on (The Simpsons Ride).

First, we were there when school was out, so the lines were shorter. The trick with Universal, is to make sure to do the lower park before the upper park. If you were never there, Universal (like LA) is on a hill. So there is the original park, and then a group of escalators to a newer part which is called the lower park. Make sure to be at the lower park when that part opens and there will be no lines for those rides. Later in the day, the people will all go to the lower park, and the ride times will increase. If you do this, then your wait times almost everywhere will be minimal.  We went on every ride in the park, and the kids loved it. We didn't wait on any lines except for the Simpsons Ride, which was the last ride of the day, and we waited almost an hour.

I suggest that you download the app and you can see the wait times for each ride. There is no kosher food (except for snacks) in the park. We had no trouble bringing kosher food in.

When we were done at closing we walked out the front gate and were at our car in less than 5 minutes. Do the preferred parking. We then went to Pacific Kosher Grill in the Valley. It was an 8 minute drive at that time of the evening to there. The food was delicious. Service was quick, and not that pricey. I strongly recomend it. It was very enjoyable having a real kosher dinner 8 minutes after leaving a theme park, its much more enjoyable than a microwaved meal at disney.

We then went back to the hotel.

Friday morning breakfast at the hotel, checkout, and then coffee bean. We then stopped off for some shopping on the way to Pico to get food for shabbos. We got bakery stuff at Schwartz's. Our kids really loved the Chocolate Chip Challah there. We then went a block down to Leider's.  I highly reccomend the food there. Everything there was fresh, and delicious and not crazy priced. We didn't feel that they just cooked on Wednesday like other take out places do for shabbos, and then just let it sit. Each thing was better than the other from the Apple Kugel with walnuts, the chicken fingers, empenadas, the salads. Even the Kuchen was amazing. I wish they had a branch on the east coast. Whatever food we didn't eat on shabbos held up for the rest of the week.  We went across the street to Glatt Mart and got other kosher food for shabbos. 

We then went out for lunch at Nagila Pizza. The pizza was good.

We then went to Oxnard for shabbos. The traffic in LA is horrific at times. Waze told us that the Pacific Coast Highway was the best way to go. So thats the way we went. It took a while, but was gorgeous.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach in Oxnard. We have stayed there before. Its right on the beach. Chabad is a 10 minute walk from there.

We used Chase Points to pay for the Hotel for a 2 queen suite with a pull out bed and a kitchen and 2 bathrooms. We used about 53k points. All we had to pay for is parking there.  There is no street parking.  Its a good deal because the rooms were running about $400 a night. We stayed to nights. The hotel gives free breakfast, and they tell you what is kosher there. Our suite opened to the beach with a porch on the second floor. There is a giant pool in the middle of the resort with a few hot tubs. There's a game room, and a free pool party with free snacks and drinks every night from 530-730. They show a movie at the pool for the kids after dark. Our kids had a great time there.

Davening shabbos day is starts at 10, and they end about 1230. They were packed and they have a kiddish/lunch afterwards with Mincha after that. We took the kids out to the Kosher Coffee Bean in Oxnard after shabbos for sandwiches and drinks (its about 5 minute drive from the hotel), and shopping a bit.

Sunday morning we had breakfast in the hotel. We then went to coffee bean, and then we drove about 35 minutes to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. This is a MUST DO. We spent about 2.5 hours there but, we could have spent all day. The kids loved it. There is the previous Air Force One to walk on and take a tour on, Marine One, and lots of interactive things for kids and adults to do. The views are stunning.  Its not the cheapest attraction - admission is $16 for an adult, and goes down from there for teens and kids, and if there is a major exhibit, can be as expensive as $29 per adult. However, this is a must see.

We then drive about 12 minutes to Pizza Nosh in Agoura Hills. We were not expecting good pizza, as we have had our share in the past of bad pizza in places off the beaten track, or even in major metropolitan areas, but we were pleasantly surprised. We ordered allot of food for our party of 9, and every last crumb was finished off. The food was good, but their Spinach Pizza was amazing.

We previously purchased tickets for a "whale watching boat" at Davy's Locker in Newport Beach. So we needed to drive to Newport Beach from Agoura Hills through LA traffic. Since there is no kosher food in the Newport Beach area that we would have been able to go to) we then ordered food from Tel Aviv in Encino (on the phone while driving), for us to pick up so we could eat on the boat (or after). We picked up the food there (the place was packed), and the food, when we did eat it, was amazing. The steak sandwich was real steak.

We went to Newport Beach for a "whale watching boat ride". We got the tickets on Groupon, so it ended up being about 8 dollars a person. It was a 2 hour long ride. You needed to be there about an hour before to get the tickets, in addition to making a reservation in advance after purchasing the groupon. You also needed to pay them about 2 dollars a person extra for some added on wharf fee or something. 

The kids loved the ride, they went to the arcades before we went on the boat. It is not whale season, so obviously there were no whales, but they saw seals and dolphins swimming. They all got splashed too. We saw sunset on the boat. A great time was had by all. We then took the 3 car ferry from newport beach to Balboa Island, and the kids were happy that they got out of the car on the ferry.  We then drove to San Diego for the night. (Took about 75 minutes).

We stayed at the Sheraton Mission Valley Hotel in SD. We booked 2 adjoining 2 queen rooms for 3 nights, all using Starwood points, each night was 7000 points. The hotel is a 3 minute car ride (or $4 uber ride) to the Kosher Coffee Bean across the highway. The hotel has a salt water pool and a hot tub. You need to pay for parking (like everywhere else in SD). There is no on street free parking anywhere.

Monday, We got up late and went to Coffee Bean for lunch. (A recurring theme) We then went to La Jolla Beach to see the seals and walk on the cliffs. We then went to Balboa Park. Since school started its considered off season there. We had no problem finding good (free) parking in the park. We walked around. We ate ice cream while taking the free tram shuttle (which goes around the entire southern portion of the park). We wanted to go to the merry-go-round and the miniature trains, but they are now only open on weekends. We went to the science museums and our kids rode on scooters and played with the street performers they have. Balboa Park is great to take kids. Its very wholesome with lots to do there. You can spend a week there and not scratch the surface with the park.

We then went to Bankers Hill where you can pick the right block (Juniper and 3rd) and have the planes landing in the airport sail right over your head. We drove up and down Laurel Avenue, which is a really steep hill as well.

We then went for dinner at Beth Jacob Congregation. It took about 15 minutes to get there from Balboa Park that time of day. The food was good, was fresh and made to order, and was made quickly (for real), we ate outside, and there is a playground and basketball court for the kids to play in, so you can eat, and the kids can play as well.  The last day they will be providing food in 2018 will be today August 30.

We then went back to the hotel for swimming.

Tuesday, Coffee Bean again for breakfast, and then some kids went to the movies across the street, and the others just hung out. Lazy day in SD. We went for dinner at the JCC. The food was okay, israeli stuff.  We then left to pack up.

Wednesday. Travel from SAN to EWR on Alaska. Rental Car place is 8 minutes from Hotel, Security at Airport took about 5 minutes, and its a small airport so short walk to gate. We were annoyed that the Amex lounge (that you have access to) was in terminal 2, and Alaska is in Terminal 1.  Once again bags were either free for alaska cc reservation or free for Amex incidentals. We flew on a Alaska Jet (with no personal screens), back. We bought kosher snacks on plane (covered by AMEX), and paid for the Alaska tablets ($10 a piece), also paid for by AMEX. It was a quick flight, with no worries.

I hope this is helpful to someone who goes to these places.








Offline eandd

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Re: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2018, 01:33:42 PM »
Wow! Super impressed to see such a well thought out long trip for a big family! Hope to be like that someday....

Online Geshmak25

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Re: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2018, 02:16:05 PM »
I believe that newport has a milchig jcc type place and a fleishig restaurant within 20-30 min drive.
PUTPAC = PITA

Offline itreu001

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Re: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2018, 02:31:21 PM »
Yes. We were pressed for time, and needed to make the time for the boat.  I think the places weren't open by the time we got there or finished. Also, our LA options to go were much much better and plentiful.

Online shaulyaakov

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Re: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2018, 01:57:54 PM »
Ikkar Chaser Min HaSefer. In Oxnard but no Tierra Sur?

I had a rough experience with an Airbnb in Miami Beach so I know what it's like. Also, I would have recommended beach in Santa Monica and pier over Venice.

Otherwise, seems like you had quite a great trip.

Offline itreu001

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Re: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2018, 03:40:18 PM »
We were in Oxnard with 4 small kids. We have been there before without the kids. In our opinion, our kids enjoyed Pizza Nosh and Coffee Bean, more than they would have enjoyed Tierra Sur.  Its not money well spent on little kids.

I agree with Santa Monica over Venice. The plan originally was to go to Santa Monica on the way back from Malibu in the evening.  We just skipped it as the day moved on and we wanted to be at Universal by 930am. 

Offline ludmila

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Re: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2018, 06:46:49 PM »
Nice TR, sorry to hear about the bad AirBnb exp.  I had a couple similar experiences in Europe, and since then back to hotel stays only. Airbnb is just like a broker, they will not do anything to resolve issues.
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Offline zow

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Re: Southern CA (LA/SD) 8/21/18-8/29/18
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2018, 09:39:57 PM »
Really enjoyed your trip report.  Clearly written, descriptive, and with useful advice and recommendations.
Thank you for writing it up.  Glad you enjoyed!