Yep, LA is the BEST city for raising kids. And it looks like it’s going to get even better this year, as we add playspaces, re-open an incredible outdoor venue, add attractions to our local amusement parks that will have even jaded locals braving the tourist crowds, put on some shows that will entertain and educate our kids, make it easier to travel across town (Hallelujah!), get more food (and booze), sports and music. So mark your calendars, 2016 is gonna be a busy (and aaaamazing) year. Here’s what to watch for…
photo: Meghan Rose
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
You can catch a peek right now of the spires of Hogwarts rising above Universal Studios. You can also start shopping in the wizard store (more fun than it should be; kids can try out the wands as well as trying on robes from all the houses and play with plush versions of Scabbers, Crookshanks and Hagrid—and then buy them, of course). But you can’t order up a Butterbeer, ride the Flight of the Hippogriff kiddie coaster or take Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey adventure. At least not until April 7, when the park officially opens right inside Universal Studios.
Great Wolf Lodge Resort
This indoor water park resort is opening up in Garden Grove on February 19. Though there are 12 other locations across the country, this is the first California outpost and those who have been to others are telling us to get excited. It’s an indoor waterpark where only registered guests at the hotel are allowed in, so it’s never too crowded and it’s all part of the grand adventure. In addition to the water park (which is conscious of our drought and uses a state-of the-art water conservation system, we’ve been told) the biggest of the Great Wolf resorts will also boast seven restaurants, a bowling alley, a spa and an interactive scavenger hunt called MagiQuest that ends with a battle against a dragon. Every room is a suite, fitting up to 12 people, so we’re sensing a superb new birthday destination here.
Expo Line’s Westward Expansion
All that construction heading westward has been for a reason: starting in April (or May) the Expo Line’s light rail extension to Santa Monica is scheduled to open. Test trains are already running, and after a full battery of safety tests and runs, it will open to the public. And we can all get to the oceanside city, without driving, for the first time in 50 years. So whether you commute or want to bring the kids to Santa Monica for the day, you can finally bypass the 10. The trip will take 46 minutes from downtown to the end of the line. If you make the trip daily, you just gained about 10 hours a week.
photo: Ford Amphitheatre
The Ford Amphiheatre Reopens
We love the Hollywood Bowl. But we just might love the smaller amphitheater that lives right across the street a little bit more. Fighting words! But anyone who has ever taken their kids to a Big!World!Fun! (or other) show in the summer to experience world music in an intimate and bucolic setting right off the freeway (seriously, you can watch deer graze in the trees behind the stage) knows that this past summer just wasn’t the same without the Ford Amphitheatre open. But they promise that their nearly $66 million renovation project that gives the theatre updated sound and lighting systems and a new stage will be completed by summer and we can all enjoy their programming once again.
Firestone Walker Opens in Venice Beach
Paso Robles regulars know all about Firestone Walker, a beloved brewery that not only crafts some top notch craft beers, but is also chill, laid back, welcoming to families and has a tasty menu that really compliments their beers. The brewery has been working on opening an LA spot for a few years now, and it finally looks set to open in very early 2016. The local beer scene is exploding (finally!) and this looks like one of the most promising new places for parents who love beer.
photo: Au Fudge via Instagram
Au Fudge Opens in West Hollywood
We’ve been tracking the opening of Jessica Biel and Estee Stanley’s new eaterie and club for kids with more than a hint of anticipation. That is partly due to the fact that their Instagram is filled with tantalizing treats, partly to the fact that we’re still not quite sure exactly how the concept will play out (early word suggested it would be members only; sort of a SoHo club for the celeb kid set, but that seems to have broadened), but mostly to the fact that we’re big fans of Estee Stanley and Jessica Biel. This gorgeous looking spot has been in the works since before Jessica Biel was even a Mom, but motherhood seems to have spurred her need for the spot to open, and it’s now scheduled for a January 2016 reveal. Stay tuned-you know we’re first in line to get the behind the scenes scoop.
Ninjago the Ride at LEGOLAND
In the world of theme park adventures, the new Harry Potter place and Disney’s Star Wars expansion/inclusion/explosion are gobbling all the headlines. But in terms of the one you may visit soonest and most frequently, the new Ninjago ride at LEGOLAND may actually top the list. For legions of little LEGO lovers, a new ride is always exciting, but this one has us extra intrigued as LEGOLAND promises new ride technology that allows kids to control the outcome of the ride with hand gestures and also has 4D effects. Opening in the Spring.
photo: Sonya L. via yelp
Get Your Burger On at Shake Shack
Full confession: we may have become so obsessed with Shake Shack on trips back East that there have been attempts to recreate their burgers at home. But nothing can compete. This may be the start of an In N’ Out vs Shake Shack throwdown in your home. The new spot is scheduled to open early this year in West Hollywood at Santa Monica and La Cienega. With a dedicated parking lot and big outdoor patio planned, this will become a summer staple. There’s no hard open date, but they aim for spring. We’ll keep you posted!
Adele’s Coming to America
Hello? Are you going? If so, you’d better already have tickets, as they’re totally gone for all 6 nights at the Staples Center in August. What an awesome first concert for kids lucky enough to have parents lucky enough to score tickets. And if you didn’t get tickets, let’s hope the GRAMMY Museum does a super cool exhibit about her, just like they did for Taylor Swift. Because that we can all go to, and get a t-shirt, too.
Percy Jackson & Peter Pan
Two literary characters that kids love are coming to Los Angeles for special live shows this year. Percy Jackson arrives in the form of The Lightening Thief at the Wallis, which has zipped to the top of our “Best Theater in LA for Kids” list. The show, about Greek gods, monsters and the pre-teen heroes that must save the world, is a musical that’s adapted from the book and is recommended for kids 7 & up. It’s playing at the Wallis April 8 & 9. Meanwhile, we’ve never gotten into the stage show of Peter Pan, which usually comes off as if they’re trying to recreate the Mary Martin, which is lovely, but a bit, well, boring. This new production is for a new generation. It’s called Peter Pan 360 and takes place in a theatre-tent combining theatre-in-the-round, overhead surround CGI video screens, and actors flying forty feet in the air. It’s Tink for the kids raised on Cirque, and we can’t wait. Limited engagement starts April 6 at LA Live.
photo: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
First Fridays Return with “Big Screen, Bigger Science”
The live music and science discussion series returns on February 5 (monthly through June) and while the late night, DJ & drinks evenings don’t sound particularly kid friendly, they actually are, and this year’s looks even more appealing to screen worshipping littles. The theme is “Big Screen, Bigger Science,” and each evening will take a look at the science behind a blockbuster. What’s the body mechanics behind hybrid superheroes? Can you survive a zombie apocalypse with science? Is Jurassic World possible? Kids and parents all learn the answers to these burning questions, while hearing cool music and taking a behind the scenes at the museum tour. Tickets are $18 or free to members and they sell out, so reserve yours now.
Maybe we’re being a little too optimistic, but this could be the year for the boys in Blue. Yes, Grienke is gone. But we have a new manager in Dave Roberts who can hopefully unite the club, and all the trades aren’t done for the off season, so there’s still hope for adding to the roster. Here’s to believing that they can build a great team around the best starting and closing pitchers in baseball, Gonzalez, Turner, Ethier and Pederson. Maybe Puig will live up to his promise. Maybe most of the city will finally see the Dodgers on TV. Until any of that proves false, let’s hope it’s true and look forward to another season of possibilities! The first preseason home game is March 31.
photo: Jennifer O’Brien
The Broad Has Times Available
Art lovers of all ages were pretty excited when the Broad Museum opened in September of 2015. In fact, so many were excited that it became impossible to get tickets. Timed, reserved tickets are key, as not having one necessitates waiting in line for over an hour with impatient kids. But tickets are currently available for weekdays starting in March and weekends starting in April. Book ‘em now! Because you and your kids really, really want to get into the Infinity Mirrored Room.
Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage
In the Star Wars frenzy, the other space saga may have gotten overlooked. But many kids love it, and if you haven’t seen it lately, you’ll be impressed anew with the messages of exploration, cooperation and understanding. This is a cool opportunity to introduce kids to beloved characters through clips from the series and movies as a live orchestra plays the iconic soundtrack and young maestros also learn all about classical instruments and music. Beam us up, Scotty. The show is at the Pantages April 1 & 2, and the show is recommended for kids 5 & up.
Carnival of the Animals at The Broad Stage
More classical music…Less played that Peter and the Wolf, but equally beloved by kids, is the Carnival of Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. The circus is coming, inspired by Saint-Saëns suite, to Santa Monica’s Broad Stage with a tale of creatures that tumble, fly, leap, and spin their way through the animal kingdom. Here zebras juggle, kangaroos somersault, and elephants dance with street cred in a performance by Australia’s award-winning Circa. This show is appropriate for kids of all ages and arrives April 28-May 1.
Storyland at the Discovery Cube
And speaking of classics coming to life, help your youngest pre-readers dive headlong into a book, when Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites. Step into the worlds of Peter Rabbit, Spot, Peter from The Snowy Day, the mouse from If You Give a Mouse, and others. Little ones revel in the three-dimensional play and bi-lingual (English and Spanish) learning environment. And you’ll love that they just want to go home and be read to. The exhibit is open January 16-May 8.
Call us suckers for a good observation deck. So it’s exciting that the US Bank Tower, which is officially called the Library Tower, is building an opening a new observation deck that will offer sweeping 360 degree views of the city. Taking over floors 69 & 70, this will be the highest open air observation deck in California and will give kids a great sense of the grand size and diverse geography of their home town. Tickets to the top will be $25, and the deck is scheduled to open mid-year. For date nights, there’s also a plan for a new restaurant to open on the 71st floor.
Hollywood Bowl Summer Season
It’s almost impossible to pick the Bowl event to look forward to the most: SummerSounds for kids, the free rehearsals, family nights like the Bugs Bunny at the Bowl or a grown up date night. The season schedule isn’t released yet, so while we can count of perennial favorites (Bugs, the Sound of Music sing along, a rockin’ 4th of July show with fireworks) we don’t have more specifics than that. But here’s a date to keep an eye on: the first weekend in May. That’s when tickets go on sale, and when you want to be in line or online to buy them, because the cheapie seats ($1 & $3) sell out fast, and the loud, remote and practically free seats are a great way to introduce young ones who might be noisy or have to leave early to the wonders of the Hollywood Bowl.
La Boheme Family Day at LA Opera
This may surprise many, but it’s true: kids (most) really love opera. While it seems counter intuitive, it makes sense: loud singing, wild gesticulations, over the top emotions…it’s all there. LA Opera is currently staging some of the best, biggest and most inventive operas in the world. Twice a year they host Family Day, a chance to bring kids to meet the stars, learn about the mechanics of drama and opera, get behind the scenes information on the world of that opera and even play with props. Plus treats and arts and crafts! Then they watch a matinee performance. The experience will turn any kid into an opera aficionado. This spring’s performance is the always accessible La Boheme on May 22.
photo: Trejo’s Tacos via facebook
Trejo’s Tacos Opens
Kids will always eat tacos, parents will swoon over the shrimp and red snapper ceviche, and we can’t wait to get the kids in these shirts. The new restaurant from Danny Trejo on La Brea in an old Taco Bell is hotly anticipated for all these reasons. It’s scheduled to open in January; t-shirts are now available online.
Movies, Movies & More Movies
Ok, there’s nothing like Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening this year. But there are returning friends in Finding Dory, a Steven Spielberg take on the Roald Dahl classic The B.F.G., a chance to see if the birds are still angry when they get their own movie, two from Disney (Moana & Zootopia) and gorgeous live action The Jungle Book. So there are plenty of reasons to head to the theater in 2016, as we wait a few years Episode VIII.
Also, this year we’ll find out if LA is getting a football team (or two or three?) and landing the Olympics in 2024! What are you looking forward to in LA in this New Year?