Are you and your family heading to California to visit Disneyland? Do you have a few extra days after enjoying the parks?

Here are some great recommendations from an L.A. native to help navigate you through the city to some of the more popular destinations as well as some local favorites! (A car is a must to freely experience the city.*)

Obvious Los Angeles attractions: (read: “Where you will likely be in good company of camera-wielding tourists!”)

Where to Stay:
Santa Monica is a good-sized city with tons of choices for accommodations near the beach. Traffic on the west side can be a bit heavier than in the Hollywood area, but if you are planning a lot of beach time, this is a fun place to be!

Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows ( $$$
DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Santa Monica ( $$

The Natural History Museum has incredible displays, including the Dinosaur Hall, dioramas, and the Gems and Minerals exhibits.  (

Santa Monica offers a lot in entertainment and walking out and about with the pier, popular restaurants, people watching, and shopping on the Santa Monica Promenade.  (

The Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd is one you will recognize from many films and tv shows. Check out the footprints and handprints of some of film’s biggest stars, and take a stroll down the boulevard and see their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!  ( (

Window shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and keep an eye open for stars!  (

The Cheesecake Factory is a highly popular chain of restaurants throughout SoCal (and beyond!). With an enormous menu and fabulous desserts, you’re sure to find something for everyone! Keep in mind the wait can be long at peak times, so schedule lunch or dinner around the rush!    (

 Hidden Gems:

Where to Stay:
Universal City offers a great location for everything Hollywood, and it’s also a good base for any trips around the Greater Los Angeles area. Walking distance to Universal Studios and CityWalk makes it a great choice for those looking for more entertainment and eating!


In the middle of a bustling business district on Wilshire Blvd, you will find the LaBrea Tar Pits (also known as the Page Museum). Great for kids and adults alike, the museum offers numerous displays of animals living in Los Angeles during the Ice Age that have since been unearthed from one of the many pits. View the dire wolves, condors, and the Columbian mammoth exhibits, and be sure to visit an active excavation pit in the park to watch the paleontologists at work. (If you want a day of museums, you can easily visit the Natural History Museum AND the Tar Pits in the same day. Discounted tickets to both museums can be purchased at either location).  (

If you are looking for sand and surf, head north on the PCH (Pacific Coast Hwy) which runs beside the ocean. Leo Carrillo State Beach (north of Malibu) is a hidden treasure. Time it right, and you may be lucky enough to enjoy the tide pools at low tide. Wear comfortable shoes with good traction, and don’t be afraid to get a little wet! (There is a fee for entrance and parking)  (
(Also check  ahead of time for the daily tide schedule)


Hollywood Blvd does have some great theatres, but to continue your Disney experience, take in a Disney film at the El Capitan Theatre – Disney’s own classic Hollywood theatre, complete with red carpets, ushers and a Wurlitzer pipe organ! For a special treat, VIP tickets are available which include your movie tickets, an escort to your reserved seats by a finely dressed usher, and having your soft drink and popcorn delivered right to you!   (

Locals head to the Grove for shopping and a bite to eat. They do film some entertainment shows here and often have a book signing or cast appearances, so pay attention to whom you may brush shoulders with!  (
Universal CityWalk has good restaurants (including the Hard Rock Café), some shops, a large movie complex, and entertainment (to include bowling).  (

You can find any food from around the world in Los Angeles, and the city is subtly divided into “zones,” such as China Town, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Little Armenia,…  If you love international food, or if you’re the adventurous type, find a little spot in one of these areas to enjoy a meal.

A favorite chain of many Los Angelenos is Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. There is a location on Gower St. in Hollywood, but it is quite small and the line is often out the door. There is a larger Roscoe’s in Pasadena on North Lake Ave. Be sure to order the chicken and waffles plate, or you might as well eat somewhere else! (

A classic in Los Angeles, Canter’s Deli has been a fixture for decades, and they are open 24 hours a day. Go hungry as their portions are generous! (

* With the exception of Leo Carrillo State Beach, all these locations are within a 30 minute drive from Hollywood (barring traffic delays).

Nancy Wideman was born and raised in Los Angeles and has continued to enjoy all these spots with her own family over the years.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist