California, Here We Come

We're leaving soon on our vacation to Southern California.  My husband is an expert trip planner, but I think even he would admit that this one snuck up on him.  I know, it should technically be "sneaked up on him".  But "sneaked" sounds awkward, and so I say "snuck", but I have to clarify that I use it knowingly in case I die in a California earthquake and one of my last blog posts on record contained an improperly conjugated verb, because I cannot leave that kind of legacy.

(Last-minute trip planning drives me to extreme caffeine consumption, can you tell?)

But back to my point: this trip came out of nowhere.  We've had it on our calendar for months, but life has been unusually fast-paced lately.  I'm not feeling as prepared as I normally do when we forge ahead on a big trip.  Also, all our other big vacations have been in parts of the country we know.  We don't know a thing about California.  We red-staters tend to think of California as That Big Giant Place With The Earthquakes And All The Blondes And Smog And Crazy Real Estate Prices And Movies Which Chip Away At Our Nation's Moral Fabric.  It's a bit of a mystery. 

Here's what I do know:

We're driving from Oklahoma to Los Angeles.  It's a long drive (about 21 hours each way), but it's a simple one:

1.  Get on I-40.
2.  Turn right.
3.  At the Pacific Ocean, stop.

Even I can't mess up that.

We'll need to make excellent time on our way out there (the fact that I just wrote that sentence means that we are now certain to face motion sickness, bladder issues, and car trouble).  We're attending a specific sporting event that has my husband and sons enthralled to the point of packing face paint.  We'll be moving quickly on the way out there, but once we arrive, we plan to slow our pace.  We'll go watch the mega sporting event, and then we'll spend a day or two relaxing on the beach.  We won't even try to resist the gravitational pull of Disneyland, spending a couple of days there in the middle in our trip.  I suspect that the day my four-year-old daughter meets Sleeping Beauty may henceforth be known in family lore as The Shriek Heard 'Round the World. 

We plan to do the Hollywood thing, visiting Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame and maybe a studio tour.   And we'll do it all while dodging all the collapsing buildings, a result of The Big One, which, it appears, shall surely occur during the week my family visits the West Coast. 

(Have I mentioned my irrational fear of earthquakes?  It's crazy, I know, especially considering that I've been known to stand on the front porch during a tornado.  But I'd rather face swirly, deathly clouds over swirly, deathly soil any day.  I'm afraid I may have seen too many bad 1970's disaster flicks.  As a result, I'd prefer not to sleep anywhere near the San Andreas Fault, nor will I board a giant ship with Shelly Winters.)

And now, ten paragraphs later, the point of this post.  While we have the general skeleton of the trip planned, we may be winging it on a few details.  I'm hoping there's a SoCal expert or two out there who might be willing to weigh in on a few questions I still have.  Namely:

1.  Is two days enough for Disneyland and California Adventure?  What are your favorite, can't-miss rides and attractions there?

2.  In an effort not to squeeze in too much, we're skipping San Diego.  Is that foolish?  Is San Diego so excellent that it's worth a little calendar-squeezing?

3.  What's your favorite LA-area beach for a family to visit?

4.  Are any of the Hollywood studio tours especially great for kids?  Most of the ones we've found don't allow kids under age 8, which rules us out.  Are you aware of any exceptions?

Any expert advice you could give would be much appreciated.  In the meantime, I'll be waiting right here, making my list for the house-sitters, finishing up the laundry, and shopping for earthquake-resistant helmets for the kids.

152 thoughts on “California, Here We Come

  1. Grateful for Grace says:

    Oh, that sounds soooo fun! I hope you have a blast. I’ve only been to CA twice: San Francisco and Laguna Beach. I loved both trips.
    I have an crazy ridiculous fear of tornadoes. Seriously. While you’ve seen too many 1970s disaster flicks, I’ve seen too many news reports. For the last 14 years of marriage, while we lived in the bottom of a valley, I would freak out in the middle of the night during a storm. Just sure I heard that “train like sound”. Waking the kids and hubby to head over to a more secure home. Dh’s advice about valley bottoms was ridiculous to me and still is.
    So… treck on to your earthquake fate while I sit here wondering what year the valley defying tornado will hit.

  2. Melissa says:

    Well… I’m a San Diego native, and I lived in LA for a year (until last week), so I’ll try to weigh in.
    1. I would say two days might not be enough in summer to see everything Disneyland offers. Summer is really crowded, so you might have to skip big-name attractions, or wait 2 hours. CA Adventures is not realllly that great… I’d say take a day or less to do that one. We usually did a half day there. Go on Soarin’ Over California, the big roller coaster, and Tower of Terror (if your boys like thrill rides). They have a pretty big ‘kids rides’ area that I haven’t really done. Try and see the Electrical Parade (they brought it back for the summer!) Oh, and be SURE to do Midway Mania… it’s new, kind of like a ride combined with a video game. I bet the boys will love it.
    Disneyland, you could do in two days if you are committed to being there all day. With the kids, you might want to stretch it into three slightly-less-overwhelming days. My favorite rides are the Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, Pirate of the Carribean, Autopia, and the Tea Cups. Oh, and Buzz Lightyears Astro Blasters.
    Best advice I can give: Get Fastpasses. They’re free, you can get them for certain rides, one every two hours, and they let you cut in line. Get a new one as SOON as you can. That’s how you’ll get on the big name rides. If you want to do Space Mountain (you should) get that FastPass FIRST, because they are usually gone by afternoon and the line is 2+hours.
    Oh, and Disneyland has a really cool sword shop. Spend time there, and glancing in the windows on Main Street. Other than that, skip the shopping.
    Um… I have a lot more I could say about Disneyland. Email me if you want more info. I’ve gone… a lot.
    2. I like San Diego a lot more than LA. The drive is 1.5 hours. If I were going to give a recommendation, I’d say cut out a day or two of LA, and do SD instead. The beaches in SD are much better, more family friendly, and less crowded. Go to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. It’s my favorite place in the world. And, Balboa Park. And eat at Mexican food places every day.
    3. I guess the beaches surrounding the Santa Monica Pier. The pier is fun. The beach is huge. Parking is available (for a fee).
    4. I haven’t done any. Always wanted to do the Nickelodean Studios (in Hollywood, on Sunset Blvd.) I’d see if they let kids under 8 in.
    My favorite place in all of LA: Scoops. 712 N Heliotrope Dr, 90029. Best ice cream. Cheap. If you’re in Hollywood, go here. Yummmmmm. It’s a local hangout. Cash only.
    Man, I wish I were still there. I’d offer to show you guys around. Email me if you have any questions though. I miss CA and I love to give recommendations.

  3. Jenni says:

    I live in Anaheim and am deathly afraid of tornadoes, too. On a Kansas visit a few years ago, I cowered in the bathtub for a long time bc I wasn’t sure what to do after the sirens stopped.
    2 websites I highly recommend: tripadvisor.com and mouseplanet.com. The latter has an excellent overview of both parks including a ride guide that gives height restrictions, etc. for every single ride in both parks. The boards there are frequented by many “cast members”/employees of the park that give some great insider tips. In order to keep from spending your retirement $ on souveniers: there’s a great Wal-Mart on Harbor Blvd a couple miles from the park with tons of Disney souvenirs. Also a “Disney Character Warehouse” outlet on Harbor and Orangethorpe in Fullerton. If you can buy things here and bring them into the park, when your kids start pining for tha $19.99 Ariel sparkly pen you can whip out your $3.99 Cinderella one instead! 2 days should be fine for the parks, esp. if you can go on weekdays which have been light lately. Try to avoid “park hopping” too much – the travel from one to another can actually be quite time-consuming.
    I’d vote for SD over Hollywood at your kids’ ages. In fact, I might even vote for Sea World over Disneyland!\
    For good food (which is an integral part of trip-planning in my mind), check out yelp.com and chowhound.com. Both have great boards for this area.
    Be safe and HAVE FUN!!!

  4. Rachel says:

    I like San Diego a lot more than LA. The zoo and wildlife park are amazing, as is Coronado island. Disneyland is nice but I only was there one day and I was fine with it (I was 7 at the time). I’m sure there is more to do now but I guess my point is that I enjoyed it as a child and did not feel like I missed out. Now Disneyworld is a different story:).

  5. Jenni says:

    One more thing about the fast passes. They have a time window stamped on them, “Come back between 11:15 and 12:45” or whatever. Just FYI, you can’t enter the ride before 11:15 but they will take them after 12:45, so you don’t have to rush back. Also, you can get other fast passes as long as they are not in the same window. So if you pass by Buzz Lightyear and the FastPass time is 2:30-3:40, you can still get those, too.
    But honestly, yesterday was Friday usually a busy day and the parks were very light. Don’t waste your time running around trying to get all the fast passes if you don’t need to. Just pick a few big name rides and send DH with all the passports to get those while you guys get in line somewhere else.
    Cheapest place for decent food there is Whitewater Snacks in DCA. They may have closed for renovation though. But if you want to make your daughter’s day, no LIFE, take her to the character meal at Ariel’s Grotto. She will think she died and went to princess heaven. Your boys – send them on more rides with dad. πŸ™‚

  6. Emily @The Pilot's Wife says:

    How fun!
    I just moved from CA to Oklahoma last year and let me tell you THAT was the Shriek Heard ‘Round the World as my husband dragged (drug?) me here. I kid, I kid. Sorta.
    Anyway, you definitely need to see San Diego. It’s much nicer than LA. If you go check out Balboa Park.
    And I think two days would be enough at Disney. There is only so much “line” time you can handle before you’ll be ready for something else, in my opinion!

  7. Rachel says:

    Well, I don’t know anything about California, but I will be watching this, since my family is debating on driving from Kansas to California. I understand what you mean about the earthquakes, although tornadoes do nothing to me at all. Kansas (and Oklahoma) are the two places where the sirens go off and people go outside and start looking for the funnels.
    Hope you have a great trip. How long are you going to be gone? Are you planning for two days driving each way, staying in a hotel or just trying to drive through??
    Have fun!!

  8. Kathryn says:

    As someone who lived in LA for four years, I have to say-cut some disney if it means you can go to the San Diego Zoo. I do not like zoos and don’t even have kids, but the San Diego Zoo is awesome.

  9. Kim says:

    Two days is good at Disney, but with little kids 3 is better (and 3 day passes are a better deal). California Adventure is easily done in one day, but the Magic Kingdom is a two day deal.
    Favorite ride in California Adventure: Soarin’. There are a lot of big roller coasters there, which I don’t like but my kids do. For little ones “A Bug’s Land” is really fun.
    Disneyland: Fantasyland with a 4 year old girls is a must. The Tea Cups are my kids favorite, but I affectionately refer to them as “Spin and Puke”. Kids and dads seem to have no problem with this ride, but mother’s that have given birth tend to turn green. Any of the Fantasy land rides are great for little kids. Mr Toad and Snow White can be a little scary. My niece was just there and said the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was open again. In Tomorrowland, the Buzz Lightyear ride is tons of fun. My personal favorite in the whole park is Pirates of the Carribean. Oh, and with little ones, Mickey’s Toon Town is always great too.
    Corona Del Mar, Newport or Huntington are all great beaches. Newport is my personal favorite, but the others are good too.
    San Diego is great, but if you are pinched for time, I wouldn’t worry about it. Just try and go the next time you are there.
    I have no idea about the hollywood stuff, but I do know that El Capitan Theatre is owned by Disney and has some cool stuff going on sometimes. It is right down in the heart of Hollywood.
    Have fun! =)

  10. Melissa says:

    If your kids like dinosaurs, check out the La Brea Tar Pits.
    Also, I second the recommendation for Sea World. SO much fun. I’d skip Disney Day Three and do that.

  11. Joan says:

    I vote for less Disney and L.A., more San Diego – Zoo – Sea World. It’s been a long long time, San Diego is beautiful!
    Disney was better early early in the morning, afternoon was hot and longer lines.

  12. everydayMOM says:

    We’ve taken trips to California three times in the last three years.
    On one of our trips we spent three days in DisneyLand, which was plenty! So, you can easily do it all in two. You can see all of DisneyLand/California Adventure in a much shorter amount of time than Disney World.
    We also LOVED our trip to the Sequoia National Forrest and San Francisco. I know those aren’t even on your agenda, but they are big-time favorites for our family!

  13. stacie says:

    I live here in OC and have all my life.
    Disneyland is going to be very crowded… but it has a neat princess dancing show near Small world. Take the camera- it’s interactive and very cute! Some of the Fantasyland rides are scary. Don’t miss Space Mountain and SOARING OVER CALIFORNIA is the best at CA Adv. If you go on any rides, do that one.
    Soaring over CA will show you that CA is so big and beautiful… just not the LA part 😦 Loads of bad neighborhoods. We just got back from a trip up the coast — Morro Bay, San Simeon, Cambria, 17 mile drive, Carmel, Moneterrey… THESE places are the gorgeous California you want to see.
    If you go to LA, the only thing I like to do w/ my kids is El Capitan theater. It’s owned by Disney. Have ice cream at the Disney shoppe next door.
    The rest of Hollywood is not so impressive- tattoo parlors and plenty of unmentionable types of things you (and your kids!) will see! Lots of very wierd people. 😦 There are stars on the sidewalk but it is not all that. Many who visit us beg to go there and are disappointed. Plus- traffic! Plan a few hours of just sitting on our smoggy freeways to get anywhere in downtown LA. Don’t travel on those central freeways anwhere between 7-10am and 3-8pm and later on weekends. Use sigalert.com to check traffic.
    If you go to Bev. Hills it’s nicer to walk around. You can gawk at the prices. But I’d rather see the ocean and the mountains! All the San Diego advice given above is really good- much much much prettier (and less traffic!) than LA!
    South Orange County has some nice beaches and places to go tidepooling. San Juan Capistrano has the best mission in the state and some Saturdays they dress up in period clothing. We take the train from Anaheim (Go Angels!) Stadium and go to the mission, then Zoomars (cute petting zoo, very well done), and eat lunch at Ruby’s. All three are a tiny walking distance from the train. Anaheim to San Juan Capistrano.
    It’s such a beautiful state! I so appreciate your photos from your state and vacations near there- I’ve never been. But I LOVE California. The central and northern coast is to-die-for. On Thurs. at the beach in San Simeon (cove next to the pier), we saw at least a hundred seals (plus pelicans and other birds) just feet away as we sat on paddle boards…. and I thought, I need to see more of my beautiful state before I go anywhere else! This summer we still have camping trips to look forward to in Santa Cruz and Shaver Lake.
    Your kids would love camping- Read Last Child In the Woods… it’s a sacrifice for some of the moms (not me thankfully, I just drink up the beauty and revel in my kids enjoyment of God’s creation- unplugged!!!) but not fair to the kids when moms don’t want to give up that comfort… But then again, we don’t have a backyard (CA is EXPENSIVE!) so camping is our one nature experience!
    Thanks for your awesome blog. I know I’ve overwhelmed you. Email me if you want more info.

  14. Rhonda says:

    We’ve been to Los Angeles twice and loved every minute of it! Whatever you do…..eat at In-N-Out Burger. It will change your life! πŸ™‚ We did not go to Disneyland but we did go to Universal and they had a really fun backlot tour there. We also liked the Santa Monica Pier…very family friendly. Have a great time!

  15. Lauren says:

    Having lived in southern california for 4 years, i will try to answer some questions!
    1. 2 days is enough for Disney and CA Adventure, but keep in mind they will be very full days, especially if your kiddos are tall enough to ride the big rides. Summer is a crazy time for Disney, so lines are abundant. However, it can be done. I just went to both Disney and CA Adventure at the beginning of June. We didn’t ride a lot of little kid rides and we were just fine. Get there as early as possible and head straight for Space Mountain to avoid that line. Also, plan out your fast passes. You can only have 1 out at a time. CA Adventure can be done in 1/2 day, and it’s usually less crowded. I would suggest on that day you spend the morning at Disney and the afternoon at CA Adventure, then back to Disney if you have time. The best things at CA Adventure: Tower of Terror, Muppets 3-D, Bugs Life 3-D, Soarin’ Over California. I’ve also heard California Screamin’ is fun, but I didn’t go on it. Also, in Disney your boys will LOVE the Buzz Lightyear ride. It’s a laser shooting game for points. My guys friends in college even insisted on riding it several times!
    2. I lived in california for 4 years and never set foot in san diego. I have heard it’s beautiful, the zoo is great, etc. but I don’t feel like i’ve missed out on much. Honestly, in my book? Disney tops all. San Diego is not called “the happiest place on earth” – Disney is.
    3. Zuma beach is great. It’s in Malibu. Also, there is a great little place to eat along the PCH called Malibu Seafood. They have fish and chips, chicken fingers, etc. So yummy. You can sit outside and you’re basically across the street from the ocean. Once you go to the beach you can park along the road for free (if you can find a place) or you can park in the designated parking lots. I want to say the parking fee is like $7 or something. Also, Paradise Cove is lovely (also in Malibu). It’s $20 to get in, though. However, if you go to the AMAZING restaurant (Paradise Cove Beach Cafe) I think your parking is validated. The restaurant is a bit expensive (average $15-17), but they have delicious food. I’d look online to see if they take reservations; sometimes it’s hard to get a table. Those are the best for pure beach. If you want some extra fun, go to the Santa Monica Pier. You can go on the beach, but you can also walk along the pier, go on the ferris wheel, etc. My FAVORITE place is Santa Barbara, but that’s a good hour long drive, so it may not be worth it.
    4. I’ve actually never been on any of the Hollywood tours. Universal has tours, but I’m not sure of the age limit. I’m not of any help here.

  16. Amy says:

    So excited that you’re going to Disney. You’ll have a great time! We love Soarin’ over CA and the Buzz Lightyear ride. We went when our son was almost two and thought we’d be confined to Fantasyland because he was young, but actually there was a ton of other stuff to do that both kids and adults enjoyed. There’s a playground in the CA park that’s modeled to be in the redwood forest-really cool. I bet all your kids will love it. Have FUN!

  17. Linda Sue says:

    Shannon – y’all are aware of it – but everyone keeps saying Sea World in San Diego. There is a Sea World in San Antonio – not such a long drive and certainly fabulous Mexican food. Since you are rationing time – perchance the San Diego Zoo. The beaches in SD are nicer than LA (sorry Californians – I lived there too and basing my recommends on a limited time schedule with kiddos). We loved Knott’s Berry Farm http://www.knotts.com/park/index.shtml but if a choice between Disney and Berry – you’ll be wisest to choose Disney. Have fun – I fear earthquakes also (experienced a 7.1)but figure – my days are numbered by someone other than a seismologist!

  18. Shannon says:

    I'm with you on the camping.Β  We love to get our kids out in the woods (generally the mountains) whenever we can.Β  This will be a hotel trip for us, but the quiet, cabin-ish, camping ones are my favorites.Β  Thanks for all the input!

  19. Donnetta says:

    Would you believe I’ve lived on the West Coast side for 9 years now but have never been down to California? For shame I know…
    Enjoy and happy traveling!!

  20. stacie says:

    oops -forgot to mention (please forgive my chattiness!) the drive up to Big Sur is amazing. I know it’s probably too far to go on this trip.
    Also, I love your blog. I’ve been reading for at least a few years. I love that you post LESS and it’s only what’s really worth posting. I most liked your post about noise – the online, blogging, internet kind. I appreciate the wisdom and the things you link to- love Andree Seu also! And I need to try more of your practical ideas – but I did try your Static Guard spray on my hairbrush on those Santa Ana wind days and boy do I thank you for that!! Good blog and I’m sure you’re a wonderful mom! Have a great trip!

  21. Terina says:

    born and raised in so cal. Orange county beaches are much better than LA beaches. i would skip hollywood. it’s not that exciting, and there are always a bunch of weird people around. la brea tar pits are awesome!!! went there as a kid. ask around and find the best mexican food places. eat at in-n-out and get a burger animal style. and when you’re on the freeways pay attention!!! certain lanes will take you different places sometimes. i had a friend end up in san bernadino county instead of LA county because they weren’t paying attention! avoid the 405 and the 10 as much as possible. san diego zoo is awesome (we just went in april and my kids loved it), sea world is great (we went in february), disneyland is great, but expect crowds and for sure do the fast pass. try el pollo loco for some great chicken. BTW, your first in-n-out you’ll come to is in kingman AZ. (we recently drove the 40)
    earthquakes are much easier for me to deal with. just get under a doorway or table. tornado’s totally FREAK me out. having lived in south texas and NC, the tornado warnings/watches would keep me up all night. have fun!

  22. aubrey says:

    My husband and I just got back from a California adventure in which we flew to San Diego, stayed there for 4 days, then drove up the coast. We stuffed in a day in San Fran, the sequoias, day trips to tahoe and napa valley. Without a doubt, San diego was the most fun part of the trip. The Zoo is awesome, Mission beach is a perfect SoCal beach, and downtown was fun. We felt like we could have stayed there for several more days and still had plenty of fun stuff to do. One favorite thing was Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma – it’s right on the end of the point, and you get a full view of downtown and the harbor looking one direction, and the ocean in the other. there are also neat tide pools that would be fun to explore with the kids. It was $5 to get in per car. And if you go, you have to go to Sunset cliffs Park, also on Point Loma. Our favorite meal the entire trip was our picnic there at sunset. Watching the sun set over the pacific is definitely an experience to give your kids.
    My other advice would just be to not feel like you have to do everything in one trip. Even though San Diego was great, if it would stress you all out more or make the trip less enjoyable, then just focus on doing fewer things, but doing them better. Have fun!
    And if you want to see some of our picture highlights from our trip – they are on our blog, in May 2009.

  23. Stacie Fosburg Chalupka says:

    We just got back from the very same trip.
    We did the parks in 3 days. One for each and then one day to catch what we missed and just stroll and shop and catch the character parade. The kids wanted to buy their souvenir the first day but we had them look and then decide on the last day. Fast passes are a must and if you have smaller kids you can do a ride exchange so one parent waits with the kiddo while one rides and then you swap. Ask the ride attendant and they’ll give you a pass. The 45 minute to hour long wait for Nemo is worth it. (No fast pass for this one)
    Studio tours tend not to allow kids under 8. We did a cheesy convertible van tour of Beverly Hills/Rodeo Drive/homes of the stars etc. It was an unexpected and unplanned highlight of our trip — especially the Jonas Brothers house. My husband, like yours, is an excellent trip planner and planned to drive us around. Instead he was able to see the sights and enjoy!
    Being from Arkansas I fell in love with the weather and lack of insects. The natives thought it was so hot but we never broke a sweat. It’s great hair weather. It was good to get home to the Bible belt but not the scoprion on our front porch!
    Have Fun!
    P.S. Long time reader…first time commenter!

  24. Barry says:

    We’re getting ready to make almost the same trip, except we’re leaving from southeast Missouri, which is just as easy…
    1. Get on I-55 and go south.
    2. At Memphis turn right on I-40.
    3. At the Pacific Ocean, stop.
    …but even longer–about 30 HOURS in the van, one way!

  25. Jen says:

    We live in the SF area but have lots of family in LA, so we make the drive down often. I have to say that I’m still scared to take my boys (7 and 3.5) to Disneyland. Thinking about the lines and the weather causes me to shudder. I’ll probably cave in next month when we’re there, though.
    But we did go to San Diego last summer, including LEGOland and the San Diego Wild Animal Park (associated with, but different from the Zoo!!). LEGOland was fun, but we LOVED the animal park. It was great! We go to the SF and Oakland Zoos a lot, but the animal park was leaps and bounds better.
    San Clemente has a popular (read “busy”) beach and wharf, with plenty of costal acreage to walk a bit and get away from the crowds. And the train runs by every so often (my boys were in love).
    In N Outs are everywhere, but do stop by. Even with the limited menu, it’s our favorite “fast” food place (although, it’s not nearly as fast as McDonald’s).
    Check out http://scribbit.blogspot.com/2009/06/los-angeles-cultural-yet-gastronomical.html, too.
    Have fun!

  26. Kelly @ Love Well says:

    Oh Shannon.
    This is clearly going to mess up your husband’s spreadsheet, but speaking as someone who lived in SoCal for almost 10 years, YOU MUST GET TO SAN DIEGO. Truly. It’s the best part of Southern California. The air is clean, the beaches aren’t littered with freaks, the scenery is better. (LA has closer mountains, but 95% of the time, you can’t see them anyway due to the smog.)
    Disneyland is amazing (you could probably use an extra day there, by the way; two days will FLY and you’ll feel like you’re rushing to get to everything). But everything else that’s fun for families is in San Diego. (And Disney is only an hour north of San Diego anyway.)
    SeaWorld is amazing. (And right down the road from Phil’s BBQ, which is even more amazing.) Both the Zoo and the Wild Animal Park (which is run by the Zoological Society) are cool. We tend to like the WAP more, because the animals have tons more room. It really feels like you’re in Africa (or China or India or pick-your-other exotic region). And if you have a boy who likes Legos, Legoland will make them scream as loud as your daughter at seeing Cinderella.
    Want more? I could work for the visitor’s bureau of San Diego. Just e-mail me. Since I worked for newspapers and NBC in San Diego, I actually know it better than I do my hometown. (And I love it the same.)

  27. Mrs. Organic says:

    Definitely do Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, it’s fabulous.
    And if you use RideMaxx software, 2 days will be plenty at Disneyland. Your husband would love this software – you just plug in the rides you want to go on and it organizes them all so you spend the least amount of time in line. It also gives you some great park tips. Have a great time!

  28. Kether says:

    I live in Los Angeles county and we love Disneyland. I’d say everyone else is right… There’s not much at California Adventure, BUT the new Toy Story ride is a LOT of fun. Its got a really long line and I don’t think it has fast passes, so I’d get in line for that early.
    I LOVE San Diego. I’d try and make it down if you can.
    Also, if ya’ll are interested in more than our Hollywood history, I’d see if you can make it to one of the California missions. They’re very interesting.

  29. Steff says:

    Shannon,
    we took that trip when I was 11. To this day in our mid 30s my sister and I still talk about the San Diego Zoo and San Simeon(Hearst Castle…if it looks like real gold…it is) and the Queen Mary @ long beach but the only time disney is mentioned is to say we wish we had skipped it to do more of the other stuff we really enjoyed like Universal.
    Disney World was waaaay better as far as Disney and I think we only actually spent one day there, but did 2 at universal and 3 in san diego.

  30. Kate says:

    Wow these are long comments! I haven’t read them, but I will chime in with a bit of advice- beaches in San Diego are better in general- especially the bay, which I remember as being a few degrees warmer than the rest of the icy Pacific (can you tell I’m a Gulf Coast girl?). If you stay in the LA area, the beaches in Malibu are definitely worth the drive, and if you find a neighborhood beach, they are not usually that crowded.
    My main other piece of LA advice, after living there for 4 years- the traffic is -really- not exagerated. Don’t try to drive anywhere in LA county between 4:30 and 7. Just make yourselves comfortable wherever you are.
    Have a great trip! And get the churros at Disneyland. My girls and I used to get in free, because a friend of mine made the skins for the animatronic creatures. Talk about a bizarre job- you can’t imagine what it was like when he brought his work home…

  31. Bree Watson says:

    Oh so fun. We are leaving next Sat. from the Conway, Arkansas area and going to the Ventura area (about 50 miles north of L.A. on the coast) where my husband and I grew up. We have a theme for our trip. We will be pirates. AAARRRRkansas Pirates, on AAARRRR Trip to California. Might as well have fun and go crazy on that long, long road they call the 40. So if you are traveling next Saturday and Sunday and you see a white Focus Wagon…..beware there AARRRR pirates aboard.

  32. Tina says:

    Southern Californian here… only 20 minutes from the Big D. Two days is more then enough for Disneyland/California adventure. Avoid the “mickey mouse toon town” and stick with the classic rides. California Adventure is visited after Disneyland because there isn’t much there that we like… but the area on the left (Monsters Inc., Muppet 3D, etc…)
    We don’t really like San Diego and so I don’t recommend it and don’t think your missing anything.
    Try Laguna beach or Newport (Balboa Island) for a great family beach.
    We don’t go to the Hollywood stuff.. maybe because the 8 year old rule so have no insight on that. ENJOY!!

  33. SoCalLynn says:

    I was born and raised in San Diego and now live near LA. Naturally, I highly recommend San Diego over many LA spots. Tops on the list would be the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. DD and I used to ride our bikes there and hang out all day. The museums there are the best, the Zoo is world-class and others cannot even come close. The best beaches in San Diego, imho, are Mission Beach with Belmont Park right on the beach, and La Jolla Shores. Eat dinner at the original Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown San Diego, it’s amazing and your kids will love it.
    I love Disneyland, so two days there in the busy summer with small kids is probably best. Never been to CA Adventure, but I hear it’s not that good for smaller kids. I would totally skip Hollywood Blvd unless you want your kids to have nightmares from the freak shows (strange/scary people there.) When we went to the Pantages at Christmas a “gang” of teenagers was yelling obscenities at the theater goers. Nice.
    My family and I just went to the mission at San Juan Capistrano for the first time. It is gorgeous and informative. If you want a little history, you could do it in less than 2 hours.
    Feel free to email me if you want any other suggestions.

  34. Rebecca says:

    I don’t know about expert advice but I can give you my limited two cents. I think 2 days is short even just for Disneyland or California Adventures. The first & only time I went to Disneyland was 10 years ago (wow) and they were still building California Adventures so I can’t say which is better but I did have a great time at Disneyland. Also, you may not slow your pace when in Cali, it’s just a fast paced state – even the northern part of the state where I’m from. Now living in the midsouth (KY/TN) I realize how fast paced California is. The drive is long, I drove from northern California to NM a couple of times but like you said – straight shot and if you hit the ocean stop. πŸ˜‰ Have a great time! Make sure you wear sunscreen πŸ˜€ OH & maybe look up beaches to make sure you don’t accidentally hit up a nudist beach.

  35. Ashleigh (Heart and Home) says:

    Born, raised and lived here in SoCal my entire life (in OC, then Palm Springs, then San Diego) I must say San Diego is better. I mean, this IS California, so you will see freaks, but less in SD than LA. In OC, Newport beach is good if you’re going for the real surfer feel, but the beaches in SD are prettier, I think. The SD zoo is wonderful, but hilly and lots of walking. Locals usually like the Wild Animal Park better. (And as for Sea World, I’d go there over either of the “dry land” here parks anyday–and there’s no way the land-trapped park in San Antonio could compare to actually being able to SEE the ocean from inside SEA World like you can here! Not that I’m biased or anything.)
    We’ve hit Disneyland seven times this year for one day trips (some were blog related tho–yay free tickets!), though I’d say in the middle of summer, three days would make it more enjoyable. But since you’re kinda playing it by ear anyway, you could possibly just see how much ground you cover the first two days and see if you need another? CA Adventure isn’t all it’s hyped up to be–by far–and could be done in half a day at most. Whatever you do, don’t miss Soarin’ Over California, even if it’s the only thing you do over there. For Corrie, you’d definitely want to head to the Princess area near the back of the regular park.
    All in all, I think I’d most definitely cut some time out of LA and Hollywood and spend time in San Diego. There’s much more to do as a family and you still get the SoCal experience. Being at your sports event, Disneyland and doing a one-day look around Hollywood will probably be more than enough out there.

  36. Julie says:

    You’ve gotten lots of fab advice on the parks and beaches so I won’t chime in there. I will just let you know one thing – the area of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame is NOT the loveliest part of town. We went in the middle of the day and managed to see 3 hookers. Not kidding you! Nothing terribly lewd but I was a little surprised. Luckily my daughter was the only child with us and she was 2 so I didn’t have to answer any questions. I’m not sure that my older son would have even picked up on it but I thought I’d give you fair warning. Not saying to skip it because it is fun. There is a Ripley’s Believe it or not museum right across the street from Grauman’s that was kind of fun. The boys would probably get a kick out of it. And then go drive around the mansions for bit – kind of fun.

  37. Ginny says:

    Don’t skip San Diego. I would skip alot of LA and spend more time in San Diego. Sea World and Balboa Park and La Jolla Cove are must sees.

  38. Lori says:

    I’m not going to read the many comments already posted so please forgive me if I repeat what everyone else already said.
    1. I think 2 days is enough if you take advantage of fast passes. If you don’t know what they are or how to use them, and no one else has explained it, email me. I’d be happy to tell you about the beauty of them. Definitely plan to spend 1.5 days at Disneyland and only about a half day at CA adventure. At Disneyland, don’t miss Pirates, Thunder Mountain, Matterhorn, Space Mountain & Splash Mountain…though the 4 yr old is likely to short for at least 2 of those. You can send the others on the ride and you or hubs can stay back with her and then ride single rider (the lines are super short for single riders).
    2. As a San Diego native, I think it’s foolish to skip but, honestly, if you would just be going for the beaches, I’m sure you can find something great in L.A. If you do decide to go to San Diego, take the kids to La Jolla Cove. There are awesome caves/grassy beach area/tide pools/etc. It’s a neat experience. And, well, if you’ve got the money, Sea World is TOTALLY worth it. It’s still one of my favorite places in all the world.
    3. I could give you the low down on San Diego beaches. LA ones, not so much.
    4. I’ve been on several studio tours but they may have been for ages 8 and up. Universal Studios is fun in that you get to experience the entire park (rides/attractions/etc) as well as take a tram tour through the studio lot. I know kids of all ages are welcome on that tour. The Warner Brothers tour is also good if they allow little ones.
    Anyway, I lived in SD for 26 years and spent a lot of time in LA. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me. If you want to eat at a quaint sub shop in the LA area, go to Sandbags. It is absolutely delicious. Order the Afternooner.

  39. Dawn says:

    I’ll keep it short and sweet.
    I grow up in Orange County and lived and still work in LA. I think 2 days is fine for Disneyland as long as you don’t expect to get on every ride. I agree, when you get to Disney land, make your rounds and get Fast Passes. You’ll then have sort of a schedule to get back to those rides later in the day.
    LA is a definite must see with the whole Hollywood and Highland area. However, its the smallest part of CA.
    If you want to get a better feel of So Cal travel south. Go to beaches in Orange County on your way to San Diego as you’ll be in Orange County for Disneyland anyway. The beaches in LA are just a different feel. The best beaches are further south.
    I forget who mentioned San Clemente but its one of my favorites. Laguna Beach is really popular and has neat shops.
    Go to San Diego, check out the Gaslamp district or Downtown. The beaches there are beautiful as well.
    Welcome to Cali! (from a Japanese-Puerto Rican brunette)

  40. Caryn says:

    Thank you for reminding me that I get to live and play everyday in an area that people from all over the world spend good money to come and experience! I am an OC girl and I’ll tell you, this is the place to stay and see!
    As for the beaches, I would recommend visiting a little jewel of a beach south of Newport called Crystal Cove. Shannon, you will LOVE this place! It’s a beach with a quaint history you can read about here: http://www.crystalcovestatepark.com/beaches.htm and here http://www.crystalcovebeachcottages.com
    The drive down PCH from Newport is breathtaking (and you get to see some of the lavish real estate OC is known for)
    It’s a nice, family-friendly beach with gentle surf and some tide pools to explore as well. The beaches in Newport are not as picturesque and the people scene can be a little ….. questionable. But, if you are set on visiting Newport then I would recommend checking out the Balboa Peninsula with it’s pier and fun zone and Balboa Island (there is a neat little car/passenger ferry that can shuttle you between the two)
    There’s so much to see and do in OC: Water Parks, shopping/entertainment centers like The Spectrum in Irvine, Long Beach is not a far drive to visit The Queen Mary or The Aquarium of the Pacific, I could go on and on.
    I am curious though, what is the major sporting event that is bringing you out here in the first place?

  41. Mindy says:

    One of our favorite features of Disneyland was the parent passes. When we went 2 years ago we had a child who wasn’t tall enough for all the rides. You can get a parent pass at the gate of the ride and then one of you gets in line with the kids who want to go while the other parent waits with the child. When your group comes out the parent who didn’t go goes in the exit with the kids who just went and gets right on the ride. That way you don’t have to wait in line twice and your kids get to ride the ride 2xs. Win, Win. We loved that feature. Good luck and have fun.

  42. OC Daily Photo says:

    Hello.
    I am your So Cal EXPERT. I am 4th generation OC. Yup. I live in THE OC. And I once lived in Hollywood.
    Answers to your pressing problems.
    1. Is 2 days enough for D-Land and CA? Yes. And No. IMO two day is enough to see most of it. And you will be worn out and probably sick of all of it a little by then. So yes, 2 days is enough. But that does not mean you will be able to see it all! I hope you are staying at a Disney hotel nearby. it helps. You go to the park early and back to the room to rest/eat/swim and then BACK to the park in the evening. You get to do so much more that way. Rides? Well depending on AGE…..and interest. Space Mountain is the best overall ride for EVERYONE. But gosh there is SO MUCH…..
    Come to think of it…why not email me directly and I will give you the low down on it all.
    marcywrites@roadrunner.com
    2. I do not know of any Studio that will allow smaller kids. Insurance, safty blah blah blah…
    3. Best beach in LA? No many. The best beaches are not IN LA. But in the OC I reccomment Newport/Balboa. YOU WILL LOVE the stores, shops beachside. And the pier and water quality are great too….Again, email me…this is hard to answer without knowing what you want exactly k?
    4. Skipping SD? Thats okay. There is too much to do there….and it would take you away from everything in the OC! (have you thought about visiting one of our Missions like San Juan Capistrano? Or visiting downtown Orange and taking the kids to a soda fountain like Watsons?…I could go on and on….
    πŸ™‚

  43. Elizabeth says:

    Hello!
    I have been reading your posts for quite some time now and really enjoy it. I was excited (and a tad horrified) to read that you would be visiting my native state! Californian doesn’t always have the best reputation (for a reason) but if you are just coming to visit and not live I think you will enjoy your stay.
    Being a native here is my advice to you:
    Disneyland- spend two days there if you want to be able to see everything. Summer time is very crowded and lines are usually long. Get your fastpass for Space Mountain as SOON as you get through the gate, they run out quickly. Personally, I would skip California Adventure all together. It is not worth the 70 dollars per person and you could easily spend that time somewhere else doing something else.
    Not to be a Debbie Downer, but Hollywood is a dirty, trashy place. I would honestly just skip it. No movie stars, just hookers and druggies.
    San Diego is beautiful and has a lot to do. I personally enjoy the Wild Animal Park a lot more than the zoo because of how HUGE it is. If you do go there you HAVE to feed the Lorikeets- so much fun! However, a cheaper option for your family might be to invest in a southern California city pass. http://www.citypass.com/city/socal.html
    If you would like to make your trip a tad more educational I would defiantly check out the Museum of Tolerance http://www.museumoftolerance.com and the California Science Center http://www.californiasciencecenter.org . I was homeschooled my entire life so I know of lots of educational (and fun!) places to go. If you want any more ideas just shoot me an e-mail, I’d be glad to help!
    The Santa Monica Pier is a lot of fun, Malibu is beautiful. Plenty of beaches, plenty of options, can’t really go wrong.
    If you want to have a lot of (cheap) fun there is a minor league baseball team that puts on great games and is wonderful for families. I don’t know where you’re staying or if your schedule is packed but I thought I might as well mention it. http://www.rcquakes.com
    Have an absolutely fabulous trip and I hope that California treats you well. Prayers for travel mercies!

  44. shannon says:

    As someone who has been a socal native her entire life, here are some hints for you.
    1. Two days is plenty to visit Disneyland and CA adventure…although youll end up spending more time at disneyland, because CA adventure is much MUCH smaller, and much more geared towards adults. There are only 2-3 good rides there, so you dont even really need a full day to get all there is out of it. Disneyland will take an entire day though…you could probably actually spend two days at disneyland.
    2. Don’t be shocked when you get to hollywood and you see lots of bums and homeless people. It is a sort of sketchy place, but the chinese theater is fun, especially for the kids who will love seeing what movie stars hands and feet are the same size as theirs.
    3. My favorite beach is named, Sunset Beach…it is a super nice beach, and there is FREE parking (which is important because most beach parking costs like 10 bucks)…but that being said you have to get there before 10am to get good parking. It is a clean beach, and usually it isnt completely packed with people, like other beaches can be.
    3. As for San Diego…it is nice, but if you cant make it down there, it isnt that much of a loss.
    4. I dont know anything about hollywood tours, because those things sort of get lost on the natives haha.
    Also, if your kids are interested in science or anything there is a great science museum (for kids) in LA…it is a LOT of fun!! Even for adults! Its called the Science Center or something like that…its in exposition park and a couple other museums. I think it would be well worth a visit.
    Thats all I can think of for now, but if I think of anything else, Ill leave another comment! And dont worry…earthquakes are no big deal!!

  45. Shealynn Benner says:

    I lived in California for 23 years of my life.
    I have never been to California Adventure… just depends what day of the week you are going to these theme parks.
    If it was my trip, I would skip L.A. and go to San Diego. I LOVE San Diego!!! πŸ™‚
    As far as beaches? If you go to San Diego, the beaches there are gorgeous… there is Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente Beach…
    Careful… the traffic is absolutely HORRENDOUS in Southern California!! It is not an exaggeration. I promise. πŸ˜‰
    Have fun!

  46. Shealynn Benner says:

    Also, I live in Orange County for 23 years… there isn’t much to see… People are saying all these great things are in O.C., but I completely disagree. I doubt you are vacationing to go shopping the whole time in the yuppy O.C. LOL!

  47. Ashley says:

    We just did the Disney thing last fall and I felt like two days was enough…we were there when they opened and left around dinner time, and whether we saw EVERYTHING I’m not sure, but we’d all had our “fill” of it. I like Disneyland much more than CA Adventure….but you have to do both because Adventure has the Monsters Inc. ride which is amazing!
    Also…if you end up with time to kill (yeah right) after our two days at Disney we did a day at Knott’s Berry Farm and LOVED it! SO much less crowded and still loads of fun (lots of roller coasters for the older ones)…just an idea πŸ™‚
    Hope you have a great trip!

  48. Kim says:

    I second the idea of Hearst Castle in San Simeon. It is a bit of a drive north of LA on the coast above Santa Barbara, but so worth the experience. Good food at Felipe’s near Union Station in LA! Yum! Their french dip is AmAzInG!

  49. Pam says:

    I lived in southern California for 7 years (late 80s/early 90s), and I have to agree with Shealynn about San Diego… and about the traffic. Honestly, the traffic is a bigger issue than earthquakes. (The traffic happens daily, and earthquakes only infrequently.)
    But pack an extra measure of patience for others and grace for each other, and you’ll do fine. It will be a great time for you and your kids.
    PS — loved your directions. I did my undergrad in Flagstaff AZ, so you’ll be passing right by my school on your way through. Enjoy the cool breezes of northern Arizona!

  50. Bonnie S. says:

    My husband is a SoCal native (I am a Texan) and we lived there the first 5 1/2 years of our marriage. We lived in San Diego, so I am partial. We visited LA, Disneyland, and Hollywood, but San Diego has SO much more to offer. We love the Wild Animal Park way better than the Zoo and you can even go out amongst the animals on a “safari” which is awesome. The La Jolla Children’s Pool is an area of beach that has sea lions that come up really close so that is awesome for tourists. Legoland is a neat place for children. Seaport village is a unique place to visit with a beautiful view and is right across from Coronado Island. Anthony’s Fist Grotto is near Seaport Village and had the best fried shrimp of anywhere I have ever been. They have a cheaper Fishette located just outside the restaurant where you can get a lot of things from the menu. Someone else mentioned the Old Spaghetti Factory as a good restaurant choice and I agree, another option with awesome seafood is Fish House Vera Cruz. They grill their seafood and have the best lobster tail and prawns. Another good fast food option besides the obvious In-n-out Burger is Rubio’s.

  51. Bonnie S. says:

    I forgot to mention another awesome thing about the Wild Animal Park is that you can feed the giraffes. How cool is that?

  52. Donna@WayMoreHomemade says:

    For Disneyland, we had a 3 day pass so we could take our time but pretty much did 2 days and a late afternoon/evening. If you like good rollercoasters, the big one at California Adventure (California screamin’ I think is it’s name) is incredible. There’s lots to do at California adventure so don’t skip it. Our kids were a little young for it at 5 & 18 mos, but at your kids ages, they’ll enjoy it.
    San Diego is nice if you have time to really squeeze in the zoo, seaworld, and some time in Balboa park. If you do it, use your good friend google and take a look at what is going on in Balboa, I think there is a pipe organ (or something) concert on Sundays… at least there used to be. Take in a dinner at the Warf if you have time.
    We hope to do another trip out there when son is a couple of years older to do Legoland and go back to Disneyland.
    I know absolutely nothing about LA. Good luck there.
    Have a wonderful trip.

  53. Kerry says:

    Be sure to check out Toy Story Mania at California Adventure. It is an interactive shooting gallery game in 3-D that your boys will love.
    Have a great trip!
    Kery

  54. beezwax says:

    SO I live in SO. Cal. I would say 2 days for D-land and California adventure is enough, Disneyland will take one full day. California adventure won’t so if you get park-hopper passes you can go back and do a little more fun and D-land. Rides: Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Haunted House, pretty much all the big stuff. =)
    I have heard that Seal beach is a good family beach but have not been there myself yet. I bet the closest beach to you will be okay. Newport is okay, Huntington is okay, But those might be to far from you. Huntington or seal won’t be if you are staying near Disney.
    San Diego is a great Day trip, beautiful. If you have some time GO! But if it’ll stress ya’ll out don’t.
    I’ve never done a studio tour, can’t help!
    Have a wonderful time while you are here!

  55. Becky B says:

    As a former S. Californian, I hope I can help too! I agree that two days is enough at Dland and CAdven. You may not get on every ride (summer is crowded) but after two days, you’ll have had your fill. I recommend ‘Soarin Over California’ and the Toy Story ride at C.A. and all the big stuff at Dland. Knotts Berry Farm has lots more rides and is less crowded – if you have time. Eat before you go in the park in the morning and outside of the park any time you need a break – much cheaper.
    The Wild Animal Park is worth a drive south if you can fit it in for a day. It is wonderful!
    Have a great time AWAY!!!

  56. rachel says:

    I live in East Texas, but my sister and brother-in-law moved to California 2 years ago. They live in the Ventura/Ojai area (about an hour northeast of LA). Everything is beautiful there. If you have time, you should visit. Go to an In-n-Out Burger. Look up on the internet how to speak the language to get what you want. The Santa Monica Pier is fun and has rides. Hollywood is dirty and kinda scary. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is fun for all ages. See some stars, check out Kodak Theatre. You can see the Hollywood sign from the Kodak Theatre. Universal Studios was fun. I haven’t been to San Diego, but I really want to go, and my sister said it is gorgeous! Have fun and post lots of pictures!

  57. Tracy Adcock says:

    My husband says YOU MUST go to his favorite little “hole in the wall” Italian restaurant near Disneyland. It is called Rufinos. It is about 2 blocks from Disneyland in Anaheim. He say’s it is GREAT Italian food at a GREAT price. He grew up all over Cali as a pastor’s kid.
    I think you may regret skipping San Diego. It is AMAZING! I haven’t gotten to read the other comments, yet, so I’ll be curious to know what others have recommended.
    Have fun!

  58. Hannah says:

    First off, I second everyone who’s saying to eat at In-n-Out. You can’t come to Cali without going there — the food is good and cheap. (Which, really, nowadays ya can’t beat.) Visiting San Diego is up to you and your schedule; there are some good attractions there, i.e. the SD zoo.
    Hope y’all have fun! (Oh, and at Disneyland…you should try the Indiana Jones ride. πŸ™‚

  59. liz says:

    Wow – you got a lot of great advice here! Here’s my 2cents in case you are not overwhelmed by all the answers yet!
    1. I’d say two days is enough for the Disneyland stuff. Maybe spend 1/2 day at CA adventure and then 1-1/2 days at Disneyland. Anymore than that and you will be on sensory overload.
    2. Sea World is Awesome! And the Zoo is great too, but if you have to pick one, I’d pick Sea world. BTW, Lego Land is also in San Diego. never been, but everyone says its great.
    The wild animal park was not that impressive to me when we went. You used to be able to drive out there among the animals, but that not the case anymore. Its just a tram that takes you around the outer edge of the animal fields. You can rent a truck and go among the giraffes, but I think that costs a pretty penny.
    3. I don’t do the beach too much, so cant help you there.
    4. Universal STudios is the best movie studio tour. I am not aware of any age restrictions, but I’m sure the website would say. It is worth seeing. Hollywood is dirty and trashy, but if you stick to the Chinese theater, Kodak theater, etc, its worth seeing. (Hollywood tip, the guys on the street that are dressed in charachter expect you to PAY them to take a picture with them.)
    have fun!

  60. Sallie @ a quiet simple life says:

    I didn’t read all the above comments, but based on my experiences as a visitor to California…
    The SD Zoo is really nice. We took the Amtrak down from Fullerton (?) and it was a nice day out.
    I don’t know if this would appeal to your family but The Huntington is fabulous. If I ever went back to CA, I would definitely go again.
    The traffic is horrific for someone not used to it.
    I’ve been to CA twice and both times I said a prayer of gratitude as soon as the plane lifted off. I was so grateful to get out of there without a major earthquake. I’ll take the occasional tornado threat in Michigan any day. There is always a basement, but earthquakes… Not so much.
    Have a good time! πŸ™‚
    Sallie

  61. mckay says:

    i agree with Melissa. my vote is to skip LA and do San Diego. i’ve lived in Southern CA my whole life and i rarely go up to LA. it’s kind of seedy in many areas.
    re: Disneyland. Get a three day pass. if this is your one shot, you don’t want to feel pressured to get it all in. CA Adventure is lovely. i love to walk around there. if your boys are 48 inches tall, they’ll love the roller coaster, and if they’re not tall enough, then make sure you go on Soarin’ over CA.
    I recommend Fashion Island (shopping and merry go round and cool fountains, Balboa Island, the ferry boat and the Balboa Pavilion. it’s the REAL OC.
    Also, the best beach for young families is Corona del Mar state beach or Dana Point. Both have gentle waves and no or few surfers.

  62. Megan says:

    I’ve lived here in San Diego most of my life. Most out-of- state friends and visitors seem to agree that San Diego is the highlight of the state. That being said, there is so much to do down here. I agree with another commenter that you really might just want to wait and take another trip someday just to visit San Diego. However, if you would like to try to make a quick trip down, a fun, FREE thing to do is go to Legoland. Of course going the whole day will cost you BIG bucks, but I’ll let you in on a little known local secret: you can get in for the last hour for free! It is Legoland’s policy that they don’t check tickets that last hour and friends that have worked there have said Legoland kind of does that as a little perk to the locals. So, if you do plan on making the drive down, you might want to arrange getting a little taste of Legoland. Minitown USA is just amazing! I could spend the whole hour just looking at all the intricate Lego designs of famous cities throughout the country.

  63. Frugal Friend says:

    These tips are great! My family is also going to LA next month. We are there for a 90th birthday party for the best Filipino martial artist in the world. My parents live in Ventura county. only 1 hr from LA.
    But after reading all the comments, we might just have to visit relatives and friends in SD too! I’d love to see the ZOO and the beaches. I don’t think they’ll compare to our Gulf of Mexico here in the Panhandle. But the Pacific Ocean does make me feel closer to my homeland (Philippines) It’s as close as I’ll get for now!

  64. Meg says:

    California native here, kids and grandkids, too. Our votes: In-n-Out – definitely. Corona del Mar and Balboa definitely. Surprised so few mentioned Knott’s – way better than Calif Adventure. Be sure to spend at least one evening at Disneyland for the fireworks – spectacular when you’re almost right underneath them! Speaking of evenings, how about the Griffith Park Observatory – cool planetarium show, and what a view of the city lights!

  65. Sharon C in OK says:

    We just did the same exact vacation last month except we were blessed with FF miles for a family of 6 so we got to skip the drive. Here’s my tips:
    1)I’d do a 3 day pass to disney if you can. Get there early and ride all of the big rides first. Afternoons are ridiculously crowded but the hour before closing you can usually ride some of the bigger attractions with a small wait. Take advantage of fastpass and we used the ‘single rider’ line when any of us wanted to repeat an attraction. Buy your tickets in advance with http://www.arestravel.com. They have the best deals. If you’ve never been to Disney before, pick up “The unofficial guide to Disneyland” to read on the way.
    2)We skipped San Diego mainly because of the cost of 6 people going to another amusement park and I’m still okay with that.
    3)We hated Santa Monica Pier, absolutely loved Huntington Beach…lots of surfers and you can eat lunch at Ruby’s at the end of the pier.
    4)We didn’t do any studio tours since the day we had available for that was Sunday and they’re all closed.
    Hope this helps! Have lots of fun!

  66. Laura H. says:

    For your Disney planning, RideMax is an absolute MUST. We went to Disney last year in July (over July 4th weekend), and we did not wait in line for more than 5 minutes for ANYTHING. http://www.ridemax.com
    The RideMax software helps you optimize the list of rides you want to hit (utilizing the Fast Passes and very specific data on lines for each ride on every day/week/month/time). If you and your husband are type “A” enough to commit to an itinerary of rides (pre-planned for specific times), it is fabulous. However, in order for it to work, everyone in your family has to be on board. The itinerary (of the rides you’ve chosen) is very detailed, and you have to follow it to the letter.
    We loved it because we hate lines (we also have 4 kids who are 8, 6, 4, 2). It also made the days at Disney very relaxing — we didn’t have to make any decisions because we’d already made them. We had a printout to follow! Also, having a list of our ride plans helped avoid sibling squabbles about what ride was next. If a child was just dying to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, we just whipped out the itinerary and said, “Yes! We’ll be riding that today at 11:25.”
    Our favorite ride was Soarin’ Over California at California Adventure. Seriously, the best ride ever – so beautiful.
    Have a wonderful time!

  67. Ginger says:

    Well, I live in San Diego so I’m partial. But if you’re needing somebody to talk you out of San Diego, there was a 4.0 earthquake this morning.
    πŸ™‚
    There you go.
    Either way (SD or LA) – you will have fun.
    Good luck!

  68. Jen says:

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but I see a lot of people recommending only 2 days at Disneyland/CA. I would definitely plan for 3. We were there in March with an almost-5-year-old and a 7-month-old, and we couldn’t see everything we wanted to see in 3 days. It’s harder to do everything with smaller kids because none of the Fantasyland rides (Snow White, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, etc.) have fast passes and the lines are really long unless you’re there first thing. We waited way longer for these rides – like 40 minutes and up – than for any of the big rides (because of the fast passes). The only other one that takes a long time is the Toy Story Midtown Mania at CA and it is definitely worth the wait! But for us it was almost an hour, and that was in March, not summer vacation.
    We did 3 full days (like there 9ish in the morning and leaving at closing) and still didn’t see everything. So prioritize what’s really important to each of the kids and make sure to get those things done first!

  69. Christy says:

    We went to Disneyland in April. My kids are younger than yours so we had poty training and nap issues to contend with. We were there 3 days and skimmed the surface. And it was less crowded than when you will be there.
    I recommend a website that helps you plan your trip down to the minute in the Disney parks. It is http://www.ridemax.com/. You do have to pay for it but it is amazing. You type the date and time you want to arrive, when you want to take breaks and what you want to see. Then it creates a detailed itinerary based on wait times and crowds to maximize your visit. You can ask each child for their top 2 things and factor that in.
    Your daughter would love the princess lunch at Ariel’s Grotto. It is in California Adventure. If you can’t get tickets to that, there is a princess meet and greet in Disneyland at the Fantasy Faire near “It’s a small world”. Have fun.

  70. sl says:

    I lived outside of Malibu for a few years and feel the need to weigh in:
    1. Hollywood in more than a day is a waste of time. In fact, the people that wanted to see Hollywood were usually dissapointed in it. A scumy area and the whole thing without a tour can take 30 minutes. I hated fighting thr taffic just to have everyone disappointed.
    2. Zuma beach in Malibu is great. I’d eat at Malibu seasfood or Dukes if you end up there. A bit of a drive but very pretty.
    3. I think 2 days at Disneyland might not be enough because of the summer rush if you want to ride a lot of rides.
    4. San Diego should be enjoyed in more than one day, but it’s worth the drive.

  71. Kristen says:

    I lived in SoCal for the last two years – just moved! And I think you should skip Hollywood and spend that time in San Diego.
    San Deigo is gorgeous! My husband and I visited numerous times while we were living in Cali.
    Now, Hollywood? I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. It is run down and a waste of time, in my opinion. I went once and that was enough.
    Disneyland!! Two days for both parks would be perfect. πŸ™‚
    Enjoy!

  72. jane says:

    I live a block from the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater. Kinda cheesy. Don’t budget a lot of time, however, down the street one block, (LA Brea and Sunset) there is an amazing ice cream store that is an only in LA thing- Mashti Malones. Mashti a Persian immigrant bought Malone’s ice cream store, but he could only afford to change part of the sign. So he added the Mashti to the Malones and a legend was born. Truly unique flavors and all the regular flavors too. Everything is good. The plaza is a bit run down, but don’t let that worry you. Safe and very friendly place.
    Also, the Silent Theater on Fairfax is having a Jim Henson special all month. Worth checking the calendar.
    http://www.silentmovietheatre.com/calendar/index.html
    Santa Monica beach is pretty commercial, but the pier is fun and kid friendly. There is a tiny little aquarium that has sharks and all sorts of hands on things for kids. It’s free for kids and I think it is worth a visit if you are there anyway.
    http://www.healthebay.org/smpa/visitor/default.asp
    If you go to Santa Monica beach, there is a pizza place called Brunos (on Ocean Ave just south of the pier free parking in the back)that is awesome with super friendly family atmosphere. Madonna was a fan of this place in the 80’s, but it really is just a hole in the wall family run delicious pizza place.
    If you go to Santa Monica beach on a Sunday you will see Arlington West a memorial to Iraq/Afghanistan soldiers that is really powerful. That display is just north of the pier.
    The La Brea Tar Pits are cool if your kids are into dinos. http://www.tarpits.org/
    The studios are hit or miss with their tours. Not sure I would make that a priority with kids. If Beckham stays in LA, you’ll likely be back when the kids are older and can enjoy it more.

  73. Kori (SunnyDayTagGirl) says:

    Wow… lots of great advice. I grew up in El Centro but spent lots of time in San Diego with Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents. San Diego is AWESOME just like everyone else has said… Mission Beach is great… but go to Coronado… The bridge is amazing and the Hotel Del Coronado is there. Sea World in San Diego is wonderful also and I believe they shoot fireworks off over the bay during the summer. I had forgotten about the missions, they are a great idea!!! In-N- Out burger is a must do also. I haven’t been to DisneyLand since 1 day was long enough to not only see the whole place but ride every ride a couple of times. Pirates of the Caribbean is GREAT and so are all the “Mountain” rides for bigger kids. There used to be a couple of “shows” like the Bear Country Jamboree that were inside and air-conditioned, if you need a place to cool off and rest without leaving the park – the monorail is great for that also. Another thing I just thought of with all the zoo talk… Marla Taviano and her family will be doing the CA zoos this coming week… They are staying in SD with a friend of mine. I don’t even know if you know who I am talking about… I know she knows BigMama so I assumed you might know her also… She and her family are doing 52 Zoos in 52 weeks and writing a book about it. Oh and get a carne asada burrito while you are out there…. YUM!!! or Machaca!!!

  74. nlynch says:

    I too am afraid of earthquakes! We just got back from San Francisco where I FROZE and was totally thrilled that our seats at AT&T park for Astros/Giants game where out in the open with nothing over our heads….you know……just in case!!! My family thinks I am a psycho!
    Have a great time.
    NLynch
    Texas

  75. Lisa m. says:

    Ok, 93 comments? You may not have time to read this, but I’ll contribute anyway! I grew up in So. Cal, Laguna Beach to be precise which is, naturally, the beach I would recommend! It’s about an hour’s drive south of LA however, but the beaches in Orange County are sure nice! Disneyland in two days–why not? It’s crazy expensive and you want to do a lot of other things, but your kids may want more b/c there will be a LOT of line waiting unless one of you can break a leg and need a wheelchair before then as that will speed you to the front of the lines!
    Eating–I like the restaurant by Pirates of the Caribbean–great Monte Cristo sandwiches! San Diego Zoo is amazing, the beaches are nice, but that’s a lot for one trip so do SD next time. It’s too far to drive there and do stuff all in one day (2 hours). Next trip you could do SD and then Tijuana which is its own experience.
    Earthquakes–I’ve been close to several and live on the Hayward Fault–never sunk in yet tho Loma Prieta was somethin’ else. As for your description of California–it was funny, but sadly too close to the truth. It will make you glad you live in Oklahoma.
    Also, home prices have, shall we say, “dropped”, hence a lot of foreclosures. That’s been sad.
    May you have a wonderful, safe, blessed time in your travels–I’ll be leaving the golden state (I now live nearer San Francisco) and heading your way as you head ours! Time in Arizona and Texas (isn’t that a great plan for summer! Gonna be hot!)
    Lisa

  76. Lisa M. says:

    Hi N Lynch,
    Was just reading your reply to Rocks in my Dryer—but isn’t AT&T park a treat? I love that place! One should always expect to freeze in SF–we do very little summer out here! Earthquakes–I live on the Hayward Fault and used to live on the San Andreas–you just get used to it! I’ve been through several earthquakes and big ones, but so far, we’re still here…don’t carry earthquake insurance as it’s crazy expensive! We’re headed for Texas next week–now that will be a change in weather! Not sure we’ll be having summer here before October–which is not unusual! LM

  77. Melanie says:

    I went to San Diego for our first anniversary. We loved it. I’d go there just for Sea World, if you can. I saw the mention of In and Out Burger-haven’t been there but have a friend from Cal. who misses it dearly. Have fun!!

  78. Justine says:

    Hello! I’m an OC/LA native, and if you’re spending any time in LA I would highly recommend visting the La Brea Tar Pits. They’re known world-wide for having the largest collection of Ice Age fossils, and they’re just really neat! Plus, I work in the paleontology lab at the museum there, so if you were able to come on a day I work, I could give you a tour and show you around. You can email me if you like!

  79. Jenn Calling Home says:

    Well, you’re probably long gone by now, but I’ll add my 2 cents anyway…from a former Cali girl:
    1) Don’t worry about the earthquakes. If you do get to experience one, you’ll have some incredible stories to tell; and your nerves will forever be on edge, making you jump whenever a truck passes by and rattles the windows.
    2) Two days is plenty of Disneyland for any adult to take. There’s not that much at CA Adventure. I would recommend not devoting a whole day to it, but hopping back and forth between the two if you can.
    3) The San Diego Zoo is awesome. And if you’ve never been to a Sea World type park, you might want to check it out. Of course, all that and Disneyland just might send you over the top, so adjust accordingly.
    4) Just have a blast!

  80. kelly says:

    Let me just start off by saying you are going to have a wonderful time, I’m in the OC a this exact moment and the weather is PERFECT! you’ve gotten tons of great info, but I’ll still add my two cents & a few links (by total random coincidence, I run an Orange County Base website dedicated to things to do in the OC called Just Spotted
    .)
    1. 2 days at Disneyland is fine. It will be crowded and hot, but you can definitely do it all. The 3 day is a great deal though, and it gives you the ability to come and go more… take your time. Personally, I think EVERY ride is a must-do, and if you’re using Ride Max and Fast Passes, you’ll be fine. We LOVE all of the Big Coasters, of course. At Disneyland one of our favs is the Buzz Lightyear ride, & Toy Story Mania in California Adventure. It it’s super hot & you are looking for a cool down ride try: Splash Mountain (of course), Haunted House, Pirates, Space Mountain, Soar’n (DCA). Plus, you definitely want to get a Dole Whip (outside of the Tiki Room) YUMMY! (and one of the cheapest things at Disneyland). & if you daughter likes the Princesses, you might want to check out the “Princess Faire”… tons of princesses are lined up & you get to meet them, although there is usually a line (of course). Find tons of Disney tips (including places to eat, etc.) HERE.
    2. Disneyland is Beautiful, but there is tons to do. I don’t think it’s terrible that your missing it (it really can be an entire trip in itself), but if you choose to visit, you can find a nice guide HERE. You can always head down there for a couple quick stops. If you are staying in Orange County, it’s a nice day trip.
    3.Being from the OC, I don’t hit the beach all the often in LA. But, I can give you my fav in the OC. Newport, as mentioned is nice, I also Like Huntington Beach (by the pier) & Seal Beach (by the pier). I like HB & SB by the pier simply because it adds a little interest. Both pier’s have a Ruby’s Restaurant, so when it gets too hot, or my kiddos are a little bored we can walk down the pier and get a milk shake or something else fun!
    4. My kids are too little for studio tours, and honestly, I kinda hate LA. Santa Monica is Fun, Hollywood deserves a drive-through. The Getty is nice & so is Griffith Park Observatory… but I kinda avoid the rest of LA. Maybe I need to get out there and check it out more!
    Have Fun, it’s going to be GREAT! & seriously, if you have any specific “Disneyland” or OC or even LA related questions, shot me an email. I’ve got tons of tips and tricks.
    xoxo, K
    accordingtokelly@gmail.com

  81. Cathy says:

    If you make it to San Diego I would vote for Sea World. That’s a full day, so if that’s not doable don’t forget about Scripps Oceanarium (sp?) which is located in the La Jolla area just north of San Diego. Easy to stop by on your drive from LA to San Diego. It’s a great little spot, won’t have the crowds of other places, and has really great exhibits and fish tanks. It’s really a little gem and so nice to get away from the huge crowds you’d experience at Sea World, Zoo, Disney, etc.
    While at Disneyland, try to fit in a character meal for the family. They are pricey but great fun, good food, and a nice respite from the long days and lines at other Disney eateries. Check Disney website about calling to make reservations. Also, another special place to eat is the Blue Bayou Restaurant where you sit inside right near the Priate of the Carribiean boats. Yummy food, fun for the kids, free refills on drinks and air-conditioned.
    Enjoy. If your kids collect those squished penny things, bring a baggie with quarters and pennies so you can easily whip them out when you see a machine!
    And I second the suggestion of an earlier poster who mentioned the Disney Character Warehouse that is about a 15 minute drive for Disneyland – your kids can get their fill of merchandise at great prices and you’ll save a lot!
    Enjoy

  82. Cathy says:

    Oh my goodness, I forgot to mention that you HAVE to have a Dole Whip (yummy pineapple concoction) from the stand that is near the entrance to Adventure land and TikiBird Show. It’s my favorite treat!

  83. Elizabeth Esther says:

    SoCal native, here.
    Agreed that you want to skip LA and do San Diego. LA is not really that fun for kids. It’s dirty, congested and crowded this time of year. LA beaches are not that great, either.
    Spend more time in The OC and San Diego. I say 2 days for Disneyland. California Adventure can be done in 1/2 day, imo.
    Best OC beaches: Laguna Beach (tidepools, art galleries and fun places to eat); Huntington Beach (great waves, classic pier, fun surf shops).
    Have fun!

  84. Crystal says:

    Okay – we just hit Disneyland with the kids a few months back, and I learned an important lesson, which applies if you have a princess-loving daughter. Apparently you won’t just ‘run’ into them in the park any longer. There is a princess area, which is cute, but to wait in line to meet one (and you don’t know which one it will be) wasn’t my cup of tea – if she didn’t get to meet Ariel she might has well not have met any. So, at California Adventure there’s a restaurant called Ariel’s Grotto. It’s not cheap – we decided to just have it be me and my little princess for lunch – but you’re guaranteed to meet Ariel, and 5 other princesses come around while you’re eating so you have the chance to talk with and take pictures with each one individually. SO worth it for her, at this point in life where it was so magical.
    Good luck and HAVE FUN!!!

  85. lorrie @ my spot on the shore says:

    BORN and RAISED in Southern California…outside Santa Barbara. The parks are great and 2/3 days max is enough…but to get the beauty of California…you have to pick the right beaches…Sorry LA folks…There are NO decent beaches in LA proper. Your best best is North of LA or San Diego County. Of course since I’m outside of Malibu…I’ll speak of my favs. Leo Carrillo Beach outside Malibu…the PCH (pacific Coast Highway) is a great drive and Leo Carrillo is AWESOME! Trust Me….It’s worth the drive. If you have time to go to Santa Barbara….please don’t miss it…it’s gorgeous! (ok bias since I lived there for my undergrad). In LA…you don’t want to miss In and Out Burgers if your family likes burgers, the Farmer’s Market…if you like flowers…get up early and head downtown to the Flower Mart…it’s just interesting to see. In terms of the touristy places in LA…You’ll be more happy with going to San Diego or up north to our part of So. Cal. Also…in LA if you can splurge…eat at Crustaseans in Beverly Hills…something ritzy and any Taco stand in a bad part of town is worth the quick in and out…authentic Mexican tacos are the best. Drop me a line on my blog when your in town and if you need help…let me know…Also if you guys can get out towards Oxnard it’s whales season (for the grey whales) returning from Mexico and the ocean boat ride is great. Also Catalina is awesome too! Just too much to do in Southern California. Have a great time…I love living in our paradise.
    BTW…we normally don’t have earthquakes in the summer…just doesn’t happen much!

  86. Lisa M. says:

    Hi Emily! CA now has Sonic too, in some limited locations. My daughter went to Baylor and got hooked on Sonic there, but I sure don’t think it holds a candle to In ‘n Out! Lisa

  87. Kristen says:

    I live in Orange County, too. I would definitely agree with all the feedback you have gotten about LA. You probably already have your hotel planned, but I wouldn’t stay there if I were you. It really isn’t aall that family friendly. A day-trip into Hollywood is more than enough to see anything there. The Chinese Mann’s Theatre and Walk of Stars are fun, but every time we go, we are ready to leave within a few minutes. Not that much to see!
    I may be biased, but I think the Newport/Huntington area is a really great place for families to visit! Someone mentioned it above, but by far my local fave for kids is the Dana Point Harbor “baby beach”. There are no waves and you can rent kayaks and paddle boats there. Huntington’s Main Street is fun, and the beaches there have firepits that are fun for roasting smores at night. They are free and first-come first-serve. Laguna Main is a popular beach but it is so crowded in the summer. I agree with a pp’s rec of Crystal Cove.
    Personally, I’ve always preferred Legoland to Disney. We have Disney passes but we usually go for quick trips and stick to California Adventure. I HATE the way all of the Disney rides have an “evil” or supernatural element. I’m really not that prudish, but it bugs me and my daughter was scared to sleep in the dark after our last visit. Even the children’s rides are scary! Legoland is fun without any of that stuff, and it’s on the way down to San Diego. I think 2 days would be all you want at Disney in the summer. You will probably all be sick of the crowds, the heat, and the prices after 2 days!
    I agree about San Diego, it’s a gorgeous city. Even walking around Balboa Park is fun, with lots of things to see and do. And Balboa Island in OC is really fun, too. If you are an Arrested Development fan, you need to hit the banana stands and ride the ferry!
    If you are there over a weekend, check out Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa! πŸ™‚ http://www.rockharbor.org
    If you need hotel recs in OC, email me at howertons @ hotmail.com.
    Love your blog – not sure I’ve commented before but I lurk all the time!

  88. Mari says:

    i’m originally from ventura, california but moved to berkeley at 19, for college, and stayed there until 8 years ago.
    disneyland: 5 days isn’t enough time to do it all the way one would like to. we like space mountain the best.
    beach: zuma is the best. it’s the one i grew up hanging out on as a teenager when we’d venture off our fanstatic beach in ventura, where i learned to surf.
    studio: universal is fun. cheesey as all get out, but fun.
    enjoy your trip.
    –mari

  89. nlynch says:

    Yes! We loved the park. We were there for 4th of July weekend and saw AWESOME fireworks at the game overlooking the bay! We have a friend that played for the Giants and he gave us the grand tour of the stadium and it was wonderful.
    I knew it would be chilly but really didn’t pack very well. Had cute new summer outfits that I never wore as jeans and sweatshirts were my usual daily attire!
    Have fun in Texas…bring lots of shorts and t-shirts! It will be summer here until November at least!

  90. Eden says:

    I totally understood this post! We decided to drive from MO to So Cal for our vacation this year. And it started sneaking up on us – but then came to a screaching halt when we became unemployed 10 days prior to our planned departure.
    I totally agree with the red stater’s opinion of California. Fine to visit (please no earthquakes on my visit) but NEVER living there.
    I’ve been twice before and can’t get myself away from San Diego – I love it! (Again to visit but never to live.) Being from the country (and now living in a booming 100k+ city), I prefer to stay away from LA. San Diego traffic is doable – LA, no way.
    Our trip plans included Coronado Island, Cabrillo National Monument, the beach (hadn’t picked one yet), Legoland (in Oceanside), the beach, Seaport Village, and La Jolla to see the seals.
    And definitely going to Legoland would be during the week, not Friday or Saturday.
    Have a great trip!

  91. MemeGRL says:

    So much great advice to process on your 21 hour drive!
    My caveat is this: I haven’t been there in almost 20 years so it might be different now. BUT–on one of my trips to SoCal, three generations of our family went to Universal Studios and LOVED it. LOVED it. LOVED it. I have never seen the Florida one so I can’t compare but if you want to get a glimpse of (and give lots of money to) one of the Places that Makes the Movies That Are Ruining America, it was a great theme park with a fun “studio tour.” The “studio tour” was a combination “attraction” and tour of actual movie sets on the lot. There was also a faux earthquake and Jaws “attacked” the tour vehicle…stuff like that to keep with the theme park experience. But if I recall correctly, lots of the tour was past the actual places where movies everyone knows were filmed. And one of my fondest memories ever of my grandfather was his delight at the ET ride (which may not even exist anymore!). He just laughed and laughed with joy at the special effects of the ride. It’s no “Soaring!” but it was really fun.
    And…one more beach to consider…Laguna is GORGEOUS, especially if you decide to take PCH (Pacific Coast Hwy, Rte.1) down to San Diego since it’s on the way. But Newport is also amazing.
    But if you want real beaches? Come to New Jersey next year. Really. The beaches are worth the Jersey jokes.
    Have FUN!!! What a great trip.

  92. Texas in Africa says:

    Two days at Disney/CA is a lot for a four-year-old. That said, Disneyland is a lot more manageable than Disney World. If it were me, I’d do one day at Disneyland and go to Knott’s Berry Farm on the second.
    Skip the Hollywood stuff (all the comments above about how nasty/trashy/unsafe/completely inappropriate for children is is are dead-on, although if you can find it, there’s an okay park near the Hollywood sign), make the OC your halfway point while you’re at Disney, and then go to the San Diego Zoo. You won’t regret it. San Diego is SO much nicer than LA, cute little downtown area, fun beaches (Coronado Island is absolutely beautiful), and you’ll generally feel much safer and cleaner there.
    Closer to LA, your boys will be fascinated by the La Brea Tar Pits, especially if any of them are into dinosaurs and such. Newport is a decent beach. Plan twice as much time as you think you’ll need to get to everything. The traffic is terrible.

  93. Kris B says:

    If you get to the SD area, I have heard/read great things about the tidal pools at Cabrillo National Monument. I read an article about them at Scribbit. They sound absolutely wonderful for children. Are on my top 10 things to see in SoCal. Enjoy your trip! Oh, and unless your family absolutely loves crowds and theme parks, two days at Disney is plenty.

  94. Kristin says:

    If you are there on a Saturday or Sunday, I would suggest trying The Dream Center or Angelus Temple. (www.angelustemple.org) This is the church where Aimee Semple McPherson ministered. The Dream Center is the inner-city outreach of the church and they house hundreds of homeless and train them and rehab them for productive lives.
    My husband and I visited LA a few years ago and spent one night at The Dream Center (it’s an old hospital and there are dorm-style rooms for rent.) We walked away from there saying, “THIS is what Jesus with skin on looks like.” Amazing place.

  95. Shelly says:

    2 or more days at Disney. The long line will prevent much of anything else. California Adventure is a waste of time and money. Do fastpasses at DL to save time. They check bags, but rent a locker and keep your food there. Come back to eat and save the money for not eating in the park. Ride the train and monorail to rest your weary feet.
    Eat at In and Out as it is the BEST and so many have stated so.
    Go to the beach and enjoy! See Hollywood, but don’t be surprised if it scares you. It does me and I have lived here for over 20yrs.
    Earthquakes don’t happen as often as the storms you get in OK, so relax a bit. But know every shake will bother you.
    San Diego is cool! Visit Old Town San Diego for a wonderful time. Lego land is too expensive and more for little kids. Sea World is awesome though.
    If you have a chance, go over to Catalina Island for a day of fun. Just be at the pier on time or you will miss the ferry.
    Come and enjoy! Coldwater Canyon park is a great place to see famous people besides to play in the stream.

  96. Diana (Ladybug Limited) says:

    I’m an OC native– born and raised in Orange for 23 years. As a mom I lived in South County for 4 years before transplanting to Oregon a year ago. Here’s my 2 cents worth:
    1. Traffic will do you in before any earthquake! Honestly, most earthquakes happen without anyone noticing and they’re a lot less frequent than tornadoes. In Southern California, miles don’t matter when trying to figure out how long it will take to get somewhere– it’s all about the traffic and time of day.
    2. As a parent of a 6 and almost-4 year old, I’d skip California Adventure and do 2 days at Disneyland– you might not fit it all in, but more than 2 days would just become a battle of trying to ride every last ride and no one needs that kind of stress on vacation! Pick your must-rides and do those on Day One and be happy with the ones you discover after those. If you really want to have time to take in parades and character breakfasts or any of California Adventure, I’d go for a 3-day pass, though.
    3. For beaches, we were fond of driving Laguna Canyon Road (you could pick up El Toro Road off of the I-5 and take it until it runs into Laguna Canyon Road) out to PCH to go to the Main Beach in Laguna Beach. It’s not your typical megalopolis drive and you’ll see a more pastoral side of OC that will surprise you. Our favorite time to go to the beach was about 4 pm — crowds were gone and we could play for a couple of hours before grabbing dinner at Ruby’s on PCH just south of town (= best milkshakes in OC & fun dining for kids — they have a website.)
    4. I would skip LA (OK, not totally because my sister lives there) and do San Diego. My 2 kiddos adore Legoland and the San Diego Wild Animal Park (not the same thing as the SD Zoo). The Wild Animal Park has a lot of cool features– they love riding the train for the “safari” first thing when we get there. Legoland has lots of appeal for your kiddos various ages, I would say. Those 2 would make my list way before any sights in LA.
    But, like I said, that’s just my 2 cents worth πŸ™‚ Feel free to e-mail if you want more info on anything.

  97. Jill says:

    Our favorite Disneyland ride is at CA it’s the Jumping Jellyfish. Can’t tell you how many times a 7 year old and 4 year went on this, too many to count. I was pregnant and throwing up already so I sat it out.
    We were at Disney 3 nights and 3 days- but one day was rainy so 2 days should get you in everywhere you want. We took in a show (Aladdin) it was great.
    Universial Studios is great too.
    If you had time Lego Land in SD is worth the time but you can always go again. We love San Diego, but we’ve mostly been just adults so I don’t know about the kids except Lego.
    Have a great trip.

  98. Nancy MG says:

    Los Angeles proper IS indeed kind of seedy, but it sounds like you’re planning more for the “Greater Los Angeles Area.” Anaheim (and Disneyland!) is actually in a different county altogether. DEFINITELY go for the Fast Passes, and a tip for Space Mountain is that if you’re able to make it until evening, you can see the fireworks show from the line! (And, as a bonus, you won’t be in the phenomenal crush of pedestrians, strollers, and little ones who really should have gone home an hour ago, but were coerced into staying through the show–it’s awesome that they’re sharing great memories, but enough is enough for a four-year-old!) Pirates of the Caribbean is a MUST! It’s the longest ride at Disneyland (13 minutes and change) and the line is usually pretty quick!
    Huntington COUNTY beach is fun and family-oriented, and there’s a great restaurant called Ruby’s on the pier; It’s 50’s themed, so expect great music!
    San Diego is a wonderful city, but it’s much more laid-back than your other suggestions… I’d finish up there, to wind up your trip in a way that’s as relaxing as you can get with a large family πŸ™‚
    And don’t worry too much about ‘quakes: they usually occur more in Fall and Spring, and all you really need to do is stand in a doorway if one occurs–no closets or basements needed (in fact, I don’t think I know one person who even HAS a basement, and I’m Southern California born & raised!)!
    Have a safe trip, and a wonderful time!!!

  99. Kate says:

    I am a fellow Oklahoman… Disneyland / Adventure is best in three days. We a five year old and two yearold. First step into park go get the fast passes! Thank me later! There is a great historic Hotdog stop in Hollywood called Pinks. It’s a must! Other than that Holloywood is a bust for most family’s. Sprinkles Cupcake’s in Beverliy Hills to DIE for. And YES, If you can San Diego will be well worht it. It’s a fabulous drive along the coast. IF you can not make it Newport beach is a great stop too. Most important do not skip eating at In and Out Burger whenever you see one.

  100. Tiff says:

    You will have a blast! I wish I was going on vacation right now!! BOOOHOOO!!! 😦 Oh well…no rest for the weary! Teehee!! Can’t wait to hear about your trip!

  101. Julie From Inmates says:

    The only thing we did in San Diego was visit Sea World, but you can do that about anywhere.
    The only studio tours we did were The Price Is Right and I’m pretty sure they require you to be 18 years old.
    The only beach trip we did was in Malibu, not so much for the beach, becuase that’s where a lot of the stars live.
    So, no, not much help here.
    Oh, and I totally laughed at the whole conjugated verb thing. I blog different from the way I talk too. My latest usage was strewn instead of strung out. πŸ˜‰

  102. Cyndy says:

    Native Californian here…don’t worry about the earthquakes…I’d take them over a tornado any day! πŸ˜‰ Like someone mentioned before, the bigger deal is the traffic.
    We just did a three day trip to Disneyland and the best $15 dollars of the trip was spent on this program http://www.ridemax.com/ Seriously, buy a 45 day subscription to this program and be a nerd and totally schedule out your whole day at Disneyland. I’ve been to Disneyland about 5 -6 times in my life and this was the best time we EVER had. Hardly any waiting in lines (and that’s the big not so fun deal when you go to Disneyland, standing in lines I mean)and plenty of time to just take in your surroundings. Also make use of your FastPasses. Ask an employee to explain them to you…they are soooo worth it! Also when you are at D-land be sure to get Dole Whips at the little stand in front of the Tiki Room. Seriously yummy!
    In California Adventure be sure to ride Soarin’ Over California and be sure to ride Toy Story Mania. Those, in my opinion, were the best rides in that part of the park. California Screamin’ was pretty good too. Your daughter will really like the Bug Land stuff. A little warning on the 3D shows. Our daughter, age 8, DID NOT like them. They were a little too realistic for her.
    San Diego is beautiful. One of my favorite places there is Balboa Park. The San Diego Zoo is there as well as several excellent and kid friendly museums.
    I hope you all have fun!

  103. Creative2xmom says:

    I’m just going to throw out my opinion so I hope it’s not redundant.
    All I can answer to is Disneyland…
    we always get 3 day passes. You could spend a day in Ca Adventure if your kids are older. Mine are young so we didn’t do much. They loved Bug’s Land. For an older crowd, there is the big roller coaster, Soarin’ over Ca (you have to do this one), and the stuff on the midway, Midway Madness is for adults and kids alike. My preschooler loved it and my mom and I laughed the whole time.
    Disneyland is great. We went in the fall and there was a princess show on the stage near toon town. Face painting, story time, and shows with the princesses along with a monstrous line that gets you to see 3 princesses at once. Jasmine was there and left, but we met Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Princess Minnie. They switch out periodically, but you always see three.
    Rides we love: Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, Pirates and Hauted House. My 4 year old loved the Buzz Lightyear Ride and it really was fun.
    There’s so many other little tips and tricks I could give you. Like getting filtered water at the Baby Changing Station on Main Street. But I’ll try not to overwhelm you. Have a great time.

  104. Cyndy says:

    Oh, another little tip. If you plan on spending your big food bucks on dinner. Be sure and make dinner reservations in advance. We ate b-fast at our hotel, brought snack food for during the day and ate a nice dinner every evening. Downtown Disney has some great restaurants but I especially recommend Rainforest Cafe. Good food and the kids will love it!

  105. nicole says:

    I’m so jealous. I have family in SoCal and that is the only place my family ever vacationed. I love it. I can see that you have a ton of comments, probably full of good advice, so I’ll refrain from repeating good advice. I am very curious about what mega sporting event you are attending though.

  106. the Senator's Wife says:

    I went to USC and was just in LA last month-with kids. We did Disneyland on a Sunday morning and I am convinced this is THE ONLY time to go in the summer. Be sure and get there right when it opens as well. If your kids have been to Disneyland (world) before, you can do this in one day. Trust me. If not, you will know if another day is necessary fairly quickly. The fast passes are the only way to do the rides you like-so get them and plan accordingly. There is a great princess area at this park. My daughter has past the princess phase, but I advise you to head straight back to this area first. It looked like an amazing place for a little girl to experience and the lines were long.
    We skipped California adventure on the advice of my LA friends and were glad we did.
    Santa Monica is the best beach spot. They have also just opened a new public beach area that is first rate. You can call ahead and make reservations and they will have chairs and umbrella’s for you, I believe there is also food there and clean bathrooms. It was made possible through the Annenberg Foundation and I believe that is the name of this beach in Santa Monica.
    Great restaurants in the Santa Monica area and shopping too if the weather is not cooperative.
    However, I would definitely head to San Diego. The zoo is a must see, it is a world class zoo. Then there is lego land if you have lego lovers. San Diego is beautiful and much more relaxed than the craziness of Los Angeles. The traffic is a little better in San Diego as well.
    Have a great trip-

  107. Anna says:

    I’m a Georgian who lived in San Diego for two years and I miss it terribly!! LA is certainly worth the visit but it is a very large city and not as glamerous as people expect. If at all possible – go to San Diego. It’s 1 1/2 hours south, the Pacific Coast Highway is beautiful (once you pass the LA suberbs). You’ll see Del Mar and La Jolla on your way into SD. Then there is Balboa Park, Coronado Island, Seal Beach, SD Zoo, LegoLand for your kids, etc., etc. Eat at George’s on the Cove in La Jolla. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Seal Beach – beautiful…and now, I’m homesick.

  108. Joelle says:

    Haven’t read all your comments, so forgive me if I’m being redundant, but here’s my two cents…
    I live between San Diego and LA and I have to say that we go to LA more often because it’s closer, but San Diego is cleaner and maybe cooler. Sea World is worth visiting in San Diego, as well as Balboa Park and Coronado Island. And check out the San Diego Zoo and/or Wild Animal Park. Those are the BEST zoos. SO much fun. I love them!
    We don’t have kids, but in LA, we like going to the Hollywood Bowl for evening concerts. (Tickets are cheaper than the Disney Concert Hall.) You should also check out Griffith Park in LA (very close to Hollywood) which has a nice view of the city, and the ocean if it’s not smoggy. There is also a nice planetarium at Griffith. As for LA beaches, we like Santa Monica and Malibu. We like the Mission beach in San Diego, which is near Sea World.
    Oh, and I have to say that I-40 does not end in the ocean. You have to get on I-15 in the Cajon Pass, and TRY not to hit the end of weekend traffic or you’ll be in line with everybody returning from Vegas. It can take forever to get through there.
    If you want to do something in the mountains, I’d say you should go over near Palm Springs to the Mt. San Jacinto tramway. You can take a tram to the top of the mountain (8,000-some feet) and enjoy some mountain trails (pretty nice/ easy trails near mountain station). The air is beautiful up in the mountains, and it is generally cooler than the desert. (My DH proposed to me up there! But that’s another story.)
    Drop me an e-mail if you need any more info.

  109. Janet Burkenpas says:

    I have a 3,7,9 year olds. Two days at Disney/Ca adventure is NOT enough time. Sea world is very fun, but takes a day by itself. I was NOT impressed by the zoo. Unless the kids are asking for the LA trip, scrub it. There is also Knox berry farm. They have this wonderful knights dinner show which is awesome (and VERY expensive) Don’t rush through disney, it’s gonna be what they remember. Also legoland! Have fun

  110. Lisa says:

    As a so cal native, I would skip LA and do San Diego (i think everyone has told you that!). San Diego is much more kid friendly! Do the Zoo, go to Coronado or S.Carlsbad state beach (better than L.A. beaches!)Definetly hit up in-n-out for yummy (cheap-ish) burgers! If you end up on your way to S.D. via I-15 stop in Temecula at Rosa’s Cantina (not Rosa’s cafe) for the best mexican food IN LIFE. Enjoy!

  111. Sam says:

    I just got back from California a month ago. so I will share my experience of what we enjoyed the most. Go to Santa Monica Pier, it’s so much fun and they have a few rides there. Don’t go to the beach there. We went to the Manhattan Beach (after eating at Uncle Bill’s Pancake house, which is also amazing and you should try). I would say that giving up a day in LA and going down to San Diego is totally worth it. We went to the Zoo and then to the beach, even though it was freezing. I really liked the beaches in San Diego, you could even stop in Laguna Beach on the way there, the beaches are supposed to be amazing. Go to Manns and the walk of fame, but I doubt the kids will think it’s that exciting, but you can see the Hollywood sign from there. I don’t know much about Disneyland, so no advice there, just thought I’d share what we really enjoyed on our vacation

  112. ET @ Titus2:3-5 says:

    We just took our family of 7 to Disneyland (also driving) in March/April. Here are my answers…
    #1 – no, two days is not enough; 1 day is good for CA Adventure, but you’ll need 2 for sure in Disney (good news is they sell a 3 day hopper pass, lol)
    #2 – Sea World was by far our family’s favourite stop! We passed on the Wild Animal Park b/c we figured our kids had already been seated in vehicles long enough. But I hear it’s pretty darn amazing! (more good news, there’s actually a SoCal pass that includes: 3 day hopper, Universal, Sea World, and either the Zoo or Wild Animal park in SD –> our fam purchased it for the low, low price of *&%*#%%*@)
    #3 – if they tell you that Newport Beach is a great family place to go, don’t believe them; Venice Beach is way more fun!
    #4 – we only did Universal, and it was pretty good. Best ride of our entire week was there – the Simpsons Ride. And we got to see so many characters while there! Plus they have a super fun get-soaked water park that kids of all ages enjoy.
    But, I’m no expert. Been once, won’t go again. (would to Universal and Sea World, but not Disney – sorry)
    Have fun!

  113. edj says:

    From glancing briefly at your comments, sounds like you’ve got lots of good advice. I just want to emphasize getting fast passes at Disneyland. Our favs are Splash Mountain (boring mechanical animals so worth it for that moment of sheer, abject terror before you splash down! And try and get heavier people in the boat with you–better splashes that way!) and Indiana Jones. For the little ones, Toad’s Wild Ride and Haunted House are fun. Thunder Mountain is good too; ride in the back for that one–more whippy action!
    Donn says Dana Point might be a good beach. We always go to Huntington Beach for surfing, and there are plenty of families there too.
    Maybe you will get a teeny tiny earthquake, emerge totally unscathed including all breakables, and have a great story to tell πŸ˜‰ You never know!
    Have a great trip! SoCal is a great place to visit. I bet you’ll have a blast!

  114. Sporty Mama says:

    I have visited San Diego and Los Angeles, and as a Southern girl, I prefer San Diego. Beautiful city, nice people, great food. Actually, I hated Los Angeles. Way too big, rude people, not into the HOLLYWOOD thing.
    Have fun!

  115. Ginger says:

    I grew up and still live about 120 miles north of L.A. I’m as afraid of tornados as you are of earthquakes.
    I’d take 2-3 days for Disney, skip Hollywood (esp because you have kids; if you do go there, don’t be there after dark) and head for the San Diego Wild Animal Park (acutally in Escondido). We go at least twice a year and love it…its about the closest thing you’ll get to a safarri w/out having to get all the shots. The S.D. zoo is great too, but I prefer the park which is the zoo’s breeding facility. Be safe & have fun!

  116. Barbara says:

    We did this trip last summer and spent about half our time in SD and half in LA. In SD, our 7 yo boy LOVED Legoland even though he never played with Legos before that. He wants to go there on his honeymoon. We also had a great time at the Zoo — best zoo trip ever — and at Sea World.
    In LA, we skipped Disney as we have been to DisneyWorld. The NBC studio tour allowed children under 8. It didn’t get great online reviews, but we enjoyed it. If you’ve never been on a studio tour, then it would be worth it. Also, some of the stated age restrictions are not enforced, so you may want to check when you get there. The Santa Monica Pier was also fun. We walked around the Chinese Theater, etc and that was entertaining (during the day).
    Bottom line, definitely go to San Diego! Have a great time!

  117. Pink Sun Drops says:

    Wow, you got some incredible suggestions on here! I’m bookmarking this for future reference!! I really have nothing to add to this, and what I would’ve said has already been said! I’ll second that I heart Balboa, if they’re talking about Balboa island. And the beaches around there are pretty fantastic, too!

  118. LarkLady says:

    I’ve lived in LA and Ventura counties all my life, except for college… I like to visit other places, but this is home!
    Unless you want your whole vacation to be oriented around theme parks, 2 days at Disney should do it: 1/2 day or a little more at California Adventure (do NOT miss California Adventure!) and the rest of the time at Disneyland. The beach by the Santa Monica pier is nice, and you can spend some time in the water and some time on the pier; Bolsa Chica in Orange County is another nice beach… but there are plenty of beaches, so don’t be afraid to explore. In-N-Out, definitely, if you like hamburgers… but if your kids, like mine, always opt for chicken choices at fast food places then they’re going to be disappointed because In-N-Out has hamburgers and cheeseburgers… and great fries (try monster fries, sometimes called animal fries — they aren’t on the menu, by the way, but they have onions and thousand island dressing on top and one summer my older daughter nearly lived on them). Don’t be afraid to visit Hollywood Boulevard — see the Chinese Theatre and look at the stars in the sidewalk on the Walk of Fame.
    The La Brea Tar Pits (redundant, I know: “the the tar tar pits”) is unique and a lot of fun but not something that will consume an enormous amount of time; you might combine it with the Hollywood adventure, since they aren’t far from each other.
    Be sure to sample the variety of ethnic foods available — not just Mexican and Chinese, but Thai and Vietnamese and Indian, along with Jewish delicatessens (Canters is near the tar pits)… we’ve got all that and more.
    And your chances of experiencing an earthquake are slim and none… and if by chance — a very infinitesimal chance — there is one, think of the tale you’ll take home!
    San Diego is worth taking a separate trip for… and just north of there is Legoland, in Carlsbad, that’s a lot of fun for the younger children but how much time do you want to spend in theme parks when there’s so much else to do?!?
    Universal Studios is less a studio tour than a theme park; try Warner Brothers in Burbank (I don’t know about an age limit — my 15-year-old loves it) — I’m pretty sure they have the whole tour open again after a fire a while back.
    Most of all, have a wonderful time! The weather right now is gorgeous — so get outside and enjoy the California sun!

  119. Shannon H. (Spokane, WA) says:

    May I suggest and audio book for the drive? Treasure Island narrated by Neil Hunt (his narration is by far the best). It’s perfect for a drive along the coast. Our family listened to it on a trip to the Oregon Coast recently and we loved it! Definitely worth borrowing from the library or buying!

  120. Becca Baughman says:

    Hi! I grew up in Southern California (San Diego growing up and LA for college and after) and am glad your family is coming for a visit! I’m sure many people have already said this, but skip a day in LA and go to San Diego. Coronado Island is my favorite place in the United States, and I’ve done a lot of traveling. It’s perfect for a relaxing day at the HUGE beach by the Hotel Del Coronado. The quaint residential streets are perfect for bike riding (rentals on the main drag by the Del) and the houses are BEAUTIFUL! I drool over them every time I’m there. Miguel’s Mexican food as the best affordable restaurant on the island. Also, if you’re looking for a church to visit in either the LA or SD area, let me know and I can recommend some.

  121. Rachel says:

    We live in San Diego. I agree with another blogger. Skip some days in LA and head to San Diego. The beaches are great, the zoo is great, Balboa Park is interesting, and the pace of life is much slower and friendlier than LA. We avoid LA at all costs. In fact haven’t been there in two years. San Diego mexican food is the best too!!! Hope you have a great time.

  122. Kelly says:

    I know NOTHING about California, but I hope you’ll allow me to vicariously live your trip through photos. I’ve always wanted to drive up the Pacific Coast Hwy. I would ask Pioneer Woman – she lived out there in college. I’ll bet she can hook you up! Also, I think Fiddledeedee lived out there. I’ll bet you could have figured that out yourself, huh? Oh – I’d also want to take a trip down route 66.

  123. Pampered Chef Heather says:

    I would do less LA and include San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is an AMAZING zoo. Go to the wildlife park and have a blast- it’s just an amazing zoo. Plus there’s Sea World and so many other wonderful attractions in SD. Don’t skip it! πŸ™‚

  124. Jenni says:

    I know I blabbed on here already, but I’m not sure if anyone mentioned this – you can buy a 2-day park hopper, and at the end of the day if you decide you want to come back they will GRACIOUSLY take your money and let you upgrade to a 3-day. You just go to the main street bank (or guest relations at DCA) and pay the difference.

  125. Christina Baglivi Tinglof says:

    An Angelino here. The beach at the end of Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica is very nice. Pretty clean, good parking. But personally, we love San Diego. Very laid back, peaceful. Our favorite beach is Torrey Pines State Beach. Nestled beneath limestone cliffs, it’s beautiful. Have a great trip!

  126. amanda says:

    MUST DO SAN DEIGO ZOO. Best in the world! I could give more SD info but I’m reading late due to a short to Midwest and still havent caught up on my vaction no sleep, big fun, want to trow myself a fit bc were home now and low and behold the revolt over non vaction mode has me dizzy.
    SD is a must. Mexican food GREAT! N. Parks amazing.
    2 days is plenty at Disney 30 miles each day at least of walking, heat, lines and crakeyness. =BIG FUN

  127. Christine says:

    As a SoCal resident I’ll go ahead a weigh in here.
    First, It’s a little more complicated than that. 40 ends in Barstow, about 200 miles shy of the Pacific Ocean and officially the middle of nowhere, also, where I lived for 9 years before moving to the other side of the pass for school. Which brings up the next point…
    When driving around here, carry gum. There are a lot of mountain ranges, and thus altitude changes, which wreak havoc on one’s eardrums.
    Two days is enough to get a sense of Disney and California Adventure provided you don’t even try to see everything. That would take weeks. In California Adventure, make sure you see the Alladin show; it is pretty amazing and should entertain even the smallest once it gets going. Ride the roller coaster (California Screaming?); it has music that goes along with the ride and plays from a speaker behind your head. Go to Soarin’ over California too; it’s like IMAX but better and is exactly what the name implies. Wonder around and look at the sights too. You should be able to do all that in about half a day. Oh, I don’t like it because I don’t like freefalling, but if that is your cup’o’tea, Tower of Terror is pretty awesome.
    At Disney, you must ride Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean. If they do Fantasmic, that is also a requirement. Star Tours is also fun. The rides in Fantasy Land are really cool; make sure to go there earlyish since they close that part of the park to do the fireworks.

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