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Los Angeles: The Sassy Mama City Guide by Kristen Buckingham

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Noted interior designer and tastemaker extraordinaire Kristen Buckingham gives us the inside scoop on getting the most out of a family holiday in LA.

Describe LA in 3 words.
Whatever. You. Want.
Meaning you are never be far from a complete change of scenery – be it the beach, desert or the Mediterranean-like hillside.

Best hotel in LA when travelling with kids?
I love the Four Seasons. It’s not the hippest, the newest or the trendiest, but it is the most consistently comfortable and detail-oriented. They have cookies and milk for the kids upon arrival, child-size robes and a great kid’s menu. I love that there are always kid-friendly activities planned and usually something for them to do at the spa while you are getting a treatment.

Your favourite place to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Why?
: The Fountain Coffee Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s our favorite place for waffles – the kids love it. It’s a beautiful space in one of the most famous places in LA (that fabulous Banana Leaf wallpaper).  There aren’t many kid-friendly restaurants as chic as this one!

Lunch: Brentwood Country Mart. Built in the late 40’s, the red barn style market has a collection food vendors that will keep everyone happy.  We love the classic burger at Barney’s Burgers but Reddi Chicken gets our vote for best fries.  After lunch, take a stroll through some of the great shops like Diesel Bookstore and James Perse.

Dinner: If you find yourself with a evening free of children, plan a date night at Dan Tana’s. It’s an old school Hollywood destination on Santa Monica Blvd.  Steaks, cocktails and cannoli for dessert!

What is your favourite thing to do with your kids in LA?
Will Rogers Park is great for kids. You can watch a Polo match on Saturday afternoons or Sunday morning (if you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a kid’s match).  There is a large lawn for picnics and trails for hiking with views of the ocean.

LA with Kids
It’s L.A. so why not take in a movie at one of the many historic theaters? Grauman’s Chinese Theater is the most famous. Yes, touristy…but beautiful. Also try El Capitan where they show Disney films and have an organist who entertains before the show (then disappears into the floor as the show starts!). Then there is the ArcLight Cinerama Dome has an enormous screen and assigned seating.

Kid friendly museum?
The Norton Simon is the go-to museum for my family.  They have story telling on Sunday afternoon and an impressive permanent collection.  Not far from the Norton Simon is the Huntington Library, housed in a beautiful villa with spectacular gardens that go on forever.  Don’t miss the desert area with crazy cacti and succulents – it’s like being on an alien landscape. You could always bring a toy store water color sets for an impromptu art lesson in the Shakespeare garden, too.LA with Kids

Best places to eat with kids?

You can’t drive too far in Los Angeles without happening upon a fun fifties’ style dinner. Whether its Mel’s on Sunset, any number of In ‘n Out Burgers or one of the many Googie style coffee shops, which are always a crowd pleaser for families.

Best outdoor activity?

Los Angeles is all outdoor activity…most restaurants have outdoor seating. The gardens at both the Getty Museum and the Getty Villa in Malibu are the best parts of each. Ideally you want to wrangle an invite to lounge by a friend’s private pool, but any number of Westside beaches make a fabulous plan B.

Favourite spa?
The spa at the Peninsula Hotel.

The three shops I can’t live without are…

Barney’s in Beverly Hills, The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills (just up the street from Barney’s), and JCrew – just go online and avoid the LA traffic!

LA with KidsBest place for ice cream / cupcakes / burgers?
Ice Cream
: Everyone used to rave about Pinkberry, but Yogurtland wins my family’s vote.
: Susie Cakes
Burgers: Father’s Office in Culver City

Your favourite souvenirs
What kid doesn’t want a lifeguard sweatshirt from the Santa Monica Pier???

An unforgettable moment?

Watching the sunset from our garden while my kids play in the yard on just about any day of the year.

Can’t live without…
Sunglasses and my iPhone (in that order).

Don’t miss…
Internationally acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel at Disney Concert Hall.

Favourite time of year in LA, why and what do you love to do?
I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day when everyone else is gone and you can actually drive on the freeways and get into the restaurant of your choice without a reservation.

What advice would you give families visiting LA?
Get the best rental car you can – you’re going to be spending some quality time in it. (And make sure you have a navigation system in the car too!) And don’t be too ambitious – Los Angeles can be very relaxing and beautiful if you don’t overextend yourself by trying to ping-pong back and forth across the city.

Of all the tourist spots LA has on offer which would you try not to miss
Griffith Observatory –  a breath taking view of the city from an iconic building.

Tell us one thing about LA we don’t know.

In a hurry? Sunset Blvd is for people watching.  And Fountain Ave is what gets you across town fast.

*Kristen Buckingham

Kristen Buckingham is a noted Los Angeles-based interior designer and tastemaker. Kristen has worked on a range of residential projects and in the spring of 2010, she opened her showroom and office space in Los Angeles’ La Cienega Design Quarter and launched her eponymous collection of custom furnishings, case-goods, upholstery, outdoor furnishings, mirrors and lighting fixtures.  She lives in Brentwood, Los Angeles with her husband, Lindsey Buckingham and their three young children, Will, Leelee and Stella.

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