Sunny Los Angeles holds the key to my heart. For people living in L.A., it is an opportunity to fulfill their dreams. You never know who you will meet on the street or happen to sit beside in a restaurant. It’s where the most influential people in the movie business reside.

From the hip and trendy nightclubs to the amazing eateries around the city, it is a social hub for those to see, and for those who want to be seen.

One of my favourite places that I stayed at while in L.A. was the JW Marriott. The hotel is located right in the L.A. Live district, where movie premiers happen and where many celebrities hang out on a daily basis. The hotel is luxury in every way, and is close to all the great entertainment venues like Staples Center, Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, Regal Cinemas and many eclectic restaurants.

The kids really liked the hotel because of the movie premier of The Immortals that happened just across from us during our stay. They also liked the Grammy Museum at LA Live, where interactive displays helped them learn about musicians past and present.

One of our favourite places we visited as a family was the farmers’ market at Grove Shopping Centre. There were so many amazing eateries and shopping opportunities in the market. A trolley runs down the middle of the market for shoppers whose feet have packed it in. My daughter loved the fact that the market also had an American Girl store. Although my wallet took a hit, it was an opportunity for her to visit one of the largest American Girl stores in the world.

The kids really enjoyed our visit to Knotts Berry Farms. The rides were diverse, and allowed for both kids (age eight and five) to get a thrill. From the Silver Bullet (the park’s first ever suspended coaster) to the rides at Camp Snoopy, the kids had a full, fun-filled day with many adventures. One of the highlights was dinner at Mrs. Knotts Chicken Dinner Restaurant. The restaurant, which is legendary, has been serving chicken dinners since 1934. Each dinner consists of warm biscuits, soup, fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables and, of course, its famous boysenberry pie. Although I had to be rolled out of the restaurant after the meal, it was divine in every way. And the best part was the kids ate their entire meal as well.

We also stayed at Sheraton Universal Hotel, known as “Hotel of the Stars.” The landmark inn is located on the back lot of Universal Studios. It was interesting to see the many pictures of Hollywood icons adorning its walls.

The hotel offers a free tram to the Universal Studios lot, which made it a breeze for us to get there. Universal Studios had many great rides, although some were not age-appropriate for our clan. For example, The Simpsons ride was thrilling for my son, but a bit too scary for my daughter. We all thoroughly enjoyed the back-lot studio tour, where we were able to experience the new King Kong 360 3D. For me, I was thrilled to visit Wisteria Lane. And for those who don’t know where that is, you need to be a fan of the show Desperate Housewives (which I desperately am). There was a fantastic celebrity animal show in the afternoon, which my son volunteered to be part of. He was on stage with some of his favourite celebrity dogs from the movie Hotel for Dogs. It was truly a day he won’t soon forget.

The L.A. Zoo and Botanical Gardens was also great to visit with the kids. The zoo has some incredible mammals like armadillos, massive giraffes, staggering hippos and, of course, the campo gorilla reserve. It was truly humbling to be so close to the gorillas in their habitat.

Last, but certainly not least, was our visit to Santa Monica. There are literally 30 city blocks of retail stores, entertainment and dining. The pier along the beach was spectacular, and boasts an amusement park at the end of it. We stayed the entire day in Santa Monica experiencing all the fun activities, including an actual outdoor skating rink at the beach.

My “40 under 40” goal to visit L.A. and see all it has to offer (beyond Disneyland) did not disappoint. It was everything I had hoped it to be, and so much more.

If you go, here are some other recommended places to eat:

WP24 by Wolfgang Puck. It’s located in the Ritz-Carlton, it offers modern Chinese fare with panoramic views of L.A. Prices are higher but the food is amazing.

L.A. Market Restaurant, created by acclaimed “Rock ‘n Roll” celebrity chef Kerry Simon. Creative, American cuisine with a California flair. Moderately priced. A must-have is a dessert called the Junk Food Platter, which features childhood favourites like cotton candy and Hostess cupcakes.

El Cholo dishes up Mexican food inexpensively. Try the guacamole, made fresh at your table.

The Immortals Movie Premier

One night my family took in the movie premier of The Immortals. It was incredible to see the crowds at J.W. Live line up at the theatre across from the hotel to get the chance to be the first to see the movie.

We watched in anticipation many stars walked the red carpet, smiled for pictures and made their way towards the theatre.

Fifty Cent being interviewed

Fifty Cent was there to show his support and said a few words to an interviewer who was standing on the red carpet.  As I am a big fan of his music, it was great to hear him talk about his work and why he was there to support the movie.

As a person who has only ever seen the red carpet movie premiers through the set of a television – getting to see it up close and personal, made it even more impressive.

 

Me at the Hollywood Walk of Fame