Category Archives: Travel

The Getty Center: Artful Fun for the Whole Family

My wife and I first visited the Getty Center shortly after its grand opening in 1997, when we were dating.  Back then, you needed a timed ticket just to get in.  The Getty Center is still in demand, but happily you don’t need to get tickets in advance anymore.  Still, if you are going on the weekend you will want to anticipate large crowds and busy parking areas when you visit what has become a Los Angeles icon.

We took our four-year-old twins to the popular destination for the first time since they were babies in a stroller, this past Sunday.  Until now, I had not realized what a wonderful spot the museum complex is for families.  Check out the center’s website and you will see that they have some exciting ways for children to engage with the art.  More on that in a bit, but first, let’s get you there.

Parking for The Getty is located on Sepulveda Blvd, just off the 405 freeway.  The center is on the west side of the freeway.  So, the instinct is to want to enter the main parking lot by crossing under the freeway.  You can save yourself having to sit in a long line of cars if you ignore that instinct and instead park in the lot opposite the main entrance, on the east side of Sepulveda.  There was plenty of parking, no line to get into the lot, and you can still use the automated pay station in the main parking lot to pay the $15 parking fee (the price is the same for either lot).

You can either take a short tram ride up the hill or a 15 to 20 minute walk along a foot path.  Our kids were so excited about riding the tram that they didn’t seem to mind the 20 minute wait in line.  Once aboard, I recommend trying to grab seats on the west side of the tram so you and your kids can take in the majestic view of the Sepulveda pass as the tram winds its way along the hillside.

I suggest reading the Getty’s “Tips for Families” section of their website prior to your visit.  It’s packed with ideas about how the whole family can get the most enjoyment out of your time there and how your kids can get the most out of the art.  One thing they recommend and that worked well for us is to mix up activities and be flexible.  We switched back and forth between indoor art exhibits and outdoor activities like taking an invigorating walk through the gardens.

One not-to-be-missed attraction with kids is The Family Room.  Located by the East Pavilion in the museum courtyard, The Family Room brings the art to life for children in a tactile, exciting, and accessible way that is sure to engage active minds.  You might even consider making this your first stop, because it brings the art to life in a way that might help younger children gain a greater interest in the rest of the day’s agenda.

When you are at The Family Room I highly encourage you to pick up an Art Detective Card or two.  Our kids absolutely thrilled at solving the mysteries on the card.  It got them studying the details of each of the works while looking for the clues, and got them talking about the art and asking questions.  If you are sensitive to this kind of thing you might like to know that one of the clues references a nude painting.  So, there’s that.

When it was all said and done, my wife and I left feeling like we had just scratched the surface of all there is to do and see, and our kids left wanting more.  That seemed like the right way to leave things though, because I’m sure it’s someplace we will be returning to again and again.

Tips for Taking Road Trips with Young Children

My wife and I enjoy taking road trips with our twin preschoolers.  They are four-and-a-half now, and these techniques have evolved over the past couple of years to keep them contented and enjoying the ride when we travel by car.  Whether you are taking a day trip or driving vacation, I hope these tips will help guarantee you happy trails.

©Matt Vasko, 2015
©Matt Vasko, 2015

Prep them for the trip.

We start to prep them a couple of days in advance for the fact that they will be in the car for a while.  We get out a map and show them where we will be going and how we will be getting there, pointing out landmarks and towns they should watch for along the way.  Our goal is to get them excited about both the trip and the destination.

Give ‘em leg room.

You might be packed to the gills, but resist the urge to pack items below their feet or in such a way as to restrict their movement.  Little ones swing their legs when they are in the car seat – it’s just what they do.  It helps to keep them from getting restless.  So, be sure to keep the area under and around them clear so they have room to squirm.

Engage them in the experience.

The beginning of the drive is the perfect time to start to engage them in the trip.  Ask them to point out to you when things start to look new and different than the area that they are used to – you might be surprised by how well they know their usual surroundings.  Once you get into new territory for them, point out things you notice that might excite them (“Look, a windmill!”, “Cows!”).  Encourage them to point out the new things they see.

Combat hunger.

On long road trips, hunger is your enemy.  Take a variety of healthy, car-friendly snacks.  Start with low-mess snacks you know your kids love and go from there.  In a cooler, we keep baggies of precut and cleaned carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, broccoli, strawberries, and blueberries.  Our kids still enjoy fruit and veggie pouches, so we are sure to take those because they are super-easy and usually tidy.  A company called Bamboo Lane makes a product called Crunchy Rice Rollers, which leave some crumbs, but are a healthy hit.  We also pack some of their favorite dry cereal and snack cups to serve it in.

Music, music, music!

Be sure to take along their favorite music on a mix CD (if you still use that technology) or whatever medium that will allow you to play it over the car’s sound system.  Some of our favorites are Lori Berkner Band and Veggie Tales tunes.   We take some new-to-them kid friendly music and use the trip as an opportunity to introduce them to it.  Car rides are also a great time to have a good old-fashioned family sing-along.

Plan for napping… but not too much!

We try to plan our stops so that we will be on the road for a several-hour stretch during the time before, during, and after that when they are likely to fall asleep.  This is usually our longest stretch of non-stop driving all day.  Since they are asleep for a chunk of it, it seems short to them.  I recommend letting them sleep for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, but no more.  If they sleep all day then they will be full of energy when you arrive at your destination that night.  They will be wired when you are exhausted and that is a bad combination.

Stick with water.

We just give the kids water in sippy cups in the car.  With water, they drink just enough to quench their thirst, but not so much that it makes them have to go to the bathroom.  Let’s be honest, if you want to make any real time on the road, you don’t want to have to be stopping for someone to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes.  They haven’t learned to limit their fluid intake yet, so if you give them something tasty like milk or juice, they’ll probably drink it all then then need an emergency potty stop.

Make rest stops count!

Each time you stop try to make it someplace where they can run.  It will help them stretch their legs and get their wiggles out.  Exercised kids travel better.  Whenever we stop for a meal we always have the kids use the restroom on our way back out to the car.  We call it a “safety” stop and it is exactly that, because it saves us from having to get right back off the road as soon as we are back on it.

A note about media time:

If your kids have a Leap Pad or handheld game console then take it with you.  Just be sure that you have enough battery life so that they can use it for as long as you want to allow them to do so.  Nothing reduces a child to tears on a road trip faster than dead batteries.  For our part, we save this type of entertainment until the kids are getting near their breaking point, and then bust it out.  We figure that part of raising good travelers is teaching them to love the road as much as we do, and that means engaging them in the trip as much as possible.

Prepare for anything.

Make sure you have something handy to clean up spills and wipe little hands and faces.  No matter how hard you try, there will probably be at least one emergency potty stop.  Know that it’s coming and then it won’t bother you so much when it happens.  Treat the trip like quality family time and you are sure to create some great memories.  Travel safe, have fun and enjoy the ride!