The following post is sponsored by CHASE, a strong supporter of the Global Cities Initiative.
"Nobody walks in LA", says the Missing Persons classic, and I didn't either, until I made a conscious decision to start walking. Archer was a baby and we were living in Larchmont Village at the time, a lovely neighborhood that feels more small town than big city - a place made up primarily of old barber shops, antique stores and small family owned business. We made friends with the shopkeepers who soon knew Archer and Fable by name, the vendors at Larchmont Blvd's Farmer's Market, held every Sunday in the parking lot.
We'd take car outings on weekends. To Pasadena to visit Kidspace or Santa Monica to ride the rollercoaster on the Pier, but some of our favorite "missions" consisted of walking store to store and mingling with the local shopkeepers and their goods. So much so that the owners occasionally gifted the floor models of their various toys to Archer and Fable. "Just because." Samples were thrown in bags with treats "for later" and all of the wonderful things I assumed were small town fantasies, became part of our city-dwelling lives. Here we were in one of the largest cities in the world and everyone knew our names, Cheers style. It was then that I stopped trying to compare LA to more metropolitan cities and saw it for what it truly is: a collection of small towns.
Our walking tours weren't just into "town" but around the residential parts of our neighborhood. Archer delighted in knowing which streets came after which, what crosswalks took the shortest amount of time to yield results, which yards had the coolest plants, the most suitable lawns for rolling down.
Two years ago, we left Larchmont which was heartbreaking for me because I loved our neighborhood so and it took me a minute to seek out the jewels of our current area, a not-quite-as-family-friendly 'hood. Or so I thought until we really started exploring the nooks and crannies, getting to know the local shopkeepers and vendors. (Even the meter maid who works our street and regularly tickets us has become our friend. Because she's cool. Firm and unfair sometimes but cool.)
If all goes to plan we'll be in our new house in three months. A house two blocks from where we live now in the same neighborhood with the same markets and cafes in walking distance. So we can continue to support our local vendors, restaurants and farmers' markets, show our kids the ropes so that they, in turn can climb them, make memories, realize the importance of community interaction, exploration and support. So that when people ask them where they grew up and they say, "Los Angeles," they'll be able to bust out some serious memories about walking here. Because walking in LA is an adventure in itself. How could we not take advantage of such a colorful front yard?
Here are some of our favorite local (family friendly) haunts and frequent walk-tos in both Larchmont, the neighborhood formerly known as home as well as our current area of West Hollywood. Recommended with five stars for great service, good people and family friendliness:
Bluebird Kids (Consignment): (This is where I buy the bulk of my kids' clothes.)
Flicka: They have the BEST seasonal sales for kids and babies and a great play area for little ones to hang while you shop.
Landis Labyrinth: Family owned and operated for ... Best toy store in LA. If there's something you want them to stock? We love them.
The Little Seed: We attended music classes here every Thursday when Fable was little (and we lived in the neighborhood.) They also have a wonderful little play area in the back and a baby changing room, which, yes.
Prado: Their Caribbean Cobb salad will change your life. Great spot for date night.
Chevaliers Books: One of LA's wonderful old book shops with an entire room devoted to children's books. Love.
Van Ness (Robert Burns) Park: Archer spent his first four years of life in this park so I have a soft spot for the place. Always will.
For more on Larchmont Village/Blvd go here.
V Cafe: Great coffee, smoothies and dinner sides (and everything else). Best part? The family who runs the place. They are always kind to my kids, even when they're busy and we're taking up half the restaurant with our posse.
Liquid: (also for smoothies. Apparently we're really into smoothies.) The Green Manna (+ avocado) is my fave. I drink way too many of these. They also make a killer Acai bowl.
Melrose Place Farmer's Market: Every Sunday. Rain or shine.
Melrose Trading Post: I write about this place all the time. Me gusta.
Cochran Produce: A one-stop shop for produce during the week.
Swingers Diner: An easy diner-style restaurant with vegan friendly alternatives.
Froma: Wine, cheese, coffee, sandwiches, Francine. Francine owns and operates Froma and has become a dear family friend. She also provided me with turkey sandwiches which I craved with wild abandon while I was pregnant. (I went back to being veggie as soon as I gave birth.)
West Hollywood Park/Library: Our new library is INSANE. It's also on the same grounds as WeHo park which is in the process of getting a face lift - one of our favorite parks for sure.
For more on West Hollywood go here.
What are some of your favorite local haunts? I love to hear about great (family friendly!) spots worldwide, you know, for future reference... when we become gypsy-caravan traveler people.