Ultimate Kids Summer Weekend: Modern Family Adventures
This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Coming on the heels of a busy workweek (even in the summer), Friday night is a difficult one to plan for with kids: Free your mind -- and theirs -- at Art Rebel (14382 Ventura Blvd.). On the first and third Friday nights of each summer month, you and your brood (ages 5 and up, $25 per person) can do glow-in-the-dark painting in a wacky, black-lit room, followed by a pizza dinner (provided), all under the watchful eye of Ponti, whose art is owned by the likes of Sean Penn.
Start your day at the Annenberg Community Beach House (415 Pacific Coast Highway) with the 9 a.m. stand-up paddleboarding class (reserve the Friday before). Then splash the late morning away in the tide pools at Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu, where you can call ahead to have a park ranger (Rick comes highly recommended) give you a guided tour (310-457-8185). Before you leave the area, grab corn on the cob at Cafe Habana Malibu (3939 Cross Creek Road), a favorite of Soleil Moon Frye (co-founder of children's clothing line The Little Seed) and her kids.
If you're loath to battle beach crowds, head north into the woods: Sarah Chalke, Amy Brenneman, Noah Wyle, Julian Sands and the late Huell Howser are among those who have chased down pixies at Griffith Park during A Faery Hunt, an interactive theater experience at 10:30 Saturday mornings. (Tickets are $15 to $25 a person and locations vary, so check the schedule; afaeryhunt.com.) Head west for lunch at Westwood's 800 Degrees Pizza (10889 Lindbrook Drive), an assembly-line create-your-own joint, then take your littlest beauty queen for a mommy-and-me manicure at Plush Beauty Bar (7879 Santa Monica Blvd.). Not only is the salon formaldehyde-free, but kids too young and restless to enjoy the pleasures of grooming can hang out in a toy area while you and a big kid get your digits polished (open Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.).
If beauty's not your kids' bag, trot over to Will Rogers Polo Club in Will Rogers State Park (the club is free to the public from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, following $12 parking -- bring cash; 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road), where kids can watch polo matches and play in the large picnic area. For a sweet afternoon snack, make your way to Ice Cream Lab (9461 S. Santa Monica Blvd.), Beverly Hills' science experiment/creamery. Beyond the calories, the spectacle is worth the trip. The ice cream is made in a liquid nitrogen display, and kids go crazy for it. Visitors include Jay Leno and Jessica Alba with her kids.
When night falls, get reserved seating at Eat See Hear, a weekly festival of outdoor movies, live music and food trucks. The lineup mostly is family-friendly -- crowd-pleasers like Big and Elf (yes, in July) -- but there's an occasional Boogie Nights thrown in, so check the schedule unless you're ready to field some uncomfortable questions from the backseat. (Locations vary; doors open at 5:30 p.m., live music at 7, movie at 8:30; $10 per reserved ticket, $8 for kids 12 and under -- free for kids under 5; eatseehear.com.)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner have taken their clan to Duff's Cakemix (8302 Melrose Ave.), a bakery and DIY cake-decorating studio where cake artists re-create the venom and victory of an Ace of Cakes episode. Frye's family loves the Larchmont Village Farmers Market (10 a.m.-2 p.m., 209 N. Larchmont Blvd.) because of the great food and "homey vibe." While you're there, drop by BlueBird LA Kids (652 N. Larchmont Blvd.), an upscale used-clothing store that's a favorite of Alicia Silverstone.
If you're up for an afternoon drive -- car nap! -- take your kids to Santa Clarita's The Gentle Barn (Sundays only, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., $10 suggested donation; 15825 Sierra Highway), where they can interact with animals that have been rescued from abuse. Portia de Rossi visited recently. And once you make it to Sunday night, you deserve some carbs -- and a break. Cecconi's West Hollywood (8764 Melrose Ave.) provides a family-style Italian dinner plus a magician and babysitter to entertain your kids once they sit still and eat for two minutes.
See more perfect summer weekends below: