Exploring US with baby: West Coast Part 1- Los Angeles

Though initially feeling indifferent and just (at least) wanted to visit New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco while living in the US, these ‘modest’ wishes were instantly revised to a much longer list after I finished a summer trip to West Coast. The 16-days-trip opened up my eyes that US was so much more than those big cities. Sure, they were must-visit and coming there was like dreams-come-true, but the delight and joy I felt during the trip were mostly come from finding out that there were other things I enjoy; exploring another area aside from those recommended by many websites; and discovering the beauty of places I’ve never heard of before, places so underrated that I didn’t even bother to Googled it while arranging the itinerary.

And the other eye-opening thing was that long road-summer-trip with baby was feasible (though not easy)! I already had a lot of concerns even before we left home. Could we really use car seat on the plane? Would my baby stay still on her seat during the flight? Would I be able to feed her with ease? Would my baby manage to stay calm and cool for 5 hours on the plane from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles? Turned out, YES, we, she and I could!

We’re really fortunate that she’s enjoying her flight, having fun, eating well, sleeping tight, and barely felt any disturbance during take off, turbulences and landing. Well, it’s not her first flight. At 5 months old, she had crossed half of the world from Indonesia to US to see her father. Still, as she grew up and be more active, I was worried that she would feel less comfortable during long-haul flight. But, I was merely over-worrying, cause she’s doing just fine. Of course, I brought everything to entertain her (food, drink, book, etc.) but sometimes kids showed a greater ability beyond their age.

Our first stop was Los Angeles. The weather was sunny but how breezy the wind was. I was instantly regretting for not thoroughly researching the weather to the very detailed. I barely packed any jacket for Alya, but thankfully I brought a cardigan for her to use on the plane. Hopefully, that would be enough to protect her from the strong wind and blazing sun. Traveling with baby, the first priority for parents was to always keep his/her mood fine. The trip would be long, exhausting, boring, difficult, and sometimes uncomfortable so keeping the baby happy would make the trip more enjoyable and easier for parents. To do that, the first thing on our list after we had arrived in Los Angeles was renting a car.

Our trip is basically a road trip. Starting from LA to Las Vegas, back to LA, then San Francisco, Sacramento and all the way up through Portland to Seattle. Long, right! But we had to make the most of our time while we lived here in the US. It would be a waste to not travel and explore this huge country.

In LA, we planned to stay for 3 nights here and had booked a room in Airbnb. After landing, we headed directly to Budget car rental garage by riding a crowded shuttle bus. Turned out, everybody who just arrived in LA was about to rent a car, too. There was a 40-people line before our turn to get a car so unexpectedly, we spent a longer time here. It was already late afternoon when we finally headed out to Grand Central Market to have a very late lunch.

Grand Central Market was like your friendly neighborhood food court/market with varieties of food, drink and international cuisines from Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Filipino, Chinese, etc. The place was bright and colorful, crowded but still quite convenient to meal together with family or friends.

Feeling refreshed after lunch, we took a short stroll around Grand Central Market area then went to Target to find some stuffs. We decided to buy a new foldable stroller in LA to lessen our baggages from Pittsburgh. Alya had turned 1 and balanced enough to use it now.

The next morning, we visited Griffith Observatory, which was located uphill, to get a view of LA cityscape as well Hollywood sign. The sign was still farther away from this spot, you could only catch a glimpse of it but it was enough for us. For those of you who wanted to get a closer look, Lake Hollywood Park offered a better view.

LA was incredibly vast, stretched out from left to right as far as my eyes could see. There were still so many things to see here, so we went down after taking a lot of pictures and headed right away to The Broad, a modern art museum, particularly known for hosting Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms. The admission was free, but the line was already quite long when we arrived there around the opening hour at 11 am. There was actually an option to book the ticket online and enter right away, however there’s nothing left for the particular date I went there. So, queueing it was.

Subsequently after entering the museum, we lined up again to get a chance to enter and experience Infinity Mirror Rooms. The waiting time was approximately 1,5 hours, which means there were around 120 people in line before us since each person/group was given 45 seconds inside the room. While waiting, we went upstairs to check some artworks and installations. The ground floor of The Broad looked very much like a cave with dark grey color. The only escalator taking us upstairs was like an entrance to a huge spaceship.

The main floor of The Broad was bright with white wall and colorful as eye-pleasing artworks spread out around the whole room. Enjoying modern arts was very relaxing for me since they were more colorful and eye-catching than the classic ones.

The whole museums could be explored in about 1 hour and we received notification that there’s still 1 hour left until our turn to visit Infinity Mirror Rooms. It took longer from the predicted time when we registered after entering the museum. So, we decided to find something to eat around the area. Once you went in, you could go in and out of the museum as much as you like for that day. Just showed your ticket to re-enter.

There weren’t a lot of quick meal options around the area so we walked to Grand Park close to LA City Hall and grabbed a sandwich and coffee from Starbucks then went back to the museum. And finally, after 2 hours wait, it was our turn!

It was beautiful, really. But what moved me the most was actually the behind-the-scene-story of Yayoi Kusama and her heartbreaking inspiration for her artworks. The wait was a little bit too much, which clearly showed its huge appeal, but I was satisfied since my curiosity answered. But I would probably not coming back for the second time if the wait was this long again. After enjoying cool air inside the museum, we drove to Santa Monica Pier and having a little picnic while waited to meet up with some friends.

It’s only the second day of the trip but we had found a basic flaw in our traveling plan. It was so hard to keep a meal routine on time, especially for Alya. What’s all with moving around and visiting places, we found ourselves (including Alya) lost a bit of appetite. To resolve this, we just fed Alya everything as much as we remember and always had some baby foods ready everywhere we go everyday. As for me and my husband, Panda Express located all over California always came to our rescue. But, for that particular day, we treated ourselves to a dinner in Indonesian Restaurant ‘Simpang Asia’ and met up with a friend who used to live in Pittsburgh.

The next day, we had a morning walk in Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was not as festive as how it looked like during the night, but we guessed the traffic would be much worse later so morning was probably better. There were a lot of people wearing costumes offered to take pictures with everybody, which was fine, but some guys just greeted you suspiciously nice then they shoved you a CD and asked forcefully to pay for it. It was very disturbing and made our walk inconvenient since there were a lot of them along the way. So, we crossed the street and continued walking for a while to find breakfast.

Afterward, we went directly to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). We had bought the tickets online the day before to avoid the long line ($25 for adults, $21 for students), but there was barely any line at all when we had arrived there (maybe because it’s not free :D). LACMA was huge and housed a numerable collection of modern arts as well artifacts from different parts of the world such as Latin America, Egypt, Europe and Asia. They were spread out in several buildings and areas so you would need several hours to fully explore the museum. They also had a collection of Picasso’s paintings, which were not allowed to be photographed (which was understandable since the paintings were all such masterpieces). And they were admirable! I was left feeling awestruck and astonished even though I rarely understood classical arts. Some artworks displayed here were also on a different scale than those we saw in The Broad. They were huge in scale and occupied such an extensive area. Other artworks were also very eye-pleasing and eye-catching, I feel my eyes got a special treat to picturesque views.

Oh, by the way, it was a well-known rule when visiting an art museum to keep your backpack in front to avoid unnecessary contact with artworks. The staffs would always warn those who still put their backpack on the back (well, hence, the backpack :D) to move it to the front. Taking pictures with phone or camera was generally allowed, except said not. But, no flash, no tripod and sometimes no selfie-stick.

Overall, though the ticket was a little bit pricey, it was really worth it. The artworks displayed here were very diverse and interesting. I would really recommend everyone visiting LA to go to LACMA, though by the time you visited it, the artworks on display might be a little different than those I showed you here since they routinely changed several of them.

On our last day in LA, before heading out to the next destination, we went to The Grove and visited Dominique Ansel Bakery. They have various entremets which were too beautiful to eat, but too delicious to be missed. I read on the internet that DKA and Cronut were must-eat, so I bought those and also added Cotton Soft Cheesecake. They were all so good, but my favorite one was the Cronut, which was filled with refreshing grapefruit cream.

LA was so much fun! That’s why one should visit this city at least once in a lifetime. The city was big, it’s more convenient and faster to get around everywhere by car. But the public transportation was also good, though it would take much longer time. Overall, I had a great time here. Next stop: Las Vegas!

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