While no one can ever guarantee great weather, I know that just the other day, on December 29th, I was sitting outside a caf?, sipping my favorite iced drink – without a jacket. Having survived many frigid winters on the East coast, I truly appreciated the moment, as I worried that my kids were actually going to get sunburned. If you are tired of bundling up, why not spend this winter break out West. While it may seem daunting to travel to new territory, the information below is meant to give you a head start on planning a great vacation and if you live in the warmer Western climate, perhaps you’ll find some ideas for a great road trip. There is much more to the West Coast than Los Angeles and Disneyland.
First of all when traveling to Southern California, know that flying into LAX is not your only option. Burbank Airport (BUR) is smaller and located in the San Fernando Valley; it is very easy to navigate with less traffic and closer to many area attractions. While flight schedules may be limited, they may be less expensive. Jet Blue, Southwest and American Airlines are some of the carriers that service Burbank Airport. It is just minutes away from the Valley Village community where you will be able to find many kosher restaurants and markets along Burbank Boulevard. There are many shuls nearby, including Shaarey Zedek, if you need to catch a minyan.
Visiting some of the major attractions is cursory and Universal Studios is only 10 minutes from Valley Village, so pick up some sandwiches and snacks and head for the stars. Universal Studios is great for ages 7 and up, younger kids might be frightened by some of the special effects that are demonstrated and by the costumed characters that roam the park. The rides are mostly geared towards older kids as well. Universal CityWalk is located directly adjacent to the theme park. There is no entrance fee, but you do have to pay for parking. CityWalk is a fun place for a relaxing stroll while you pick up souvenirs and browse and play in the unique shops. There are some great photo ops, an IMAX movie theatre, and you can play at Jillian’s – an arcade and bowling alley.
There is also a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf located on CityWalk that is entirely under the kosher supervision of Kosher Los Angeles. Bagels, muffins, cakes and pastries are among the food offerings, and their ice-blended drinks are famous. The Coffee Bean has numerous locations throughout Southern California and they are all kosher – double check the certificate inside the store – which is essential, as some are located near major attractions and in malls where other kosher food may be scarce.
Another major attraction that is great for families with kids of all ages is Legoland located in Carlsbad, Calif. Much more family friendly than Disneyland, Legoland has rides and attractions geared for every age group, many of which are interactive which adds to the fun. Parents will really appreciate the beautiful miniature exhibits as well as the Lego building areas where the kids can play within view, while parents wait in line for the ride. Within the past few months, Legoland has opened the Sea Life Aquarium on the same premises that you can visit for just a minimal extra charge.
For those that would prefer to stick closer to the Los Angeles area, the Aquarium of the Pacific, located in Long Beach, is a beautiful place to spend a few hours with the family. Although there are great exhibits outside, much of the aquarium is located indoors, so you can still visit in case of rain. Also available for an extra fee are: 3-D educational films, a 45 minute cruise of the Long Beach/Los Angeles Harbor, or a three-hour long whale watching trip.
In the heart of the L.A. area is the famous Santa Monica Pier where you can play games, enjoy amusement rides (limited ride operation on weekdays during the winter), or rent bikes on the boardwalk. There is a Coffee Bean located on the pier as well. Travel inland a bit and you will hit the famous Pico Robertson neighborhood in Los Angeles. Make time to visit the Museum of Tolerance and take a stroll down Rodeo Drive. You can choose from the many kosher restaurants, including pizza, fast food, and many fine dining selections. The Milky Way owned by Steven Spielberg’s mother, Mrs. Leah Adler, is a favorite of tourists as she is often there to greet and schmooze with diners.
Further north up the 101 Freeway to Ventura, you may enjoy visiting the Camarillo Premium Outlets for some great shopping deals, The Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard – including the very upscale restaurant Tierra Sur, and the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens for light hiking. When heading up this direction, stop in at Pizza Nosh, located right off the 101 in Agoura Hills.
For those seeking a bit more adventure, head to Arizona, where you can relax at a state of the art spa, golf at a world-class golf course, hike, or museum hop. Of course while it won’t be as warm as the Phoenix area, a trip north to Sedona and The Grand Canyon is a must. Go off-road jeeping, (or for an on-road van tour, if you are faint of heart or pregnant) and hiking in Sedona to see the beautiful red rock formations. There are also many art galleries to visit. Take a walk along the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is especially beautiful at sunrise or sunset. Dress in layers, bring a camera, keep small children away from the edge, and you’ll have a great time. Before you go, eat at King Solomon’s Pizza in Central Phoenix, located just 10 minutes from Sky Harbor Airport and then stop in next door at Segal’s Kosher Market and Restaurant to get some deli sandwiches, Chinese or shabbos food to go.
If you choose to stay in the Phoenix area, you can go for a hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert, visit the classy Scottsdale shops or go for a gondola ride at Hyatt Gainey Ranch. Kosher food is available in Scottsdale at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center and Scottsdale Kosher Market. Other places of interest to visit are the Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art, the Desert Botanical Gardens, and the famed Arizona Biltmore whose architecture is inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and has been the U.S. Presidential choice for accommodations in the Phoenix area since it opened circa 1930. Take a walk around the beautiful gardens, get a spa treatment, or go golfing.
Make a plan and pack your bags; for the Jewish traveler heading west, all of your needs can be met and the options are endless.
Directory of Listed Attractions and Services:
Shaarey Zedek Congregation
12800 Chandler Blvd.Valley Village, CA 91607Phone (818) 763 – 0560
Mikva (818) 760-4567
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Boulevard
Universal City, CA 91608
Hours vary daily.
100 Universal City PlazaUniversal City, CA 91608
Sun-Thurs 11:00 AM – 9:00 PMFri-Sat 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Many of the venues keep their own hours.
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on CityWalk opens at 8:30 am and closes at the general closing time.
One Legoland DriveCarlsbad, CA 92008
Hours vary daily.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium WayLong Beach, CA 90802(562) 590-3100
9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day of the year, except April 17, 18, and 19, 2009
Santa Monica Pier / Pacific Park
200 Santa Monica Pier, Suite A Santa Monica, CA 90401
Always open 24hours, but each business has its own operating hours.
Pacific Park Amusement Park on the Pier
Phone: (310) 260-8744
Hour and extent of operation vary by day
Museum of Tolerance9786 West Pico Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90035
Hours: Monday -Friday 10 am – 5:00 pm
Fridays: November – March- early close at 3:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Milky Way Restaurant
9108 W Pico BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90035-1321Phone: (310) 859-0004
Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-8pm, Fri 11:30am-1:30pm
Camarillo Premium Outlets740 E. Ventura BoulevardCamarillo, CA 93010(805) 445-8520
Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-8pm
Herzog Wine Cellars and Tierra Sur Restaurant:
3201 Camino Del Sol
Oxnard, CA 93030
Self-guided tours are always available. Guided tours are Monday-Thursday at 3:30 and 4:30 pm and on Sundays by appointment only.
Tierra Sur Hours:
Sun – Thurs: Lunch 11:30 – 3:00, Dinner 5 – 9, Friday: Lunch only 11:30-2:00 (open until 3:00 during the summer)
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
212 Mission Canyon RoadSanta Barbara, CA 93105Phone: (805) 682-4726
March – October: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., November – February: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Guided tours weekdays at 2:00 p.m., weekends at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
818-991-300030313 Canwood StAgoura Hills, CA 91301
Sunday – Thursday 11:00 am – 8:00 am
Friday: 11:00am – 2pm
King Solomon’s Pizza
4810 N 7th St
Phoenix, AZ 85014
Sunday through Thursday, 11am-8pm
Friday 11am to 2:30pm
Saturday after sundown to 11:00pm
Segal’s Kosher Foods
4818 N 7th StPhoenix, AZ 85014
The Heard Museum2301 N. Central Avenue (Central & Encanto)Phoenix, AZ 85004
Open Monday- Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.Free Public Guided Tours daily at noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch
7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road,Scottsdale, Arizona, 85258 480- 444- 1234
Hours: Daily 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (weather permitting)
Desert Botanical Gardens
1201 North Galvin Parkway
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
Garden Seasonal Hours:October – April / 8 a.m.-8 p.m., May – September / 7 a.m.-8 p.m. During evening hours certain trails are closed.
Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa
2400 E. Missouri AvenuePhoenix, AZ 85016(602) 955-6600
Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center Cafe
12701 North Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Scottsdale Kosher Market
10211 N Scottsdale RoadScottsdale, Arizona 85253
Call for hours and restaurant availability.
Amy Dubitsky is a freelance writer who grew up in Southern California and has lived in Phoenix for the past six years.
Amy A. Dubitsky