Full disclosure: Get ready for a picture overload.
Hayley turned 13 on Christmas Day 2017. When we asked her a few months prior what she wanted to do to celebrate the entrance into her teenage years, she asked for a trip to Hollywood and LA to go celebrity hunting. Despite the fact that my entire family lives in California and we have visited every year since she was a toddler, she had never been that far north. I actually wasn’t sure if I had, either, so we agreed to leave the boys at home and make it a girls trip.
I should first note something — in our family, we only do experience gifts. We do not give our kids tangible birthday gifts. Many people ask us why, and we aren’t entirely sure. If we’re being honest, part of it is tradition because we’ve always done it this way for Hayley. We also feel like there is such an emphasis these days on the materialism of holidays. Kids get so much stuff from everyone, and we just want their birthdays to be special and different. For Hayley’s birthday, she chose a trip to California as her experience.
When we first booked the trip, we decided to do two full days in LA and stay the rest of the time with family and friends to help offset costs, as well as spend time with people we love. We started the trip off in San Diego and stayed with our friends from college. For those of you who don’t know — Hayley lived in a college dorm for the first almost five years of her life. While at school, we both made some lifelong friends, including my close friend Jacqueline and her daughter, Lydia. Hayley and Lydia have known each other since they were a year old! They’re both currently in 7th grade, though Lydia won’t turn 13 until the summer.
We also got to visit with my brother and his family, including my new nephew who was born this past summer. Isn’t he delicious?
We then headed up the coast and spent our first day in Beverly Hills. Neither of us had been! I have to admit that I was having a panic attack just thinking about navigating LA traffic. After circling around for 30 minutes, we finally got lucky and landed a parking spot inside a hotel with free valet. Score! We then walked around to explore and take obligatory pictures, feeling like tourists. Some of our general observations: Beverly Hills is expensive. We had sandwiches and water for lunch, and it was $40. Parking, on the other hand, was super affordable. There wasn’t really much to do aside from shop, and a few hours there was all we really needed.
After Beverly Hills, we headed over to the Fairfax district of LA, home of Playground LA. I fell in love with this area. It is so hip and trendy, and I absolutely loved all the shops and restaurants around us. Everything we tried was absolutely delicious. Hayley had been dying to take a dance class at this studio, and she absolutely killed it. She’ll tell you she didn’t, but she totally did. Apparently it’s Insta famous. Who knew?
The night took an interesting turn thereafter, starting with our epic Air B&B fail. Having never used Air B&B before but having heard amazing things, I decided that it would be fun for us to have a little apartment near the Chinese Theater and TMZ Tour instead of opting for the hotel. Plus, it saved us over $100. Win/win, right?
First of all, the host of the Air B&B was a total joke. Her directions were unclear, and we were unable to get into the apartment when we arrived. Not only that, but the apartment also wouldn’t lock behind us — therefore, our stuff was not protected while we left the apartment to explore Hollywood. Not cool. I tried to communicate with her and ask for help, but I was essentially ignored and chastised. The apartment was also desperately in need of some updates. We’re talking a broken showerhead, peeling paint…and she didn’t even leave us hand soap. The best part? The Air B&B was situated in what appeared to be some sort of creepy night club, so it literally shook with bass until mid morning. Next time I’m just opting for a hotel.
Thankfully the next day was better. We checked out of the Air B&B and never looked back, had a delicious breakfast in Hollywood Hills, and took a TMZ Tour. We didn’t see any celebrities, but we drove by Common and saw one of the Real Housewives of Orange County. Meh. It was still a blast, though.
We then headed to my favorite part of the trip, Laguna Beach. A few of my family members live in the area, and we had so much fun with them. How cute is my cousin’s daughter?! We then headed home the next day after catching breakfast with my brother.
I love California fiercely. I’m already planning my next trip! It’s safe to say that Hayley had a memorable 13th birthday, and I’m so glad I was able to spend that solo time with her.