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The Lighter Side: Our Los Angeles Staycation

July 06, 2011|By Kristen Hansen Brakeman

As summer vacation approached, my kids started to come home from school with stories of exotic vacations that their friends soon would be enjoying: France, Italy, South Korea, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, and even Orlando to see the new Hogwarts Castle at the Harry Potter Theme Park. It was no great surprise to our children that we had no such plans. We had been on a tight budget for a while and that was not changing anytime soon. But they claimed they just wanted to relax and sleep in.

But I knew from past experience that after about a day of relaxing, I would start to hear grumbling about how they had “nothing to do” this summer. So, to prevent that from happening, I announced we were going to have an “L.A. Staycation.”

The fact that people from all over the world come to vacation in Los Angeles was lost on them. But I would not be deterred. “Listen, I got $100 dollars out of the bank. Let’s do all the tourist things we never do. But forget theme parks because we can’t afford them.”

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It had been years since I had been to Olvera Street, so I decided that would be our first tourist outing. I invited a friend and her daughter to join my three daughters and me. We took the Metro to downtown from Pasadena. The kids seemed to enjoy the novelty of taking the train. Arriving at Union Station, my friend and I were quick to point out the Art Deco architecture to the kids. I’m not sure why we thought they would care. Not many kids go gaga for architecture.

As we arrived at Olvera Street we tried again to take the fun out of things by regaling the kids with interesting historical facts. The kids cared more about the thousands of trinkets at the colorful shops. But they were also hungry, so we stopped at the El Paseo Inn for kid-friendly Americanized Mexican food. My family’s share of the tab came to $38. Add that to the $12 in Metro fairs and I had already blown half of my budget for the week and it was only Day One.

I didn’t have a plan for Tuesday, so I made the mistake of asking the kids their opinion. Since my three daughters range in age from 7 to 15, I should have realized they would never come to an agreement.

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