How to do Los Angeles and Palm Springs with a toddler

Hint: You don't need to compromise

The Beverly Hills Hotel
(Image credit: The Beverly Hills Hotel)

Calling all families: it is (almost) entirely possible to do LA and Palm Springs in the same way you could pre kids. We travelled to the States with our toddler, going for almost 10 days in total, and this is what we did.

Where to stay in LA

We stayed in LA for five days in total and wanted to experience different areas while we were there, so we split our stay across three amazing properties...

The Beverly Hills Hotel

There are few hotels in the world quite as iconic and recognisable as The Beverly Hills Hotel and its pink and green decor - which has led to it being fondly named 'the Pink Palace'. You might not know this, but it actually predates the city of Los Angeles itself, having first opened in May 1912. Notable guests over the years have included Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes and Charlie Chaplin, all of which have inspired the rooms and bungalows they stayed in.

It's a stone's throw from the beautifully manicured streets of Beverly Hills and their impressive houses, but also Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive for those who fancy a spot of designer shopping. The property itself is an oasis of calm (and privacy for all the stars), thanks to 12-acre gardens, tall palm trees and a retro swimming pool. The elegant and timeless decor is carried throughout the property, including those famous banana-leaf prints.

Despite being non-celebrities, we were greated like royalty as we ascended the red carpet of the hotel's famous entrance. We stayed in a garden-view room which struck the perfect balance between modern and historical. Whilst we slept in a far-too-comfortable King Size bed, our daughter had a lovely wooden travel cot, complete with a teddy bear wearing the hotel's signature pink t-shirt, as well as a pink rubber duck for the bath. Too cute.

You can book your stay here, rooms start at $995 a night during the low season.

Hotel Bel-Air

We'd never stayed in Bel- Air before and were keen to experience the quieter side of LA, since we do tend to turn in earlier since having a baby. Hotel Bel-Air is The Beverly Hills Hotel's sister property and it offers a true oasis away from the hustle and bustly of the city of lights, yet a short drive away from Sunset Boulevard. It's set in 12 acres of lush gardens, courtyards and water features, housing the property's famous swans and even a turtle (which our daughter loved).

It is steeped in history and has played host to many a celebrity over the decades, including Farrah Fawcett, who wed Lee Majors there in 1973. Whilst it is unarguably luxurious, there is nothign stuffy about the property, which was in fact designed to be a 'home you should have somewhere'. The outdoor spaces, as well as the restaurants and bars, are made to enjoy together or simply take time for yourself.

Most of the 58 rooms and 45 suites open directly onto gardens, making the feel secluded and private. We had the pleasure of staying in the Presidential Suite, which is a hidden home in itself, and supremely luxurious, thanks to its size (210m2), many rooms and private Spanish-style courtyard with its own little pool. You can even enjoy a dining experience with a private chef, though we loved the convivial atmosphere of the main restaurant (more on that later).

Here too, our toddler was made to feel right at home thanks to soft and bath toys (swans, naturally) and the cutest cot.

We enjoyed roaming the winding paths and gardens in search of animals, and she equally loved splashing in the pool and chilling on the sun loungers (as did we). I also managed to sneak off to the award-winning spa, where I had perhaps my best facial ever, which I was told is one of the celebrities' favourites too.

Rooms start at $1,065 during the low season. Book here.

The London, West Hollywood

To truly experience a city, you have to stay in its heart, which is why we also stayed at The London West Hollywood, which is where a lot of the cinematic magic happens: stars often get ready for movie premieres here, or do press junkets. In fact, we bumped into Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the lobby upon arrival. It's hard to beat its location, which gave us easy access to Hollywood itself and its famous Walk of Fame, but also the covetable shopping district of Melrose, as well as being a short drive away from Beverly Hills and Century City.

Perched in the Hollywood Hills, it offers 'pinch me' views of the Sunset Strip and LA skyline, giving you a bird's view of everything the city has to offer, while offering a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle below. As its name suggests, it is designed as a sleek, modern and stylish hotel that nods to both the British capital and Beverly Hills. Our suite, with its giant marble bathroom and living space, offered the perfect antidote to the jet lag and enough space for our toddler to finally tire herself out (she managed the time difference far better than us). We had out own private balcony where we enjoyed sundowners and the views while our daughter slept inside. Bliss.

We also loved the pool, with its panoramic views of LA, and the chic lobby and restaurant, which showcased beautiful local art as well as delicious food. The 5-star breakfast buffet in particular was a big hit thanks to all its options which catered to all ages.

Rooms start at $499/night, book here.

Where to eat in LA

Los Angeles really is an amazing culinary destination, which caters to all tastes and dietary requirements. We were a little worried about travelling there with a toddler, but we needn't have been. Most restaurants are kid-friendly and offer plenty of menu options. Some of our favourites included Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood, and The Butcher's Daughter in Venice Beach, which specialises in fresh juices and seasonal plant-based meals which make even toddlers eat their veg (the courgette pizza was so good).

Whilst we often had our lunches together, we did also want to experience the ambiance of an LA evening, so we put our daughter down in her pram to start of her night so we could enjoy a couple of date nights (almost) kid free, with her snoozing at our table.

One of those times we dined at the iconic Polo Lounge in The Beverly Hills Hotel, where we were serenaded by a live pianist. There we dined on American cuisine with an Italian edge, that was quite simply some of the best food we've had, ever (think Porterhouse steak to share, truffle fries and the most decadent chocolate dessert).

Our second date night was at the Restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air, where we tasted innovative dishes which change regularly, based on seasonal produce. I had the most amazing homemade lobster pasta there, and the chocolate souffle was definietely worth the wait. We also loved their healthy Californian breakfasts and juices.

What to do in LA

You'll often hear that you can't do LA without a car, and whilst it's true to a certain extent, if you want to be within walkable distance of a lot of the main sights, then West Hollywood is the place to be - and it happens to turn 40 this year. It's known as the heart of LA for a reason, since it's both the geographical and cultural hub of the City of Angels. Near it, you'll experience the rock'n'roll atmosphere of the Sunset Trip, the culture and nightlife of Santa Monica Boulevard, also the heart of the LGBTQ scene, and plenty of art and shopping in the Design District.

Appart from visiting Universal Studios, we actually didn't do any kid specific activities - and we would've visited the studios anyway. We loved the behind-the-scenes studio tour (it's the only studio that allows kids under 8) as well as the various attractions, which included Jurassic World and Harry Potter rides. They also had a genius parent swap system,which allows one adult to wait with any non-riders, while everyone else experiences the thrills. Once the other adult gets off the ride, they swap places and wait with the non-riders, while the waiting adult gets right on the attraction without having to wait in line.

This aside, we found our toddler loved discovering LA with us. We went to the Griffith Observatory, where we all enjoyed the views, as well as Venice Beach where she loved watching people on skateboards and rollerscates. Santa Monica provided great entertainment with both the beach and the arcades. Shopping-wise, we loved Abbott Kinney and Melrose Avenue, though she was happy just sitting in her pram for those (she is a toddler after all). We also loved walking around Beverly Hills and taking in all the amazing houses, including the famous Witche's House, aka the Spadena House, made famous by Clueless.

Where to stay in Palm Springs

Whilst we'd been to LA a couple of times before, we'd never been to Palm Springs, which as well as being a great party destination (it's close where Coachella Festival happens), is very family-friendly too, and a two-hour drive from LA.

We wanted a different experience here so we went for an Airbnb rental. Palm Springs is known for its great architecture so it was the perfect way to experience this.

Thanks to its desert location, it gets very hot, so we knew we wanted a house with a pool and air con. We searched through Airbnb's Guest Favourites, which shares the cream of the crop, based on ratings, reviews and reliability. That's how we landed in a gorgeous property a short drive away from the town centre, with jaw-dropping views of the mountains.

The newly renovated abode was the perfect example of Palm Springs 'desert modernism', embracing sleek living that is suitable to the desert: think plenty of natural materials and floor-to-celing windows that let us take in the beautiful surroundings. The interiors were all about neutral and earthy shades and were just the right side of retro. There were three bedrooms, two of which featured walk-in closets, as well as a modern kitchen and living space.

But the main draw was unarguably the swimming pool, surrounded as it was by a hot tub, a desert garden and those amazing mountains. We spent four days in Palm Springs and every afternoon was spent by the swimming pool. We loved that there were child alarms on every door for extra safety too.

Where to eat in Palm Springs

You might not immediately think of Palm Springs as a culinary destination, but there is plenty of tasty food to be had there. We particularly loved Wilma & Frieda for typical comfort food breakfast with a twist, Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey for amazing sushi and La Perlita for Mexican food.

What to do in Palm Springs

If you're new to the area, Greater Palm Springs is Southern California’s most storied resort oasis, and includes nine cities: Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella – each offering different experiences.

It has natural hot mineral springs, lush palm groves, over 100 golf courses, and more than 300 days of sunshine annually, so is a massive draw for tourists all year round.

We are big architecture lovers, so wanted to do a tour of some of Palm Spring's most famous houses, including the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway and the Kaufmann Desert House. While you can visit the inside of a lot of these via organised tours, we knew it wouldn't be a great activity with a toddler, but we enjoyed driving around and looking at them all from the outside, since they are all very close to each other.

We also visited the hub of Palm Springs, where you'll find the Palm Springs Art Museum (a beautiful building in itself), as well as the Marilyn Monroe statue, wich our daughter loved.

While we would have loved to visit Joshua Tree National park, it would've been a little too hot and long to do with a toddler, so we opted for the Living Desert Zoo instead, where we fed giraffes and saw kangaroos. Needless to say, this was a big hit.

We stayed in Palm Springs for four days, and I would say that was plenty of time.

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.