Los Angeles is one of the most recognizable – and polarizing – cities in the United States mostly because the film and televisions industries have long been kings and queens sitting on their LA thrones. So those who’ve never even been there often have very specific and firm opinions of the city. Often times they’re wrong. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to come out and visit and see what it’s all about. And sometimes people want to bring their family here. Well, that’s okay, you can do whatever you want. If you do choose to do this, here are some tips on what to do while you’re here.

You’re going to of course want to start with the Walk of Fame – no LA vacation would be complete without at least paying homage to LA’s most touristy spot. No you won’t see any REAL stars, but you can put your hands and your kids’ hands into the concrete imprints left by actual stars many years ago. Nearby you can go to the Disney Soda Fountain but keep in mind that this place is way too touristy and is terrible and you should get out of there as soon as possible.

LA is host to a few great amusement parks too, so you might as well go to Universal Studios Hollywood and take the awesome tour that gives you the Hollywood experience in just one hour. Then enjoy the Shrek, Jurassic Park, and Simpsons rides. Those are fun for the whole family. You can also of course go to Disneyland in nearby Anaheim (note: no matter what the Anaheim Angels want you to think, Anaheim isn’t even in Los Angeles county!)

The Griffith Observatory is a must-see, for it offers a great glimpse of the city. High up on the hill side within Griffith Park, this astronomy museum is quaint and cool and fun for everyone. It also hosts a statue of James Dean (well, his head at least), to commemorate the scene in Rebel Without a Cause where he drives off the – spoiler alert! – cliff.

Also in Griffith Park is the LA Zoo. Zoos are always a blast because you get to see animals in their fake “natural” habitats and that’s fun for kids until they realize what sort of torture we adults are putting these animals through. But that’s okay, childhood is bliss, and seeing monkeys is always an awesome thing.

If you want to torture your kids but appease your own self, go to the LaBrae Tar Pits. No, there were no dinosaurs there, just Woolly Mammoths and stuff – it’s really pretty boring; the ‘watch the scientists discover stuff live’ area is almost always closed, and there are more fake bones than real ones in the skeletons. That said, it’s kind of fun to think about the animals sinking in tar and dying.

Santa Monica Pier at Night, Santa Monica, California

Santa Monica Pier at Night, Santa Monica, California

And of course you have to visit the beach and see the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach. You can’t go all the way to Southern California and not catch some waves and some touristy over priced beach side restaurants! The Pier has the oldest permeant amusement park and fun fair in the world!