Sweet 16 in the City of Angels

What kind of trip do you take with three Seattle teenage girls to celebrate their 16th birthdays? That was the dilemma …

Palm Springs – too boring for teenagers

Beach resort – are there enough activities for these active girls?

New York City – too far for three days

Chicago – too cold

Los Angeles – perfect!

After much conversation with two of my mom friends we decided to surprise our daughters with a trip to Santa Monica to celebrate their fall birthdays. We picked a long weekend in October and began sending them clues a week before to help prepare them for the trip. If we knew anything, we knew that you can’t throw a surprise trip on teenage girls. I mean there are clothes to think of, boys to think of, homework to think of, sports to think of, etc.

We set up an elaborate game with clues designed to send them on a top-secret spy mission. They may be 16 but they still are kids at heart so the top-secret mission theme came in handy. By sending them daily clues we were able to help them clear their schedules, plan ahead for homework and figure out how to pack.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun ... on our way to Santa Monica
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun … on our way to Santa Monica

On the day of the trip we pulled them out of school a few minutes early and headed to the airport. We purposely designed the weekend to include a few L.A. hipster activities and a lot of leisure time to let them decide how to spend their weekend. A delicate planning balance for sure.   On the plane we gave them a long list of L.A. activities (everything from the Getty Museum to surfing lessons).

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The library at The Viceroy Santa Monica

After much research we picked the Viceroy Santa Monica as our hotel. If L.A. hip was our goal, the Viceroy was the perfect spot. You can’t help but feel “cool” walking through the hotel lobby. Plus it was a perfect location, perfect for spending time at the pool, the beach across the street, shopping and last, but not least, the Santa Monica Pier.

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M Street Kitchen

The first night we had a special dinner at M Street Kitchen. Thanks to some of my Chicago family with Lettuce Entertain You connections, we were treated like royalty and blessed with a chocolate layer cake to start the birthday celebrations off right.

2006 10 18_2311We basically left the daytime itineraries up to the girls. And they simply wanted to “ride rides.” So we spent a lot of time at the Santa Monica Pier (tip: get the unlimited ride tickets). Plus we spent an afternoon at Universal Studios. If you want to get in and out fast, park in valet parking and buy the Front of the Line pass. With these two splurges we were able to ride every ride twice and get out in less than three hours. Let’s just say that “riding rides” wasn’t how the moms envisioned spending our trip but little tips like this made it much enjoyable for us. (Bonus tip: buy your tickets with American Express and you get access to the private American Express air conditioned club at Universal Studios which was perfect for avoiding rides that make moms nauseous.)

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Universal Studios
Rodeo Drive window shopping
Rodeo Drive window shopping

Finally, after “riding rides” for two days and nights the girls decided to do some sightseeing so we cruised Beverly Hills, walked around Hollywood, rode bikes to Venice and shopped the Third Street Promenade.

The last night we dined at Gjelina in Venice on Abbot Kinney. I think the girls loved the hipness of the restaurant and felt like they were at a place to be seen! And the food topped the atmosphere!

But the best of all was The Ivy in Beverly Hills. We went for Sunday brunch, saw some reality TV stars, drank some gimlets (the moms not the girls), took a lot of photos, made sure everyone knew we were tourists and ate well! The Ivy will never disappoint no matter what age.

No matter how you celebrate a sweet sixteen, whether you stay home or go afar, treasure this day with your daughter and make her feel special.  I will forever be grateful for these few days with my daughter and I am especially grateful for opportunity to share this occasion with such a lovely and spunky group of women and girls.

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Claire and me in Santa Monica! Love this girl!

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