A friend of mine calls them “field trips,” as a nod to the 12 years I spent as an elementary school teacher. She’s referring to the day-long outings my son and I engage in during breaks from school.
Because there really is no shortage of things to do in Los Angeles with kids – of all ages and in all seasons. I’m lucky. My son makes it easy on me, because he likes going to museums. He’s curious and interested in so many things – music, dance, basketball, reading, astronomy, history, art. And with kids, you never know what will spark an interest or further develop a passing curiosity. So, we go. We explore. We discover. We discuss. The pandemic has given us more time to do this, though we’ve done things differently.
A typical summer means my son and I visit some of our city’s top tourist attractions, including the Aquarium of the Pacific, the GRAMMY Museum, the Getty Center, the Reagan Library, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the California Science Center and the Norton Simon Museum. Because we’re members, we visit the Natural History Museum (and its yearly Butterfly Pavilion) and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum multiple times each summer.
But this hasn’t been a typical summer. We had to alter the “what” and “where” of our days, yet I’m proud to say, we’re still acting as tourists in our city. We’re just exploring, observing, and visiting outdoor spaces this time. And most of this summer’s “field trips” are not taking us very far from our home in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles. In fact, some of these destinations are places we’ve driven by countless times, but have never taken the time to stop, park the car, and get out for a closer look.
That’s what we’ve been doing this summer.
One morning, my son and I spent a leisurely 30 minutes strolling through a public garden adjacent to an office building 5 minutes away from home. We walked the path, commented on the flowers, and stopped to watch and count the turtles in the small pond (17).
Adorned with our sun hats and masks, we drove down near Dockweiler State Beach. We walked and stopped and walked and stopped. We listened to the waves, wondered about the destinations of the airplanes taking off from nearby LAX, and we took deep breaths of the ocean air.
We did explore the LaBrea Tar Pits, but only the outside park-like area. We grimaced at the unmistakable rotten-egg smell, we marveled at the bubbles of tar bursting up from the small lake pit, and we gaped at the ongoing demolition of LACMA next door.
We explored Will Rogers Park, across the street from the famous Beverly Hills Hotel. A large fountain. Ducks. Turtles. Roses. It felt like we were much farther from home than we really were. Plus, my son enjoyed discovering that Charlie Chaplin, the silent film star he learned about in his film class this past school year, had filmed in this very park.
On another outing, we spent some time marveling at Ringo Starr’s Peace and Love Sculpture. We walked a few blocks of Beverly Gardens Park where the sculpture is located and discovered a “Julia Child” rose in the rose garden section, and we stood and admired the lily pads in front of the iconic Beverly Hills sign.
And yet another day took us to Pan Pacific Park. We walked around, admired the new-ish and colorful, but currently closed, play equipment, and stood in silence outside The Museum of the Holocaust, which then led to a conversation about my son’s actual field trip during the fifth grade to The Museum of Tolerance.
Our outings aren’t fancy and take very little advance planning. None take the same amount of time we used to spend in a museum. They’re all much more economical, since not one of them requires an admissions fee. But we’re still exploring our city. With masks. Physically distancing ourselves when we see others nearby.
Students generally love field trips, because they’re a chance to get out of the classroom. Teachers see field trips as a (stressful) way of supplementing classroom lessons and providing hands-on instruction and/or real-life examples of concepts taught within a classroom.
For my son and me, our field trips are special. It’s a way for us to connect with each other. A way for us to connect with our city. And a way for us to realize that no matter what, there are always treasures to be found throughout Los Angeles.
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former elementary school teacher. She prefers sunflowers to roses and has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles ZIP code. You can read more from Wendy at www.wendykennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).