L.A. Beyond Disneyland

It's no secret that parenting involves sacrifice - dangling your feet in the baby pool instead of swimming laps with the grown-ups, seeing "Madeline" instead of "Saving Private Ryan," or cutting up your child's pork chop while yours gets cold. Nonetheless, most of us wouldn't trade the job for anything. And every so often, an opportunity comes along to share an activity that gives both parent and child equal pleasure.

I experienced one of these Equal Entertainment Opportunities during a recent visit to Los Angeles with my son. We'd already had a couple of days to romp at the pool with old friends. They were delightful. And we're pros at hanging out. But you can only hang out so long in the world's entertainment center without getting a little antsy.

At the top of my list was the Getty Center, an exhibit of Harlem Renaissance painters at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and galleries galore. Fortunately, Alex wasn't clamoring for a day at Disneyland. (I dreaded those long lines.) But he was hardly enthusiastic about my ideas either. Then a friend suggested we visit The Huntington.

Neither playground nor stodgy museum, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is one of those rare places that offer all ages an experience that is culturally enriching, highly educational, and just plain fun.

As we roamed the 150 acres of rolling green lawns, poked into galleries filled with some of the world's most distinguished collections of British, French, and American artworks, and were transported to foreign lands in the Japanese and Australian gardens, I understood why Henry and Arabella Huntington's magnificent former estate is often called a "living classroom" by the 25,000 schoolchildren who visit each year.

One tool made the experience even more interesting: our friend's binoculars, which he always takes along for museum visits. They allow him a close-up view of art in crowded galleries or when works are roped off and can only be seen from a distance. Or even when you have the space to yourself, binoculars can bring detail into focus, as we learned when looking through them at woven tapestries, marble sculptures, and ornate woodcarvings. Much to Alex's delight, they even helped him spot a lizard climbing up a faraway wall.

So, believe it or not, there are other places to take the family in Los Angeles besides Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The Huntington happened to be the right one for us. Please write and tell us about your favorite cultural destinations in L.A. or elsewhere. We're at entertainment@csps.com or Arts & Leisure, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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