Where do you take your out-of-town visitors?

by Grace aka costofcollege

One Los Angeles resident wanted to offer his out-of-town visitors “authentic” local experiences as well as typical tourist attractions.

Figuring out how to provide an authentic experience that isn’t challenging for visitors who aren’t intimately familiar with this city’s quirks is a true local struggle.

I’ve faced this dilemma twice in my seven years of Angeleno-hood, and for the second time last weekend. For my parents’ most recent stay, I wanted to switch things up, focus less on tourist attractions and more on the places I find most interesting in Los Angeles.

My out-of-town visitors can check out famous local attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Broadway shows, but they can also spend a quiet afternoon at a less well-known place like Untermeyer Gardens on the Hudson River.


What are the famous tourist attractions near you?  And what are some other “authentic experiences” that visitors to your area might enjoy?  Do you host visitors very often?  How does it usually go?


65 thoughts on “Where do you take your out-of-town visitors?

  1. When my brother and his family came out last summer, we took them to Estes Park, Red rocks, water world, and Casa Bonita (think Mexican Chuck E Cheese with cliff divers).

  2. Fitting topic for today – I have guests coming this afternoon. Although, with 4 small children among us, there isn’t a lot of attractions we’ll be seeing. Although at the request of the guest we’ll be going to the mega mall in town. Otherwise we’ll just be hanging around the house catching up on our lives.

    Later this month we have another set of guests coming. No children this time, so we’ll be biking around the city hitting up some taprooms.

  3. Most of our guests are family, so sightseeing is not high on the list. For the rare out of town guests, NASA, Galveston, and the local museums are high on the list. The most enjoyable destination is the Houston Rodeo, which is in town from late Feb through March. It’s truly a Texas experience.

  4. Most of my visiting friends and family already know NYC pretty well, but still enjoy all the attractions. We often go to Flushing for Chinese food, Natural History Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the High Line, foodie destinations like Eataly, and so on. It really depends on what the visitor is interested in. My best friend comes in often (airline employee) but she is very up on what the interesting art shows are, so we usually have something specific in mind. She also likes to bike so we have done the North County Trailway and in season, the Sunday rides on the Bronx River Parkway

  5. Some Seattle highlights:
    –Rent a kayak and paddle around Lake Union – you’ll see lots of cool houseboats, float planes taking off and landing, boats

    –Take a ferry to Bainbridge Island and then walk into town and eat at a restaurant or take the water taxi to West Seattle and have lunch at Marination MaKai

    –Check out the Olympic Sculpture Park

    –Rent a crazy bike and ride along the boardwalk at Alki in West Seattle

    –Bring a picnic dinner to Golden Gardens and watch the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains

    –Hike Little Si (beautiful hike just 45 minutes from Seattle)

  6. We get a lot of visitors, but they generally don’t stay in our home because they prefer staying in NYC. Our immediate family still lives all over metro NY so it is always a visit from friends. The recommendations are always based on the age of the kids and whether it is a first time visit. The most recent friend was here in July with 3 “kids”, but the age range was 17 – 23. We went to botanical gardens, walked to Brooklyn, several museums and lots of shopping. They saw Book of Mormom, and The Curious Incident of the Dog. They wanted to walk all over the different neighborhoods downtown such as Soho, Village etc. My college roommate came last summer with four teenagers, and they just wanted to shop and see some shows.

    We hosted younger kids last year (10 and 7). We went to Statue of Liberty, central park, Empire state building, central park zoo. The kids went to see Wicked. They didn’t want to walk as much so that was more time in touristy spots with less walking. They were very excited just to take the subway.

    The new go to, or skip is the the memorial at the WTC. That really seems to depend on each family because of age or connection to the tragedy.

  7. Mooshi, have you done the trails that run from Yonkers and north? The South County and North County trailways where the old Putnam railway used to be? I like the Bronx River, but I highly recommend these other trails for any day of the week. They’re flat, lots of parking, and there is a decent amount of beautiful scenery and shade in some portions.

  8. Most of my guests are in town for a special event, such as a college football game, and they usually want to go to nostalgic restaurants and visit campus to see what has changed. On the rare occasion that’s not the case, I like to go to some local wineries up in the mountains and off-the-beaten-path restaurants that serve locally grown/raised food. Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway (known here as just “The Parkway”) is nice, as well as visiting the resort at Mountain Lake, where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed.
    I have some friends who have been vacationing in the area this week, and I’m actually meeting up with them tonight for something that I’ve heard about for years and just never done – traditional Appalachian music and dancing at an old country store.

  9. Time of year, age of the visitors, their physical abilities, whether it is their first or subsequent visit, and length of stay are all factors to be considered. We generally look at what will be going on during their stay from exhibits at museums to outdoor activities to music/theater events to local fairs and try to match things up with their interests and abilities. From that standpoint, we don’t have a set of standard things to “show off” about our area other than as the capitol city, we will often take first time visitors to tour the Capitol and Texas History Museum.

    When visitors have kids, we try to have something fairly active on their first day as the day before was often a lot of sitting in either planes or cars – this could be water-related in warm months or an indoor trampoline park in cooler months, or the local children’s museum for younger kids. We focus on locally owned restaurants and stay away from chains unless it is a request of the guests. (I have a friend who moved out of state, who always requests a chain of Tex-Mex not available in her state as our first eating stop.)

  10. We have family visiting most often. There are usually small kids so we try to do our local pools with water parks, children’s theatre and museum, small outdoor animal park. If the kids are older we have a local theme park where they can ride roller coasters and enjoy a bigger water parks.
    If it is all adults we’ll drive to Ashville or tour local vineyards. We’ll go to the many local breweries and local barbecue places. My brother was so surprised when he visited us without his kids because we went to different restaurants and different things from when he visited with kids.

  11. I forgot to mention the NASCAR Hall of fame and the street fairs in late spring and fall. Being a small city, it is easy to get to places, no parking problems or lines to get in.

  12. Lemon–We lived in your area (I think) when the only taprooms had pretty mediocre quality product. DH is very excited to check out one of the newest additions on our next trip back (not sure if you’re trying to disguise your location, so I’ll just say that is the one with a name related to feeling irritable). :-)

  13. We have mostly family visiting us so we often go to the Botanical Gardens, Stone Mountain or the Georgia Aquarium. When friends come to visit they’re usually just here for a night on business and staying at a hotel so it’s just dinner/drinks somewhere close by.

  14. MidA, yes the quality has gone way up. I have yet to make it to the new “irritable” one, but it is on the docket in a couple of weeks. A couple weeks ago we were at a cider one, food truck out front, lawn games being played, and the mix of people (hipsters, families, Harley bikers, and even some cute older couples) made for a great evening on a perfect summer day.

    For obvious reasons we don’t get many out of town visitors in winter. On the rare occasion we do, it is usually the mall for the rollercoaster rides or a museum.

  15. Hmm, well, we don’t get many visitors coming in for the local flavor. :-) Mostly it’s family or friends who are coming to visit, so we will walk to local restaurants or just go to one of our favorite places downtown. If they have littler kids, we take them to the tire park and let them run themselves silly. I also like going downtown and doing the walk along the harbor, all the way from Harborplace over to Fells Point, but we don’t tend to have a lot of takers for that. If they want to do historical stuff, we will go to Fort McHenry or down to DC to one of the many museum options.

  16. We take visitors to the beach, the nature preserve, or the local zoo or aquarium.

    When desperate, we take them on a driving tour until the baby naps. I miss the days when that worked for all the kids!

    Most of our visitors are city dwellers who can get excited about trees and a playground without a wait for swings, which helps.

  17. Though 1.5 hours away, Niagara Falls is always #1 if they’ve never been.
    If they have young kids, there’s a great “play museum”.
    The brewery PTM waxes nostalgic about.
    Maybe have a meal along one of the local smaller lakes.

  18. I remember seeing part of the Miss World competition on TV a while back. Miss Oklahoma was Miss USA, and when asked where she would take a fellow competitor visiting her in her hometown, she said, “Well, I’m from Oklahoma, so I’d take her to a movie.”

    I checked with a couple friends from OK, and they both said that sounds right.

  19. like others said, it is usually family visiting. we go to a restaurant on Bardstown Road and the Carmichael’s bookstore. with friends, we go to a local pizzeria/brewery

  20. Philadelphia is a short drive away. So many things to do there. Lots of history, museums, zoo. Not too far from Longwood Gardens – always a treat – especially the Christmas display – also at Christmas the outdoor train at Morris Arboretum. Bucks County is next door and people like to go around New Hope. The shore is close and that’s always good for a day if appropriate time of year. We have many Revolutionary era battlefields near us including Washington’s Crossing – they marched up the Pennington Road a block or two from our house. My husband is quite the tour guide for battlefields. We have spectacular scenery fall and spring and lots of nice back roads to cruise and enjoy. New York is an hour away and all the pleasures it has to offer.

    We live in a really great area with much to do – now if only the taxes were lower – heaven!

  21. Reading these comments makes me want to visit many of the places mentioned, even the local one! Last time I tried to visit the 9/11 memorial it was very hard to get in, so it may be time to try again.

    For an upcoming trip to Denver, I want to revisit Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park if I have time. DD & RMS, is RMNP not on your top ten list?

  22. We only ever have family visiting (not many friends and none who would consider coming to visit just because) so we just hang out and go to the places we normally take the kids (science museum, kids’ museum, aquarium, farmland, etc.). My mom will take the kids to the MFA when she visits. If we had friends visiting who had never been here we would also take them to Beacon Hill to walk around, duck tour, seafood places, etc.

  23. OT: Has anyone leased a car and then used it primarily for ferrying the children? Have you paid high clean up fees?

    We are looking at an Enclave or a Pilot. The lease would be cheaper on a monthly basis, which would be nice until I go back to work in a year or so.

    But I’m worried about being hit with fees if we return a dirty car. And it will be dirty, unless we cure the carsick child and stop tracking so much sand in the car from the beach.

    I drive about 5k/year so mileage won’t be an issue. Any advice?

  24. I am making notes from this post, as we are hitting NYC with the kids this fall. It’s been 3 years since they’ve been. We have tickets to 2 shows, and have been trying to decide what else to do.

    Houston: we may hit your city for spring break again in 2016. Had SUCH a good time this past year. We have family there so it’s easy to stay, and pretty cheap direct flights so also easy to get to. I loved Rodeo but if we wanted to do something else, what else would you suggest for active boys?

  25. We have a lot of things to do with out of town visitors. Some of the usual things are:

    Ferry to Alcatraz – sometimes we don’t go, but the main thing is to make sure they get tickets in advance, especially in the summer.

    Walk around the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building, down to the ball park if they are Giants Fans. The Exploratorium (our Science Museum) just moved there a few years ago, so if they have kids that is a good stop.

    Take a long walk around Russian Hill (visiting the crooked part of Lombard Street) and North Beach.

    Go to Golden Gate Park, visiting places that they might like (The Academy of Sciences, The Japanese Tea Garden, the De Young Museum)

    Walk from our house through the Presidio to Baker Beach, which has a lovely view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Go to good restaurants!!

  26. Sky – as a former carsick child, I recommend Dramamine! It was a life saver for me (and my family) on vacations. I’m not sure how far you are driving – if not far it may not make sense.

  27. Sky, this would be a larger investment for a leased vehicle, but we like the special Honda Odyssey seat covers and (non-Honda) Weathertech floor mats we bought for our Odyssey. It makes getting into a new minivan after a muddy soccer game more relaxing.

  28. Once a year we do a 120-150 mile trip (each way), and every other month we drive 50 miles to the in-laws. Other than that, we are rarely in the car for more than 15 minutes.

    I expect that to change a lot during the time we own the next car, as there is a big difference between having kids who are 11, 9 and 7 vs. 6, 4 and 2….

    Or at least I hope there is!!!

  29. Wow, Sky, I clearly have no clue! We have two multi acre parks nearby where we are often the only people visiting them at any given time and we’re discussing a trip to southern California.

    Hopefully other people who know something about situation can weigh in. :)

  30. WCE, I know that feeling – we live 5 minutes from a beach, it’s gorgeous weather here for a change, and there were maybe 100 people on the sand at 10 this morning when I had the kids on a hermit crab hunt.

    In a town of 50,000.

    When I take the kids to a playground, we nearly always play alone unless I plan to have another family meet us. It’s bizarre. Only 15 years ago when I worked at the same beach, daily attendance in this weather was over 1,000. Playgrounds were busy.

    Where IS everyone?

    Did everyone finally install central air? What happened?

  31. Our parks aren’t empty, but there usually isn’t a line for the swing. At the two parks nearest us, the population in the surrounding houses has aged so there are fewer kids. In our neighborhood, most of the moms work (so kids are at childcare) or the kids prefer to be indoors and/or the currently-at-home parent has work to do in the house and doesn’t want the children alone in the yard.

  32. Anon: Awesome! Suggestions include the Houston Zoo, the Houston Museum of Natural Science (awesome dinosaur exhibit), and NASA. If you are feeling brave, you can go to Galveston for the beach, Moody Gardens, and/or Schlitterbahn water park.

    If you are coming during Spring Break, be prepared for crowds. I’d go to each of these places as soon as it opens to get good parking and minimize the crowds.

  33. One of my kids prefers to be indoors.

    I pick him up, toss him out the back door, lock it, and put the key up a tree where he can’t climb yet. He has a fit for about five minutes and then gives up and plays with the other kids.

    If he wants to sit inside all day, February will come soon enough.

    Rant over :)

  34. We lease our main kid transport car. Never extra charges, even though there are dents and scratches from kids ramming their bikes into it, the seats have marks from car seats, and the carpet has what looks like permanent mud and road salt stuck to it. Normal wear and tear I guess.

    I also suggest the wrist bands for motion sickness. They make small ones for kids.

  35. Ooh, I think I have my wristbands from morning sickness left somewhere. I will have to find those. They never worked for me for pregnancy but might help.


  36. These days our visitors are family. Most recently when my SIL and niece were here, one day they went to the Zoo and another day they went horseback riding and we took them to First Thursday to do an art project at the Art Museum.

    When we were DINKs we used to get more DINK visitors. One weekend I remember we took a couple to a play that turned out to be about Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, and then the next day we were walking on a beach that had some nudists. I don’t think we’ve really heard from them since.

    As DS ages, when we are the visitors we now look for opportunities to do more active things – hikes, bike rides, kayaks/canoes, or rock concerts or festivals. (HM & Finn: DS really wants to try out the skate park at Hickam.)

    Ivy – have you had your celebration weekend in Santa Barbara yet?

  37. Mooshi – have fun! I know you’re familiar with Seattle – but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know. Grace can also give you my email address.

  38. The Seattle discussion reminds me that my celebration after weaning the twins was taking DS1 to Seattle to visit a friend without the twins. My friend and I (same age sons) ended up riding Seattle’s public transportation- light rail, ferry, bus- because my son was excited about those things, and her son loved it too, because they didn’t usually ride anything but the bus.

  39. Lark: MBT, WFI, and I have had fun getting together in the past. If you feel like meeting up, let us know.

  40. I would love that although I have to admit I am super skeevish about being identified, after some comments were made a couple years ago here about keeping posts, etc. (and just for the record, it’s only because I’m sensitive to privacy in general, not because I’m any kind of public figure – HA- or have shared anything damaging.) In fact, it may be time for a new handle. Since I’ve come back to the board, I know a lot of people have changed their names, and I’ve still not figured out who most people are. The writing is so familiar and yet I can’t really place everyone. It’s disorienting. But I understand the reasoning behind it.

    But you guys are some of my favorites so I would love to meet you :)

  41. Finn- Miss Oklahoma/Miss USA is an alum of my high school. I promise there are more interesting places to take visitors! There are great museums in both Tulsa and OKC that have a lot of Indian and Western Art. Tulsa has a riverside area with nice walking trails and OKC has a river walk area with a lot of nice restaurants and bars. OKC Thunder games are always a draw, and the AAA ballpark in Tulsa offers a fun family evening. There are Indian casinos in both towns that some people like, along with nice shopping and dining areas. I have to speak up for my people!

    In Houston, I go the same places Houston listed. On my plan for when one of my siblings comes is a craft brewery that gives tours and has a nice tasting room.

  42. Sky, I’d take WCE’s recommendations a step further, and get machine washable car seat covers and floor mats, regardless of whether you lease or buy. Just make sure the seat covers don’t interfere with you air bags, which can be a challenge, but just having the seat bottoms covered covered makes a huge difference.

    If your kids are still in car seats or boosters with backs, then you just need to cover the seats below the car seats/boosters, and towels work fine for that.

  43. Lately, our visitors have been local diaspora returning for a visit, or regular visitors, so we mostly get together for dinners.

    When we were younger, when we had more visitors with young kids, we’d often go to the beach together.

    For non-local visitors looking for recommendations, I usually start with the Bishop Museum, which helps understand the indigenous culture and history, and which then helps understand why not everyone is happy to see more tourists here.

  44. ssk, how’s the new location for the Exploratorium?

    We loved it at the old location, in no small part because of ample free parking, but haven’t been to the new location yet. There’s a good chance we’ll visit next summer.

  45. Finn – really nice. I admit I haven’t been in the new museum (we’ve met people for lunch after they visited and they liked it), but it is around Pier 15, so a nice walk from the Ferry Building, where there are lots of options for lunch or dinner.

    The city has made it a lot easier to walk around the backs of the Pier buildings so you are right at the water, and there are new trolley cars that go along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s wharf.

    You are right that parking is not nearly as nice as it was when it was at the Palace of Fine Arts! There are a number of garages in the area, so it is probably a matter of getting there relatively early in the day.

  46. I have a huge vent. DD (12) is having her birthday party tonight – a sleepover with three of her friends. Late last night, her best friend’s dad emailed us to say that the best friend is grounded so she can’t come. It drives me crazy when parents do that because they are punishing the other kid just as much as their own. I understand the need to discipline kids, but there are plenty of ways to do it without hurting their friends as well.

  47. DD, I sympathize. When you accept a social obligation, your hosts have done work to prepare and you can’t change your mind at the last minute.

  48. Thanks, I’m glad we’re not the only ones who feel this way. The girls are having fun – they had a water balloon fight, pizza, ice cream sundaes, and then holed up in the basement watching movies.

  49. DD — Yes, wondering if RMNP is on your top ten list of places to visit. I haven’t been there in about 30 years, but I want to revisit.

    I agree on not reneging on a party because of being grounded. I’ve been on the other side, and I realized I would be punishing the other child, too. But there are exceptions, of course, for really egregious behavior, for example.

  50. CoC, I wouldn’t say that it is. It’s a cool place to see, but I don’t think it’s a must-see – there are plenty of other places in the mountains that are just as neat, IMO.

  51. DD — Please post if you have any suggestions for other similar places within an hour or two of Denver.

  52. Since most of our guests have never been to England, they normally spend 3-4 days seeing traditional London (Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, British Museum, etc.) We typically try to take them to a classic pub like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a whole in the wall chippie, a place for full english breakfast, a market land a nightime drink at the Shard. We like science/nature so we tend to suggest trips like a boat trip to Greenwich and the Observatory, any of the many parks and gardens, or the Wetlands Center. If a free day is available, we always suggest a train ride out of London to someplace like Cantebury. If there are steam trains coming through town, we’ll go trainspotting (FIL liked that excursion). Beer or cider aficionados get a trip to Euston Tap.

  53. SBJ – Not yet. We are planning the Santa Barbara/SoCal Wine Country trip for July 2016 to coincide with both the big birthday and big anniversary. We may extend to more like a week as one set of grandparents has offered to watch DS for longer than we thought. So we will see! We are in the early stages of planning. Very excited and would appreciate any suggestions!! First item – looking for a hotel on the beach in walking distance of good restaurants/bars/shops. Second item – do we actually need to move locations to day trip to some wineries and Firestone Walker or not?

    Most of our visitors have been coming to Chicago for a long time – but maybe not with kids. Most have their own agendas and mainly ask us for restaurant reccos.

    Millennium Park is always a hit with families, especially now that Maggie Daley Park is open. It is really incredible. The Chicago river boat rides are worth it & better than you might think. The big museums are all good & have interesting programming too (e.g. The Art Institute is free for kids under about 12 & have drop in kid programs every weekend).

    The one place I would avoid is the Shedd Aquarium. It is overpriced and ungodly crowded at all times. There are better aquariums in other cities. I also hate Navy Pier, but I understand the draw for tourists – fireworks, cool view, Ferris wheel, concerts, Garrett’s popcorn, etc.

  54. Ivy,

    There are two different areas that provide restaurants/bars within a walking distance of a hotel across the street from the beach. Coast Village Road in Montecito has a lot of restaurants, and the current hot one is the Honor Bar. The close hotel is Ty Warner’s (of Beanie Babies) Biltmore. The beach is Butterfly Beach. The other area is along Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara’s main beach. A short two blocks up from the beach is the Funk Zone, a hot new area with wine tasting, and Figueroa Mountain beer tasting. Lark is the hot restaurant, and right next door is Les Marchands where maybe you can be served by a Master Sommelier from the movie Somm. Hotels to look at are Fess Parker’s Doubletree, Hyatt Santa Barbara, and Harbor View Inn. My brother and his family stay at the Hyatt. Big work holiday parties happen at Fess Parker’s. There is a much longer beach, with a nice path for walking. You can do a Segway Tour, rent kayaks, and on Sunday there is an Arts & Crafts show. If you are thinking of being here the 4th of July, this is the beach where they do the fireworks show.

    In the valley, there is Fess Parker Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos. I don’t know if they do packages with their beach sister property. We generally do day trips for winetasting, but we don’t try and stay for dinner. The Hitching Post restaurant is good, and also has Sideways connections. Once we won a free tickets on one of the wine tour buses. It was nice to have someone else do the driving, but they visited lower tier wineries which poured their lower tier wines.

    What varietals do you like / wineries do you want to visit? We have been long-time fans of DBA and recently ate lunch at the Firestone Walker Tap Room in Buellton. It will be interesting to see what happens now that they are “combining” with Duvel.

    If you want more information, you can gmail me at sbjuggler

  55. CoC, just off the top of my head, the drive over Loveland pass is as scenic as anything in RMNP. The hike at St. Mary’s glacier is very nice.

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