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Weekend Escape

Marina del Rey the Kids' Way

Beach, bike path and pool keep parents afloat on the bumpy ride to family bliss


MARINA DEL REY — When I moved to L.A. from New York, living near a beach was a profound novelty, and I used to spend my Sunday afternoons at Temescal Canyon beach in a sand chair, reading. Twelve years later, seven of them in Pasadena and Eagle Rock, my family of four makes it to the beach twice a year, tops.

Not that we don't try: I often look for deals in Santa Barbara (as if!), San Diego or Santa Monica, but they can be hard to come by, especially this time of year. Tipped off about summer promotions offered by the Marriott chain, I found a hotel it identified as a "resort" in Marina del Rey and booked it for the Fourth of July holiday.

The hotel, between fairly busy Washington Boulevard and Admiralty Way, is across the street from Mothers Beach and row after row of fancy boats, and a reasonable walk to the ocean. My husband, Sean, and I didn't have extravagant plans: unlimited pool time, biking, beaching--just being away.

Standard rooms come with a king bed and a rollaway or with two doubles. With Devin, 8, and Susannah, 5, we needed a second full bed and, if possible, separate sleeping areas for kids and parents. I asked the reservations clerk about possibly upgrading to a suite, and she said she would make a notation on my reservation.

Our trip date rolled around, and when we arrived at 4 p.m. for check-in, no upgrade was available. But still swept up in the excitement of a hotel stay near the beach, we headed to our room on the ninth (top) floor. This began the weekend's running argument between the kids: who got to push the elevator buttons.

Though Sean and I were underwhelmed by the size and stuffy air of Room 925, Susannah, for whom any night away from home is an event, pronounced it "small but good." And the view north, encompassing the coast, would be great for that night's fireworks. (Our rate, $129 per night, was part of a "Come Out and Play" promotion that has since ended, but other promotions--including weekend "leisure rates" and specials for AAA members and American Express cardholders--were still available as of the Travel section's press time Tuesday.)

We went down to the pool and saw at once that the photo on the hotel's Web site had been shot with a wide-angle lens. The pool is barely 20 feet long, but it is comfortably heated, never gets deeper than 5 feet (perfect for kids) and is in a lovely landscaped pocket off the lobby. There's a spacious Jacuzzi and towel service as well.

While Sean went for a run on the beach, I played "monkey in the middle" with the kids. We were reminded how late afternoons near the ocean can be chilly and after about an hour and a half started thinking about dinner.

Our plan for the weekend was to park the car once, walk everywhere and perhaps in the process reaquaint our kids with a mode of transportation they don't often experience. About a block and a half from the hotel is Edie's, an independently owned '50s-style diner recommended by Westside friends.

The lovely waterside deck at Edie's was already crowded with people in a good position to watch the fireworks. We were seated near the deck door in a booth that brought to mind the old bench-style car seats.

It soon became apparent that Edie's had holiday staffing problems. Half an hour after we had been seated, we still had no food, and the family of five across the aisle hadn't been able to order. When our food finally arrived, it was fine--an omelet, Reuben sandwich, burger and chicken fingers--and our beleaguered waitress comped the kids' ice cream.

Back at the Marriott, the hotel's rooftop terrace was open for watching the fireworks, and Sean and Devin headed up there. Susannah and I turned out the lights in our room, opened the curtains over the sliding-glass door and got a panoramic view of about four fireworks displays from Venice on north, as well as some elaborate backyard celebrations.

Because our room was stuffy and my husband craves the smell of the ocean, we left the sliding glass door cracked open to sleep. Big mistake. Washington Boulevard was surprisingly busy on the Friday after the holiday. A bus stop was within earshot, and we woke to the sound of bus idling and accelerating at 6 a.m. The kids and I were wide-awake, and after a fruitless try-to-go-back-to-sleep period, we let Dad sleep and headed down to Stones, the hotel's restaurant.

I was concerned that the white tablecloths and napkin-stuffed water goblets spelled a fancy-schmancy breakfast, but the hostess quickly brought out crayons and an activity sheet/menu for the kids. They ordered pancakes, which were served with a Froot Loop garni. For the rest of us, there were a variety of buffets--fruit and cereal, one that was pastry-centric, and another of chafing dishes of eggs and meats.

Later the four of us set out on the short walk to the beach and arrived just as Venice One-Stop was opening. We rented two "tag-a-longs," tandem bikes in which the rear portion is child-sized.

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