Looking for realistic things to do in Los Angeles with kids? These ideas are both family friendly and fun to do on your next trip to Los Angeles.
I moved to Los Angeles when I was eight, and I’ve spent my remaining years rooted to this place. So even though I wasn’t born in LA, I was definitely raised here.
Some fun facts about LA:
- The weather is amazing, and something I take for granted. Especially as I bundle up when it’s “cold” and 60 degrees outside.
- The traffic is terrible. As in, it takes my husband an hour to drive 15 miles home during rush hour. And I plan my route home based on the orange and red lines on my map app.
- I don’t see too many celebrities every day, but they’re around. At our farmers market, I saw Robin from “How I Met Your Mother” and Peter Petrelli from “Heroes.” Years ago I was on Rodeo Drive (the one time I was there, and only to go to a cheese store—true story) and I saw Halle Berry. And at UCLA, I was standing next to Tyra Banks at the newsstand.
This article though, is about things to do in Los Angeles with kids. SSBE reader Christine asked me to do an LA version for her upcoming trip, and I couldn’t wait to share some ideas. This is for the family ready to take a trip out here but wants the low-down on what’s worth their time.
You’ll often see travel tips and places to go, even those that are geared for kids. But when I’m saying kids, I mean young kids like toddlers and even babies. Because we all know what happens when kids feel stretched beyond their limits, especially on vacation.
Realistic things to do in Los Angeles with kids
So here it is: I compiled my favorite outings in my hometown that could fit within a few hours before or after a nap. I also list them by similar types, such as museums or nature outings.
The Science Center is first on the list because we go here often, and that says a lot. First, it’s free (you just need to pay $12 for parking). They encourage hands-on learning—touching starfish and building towers.
Toddler rooms are perfect for little ones to play without the rowdy big kids. You’ll see deep-sea divers feeding aquatic animals. And of course, it houses the famous NASA Endeavor.
Another free museum (other than the parking), the Getty Center is another favorite. You’ll have plenty of space for them to run around crazy without bumping into anyone.
Fair warning though: my kids tend to enjoy spending time outside the museum buildings than actually looking at art. And if they’re inside, they’re likely in the kids room. This is a cute exhibit where they can tinker with things based on the real art in the other buildings.
You’ll find a ton of fountains, which is another favorite with my kids. The maze-like garden is an awesome walk. And you ride a tram from the parking lot to the museum. Don’t be surprised if your kids want to ride it over and over.
Our latest “discovery,” this is a new children’s museum also focused on science. They have two locations, one in Orange County further south of LA and another in the San Fernando Valley. It’s not free, but the place is empty. Anyone with kids can appreciate this! You can explore the exhibits and games without fighting for space with other people.
I love bringing my kids outdoors, and Franklin Canyon Park is an awesome hike for young children. We took our twins as early as under two-years-old. It’s a curvy drive up the mountain, with a clear parking lot to tell you where to start. The last time we went, we visited the reservoir and watched the ducks float by.
Perks include a museum and activity area as well as a nice bathroom (important when out in nature!). For a perfect hike, this is one of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles with kids.
I love visiting college campuses, and UCLA is no exception. One of the tourist-y things we do is walk through their botanical garden. You’ll find huge trees (for LA) and plants native to the area. I don’t recommend a stroller, so bring a baby carrier if your little one is too small to walk.
Since you’re already on campus, you’ll also want to check out the Sculpture Garden. Experience a wide expanse of grass and sculptures your kids can run around in. And if you’re in shopping mode, check out Ackerman Union. You’ll find a food court, a grocery store, a book store, and souvenir shop.
Griffith Park is like our Central Park in that there’s so much stuff to do in this one “park.” Horseback riding, visiting the Griffith Observatory, stuff like that. The one I like is walking through Fern Dell. The path includes tons of shade so you don’t get hot.
You’ll also walk by a stream (though, with the California drought, this is becoming less of a stream). A fantastic walk in nature that’s not too difficult for little ones.
And since you’re already at Griffith Park, check out the Griffith Observatory. You’ll want to go early because otherwise you’re left with street parking. And street parking at the Griffith Observatory means a huge hike up the mountain. This can be difficult for little kids (or parents pushing strollers).
In the South Bay is another botanical garden I recommend. It’s a huge botanical garden that you’ll probably only get to see a bite-size piece of. It’s kid-friendly and they have a ton of paths and walkways to appeal to young children. They also have a children’s garden.
I’m sure you have indoor trampoline parks where you live, but I’m mentioning it here anyway. I first learned about these places when my niece had a party there. My kids have so much fun when we go to trampoline parks. They also have a toddler area so your little ones aren’t mixed in with the big kids.
You’ll need to sign a waiver but you can do that online before you go. And you’ll need to buy their special socks to wear when you’re jumping, which you can buy when you get there.
The Grove is a fun place to take kids if you want to shop during your trip. They’re next to the original farmers market (as in, the first market ever in the whole country). They also have a trolley that goes back and forth between the Grove and the market which kids love to ride on.
The first thing you’ll see is a huge fountain when you walk in, which is always a favorite with the kids. If they get fidgety, take them to the Barnes and Noble book store where. On the third floor, they have a train table set up for your kids to play with. And they do morning shows with Mario Lopez, though they’re usually during the weekdays.
Closer to the beach is the Santa Monica Pier. You’ll find carnival rides and restaurants along the pier. You can also visit an aquarium and catch a few outdoor shows, especially during the summer. It’s a quick walk down to the shore as well, though I don’t recommend actually posting up shop on the shores. For beaches, I like to go to Malibu or Manhattan Beach.
During the summer, Marina del Rey runs a Water Bus that ports at different spots through the marina. Tickets are $1 each, and you have to buy two tickets for a round trip. I recommend starting and ending at Fisherman’s Village because of the large parking lot and eateries.
The whole trip takes about an hour, which, for kids, is just about right. You can take your stroller on the boat, and you don’t need to wear life preservers. Then, once you’re back to Fisherman’s Village, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurants nearby. I like the lasagna at Sapori Italian Restaurant.
Cool neighborhoods to check out
Sometimes you visit a place and select a spot but don’t know if it’s a nice place or not. Here are a few cool neighborhoods to stay or check out:
- Beverly Hills
- Culver City
- Los Feliz
- Manhattan Beach
- Marina del Rey
- Playa del Rey
- Santa Monica
- Sherman Oaks
- Silver Lake
- Studio City
- West LA
I know for sure I left out a ton of places, many of which are iconic and “go-to” spots. But these are the ones I find young kids enjoy the most and can tolerate. Traveling with kids is rough enough. You want to visit places easy for bringing young children to. These are my favorite things to do in Los Angeles with kids, and I hope they can become yours when you visit.
Tell me in the comments: Have you visited Los Angeles before? What are your favorite things to do in Los Angeles with kids? Where do you plan to visit next?
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