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 LA.
Ready to take a trip to Los Angeles and want the low-down on what’s worth your time?
You’ll often see travel tips and places to go, even those that are geared toward kids. But when I’m saying kids, I mean young kids like toddlers and babies. Because we all know what happens when they feel stretched beyond their limits, especially on vacation.
So, I compiled my favorite outings to do in my hometown, where the weather is wonderful (and the traffic is terrible!). I hope you enjoy this slice of Southern California, even with kids in tow:
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Not all museums and galleries are kid-friendly, as I’m sure you’ve realized. Some feature exhibits that might be confusing for kids, or you’re constantly yelling, “Don’t touch!”
Thankfully, plenty of museums are designed just for kids (or feature an exhibit for kids). Go early (as in, right when they open) so your kids have more space to explore.
These are some of my favorite museums I’ve taken my kids to, from infancy to the present:
1. California Science Center
The California Science Center is first on the list because we go here often. Admission is free (you just need to pay for parking). They also encourage hands-on learning, from touching starfish to playing with sand and water.
Toddler rooms are perfect for little ones to play away from rowdy big kids. You’ll also see deep-sea divers feeding marine life in a large tank (fun tip: Play “rock, paper, scissors” with the divers!), and the famous Space Shuttle Endeavor.
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2. Kidspace Children’s Museum
My kids love Kidspace, a children’s museum in Pasadena that’s both indoors and out. Everything about the museum is hands-on, from painting with water to walking in the water (bring water-safe shoes!) to examining live worms. Come early, as it can get crowded even around noon.
3. The Getty Center
A free museum (other than the parking), the Getty Center is another favorite of mine. Your kids will have plenty of space outdoors to run around without bumping into anyone.
Fair warning though: they’ll likely enjoy spending time outside the museum buildings than actually looking at the art. If they are inside, they’re likely in the kids’ room, an exhibit where they can tinker with things based on the real art.
You’ll find a ton of fountains, which is another favorite with my kids. The maze-like garden is an awesome walk, and you’ll ride a tram from the parking lot to the museum. Don’t be surprised if they want to ride it over and over.
4. Discovery Cube
Our latest “discovery” is a children’s museum also focused on science, Discovery Cube. They have two locations, one in Orange County farther south of Los Angeles, and another in the San Fernando Valley.
It’s not free, but the place isn’t too crowded (anyone with kids can appreciate this!). They usually feature special exhibits upstairs—we’ve been to ones all about Lego and another about the Wild Kratts.
5. La Brea Tar Pits
The La Brea Tar Pits is a smaller museum all about the animal fossils during the Ice Age discovered in tar pits throughout the area. You’ll see and smell tar pits all around, as well as the fossils they’ve since uncovered.
Also on view are working sites of anthropologists either removing more fossils from the tar or cleaning them up in the fossil labs. Learn about cats, mammoths, climate change, and excavations!
6. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
Discover dinosaurs, nature gardens, gems and minerals, and Los Angeles culture in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles! The biggest draw is the long hallway featuring life-size models of wild animals in their natural habitats.
Who knew modern art would captivate kids? At LACMA, a favorite exhibit is Metropolis II, a miniature model based on the frenetic pace of a city. Kids stay mesmerized by the fast-moving cars and trains through the city’s buildings.
You’ll also find quirky exhibits, from floating balls you can gently bounce to elevators with a heartbeat soundtrack.
8. Skirball Cultural Center
The biggest draw in the Skirball Cultural Center is Noah’s Ark, a hands-on exhibit for kids. You’ll feel like you’re inside an ark, where your kids can play with stuffed animals, climb and slide, and even write and draw.
9. Getty Villa
The Getty Villa is the sister museum of the Getty Museum, situated along the Malibu coast. The museum features Greek and Roman art and remnants from the Stone Age all through the fall of the Roman empire.
You can walk through the herb garden, watch the fountains, and visit their many gardens. This museum is also free except for parking.
10. Autry Museum
The Autry Museum is dedicated to the southwest culture of California (aka, cowboys!). Visit the ethnobotanical garden outdoors (including a waterfall), watch a tour of California, and look at pueblo pottery.
Also, the parking lot is pretty close to the entrance, so one thing I’ve done to save money is to pack lunch and leave it in the car. That way, I didn’t have to tote a heavy bag with me the whole time, but could also eat a homemade lunch instead of buying from the cafe.
Seeing animals up close and personal is a must for every child! Thankfully, Los Angeles offers several ways to observe a variety of animals. Take a look at my favorites:
11. Los Angeles Zoo
The Los Angeles Zoo is a sight to see, from giraffes to elephants to gorillas and lions. As always, try to go early so your kids don’t have to fight the crowds to see the animals. You might want to pre-purchase your tickets as well to avoid the lines to get in.
12. Aquarium of the Pacific
Located in Long Beach, the Aquarium of the Pacific features sea creatures from the Pacific coast. Get a glimpse of water animals, like penguins, jellies, otters, and sharks. There’s so much to see at the aquarium!
Tip: Another nearby aquarium is the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium located in San Pedro.
13. Underwood Family Farms
At Underwood Family Farms, you can pick fresh strawberries, fruits, and veggies (for a low price, too). You can take a fun tractor ride to the fields and fill your bags with fresh produce. Don’t be surprised if your kids suddenly love eating the green beans they picked, by the way!
Besides picking your own produce, you can also feed the farm animals (bring quarters to buy animal food), go on pony rides, and play in the toy trains, slides, and tunnels.
I suggest bringing your own food to eat at the picnic areas, as they don’t have many options for lunch. And they only have portable potties, so come prepared!
14. Wildlife Learning Center
I had first heard of the Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar when they visited my kids’ school. They house rescues and wild mammals, like sloths (which were much faster than I assumed) and monkeys, as well as owls, tortoises, reptiles, and amphibians.
This is a smaller site, so they don’t have any places to eat, and won’t take the whole day to visit. But it’s a great quick trip that supports a good cause. A similar rescue center is one in Culver City called Star Eco Station, another favorite of ours.
Amusement parks and venues
We’ve taken our kids to a few of the nearby theme parks around, like:
15. Adventure City
When my twins were turning two, we celebrated by taking the family to Adventure City in Anaheim. It’s less of an amusement park and more of a huge carnival and fair. Still, this was perfect for my little kids, who could enjoy the toddler-friendly rides.
16. Universal Studios
One of the first “big” amusement parks I took my kids to was Universal Studios Hollywood. It has a variety of rides for both big and little kids and isn’t too large that you can’t see everything in one day. Watch special effects shows, take a studio tour on the tram to see how movies are made, and go on age-appropriate rides.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Super Nintendo World. I also suggest getting a fast pass so you don’t have to wait in line.
17. Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park is home to Snoopy and the gang. This amusement park is small enough that you can visit nearly every area in a day (though likely not go on every ride).
I was surprised to see that Knott’s has a ton of roller coaster rides, especially geared toward big kids. But there’s still plenty to do for little kids, including toddler roller coasters, rides, shows, and entertainment.
Visit the first of the Walt Disney theme parks in Orange County, right below Los Angeles. Disneyland is about an hour’s drive and offers plenty of the beloved characters many kids have grown to love.
The newer attractions include Star Wars rides, and of course, classic rides like It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. For older kids, consider The Haunted Mansion as well as Splash Mountain.
Buy the fast pass to skip the long lines, but you need to download the Disneyland app to book time slots. I also recommend prioritizing your top two rides and heading straight there the minute you enter to avoid the crowds.
Los Angeles is known for its wonderful weather, including the outdoors. From trail hikes to gardens, below are some of our family favorites to check out:
19. Sturtevant Falls
Sturtevant Falls is one of my favorite hikes because it boasts a beautiful waterfall at the end. You’ll also cross plenty of creeks and even pass cabins where people stay. It’s truly an awe-inspiring hike with plenty to explore, but still doable for kids.
That said, note that the hike is a 3.3-mile hike, and has a steep uphill climb on your way back to the lot. You’ll also have to guide your kids to step on rocks and cross water. Baby carriers work great for little ones—otherwise, wait until they’re a good 3-4 years old to make the trek.
20. Wilacre Park
I love bringing my kids outdoors, and Wilacre Park is an awesome hike for young children. We first took our twins when they were under 2 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 (a rarity when out in nature!).
21. UCLA Botanical Garden
I love visiting college campuses, and UCLA is no exception. One of the touristy things we do is walk through the UCLA Botanical Garden, a hidden gem on campus. You’ll find huge trees 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 a souvenir shop.
22. Fern Dell at Griffith Park
Griffith Park is like our Central Park in that there’s so much stuff to do in this one “park,” like horseback riding and the Griffith Observatory. One of my favorites? Walking through Fern Dell.
The path includes tons of shade so you don’t get hot. You’ll also walk by the water, especially after the rain. It’s a fantastic walk in nature that’s not too difficult for little ones.
And since you’re already at Griffith Park, another fun thing to check out is the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium. Go early because otherwise you’re left with street parking, which means a huge hike up the mountain. This can be difficult for little kids (or parents pushing strollers).
23. South Coast Botanic Garden
In the South Bay is another botanical garden I recommend. The South Coast Botanic Garden is a huge garden that you’ll probably only get to see a bite-size piece of. But it’s kid-friendly with tons of paths and walkways to appeal to young kids (including a children’s garden!).
24. Los Angeles Arboretum
One of our recent outings was to the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia, where you can take a stroll through various gardens and trees. Expect to see plenty of beautiful peacocks strutting around, as well as a lake filled with ducks galore.
Los Angeles has plenty of beaches along the Pacific Ocean, and everyone has their favorite. We may not have pristine, crystal-clear beaches or white sand, but we do love soaking up the sun and playing along the coast. Below are some of my favorite spots to check out:
25. Manhattan Beach
It’s been our tradition that on the last day of school, we take the kids to get ice cream and sit on the sandy shores of Manhattan Beach. You can also explore Downtown Manhattan Beach, which is just a quick walk from the shore.
26. Marina Del Rey
Rent bicycles, eat ice cream, and visit Fisherman’s Village all within Marina Del Rey. My old coworkers even rented a boat for a happy hour, should you be inclined to sail away.
27. The Water Bus
During the summer, Marina del Rey also 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 at Fisherman’s Village because of the large parking lot and eateries. Then, take a midway break at Mother’s Beach so you can set up a spot on the sand or have your kids play in the playground.
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 at the Fisherman’s Village, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurants nearby (I like the lasagna at Sapori Italian Restaurant).
28. Playa Del Rey
Before buying our current house, we used to live a mere 15 minutes away from the beach. Playa Del Rey was one of my “secret” spots, where I could, more often than not, find a good, free parking spot and walk straight to the shores.
Tip: To find the secret spot, search for the Del Rey Lagoon Park. Grab a parking spot either at the park or along the street, and simply cross the fence toward the shore.
Shopping and sight-seeing
I never thought I’d take my kids shopping “for fun,” but sometimes these places are so out of the world you simply have to. Take a look at a few of my favorite shopping and sight-seeing spots to take my kids:
29. The Grove and Farmers Market
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 they have a large children’s area.
30. Third Street Promenade
At Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, you can check out fountains, sidewalk entertainment, and plenty of stores.
If your kids get antsy, head to the mall, Santa Monica Place, and straight to Samo’s Clubhouse. This is a children’s play area shaped like a ship in the middle of the food court.
31. Santa Monica Pier
Near Third Street Promenade is the Santa Monica Pier. You’ll find carnival rides like a Ferris wheel and restaurants along the pier, or visit an aquarium and catch a few outdoor shows, especially during the summer.
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 in 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
- Venice Beach
- West LA
I’m 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.
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