In some ways, the Los Angeles area is a Mecca for children, especially if you include Anaheim, putting Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure and Mickey Mouse into the mix. For with just the Disney resorts and Universal Studios (the home of Harry Potter), L.A. has two of the world’s biggest attractions for children (and their parents); add in the numerous other museums, amusement parks and beachfront experiences found across the Southland and families with kids of all ages will discover plenty of fun to keep them occupied while visiting the City of Angels. Start at the beach with a trip to the Santa Monica Pier for some traditional carnival rides (especially good for children under eight years old) and then head for the hills, and beyond, where the massive rollercoasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain await the strong of stomach and the Griffith Observatory sparks imaginations to the stars and beyond. Universal Studios is also north of the city itself, while the always fun California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles are right in the heart of Downtown L.A. There’s plenty of choices for kids of all ages in Southern California, so many that finding time to do them all may be the biggest challenge your family has on a visit to our sunny shores.
One way or another, this museum of science and technology has been in operation since 1912, when it began as the State Exposition Building. It was remodeled in 1951 and rechristened the California Museum of Science and Industry, then it was finally completely revamped in 1998 and became the California Science Center. Admission is always free and the four permanent exhibitions are Creative World; Ecosystems; World of Life; and Air and Space, which has housed the Endeavour space shuttle since 2012. Many of the exhibits are hands-on, which means both children and adults really get the chance to understand the basic principles of science and technology.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: A fascinating introduction into the sciences for kids â” and adults will love this hands-on museum as well.
Jenny’s expert tip: Be sure to make a timed reservation to view the Endeavour space shuttle, especially on weekends or holidays. There is a $2 fee to reserve on the Internet.
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Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the Western United States. Its large complex houses a permanent collection that spans the globe covers every historical era and features everything from European to Asian and Islamic art. Don’t miss the impressive Latin American collection, which showcases pre-Columbian masterpieces, as well as works by modern and contemporary artists like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Jose Clemente Orozco. Regularly rotating temporary exhibits, constantly changing film programs, lectures, courses and special events mean that there is always something new and fascinating going on at this top-notch museum. Kids will especially love the Boone Children’s Gallery at LACMA, where they can try their hand at painting. It’s open every day except Wednesday.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Boone Children’s Gallery at LACMA is a creative place where kids are encouraged to paint with brushes and let their artistic imaginations soar.
Jenny’s expert tip: Admission on the second Tuesday of every month is free. And look for the food trucks lined outside at lunchtime for a delicious bite to eat in between galleries.
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Photo courtesy of L.A. Philharmonic Hollywood Bowl
From April to October, the Hollywood Bowl is the place in SoCal to see concerts and performances of every kind. The summer home of the L.A. Philharmonic, it’s also the spot where the Beatles and the Doors played back in the day and the venue that hosts the Playboy Jazz Festival weekend every June. There’s sometimes ballet on the beautiful bandshell stage, sometimes a classic movie musical unspools with the whole audience singing along, and other times rock, country, Latin or pop musicians belt out their tunes. Bring your own picnic, book tickets for a show that features singalongs with classic kids’ movies like “The Sound of Music,” “Star Wars” and “Annie,” and the whole family is sure to have a blast at the Bowl.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Hollywood Bowl has been a Los Angeles institution since 1922, a stunning outdoor music amphitheater located just on the edge of Hollywood.
Jenny’s expert tip: Bring your own picnic basket to any of the shows at the Hollywood Bowl, but remember to use a carrier with wheels, for it’s a long, often steep walk from the parking lots to your seats.
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Photo courtesy of Jenny Peters
Situated on 4200-plus acres in the Santa Monica Mountains, Griffith Park is home to a number of museums and outdoor attractions. Inside the park you’ll find the Los Angeles Zoo, the Autry National Center (a museum dedicated to the American West) and the Griffith Observatory, as well as the famous merry-go-round, the L.A. Equestrian Center, Travel Town Museum (all about transportation) and the venerable Greek Theatre outdoor performance space. Plus, there are plenty of hiking trails and bridle paths, miniature railroad rides and bike rentals, a swimming pool, tennis courts and golf courses. In other words, there’s something for everyone in Griffith Park!
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: A ride on the merry-go-round (put in place in the park in 1926) is a true delight; it was Walt Disney’s inspiration for creating Disneyland!
Jenny’s expert tip: Plan to spend a whole day in this vast Los Angeles public park â” in fact, there is so much to see and do here you might just need two!
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Roller-coaster lovers know that Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia is one of the world’s best amusement parks, boasting more hair-raising rides than any other on the planet. Fearless adventurers will find record-breaking rides like the Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, the X2, Viper, Tatsu, Goliath and the Riddler’s Revenge, the fastest stand-up coaster in the world. Plus, there are family and kids’ rides, too; nighttime shows featuring laser lights and live music; and the Looney Tunes characters can be found throughout the park. But anyone with motion sickness might prefer hitting Hurricane Harbor, the 22-acre water park that is right next door. It’s much easier on the stomach.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Six Flags Magic Mountain is chockablock with many of the world’s most death-defying roller-coaster rides. It’s a legendary destination for coaster fanatics.
Jenny’s expert tip: Grab a FLASH Pass and you’ll go to the front of all the lines; with a Platinum FLASH Pass, you can even stay on your favorite coaster and ride twice.
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Dinosaurs, insects, African mammals, cool rocks and more – what kid wouldn’t be entranced? The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles has some great exhibits. In Dinosaur Hall, you can visit one of the ten most completed Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons in the world. Another exhibit popular with families is the Insect Zoo, which serves to educate visitors about the many different types of insect species in the world – with many live ones on display, some which kids can even touch. You can also learn about gems and minerals, endangered species and California history while visiting the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The giant dinosaur skeletons here will entrance your kids; then go on to learn about many other species and much more at this brilliant museum.
Jenny’s expert tip: Special Exhibits are often going on – check before you visit to find out what will be on display when you’re there as you may want to schedule in more time to visit the museum.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
If you believe, like Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, in the transformative power of observation, then the Griffith Observatory is the L.A. museum for you and your children. Located in the park that also bears that philanthropist’s name, the observatory was recently renovated completely (it originally opened in 1935), but it still offers free public telescope viewing on every clear night in the city. Look up into the universe with the historic Zeiss telescope, the famed coelostat (solar telescope) or the portable telescopes on the lawn and a whole new perspective opens up in the sky. Be sure to visit the Samuel Oschin Planetarium for one of the in-depth shows, but note that there is an admission fee for those. Everything else, including parking, is free at the Griffith Observatory.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Fascinating shows about the universe combine with a chance to take a hike in the hills, giving budding astronomers a perfect day in the park.
Jenny’s expert tip: Be sure to be in line for one of the outdoor telescopes well before 9:30 p.m. or you may not get a glimpse of the stars up close.
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The Santa Monica Pier is the most iconic spot in Santa Monica, the place that first comes to most people’s minds when they think of Santa Monica. It’s a long, wide pier that is packed with fun things to do. A roller coaster, Ferris wheel and other rides await, colorfully curling against the skyline and providing a lit-up atmosphere at night. Carnival-style games also line the pier along with carnival foods and other eateries. There are plenty of souvenir shops, too, at this great family spot. And be sure to bring bathing suits, towels and sand toys as well, since the beach and ocean beckon right below the famous pier. Spend the whole day here and we guarantee that your kids will sleep like babies by the time you arrive back home.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Ever wanted to pretend you’re part of a circus? You’re in luck. There’s a trapeze school on the Santa Monica Pier.
Jenny’s expert tip: Across the street from the pier is a popular part of Santa Monica for walking about and shopping and grabbing something to eat.
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Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios is the real thing, a working movie studio that also happens to have a theme park attached to it. Which means visitors get the chance to go right onto the lot to see where some of their favorite movies and television shows are made â” think the “Psycho” house, the “Desperate Housewives” neighborhood, the “Back to the Future” town square and much more. Take the Studio Tour for unique insights into how Hollywood really works. Stay for the rest of the rides there too, including the Fast and Furious â” Supercharged, Transformers The Ride 3D, WaterWorld, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, and be sure to allow lots of time to see everything The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer, too. Summer 2019 brings Jurassic World: The Ride into the mix, for dinosaur lovers of all ages.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Universal Studios Hollywood is a unique, unbeatable combination of a working film studio, exciting movie-based theme park and CityWalk, a shopping, theater and restaurant extravaganza.
Jenny’s expert tip: Book the VIP Experience and you’ll have a personal behind-the-scenes studio tour guide and front-of-the-line access to all the theme park’s rides. Breakfast, lunch and valet parking are also included.
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Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort
Disneyland is Walt Disney’s original vision for “the happiest place on earth,” and more than 60 years later it remains just that. Begin with a walk down Main Street and end with the fireworks-filled parade and laser light shows that happen every evening. In between, take in all the big rides â” the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones and the Haunted House â” and make sure to meet Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and all their friends, too. Don’t miss Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and spend another day next door at Disney’s California Adventure Park, where Pixar characters rule. And as of May 2019, the Force will be with the Mouse, as the much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge section of Disneyland opens. For a behind-the-scenes look at both the parks, book an Adventures by Disney trip and you’ll get lots of insider experiences.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The most famous theme park in the world, Disneyland Resort has been making L.A. locals and visitors alike very happy since it opened in 1955.
Jenny’s expert tip: Be sure to take advantage of FASTPASS tickets to beat the lines; look for the ticket kiosks near the most popular rides and get a reserved time to ride, instead of standing in line.
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