When you think of Los Angeles, you usually think of nightlife on the Sunset Strip and high-end shopping at places like Rodeo Drive. What you may not realize is that Los Angeles can actually be just as much fun for kids to visit as it is for the 21 and older crowd. Here’s a list of the best things to do in L.A. if your traveling partners are not old enough for the swanky Hollywood club scene.
Children's Attractions in Los Angeles: Top 10 Kid Friendly Museums, Parks, and More in L.A.
Image Credit: Joe Cooke
1. Santa Monica Pier
Built more than 100 years ago, the iconic Santa Monica Pier has more to offer your little ones than just its rich history. The pier is home to Pacific Park, a year-round carnival-like amusement park with games, a food court, and rides including a Ferris wheel and even a roller coaster! With a great view of the Pacific Ocean, the pier is also a great place for your family to rent bikes and tour the area on your own. Other kid-friendly activities here: competing at the Playland Arcade, shopping for beachy souvenirs, or – if you’re really adventurous- taking a trapeze lesson at Trapeze School New York.
Santa Monica Pier is located in Santa Monica at 200 Santa Monica Pier. The pier is open all day and everyday, but Pacific Park hours vary by day, and each attraction’s hours are determined individually. Admission to the pier is always free.
2. Disneyland and California Adventure Parks
No trip to Southern California would be complete without a trip to visit Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disneyland, their original home in Anaheim. From classic rides like “it’s a small world” to thrill rides like Indiana Jones Adventure, there are attractions for children (and adults) of all ages. You also should not miss one of the park’s the parades or the music-synced evening fireworks display. Right next door, you can visit California Adventure for locally themed rides like Soarin’ Over California, and a chance to meet Frozen’s Ana and Elsa in Hollywood Land.
Disneyland and California Adventure Parks are located at 1313 Disneyland Dr. Both parks’ hours vary by season and for some holidays. Typically, Disneyland is open one hour longer than California Adventure. Ticket prices vary by how many days of admission you purchase, and if you want access to both parks or just one.
3. Pirate’s Dinner Adventure
Nearby in Buena Park is a dinner theater that the whole family will love. Pirate’s Dinner Adventure boasts a four-course meal that you can enjoy while watching an exciting live pirate adventure show that features sword fighting, stunts, and songs. Kids’ portions and vegetarian meals are available upon request, and there is a cash bar for the adults in your party.
Pirate’s Dinner Adventure is located at 7600 Beach Blvd. and has one performance on weekdays and two on weekends. General admission that includes food and non-alcoholic beverages is $59.95 for adults and $36.95 for children ages 3-11, plus taxes and fees. You can pay an additional $10 or $15 per person to upgrade to preferred seating.
4. California Science Center
If you are a museum or science buff, the best place to take your kids is the California Science Center, where the experience-oriented exhibits will keep everyone entertained while piquing their interest in science. If you have children ages seven and younger, check out the Ecosystems Discovery playroom, and, for older children, you do not want to miss a screening of the latest awe-inspiring IMAX films such as Journey to Space 3D or National Parks Adventure 3D. Also, the Science Center provides a rare opportunity to view a real space shuttle up close, as it is home to NASA’s retired Endeavour.
The California Science Center is located in Exposition Park at 700 Exposition Park Dr. and is open daily from 10am-5pm. General admission is free, but you will have to pay for IMAX tickets and some special exhibits.
5. Whale Watching with L.A. Water Front
One of the advantages of a city that sits on the coast is the chance to view wild sea life in their natural habitat and inspire an appreciation of nature in visitors of all ages. L.A. Water Front Cruises run whale-watching tours year-round, and while you are not guaranteed to see a whale, you will also be on the lookout for dolphins and sea lions. In the summer, you are most likely to see the world’s biggest whales, blue whales. During the winter months, you will watch for gray whales as they make their annual migration.
L.A. Water Front cruises is located in San Pedro at Berth 79 in Ports O’Call Village. Cruises are on weekends at 10am, 12:30pm, and 3pm. Admission is $25 for adults and $15 for children.
6. Universal Studios
Experience movie magic come to life at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. You and your family will have the chance to immerse yourself in your favorite fantasy worlds with attractions like the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Ride, the behind the scenes Studio Tour, and the Shrek 4-D show. Also, you can look forward to exploring Hogwarts Castle as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in Spring 2016. If you do not have time for a full day at the park, you can always investigate the restaurants and quirky niche shops next door at Universal City Walk.
Universal Studios Hollywood is located in Universal City at 100 Universal City Plaza. Hours of operation vary by day and season. A one-day ticket is $95 for adults and $87 for children ages 3-9. Although, the theme park is open all year, the best time to go is during the Halloween season, when the park celebrates by adding haunted houses and actors in terrifying movie makeup.
7. The Gentle Barn
Just 40 miles north of the City of Los Angeles, The Gentle Barn provides a unique opportunity for your family to personally interact with a variety of rescued domestic animals. This nonprofit sanctuary is geared towards children of all ages and is a great way to get out of the city and in to the country life. Your kids will love spoiling the pigs with belly rubs, hand feeding snacks to the horses, and hugging the massive cows.
The Gentle Barn is located in Santa Clarita at 15825 Sierra Hwy and is open to the public every Sunday from 10am-2pm. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children.
8. Dockweiler State Beach
The classic and best way to appreciate the California sunshine is with a trip to the beach. As the only Los Angeles area beach that has fire pits, Dockweiler State Beach provides a one of a kind experience. Your family will enjoy relaxing next to the ocean, playing volleyball, and snacking in the picnic areas.
Dockweiler State Beach is located in Playa del Rey at 12000 Vista Del and is open year-round from Sunrise to 10pm. Parking lot fees range from $3-$8 in the Winter and $3-$13 in the Summer. Fire pits are on a first-come, first-served basis so arrive early to secure one, especially in the summer and on weekends.
9. Griffith Observatory
Griffith Park is the second largest city park in all of California and it sits smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles. More than just a place to hike and immerse yourself in nature, though, Griffith Park is also home to a variety of other attractions. The Griffith Observatory is free to visit and learn about the solar system with interactive displays perfect for children. Free public telescopes are available for viewing each night, but make sure you are in line before the 9:30pm cutoff time.
Griffith Park is in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles and admission is free. The Griffith Observatory is located at 2800 E. Observatory Rd. and is open Tuesday through Friday 12pm-10pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am-10pm. Tickets for the live Planetarium shows are $7 for adults and $3 for children 5-12 years old. Children under 5 are only allowed in the first show of the day and must sit on an adult’s lap.
10. Travel Town Museum
Also free to the public in Griffith Park is the Travel Town Museum, an outdoor museum that explores the historical railroad industry. Your family can view the collection of classic train cars and even take a ride around the museum on the scale miniature train. This is a great activity for having fun while saving money in a city known for its expensive ticket prices.
Travel Town is located at 5200 Zoo Dr. and is open year-round Monday through Friday 10am-4pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Train ride fare is only $2.75 per person.
Visit Los Angeles
This article was written by Paula Ashlee Berg and edited by Lexi Perman.