Families flock to the City of Angels because of the sunny weather, great things to do with kids, and perhaps with the secret wish of seeing a celebrity. Most know of the star-studded streets of Hollywood and the beautiful beaches, and some may even think that Disneyland is in LA (although it isn’t) but what they may not know is Los Angeles offers hidden gems of museums, art, interesting history, shopping, open spaces, and culture that are just waiting for families to discover and enjoy. This list of the top 10 things to do in Los Angeles with kids will guide your family to many of these wonderful family-friendly places.
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The sidewalks aren’t made of gold, and celebrities are not found on every corner, but kids can still get star-struck in Hollywood. The Walk of Fame is found on 15 blocks of Hollywood streets but the best place to enjoy them is on Hollywood Blvd. Compare footprints and handprints of stars in front of TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly known as Grauman’s or Mann’s). Take a tour of the Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars. Enjoy a live musical stage show at the historic El Capitan Theatre which makes the movie presentation that follows even more special. Great shopping and dining are across the street at the Hollywood & Highland Complex. Head to Guinness World Records or to Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood Wax Museum for more star-struck fun.
9. The Getty Center
An impressive collection of European art resides at the state-of-the-art Getty Center on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. Galleries spread across four pavilions display medieval art, impressionist classics such as Van Gogh’s “Irises,” and 17th century Baroque art. Families rave about the outdoor gardens and hands-on activities in the Family Room where kids can draw, build, and explore art in their own way. Older kids and adults may enjoy participating in the free sketching gallery by picking up paper and supplies and trying their hand at drawing based on a painting or sculpture.
8. Cultural Experiences
Los Angeles is a true melting pot of cultures from around the world. The neighborhoods of LA reflect their history and values in their shops, restaurants, and museums that are perfect to enjoy with kids. The “birthplace of Los Angeles” is Olvera Street where visitors flock to hear great Mexican music, taste delicious foods, and shop the colorful vendor shops. The Dragon Gate stands at the entrance of Chinatown, just a couple blocks away. Many Southern Californians love to visit Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and to discover Jewish heritage in the Fairfax district, the Skirball Museum (home to the Noah’s Ark display that kids love), the LA Museum of the Holocaust, and the Museum of Tolerance.
Discover the ethnic diversity of Los Angeles by visiting these Ethnic Neighborhoods and Cultural Activities.
7. The Grove and Original Farmer’s Market
Farm fresh produce, old fashioned ice cream, bakeries, and a fresh selection of meats is what has made LA’s Farmers Market a favorite shopping destination since 1934. Today’s shoppers come for the great grocery selections along with a variety of small eateries, unique shops, and open-air patios. A short trolley ride takes shoppers to The Grove – a modern shopping experience with entertainment, great restaurants, and fine retailers. Young girls love to drag their moms to American Girl Place where they can get all the accessories for their favorite dolls and take tea with them.
6. California Science Center & Natural History Museum
One of the largest hands-on science museums that is designed with kids in mind is the California Science Center, located in Exposition Park. Walk through a rain forest, interact with science experiments, or let toddlers explore the Discovery Centers designed just for them. Don’t miss the incredible experience of walking under the Space Shuttle Endeavour and learning what it is like to fly in space. Visiting the Natural History Museum, right next door, is a dream come true for dinosaur-loving kids. Not to mention those who love to see animals, bugs, and meteors too!
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5. Beaches – Dockweiler State Beach & Venice Beach
The Pacific Ocean beckons every visitor to Los Angeles and walking along the sandy shores is a must. Families head to Dockweiler State Beach to enjoy a day of swimming, surfing, playing volleyball, riding bikes/scooters/skates on the bike path, and roasting marshmallows in the fire rings while the sun sets over the ocean. Venice Beach invites visitors to shop along the boardwalk with funky stores or to watch street performers who entertain visitors with their singing, acrobatic skills, fortune telling, and more. Perhaps people-watching is the most entertaining aspect of Venice Beach with all the wild hair, tattoos, and outlandish clothing that can be spotted at this famous beach.
4. Downtown Walking Tour
Explore the hip, cultural, and historical sections of Downtown LA on foot. Discover beautiful museums, gaze at art work found in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, walk among statues in the Music Center, and play in gardens tucked in unusual places, such as the roof of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There seems to be a fountain found on every block of the Civic Center which kids can play in and enjoy. The new Great Park even has a Starbucks for parents to kick up their feet while kids splash in the huge wading fountain with views that stretch towards City Hall. Kids will especially love the 360 degree view at the top of City Hall (visit weekdays), riding the shortest railway of Angel’s Flight, and reading to their hearts content in the Children’s Section of the historic Los Angeles Central Library. Enjoy lunch at Grand Central Market to round out the day.
Read tips and reviews for a Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles.
3. La Brea Tar Pits
Take a walk around the La Brea Tar Pits, explore the Page Museum, and be transported back in time. A walk around the Lake Pit (which is really an old tar pit that got filled with water run off) to see the methane bubbles forming and to smell the oily asphalt stench hat will help kids understand how thousands of years ago animals got stuck in the oozing tar. Kids will love exploring the fossils and learning about archaeology at the George C. Page Museum with its hands-on exhibits. Don’t miss walking around Hancock Park where you can gaze down into Pit 91 and see archaeologists extracting fossils from the cold tar. Project 23 is just to the other side where other scientists are examining all the specimens that were unearthed when excavating the ground for a new parking structure nearby.
2. Studio Tours, Game Shows & TV Show Tapings
See the stars in action at one of the many TV show tapings at a studio lot that has their home in LA such as Warner Bros., Sony, Paramount, and Universal. Better yet, become a star as one of the lucky guests on a game show. Tickets can be difficult to get, but the show taping could be the experience of a lifetime. Most tapings have minimum age limits for kids but can be perfect for teenagers. Universal Studios Hollywood is the most fun place to encounter movie making in a theme park setting.
Explore Hollywood & Celebrity Themed Fun with Kids in LA
1. Griffith Park
The world-class Griffith Observatory sits high on a hill overlooking Los Angeles and is a magnet for visitors with its telescopes, Foucault pendulum that moves with the rotation of the earth, and excellent displays on astronomy. Most of the displays and telescopes are FREE to the public (which makes this place spectacular) but guests will also enjoy the planetarium presentations at an extra cost. Many hiking trails start right at the observatory and attract explorers looking for a great walk, beautiful views, and a chance to get up close and personal with the Hollywood sign. Griffith Park is full of lots of gems that families love including Travel Town – a place to see historic trains and ride a mini track train. Spend a day at the Los Angeles Zoo and enjoy interacting with the animals. Enjoy a picnic under the trees, or catch a concert at the Greek Theatre. It could take days to enjoy all that Griffith Park has to offer.
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Explore our Guide to Griffith Park with Kids.
It isn’t just movie stars that are famous in LA. Several great restaurants debuted in Southern California and Los Angeles and the lines out their doors prove why they are still so amazing. Feel famous yourself with a double-double in one hand and animal fries in the other from In-N-Out. Their burgers and fries are fresh, delicious, and totally affordable as a family. You might spot a celebrity in line for a unique hot dog from Pink’s in Hollywood. Stop at Philippe the Original outside of Chinatown for the famed French dipped beef, turkey, pork, ham and lamb sandwiches. The Original Tommy’s still attracts locals and tourists alike to their stand-up counter and amazing chili topping burgers, dogs, and fries. If you eat burgers at the U-shaped counter of the Apple Pan, you may catch a glimpse of a celebrity coming for lunch from the nearby 20th Century Fox studios. You can still enjoy a Hot-Dog-on-a-Stick at the original stand on Muscle Beach next to Santa Monica. The Original El Tepeyac Cafe draws local Angelinos for their legendary burritos that could feed several people (or a bunch of kids!). Los Angeles isn’t just about hot dogs and burgers. A new wave of incredible food can be found every day at the culinary creations called Food Trucks. They are famous in their own right and even have websites that track their locations. Stop at one and taste the varied culture of Los Angeles!
Lots of options abound in Los Angeles for family-friendly accommodations. See who made Trekaroo’s list in our post dedicated to our picks for top kid-friendly hotels in Los Angeles.
Must-Do Day Trips
The beach-side town of Santa Monica appeals to kids and parents alike with it’s sandy shore and carnival rides on the pier. Interact with wildlife at the aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier or enjoy shopping at the boutiques and candy stores of 3rd Street Promenade. Relax on a blanket at Palisades Park, watch the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean, and enjoy the perfect SoCal evening.
Find out more fun things to do with kids in Santa Monica.
Spend a day plumbing the treasure of the ocean at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Get out on the ocean with Harbor Breeze Cruises for a whale watching trip and learn about these massive mammals from an Aquarium of the Pacific biologist. Tour the historic ocean liner, the Queen Mary, and discover why she is so beautiful inside (and if you are daring, why she is supposedly haunted). Enjoy dinner at one of the fun themed restaurants of Rainbow Harbor such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. or Famous Dave’s BBQ. Or leave Long Beach all together by catching a ferry to Catalina Island for a day of fun and adventure.
Disneyland and California Adventure
Of course, this is one day trip that your kids will be begging you to take. It is the Happiest Place on Earth after all!
Find everything you need to know about visiting the Disneyland Resort from our First Timers Guide to Disneyland and our Disneyland Resort Review Guide filled with links to tips and reviews of the rides, hotels, and restaurants of Disney.
Do you have a Teenager or Tween you are taking to LA? Check out our guide of the Top Things to do in Los Angeles with Teens and Tweens
Want more kid-friendly fun in California? Check out our top ten things for families to do in California!
Special thanks to Katie Bodell, Sharlene Earnshaw, and Heather Erquiaga for their contributions to this article. Lead image by Bigstock/EpicStockMedia