Stumped on what to do with kids in Los Angeles? Don't worry, I've got you covered! There is so much going on in this iconic west coast town and so many different areas that are spread out over a vast (and traffic-lodged) city that it's hard to narrow down where to go and what to do. There's nothing worse than spending the entire day driving around from place to place with little ones or getting stuck in heavy traffic with a baby screaming in the back, so I've narrowed down the best kid activities in Los Angeles that will allow you to head to one spot and spend the entire day exploring that area with your kids in tow.
6 Kid-Friendly Adventures In LA
The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art is the perfect place to introduce young kids to art in a fun and interesting way! With their NextGen program, the museum is free for children under 18 and each child can bring in an adult for free. There is a free art studio for children where they can color, paint, and create their own works of art to bring home and lots of exhibits that are child-friendly. Make sure you see:
- Boone Children's Gallery where you and your child can create your own art.
- Jesús Rafael Soto's rain of rubber tubing that is Penetrable in Neon Lime. The boys called spaghetti and couldn't stop running back and forth through it.
- Chris Burden's Urban Light structures that provoked multiple games of hide-and-seek.
- Barbara Kruger's romper-room-sized elevator that the kids will enjoy riding in.
- Chris Burden's Metropolis II that is emulates a fast-paced city with buildings built from blocks, trains that go around the outer edges, and 100's of Hot Wheels that race around the steel roadways at 240 scale miles per hour. This was the boy's favorite exhibit at the museum and they spent about a half hour just mesmerized by the racing cars. If you have boys, make sure you stop by this exhibit before you go!
- Walk under Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass", a giant boulder that sits atop a pathway at the back of the building.
- There was so much to see and do here that the boys and I spent the entire day here. On Friday evenings in the summer, LACMA hosts a free jazz concert outside in front of the Urban Light structure. Bring a picnic blanket and take-out and find a seat on the grass. The kids can run around and play in the grass and sand or watch the swing dancers take over the dance floor. The museum stays open late so that you can also wander around the museum when you're done listening to jazz.
The La Brea Tar Pits
Located right next to LACMA, you could do both the La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA in one day (we did!) The La Brea Tar Pits themselves are actually free to the public and you can walk around the tar pits and read the signs on what they found in each pit. A lot of them still have tar pockets seeping up from the ground and there is currently an excavation happening in Pit 91 where you can watch them in action. While there, you can check out the Page museum to learn about wooly mammoths, mastadons, and dire wolves, and see fossils that were dug out right outside. My four year old loved this museum and hasn't stopped talking about it.
Only 15 minutes or so from Hollywood, Griffith Park will transport you out of the hustle and bustle of L.A. and right into nature. You can easily spend an entire day here and not run out of things to do. Everything is either free or very reasonable, just make sure you bring cash since most of the places we went to were cash only. So what to do once you arrive at Griffith Park...
- Start at the Griffith Park Observatory (before the kids are tired). You will get a fabulous view (possibly the best) of the city, have a chance to look through telescopes, and can explore exhibits. This is geared more towards adults, but my four year old loved the telescopes. And once you're done, there is plenty of kid activities.
- Griffith Park Pony Rides - They have slow and fast ponies. Holden chose the fast pony and trotted around the track twice. He looked terrified, but held on and was so proud of himself. Choose the slow pony for younger kids.
- Griffith Park miniature train rides - both the boys loved this and it's located right beside the pony rides so you can do one after the other.
- Travel Town Museum and train rides - shares the history of the railroad transportation with classic railroad engines on display and a miniature railway that you can ride on around the museum.
- Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round
- Spokes N' Stuff - A bike rental shop that will allow you to explore the park by bicycle. They have trailers that you can use for younger children. Once we mentioned that there were bike rentals, there was no getting around this with my four year old.
- Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
- Shane Inspiration Playground
- Picnic on the Grass
The Batcave and the Hollywood Sign
If you aren't from Los Angeles, seeing the Hollywood sign is a must as it's one of the most iconic symbols of Southern California. The Bronson Caves are a fun way to take the whole family to see the Hollywood sign because the kids will enjoy the caves and you can still snap a photo of the whole family in front of the Hollywood sign. The Bronson Caves are man-made and have been used in lots of movies and TV shows (known as the "Bat Cave" in the Batman TV Series). The hike to get there is easy enough for toddlers and then they can spend hours running in and out of the caves. We ended up doing this hike when the other hikes to the Hollywood sign were SO packed that we couldn't find a parking spot. Despite it being crazy everywhere else, Bronson Caves were isolated and there were only a handful of people exploring the caves with us. At the end of the hike, you'll get a view of the Hollywood sign.
Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica
The most kid-friendly beach in the city of Los Angeles, the Annenberg Community Beach House is open and free to the public (although there is a daily fee to use the pool). There's parking, a pool, playground, splash pad, game room, changing area, restrooms, and cafe. There's also a concrete walkway all the way down to the water for those with strollers (which means no huffing through the sand trying to pull or push your stroller 100 feet). After spending time in the sand and surf, you can swim in the pool, let the kids play at the playground, or stop into the game room for some fun.
Santa Monica Pier
There is nothing my kids love more than carnival rides so this is a must for us anytime we are in the area. It is very touristy and in the summer it is packed, but my boys never had to wait in line for a ride other than the ferris wheel. To save money, get an all-day wristband for your little one otherwise it's $5 per ride which can get expensive if they end up riding all of them. And don't forget to take a ride on the iconic ferris wheel - the view from the top is breathtaking. When you're done riding all the rides, hit the Santa Monica Pier aquarium that is located underneath the boardwalk. It's the perfect size and has a lot of mesmerizing sea creatures like an octopus, sharks, sea horses, and a touch tank. For added fun, there is also a family scavenger hunt around the pier that you can all do together. You can print it here or pick it up at the aquarium window.