Cagney Jarvis, an LA Mom of two girls ages 7 and 10, was interviewed for this post.
With temperate weather and year-round activities, Los Angeles is a perfect vacation destination. Families should know that the LA area is sprawling and the best way to approach sightseeing is to divide and conquer. Rent a car, figure out what you want to do, and plan accordingly. Do you want beach, museums, or nature?
The beauty of Los Angeles is that there are many diverse and interesting experiences and attractions within driving distance for a day trip. Note, traffic and parking are notoriously horrible — plan for just 1-2 activities per day. Disneyland, of course, is a main kid-friendly attraction, but is located in Orange County and subsequently excluded from list.
Santa Monica beach and pier
Santa Monica and Venice Beach
The Santa Monica Pier is an iconic Los Angeles landmark – it truly appeals to all ages and is a fun outing for the family. Depending on the kids’ ages you can stroll the pier, take a ride on the carousel or the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, visit the aquarium or play games in the arcade. After you have exhausted your feet or your wallet, grab a bite to eat at one of the pier restaurants and enjoy the view.
If you still have energy, rent a bike and follow the beach trail south to Venice Beach. This is a gorgeous, quintessential California experience; there is a playground on the beach for the little ones and people watching for everyone else
La Brea Tar Pits
The centrally located La Brea Tar Pits are a popular field trip for school children and families. The museum is home to over 3 million fossils from the last Ice Age; think saber-toothed cats, wholly mammoths and giant ground sloths. Peruse the fossils indoors then walk outside to the tar pits and you may find paleontologists at work excavating Pit 91 (summer months only). The outdoor grounds are perfect for a picnic or drive to the landmark Los Angeles Farmers Market and The Grove LA for a variety of good ethnic and American fast food or sit-down options.
Griffith Park is LA’s Central Park. It’s an oasis for city residents and many visit simply to hike and take in nature. Highlights of the park include the recently renovated Griffith Park Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo and the very popular Travel Town which is every train-fascinated child’s dream. The park is large and spread out so it’s a good idea to plan your trip ahead of time.
On your way to or from Griffith Park you may want make a detour and visit the renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame and Mann’s (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theater, home to many movie premieres. Dressed up characters like Batman and Spiderman are usually strolling the area, available for photo opportunities. Across the street from the Chinese Theater, the Disney-owned El Capitan Theater always features the latest Disney movie, usually with a live show at the beginning. If the latest first-run movie is not showing, they play the classics. A little bit of Disney meets Hollywood, plus the theater is old and beautiful. Note, the Hollywood area takes on an adult feel at night, so it’s best to visit with children during the day.
Exposition Park near downtown Los Angeles is surrounded by the USC campus and is home to the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center (free admission) and IMAX theatre and the Rose Garden – a beautiful spot to picnic and burn off some energy. The Discovery Center in the Natural History museum is good first stop with younger children who will have fun digging for dinosaur bones and touching everything, including on special days, some freaky looking insects and reptiles.
The Huntington Gardens are located in Pasadena, approximately 30 minutes from downtown LA. There are over 100 acres open to the public with many different gardens — including the kid-appealing Children’s, Japanese, Chinese, Jungle and Lily Ponds gardens. Lots of open space means kids can run and explore at their pace. While there is no picnicking on the grounds, The Tea Room and Café serve family-friendly food options. Note: the free admission day (the first Thursday of the month) here is extremely popular and may not be your best bet for a relaxing visit.
Orange County with kids – springtime activities
Los Angeles with kids – museums
Choosing between Disneyland Hotels