Things to do with Kids in L.A.
Having lived on the East Coast for most of my life, I rarely get a chance to visit L.A., or California for that matter. But I’ve always known that some day early in in my kids’ lives I wanted to show them the West Coast, particularly sunny, beautiful California. L.A. would be the perfect place to start I thought – what with its palm trees, beaches, sunshine, glamour and good food, L.A. with kids would make for the ultimate FUN family vacation. And that it did.
L.A. is huge and sprawling and there is SO MUCH to do, that narrowing it all down in our 5 day stay was challenging – but we managed to do a lot. Below is a list of things to do in L.A. with kids. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s most definitely a fun one, and all things I think a family would want to do. It includes one day itineraries, such as our day out in Venice, our 1 day in Hollywood itinerary, a fun day trip to Malibu, among other things. L.A. with kids is really so much fun – this vibrant city on the sea makes for a fabulous family vacation!
Before I get to my list I just want to note that it does not include Universal Studios and Disneyland, though those are obviously two popular choices of things to do. For some people, a trip to L.A. is their only chance to experience these theme parks. For us, it wasn’t – we had already done both in Orlando – and didn’t want to spend what little time we had on a theme park. But for many families these two theme parks will reign high on the list.
Fun Things to do with kids in L.A.
Beach it up at the Santa Monica State Beach and the Santa Monica Pier
One of the big draws of both living in and visiting L.A. is its location on the Pacific Ocean. A visit to the beach is a must! The Santa Monica beach is quite large, at 3.5 miles long, and offers visitors a chance to enjoy the beach from many different entry points. It’s right in the heart of Santa Monica so getting to it is easy, and the overall vibe fun and happening since it’s right there in the city. There are bike paths that run along the beach as well, so you can enjoy a bike ride or walk with amazing views if you so choose.
In the middle of Santa Monica Beach is the Santa Monica Pier – you know, the one you see in all the movies, the one with the big, iconic Ferris wheel, and the one you can’t visit L.A. without taking the kids to! The Santa Monica Pier is such a historical symbol of L.A., built in 1909, and has that old-world feel the minute you approach it. There are amusement park rides, games, restaurants, shops, and you can even go fishing too. What sets this park apart from others is its position on the Pacific – taking the roller coaster ride literally makes you feel high above the water at points. My kids loved this pier and didn’t want to leave.
Spend the day in Venice
Artsy, bohemian Venice beach is not just for adults! In fact, my girls proclaimed our day in Venice as their favorite day of the trip. There is so much action and entertainment going on in Venice, that it’s the perfect spot to have some fun with the kids. Of course, you can spend time on the beach. But then there is a whole world of other things to do too. A walk along the boardwalk (Ocean Front Walk) is a must, what with its funky shops, restaurants, street entertainers, and total characters milling about. There are a lot of bric-a-brac shops and it’s the perfect place to look for souvenirs.
Famed Muscle Beach is here, where you can watch all the muscle guys working out, and the Venice Skate Park is a lot of fun too, where you can see all sorts of talented skateboarders performing their tricks. There is a ton of street art and wall murals, and thanks to Hilary with HilaryStyle she pointed out some of the more famous pieces. Venice is also known for its street performers, which like in NYC, my girls have a blast watching. Away from the boardwalk, do not miss a chance at walking around all the Venice Canals, truly a unique part of the city! And for some ice cream after, head to Salt n Straw on Abbot Kinney Blvd, and peruse the shops while the kids eat. Venice is such a vibrant part of L.A., and one where the kids are sure to have fun, as literally everything is eye-candy! You can read my own dedicated post on Venice here.
Check out the Hollywood Sign
The first thing my younger daughter said when I told the kids we were going to L.A. was, “I want to see the Hollywood sign!”. This cultural icon is not to be missed among children as well! They’ve seen it in the movies, in T.V. shows, in books, you name it, they were eager to see it. The 45 foot high and 352 feet long sign is located on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills. If you are renting a car, there are several viewpoints you can see it from, and if you don’t have a car, don’t fret, there are bus shuttles that take you to it as well. You can read all about how to see it and which vantage point is best for you on the Hollywood Sign website.
Stroll along Hollywood Boulevard
Albeit not the nicest street, and highly touristy, my girls just had to see all the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We saw a ton of celebrities’ stars, but the favorite was of course Daniel Radcliffe’s of Harry Potter fame. Nearby is the El Capitan theater (owned by Disney and a fun building to see) and the Chinese theater, where you can view the foot and hand prints of celebrities. This was fun for the girls, just like the stars, but I will say it was really crowded and I kind of couldn’t wait to get out! If you want to check out where the Oscars are held, the Dolby theater is right there as well, but my girls could pretty much care less. Ha!
Go for an enchanting peek at the Garden of Oz
This very secret spot in Beachwood Canyon is appointment only, and even most Los Angles residents don’t know about it. However, my aunt and her private intel, were able to secure an appointment for us in this whimsical take on the Wizard of Oz. What seems at first a tiny little garden opens up into a huge space of whimsy and munchkinland-esque décor. Thousands of colorful mosaics grace the garden full of staircases, thrones, platforms and secret reading spots. It’s one of the more unusual sites I’ve seen, and one in which the kids dawdled their time away looking wide-eyed at all the detail. A garden for “the child in all of us”, this was a unique and completely off the radar thing to do. I can’t leave contact info. on this post, however if you’d like to see it, please comment below.
Visit the Griffith Observatory
Perched on a hill on Mount Hollywood, people come to the Griffith Observatory as much for the views as for the science rooms and planetarium. And if you’ve seen the movie La La Land then you’ll really want to come! Not only are the views spectacular, but the observatory itself is great for the kids. Also, if you’re unable to view the Hollywood Sign on your own, you can see it from the observatory. It’s a great view, actually. Just be forewarned that parking at the observatory can be very difficult – go early in the day if you want to try and park in the lot or along the road close to the building.
Take a day trip to Malibu
Honestly, what is not to love about Malibu, the low-key and beautiful surfer chic town just 25 minutes north of L.A. I highly recommend a day trip visit if your schedule allows! It’s also a nice respite from the city, and allows you some of the most incredible views of the Pacific to be had. We spent the day at Paradise Cove, a magical little nook just off the PCH, nestled amongst the limestone cliffs Malibu is so famous for. There were lounge beds, a good restaurant, a pier and more to explore. Indeed it was total and utter paradise! There is a ton more to do in Malibu as well, including other beaches, the Malibu Country Mart, restaurants, shopping and more.
Go to some of L.A.’s Museums
Our first afternoon in L.A. we spent at the Getty Center. Known for its outdoor gardens just as much as its collection of art, we actually only spent time outside. It was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon and we were perfectly content strolling around the diverse selection of gardens. There is also the Getty Villa, which we did not visit, but another pretty spot to let the kids run around. I wish we had time for La Brea Tar Pits, the collection and excavation site of Ice Age fossils. I hear it’s very cool. And right near that is LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which always has fun exhibitions. Those are just some of the museums that would be good choices of where to take the kids.
And those are our picks for some of the best things to do in L.A. with kids. If you have anything you’d like to add, please leave in the comment section below.