Living in Los Angeles, I know how lucky I am to be a mom in a city with great weather 95% of the time. And with great weather come lots of cool places to visit that are mostly outdoors. I posted these a while ago but many of you are new to reading so I wanted to revisit for any end-of-summer adventures you may be planning since these are still our faves. So here are my favorite family friendly places to visit in Los Angeles for those of you who live here or are planning a visit.
1. LACMA & The La Brea Tar Pits. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a great spot to visit for way more than art. Since it is in our neighborhood we’ve really gotten the chance to experience its full potential. You can grab a yummy latte or pastry at Coffee & Milk to drink while you watch your kids run around in the noodles. The noodles is actually an art installation that you can walk through and play in and everyone, young and old, loves to play hide and seek and take selfies in it. I have a taken a series of photos with Charlie in the noodles since our first visit there when he was around 18 months old, and with Calvin since he was in my belly, and shared them on instagram with the hashtag #charlielovestheyellownoodles so I could compare all of them over the years (or as long as instagram and hashtags are in existence). This is definitely my kids’ favorite spot at LACMA.
LACMA has an amazing program called NEXGEN, where kids are allowed to become members for free, and one adult is free with their membership as well, so we can basically go see any exhibit or activity that isn’t in a limited run (where you need to buy a special ticket). The LACMA campus is adjacent to the famed La Brea Tar Pits, so we walk through those to chat with the mammoths on our way to the museum. Charlie also loves to “climb the tree” and “roll down the big hill.” Basically there are about 50 kinds of fun in one spot, depending on his mood that day.
I love to visit the Children’s Art Room, where you can paint and make messes and someone else cleans it up! Because I have a car-obsessed 4-year-old boy, we also visit the Metropolis II exhibit by Chris Burden (it’s like a matchbox car city on steroids that runs for an hour on and then an hour off on the weekends and is impressive even to grown ups). We walk under what Charlie calls “the big rock” but everyone else calls Levitated Mass (I call it the Pisa of LA because tourists are constantly taking photos of themselves “holding up” the rock. Do it at your own risk of looking like a total tourist. But I did it in Pisa, and I’m sure the locals there think that’s lame too, so no judgement…) We also did a family photoshoot there just before I got pregnant with Calvin since it is one of our favorite places.
A visit to LACMA is never complete without a visit to the “pretty lights.” We like to play hide-and-seek and take photos, and if you have the chance to see it at night it is breathtaking (but we’re rarely out after dark with the kids – it’s the plight of parents everywhere). And then we hop across the street to have lunch at one of the many yummy food trucks parked along Wilshire Blvd before we walk home. The LACMA Cafe is also really good for lunch.
2. The Original Farmer’s Market & The Grove. I recommend that anyone visiting LA go to the Original LA Farmer’s Market. (It is over 75 years old!) You will find every kind of food represented. (Our favorites are Loteria, Charlie’s, and The French Crepe Company, but there are so many great spots.) It’s loud enough that your kids won’t bother anyone, and everyone can order food from wherever they want and then sit cafeteria style at one of the outdoor tables. There are also souvenir shops, coffee spots, and great people watching. Oh, and two beer & wine bars. Then walk next door to The Grove. The kids will love the Dylan’s Candy and the American Girl store, and if you go to the third floor of Barnes & Noble there is a children’s play area with lots of toys and books perfect for younger kids. Another huge hit with the kiddos—the koi fish pond with dancing fountains. There’s also a movie theater if you want to catch a movie.
3. Griffith Park. Griffith Park is great in general. You can hike, picnic, and play. But if you have kids, the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round is a must-visit if you’re in the area. It was built in 1926, and Walt Disney used to visit with his daughters and was inspired to build Disneyland.
Both girls and boys will love the Travel Town Museum, located in Griffith Park. See retired train cars and engines, and you can even climb on a couple. There is a train ride and a museum. Oh, and it’s free (you can make entrance donations). It is perfect for both short or long visits, and is close enough to both the zoo and the merry-go-round that you could do them all in the same visit. We also frequently visit and love the LA Zoo, but if you’re visiting from a city that has its own zoo, you can skip it. (It isn’t the most impressive zoo I’ve ever been to.) But if you’d like to visit a zoo it is a fun place to spend an afternoon.
Finally, the gem of Griffith Park is the Griffith Park Observatory. The kids will love exploring and learning about space, there’s a planetarium show and one viewing a day is for kids 4 and under, and the views are hard to beat. The on-site cafe is great for lunch as well. There are also some great hiking trails that start/end at the Observatory. Even if you don’t want to do a full hike with little ones, they will love exploring a bit of the trail.
4. The Calfornia Science Center. A huge gem in the city is the California Science Center. With so much to do for kids of all ages, you could literally spend all day there if you want to. And the best part — it’s free! You do need $10 cash to park in the adjacent lots, but that’s nothing compared to what you get during your visit. There is just about every kind of activity you can think of related to science: from the human body to bugs, to sea life (with an aquarium), space, and of course, it is the home of the Endeavor. Definitely worth a visit.
We also love to visit the Natural History Museum, which is on the same campus (so you can walk over after visiting the Science Center without paying more for parking). But it isn’t free. If you’re local, I highly recommend a membership (it gets you into the Page Museum at the Tar Pits as well!). The dinos alone are worth a visit but there is a great butterfly pavillion (seasonal) and lots of other things to see as well (below).
5. Santa Monica Pier/Beach. My last pick is a hard choice because there are a few great beach locations with piers (Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, etc.), but I chose the Santa Monica Pier because overall it offers the most bang for your buck. Plus, it is the closest to the other locations in Los Angeles, and if you want to make it a day, its proximity to the Annenberg Beach House is perfect (another great spot on a warm beach day). There are fun rides, decent food, and beautiful views. Fun for all ages.
6. Santa Monica Airport
This place is a gem and so much fun for all of your plane-obsessed littles. You can park right next to the airport, walk up to the observation deck (just look for the elevator or stairs to take you up by the Typhoon restaurant), and watch small airplanes take off and land till your heart’s content. There are tables and chairs, so bring a lunch! Best of all, it is FREE and never crowded.
What are your favorite places to visit in Los Angeles? You can follow me on instagram or snapchat (I’m chandrafredrick there) for peeks into our family adventures and see more favorites under the #OLDsfaveplacesinLA feed on instagram.
(photo credits: photos 1, 4 & 9 by Jennifer Roper, the rest by me, all property of Chandra Fredrick)