Los Angeles is a huge, sprawling city with no shortage of fun activities for people of all ages. Still, a place this big can be a bit intimidating when trying to plan out your visit, especially if you have to contend with keeping children (or God forbid teenagers) entertained. If you are visiting Los Angeles as a tourist with children, this is the place to be. Comment below if you have any fun places for kids in Los Angeles that you’d like us to add to the list!
We’ll tell you a little bit about each location and what you can expect, as well as any associated costs and about how much time you might want to spend there. You’ll also be able to find some general links to each location for more info if available.
We’d all love to do something educational with our children, but sometimes you’ve gotta just give in and have some fun. In this article we’re going to do our very best to give you a nice mix of educational and pure fun for the sake of fun. We’ll start off with activities that would be most fun for young children and as we go down the list things will start to get more age-appropriate for older kids and teenagers.
The Los Angeles Zoo
The zoo is an easy one to add to the list, especially such an active zoo like the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith park. It’s pretty centrally located to most of the main highlights so you can combo this with something else earlier or later in the day if you don’t want to spend the whole day here. The Zoo sometimes does special night events with things like craft beer tasting, light shows, or other special exhibits.
This can be a fun visit for all ages, even adults, but is a no-brainer if you’ve got any animal lovers in the group. Adult tickets cost about $22 at the time of writing this. Kids get in for $17, babies under 3 get in for free. There are many great snack and treat options inside, as well as a number of food stops, so plan for some extra food expenses and maybe a few souvenirs of your favorite exhibits, or a cool zookeeper hat!
The Cayton Children’s Museum
The Cayton Children’s Museum is a nonprofit organization all about creating fun, educational, and interactive experiences that children really enjoy and want to return to again and again. There are over 20 exhibits in this museum, all of them completely interactive. Things like a giant bubble wall, a wind tunnel, large structures for kids to climb through, and a lot more.
Young kids will really love this place, and it is active enough that they might even take a nap in the car on the way home. Tickets are currently $16 per person, and with this museum located right in Downtown Santa Monica you can easily turn this visit into a beach day, check out the Santa Monica Pier, stroll down the sand to Venice Beach on a 10-minute walk, or head north to Malibu or the Getty Museum.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is a fun & vibrant place to visit with children. There is a ferris wheel, rollercoaster, and a bunch of other carnival rides available. The bumper cars are a personal favorite of my kids at night. Plenty of food options, seafood and otherwise, and there are also usually street performers set up at various points of the boardwalk for a free off-beat performance of one type or another.
The pricing at the Pier is pretty flexible. You can buy ride passes that cover an unlimited amount of rides, or you can pay for individual rides if you only want to do one or two things. The unlimited wrist bands are about $40 per person. I would suggest bringing some cash for the carnival games because it makes the process a whole lot easier as well. Check out this post to learn more about the Pier and some of the food options available/ history behind the location.
The carnival portion of the pier is known as the Pacific Park (https://pacpark.com/)
La Brea Tar Pits & Museum
Remember how we said that we’d try to give you a nice mix of educational and fun times? Well this one leans a bit more on the educational side of things, but the Tar Pits do have beautiful, grassy grounds that are great for a picnic after you’ve explored the exhibits. The Tar Pits sits in the center of what is known as Los Angeles’ Museum Row – so if you want to plan a museum day and visit a few different museums in one go, this is a great place to head to for a picnic lunch if you bring the supplies. There are live, bubbling tar pits that you can view (and smell) while walking the grounds, but don’t worry there are areas of the park where you can’t smell much at all.
Within the larger tarpits are exhibits of wooly mammoths being sucked into the tar, showing how the immense amount of fossils are now found in the tar. Not only that, the Tar Pits is in fact still an active excavation site so you can actually sometimes see the various scientists working on one thing or another, and special events are held where kids can learn more about the work being done and the discoveries being made. For showtimes, upcoming events & more, visit their website below.
The El Capitan Theater
The El Capitan Theater is a special Hollywood theater designed specifically for families. It is owned and operated by Disney, and positioned right next to the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They decorate the interior of the theater and often times hold special performances before movies play within the theater. This is a specially attractive idea if there is a big Disney movie hitting the theaters, you’ll definitely be ab le to catch it at the El Capitan in style.
Like any theater, the concessions are always a bit expensive. Ticket prices are comparable to the average ticket prices in Los Angeles, if not just a bit more pricey because of the extra spectacles. After the movie plan to grab some Sundaes at Ghirardelli’s next store, or take a stroll up and down The Hollywood Walk of Fame for souvenirs and street performances.
Echo Park Lake
Echo Park Lake is a unique place in Los Angeles. It’s a nice lake with swan boat rentals, but you’re essentially surrounded by freeway on-ramps and have a great view of the Downtown LA cityscape in the distance. There are tennis courts available during the day if you’ve got any tennis players on your hands just down the road from the lake, and you can easily kill an hour or two renting a couple of swan boats to paddle around the lake and maybe have a picnic afterwards.
Pro tip: bring a loaf of bread to feed the ducks, kids will really get a kick out of this one. Just be sure to have them throw the food down on the floor instead of feeding them by hand! $11s for 1 hour of boat rentals for adults, $6 for kids 17 and under. The boats light up at night, so if you’re in the area later in the afternoon a night ride on the lake could be fun.
The Last Bookstore
This is hands down one of the coolest places in Los Angeles, featuring Harry Potter-esque bookshelves and an endless collection of rare and interesting titles for kids and adults alike, The Last Bookstore will leave a lasting impression on literally anyone that comes in here. We’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but the children’s section is on the first floor for any actual shopping you might want to do while here.
Perhaps one of the most appealing parts of this place for kids is not the books themselves, but rather all the Instagram-worthy photo opportunities throughout the store. You’ve got a tunnel made entirely out of books, a section called the Labyrinth where books are sorted entirely by the color of the case, and tons of neat interior design and mind-bending visuals to simply enjoy or use as the backdrop of your next profile pic.
Entry is completely free – you’ll only pay for the purchases you make. While definitely a popular place to visit, it usually isn’t too crowded so you are free to visit here casually most days of the week.
Griffith Park Observatory
Going to the movies is alright, but what if you went ahead and put the ultra high-resolution screen and put it on the inside of a dome? Install special headrests on the chairs so you can look straight up comfortably, slap on some educational short films made only for this one-of-a-kind screen about space and the galaxy, and you’ve got yourself a fun outing to take a group of kids to. That’s exactly what the Observatory offers during the day, and at night you can sometimes even go use real telescopes with the assistance of the pros to take a look at the stars and the planets.
The schedule at the observatory is a fluid thing, so you definitely want to check out their website and maybe even call ahead before visiting, but you can almost always catch a show inside in the theater room during the day. This is the location where the famous “knife fight” scene was filmed in “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean, so you can check out the James Dean memorial outside as well as a nice view of Hollywood & Downtown Los Angeles, you can even see clear to the beach on windy days from up here.
Travel Town Museum & Horse/Pony Riding in Griffith Park
There aren’t quite as many train-obsessed children (or parents) as their used to be, but that isn’t to say they aren’t still out there. Travel Town is an awesome train museum that will even take you on a min-train-ride through an old western ghost town. This train has been operating here in Griffith Park since 1978 – tickets are literally just a couple of dollars ($4 for adults, $3 for children.)
Not only can you ride the miniature train; right next door to the Travel Town Museum you’ll find Griffith Park’s horse rentals. There is a small course where children can ride ponies around in a circle with the help of professionals, also opportunities for horse rentals to take out on longer trails if desired. There are also some food and drink available here in Travel Town, so if you’re planning to head to the Griffith Park area this is a great way to keep the kids interested – it’s also just about as affordable as it gets for an afternoon in Los Angeles.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Theme Parks are kind of the obvious way out, but while Disneyland is an obvious choice we think Universal Studios might be overlooked just a bit as the more readily-accessible and generally a bit more affordable option. This theme park is also on theme with all things Hollywood, so if you and your group are in the celebrity spirit this might be more on-theme for everyone.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is perhaps one of the biggest draws for most kids. You can also find a Secret Life of Pets ride, Revenge of the Mummy, King Kong, Jurassic World, Transformers, Water World & more. There are various Hollywood shows that you can catch during the day, cool characters in costume walking the park: just about everything you’d expect from a high-end theme park.
Universal Studios tickets are generally about $100 per person, so it isn’t exactly cheap. You’ll also need to plan to eat inside to get your money’s worth and stay for most of the day, so expect to spend some more on food. They offer monthly payment options for annual passes – you may want to look into these if you don’t live too far or are considering coming back again later that same year.