Things to do in Santa Monica

Things to Do in Santa Monica With Kids

You won’t have to jump through hoops to make lasting memories with your kids in Santa Monica, where adventure awaits around every corner.

Santa Monica might make you think of beautiful sun-kissed beaches. It’s a stunning city, featured heavily in movies for its sights and favorable Mediterranean climate. We feel at home here, loving all things fantastical, quirky, artsy, and beautiful.

While it’s a vibrant tourist hub in its own right, it might not be the first pick for families. Sure, you won’t find Southern California’s world-renowned amusement parks here, but there’s so much to see and so many things to do in Santa Monica.

Your whole family can find something to enjoy in this city, from its museums and entertainment venues to its stellar collection of beaches and outdoor activities.

Outdoor Activities

Outdoor opportunities abound in this sparkling gem of a city by the sea. From wandering through popular tourist hubs, such as the Santa Monica Pier, to visiting local community attractions, spending all day outside in the salty, fresh air is easy.

Of course, some obvious choices would be checking out themed events, such as the 4th of July parade in Santa Monica. But, if it’s not quite the season, these picks will more than suffice in the meantime.

1. Santa Monica Pier

At the Santa Monica Pier, opportunities for family-friendly fun are endless. You could easily come back dozens of times and still find new things to do with each visit. Street performers stroll around, and there’s always something new going on.

We recommend the Santa Monica Trapeze School on the pier. There, people of all skill levels learn the basics of the tricks we perform on stage, from the static trapeze to dancing in midair on aerial silks.

Children as young as six can sign up for a 1-day class, but if you’re a local or you’ll be in the area longer, we strongly recommend taking several lessons. It’ll give you a whole new appreciation for the skill and dedication that our performers put into their craft when you watch our next show.

Photographer: Venti Views

2. Palisades Park

Once upon a time, this stretch of land was little more than a dusty bluff dotted with eucalyptus trees. However, it underwent a stunning transformation when Palisades Park was donated to the city in 1892.

As of 2007, it’s become one of Santa Monica’s beloved landmarks on Ocean Avenue, where people flock for the spectacular bay views. Here, scenic views and public art displays flank historic buildings.

While meandering to appreciate the trees and rose gardens, be mindful to respect the fences blocking off access to the cliffs. They’re prone to landslides and erosion, making them unsafe to climb.

3. Annenberg Community Beach House

A visit to the Annenberg Community Beach House will surely please people of all ages. This community amenity welcomes everyone with a historic pool and views of the sea that most of the world can only dream of seeing.

It sits on the grounds of the Marion Davies Guest House, which you can tour at select hours to get a taste of local life in the 1920s. Children, in particular, discover a haven for fun here. Their adventures come to life before their eyes as they tackle the playground or run through the splash pad.

If you’re looking for something more structured, sign your children up for some classes and community activities hosted here, such as outdoor gym sessions and stand-up paddleboarding.

Educational and Cultural Experiences

Any time you visit a city as famous as Santa Monica, tourist attractions aren’t the only things worth exploring. Educational and cultural experiences in this city are ripe with fun opportunities. The things to do with kids in this city are so immersive and engaging that they won’t even realize they’re learning.

4. Heal the Bay Aquarium at Santa Monica Pier

When you visit the Santa Monica Pier, you don't want to miss the Heal the Bay Aquarium. It’s built underneath the pier at beach level, underneath the carousel. While smaller than many big-city aquariums, it’s still a spectacle to behold. Here, you’ll come face-to-face with over 100 species of the region’s diverse marine life.

Treat your children to exciting and educational experiences they won’t soon forget as opportunities to learn about marine science unfold. The touch tanks, which house safe-to-handle species, are a family favorite. Small sharks, rays, and starfish are just a few of the sea animals in them.

Photographer: naomi tamar

5. California Heritage Museum

The California Heritage Museum might look like an unassuming residential house from the outside, but the interior is anything but. It was built in the late 19th century by genius architect Sumner P. Hunt, blending Victorian Queen Anne revival and colonial styles.

The entire building was relocated to its current location in 1977, and it's since been named an Official City Landmark. Inside is a testament to the diverse cultures of the region.

Its historic halls display brightly colored works of art and photographs that will impress your little ones. You’ll also find temporary exhibits showcasing some of the state’s most creative artists and essential events.

6. Museum of Flying

We take to the skies pretty much daily with our acrobatics, but most people keep their feet firmly planted on the ground most of the time. Soar to new heights at the Museum of Flying, which is located in the Santa Monica Airport and offers 22,000 square feet of exhibits. It’s a dream come true for the young aviators in your family.

Founded by Donald Douglas Jr., the second president of the Douglas Aircraft Company, this museum heavily emphasizes local aviation history. You’ll discover nearly two dozen aircraft alongside art, memorabilia from aviators, and artifacts on display.

Of course, you’ll also find other exciting exhibits, such as vintage World War II fighter planes. What children often enjoy the most, however, is the education center, where they can get hands-on with their learning.

7. Santa Monica History Museum

This city by the sea has a rich history, which you’ll explore at the Santa Monica History Museum.

The permanent exhibits delve into topics such as the native Tongva people and why the beach has become integral to the city’s livelihood. While they’re complex topics, they’re also introduced in ways that even younger children can easily digest and appreciate.

One particularly interesting exhibit your kids will love is the Donald Douglas Aircraft, which invites visitors to take a trip back in time to World War II. Step into the body of a Douglas C-47 Skytrain replica and learn why they were so integral to the war’s efforts.

Entertainment and Recreation

The people of Santa Monica are no strangers to fun times. These entertainment and recreation opportunities are some of the most beloved in the area.

8. Pacific Park

Your time at the Santa Monica Pier isn’t complete if you don’t pop into Pacific Park at least once. Sure, the beach is fun, but your kids will go bananas for the rides at this beachside amusement park. We recommend checking out the Pacific Wheel, the park’s giant Ferris wheel, for an unforgettable sight.

Between the rides, check out some carnival games. If you win, you’ll walk away with a prize, such as a ginormous stuffed animal bigger than your kids. Some games even promise kids will win every time.

Photographer: Viviana Rishe

9. Playland Arcade

Playland Arcade on Santa Monica Pier is just a hop, skip, and jump from Pacific Park. This historic indoor arcade is perfect for escaping the sun without ending the fun. The Gordon family opened it in 1950. The fourth generation runs it today, and it’s the oldest family-run business on the pier.

This iconic location has starred in numerous movies and television shows, making it a must-see for the movie lovers in your family. Delight in traditional arcade games, such as Skee-Ball, pinball machines, and claw games, or try your hand at more modern cabinet games while you collect tickets.

When it’s time to wrap up for the day, take your winnings to the prize counter and walk away with a fun memento to take home.

Photographer: Yara

10. Santa Monica Public Library

As much fun as exploring Santa Monica's attractions is, sometimes, you need a more low-key adventure for your day. At the Santa Monica Public Library, you’ll discover endless worlds, stories, and friends within the pages of the books.

As weavers of grand tales, we love escaping reality by finding ourselves nestled into a comfy chair with a good book. The library also offers a robust program of events for children, teens, families, and adults.

From story time to themed clubs and special events, there’s always something going on here, and it all encourages a love for literacy.

11. Ice at Santa Monica

Winters in this city might not be snow-filled wonderlands, but you can still join in some chilly fun. In the heart of downtown, near all sorts of opportunities for Santa Monica shopping, you’ll find something unique to the area. Ice at Santa Monica runs from November to mid-January and has over 8,000 sq. ft. of ice.

Take some skating lessons or take to the ice yourself, twirling and gliding across the shimmering surface as effortlessly as our performers fly through the air. The littlest ones in your family can get in on the fun, too. It has a dedicated 400-square-foot rink just for them.

For more casual vibes, visit Netflix Family Nights and other themed events throughout the season. Or, rent a fire pit with reserved seats and a s’mores kit loaded with everything you’ll need to make some delectable treats as a nightcap.

Photographer: weston m

Parks and Playgrounds

There’s nothing like a playground to inspire a child’s imagination. The swings can become a dragon flying them to far-off lands. The climbing equipment can transform into a castle, jungle, or dungeon to traverse on creative journeys that’ll exercise your kid’s mind as much as their body.

12. Virginia Avenue Park

At Virginia Avenue Park, the playground is a haven for little adventurers, but it wasn’t always that way.

Initially, a park and adjacent grocery store parking lot took up the space, but the land underwent extensive renovations, transforming it into the beloved destination it is today. It was designed with California’s signature eco-consciousness in mind, with drought-tolerant planting and using recycled materials throughout.

The natural appeal for kids is the chance to beat the heat at the free splash pad during the summer months. It runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, inviting children to play to their heart’s content and catch a little reprieve from the warm temperatures.

Set up a picnic or use one of the on-site public barbecues for a day of good eats while the children roam, or pack up the bikes for a fun excursion.

13. Douglas Park

The Douglas family’s influences stretch far beyond aircraft and museums, which rings true at Douglas Park. It sits atop a former aircraft factory site and has a vibrant playground that's currently under renovation.

This park will feature universally accessible equipment in summer 2025, beckoning children of all abilities to join the games. Once the construction is complete, it will be an excellent urban park addition to the community.

Special Events and Festivals

Special events and festivals reveal a lot about a city’s values and local culture. In Santa Monica, sustainability shines through everything it has to offer.

14. Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets

The area is brimming with small farmers and entrepreneurs, many of whom gather at Santa Monica's farmers’ markets. Grab your bags or baskets and explore the stalls, discovering farm-fresh morsels, beautiful flower displays, artisan crafts and foods, and so much more.

Four farmers' markets operate in the area, offering numerous chances to entice and stimulate your senses as you explore. Make it family-friendly by getting your children involved by trying new foods or helping pick out produce from the displays.

Dining and Treats

After a day of excursions and adventures, you’ll discover no shortage of food options. At this Santa Monica restaurant, the excitement continues on the beachside, where you can take a breather while your kids play in the sand.

15. Perry’s Café & Rentals

In Santa Monica, eating on the beach is a way of life, and Perry’s Café elevates the entire experience. Beaches and butlers may not seem to go together, but here, they absolutely do.

Pop in for an afternoon of good eats at alfresco cafés right on the sand, savoring organic foods with many ingredients sourced from local farmers’ markets.

If you’re a tourist who didn’t come toting your surfboard or bike, check out the equipment rentals here. You can rent surfboards, bikes, and other beach equipment for a day jam-packed with beachy vibes and endless fun under the sun.

Creating Lasting Memories: Family Fun in Santa Monica

Whether you call this grand city home or you’re just passing through, one thing rings true — family fun is everywhere if you know where to look. While you’re here, opportunities to make memories of a lifetime are around every corner. If you need a new, family-friendly experience, bring the kids to see one of our shows.

At our shows in Santa Monica, we shine as brightly as the sunset over the bay. We dazzle with our honed skills, like the street performers meandering through Santa Monica Pier. Most importantly, we strive to evoke the senses and inspire dreams in those who come to see our artistry in motion.

With stunning costumes, even more impressive feats of athleticism, and stories that defy conformity and limitations, we put our hearts into each performance. We look forward to seeing your family in our audience.

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