Los Angeles is more known for red carpets and movie sets than it is for goldfish crackers and car seats, but there’s plenty of proof that families and movie stars can happily coexist. This list of the top things to do in LA with kids is so good, that you may find yourself staying a few extra days just to fit it all in.
So many Hollywood stars seem larger than life, and apparently, LA parks follow the same theme. Griffith Park is a huge municipal space that includes the Hollywood Sign, the Autry Museum of the American West, and the Los Angeles Zoo.
1. Griffith Observatory
Long before Hollywood was, well, even Hollywood, industrialist Griffith J. Griffith had a vision for what the city could become. Along with funding Griffith Park, the philanthropist drafted detailed plans for the Griffith Observatory. His goal? To make astronomy accessible to the average Joe (or the average Joey).
The building itself is an intoxicating combination of Greek elements and Beaux-Arts embellishments. Inside, aspiring astronomers can explore the cosmos via the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, use public telescopes, and take in interactive exhibits that delve into the unimaginably cast subjects of time, space shuttles, and mythology.
2. Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Help your kids reconnect with Mother Nature at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The sprawling site is home to around 2,200 animals representing 270 species — basically, if it has feathers, fur, or scales, it’s probably here.
Around 60 of those species are endangered, giving you a prime opportunity to discuss the importance of conversation in between peeks at the Campo Gorilla Reserve and playtime in the immersive Rainforest of the Americas exhibit.
3. Griffith Park Train Rides
While you’re wiggling your toes in the grass at Griffith Park, consider entertaining the kids with a Griffith Park Train Ride. It’s all aboard vintage trains like Colonel Griffith, which was built in 1982, and The Freedom Train, a streamliner from the 1950s. The track is about a mile long and it takes 10 minutes to do the loop.
Stop by during Halloween, Christmas, or Easter for themed rides. The holiday one in particular is a blast, with thousands of lights turning the trek into a sparkling spectacle.
4. Griffith Park Hike to the Hollywood Sign
Embracing outdoor spaces and kids’ activities in Los Angeles is like winning twice when you only bought one lottery ticket. You get to experience places like the lush lawns of Griffith Park.
With any luck, the kids will be tired enough to grant you a nap before it’s time to hit the city for dinner. A hike will help you tick both boxes.
There are several hiking paths that can take you from Griffith Observatory to those big. White letters. The main path up Mount Lee is an 8.8-mile round trip, but there’s a shorter, 2.65-mile hike that gets you to a stellar spot for viewing the Hollywood Sign, the Observatory, and most of LA.
Wow-Worthy Circus Acts!
Get ready to be amazed in Los Angeles! Jaw-dropping Cirque du Soleil performances are just a click away.
5. Universal Studios Hollywood
Suspend reality and step into The Entertainment Capital of LA at Universal Studios Hollywood.
There are not one but two sprawling theme parks here that contain multiple rides, shows, and play areas. Whether you have a minion-obsessed kiddo who can’t wait to train via the Despicable Me motion simulator or a future Hogwarts applicant with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on their wishlist, Universal delivers.
As you wait in line, keep an eye out for roaming characters — Scooby-Doo might try to cut in line at Three Broomsticks and steal your Butterbeer.
West of downtown LA, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, sits an enthralling, attraction-filled city called Santa Monica.
6. Santa Monica Pier
Oceanfront fun and Hollywood-style entertainment are the two major components of LA living. Both are well represented at the Santa Monica Pier. At this amusement park, you and the kids can ride a solar-powered Ferris wheel, race on the beach, go for a bike ride, test your mettle on the Frog Hopper, or learn how to Heal the Bay at the adjacent marine education center.
From watching the local street performers to shopping for gifts at a shop marking the western end of Route 66, the pier is classic American fun with a Southern California twist.
If you roped off 160 acres of prime real estate in southern Los Angeles and filled it with the top things to do in LA with kids, you’d have Exposition Park.
7. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
How can you pack 4.5 billion years of history into one building? Ask the curators at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. With 35 million specimens and artifacts on hand, the museum is an absolute gold mine of learning opportunities.
Special exhibits bring mummies and pterosaurs into modern times, and the famed Dinosaur Hall is a win with anyone who aspires to be an archaeologist.
Check the museum’s online schedule for art experiences, sing-alongs, and live animal meet-and-greets. Check the Gem and Mineral Hall to see what you’ll be asking Santa for next Christmas.
Some of the best things to do with kids in LA aren’t in Los Angeles proper. Pasadena is a bit northeast of downtown LA, but the museums and vintage architecture will make you glad you battled traffic.
8. Kidspace Children's Museum
Kidspace Children’s Museum understands that our tiniest family members somehow have the most energy. That’s why they put together 40 hands-on exhibits that blend STEM topics with mud stomping, climbing towers, and riding tricycles.
Unlike many other children’s museums, Kidspace has stretched its exhibit space into the great outdoors. It’s like a nature preserve and a museum rolled into one, and even the resident skunks approve.
9. Angels Flight Railway (DTLA)
You might know Angels Flight Railway as the site of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s romantic ride in the movie La La Land (swoon!). But your kids will soon know it as the adrenaline-boosting ride that takes them up Bunker Hill so they don’t have to walk. The funicular (a fancy name for a train-style cable car) is 118 years old and has given 100 million rides over the last century or so. It’s also the shortest railway in LA.
Be part of the next 100 million and enjoy incredible views of the city once you reach the top.
Close your eyes. Imagine the most playful waterfront city that ever existed. Congratulations — you just pictured the endlessly vibrant city that is Long Beach.
10. Aquarium of the Pacific
The hardest part about visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific is figuring out how to see everything when you don’t have months to get it all done. The Tropical Reef Habitat is a good starting point.
There are three viewing spots around the 350,000-gallon tank, acting as meet-and-greet portals between humans and fish, sea turtles, and sharks. But don’t linger too long — the seahorse exhibit, shark lagoon, lorikeet aviary, and sea otter habitat all need some attention, too.
When the kids get peckish, unpack your picnic out in the plaza or visit Cafe Scuba for pizza and burgers. Then, once you’re back home, you can check in on your new besties by tapping into the aquarium’s live exhibit views via their website.
Anaheim is home to some key professional sports teams, but it’s the Mouse House that truly put this Southern California city on the map.
Disneyland is perfect for young fans and the young at heart. Zigzag between classic attractions (It’s a Small World) and newer spots like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
When it’s time to dine, there are plenty of unique restaurants in Los Angeles to choose from. For example, the Red Rose Taverne is a must-visit spot that offers a one-of-a-kind experience, complete with dancing candelabras (sold separately). If you're in the mood for something sweet, check out Cafe Orleans for their delicious beignets covered in powdered sugar. No matter where you go, you're guaranteed to encounter a lively atmosphere with plenty of characters, parades, and surprises around every corner.
Los Angeles Union Station is regarded by those in the know as the last of the great stations. The building’s architecture is a dynamic blend of Spanish Colonial, Art Deco, and Mission Revival detailing. Its history and role in transporting troops during World War II have helped make it a national treasure.
12. LA Union Station Trains
Visit Union Station in LA and you can eat, rent a bike, get your shoes shined, grab the Dodger Express to watch a baseball game, play the station piano, shop the kiosks, or take a guided tour of the station’s artwork. But arguably the best way to see what train life is all about is to actually ride a train.
Amtrak, Metro, and Metrolink all operate here, connecting travelers with a network of trains that web to the far corners of the United States. Let a train ride be your introduction to LA, and the kids will see a side of travel few members of younger generations ever experience.
Even if you decide to fly, stopping by the station to observe the hustle and bustle and see the trains zipping can make for a fun afternoon.
Brentwood is quiet, sophisticated, and full of markets and eateries friendly for the entire family — the perfect spot for a world-class museum that welcomes adults and kids alike.
13. Getty Museum
The Brentwood arm of the Getty Museum is a cultural refuge, safeguarding copious amounts of paintings, drawings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, photographs, and other treasures. That’s all tucked inside a building that gives off serious castle vibes — but no worries, this isn’t a member ’s-only situation.
The museum welcomes 1.8 million visitors every year, and they all come to see masterpieces like van Gogh’s Irises and Rembrandt’s An Old Man in Military Costume. But there are also fascinating, genre-straddling exhibits like Paris Then and Now, which show turn-of-the-century photos by Eugene Atget next to pictures of the same locales taken in modern times.
As the more studious kids find meaning in Graphic Design in the Middle Ages, seek out your own moment of zen in the Central Garden. It has 134,000 square feet of elaborate landscaping, including multiple water features, brightly colored bougainvillea, and connections to the sculpture-filled Lower Terrace Garden and eco-friendly Cactus Garden.
Back in the day, mammoths roamed the stretch of dirt now known as Miracle Mile. And, in some places, their bones are still around to tell the tale.
14. La Brea Tar Pits
For most people, the closest they’ll ever get to the bones of ancient animals is behind velvet ropes at our friendly neighborhood natural history museum. But the La Brea Tar Pits is an actual — and still active — dig site right in the middle of Los Angeles.
Here, hundreds of species of vertebrates (plus some plants and invertebrates) have been found preserved under layers of crude oil and asphalt. The on-site museum tells the story of excavation efforts, but the real magic is walking around the puts and seeing the life-sized models recreating scenes that may have occurred in prehistoric times.
On your way to La Brea, impress your kids with this fun fact: There has only been one set of human remains found in the pit. In 1914, researchers found a partial skeleton of a young woman believed to have lived around 10,220 years ago.
Hollywood is a city inside a city where the American film industry not only lives but thrives. Here, tourists line up to get a glimpse of superstars, and the next generation of silver screen idols is waiting in the wings to make their mark.
15. Hollywood Sign
We’ve covered the ways you can hike from Griffith Park to the Hollywood Sign, creating a multifaceted day of exploration that includes several must-see places in LA But what if you just want to get the kids as close to the letter H as possible without trekking up the hillside?
You can drive to a viewpoint, like the corner of Hollywood and Highland, and set up a photo op that captures the LA aesthetic from the safety of the city streets. Or, you can hop on the DASH Observatory bus, run by LADOT Transit, and head up to the sign that way.
It costs about 50 cents to ride, and you won’t have to worry about your stamina or the parking situation, which is practically priceless.
16. Hollywood Walk of Fame
Surprise! One of the top kid-friendly activities in Los Angeles is also one of the most sought-after things for adults to do in the City of Angels, too. It’s scavenger hunt time, but instead of looking for street signs or found objects, your task is to find your favorite celebrities on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
There are 2,700 names to sift through as you stroll on Hollywood Blvd from Gower to La Brea and along Vine Street between Sunset and Yucca. But if you get turned around or just can’t wait another second to get your kiddo’s picture taken next to Big Bird’s star, you can use the Star Map to zero in on our top destination.
Venice Beach used to be an independent resort town, but it’s been considered a neighborhood inside of Los Angeles since it was annexed in 1905. The canals feel Italian, but the waterfront promenades and sun-soaked lifestyle loved by locals are California to the core.
17. Venice Beach
From the cute, vine-covered restaurants along the boardwalk to the street performers swallowing fire on the sand, there’s nothing about Venice Beach that’s anything short of eye-catching and memorable.
Even if you just come to surf, swim, or sunbathe, you’ll be introducing your kids to a side of LA that’s so archetypal of the city that it’s been featured in TV shows and movies for decades.
The actual boardwalk is over 2 miles long. You can people-watch, spend time in the children’s play areas, or show the kids how they can be like Ahnold after a few hundred visits to Muscle Beach.
Burbank is basically LA central, but it’s mostly known as a prime filming location that’s served as a backdrop for hits like Top Gun, Batman Returns, and — no joke — Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
18. Warner Bros Studio Tour
Sign up for a Warner Bros Studio Tour and transport your kids to the inside of their favorite imaginary worlds. Depending on the package you choose, you could spend your hours at WB exploring filmmaking via the Storytellers Showcase, seeing how scripts make it to your screen, and zooming around the back lot like you’re an A-lister in disguise.
But it’s the recreated sets, like the gasp-inducing orange Central Perk couch from Friends and the town center used for Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow, that will have your teens texting their buddies nonstop.
Unforgettable Family Adventures Await!
Of all the possible things to do in LA with kids, one of the most unforgettable is to attend one of our shows in Los Angeles. Our shows are fantastical and joyfully surreal, stitching together hilarity and heart-pounding action to create a production worthy of such an artistic city. Snag a seat for you and the kids and make your try to Los Angeles truly complete.