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Photograph: Michael Juliano

The best things to do with kids in L.A.

With books, bowling, museums and mini golf, it’s easy to keep little ones entertained with these things to do in L.A. with kids

By Alexa Joy Sherman and Time Out contributors

Looking for things to do in Los Angeles with kids to keep your small ones smiling (aside from a trip to Disneyland, of course)? Boredom leads to bad moods for even the most angelic of children, so keep the yawns (and tantrums) at bay with our exhaustive list of things to do in L.A. with kids. Whether you’re in Hollywood, Venice or the Valley, we have picks designed to help you not only meet, but exceed the expectations of even the toughest tiny customers—be they bookworms, speed demons or petite patrons of the arts.

Best kids activities in L.A.

Wildlife Learning Center
Photograph: Courtesy Wildlife Learning Center

1. Wildlife Learning Center

Attractions Animal rescue homes San Fernando Valley

Walk around the leafy grounds of this suburban Sylmar sanctuary to see everything from monkeys to foxes—and school trips and birthday parties. For hands-on photo ops, request a close encounter with a porcupine, a Siberian lynx, a two-toed sloth or an impossibly adorable fennec fox. Make sure to say hi to Zeus, the starry-eyed blind owl in the gift shop.

2. Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Things to do Highland Park

Nothing says childhood entertainment quite like a puppet show, and the longest-running marionette theater company in the nation delivers, big-time. Tykes truly delight in watching the marionettes come to life in the darkened theater space—and afterwards being treated to free ice cream and a backstage tour.

Marine Mammal Care Center
Photograph: Courtesy Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles

3. Marine Mammal Care Center

Attractions Animal rescue homes San Pedro

This San Pedro rehabilitation center scoops up distressed marine mammals along the coast between Long Beach and Malibu in hopes of reintroducing them to the ocean. Though these stories can be sad—sudden blindness, a shark bite—the mood stays light thanks to a cordial crew of volunteers and a comical chorus of sea lion barks. Viewing is restricted to a sidewalk outside the fences—close enough to see the sweet faces of belly-flopping baby elephant seals.

Moonlight Rollerway
Photograph: Courtesy Moonlight Rollerway

4. Moonlight Rollerway

Things to do Glendale

This kitschy Glendale rink (it’s been open since 1950) holds a variety of events and classes: Saturday mornings, for example, are for children only, while Sunday evenings offer a family night. Moonlight has rollerskates for hire, but not blades or inline skates. Regular roller skater? Buy a pair for you or your child at the rink’s “pro shop.”

Los Angeles Zoo
Photograph: Michael Juliano

5. Los Angeles Zoo

Things to do Griffith Park

The L.A. Zoo’s greatest asset is its location, a lush oasis tucked into the hills of Griffith Park. It’s a pretty popular place, but the zoo’s size—133 acres, plus a huge parking lot—means that it rarely feels crowded. Kids will love to see the elephants and repitles, as well as to take a ride on the beautifully painted Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel.

6. Shane’s Inspiration

Things to do Griffith Park

As the first universally accessible playground in the Western U.S. and the largest in the nation, this popular playground is a gem. Kids can make like astronauts inside a spaceship, man the controls in an airplane cockpit, access their inner pirates and safely land on the soft, rubberized surface beneath the many slides, swings, monkey bars, zip lines and much, much more.

Sea otters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Photograph: Hugh Ryono, courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific

7. Aquarium of the Pacific

Things to do Long Beach

Dedicated as much to education as entertainment, this aquarium more than justifies the drive down to Long Beach. Inevitably, the shark lagoon and its touchable habitat is the most popular exhibit. Other highlights include the adorable sea otter habitat as well as a low-key exhibition about whales. Much of the rest of the aquarium is divided geographically: loveable sea lions in the Southern California section, all kinds of garish fish in the tropical Pacific area and a variety of exotic creatures in the Gulf of California exhibit.

Kidspace Children's Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Kidspace Children's Museum

8. Kidspace Children’s Museum

Things to do Pasadena

This popular interactive children’s museum holds a wide variety of exhibits and entertainment, including the kaleidoscope entrance, educational gardens and the “splash dance” water feature in the central courtyard, the perfect way to cool down on a baking valley afternoon. Pasadena’s young ’uns are lucky to have it on their doorsteps.

Travel Town
Photograph: Michael Juliano

9. Travel Town/Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum

Museums Transportation Griffith Park

The northwest corner of Griffith Park is the destination for train enthusiasts and curious kids. Travel Town, open all week, is a railroad petting zoo full of historic rail stock that also does a good job explaining how the railroads helped build Southern California. Lovers of things that go choo-choo should be sure to visit the park on a Sunday, when the neighboring Los Angeles Live Steamers section is open for railheads. Kids clamor to come here again and again to ride a miniature train around more than a mile of track.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

10. California Science Center

Museums Science and technology USC/Exposition Park

Permanent exhibit galleries at this kid-friendly Exposition Park museum explore life sciences, human innovation and powered flight. But the real attraction here is the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was very pubicly paraded through L.A. to reach its temporary home at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion—a permanent structure slated to display the ship upright is in the works. While the rest of the museum is free, Endeavour requires $3 time tickets on weekends, a bargain to come face to face with one of this country’s most iconic engineering marvels.

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