Looking for kids activities to keep your small ones smiling? 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 LA with kids. Whether you're in Hollywood, Venice or the Valley, we've got picks designed to help you not only meet, but exceed the expectations of even the toughest tiny customers—be they devotees to independent bookstores, speed demons or petite patrons of the arts.
Best kids activities in LA
Part wildlife rescue center, part educational facility, this very family-friendly enterprise practices what it preaches in terms of environmental awareness—it was even built from recycled materials. Staff provide care for unwanted exotic animals, many of which have either been donated by the public or confiscated by governmental agencies. Families are welcome to pet an alligator or stroke a snake as they learn about endangered species, environmental concerns and how kids can make a change. A number of other exhibits add further context; call or check online for details of special events.
For tykes who prefer science and technology to ceramics and teddy bears—and who are at least 7 years old—this place takes building your own toy to a whole new level. Specializing in after-school and weekend workshops, as well as birthday parties and holiday camps, they teach budding engineers how to construct and customize their own mechanical creations. But that’s not all! When the robots are ready, kids can take them into the game arena for a battle in the center ring—or simply take them home to play with later. Note: There’s a second location in Palos Verdes.
Nothing says childhood entertainment quite like a puppet show, and the longest-running marionette theater in the nation delivers, big-time. Bob Baker learned about the art of puppetry at just 8 years old and has been making and performing with marionettes since 1945. The kitsch factor is high here—original (some worse for wear) puppets, cheesy old songs and ancient decor—but that sort of adds to the legendary vibe. In fact, it’s been declared a historic cultural monument by the City of Los Angeles, and tykes truly delight in watching the marionettes come to life in the darkened theater space. They can even purchase a puppet of their own, post-show, after being treated to free ice cream (and coffee for adults), plus a backstage tour. A variety of holiday-themed performances are especially big hits around Halloween and Christmas, and birthday party packages are also available.
The unique creation of owner Jessica Biel, Au Fudge is an exclusive kid-friendly restaurant that serves organic dishes in an upscale setting. Designed to put more fun back in taking kids out, the restaurant's menu features a mix of healthy and indulgent fare. Treat your kid to colorful Au Fudge choices like rainbow cheese cake, brightly colored spaghetti and rainbow bread, while enjoying a delicious salad. The 120-seat restaurant is not just an ideal pick for kids. Its elegant layout makes it an attractive option for a fun date. Au Fudge also features a fine selection of wines and cocktails. Located on Melrose Avenue, the restaurant also hosts a bakery that offers freshly baked wares daily.
Who doesn't love trampolines? Alas, not everyone has a backyard (or budget) big enough to accommodate one. To keep the kids from taking all that energy out on your furniture, check out Sky High Sports—an enormous warehouse where children of all ages (and children at heart) can literally bounce off the walls while high-energy pop music pipes through the sound system. Because the trampolines stretch from one wall to another (and even up them), there’s absolutely no way to fall off—and there are thick pads and court supervisors on duty to help ensure maximum safety. In addition to an area for jumpers under 52 inches tall and one for bigger bouncers, there’s another where kids can launch into a foam pit, as well as a dodge ball trampoline court. When it’s time to take a break, there’s a nice selection of video games and a small snack bar. Peace-seeking parents can also hang out in the adult lounge, complete with free Wi-Fi, plasma TVs and an electric massage chair, while still keeping an eye on their bouncing brood thanks to the surveillance cameras. Birthday parties are always a hit here, as well.
This children’s bookstore, bakery and enrichment center is a sweet spot to bring the under 8 kids. It’s divided into three kid-friendly areas: a bookstore/interactive reading room for “read to me daddy!” snuggle time (all the books are also for sale); a kids' cafe selling freshly baked cookies, milk and all sorts of healthy and allergy-sensitive snacks; and an events and activities space where baby sign language, arts and crafts and other cool classes go down. Check the website for event details.
Old MacDonald would have a serious fit of farm envy if he saw the fun kids have here. For starters, they can visit with (and in many cases feed) an array of animals, including donkeys, sheep, chickens, ducks, birds, rabbits, cows, pigs, horses, emus and alpacas—and even watch goats climb overhead on a custom-made “mountain” of balance beams. There are also various attractions, including a bounce house, electric train, petting corral and mini electric tractors. Pony rides are also available to little visitors under 4 feet tall or 75 pounds. Plus, there’s a small playground with bikes and climbing equipment, as well as climbing and sliding structures all around the grounds. The best part? You can pick your own seasonal produce (check the website to see what’s available and when), while pulling wee ones behind you in a wagon. Or, simply shop at the farmers' market near the entrance. Tons of fun events are also scheduled throughout the year, and it’s a great place for a birthday party to boot.
Some kids in the family want to go to the batting cages while other want to play mini golf and lazer tag? No need to fight over it, just head to Mulligan Family Fun Center, where kids (and adults) can do all that and more. With a rock wall, paddle boats, mini golf, an arcade, go-karts, lazer tag, a family fun zone and batting cages, there is literally something fun for everyone in the family. The center also has a picnic area and is a great spot for birthday parties.
You could comfortably spend a few hours here—even with little ones—just taking in the exhibits and the shows. The ground floor holds the Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that focus on humans' relationship to the stars; a Foucault pendulum, directly under Hugo Ballin's famed mural on the central rotunda; and the handsome, high-tech Samuel Oschin Planetarium, as well as the Tesla Coil and a pinhole camera, both favorites with kids. And downstairs, accessible via the campy displays of space-slanted jewelry in the Cosmic Connection Corridor, you'll find a number of other new exhibits. Young ones love jumping up and down to make the seismograph machine scribble, and checking out what they'd weigh on each planet.
As the first universally accessible playground in the Western U.S. and the largest in the nation, this giant, jaw-dropping gem is the most popular playground in Los Angeles, and it’s easy to see why: Kids can make like astronauts inside the “Lucky Star Chaser” spaceship, man the controls in an airplane cockpit, access their inner pirates on the “Adventure Ship,” safely land on the soft, rubberized surface beneath the many slides, swings, monkey bars, zip lines, and much, much more. If that’s not enough, it’s right in the middle of Griffith Park and all it has to offer, including the merry-go-round (which is mere steps away), pony rides, Travel Town/Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Griffith Observatory.
Featuring electric, high-performance go-karts, this indoor racetrack is the perfect spot for little speed demons and competitive kids (who meet the minimum height requirement of 50 inches) to experience life in the fast lane. Once they’re suited up in a helmet and neck-guard, they’ll compete against up to seven other people in an 11-lap junior race—there are also 16-lap races for adults. Race positions and lap times are posted on a huge scoreboard during each heat, as well as printed out for each participant as a fun souvenir documenting how they did. There’s also a selection of videogames around the perimeter of the track, and fun-filled birthday party packages are available as well.
Housed for two decades in a school gym, this popular interactive children's museum moved to a new site in 2004 after an $18 million funding drive. There's a wide variety of exhibits and entertainment, from the kaleidoscope entrance to the 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.
What started as an opulent beachfront estate built by William Randolph Hearst for Hollywood star Marion Davies in the 1920s is now a modern, community beach club open to the public, thanks to Wallis Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation, who provided $27.5 million for the transformation. Completed in 2009, the five-acre beach house accommodates a main house with a rec room for board games, Ping-Pong and classes and events; a swimming pool, a splash pad, beach volleyball and tennis courts; as well as soccer fields, canopies, a cafe and rentals for paddle boards.
Dedicated as much to education as entertainment, this spectacular 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 and the low-key but fascinating Whales: Voices of the Sea. 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.
The celebrity sightings at this spot are legendary (it’s where James Dean once bowled, and where Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz were rumored to have had their first date), but serious bowlers will likely be more impressed by the 32 lanes illuminated with runner lights (as well as the fact that there are bumpers to prevent novices from getting perpetual gutter balls seeing as it's a family-friendly joint). There's also an impressive arcade, which boasts more than 40 video games as well as a pool table and air hockey. Party packages are available as well, complete with food from Jerry’s Famous Deli next door. Bonus: Pinz participates in the Kids Bowl Free program, which gives little ones two gratis games every single day of the summer.
Specializing in music and art for babies, toddlers and preschoolers up to age 5, this Mid-Wilshire space offers a whole host of crafty classes for parents to participate in with their progeny. The “Messy Mixed Media” courses involve a variety of creative activities, including papier-mâché; sculpting with recycled wood, cardboard and clay; collage-making and more. On Thursdays, “Stories and Art” begins with a book as the inspiration for the painting that follows. Little ones can also drop in for “Messy Art” and paint up a storm at their own pace. When they’re not creating, kids can hang out in the community area where there are plenty of toys and books to keep them entertained. There’s also an on-site shop that sells healthy, mostly organic snacks, as well as cool and contemporary toys, music, children’s instruments, art supplies and books. Note: Sundays are set aside for private parties.
Especially popular if you’ve got a karate kid, this museum will be a hit with martial arts enthusiasts of all ages. Designed by artists from Walt Disney, Dreamworks and The Simpsons, the facility focuses on the history, art and culture of Asia, and its significant impact on the Western world. In addition to fun and fascinating artifacts—such as Samurai swords, Filipino knives, Korean fans and a variety of props from martial arts movies—there’s a wealth of information about film stars, including Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, as well as more recent and recognizable favorites to younger moviegoers, such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Kung Fu Panda. The museum also offers a scavenger hunt to help keep the most restless rugrats engaged and entertained.
A lot of libraries can be admittedly dingy and depressing, which is why this Beverly Hills branch is not just a breath of fresh air but a truly magical place sure to spark a lifetime love of reading. Honestly, you almost expect to hear angels bursting into song as you walk into the bright, beautifully renovated Children’s Library. In addition to the extensive collection of books and the comfy reading desks and nooks—including chairs big enough for a parent and child to curl up together—there’s a separate, enclosed play area complete with toys, puzzles and train sets, where no shushing is necessary. Kids will also be captivated by the high-ceilinged “Enchanted Woods Room,” which is adorned with art from children’s classics, such as "Alice in Wonderland" and "Winnie the Pooh," as well as the gorgeous, all-wood area where story times are offered for babies, toddlers or preschoolers throughout the week (check the website for schedule and age specifics). Bonus: There’s a Kelly’s Coffee & Fudge Factory shop located in the lobby, and free two-hour parking in the adjacent city lot.
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 like an 1880 Southern Pacific locomotive and an 1881 Union Pacific caboose 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. The whimsy extends to the museum’s “buildings,” which are actually restored full-size train cars.
This store carries more than 80,000 titles, as well as music, audio books, DVDs, puppets, stuffed animals and craft and science kits. The book selection is open-minded (gay-friendly, multi-cultural) and well-organized (it's divided into age-appropriate sections). There are cozy spots to snuggle up and read in, as well as play areas for the wee ones. Regular events include book signings and story hours.
When the major amusement parks sound too costly and colossal, this place offers kids just enough carnival-like excitement to keep them entertained without breaking the bank or killing your back. In addition kicking putt on one of the four 18-hole golf courses, kids can satisfy their need for speed behind the wheel of a go-kart at the Lit’l Indy Raceway, or unleash their aggro side at Ram Rods Bumper Cars. There are also bumper boats, a kiddie train and the seriously stomach-turning Disk’O Thrill Ride, as well as a video arcade loaded with popular contemporary and classic games, plus a snack bar with plenty o’ junk food, from pizza to hot dogs and nachos. Affordable party packages are available, too—and you can impress your friends by telling them that this is where Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue’s first date in The Karate Kid took place (though your kids probably won't care).
Back in 1875, a group of amateur paleontologists discovered animal remains in the pits at Rancho La Brea, which bubbled with asphalt from a petroleum lake under what is now Hancock Park. Some 130 years later, the pros are still at work here, having dragged more than 3.5 million fossils from the mire. Many of these specimens are now on display in this delightfully old-fashioned museum, which can't have changed much since it opened in 1977. Reserve a spot on the Excavator Tour (free with museum admission), which includes stops at the Fossil Lab, the Lake Pit, the Observation Pit and Project 23, where you can see archaeologists at work. Inside, check out the multimedia experience Ice Age Encounter, and the simple, instructive displays of items found in the pits. Most are bones—of jackrabbits, gophers, a 160lb bison, skunks and a 15,000lb Columbian mammoth, plus an extraordinary wall of 400 wolf skulls— though there are also early cave drawings and human accoutrements such as bowls and hair pins.
When you’ve had enough of the big, sketchy, and oftentimes stinky indoor playgrounds, take your little chickies to the Coop—a squeaky-clean destination that’s been called “The Chateau Marmont of kid spaces,” at least in part because it’s a favorite hot-spot for celebrity spawn. With a streamlined, mid-century modern vibe, the main play area features a giant ball pit as its focal point, along with a rope climbing tube and giant spiral slide. There’s also an electronic dance floor, bouncer, reading nook, dress-up area, small slide and toys and books a-plenty. Parental perks include an idyllic outdoor garden, cappuccino bar (which includes healthy snacks for the kiddos) and free WiFi. Oh, and the birthday parties here are too adorable for words. Helpful hint: Make sure to wear socks (no shoes or bare feet allowed).
A fusion of two longstanding prior facilities, the California Science Center opened in 1998 in a bright, airy building directly in front of the Rose Garden in Exposition Park. The undisputed standout here is also the Endeavour. The final ship to be built in NASA's space shuttle program, Endeavour inspires a reach-for-the-stars ambition unlike any other exhibit in the city. And its story is distinctly rooted in LA: Endeavour was built in Palmdale and, almost 123 million miles later, rolled along our streets to its permanent resting place in the museum. Elsewhere in the museum, permanent exhibit galleries—World of Life, Creative World, and the SKETCH Foundation Gallery featuring air and space exhibits—explore life sciences, human innovation and powered flight, albeit with a decidedly '90s flair. The Ecosystems wing tackles science with a hands-on look at Earth's biomes, from polar extremes to life in our own backyard. The many touch-friendly exhibits cater almost exclusively to kids; childless adults will likely find the bulk of the museum too crowded, chaotic and, well, boring. Other exhibit highlights include the Kelp Tank, populated with 1,500 live fish, kelp and other marine life; the ever-popular High-Wire Bicycle, which allows the brave and the trusting to ride a bike along a one-inch wire some 43 feet above the ground in order to demonstrate the power of gravity; Tess, the 50-foot body simulator and star of the Body Works show; and actua
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 nights are only open to over-25s. 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."
The LA 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 busy.The list of the zoo's highlights include Rainforest of the Americas, a riverbed to treetop trek; Elephants of Asia's large habitat and educational pathways; as well as the amphibian and reptile-filled (and thankfully air conditioned) LAIR. Spot some newborn critters just past the gift shops and go for a ride on the beautifully painted Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel. Elsewhere, a herd of flamingos flop and flutter in a pond close to the entrance, while a nearby meerkat stands guard over proceedings. Sea lions slither and swim, an Indian rhino carries herself with hilariously little grace, and a snoozy jaguar takes another nap. You'll also find over 800 different plant species, from native succulents to prehistoric cycads, labeled and catalogued throughout the zoo's lush, continentally-themed habitats.It's worth bearing in mind that some of the larger animals may seek shady refuge from the extreme heat on warm summer days, and by no means will all of them be visible.
At first glance, the inside of this storefront resembles any other market in the area—but look closer and you’ll find a collection of “time travel” curiosities that one might need in order to visit the distant past or future. For example, Robot Toupees, Barbarian Repellent, Primordial Soup In a Can and vast collection of books. What gives? The place is a cover business: While everything in it is indeed for sale, the store is actually a front for 826LA, a literary nonprofit founded by author Dave Eggers. Enter through a secret door in the back of the shop, and you'll find a classroom, where free tutoring and creative writing classes are offered to kids ages 6 to 18; in fact, all the books in the store are written by those kids. (Many are even professionally published and sold on Amazon). Another inside tip: If you come up with a cool idea for a product to sell in the mart, employees will help you design it for sale to the public. The Time Travel Mart is one of seven themed stores from 826 National, including Brooklyn's Superhero Supply Co. and DC's Museum of Unnatural History.
Miracle Mile was the first commercial development in LA designed expressly for the benefit of drivers, and so a former department store makes an apt home for this museum of car culture. A 2015 redesign has since turned the automotive history museum into more of a high-tech gallery, with about 150 cars on display. There's a glimpse into the rise of car culture in Southern California, but that mostly takes a backseat to a focus on the progress, dominance and dazzling good looks of the automobile. The museum's narrative begins in the third floor gallery with a bit of automotive history; you'll find sections dedicated to Southern California road culture and Hollywood cars, from the Tim Burton era Batmobile to Walter White's Pontiac Aztek. Head down a level and you'll learn about the industrial design process from start to finish; an on-hand Art Center design studio makes the motif feel especially alive. The ground floor shows off the artistry of cars, with a showroom dedicated to sumptuously swooping vintage vehicles. You'll find Forza 6 driving simulation stations and a Cars-inspired discovery center on the second floor, complete with an augmented reality experience tha
Considered the focal point of Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica Pier includes Pacific Park, a traditional set-up stocked with a Ferris wheel, aquarium, fairground games and cotton candy stands. On warm weekends, the stretch is busy with families, beach bums and gym bunnies, who work out in public at the original Muscle Beach just south of the pier. Lately, the Pier has played host to a number of outdoor film and music events, bringing a hipper clientele to the boardwalk.
This socially minded Jewish institution is the only Los Angeles museum dedicated to kids and families. Interactive exhibits, classes and field trips are all designed to help youngsters "play their way to a better world." The museum is for VIBs only (That's Very Important Babies under 2 years old) every Wednesday until 10am.
You've maintained your composure behind the commuting wheel long enough, now's your chance of steering and speed at Speed Zone’s four go-kart tracks. Take the lead in the Top Eliminator Dragster, a 300-horsepower NHRA dragster ($15 for three races), and then carhop to the Grand Prix, a track modeled after the Formula 1 and Indy Car racing circuits ($2 per lap). There's also the classic Slick Trax for drift-style racing on finely polished concrete and ultimate Turbo Track—faster than Slick Trax and open to up to twenty drivers ($7 for five-minute session). Happy hour specials include well drinks ($4) and import brews ($4), but you might want to sober up (or at least act like it) before heading back to the tracks. Better yet, keep the competition going at Speedway Golf’s two 18-hole miniature golf courses, Strike Zone’s mini bowling alley and the Electric Alley’s arcade of over 100 video games.