If you’re planning a trip with your children to Los Angeles, you’ve no doubt scoped out Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Legoland, and Universal Studios, but there are a lot more family friendly activities than that. While those places are amazing for children, don’t miss the culture and uniqueness of L.A. Here are a couple of suggestions for your trip:
Visit the First Jurassic Park
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Long before the idea of a dinosaur-filled theme park entered into Michael Crichton’s mind, there were the La Brea Tar Pits. This fascinating spot in the middle of Los Angeles features 40,000-year-old (or so) bubbling, gooey tar pits. There are picnic benches located nearby so you can enjoy a picnic lunch and explain to your children why they can’t throw one another in.
Get Your Motor Runnin’
If you have any serious motorheads in your family, you can’t miss the Petersen Automotive Museum. This museum celebrates speed in all forms of horseless carriages, from the Model A to the Batmobile. Kids will love the movie cars and the muscle cars.
If all this car viewing makes your kids eager to get behind the wheel, no worries. The Discovery Center on the third floor offers interactive ways to enjoy cars, such as riding a motorcycle and sitting in the driver’s seat of a roadster. Don’t miss the Hot Wheels exhibit either.
This museum also has a stunning exterior, but it is in the middle of renovation. Look for a large reopening in December of 2015 with even greater opportunities to feed your love of cars.
Make Your Picky Eaters Happy…Finally
How about a place that offers food for every taste but still allows you to eat together as a family? The Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax allows you to do just that with rows of casual eats to choose from. From burgers to pizza and smoothies to homemade candy, it’s like a freshness fair of culinary wonders. Plus the grab and go atmosphere is perfect for calming fussy kids.
Houston, We Don’t Have a Problem
Science centers are tons of fun for all ages because of the hands-on learning opportunities. You could easily spend a day at the California Science Center in Downtown Los Angeles. In the Brains on Parade exhibit (yes, the title is gross but kids love it) you can see animal brains from creatures like a cat and a monkey. Brave children can ride a bike across a high wire. Catch an IMAX movie about natural wonders or find out what you have in common with an amoeba. You may never look at science the same way again.
Your little ones will love the Discovery Room in each section of the museum, designed with them in mind. This interspersing of exhibits for all age groups allows you to enjoy the museum as a family, cutting down on the fights you have about who sees what when.
Don’t miss the Space Shuttle Endeavor housed in a separate pavilion. Kids will enjoy seeing this shuttle that flew 25 missions and the enormous engine that powered it.
There’s No Place Like Home
The traffic in L.A. is among some of the worst in the country. Cranky kids and long traffic jams don’t make for a fun vacation. That’s why selecting a hotel near the things you most want to enjoy is critical to a great vacation. If you’re looking for the perfect home base for your travels, Hipmunk has some of the best search features for cheap hotels in Los Angeles. Family friendly hotels in the area include the Andaz West Hollywood (who doesn’t think a rooftop pool is the tops?), the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles (great kids program), Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City (suite rooms and sweet pool), and the Disneyland Hotel (monorail travel is pretty neat).
You Oughta Be in Pictures
You can’t come to the dream capital of the world without feeling a little star struck, so get out there and explore all the famous movie sites. If you have older children they might appreciate a driving tour of star homes, otherwise check out Warner Brothers Studios and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre’s Walk of Fame. The best way to see these famous sites is by booking a tour. Most tours will also take you by the iconic Hollywood sign.
Regardless of the tour you take, keep an eye out. You never know when you’ll see a star. They like In-and-Out Burgers too.
Blow out a Flip Flop
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With all the glamour of Los Angeles, Rodeo Drive, and Beverly Hills, as well as the multitude of things to do downtown and at the theme parks, kids always appreciate a beach getaway. Venice Beach, and its surrounding community, is as entertaining as the “starving” gulls that patrol the beach like hungry actors. It’s where WWE’s Hulk Hogan got discovered as a body builder, and you can see everything from bathing beauties to rollerblading clowns and jugglers.
The Santa Monica pier is reminiscent of Sundays at the shore, complete with old-time games and a Ferris wheel. It might look familiar as this nice stretch of beach appears in a number of movies. Los Angeles is a fun place for families. With so much to do and everything having a déjà vu feel because of its representation in the movies, your kids will have a blast pointing out spots of interests and asking “wasn’t that in…?”
The best way to explore it with kids is not to try to do everything, but to select an area to focus on and enjoy. The amusement parks alone could take you a week. Don’t forget some rest and relaxation time. You never know who you’ll see by the hotel pool.