Los Angeles is a good city to explore with children.  Being close to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm in Anaheim, Universal Studios in Burbank, and 6 Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita makes LA  good base for visitors who are using a rental car.  There are many free and low cost activities enjoyable for the entire family to fill out your visit.

Theme Parks

Universal Studios Hollywood is good for ages 5-100.  This is a working studio; the backlot tour may offer the visitor an opportunity to see television or movies being made.  For those with a strong interest in Hollywood, there is an excellent back lot tour designed for you.  After your day in the park, visit  Universal CityWalk Hollywood, where you can enjoy shops and chain restaurants.  

In the Santa Clarita Valley, Six Flags Magic Mountain has rides boasting names such as Scream and Dive Devil, and is home to some serious thrills.

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park offers attractions ranging from dozens of rides, and excellent roller coasters, to its Soak City Water Park.

Disneyland and California Adventure has been attracting millions of visitors a year since the park opened in Anaheim in 1955.

  

Beaches

Santa Monica, a small, ocean-side city, has its famous pleasure pier, with rides for all ages, ferris wheel, historic carousel, arcade, and a nice little educational aquarium beneath the pier.  In summer, on Thursday nights, one can enjoy the popular Twilight Dance Concerts on the pier, free to all.   Just south of Santa Monica Pier is the original Muscle Beach; where Jack LaLanne used to train.  In 1989, the area was refurbished and continues to attract acrobatics training.  Just south of Muscle Beach is Chess Park, permanent chess tables and a human sized chess board.  The long stretch of white sand is dotted with playgrounds, Perry's cafes where one can rent bikes or skates, rent a beach lounger and umbrella, or have lunch, and restrooms/changing area.   There are lifeguard stations on the beach, although you may find some closed during non-summer months.  Through the beach, you will see a path, the Marvin Braude Bike Path, which runs from WIll Rogers State Beach to Torrance Beach, 24 miles down the coast.  While it is possible to ride the entire length, most visitors enjoy an easy ride to Venice Beach from Santa Monica.

 Venice Beach is prime for one-of-a-kind people watching along its boardwalk.  It does have a decidedly adult feel to it, so use good judgement when bringing children to Venice Beach.  Venice Beach has many walk streets; streets not designed for cars, but for pedestrians; autos must use the alleys instead.  These small streets end at the boardwalk.  They are well worth a stroll.  Another nice walk is through the Venice Canals.  The canals have sidewalks that front the water; while the public is welcome to walk them, these sidewalks are very narrow and will not accommodate strollers or bicycles.   Venice Beach has a popular skate park and their own Muscle Beach, which has more of a weight training focus and a lot of body builders.   Behind Venice Beach by a few blocks is the popular Abbot Kinney Blvd.  This stretch of street has some of the finest restaurants and boutiques in the area.  

Further down the coast is Marina del Rey, where families can either rent a kayak or sail boat, take a dinner cruise, or walk around looking at sea lions.  Children enjoy Mothers Beach in Marina del Rey, for it's swimming pool like environment.  Burton Chase Park is a fine place to let the children run around and enjoy the view of the main harbor and the boats coming and going.  On Independence Day, there is a large fireworks display at Burton Chase Park and a Christmas Boat Parade in mid-December.  There are fishing charters from Marina del Rey as well.  Further south, along Lincoln Blvd., is Ballona Creek.  This important estuary has been restored, as it had been used for agriculture for decades.  This is a nice, quiet, natural place for a walk to enjoy migrating birds.

If you decide to visit beaches to the north, Malibu is a spectacular place to go.  Malibu Creek State Beach has good birding.  You will see free parking along Pacific Coast Highway, on the ocean side.  There are plenty of beaches with paid parking available, too.   One of the best beaches is Zuma Beach, large and inviting with lifeguards and restrooms, nearby are some restaurants.  Further up the coast are two excellent state beaches, Leo Carillo State Beach, where a large tidepool can be observed during low tide, and Pt. Mugu State Park.  Bring a picnic, as restaurant options are limited in that area.  

Museums
Head to the Getty Center where kids can discover a world of art, make a mask, create a sculpture, hunt for art treasures and more. The view can't be beat, it's free, and the kids will like the novel tram ride, the garden and some of the water features. In the summer, there are free family concerts in the gardens.

The Noah’s Ark exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center nearby is another great hands-on experience for kids.

Also perfect for families interested in learning and having fun, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is located less than an hour from Downtown Los Angeles in the mountains near Simi Valley. As the ultimate destination for budding history buffs, the museum has exhibits such as the McGovern Gallery of Presidents, the Citizen Governor Gallery and a full-size replica of the Oval Office that will make the history of our 40th President of the United States come alive.

The California Science Center in Exposition Park near downtown Los Angeles has many hands-on displays kids and has three levels of nonstop interactive exhibits.   It is now the permanent home of the Endeavour Space Shuttle, a great thing for all ages to view.  

Nearby, the Natural History Museum has recently upgraded its dinosaur exhibit, called Dinosaur Hall, which is quite spectacular.  There are animals in their native surroundings, a children’s discovery room, the Nature Lab focuses on the animals found in our urban area.   During summer months, there is a butterfly pavilion, which, in autumn, becomes a spider pavilion.Both museums are adjacent to the wonderful Exposition Park Rose Garden.  In LA, roses can be in bloom most of the year, so this pretty garden, with it's fountains, is a fine place for family photos.

 The Petersen Automotive Museum, across the street from the LA County Museum of Art, will bring out the inner hot-rod in your kids. KidSpace Children's Museum in Pasadena is an interactive museum with plenty to explore for the kids. An undiscovered gem is the Chen Art Gallery located inside of the headquarters of Sunrider International in downtown Torrance. It's a private art collection of rare Chinese antiques that span nearly 5000 years of dynastic China and beyond. Tours are by appointment only but is really not to be missed (but probably not that interesting for young kids. Best for teenagers to adult).

 

Griffith Park
North America’s largest urban park offers a ton of family attractions within its more than 4,000 acres. The Los Angeles Zoo is very well designed and a lot of fun for the kids.Newer exhibits include the Central American, the reptile house has been replaced, and many improvements to animal exhibits have been made.  

Across the street from the LA Zoo is the Autry National Center, a museum focusing on Western History.

 For the locomotive buffs among you there's Travel Town which has literally dozens of old steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, train cars, trolleys as well as some other forms of mechanical transportation.

 There are pony rides and horse backing riding opportunities within Griffith Park, as well as many hiking trails.  

Then there is the great Griffith Observatory, nestled high in the Hollywood Hills and recently reopened after an extensive expansion.  Built in the 1930s, the building is one of the finest examples of art deco architecture in the world and the walkways on top offer what are among the very best views of Los Angeles. Inside is a wonderful museum of astronomy and planetary science with many well thought out displays and exhibits. 

 

The La Brea Tar Pits, George C. Page Museum features the animals excavated from the very tar beneath the building; sabre tooth cats, mastodons and dire wolves frozen in time, will captivate your kids, regardless of age.

 Culver City’s Star Eco Station is a government designated wildlife rescue site and has the animals in very nicely displayed cages, and terrariums.

Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific provides the ultimate under-water learning experience without getting wet.  It is  large and excellent aquarium with a tide pool area outdoors.

 

Hollywood
The Disney owned El Capitan movie theater is a throwback to another era, when movies and live acts coexisted, for with every show comes a live stage performance by singers, dancers and an organist. Across the street, explore the hand and footprints at TCL Chinese Theater.Guinness Book of Worlds Records museum, Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum and the Hollywood Museum may be of interest to older children.  Lucky Strike Bowling is located in Hollywood.

Catalina Island
A short one-hour ferry ride from Long Beach (or Dana Point in Orange County), Catalina Island is a fun one or two day excursion to explore with kids.  The ferry drops you right in the main town where you can walk to numerous restaurants, shops, amusements (i.e., miniature golf) and other sites. For the more adventurous, try one of the submarine rides that takes you to explore the marine life in the bay (note: although you are submerged in the sub, the sub never actually drops below the water line) or take a hike on the roads to explore the outskirts of the town. 

Playgrounds

The beach is the largest playground in LA. but every neighborhood will have them.  Here is a list of some of the largest:  Grand Park, downtown LA; Shanes Inspiration in Los Feliz - the first universally accessible playground in the area; Coldwater Canyon Park, Beverly Hills; Holmby Park, Westwood; South Beach Park, Santa Monica, Polliwag Park, Manhattan Beach.

Go Los Angeles® Card

The Go Los Angeles Card is a budget-friendly way to see all the famous Los Angeles attractions for one low price.

  • Included attractions: Universal Studios Hollywood, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Aquarium of the Pacific, California Science Center IMAX, Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour, Hollywood Movie Star Homes Tour, Hollywood Museum, Pacific Park - Santa Monica Pier, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm, LEGOLAND® California, Spokes N Stuff Bike Rentals, Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and many more.

Great way to save on Universal Studios Hollywood and other top family-oriented Los Angles attractions for travelers on a budget. The pass also includes some San Diego area attractions.