Family Fun in the City of Angels: A Guide to Visiting Los Angeles with Kids
Los Angeles, the sprawling metropolis of Southern California, is a city that offers endless opportunities for family fun and adventure. However, navigating the city with kids can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. During my recent trip to LA with my family, we faced some hiccups along the way, including disorganization and the notorious LA traffic. Despite these challenges, we managed to pull off a fun and educational visit. In this blog post, I’ll share some of our experiences and tips for making the most of your family trip to Los Angeles.
Day 1: Flight Delays
Traveling can be an adventure filled with excitement, exploration, and unforgettable memories. However, sometimes unexpected events such as flight delays can disrupt even the most carefully planned itinerary. During my recent trip from Denver to Los Angeles on Spirit Airlines, my family and I experienced an unexpected delay that lasted the entire day. While waiting for our flight, we explored the Denver airport and spent some time in the American Express lounge, watching planes take off and landing. However, despite our efforts, we ended up missing half a day in Los Angeles due to the lengthy delay. Despite the setback, we made the most of our time in the airport, finding ways to stay entertained and make the best of the situation.
Day 2: Christmas Tree Cove, Randy’s Doughnuts, Marina Del Rey & Beverly Hills
Christmas Tree Cove
We kicked off our first full day in Los Angeles by getting up and out early and heading to Christmas Tree Cove. Christmas Tree Cove, located in the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, is a hidden gem that is well worth a visit. To get there, you can park at the street parking on Paseo Del Mar and walk down the path to the cove. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by crystal clear waters, tide pools filled with fascinating marine life, and a beautiful sandy beach.
We picked this spot to go along with our Blossom and Root Science Unit on Oceanography. The curriculum includes wonderful scavenger hunts for different ecosystems. The cove has an abundance of colorful fish and kelp forests to explore.
If you plan to explore the tide pools I recommend rain boots. You should also check the tide tables and arrive at least one hour before the low tide. You will likely stay a while, so make sure to pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and towels. The cove can get quite crowded during peak season, so it’s best to arrive early in the day or on a weekday to avoid crowds. On our February weekday visit, we had the place to ourselves.
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without a stop at Randy’s Donuts. This iconic doughnut shop has been serving up freshly baked treats since 1953 and is most famous for its giant doughnut sign that towers over the storefront. The 32-foot diameter doughnut has been featured in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials, making it a true symbol of LA culture.
But it’s not just the sign that draws in the crowds – the doughnuts themselves are absolutely delicious. From classic glazed to cake donuts topped with sprinkles, there’s a flavor for every taste bud. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try one of their famous jelly-filled or maple bacon doughnuts.
Marina del Rey
Marina del Rey is an area of Los Angeles that offers plenty of family-friendly activities. One of our favorite spots was the Playa del Rey Lagoon Children’s Playground. This playground is situated in a picturesque location, surrounded by trees that offer great climbing opportunities for the kids. The playground itself is also a lot of fun, with slides, swings, and climbing structures to keep the kids entertained for hours.
After playing at the playground, we walked over to the nearby beach and took a leisurely stroll down. During our beach walk in Los Angeles, we stumbled upon some kelp washed up on the shore. Kelp is a type of seaweed that has bulbs along its stem that help it float and reach the surface for photosynthesis, and this was an exciting and educational find for the kids. This section of the beach was filthy! I wish we would have had a trash bag with us to help pick up all the junk we found.
The beach dead ends where Ballona Creek empties into the ocean. Along the way, we spotted a 007 ocean clean-up vehicle in the creek. The Ocean Cleanup Interceptor is a floating device designed to collect plastic waste from rivers before it reaches the ocean. One of the Interceptors is currently located in California near Marina del Rey, helping to prevent plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean.
We then made our way back up Esplanade Street, admiring the beautiful houses and architecture along the way. The kids enjoyed pointing out their favorite houses and imagining what it would be like to live there. They also found some fabulous trees in the park to climb into. They spent quite a while reading in their tree homes. Overall, Marina del Rey is a great destination for families, offering plenty of outdoor activities and beautiful scenery to explore.
Our evening plan involved heading over to West Hollywood to meet up with Jamiliah Lemieux, my co-host on the podcast, “Mom and Dad are Fighting,” at the West Hollywood Library. The library is a fantastic spot for families, boasting a great playground for the kids, as well as a fantastic children’s reading area with big glass windows. The library validates parking for their garage, making it easy to access. It was a real treat to meet Jamiliah in such a lovely setting. Never underestimate meeting up in a library
The boys are currently obsessed with the idea of Gucchi. So we had to make a stop on Rodeo Drive. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is a world-renowned shopping destination, and visiting it in the evening can be an enchanting experience for the whole family. The street is lined with high-end designer stores, beautifully lit up at night, creating a magical atmosphere. Walking down the street, the kids were fascinated by the glitz and glamour, peering into the famous shops, and marveling at the luxurious items on display. While we didn’t purchase anything, the window shopping was just as fun, and the experience made for an excellent evening stroll.
Day 3: UCLA, The Ghetty Museum, Sana Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory & Warner Brothers Stuido Tour
On the third day of our family trip to Los Angeles, we had a jam-packed itinerary that included visits to some of the city’s top cultural and entertainment destinations. With three kids in tow, we started the day in Westwood near UCLA campus, taking in the historic buildings and lush greenery. From there, we made our way to The Getty Museum, where we marveled at the stunning art and architecture on display. After a quick lunch, we headed to the Santa Monica Pier for a windy walk down the pier, before ending the day with visits to the iconic Griffith Observatory and Warner Brothers Studio. It was a busy but incredibly fulfilling day.
While plans to see more of UCLA were scraped due to traffic eating up our morning, I got a chance to meet up with my other amazing ‘Mom and Dad are Fighting’ co-host, Zak Rosen. We met in Westwood at a cute little coffee shop called Ministry of Coffee. We also decided to grab groceries together at Trader Joe’s since it was conveniently located next door. Then I took the kids up the street to visit UCLA hospital where our Big Little was born.
I love visiting the Ghetty. It is what I think America’s Hogwarts would look like. The Getty Museum’s architecture is a work of art in itself, with its stunning white marble exterior and travertine floors. The museum was designed by architect Richard Meier, who sought to create a space that would serve as a peaceful retreat for visitors while simultaneously showcasing the beauty of the surrounding landscapeIt’s important to note that reservations are required to enter the museum, but luckily, they are entirely free. (Parking costs $20.)
Upon arriving, we rode the tram up to the top of the hill, taking in the stunning panoramic views of Los Angeles along the way. The museum’s collection features art from various time periods and regions, including Renaissance paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and even a collection of American photography. The beautiful architecture and well-curated exhibitions make for a truly immersive and inspiring experience. Additionally, the museum’s location atop the hills provides breathtaking views of the city.
In addition to the impressive collection of artwork, the Getty Museum is also home to stunning gardens that are definitely worth exploring. Visitors can pick up a free scavenger hunt in the lobby that’s specifically designed for kids, providing a fun and engaging way for children to explore the gardens and learn about the different plants and features that make them so special.
Santa Monica Pier
Visiting the Santa Monica Pier is a quintessential Los Angeles experience, but our visit was made even more memorable by the extremely windy weather. While we didn’t ride any of the amusement park rides, we did take some time to check them out and marvel at their colorful and whimsical designs.
We walked all the way to the end of the pier and watched as the waves crashed dramatically against the pilings. As we strolled, we were reminded of the pier’s history as a popular end to Route 66, the iconic highway that connected Chicago to Los Angeles.
Parking near the pier can be a challenge, but there are several lots in the area that offer paid parking for visitors. Despite the wind and the cold, we had a great time soaking up the atmosphere and taking in the sights and sounds of this beloved L.A. landmark.
The Griffith Observatory is another must do activity with kids in Los Angeles. This iconic landmark holds significant cultural and scientific value, having been a vital center for astronomy and space exploration since its opening in 1935. It has also been featured prominently in several movies, such as “La La Land” and “Rebel Without a Cause.” Paid parking is available along the winding road on the way up to the observatory but plan on having a bit of a walk up the road.
The Observatory offers visitors breathtaking views of the Hollywood sign, the Los Angeles skyline, and the surrounding Griffith Park. The park itself is a sprawling oasis with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, and picnicking.
Inside the Griffith Observatory, visitors can explore a variety of exhibits related to astronomy and space science. From interactive displays that teach about the planets and galaxies to telescopes that allow you to observe the night sky up close, there is no shortage of fascinating exhibits to discover. The Observatory also offers a range of shows in its state-of-the-art planetarium theater, which are a must-see for any visitor. To get tickets for these shows, visitors can reserve them in advance online or at the box office on the day of their visit.
One of our favorite things about the Griffith Observatory was the solar telescope that allowed us to see the sun up close and personal. Another highlight was the Foucault pendulum that hangs in the central rotunda and demonstrates the rotation of the Earth. It was fascinating to see how the pendulum’s path changed throughout the day!
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
There are several studio tour options but we are a big fan of the Warner Brothers Studio Tour if you have kids. The tour takes you behind the scenes of some of your favorite TV shows and movies, including Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Abbot Elementary. Be sure to book your tour in advance, as tickets sell out quickly. Also, it’s important to note that the last tour of the day can feel rushed, as there’s a lot to see and do on the tour. (That is the mistake we made!) The tour includes an introductory movie, a tour of the backlot, and visits to two museum buildings with artifacts.
One of the highlights of the tour is the backlot experience, where you’re taken on a ride in a golf cart around the different studios and sets that have been used in countless productions over the years.
You’ll get to see some of the iconic outdoor sets up close, like the New York City streets and the Midwest town square aka Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls .
You’ll also get to peek inside a soundstage and drive past the writers’ bungalows. As you drive around, you’ll see the massive costume and prop departments, giving you a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes magic of Hollywood.
Your tour drops you off at the first museum where there are several interactive exhibits that teach you about set design, casting and costuming. Its here that you can have your photo taken on the Friends couch and the Big Bang Theory Couch. (The Big Little insisted on sitting in Sheldon’s spot!) There is also a Friends themed cafe here and large gift shop.
Are you ready to be transported to the magical world of Harry Potter? Then the Warner Brothers Studio Tour is the place for you! After a fascinating backlot tour, visitors are taken to a museum with interactive exhibits that allow you to experience the magic of the wizarding world. The Harry Potter exhibit features the sorting hat, herbology, potions and letters flying everywhere.
But that’s not all! The museum also has other iconic props from famous Warner Brothers films and TV shows, such as Batman’s suit, the Batmobile, and costumes from the DC Universe. I of course needed to see the Bartlet for America napkin from The West Wing.
Before leaving the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Los Angeles, visitors have the opportunity to hold a real Oscar. The Oscar is an iconic trophy presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence in the film industry. The statuette is made of gold-plated bronze and depicts a knight holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes representing the original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. It’s a unique opportunity for visitors to take a photo with one of the most recognizable symbols of the entertainment industry.
Lemonade Restaurant is a great place to grab a bite after the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. The menu offers a variety of tasty dishes, including salads, sandwiches, and desserts. There wasn’t a ton of seating but we made it work. We should have ordered ahead and the kids could have eaten while we fought Los Angeles traffic.
Day 4: Venice Beach, Bookstore, Bob Hope USO & LAX
On our last day in LA, we headed to Venice Beach and were greeted by bright sunshine after days of wind and rain. The famous boardwalk was bustling with activity, including street performers, vendors, and skateboarders showing off their skills in the skate park. We enjoyed walking along the beach and taking in the sights of the colorful murals, unique shops, and cafes that line the boardwalk. The Venice Beach Gym, also known as Muscle Beach, is a famous outdoor weightlifting gym located near the boardwalk. It has been a popular spot for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts since the 1930s. Venice Beach is a great place to spend the day and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this iconic LA neighborhood.
Venice Beach is not just a great place for sunbathing and people-watching, it’s also home to a variety of marine life. The Venice Beach Breakwater provides a habitat for various species of fish, crabs, and even sea lions. If you’re lucky, you might spot some dolphins playing in the waves. Be sure to take a stroll along the breakwater and keep your eyes peeled for any aquatic creatures.
Small World Books in Venice Beach is a great stop for book lovers of all ages. During our trip, we stopped by to let each of the kids pick out a book for the plane ride home. The bookstore is cozy and inviting, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that it even has cats roaming around. Additionally, the bookstore has an impressive collection of books on all subjects, and the staff is friendly and helpful. What can I say? We love a good bookstore.
Bob Hope USO
LAX has a very strange layout. Jeff dropped us off at the Bob Hope USO while he went to return the car. He was able to ride the rental car shuttle back, check the bags and meet us in the USO before we walked over to our terminal to board our flight. This worked out so well and meant the kids got some food and downtime before the flight. Plus we didn’t have to tote them around on the rental car shuttle.
The LAX Bob Hope USO is located in the spaceship looking building in the center of LAX. It has been providing support to military service members and their families since 1972. The USO offers a variety of services including free Wi-Fi, charging stations, luggage storage, and a comfortable lounge area. One of the best features of the USO is the great kids’ room, complete with toys, games, and activities to keep little ones entertained. The volunteers are friendly and always available to help, and the snacks are a great bonus for those needing a quick bite before their flight.
Los Angeles Takeaways
Our trip to LA with kids was an unforgettable adventure filled with fun activities and experiences. From visiting iconic landmarks like the Hollywood sign and Santa Monica Pier, to exploring museums and studios like the Getty Museum and Warner Brothers Studio Tour, our family had a blast. We also enjoyed spending time outdoors, walking along Venice Beach and taking in the beautiful scenery.
Although we had an incredible trip to Los Angeles with our kids, there were still a few things we didn’t get a chance to do that we would like to explore next time. We didn’t get to visit Universal Studios Hollywood, the La Brea Tar Pits, or the Los Angeles Zoo. We also missed out on experiencing the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Hollywood Wax Museum. We also left miles of coastline unexplored! These are all fantastic family-friendly attractions that we can’t wait to see on our next trip to LA.
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