Roundup of My Favorite Los Angeles Family-Friendly (and Budget Friendly) Destinations
If you are planning a trip to Los Angeles, you may be overwhelmed by all of the options – especially if you have kids. It can be hard to narrow down what to do during your stay. If you aren’t sure where to take your kids, I’ll share our family favorites in Los Angeles. Bonus – most of them are budget friendly!
Los Angeles is a sprawling city, unlike some other cities in the country. There are many different micro-cities within Los Angeles, so it can be hard to pin down where to stay. If staying near the beach is out of your price range, I suggest staying in West Los Angeles, Culver City or in Mid-City. All of those destinations are centrally located so you can get around the city fairly easily.
Top 10 Family (and Budget) Friendly Los Angeles Destinations for Families
- The Beach: You can’t visit Los Angeles and not go to the beach, even in the winter. Even on a cold day, the beach is still one of my favorite destinations. If you are traveling with kids, I recommend Manhattan Beach or Santa Monica near the pier since both have an aquarium at the end of the pier. Santa Monica pier also has a small amusement park (Pacific Park) if it isn’t warm enough to go in the water (the Pacific Ocean is not warm so it has to be really hot for me to consider taking a dip).
- California Science Center: My kids love the California Science Center. It is an interactive science museum with so many cool exhibits. The regular museum exhibits are free but you can also purchase a ticket to get up close to the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Note, if you are visiting during summer months, you need to make a reservation. We like to take the Metro to the museum since driving in downtown isn’t fun. The La Brea and Culver City Metro stations have parking garages.
- Natural History Museum: The Natural History Museum is right next door to the California Science Center, however, it is impossible to visit both museums in one day. Don’t even try. Both museums are huge and they have so many activities. My oldest loves this museum. He recently learned about dinosaurs in school so is fascinated by all of the fossils. That being said, there is still a ton for my three year old so this museum is a huge win with both of my kids.
- Union Station and Olvera Street: Olvera Street isn’t your typical kid-friendly destination but my boys love it. They like walking through the old-fashioned main street that feels like you’re stepping back in time. While you’re there, you need to head across the street to Union Station. This gorgeous train station makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to a time when everyone traveled by train.
- The Original Farmers Market and The Grove: This is hands down, one of our favorite places to have dinner in the summer. The Farmers Market has so many amazing food options that my husband and I can get whatever ethnic food we’re in the mood for while the kids can get their basic, boring kid food (can you tell I’m over chicken nuggets?). The Original Farmers Market is next to The Grove, an outdoor shopping destination. There is a lot of room for the kids to run off steam on the grassy area and they can watch the water show at the fountain or ride the free trolley.
- Santa Monica Promenade: Yes, the Santa Monica Promenade is a shopping center, but it is an outdoor shopping district with streets that are closed to cars. There are also street performers scattered throughout the promenade so you and your kids can enjoy live music.
- Downtown Disney: OK, this isn’t in Los Angeles proper and is only a good suggestion if your kids are too young to know that they can actually go inside Disneyland, but Downtown Disney is a fun activity for kids (and parents). There are tons of restaurants, live street performers and you can get some of the yummy Disneyland snacks (churros and popcorn) without having to go in the park.
- La Brea Tar Pits: My kids love going to La Brea Tar Pits to see the woolly mammoths stuck in the tar. There is a ton of outside space for the kids to run and climb trees. If your kids are younger, you really don’t even need to go inside the museum, although I will say, the museum is pretty cool. My boys love it. If you go on a weekday, you can see actual scientists working with fossils. La Brea Tar Pits is what is known as Miracle Mile. It is near the Petersen Automotive Museum (which is super fun for slightly older kids) and the Los Angeles Museum of Art. There is also a park right next to La Brea Tar Pits if your kids just want to play.
- Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park: The Griffith Observatory isn’t just for star gazing. You and the kids will enjoy the views, but there are lots of interactive activities inside the observatory as well. Bonus, the Griffith Observatory is part of Griffith Park so you can either check out the pony rides or Travel Town before or after you visit the Observatory. Griffith Park is also home to Shane’s Inspiration, the largest universally accessible playground in the country.
- Aquarium of the Pacific: If you don’t live near an aquarium and your kids love marine life, you can check out the Aquarium of the Pacific. I will say that it is quite pricey and not very large, so it isn’t my top pick, but my kids do enjoy visiting. The area near the Aquarium of the Pacific is really fun so you should definitely plan to spend a bit of time there. You can also sometimes find ticket deals on Living Social or Goldstar so I highly recommend looking for a deal before your visit.
There are so many things to do in Los Angeles with kids. These are just some of our favorite activities that you can spend a day or afternoon experiencing. Of course, there are also a number of theme parks (Universal Studios, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm) to check out during your visit to Los Angeles if that’s your thing.
While I love amusement parks, they are quite an investment (especially Disneyland!), so if they aren’t in your budget, don’t feel too bad. There’s still lots to do in Los Angeles.