Tell the kids you’re stargazing for your next family getaway, then hand them sunglasses and a bathing suit. Los Angeles offers families epic beaches, a unique cultural experience along with top museums wrapped in a SoCal vibe that tweens and teens crave. That’s why I’ve added LA to my kids bucket list. Need some help planning a trip, I’ve pulled together a two-day itinerary with where to go in LA with kids.
Day One The Shuttle and the Surf
It’s a vacay so eat like the calories don’t count.
Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway
8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, head to S. Broadway in Downtown LA.
As a downtown landmark since 1917, Grand Central Market provides a hum of early morning activity and some solid breakfast options, like Eggslut as well as coffee counters and bakeries.
After breakfast, time to explore like an astronaut.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Dr.
Free, except for special exhibits and $2 tickets to see the Space Shuttle
How to get there: From Grand Central Market, take E. 3rd St. to I-110 South and continue for 3 miles. Take the W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. exit (20A exit) and park in the paid parking lot.
As one of the locations to see retired Space Shuttle, this is a must for the adventurers in your car. With half of the facility dedicated to space exploration, the California Science Center is a must for families.
The Space Shuttle Endeavor requires an additional ticket but don’t miss it. And don’t forget the external tank outside the building.
The Ecosystems exhibits walks kids through 11 different ecosystems. So don’t miss the kelp forest with touch tanks mimicking tidal pools. The desert display features a mock flash flood that kids love too.
Know before you go: Since this is a free museum, it’s a favorite with school groups. Buy tickets for special exhibits and the Space Shuttle at Will Call or the Ticket Window.
After exploring the earth and stars, head out for some art.
The Getty Center
1200 Sepulveda Blvd.
How to get there: From the California Science Center take W. Exposition Blvd. to Normandie Ave. and head north to I-10 West. Head west on I-10 for about 3 miles to the I-405 North. Continue for about 10 miles on I-405 North then take exit 57B for Moraga Dr. Then take a left on N. Sepulveda Blvd. and then another left on Getty Center Dr. Park in the paid parking lot and take a tram to the museum (free).
Savor the beauty of LA in a beautiful place to see beautiful art overlooking a beautiful view. The Getty Museum is more than an art museum, it’s a work of art itself.
Designed by Richard Meier, The Getty Center is a top architectural delight as well as the gardens and courtyards. As a favorite among locals, sit in the grass and enjoy a sunny afternoon.
With an extensive art collection including Van Gogh’s Irises, you could spend all day so keep it limited to your interests or stroll the gardens instead.
Time for lunch.
Kye’s on Montana
1518 Montana Ave.
Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
How to get there: From The Getty Center to Kye’s it’s a 5-mile drive. Start out by taking a right on N. Sepulveda Blvd. then take a right on N. Church Lane. Next take a right on Sunset Blvd. and then take a left on S. Westgate Blvd. Finally take a right on Montana Ave. Park at metered parking where available.
Grab a Kyerito, a hand-held wrap with a host of yummy fillings, including gluten-free, wheat-free, diary-free and soy-free options. Due to the special wrapping technique, your Kyerito wrapper, romaine lettuce, nori or collard greens, remains crispy for the trek to the beach.
Head to the Santa Monica Beach for the afternoon.
Santa Monica Pier and Beach
Ocean Ave. at Colorado Ave.
A trip to the beach is a must for LA. And a SoCal sunset is legendary, it will totally make up for any hiccups in parking.
How to get there: From Kye’s head south on Montana Ave. towards the Pacific Ocean. Take a left on Ocean Ave. Continue for about a mile to the pier, parking is available on the pier or use metered street parking.
If surfing is on the kids list then arrange for a surfing lesson from one of several surf shops that offer lessons. Don’t worry about special gear, the shop arranges all that for you, like spring or wet suits and surf boards.
I have three kids, 10, 13 and 15, and all benefitted from surf lessons. Though like any new sport, practice is the key and kids must be proficient swimmers.
Santa Monica Beach and Pier
After surf lessons, explore the Santa Monica beach and pier for the rest of the afternoon.
I recommend renting bikes and taking a guided tour of Santa Monica. Great way to explore and the dedicated bike lanes make it safe for families. Several rental shops next to the pier.
After a bike tour, rent a couple of chairs and watch the sunset. Let the kids play in the sand or chase waves.
After the sun sets, head to the Santa Monica Pier for dinner and family fun. It boasts carnival rides and food in abundance. I’m partial to the carousel though I found a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster.
Day Two Hello Hollywood
Start your second day in Los Angeles with the stars. While the crowds are still sleeping hop in your car and head for breakfast off Sunset Blvd.
The Griddle Café
7916 Sunset Blvd.
Opens at 7 a.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. weekends
How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, head north on U.S. 101 and exit Sunset Blvd.
A drive down Sunset Blvd. is a must for its icon LA vibe. As a bonus, it’s early so the driving should be easy going.
Since it’s a favorite, arrive early to satisfy your breakfast dreams. The Griddle Café offers a huge menu with pancakes in every flavor along with French toast and egg dishes.
Head around the corner to see a bit of Old Hollywood history, built in the 1920s. The Château Marmot, 8221 W. Sunset Blvd. is iconic LA hotel. As the backdrop to numerous movies and a celebrity hangout, it’s a must.
Time head to the theater, so drive north and turn right on Hollywood Blvd. As home to several famous theaters, it’s a bucket list destination for movie goers.
Start with TCL Chinese Theatre’s (formerly Grauman’s) stars’ footprints, at 6925 Hollywood Blvd. Then walk to the home of the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater, 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Blvd. between La Brea Blvd. and Vine St.
After walking by the famous theaters, find the brightest stars in California. With three-and-a-half miles of brass and granite stars, spend a few minutes finding your favorites for a star selfie.
Drive by Capital Records Building, 1750 Vine St. to see the record label’s headquarters. Built in 1956, the round building looks like a stack of 45s before changing gears and heading south.
After stargazing, take a walk through LA’s infamous tar. A must-do for generations, La Brea Tar Pits topped my list since I was 10.
La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
How to get there: From Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, drive west on Hollywood Blvd. to N. Highland Ave. and head south to Wiltshire Blvd. Head west on Wiltshire Blvd and park in the shared La Brea Tar Pit/LACMA parking lot.
A must for families, see the strange bubbling tar churn and spew into puddles and pools at the La Brea Tar Pits. Start with a walk around the property to see the tar pits in different sizes. Though be prepared to cover your nose, the tar reeks.
After walking around the tar pits, head into the museum to look at prehistoric animal bones found on the property. And the discovery isn’t over, La Brea Tar Pits remains an active discovery zone.
Since the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) shares a parking lot with La Brea Tar Pits. Walk through the museum next.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wiltshire Blvd.
Adult admission, kids under 17 free
How to get there: Located in the same complex as the La Brea Tar Pits so walk to the entrance.
Don’t let the name confuse you, the LACMA (as the locals call it) is the largest art museum in the western U.S. With separate buildings dedicated to different eras and styles visitors could spend all day. I recommend hitting the highlights and check in with a docent upon arrival to tailor your visit to your interests.
After a morning with the stars, some tar followed by the arts, it’s time for lunch. For the kids, I recommend Pink’s hotdog stand, a LA icon. Hop back in the car for a 10-minute drive.
Drive by the Petersen Automotive Museum (6060 Wilshire Blvd.) before heading to lunch. The building opened in 2015 and resembles a red car racing around a corner, can’t miss it.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N. La Brea Ave.
How to get there: From La Brea Tar Pits, take Wilshire Blvd. at S. La Brea Ave. take a left. Street parking in front and parking around the back, though watch that meter!
I will admit, I’m not a hotdog enthusiast though I enjoyed Pink’s.
First, pick a celebrity named dogs, like the Martha Stewart Dog. Then give your order to the ladies working the counter, many who have worked the stand for years.
Grab a table out back under an umbrella. And bite into an experience. Are the hotdogs messy? Yep but the kids will love it.
4730 Crystal Springs Dr.
Free, attractions extra
How to get there: From Pink’s, head north on La Brea Blvd. then take right on Santa Monica Blvd. Continue east on Santa Monica Blvd. until N. Western Ave. and take a left. Continue to Fern Dell Dr. into Griffith Park. Located west of Interstate 5 and south of SR 134 (Ventura Freeway) Use the DASH Observatory Shuttle ($.50) to get around the park since parking can be hard to find, especially at the Griffith Observatory.
As one of the largest municipal parks with an urban wilderness in the U.S. Griffith Park offers days of exploring. Depending on your family, I would choose one attraction in Griffith Park–the Los Angeles Zoo or the Griffith Observatory.
Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Dr.
Since 1966, families explore the zoo with over 250 animal species across 133 acres. Take a spin the vintage carousel with the kids too (additional ticket).
2800 E. Observatory Rd.
With amazing views of Downtown LA and the Hollywood Sign, a visit to the 1935 Griffith Observatory tops many must do lists for LA. Free to visit, the building is an Art Deco jewel and includes science exhibits including telescopes.
For the train lovers in the family, visit either the Griffith Park and Southern Railroad (4400 Crystal Springs Dr.) for a ride on a miniature train.
Another must do for train lovers, Travel Town (5200 Zoo Dr.) offers an outdoor facility with several full-size train cars to explore.
After exploring Griffith Park for a few hours, head back and stop for dinner at The Original Farmer’s Market.
The Original Farmer’s Market
6333 W. 3rd St.
How to get there: From Griffith Park, head south out of the park on Fern Dell Dr. and onto N Western Ave. Continue until Beverly Blvd and turn right, headed west. At Fairfax Ave. make a left.
More than a fresh produce market, The Original Farmer’s Market is a foodie destination. Stocked with unique and familiar purveyors, find everything from fresh seafood to cold brew coffee.
Since so many quick service eateries are in one location, this is the ideal place to feed a family. For the teens in the family, The Grove, is next door. Offering the possibility of seeing a starlet or two (189 The Grove Dr.).
Since it’s a vacation, reserve tickets to your favorite pastime.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Ave
The only way into the concert hall is to attend an event. So if the LA Philharmonic is in season reserve tickets to the architectural marvel, sheathed in stainless steel. Designed by Frank Gehry in the Deconstructivism style, it’s an architectural icon.
While at Walt Disney Concert Hall, drive by the newer The Broad, located across the street at 221 S. Grand Ave. As a contemporary art museum, the building looks like a honeycomb.
1000 Vin Scully Ave.
If a concert sounds boring, get tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a home baseball game. Another place to enjoy a perfect SoCal evening.