Hidden gems, secret doorways, meetings with wolves, and treehouses you can spend the night in are just some of the wild things you should do in LA
Known for sunny skies and a laid-back lifestyle, Southern California is also home to some of the most epic family-friendly activities. Here are 100 things to do in Los Angeles that you’ll find to be the experiences of a lifetime—from hidden gems to bucket list activities, our guide is vast and will keep your family busy for years to come.
1. LA, despite its expensive reputation, has a ton of free things to do with kids that are both fun and engaging. Start with a uniquely LA experience and take a stroll through the historic and picturesque Venice Canals. This peaceful hidden gem is European-inspired, full of quaint arched bridges, kayaks and swan boats. Kids will also love the “duck park” as locals affectionately call it.
2. Of course no one can hang in LA without a trip to the iconic Santa Monica Pier where you’ll get a birds-eye view of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean from the Pacific Park Ferris Wheel (the only solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world!). Ride the West Coaster or try your skills at some of the iconic carnival games. Hungry? Head down to Big Dean's Ocean Front Cafe below the pier for awesome burgers that won't break the bank.
3. Hike, eat, explore beaches, play at million-dollar view playgrounds, visit historical homes and museums all in the ‘bu! Spending the day in Malibu is fun, relaxing and always charming.
4. Pitch in and help our local environment by participating in a local beach cleanup day—a golden opportunity that is good for our planet and the soul.
5. LA farmer's markets are events unto themselves and you can shop the same leafy greens as celebrities. One of our favorites? The Sun. Mar Vista Farmer's Market, complete with live music and kids' activities. Make sure to stop Oma's Puffers to pick up Dutch mini pancakes (poffertjes)—a treat for everyone in the family.
6. Starting this summer, you’ll be able to sip (once again!) a Shirley Temple in the lobby of the “munchkin hotel” (aka The Culver Hotel), a gorgeous, historic landmark in Culver City located in the heart of one of LA's fastest-growing foodie destinations.
7. Grand Park, in DTLA, has tons of green spaces too and is close to all the action. There’s nothing like a good soaking on a hot day to cool off. Weekly food trucks make it a great place to nosh and chillax.
8. Lose yourself within the grand architecture of the largest library in Los Angeles and the third largest in the country. Central Library, a historical landmark that opened in 1926, has nearly 89 miles of shelves and seating for more than 1,400 people. It's big. And, in addition to books, you'll find art murals depicting California’s history and sculptures.
9. Soak up the art deco style at Union Station—the largest passenger train station on the west coast. Swing by evolving art exhibits and highlights on the importance of train travel.
10. Treat yourself and your Boo to Bae, a Little Tokyo soft serve ice cream shop that delivers palate-pleasing desserts with funky flavor combinations like earl grey and cocoa puffs that you'll have to taste to believe.
11. Spend hours wandering around looking at the murals near Olvera St. Besides the colorful street full of shops, guitars, marionettes and food, this is where LA started and is an excellent place to explore more about the history of Los Angeles.
12. A must for all LA Kids? A visit to marionettes at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. Every show, you'll see over 100 unique handcrafted puppets take the stage and there might be ice cream at the end. Okay, there most definitely will be ice cream at the end.
13. Giant teacups, massive balloon animals, Alice in Wonderland-esque splashes of color and the Infinity Room will convince any kiddo that contemporary art is where it’s at. There's all of this and more at The Broad. Looking for a weekend activity? Hit up one of their family weekend workshops and then go to lunch at Otium, located right next door.
14. At the Skirball Cultural Center, there's a whole day of fun activities to check out—from the award-winning Noah's Ark exhibit to archeological digs—this special LA institution will become a favorite family spot.
15. Launch your kids' obsessions with science and technology at The California Science Center. Give them a hands-on experience with exhibits about lost civilizations, life beginnings, space exploration, ecosystems and more. Of course, you can't miss the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It's an absolute must.
16. It’s cool to hang out with 40,000-year-old fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits but maybe just as cool is rolling down the hill outside this museum.
17. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is one of the largest art museums in the world, home to both impressive permanent and temporary exhibitions. Take advantage of special events like the LACMA Kids art programs held throughout the year and the Andell Family Sundays to make art memories. Kids under 17 can sign up for a free NexGen Membership at LACMA and visit as often as you’d like (admission also includes one adult).
18. In Pasadena, visit KidSpace Children's Museum where little ones can trek through the Arroyo (bring a change of clothes), climb up a kid-size ant hole, walk across rope bridges and explore the Physics Forest—the best way to learn about how things move.
19. Nature gardens and dinosaur encounters are not all you’ll find at the Museum of Natural History. From Mar. thru Sept., the Butterfly Pavilion comes to life and then things take a hairy turn when the Spider Pavilion opens from Sept. thru Dec.
20. Do you have a penchant for peacocks? Go on a nature walk at the LA County Arboretum & Botanical Garden and keep an eye out for these display-worthy birds who freely walk the grounds morning, noon and night.
21. The LA Zoo is home to more than 2,200 mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles representing more than 270 different species, (of which more than 58 are endangered)—all within a walkable and stroller-able space. PS: Don't miss the churro sundae with chocolate sauce and whipping cream from the Churro Factory—it'll give everyone the energy kick they need to get through the day.
22. Want to learn more about the rarest group of apes in the Western Hemisphere? The Gibbon Conservation Center is the only institution in the world to house and breed all four genera of gibbons and you can tour this special place just one hour from DTLA.
23. Older kids will have a howling good time at the Shadowland Foundation's 2-hour educational tour. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet and play with a pack of Alaskan Timber Wolves and also learn about conservation efforts to help protect this species.
24. It's officially whale-watching season from Jan. through Apr. and you can see whales by land, by sea, or by festival as they migrate south towards Baja.
26. Giddy-up cowboys and cowgirls—channel your inner Will Rogers at these kid-friendly horse-riding spots.
27. Every trip to Palm Springs should include date shakes and camel rides at the Living Desert Zoo.
28. Grab your bikes and head to Frogtown for some local delicacies at hip cafes along the LA River. It’s an ecologically sound recreational space where you can find LA artists and other cultural happenings. By 2023 you’ll be able to bike to San Pedro.
29. LA is known for hanging poolside in the sun but don't worry if you don't have your own—book a home with an epic pool.
30. Get serenaded with Italian arias, musical show tunes, and classical standards while you dine at Hollywood's oldest Italian restaurant, Miceli's.
31. Walk, hike, jog, and even take a family bike ride around the Hollywood Reservoir. You might recognize it from several Hollywood movies, and when you look up, you can see the Hollywood sign.
32. Low tide means it's time for tide pool exploration so grab those water shoes and head to the coast to see all the animals that call our shores home like starfish, mussels and other sea creatures.
33. Bringing Southern California's train history to life, visit Southern California Railway Museum to get up close and personal with the vast collection of historical locomotives, railcars, trolleys, 3-foot gauge, model trains, and more.
34. Sensory-friendly Saturday programs at the Grammy Museum are less crowded with quieter sound levels and lower lighting—a fantastic initiative for kids with sensory sensitivities so they can enjoy the museum as well.
35. LA has two firefighter museums! The Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and the African American Firefighter Museum feature memorabilia, vintage equipment and the opportunity to learn about the heroes who have protected our city.
36. Bewitched by illusion and sleight of hand? Make your weekends magical with brunch at The Magic Castle—it’s a private club, so you’ll need to know someone to get in, but once you do, both young and old will be enchanted and charmed by the hocus-pocus of local magicians.
37. Indians, cowboys, women, and pioneers—you'll find the stories of the pioneers of the American West at The Autry. Oh yea, you can also pan for gold.
38. At Universal Studios, you can experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic World, Secret Life of Pets, The Minions, Simpsons, The Universal Studio Tour, and that's just the beginning. Don't miss Universal’s Animal Actors show where live animals and their handlers recreate famous movie scenes and show off their animal-tastic tricks. Get Tickets Here
39. Hop aboard the Enchanted Railroad, see cherry blossoms in full bloom, and go on a habitat scavenger hunt at Descanso Gardens.
40. The annual Doo-Dah Parade is on the list of 50 places to visit before you die. Don’t miss out on "America’s Best Parade" which takes place every Nov. in Pasadena.
41. Some bunny collected way too many rabbit tchotchkes and is now in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Bunny Museum also has three live rabbits so don’t forget to bring some carrots.
42. Take me out to the ball game! The LA Dodgers have the coolest mid-century baseball park in the country. Check it out, grab a Dodger Dog (also on our best hot dog in LA list) and watch them play ball!
43. In the spring, the LA Times Festival of Books brings together people who create books for the people who love to read them. Always a fan favorite, get your tickets before they’re sold out!
44. An old bank in DTLA was converted into The Last Bookstore. In addition to books-galore, it has stacks of literature in gravity-defying displays and hidden passageways that will delight both young and old.
45. The Getty Center is a marvel of modern architecture and design, and the views of the city are simply breathtaking. With an awesome family room area for kids to play and explore plus lots of space for strolling around and soaking in the beauty of the art and gardens, there's something here for everyone. Bonus? The ride up and down the hill via the tram.
46. About a half-mile from the LA Metro A-Line is the folk-art sculptures known as the Watts Towers by Simon Rodia. Constructed from steel rebar, concrete, and wire mesh and covered in pieces of porcelain, tile, glass, found objects, bottles, tiles, seashells, and mirrors, the monuments are dedicated to spirited individuals.
47. Explore the Children’s Garden at the Huntington Library and Gardens just don't forget to bring a towel or a change of clothes.
48. Go to the spot that’s been serving up burgers and banana creme pie since 1947. The Apple Pan is an LA institution, with some of the original staff still working there today.
49. Experience two masterpieces at Barnsdall Park. First, there's Frank Lloyd Wright’s historical Hollyhock House and then explore the grounds full of olive trees, making it a lovely way to spend the afternoon with the family. Plus you'll get breathtaking views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.
50. When the calendar says it's fall, head to Lake Arrowhead to experience the crisp air and leaves changing colors on the trees. You'll almost think you're in Vermont during leaf-peeping season.
51. These incredible rock formations are out of this world (and often the backdrop for sci-fi movies for space settings). Hike the Vasquez Rocks in the Santa Clarita Valley.
52. Shop vintage shops and eat at so many amazing restaurants. Explore what makes Studio City such a desirable neighborhood to live and play. PS: Don't miss one of our favorite hotel staycations, located nearby.
53. CA is lucky to have some of the best National Parks in the country and one of the best—Joshua Tree—is just 1.5 hours away from DTLA.
54. You don't have to go to Venice, Italy to sit in an authentic gondola. Long Beach has 'em and it's a lot closer.
55. You’ll be enchanted by this charming laid-back island where buffalo still roam. Catalina Island is a fun weekend getaway with the family or just the two of you—after all, it is also known as the isle of romance.
56. The historic Ferris Wheel and retro candy shop are just a couple of reasons to check out the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach. Take a ferry, or kayak to the walk-able island and determine who created the frozen banana.
57. From star-gazing in the desert to spending the night in a chuck wagon, these close-to-LA destinations are perfect for staycations or last-minute adventures.
58. Play tourist in your town with a visit to the Graumann’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where you can stand in the shoes of someone famous.
59. A staycation with a memorable twist are possible thanks to these Airbnbs in the middle of the city. Did someone say castle with a pool? So Fun!
60. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Find your own at one of LA's world-renowned vintage flea markets.
61. No matter what time of year, Moorpark’s Underwood Farm is a great time but it seriously shines during Underwood Farm's Fall Harvest Festival. This kid-friendly festival is when our city kids can cheer on a pig, get lost in a corn maze, bottle-feed a baby goat and pick a pumpkin.
62. Seems like every neighborhood wants to raise those Halloween spirits, but trick-or-treating in Toluca Lake seems to get a prize for the most over-the-top, spine-chilling-fun decor. Well, when you have Hollywood set designers living there, how could it not be spooktacular!
63. You’ll be able to play all day like a ranch hand then hit the hay at one of these California farm stays.
64. BAM. POW! Hike to the Bronson Caves and see where Batman stashed the Batmobile.
65. And if you’re looking for the real Batmobile, head to the Petersen Automotive Museum where it's on display; don't miss other movie favorites like, Back to the Future's DeLorean and more iconic, movie-famous cars.
66. Speaking of secret caves, LA's newest toy store CAMP in Century City is a family play destination with a secret bookcase leading to a camp-themed cave. Part toy store, part play destination, here you'll find fun activities, shopping, crafts and more.
67. Malibu Creek State Park is a great, 5-mile round trip hike to do with the family. It's also where the set of television's legendary program M*A*S*H was shot, a show your parents might remember from way back when.
68. Ice Skating at LA Live during the holidays feels like you're the star in your own movie. Skate around a huge Christmas tree covered in sparkling lights and then dine at one of the many restaurants nearby.
69. Celebrate The Festival of Lights at The Mission Inn in Riverside. From Nov. thru Jan., there's holiday music, hot cocoa, cookies, and Santa. Don't miss exploring the hotel with its hidden hallways, miniature doors, and secret passageways.
71. Altadena's famous Christmas Tree Lane brings the yuletide to the most festive season of the year! Ho Ho Ho!
72. A must-see light display for the holidays: the LA Zoo Lights is a keeper!
73. Holiday tree lighting events are spectacular in Tinsel Town and they are mostly free events, but we especially love the theatrical snowfall that takes place at The Grove during the holidays.
74. When visions of sugar plums start dancing in your head, you know it’s time to go to the Los Angeles Ballet's The Nutcracker—a holiday tradition.
75. There’s never a bad time of year to visit Solvang, but we love that for one month every year, it turns into the most Christmas-y town in America, and it’s just 3 hours from LA.
76. Into karate, aikido, judo, or kung fu? The Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank is an Asian education, cultural and artistic experience. Plus, you'll learn all about anime and sushi too. Definitely don't miss the Dragonfest Expo where you might see some of your favorite martial arts celebrities.
77. Fulfill all your childhood dreams and spend the night in one of these only-in California treehouses.
78. Plants, birds, butterflies and super blooms at the botanical gardens. Here’s where to go and when to see them at their peak.
79. Who needs snow when you can sled the LA way—grab your boogie board and head to the sand berms! Venice Beach has some of the biggest dunes to slide down of any beach around.
80. Of course we sometimes have to work—these indoor play spaces are co-working-friendly spaces too.
81. How about a visit to the only airplane museum situated at LAX. Wander the aisles of the museum, learn about the history of aviation and view cool artifacts (flight suits, helmets, etc.) from all different airlines.
82. If you're really into aviation, grab some food at the Proud Bird Restaurant, with panoramic views of LAX’s approach runways and the coolest playground for the kids.
83. Street art is next level here with so many cool walls are scattered around LA. Keep an eye out for the hashtag #lamurals on Instagram to find the latest photo ops.
84. LA malls are more than shopping centers, they also have some of the most fun, kid-friendly climbing structures in town.
85. Read up on the latest Disneyland secrets before your next trip—secret menus, magic moments and morse code messages will make you feel like an insider.
86. Rainy Day? Head to Cayton Children’s Museum. You’ll find a real-life helicopter and ambulance, a suspended rope structure to climb through, and a mini-market along with interactive exhibits that will entertain the kids all day long. PS: It's a great spot even on sunny days.
87. High-flying adventures await at Santa Monica’s only Trapeze School because life is like a circus.
88. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is where all things space are imagined and happen. Until the free in-person tours resume, you can virtually check out the JPL headquarters, including the spacecraft assembly facility, international space station and mission control. It’s out-of-this-world.
89. Holy Roly! Find out what’s so splendid about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream and why no two visits are ever the same at Scoops!
90. Corn Hole, foosball, and big-screen TVs are aplenty at these kid-friendly breweries.
91. Support local farms with these mom-approved CSA boxes that deliver fresh produce your way.
92. If you find apples a-peel-ing, bob on over to the apple capital of SoCal to pick a bushel, press your own cider, churn butter and more.
93. Want the taste of Italy without the jetlag? Try all of these pizza spots open in LA that are sure to satisfy.
94. There’s nothing sweeter than a juicy red strawberry picked straight off the vine and CA strawberry picking is next level good. Warning: you may never eat a non-Californian grown strawberry again.
95. Check out the fantastic architecture of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and practice peaceful meditation.
96. Stroller and kid-friendly hikes to see waterfalls and swim? LA has it all—from lava rock pools to waterfalls plus a few dreamy natural swimming holes. What about trying out the Ferndell Trail and hike up to the Griffith Observatory? Don't miss Trails Cafe on the way up (or down)!
97. A mini stay-cation with a day pass to a hotel pool is, hands down, the absolute best way to spend your Sat.
98. Gidget loved this sport and the Beach Boys sang about it so guess what, it’s time for a surfing lesson.
99. Love the beach, but hate the crowds? Locals always know where the best beach spots are to go with your crew, including the RAP info… restrooms, amenities and parking.
100. Everyone has their favorite go-to donut shop in LA and there's always a reason to eat them as far as we're concerned. Birthdays, holidays, any day that ends in a "y"!
Additional reporting by Chanin Victor