We’ve found the best activities for kids in LA that won’t be torture for their parents!
If the idea of a singing animatronic Minion or posing with Elsa from Frozen fills you with horror, you could be forgiven for deciding Los Angeles isn’t the place for your family. However, there’s plenty of fun to be had in LA without setting foot in a giant theme park. Here are some of our favourite spots around town to hang out with the kids.
Go wild at Los Angeles Zoo
You really can’t lose with a trip to the zoo. Los Angeles Zoo is set in the lush hills of Griffith Park on 54 hectares. The newest enclosure is the Rainforest of the Americas, showcasing amazing animals from the tropical regions of North, South and Central America – think slinky jaguars, toucans straight off the Froot Loops box and adorable giant river otters. There’s also the rare California condor, which the zoo has bred back from the brink of extinction, and more than 800 plant species.
Fossick for fossils at La Brea Tar Pits & Museum
Since the discovery of ancient animal remains in the black, oily mire of the La Brea Tar Pits in 1875, the findings have been nonstop. Natural asphalt, or bitumen, has been oozing out of the ground here for tens of thousands of years. Its murky depths have held the preserved remains of mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and sloths that weighed almost 700 kilograms. Six dire wolves, most likely drowned while preying on animals trapped in the asphalt, have been retrieved from the pit. Attached to the La Brea Tar Pits is a museum showcasing the exhumed fossils and visitors can enter the Fossil Lab, Lake Pit, Observation Pit and Project 23 (currently being excavated). There are also interactive displays and live performances.
Carnival fun at Santa Monica Pier
Built in 1909, Santa Monica Pier quickly became a drawcard for its lively atmosphere, carousel, roller-coaster and live music. Over the years, it’s variously been a fishing pier, the site of a grand ballroom and, briefly, a site marked for demolition. Now it’s home to Pacific Park and its five-storey West Coaster roller-coaster, overwater minigolf course and enormous solar-powered Ferris wheel that turns right over the ocean (from the top you can see out over Santa Monica Bay and Venice Beach). It’s got all the classic fun-fair fare – fairy floss (cotton candy in the local parlance), hot dogs and ice-cream – and all the classic games, including whack-a-mole, ring toss and a game called Balloon Bust at which every child is guaranteed to win. You know what that means? You’re sure to go home with a rather large stuffed memento.
S’mores at Huntington Beach
A 45-minute drive south of LAX airport is Californian surf mecca Huntington Beach, where little nippers will love catching some waves. Don’t miss the International Surfing Museum, which has a surfboard that belonged to the “godfather of surfing”, Duke Kahanamoku. When the sun begins to set, hundreds of bonfires are lit all over the beach. Simply drop in to any local store and grab some firewood and the makings of s’mores for your own fireside party. S’mores? Yes, s’mores: cook a marshmallow in the fire until it’s deliciously melted then quickly sandwich it between two graham crackers and a slab of chocolate. The red-hot marshmallow will melt the chocolate until you have the world’s messiest and most delicious sandwich on your hands (and face).
Cultivate young readers at The Last Bookstore
Kind of like a maudlin Lara Bingle, The Last Bookstore wants to know where you are. “What are you waiting for? We won’t be here forever,” reads the tagline. This is no regular bookshop, though. In addition to thousands upon thousands of second-hand books, there’s a record shop, a vintage toy store, a bank vault that is now a dedicated science fiction area, a huge section of $1 books (perfect for spending pocket money), a yarn shop and the unique Spring Arts Collective gallery.
SEE ALSO: Our full guide to Los Angeles