You don’t need us to tell you that Los Angeles is an urban travel destination of choice. But did you know it’s a perfect city to visit with kids? With beautiful coastline, great food, chill California vibes and all that ideal weather year-round, it’s a great place for the whole family to spend a vacation. LA is laid-back, sure, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s dull. Take the kids for a beach day or a hike, check out a museum or bite the bullet and schlep ’em to Disneyland (I know it sounds intimidating, but you won’t regret it).
Plus, Los Angeles isn’t just the Hollywood Walk of Fame, The Grove mall and bustling beaches full of Rollerblading celebrities. There are actually tons of vastly different neighborhoods to explore in this sunny city. There’s posh Westside, the Downtown Arts District, hip Eastside and so many other areas in between (and further out). Whatever you choose to do in the city and wherever you choose to explore, your LA vacation is sure to be a family favorite.
This is a magical little spot in the beachside neighborhood of Venice. The canals make for a delightful family stroll. Charming bridges and waterways dot the gorgeous neighborhood, which is (you guessed it) designed to look like Venice, Italy. While you’re there, check out the boardwalk and the upscale shops on funky Abbot Kinney Boulevard nearby.
Take the kids and hit up this cool contemporary art museum downtown. Reserve tickets online since the incredible exhibitions — like Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors — sell out quickly. But it’s worth it because you can see some thrilling art here for free. A Jasper Johns exhibit opens at The Broad Feb. 10.
Golden Road Pub
This brewery and pub in the Atwater Village neighborhood is a popular destination for hip local parents and their tots. Enjoy a beer and some snacks while the kids run around playing cornhole and taking photo booth pics. Golden Road is a crowd-pleaser: a family-friendly environment, plus great beer. Win-win.
Jessica Biel’s kid-friendly restaurant, Au Fudge, is a West Hollywood hot spot. Celebrated chef Kris Morningstar recently revamped the menu. Parents can enjoy the California comfort cuisine (e.g., beet and avocado salad and organic veggie bowls) in peace thanks to the restaurant’s “creative space,” a playroom where kids can hang. This place serves up a true slice of LA — you can even get matching mommy-and-me Maya Brenner rings in the café’s marketplace.
Annenberg Community Beach House
A delightful spot in Santa Monica complete with a pool, the Annenberg Community Beach House is a great way to experience an LA beach day. There’s a gallery at the public facility, a splash pad for little ones, a park in the sand and even a casual restaurant on-site.
Natural History Museum
Check out dinosaur bones, gemstones and mammal dioramas at this cultural staple. The Natural History Museum also features nature gardens, a seasonal butterfly pavilion and a restaurant. Or skip the restaurant and grab a dirty dog (a hot dog wrapped in bacon) from a street vendor on the way out for the full LA experience. Then take a stroll through the rose gardens of Exposition Park.
Echo Park Lake
Next, head to the Eastside to check out hip Echo Park and its urban oasis, Echo Park Lake. Paddleboats and palm trees set the scene, and picnicking families abound. Take a stroll around the lake or paddle around on the water for $5 per child and $10 per adult.
Hotel Casa del Mar
The world-famous Santa Monica Pier is within walking distance of the luxurious Hotel Casa del Mar, which is one of only two hotels actually on the beach in Los Angeles. Amenities include a pool (with ocean views), a spa, a seafood restaurant and massage tubs in the rooms. For the kids, there’s… well, the beach!
This gorgeous family resort is a SoCal favorite. It’s not quite in Los Angeles; it’s actually on the nearby tranquil Palos Verdes Peninsula situated on over 100 picturesque acres. Take in the ocean views with hikes or horseback riding or head out on the water and kayak. Terranea is luxe and relaxing, and of course, there’s a spa and golf course on-site.
Take a tour of the famous Griffith Observatory or go for a hike and see the Hollywood sign in this 4,511-acre park. Griffith Park also features kid-size trains and merry-go-rounds and pony rides for the little ones. You might even spot some famous faces.
Swork coffee shop
Eagle Rock’s beloved coffee shop Swork recently removed its enclosed kid corral (bummer), but there’s still room for free-range little ones. Grab yourself a latte and a “babyccino” (that’s kid-approved flavored steamed milk for you non-LA folk) for the offspring and bask in the hip Eastside vibes.
Bob Baker Marionette Theater
This puppet show is a real trip. Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a beloved throwback to kids entertainment of yore — the downtown theater is over 50 years old and a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark. The current show is Something to Crow About, featuring fantastical farm critters. Tickets are $15 for adults and children over age 2 (kids under 2 get in free).
Take a little trek outside the city and stroll these magical green grounds. The Descanso Gardens feature amazing botanical collections year-round, and they light up for the holidays with a pumpkinfest in October and a holiday light extravaganza in December. In the summer, catch live music in the evenings.
No LA family guide would be complete with a mention of the Magic Kingdom, because let’s be real — it’s magical. Disneyland is popular with locals and tourists alike for good reason. Sure, it’s crowded and expensive, but when you watch your kids’ eyes light up, you’ll be glad you did it. Check out classic rides like Dumbo, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. If you have the time (and money), schedule a visit to Disneyland’s sister park, California Adventure.