Tuesday, April 22, 2014

10 Fun Things To Do With Children In LA

While the "City of Angels" may not evoke images of children frolicking in the sun, every time we visit Los Angeles, I’m always amazed that there are so many wonderful activities for kids.  Although LA is best known for glitz and glam of Hollywood, there are plenty of fun things for the whole family, and here are our 10 favorite places and activities.

1. Disneyland
Yes, the price of Disneyland themepark is exorbitant, and the wait can be exhausting; however, after having been there with our 6 year old son, I agree that Disneyland really IS the happiest place on earth.  For people of all ages, this legendary theme park is packed with fun things to do. 

Stroll down Main Street USA to experience turn-of-the 19th century America, head Westwards at Frontierland and tune into the music of New Orleans square, or transport yourself and your little ones to a galaxy far far away in Tomorrowland.  All your favorite cartoon and fairytale characters and the Jedi Order come to life in dream-like environments.

Even the most cynical heart will find that Disneyland is the most magical place on Earth.

PS, I don’t normally give a shout out to a hotel, especially a chain one at that, but Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground (HOJO, as it’s fondly called) is nothing short of awesomeness. 

2. Santa Monica Beach & Pier 

When it comes to family fun, Pacific Park is our go-to destination.  Located on the historic Santa Monica Pier, it's the West Coast's only pier-set amusement park, including world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel that rises 130 feet above the Ocean.  From trapeze school that offers up a high-flying experience to ocean front walk, from carousel to arcade and aquarium, Santa Monica Pier offers plenty of activities to keep your little ones happy and active.

However, the best part of Santa Monica Beach is that you’re surrounded by 360 degree breathtaking view of the city and the ocean, and with almost 365 days of So. Cal’s sunshine, you can definitely count on having fun anytime of the year. 
3. Lemon Tree & Koreatown  
Every time I visit Koreatown in LA, I’m always pleasantly surprised by all the wonderful finds.  Aside from a great selection of restaurants and foods, there are malls and stores that carry one-of-a-kind goods and toys for our little one, which makes it a fun outing for the whole family.

During our last visit, we found Lemon Tree, a restaurant that had an indoor playspace for children (ideally for those under the age of 7).  It’s a perfect place for a playdate, as while kids are having a blast in the playspace under restaurant employee supervision, parents get to relax, enjoy a meal and even get to engage in a meaningful conversation.

As expected, the food and service is on the mediocre side, although it sure beats the greasy mess at other so-called kid-friendly dining establishments like Chuck E Cheese, where you can hardly hear yourself think.  There is a $9 entry fee for every child, and accompanying adult must order a meal, which makes it a pretty hefty sum.  Nevertheless, an afternoon of fun for our little boy and a peaceful meal and conversation for my husband and I – priceless!

Other kid-friendly restaurants in LA:
Giggles N’ Hugs  
Little Prince Kids Cafe 

4. Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory is one of the most iconic landmarks in LA that no one should miss.  Especially if you’re visiting Los Angeles for the first time, you should definitely make the drive or hike up there in order to get the best view of the city – and the most breathtaking sunset. 

However, for children, it’s an awesome adventure into the outer space!  The observatory features 60 space-related exhibits designed to sparkle any and all children’s imagination, the highlight being the largest astronomically accurate image ever produced 20 X 152-foot porcelain enamel dazzler that's cleverly called "The Big Picture."      

Every time we’re in LA, we spend at least half a day at the Griffith Observatory, and on warm nights, with the lights twinkling below, this is one of the most romantic places in L.A.

PS. The only downside is that the parking lot can fill up quickly during weekends and holidays, and you will have no choice but to hike or take the shuttle (runs every 30 minutes) to the observatory.  So, if you’re traveling with young children, you may want to get there early.

5. Shane's Inspiration  
Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but Shane's Inspiration gets my vote for being the most inclusive.  This may not mean a lot to most people, but for me, it’s important that ALL children have access to a wonderful playspace without having to pay exorbitant amount of money – not to mention, there’s no better place to meet the locals.

True to their words, Shane’s Inspiration is an inclusive and universally accessible playground, and it's designed to allow children of all abilities to feel that the playground was made especially for them.  Each design was guided by a team of experts, the children with disabilities who use them and medical experts who work with those children every day.

And the best part of Shane’s Inspiration is the location, as it’s embedded in the most idyllic part of Griffith Park with the gorgeous Hollywood Hills as a backdrop. 

6. California Science Center & IMAX Theater

If you think visiting Los Angeles is expensive, then, a trip to California Science Center will change your mind.  Entrance to one of the most popular museum destinations in California, 400,000 square feet of fun and scientific exploration is FREE! 

The museum keeps young ones entertained by presenting science through exhibits tied to popular culture or blockbuster movies.  Plus, there are tons of hands-on activities and demonstrations in Science Court.  Last, but certainly not least, you'll all leave awestruck by the 7-story IMAX theater that brings worlds "as small as an atom and as vast as the universe" to life right in front of your eyes.

7. LA County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Traveling with young children doesn’t mean having to spend your vacation at crowded amusement parks, or going to places where entry is determined with a yard stick.  My husband and I have always taken our little boy to destinations that we enjoy like National Parks, beaches, and even museums.  The museums in Los Angeles are not only some of the best and the most unique in the country, but also provide tons of fun activities for children. 

The collections of the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) are housed in a vast 20-acre complex of buildings.  The focal point is the BP Grand Entrance, which includes the stunning installation of Chris Burden's Urban Light, which also happens to be an ideal spot for children to play hide-and-go-seek.  However, once you get them inside, there's Richard Serra's Band, an expansive ribbon of rusted metal that creates flowing spaces which simultaneously intimidate with their immensity and enchant with their intimacy.  The waves of metal provide a perfect space for children to use their imagination, and throw in a ride in Barbara Kruger's romper-room-sized elevator and the rain of rubber tubing that is Penetrable in Neon Lime by Jesús Rafael Soto, and you will be more than convinced that adult museums can be fun for children too. 

8. Getty Villa & Center 
Much like the LACMA, Getty Villa (Malibu) and Getty Center perched on top of the Santa Monica Mountains provide hours of fun cultural experience for children and adults alike.

The Family Forum in Getty Villa is a space filled with hands-on activities designed to encourage children and families to explore, play, and learn together.  Children can step into a scene from an ancient vase in the shadow-pose area, where they can dress up and transform themselves into an athlete, musician, or even a monster and act out their own stories.  There is an area where you can learn all about the world of ancient Greek vases and how they were made, decorated, and used.  You can rub patterns off designs inspired by ancient examples or draw on life-sized replicas of ancient vases, and learn about vase shapes by experimenting with three-dimensional puzzles that allow you to construct different vase forms by piecing together building blocks.

The Family Room at the Getty Center features five activity coves and treasure-hunt walls that surround the room.  It's bursting with cool things to see and do, where kids can decorate a giant illuminated manuscript, build a tube sculpture, and pretend to be in a parade scene in a painting, or play with camera lenses and a wall of mirrors.  Also, the art treasure hunt for kids throughout the museum will keep your little ones entertained as you stroll through the 20th century’s greatest artists.

9. Hollywood Walk of Fame
Spanning 2.4 miles, the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd. and Vine St. encompasses more than 2,400 stars made of terrazzo and brass, and everyone who is - and was anyone in Hollywood is immortalized there.  No matter how touristy it is, I absolutely adore walking down these streets seeing the names of some of the greatest artists, actors/actresses, musicians past and present.  And the best part of the trip is to see the excitement in our little boy face when he finds the names he recognizes!

Then, we also like to stop by Grauman's Chinese Theater to see the handprints of the stars – our boy’s favorite being the ones of the Star Wars characters at the entrance.

10. Peterson Automotive Museum
If your child can't wait to get a driver's license, head over to one of the worlds largest and most beautiful automotive museums.  You'll see hot rods, Model-T's, custom vehicles, motorcycles, celebrity cars, and even the former LA trolley system's Red Cars.  The third floor of the museum is geared specifically toward kids with hands-on exhibits designed for them to climb up into the driver's seat.  This 300,000-square foot museum will fascinate young children and their parents alike.

Be sure to check out Johnny Rockets for lunch, as their tasty milkshake, burgers and hotdogs will surely satisfy even the hungriest little ones.


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