Los Angeles is the gateway to the US for most Australians and Nathan and I had to admit that we really only saw it that way when we visited last year on our way to Orlando.
In fact, the only reason we stayed there at all was to recover from our jetlag before we headed on to Walt Disney World. Before we arrived we honestly could not see much there to tempt us to stay any longer. Perhaps victims of too much TV drama we had the (false) impression that it was a destination for wannabe starlets with little to appeal to a travelling family.
However, LA really surprised us with just how much there is to do with kids. We were even more surprised to learn how much of it is not tacky or “Hollywoody” at all – it’s all kinds of fun.
We can’t wait to get back to check out some of the places we didn’t get to the first time around but in the meantime here’s our list of must-do attractions with kids if you get the chance to spend time in LA.
7 Must Visit Destinations in LA with Kids
Santa Monica Pier
We spent the best day at Santa Monica Pier. We hadn’t planned on spending long here at all (we were just going to visit for an hour or so in between hop-on, hop-off buses). However, we ended up spending most of our day walking the pier, checking out the shops and, of course, spending way too much money at Pacific Park. I even lost my beloved rattan hat on the iconic ferris wheel there… A late lunch at Bubba Gump’s ended a rather perfect day out and about Santa Monica. This is definitely a must for every family.
La Brea Tar Pits
Sadly we didn’t get into the tar pits themselves after spending more time than we intended in Santa Monica, but this is another great place to take the kids in LA. The tar pits are still being actively excavated to this day and have already yielded over 3 million fossilised remains of vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Apart from checking out the tar pits, the museum is a fascinating glimpse into prehistoric times and it is a favourite place to go for families in LA. This is top of our list for next time around!
Hollywood Walk of Fame
You can’t really visit LA and not walk Hollywood Blvd. Yes, it can be tacky and yes, there are so many randoms wanting money for photos and inviting you to check out their stores. But the walk itself is so much fun as each star reminds you of all the amazing talent that has made Hollywood the place it is today. The added bonus of the handprints outside the Chinese theatre make this a must-do excursion for anyone – it’s literally a slice of history amid the hustle and bustle of modern LA. Your kids will love getting their photo taken with their favourite superhero or other film characters, but have your tip money ready! Most of the character we encountered asked for about $5, which isn’t unreasonable for the smile they produce on a little one’s face.
We made use of the Hop On, Hop Off tour which is definitely worth the investment. You can choose multiple routes and ride at your convenience, leaving the bus whenever you wish along the route. The kids loved sitting up top of the double decker open topped bus so they could get the best views of the city. A sightseeing bus is honestly a destination in itself as well as safe and easy fun for the whole family. I would recommend starting off your LA adventure with a day just hopping on and off at your leisure – you won’t regret it.
This is yet another destination that we just didn’t get to on our visit (thanks jetlag!). Griffith Observatory is one of those places that we will definitely make time to see next time around. Our family loves observatories and anything to do with space and Griffith Observatory has all that and more. There is a planetarium which features multiple live shows every day. Lots of exhibits to explore and the fun of Griffith Park to soak in as well. Plus, where else can you get such expansive views of the entire sprawling metropolis?
Zoos are a winner for most family holidays and LA Zoo is no exception. With over 1,100 animals to meet, LA Zoo is sure to enchant your family with their many and varied exhibits. Nestled in the same foothills as Griffith Park, a visit to the zoo could be easily built into a visit to the Observatory as well, making it the perfect stop for a an action-packed family day out. So, what are you waiting for?
You can’t really write a list of must-do destinations in LA without including Disneyland, can you? I visited the happiest place on Earth as a 14 year old and I still remember how amazing it was to be there. Highlights of that visit included Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and the iconic Mad Hatter Tea Cup ride, something I was determined to try after many years of watching the Wonderful World of Disney. We didn’t visit it last year as we were heading to Walt Disney World instead, but visiting Disneyland Anaheim is high on my list for our next US adventure.
What would be on your must-do list if visiting LA with kids?