Los Angeles is a pretty magical place. I was born and raised in this fine city, and now I’m raising a family of my own here. So, it’s been great visiting places that I went as a kid, now with two of my own. Of course we’ve found some new favorites along the way, so narrowing this list down to just 10 places to take kids in Los Angeles was quite the chore. Whether you live here already or are thinking of visiting, here are my top picks on where to take the kids in Los Angeles.
We found Descanso Gardens by accident after visiting some college friends in Montrose. It’s literally an oasis in the middle of the city where kids are allowed to run free and smell the roses — literally and figuratively. The park is divided into different types of California native foliage: Walk under the shade of the Redwood Grove, stroll amongst the roses in the Rose Garden and visit the bonsai in the Japanese Tea Garden. Don’t forget to visit the turtles and the gigantic koi fish in the main pond. If you’re lucky you see dragonflies too.
Every time we go out to dinner with the boys, we’re kind of sorry that we just didn’t head to the Farmer’s Market instead. The Farmer’s Market is like an oasis of food — all the foods from every region of this great wide world. And truthfully, it’s very representative of the city’s vast heritage. And it’s that cultural diversity that I love so much. You can literally get a bowl of gumbo, a plate of sushi, a shwarma sandwich and wash it all down with a Belgian beer, all in one stop. The kids can be as loud and as messy as they want because you’re outside. We like bringing board games. Friday nights bring live music and you can stay as long as you want. Be sure to hit Bennett’s ice cream after dinner, or else you’ll really be missing out.
Two of my favorite things combined into one at Churro Borough Ice Cream Parlor – churros and ice cream. The line is usually out the door at this place, so be sure to go at off hours. Round, crunchy, sugar coated churro disks sandwich artisan ice cream for the best treat ever. We can’t get enough. Seriously, it’s kind of becoming a problem. My favorite flavor ice cream is the spicy Mexican hot chocolate and the kids love the creamy vanilla. They’re purists, what can I say.
Stepping into the Last Bookstore in downtown LA is kind of like walking onto a movie set. There are books as far as they eyes can see, and art everywhere. Plus the people watching is fantastic. You can literally get lost in there for hours. There’s dollar book section, a color coordinate book wall, a tunnel made completely of books, and an upstairs artisan gallery. We’ve picked up a few good art prints there, some of which are currently hanging in our living room. And it’s great to show our kids, that books are still relevant, that there’s nothing quite like holding a book as apposed to reading it on a kindle. How old school right? Tip: One of the best taco joints in town is right around the corner – Guisados. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.
Okay, here’s a super well kept secret. Ready? During the summer months, you can go and watch the Hollywood Bowl orchestra practice for FREE on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Practices run from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Settle in and get ready for a treat. It’s a truly unique experience as is going to an actual show where you can pack a picnic dinner complete with wine (for you) and juice boxes (for the kids).
7. LACMA Concert Series
Nothing says summer more than chilling out at a Latin Jazz concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It’s a great way to expose the kids to music, and you can let them run and be crazy, and they crash before you even get home from the outing meaning that you have the rest of the night free! If you’re not into the concert scene, you can always visit the museum. Kids 18 and under, plus one adult can get in for free if you sign up for the LACMA NexGen program. Now, that’s a good deal.
8. Olvera Street
Olvera Street is one of Los Angeles’ oldest historic locations, and is often referred to as the birthplace of the city. Walk up and down the storefronts, and grab some Mexican candy or a hand-stitched purse and maracas for the kids. There are a handful of sit down restaurants but grabbing tacos or taquitos from one of the take out joints is where it’s at. You really can’t beat the price – or the taste. You’ll be back for more. Check the event’s calendar for a chance to watch traditional Spanish dancers. Halloween brings the famous Day of the Dead parade, which is a unique experience in and of itself.
Have a craving for dim sum? Thinking of taking the family out for a fun night of karaoke? Chinatown is the place to visit. And if you have a karate fan in the house, paying homage to the Bruce Lee statue is a must. If you’ve never seen a Chinese Dragon Dance, then add that of your list of things to do – now! The self-guided walking tours are also great for first timers. The kids can partake in a scavenger hunt!
10. Griffith Park Merry Go Round
We’ve been to the Griffith Park Merry Go Round more times than we can count. It gives off a pretty nostalgic vibe, of what Los Angeles used to be many years ago. It runs every weekend and during the weekdays as well during the summer. We even had a friend have a circus themed birthday party at the park, with free rides for the kids, but that’s the kind of over the top birthday party you’d come to expect from living in Los Angeles.
11. LA Zoo
Okay we could not leave this one off the list – so there is actually 11.
Are your little monkeys driving you batty? You see where I’m going here? Yeah, the LA Zoo has all the animals. Every one that your little one wants to see. Plus there’s a new reptile exhibit (that gives me the creeps but keeps the kids coming back for more). There’s also a petting zoo and a pretty expansive play ground with misters for hot days – and there are plenty of them in Los Angeles. I recommend grabbing a frozen lemonade at the stand near the giraffe exhibit and watching them for while because those guys are awesome.