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Los Angeles may be the second largest city in the country, but with its sprawling landscape — 14 miles stretch from the beachside neighborhood of Santa Monica to its more urban downtown locale — this West Coast mecca can at times feel more suburban than big city. L.A. offers plenty of fun-filled activities to keep your kids happy: from a dip in the Pacific Ocean to a trip to nearby Disneyland, the entire city often takes on the feel of an amusement park.
1. No family vacation would be complete without a swimming expedition, and Los Angeles offers plenty of beaches to explore. Kids love the popular Santa Monica pier, packed full of arcade games, carnival-style rides and fair food.
2. Just a 45-minute drive away from Los Angeles, nearby Anaheim is home to the original amusement park, Disneyland, and Disney's spotlight on all-things West Coast, California Adventure. Scream your lungs out on Space Mountain, spin around at the Mad Tea Party and say hello to Mickey at the original Disney park; adult-friendly activities include a California-style winery and thrilling shows.
3. Surrounded by the sprawling Griffith Park, Griffith Observatory is a two-for-one when it comes to keeping the kids busy. Hang out for a few hours outside in the park, climbing around the picturesque hiking trails; if you make it to the top of Mt. Hollywood, you'll not only see great city vistas, but you'll also get a close up view of the Hollywood sign. Then head inside the Observatory to find out how much you weigh on other planets, see real meteorites and explore the Milky Way without leaving the comfort of planet Earth, all for free.
4. Your kids will love a chance to walk in the steps of the Hollywood's stars: visit Grauman's Chinese Theater and let them match hands and feet against the cement molds of their favorite Tinseltown. For a few celebrity-action shots, let them take photos with the costumed characters you'll find nearby — actors dress up as everyone from Sponge Bob to Marylyn Monroe to Jake Sparrow.
5. The California Science Center is a hands-on museum that makes science fun and accessible for kids with special exhibits and an IMAX Theater, where you can take 3D tours of exotic places. Highlights include a high-wire bicycle ride, a motion-based simulator and Tess, a 50-foot animatronic woman whose body parts are revealed to show how the human body functions.
There's no reason for kids to be bored in Los Angeles. Here's five of the best things to do, visit and see with children:
1. Theme parks. Visit the iconic Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure, Downtown Disney and Universal Studios.
2. iFly Hollywood. This is L.A.'s first indoor sky-diving wind tunnel, which elevates "sky-divers" up to 30 feet, suspending them at wind speeds of 125 miles per hour. The reward? A panoramic view of the pedestrian promenade.
3. California Science Center. This spot has interactive exhibits for budding scientists, plus a brand new ecosystems wing.
4. Segway tour. Kids will love experiencing the neighborhood on a Segway. You'll tour through residential areas, go by amazing sightseeing landmarks, celebrity mansions and more.
5. American Girl Place. This multilevel shop dedicated to designer dolls is a boutique, bookstore and cafe all rolled into one.
The five best things to do with kids in Los Angeles are:
1. Surf Lessons. There are several professional companies offering lessons for kids of all ages. The instructors take small groups out in Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach, or Malibu, and teach the basics of surfing. All the equipment is provided and the instructors are very experienced with kids of all skill levels.
2. Museums for Kids. Los Angeles has some phenomenal museums that keep kids very much in mind, not to mention busy learning while they are engaged by history and science! Several of these are close to each other and can make it easy to do more than one museum in a day. The California Science Center, The Natural History Museum, The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, and The Griffith Observatory, to name a few, are family friendly.
3. Southern California Amusement Parks. Kids love amusement parks and Los Angeles has access to some of the best in the world. Head down to Anaheim and experience Disneyland, California Adventure and Knotts Berry Farm. Or stay close by and head to Universal Studios. If your kids enjoy extreme rides, head to Six Flags Magic Mountain.
4. Tour Hollywood. Spend the day in Hollywood and see all the classic sights. Whether it's strolling along the Walk of Fame, seeing the iconic Chinese Theater, Madame Tussaud's wax museum, or the Hollywood Museum, there is something for everyone in Hollywood. You can also enjoy a treat at the Disney Soda Fountain before enjoying a Disney movie and stage show at the El Capitan Theater.
5. Horseback Riding. Even though Los Angeles is a major metropolitan city, you can have the unique experience of horseback riding in the Hollywood Hills, right up to the Hollywood sign, or going on a night ride to a classic Mexican dinner and then back.
The top five things to do with kids are visiting Universal Studios, the Santa Monica Pier, Disneyland, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and The Grove.
Despite its sophisticated reputation, Los Angeles is a surprisingly kid-friendly destination, so parents can rest easy knowing that there are plenty of ways their young ones can keep busy and entertained while in the City of Angels.
1. Take a tour of one or more of the many TV and movie studios in L.A.
2. Head to the gorgeous Santa Monica Pier, which features a solar-powered Ferris wheel, carousel, arcade, bumper cars, trapeze and copious amounts of cotton candy and popcorn.
3. Los Angeles is home to a number of exciting and kid-friendly theme parks, such as Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm, just to name a few.
4. Restored by Disney, the El Capitan Theatre, located across from the Hollywood and Highland Center, offers special presentations of the studio’s animated releases combined with performances for kids.
5. Visit the California Science Center, filled with hands-on stuff to build, baby chicks to watch, and cool experiments. You can watch an eye-opening IMAX movie, too.
Los Angeles isn't just a playground for adults, you'll find plenty of attractions and activities to keep your little ones occupied.
In the immediate L.A. vicinity you have Universal Studios, and Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier. Just a short drive north of Los Angeles, your kids can ride the roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain; while to the south you have Disney Land, Disney's California Adventure, Downtown Disney and Knott's Berry Farm.
Dinosaurs and dioramas will occupy kids for hours at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County while they can get a hands on experience with all things science at the California Science Center. Smaller stellar museums include the Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena and Star Eco Station in Culver City. The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits offers kids a first-hand look at ice age fossils and a bubbling tar pit.
A visit to Los Angeles wouldn't be complete for adults or kids without a visit to the beach. In Santa Monica you'll find a sandy stretch of beach, roller coasters and a Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier, and the Annenberg Community Beach House, which offers beachside swimming and a children's play area.