We started traveling in 2010 after moving from Santa Monica to Seattle when our two kids were still 6 and 4 years old. Our kids were raised in Santa Monica, and LA will always be one of our favorite places and our home. For now, we are still enjoying exploring the world, but we know that in the not too distant future, we will return to Los Angeles.
This list is a collection of things our pre-teen wants to do when we are back in LA.
The Perfect Santa Monica Day
Get up and go for a 5-mile run, rollerblade or bike ride along the boardwalk. Stop at the park by the pier for a bit of climbing and aerial rings. Grab a latte and breakfast at Amelia’s on Main Street. Back home to work for a couple of hours and have lunch. In the afternoon, we might visit the library, swim at the YMCA or meet up with friends. In the evening, we may have jujitsu or parkour class, or visit Bergamot Station, or take in some Irish fiddle at Finn McCools. Whatever we do, it will include food, wine and friends!
On certain days, we’ll stop by Pacific Park and enjoy a few rides on the Sea Dragon, the West Coaster or the Ferris wheel because that view never gets old.
The Broad is LA’s newest contemporary art museum and is home to the Eli and Edythe Broad collection. The Broads have a wonderful collection of playful, contemporary art that will interest and engage even the most reluctant child museum goer (Jasper John, Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Takashi Murakami +more). Entrance is free. While you’re in the area, you can also visit MOCA for a complete contemporary art afternoon.
LACMA is one of my favorite museums and my kids have always enjoyed the visits, which cannot be said of all art museums. LACMA has a very generous entrance program and waives the cost of entry for those under 17.
The Getty Villa in Malibu was constructed to give visitors a feel of Roman in the 1st century. The Roman country house feel is the perfect backdrop for the Greek and Roman Antiquities housed within the museum. I always make time for lunch in the museum cafés and I recall enjoying a delightful and relaxing lunch at Getty Villa on my last visit. Entrance is free. Tickets must be booked in advance.
Beaches and Sports
LA’s beaches are of course great for surfing and sandcastles + there are also fun activities just off the beach like: parking lot hockey, parkour, yoga, volleyball, rollerblading, skateboarding and chess.
The Famous Food Spots of LA
Our daughter recently let me know that she’s looking forward to visiting fun restaurants when we return to LA. You can’t imagine how thrilled I was! We have always dined out with our two, but there were a few years where it was mostly for training and didn’t bring us much joy. Now that our kids are older, I’m looking forward to enjoying meals out in LA with them – revisiting old haunts and finding new favorites together.
Hiking and Views
There are hundreds of hikes around the hills of Los Angeles but my favorite place to hikes are Temescal Canyon and the Will Rogers Trails in Pacific Palisades because they are an easy drive from Santa Monica.
Malibu Creek State Park is also exceptional for hiking. If you want to see more LA history, take the M*A*S*H Hike. I used to trail run through this area and it really does still feel familiar if you’ve ever watched the TV show Mash. For more info about this hike, I liked the write up at Socialhiker.net.
For a truly iconic LA hike, trek up the hills to see the Hollywood sign.
The stars are located on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine street and your kids will likely being closest to the center of the walk where the stars will boast more recognizable names. Hollywood can be crowded, messy and full of street performers so be prepared. Scout out a quiet lunch location in advance and plan your exit to finish the day doing a hike to the Hollywood sign or maybe a trip to the Hollywood Bristol Farms for groceries (live like a Hollywood local) before you return to your place.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Summer Movie Nights
If you’re traveling in the summertime, be sure to visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery during movie night. Bring a blanket, a picnic meal and even a bottle of wine and enjoy a movie under the stars. It’s a load of fun and a great way to take the spookiness out of being in a cemetery at night.
The Hollywood Bowl outdoor Amphitheatre is simply one of the best (imo) music venues in the US. It’s located in the Hollywood Hills and is the summer home of the LA Philharmonic. There are many special music events like the Sound of Music Sing-A-Long; free weekday open rehearsals; popular bands and World music nights. Check the calendar when you plan your visit to LA. A visit to the Bowl is well worth it!
Visit Disney Concert Hall for the architecture, stay for one of the special performances that are free for children with the purchase of one adult ticket.
We will be visiting the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum and the Museum of Tolerance as both of our kids have studied WWII and read about the horrors of the Holocaust. The Museum of Tolerance has an excellent World War II and Anne Frank exhibit that will be important for them to see. Check for free museum days and programs geared toward children of a younger age.
This might be more for the older ones who like shopping or want the full on LA experience. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills followed by a cool beverage or tapas at a ‘classically LA’ restaurant. For us, I’m planning Matsuhisa for sushi and Mason Richard for pastries and espresso! Abbot Kinney Blvd. for one of a kind storefronts and small brands in Venice. Montana Avenue in Santa Monica for upscale fashion and smaller brands.
If your kids like running, jumping and climbing things, you’ll want to pay a visit to one of the top parkour gyms in the US with 3 LA locations. The coaches are professional athletes who want to share movement and play with every kid and adult they coach. We visit Tempest every time we’re in LA and it’s always a highlight of our trip.
Universal Studios Theme Park – Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park feels like its more suited to the older kids over a Disneyland experience, but maybe its because Universal sells beer! At Universal you’ll have access to a Backlot tour which every kid and adult will find enjoyable.
Entry tickets are spendy, but cheaper than DLand! I recommend upgrading your tickets to the front of the line pass, which allows you to make the most of your time at Universal.
Coming up: Worldschooling Central is an upcoming resource for traveling homeschooler / unschooling families. Check them out and see my article on an additional 10 Great Things to do in LA with Kids. Links soon!