50 Free Things Kids Can Do in LA this Summer
Summer's great, isn't it? So much time, so many things to do. And everything is open again this summer! All the things that we couldn't do for a whole year can be enjoyed all day (and even into the night, without the stress of school night bedtimes). Summer means not a care in the world—except how to pay for all this frivolity, right? The answer lies in free summer outings. Become an expert on how long your kids can get in free to Southland activities. Hit all the free museum days. And then start working your way down this list of totally free things to do with LA kids over the summer!
1. Go on a grunion run
These slippery little fish light up the beaches on summer evenings.
2. Swing on the Muscle Beach traveling rings
There's even a set that accommodates kids (and shorter adults).
3. Visit Wattles Garden Park
Discover this hidden park in the Hollywood Hills.
4. Hit the Broad Museum
Learn about modern art at this DTLA museum on Bunker Hill. Note: free museum tickets go fast, so be sure to register online well in advance of the date you'd like to visit.
5. See a movie on the beach
Catch a family-friendly film on the sand this summer at Newport Dunes Resort, for free. Just bring blankets and snacks.
Zuma Beach is a great beach for kids. Photo by Ben and Rachel Apps/Flickr
6. Head to a kid-friendly beach
Speaking of the beach, a day at the beach is always free, free, free.
7. Chug over to Travel Town
Take your train obsessed tot over to the (finally) reopened Travel Town! While a ride on the train isn't free (it's $3 for kids under 12 and $3.50 for adults), entrance to the grounds where you can see all the trains (and even see some ongoing preservation work taking place) is always free, 6 days a week. Travel Town is closed on Wednesdays.
8. Visit the California Science Center
While tickets to the IMAX and Lego: Art of the Brick are not free, entrance to the museum is. This means you never have to pay a cent to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the sharks that live in the Kelp Forest, the touch tanks, and more.
9. Go to Grand Central Market
The food isn't free, but the sights, sounds, and smells sure are. And while some of the trendier lunch places are a little pricier, there are still spots where you can get cheap candy or fruits to snack on.
Vista Hermosa Natural Park. Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
These great green spaces in the middle of our city are perfect for picnics, playing ball, and just relaxing under a shady tree.
11. Take advantage of free admission days
Now that museums are open, free days have returned! (Though many now require advance registration and have limited hours, so please be sure to check the website before heading out.)
12. Read and browse at your local library
Libraries are opening again, and not only is it free to borrow books (and take part in story hours and other activities), you can earn free pizza by reading!
13. Visit Hollywood Forever Cemetery
See the last resting places of film and music stars, and visit with the over 50 peacocks and 70+ cats that call the cemetery home.
14. Hop on the Aqualink in Long Beach
Seas the day! The water taxi across the harbor is completely free Friday-Sunday from 11:30am-7pm through July 4.
Kids attending Apple Camp. Photo courtesy of Apple
15. Sign kids up for a free Apple Camp
Get on the notification list, and you'll be the first to know when classes take place.
16. Discover hidden staircases
They are hiding in plain sight in the hills of Silver Lake and Echo Park.
17. Watch a horse show at the Equestrian Center
18. Go for a walk through the Venice Canals
Because while Europe is accepting vaccinated tourists, many of us still aren't ready to hop on a long international flight quite yet.
19. Visit Will Rogers State Park
Free guided tours are offered of the house and grounds, and all summer long you can catch a free polo match on Saturday or Sunday.
20. Dance Downtown
It's back for 2021! Swing, samba, or just plain jump every Friday evening this summer.
21. Visit Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Seeing the rescued sea lions at the Laguna Beach rescue center requires reservations until June 14, but after that, you can drop by anytime (though for the safety of sea lions and humans, capacity is limited).
22. Or go to the Marine Mammal Care Center
This is another free place to see rescued marine life. Reserve your spot online to visit on Saturday or Sunday from 10am–2pm.
23. Head to iconic Venice Beach
Rollerblade, scooter, or walk the strip and be sure to take the time to check out the art and watch the street performers.
Look at that beautiful boy. Photo courtesy of LA Arboretum
24. See the peacocks at the LA Arboretum
The third Tuesday of every month is a free day. Just remember that tickets (even for free days) must now be booked in advance.
25. Head to the Hammer
Learn more about the art that's made in our city at Made in LA at the Hammer Museum, which is on exhibit through August.
26. Drive to Van Nuys Blvd's Mural Mile
Check out the city's vibrant street art scene. Looking for more street art? We know just where to find it.
27. Hear the bands at Mariachi Plaza
The Plaza in Boyle Heights is named for the mariachi musicians who have gathered there since the 1930s.
Most facilities at Santa Monica's Annenberg Beach House are free. Photo by William Short courtesy of Annenberg Beach
28. Enjoy the facilities at the Annenberg Beach House
Yes, you read that right! The courtyard and splash pad open on June 15. And the beach playground has been open for a while. (The pool will open July 1, but admission to the pool area is not free.)
29. Hit Universal CityWalk after dark
Kids love to play in the dancing lights fountain—you'll have to drag them away. Just remember to bring a change of clothes.
30. Go tidepooling at Leo Carrillo State Park
From crabs to tiny octopuses, you never know what you'll find lurking in these pools.
31. MOCA Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo and MOCA Grand on Bunker Hill are always free
Explore even modern art for free at two different locations; free tickets are available online.
32. Go on a bike ride
We've got river, beach, and park paths all over the city where no cars are allowed.
33. Take a free virtual kids' class presented by Microsoft
Learn coding, robotics, Minecraft, and more—there's even a Space Jam coding class and a workshop on creating connections with Dear Evan Hansen.
Welcome to my mansion! Greystone Mansion is a great place for outdoor hide-and-seek. Photo by Meghan Rose
34. Visit Greystone Mansion
Greystone has just reopened the grounds (with reservations), and the whole family can relax at this gorgeous public park with rolling green hills, turtle ponds, and just a great atmosphere for pretending that you're a knight defending a castle.
35. Keep learning over the summer at the Wende Museum
Beat the heat indoors while learning about the Cold War at this little-known Culver City museum. Admission is always free, reservations are required.
Clean up our beaches! Photo courtesy of Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
36. Participate in a beach clean-up
Beach clean-ups have not yet been scheduled for the summer of 2021, but they will be! In the meantime, bring a bag with you to the beach and fill it up with trash you find. We all use these gorgeous beaches, we all should help keep them clean.
37. Discover the prehistoric history of Los Angeles at the La Brea Tar Pits
The grounds are always free and LA County residents receive free admission to the museum from 3-5pm. The museum is currently open Thursday-Sunday.
39. Explore Balboa Island
Stroll about, window shop, look at all the boats, and don't forget to stop by the free Balboa Island Museum. Ask about the Kids Scavenger Hunt!
39. Immerse yourself in art at the Getty
Ok, we said art, but you're a parent. What we meant was, ride up and down the tram about 100 times with your kids. They just adore it. Take a break in the middle to chase them around the garden. And maybe see a little art.
40. Watch for whales
No need to pay for a boat ride, when you can search from shore with the experts at Point Vicente Interpretive Center.
41. See the free Shakespeare in Griffith Park
ISCLA is gearing up for a 2021 return after canceling the 2020 season. This summer the show is The Tempest, and be sure to check the website for details because the show will not be in its usual location by the Old Zoo. That's because the new, permanent stage is being built this summer!
42. Experience the rich history of Olvera Street
Step back into history, as this is the oldest part of downtown LA. And while you're here, don't forget to grab a snack at Mr. Churro.
You can't get quite all the way to the letters anymore, but you can come pretty darn close! And every kid growing up in LA needs to do this once.
44. Stroll around the Lake Shrine garden
Reservations can be made each Saturday at 10am for the week ahead. The Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is a spiritual oasis for people of all cultures and is a lovely respite from the buzz of city life.
The "Brady Bunch" after HGTV's renovation. Photo courtesy of HGTV
45. See where your favorite TV show (or movie) was filmed
See the Brady Bunch, the Bat Cave, and some other locations that don't begin with "B."
46. Spy on passers-by at Santa Monica's vintage Camera Obscura
Then head over to the Santa Monica Pier for some spectacular people watching and sunset spying.
47. Explore the Museum of the San Fernando Valley
Can you tell we just love these little-known free museums? This one opens up again this summer after a year and a half of being closed. Our favorite exhibit is the Tarzan one. Fun fact: Tarzan was named for Tarzana Ranch, not the other way around! Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs said that the Valley represented “all that was good and wholesome in Southern California, in contrast to big, bad Hollywood.” So take that, people who mock the Valley.
48. Window shop on Rodeo Drive
Strolling Rodeo is as iconically LA as hiking to the Hollywood Sign. And just as free!
49. Hike to a waterfall
While rains were scarce this winter, several of our local waterfalls are still plenty wet. (It's just more of a drip and drizzle than a gushing geyser.)
See what lives under the sea. Photo courtesy of the Roundhouse Aquarium
50. Visit the Roundhouse Aquarium
The Roundhouse Aquarium welcomes families to the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier to meet the animals and learn about the ocean. Admission is free, though a reservation is required, and donations are always appreciated.
And don't forget there are always more things to do on our daily events calendar. Stay cool, and have (free) fun!