33 Things To Do with Los Angeles Babies Before They Turn 1
Baby's first year is a collection of memories waiting to happen—for Mom and Dad, anyway! Los Angeles is the best place on earth to raise kids, and it’s filled with magical moments you can start enjoying with children the moment they’re born. There are world-class museums and restaurants and entertainment will make your kiddo quite the aficionado from a very young age, and living in LA means (almost) never being trapped indoors with a fussy baby. Here are our favorite ways to introduce your little Angeleno to the joys of SoCal living.
Pack a diaper bag, sling a stroller in the back of the car, keep this checklist handy, and go to explore LA, baby-style.
Outdoor Activities for Babies in Los Angeles
1. Visit Griffith Park
Babies force us to slow down and enjoy the wonders of nature close to home, and that includes Griffith Park. Ride Walt Disney's favorite carousel, enjoy one of the city's largest universal access playgrounds, snap photos of your bundle of joy on a pony, ride a train together—or just enjoy a picnic far from the madding crowd.
2. Go to the LA Zoo
While at Griffith Park, why not hop over to the LA Zoo? Even the tiniest tots get a kick out of the seal shows, meerkats, and monkeys, but my little weirdo's favorite was the geese. Make sure to bring a stroller with shade, as there are sunny patches. If you plan on going more than once, a membership is a great deal. Unfortunately, you can't jump in the otter play area to join the fun (I asked).
3. Baby’s first (little) theme park: Adventure City
This theme park bills itself as “a little theme park that’s big on fun,” which is a perfect description of this old-fashioned amusement park nestled between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. Babies 12 months and younger are admitted free; otherwise, general admission is the same price for all ages and is under $25. The park has quite a few rides gentle enough for a baby to enjoy (accompanied by an adult, of course). The scale of everything is small, and the Adventure City Express Train that circles the park is a great first ride for babies. There is also a carousel, Thomas the Tank Engine play area, and a petting zoo. Toddlers have even more options. Big kids won't find much to thrill them, except maybe for the best caramel apple I’ve ever had. (Babies are allowed their own food and formula; no other outside food is allowed).
4. Baby’s first big theme park: Disneyland
Once you’ve dipped your toes into the theme park waters, you might be ready for the granddaddy of all theme parks. Here’s why it’s actually a blast with babes in arms: Babies get in free, and there are plenty of fun ways to entertain them, from It's A Small World to their first lick of a first Dole Whip at the Enchanted Tiki Room. Plus, you will treasure that picture of your little one wearing their first mouse ears. Check out our game plan for more details on baby’s first trip to the Magic Kingdom.
5. Shop the farmers markets
Even if your baby is still on a liquid diet, one way to get them used to a diet of fruits and vegetables is to start them young. LA’s farmers markets are stimulating places for wee ones, too. Many vendors offer samples, making this a great way to get a baby to try something new, or to stock up on fresh, local, and organic goods to turn into baby food at home. In addition to the many markets throughout the city, remember "the" Farmers Market is still at 3rd and Fairfax.
6. Have an animal encounter
One day, completely out of ideas, I took my kid down to the Rose Bowl Riders in Hahamonga Watershed. Not only did we get to watch big kids ride, but we also got to meet and pet a ton more incredibly sweet horses who didn't seem to mind when my daughter yelled "NEIGH!" at them. It turned out to be a pretty good free show and a petting zoo. Speaking of petting zoos, there are several great ones near Los Angeles where even babies can get up close and personal with furry friends.
The LA Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, and The Huntington are all great, shady places with paved sidewalks to push a stroller and enjoy the sunshine! Flower gardens are where I taught my daughter to "sniff the flowers"—which I use as a way to get her to breathe and regulate when she's having big feelings. Tucked away in the sumptuous grounds of The Huntington is a little children’s garden with fountains and water misters to appeal to kids of all ages. Be sure to bring a change of clothes if you’ve got a new walker, as kids tend to get wet.
8. Visit a farm
Pick a day that isn't crazy hot for this outing, and then harvest the joy of pulling your little one around a farm in a wagon while you pick a variety of healthy treats for Baby to taste before bringing home for a fresh, farm-grown meal. While there are loads of farms within easy driving distance, my favorite is Underwood Farms. Here everyone under age two gets in free and the petting zoo makes a nice stop when the wagon loses its charms.
9. Take a hike
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, strap baby on and go for one of LA’s many wonderful hikes. I particularly recommend Eaton Canyon Nature Center, which has a couple of shallow waterfall/ small pool areas for babies to dip their piggies in too, or drive up the Angeles Crest Highway and check out Switzer Falls. (Just make sure to bring plenty of water for both of you, of course.)
Reason #12,495 to love LA: you can go to a playground every day. Photo by Alexander Balandin, Pexels
10. Hit an outdoor playground
When the weather is nice, it’s great to be outside and playing, climbing, and exploring. These favorite playgrounds all cater to the smaller set, and you’ll feel safe knowing your tiny teetering one won’t get knocked over by big kids.
11. Go shopping
The Americana and The Grove both have big expansive areas where those just learning to walk can figure it out (plus Kids Club entertainment once a week). The Americana also has fantastic changing/ breastfeeding areas for moms, as well as kid-friendly restaurants and stores. While babies are small and interested in everything, it’s the perfect time to browse in bookstores (or clothing stores, or sporting goods stores) and also stock up on that next size up in baby clothing when you see a sale!
There are butterflies in the spring and spiders in the fall at the Natural History Museum. Photo courtesy of NHM
12. Check out the seasonal pavilion at the NHM
You can probably save visiting the inside of the Natural History Museum until your child is over 1, but kids of all ages are entranced by the butterflies flying about the Butterfly Pavilion in the summer, and by the spiders and their webs at the Spider Pavilion in the fall. Because this is a no-touching space, it’s best to bring babies in their carriers, or just hold your little wiggle worm in your arms.
13. Deck baby out in fan gear for a game
Whether you want to show your allegiance to the Trojans or the Bruins, the Dodgers or the Angels, the Rams or the Chargers—or any other local sports team—it’s good to start them rooting for the right home team at a young age.
Seriously, kids can never get enough of water play. Photo courtesy of pretendcity.org
Indoor Activities for Babies in Los Angeles
14. Visit kids' museums
While LA has museums that are great for children of all ages, Santa Monica's new Cayton Children's Museum (formerly the Zimmer) is specifically for kids 8 and under. Parents love that there's no need to worry about big kids knocking down little ones or monopolizing the exhibits. Babies can explore miniature versions of vehicles, buildings, and other grown-up fun at their own pace. There is also a water play area, dress-up, storytime, and weekly family programs. On the Eastside check out Kidspace, which has a wonderfully padded baby room, with the most absurdly safe slide I’ve ever seen. There is also music time, storytime, a fun “Wonder box time,” plus much more for all ages—including water play areas, a MUD area (great for hot days), and animal time where a staff member introduces kids to a creepy-crawly critter. Also worth a day is the Southern California Children's Museum. Oh, and Pretend City has special events just for babies under 18 months (and their parents). There are so many great indoor museums in LA for your youngest explorer.
15. Visit grownup museums
Don't limit yourself to museums specifically for kids! While there are kids’ areas at most museums (like the Getty and LACMA), most of those family or children rooms are made for bigger kids. But babies who are in strollers or carriers are at the perfect age to bring to your own favorite museum. The art and people-watching are entrancing to babies and you’re beginning a lifetime of modeling to your children that art is important.
There are so many things for even tiny tots to explore at the Science Center. Photo courtesy of the California Science Center
16. Blast off to the California Science Center
So much to see, even for tiny babies. While they’ll be mesmerized by the sharks in the tank in the Kelp Forest, you can also take little ones to watch chicks hatch, feel the ice wall, and play in one of several Family Discovery Rooms.
17. Browse a pet store
Whether or not you have a pet, pet stores can be fun places to push babies around to look at fish swimming, colorful birds, weird rodents, and usually a few cats or dogs to meet and pet. One of my simple joys has always been sitting in front of the grooming window holding my daughter, eating animal crackers, and watching dogs get haircuts. Annenberg PetSpace also has animals available for adoption, if you want to meet and greet some animals, too. If your kid likes fish like mine does, try the big aquarium too!
18. Get baby’s first haircut
This is an exciting rite of passage. There is nothing like trimming that first little curl. A Beverly Hills institution since 1971, Tipperary’s motto, hand-painted on a wood board decorated with daisies, is “Through these arches pass the most beautiful children in the world.” Back in the day, the walls were covered in whimsical murals and headshots; the floor was filled with baby toys, and the pinball was free. Tipperary is now on S. Robertson, still a kids’ salon, but with a hipper, more sophisticated vibe. Nowadays, of course, there are several places that specialize in first cuts, including various locations of The Yellow Balloon.
19. Take a trip to the firehouse
Babies love fire engines. They are red. They are shiny. They have gleaming chrome accessories, and firemen wear really cool outfits. Fire stations always welcome young visitors; it's actually part of the department's directive to educate little ones about fire safety and help them to feel comfortable with potential rescuers. Many fire stations will deputize your baby and hand him or her a bright plastic firefighter’s hat. (Hello, amazing photo!)
Under the Sea has loads of indoor activities for babies! Photo by Tiffany Boveland
20. Visit an indoor playground
When the weather is nice, it’s great to be outside, for sure. Sometimes, however, it’s too hot, or you just want to be somewhere easy and confined. If your little one has an older sibling, it’s nice to head somewhere that suits both kids. Under the Sea is a favorite on the Westside with both small activities for babies and bouncers for bigger kids. On the Eastside check out The Magical Playground. In the Valley, we love the new My Little Paris. Or really any of these wonderful indoor playgrounds.
Waiting for the other parachute to drop... Photo by the author
Classes and Storytimes for Babies in LA
21. Take a Swimming Class
Start getting baby used to the water by signing her up for inexpensive group classes or private lessons, or check out this list of mommy and me swim classes. We did The Rose Bowl aquatic center, but most LA county pools offer classes as well. It’s important to get SoCal kids water safe as young as possible, as there are so many beach and pool parties in their future. (Lucky kids!)
22. Also ... music classes, yoga classes, and more
We have been attending Lovebug and Me music classes since my daughter was three months old. Even though she couldn’t sing or stand or dance, her eyes would light up being surrounded by music and other kids. Since I introduced her at such a young age, it remains one of our favorite things to do together. But there are lots of classes all over town, and most will give you a free trial class to find the one right for you. In addition to music classes, Los Angeles has movement, yoga, sensory, and pretty much any class for babies you could dream up.
23. Hear a story at your local library or bookstore
Most libraries have storytimes, and some bookstores do, too. I love the ones at Vroman’s and Once Upon a Time. All libraries have a children’s section, and a lot of them even have toys and activities. Our Altadena Main Library has baskets full of stacking cups, blocks, crayons, chalk, etc, but it's not the only one; we made a list of the 10 best library play areas around LA. And, of course, it’s wonderful to sit down and read to your child at any age. While many storytimes are on hold still in 2021, some are starting to return; check in with your local bookstore or library to find out if and when it is holding a storytime.
The Observatory is an iconic spot. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Anne
Classic LA Photo Ops for Babies
Snap photos yourself, or set up a photoshoot with a professional photographer (they grow on trees here, for the booming actor headshot business!) so that the whole family can be in the pictures.
24. Hollywood sign
Hold your baby up, with the Hollywood sign as a backdrop. You’ll want this for their baby book, for sure. Don’t act like a tourist and block neighborhood traffic in Beachwood Canyon. You can get a great picture from the hiking paths at Griffith Observatory or Lake Hollywood Park.
25. Rodeo Drive
Another iconic spot, where you can easily navigate the street with your stroller, peek in the windows, and even have your breakfast at (near) Tiffany’s.
From the minute they’re born, your kiddo has shown off a strong personality. So take them to the star of a celebrity that reflects their personality. If she can’t stop punching the air, snap her in the stroller next to Sylvester Stallone’s star. If he babbles and coos himself to sleep, a picture next to Frank Sinatra’s name will remind you of their early proclivities and crack up your relatives.
27. And of course… Baby’s first birthday party
Yay, you've made it through that crazy but amazing first year. Celebrate with a first birthday party you'll both appreciate. We have endless ideas in our LA Party Guide, from bakeries that can whip up a stunning, photo-worthy cake to fun DIY options you can bake at home, plus LA parks that make for a great party backdrop.
Pretty much every day is a beach day when you live in LA. Photo by the author
Seasonal Fun for Los Angeles Babies
Is your tot too young to remember these adventures? Probably. But, not only will you enjoy adorable pictures from these holiday outings, these visits can become the cornerstone for traditions that will last throughout their childhoods. Find a favorite Santa, the perfect pumpkin patch, and all the things that your kids will clamor for year after year. (It’s also easy to see how much they grow when you have pictures in the same setting every year.)
It's a no-brainer that an LA baby's first summer needs a trip to the beach, but bringing an infant (and all their accompanying swag) to a hot, sandy environment far from bathrooms can be daunting. Luckily, not all beaches are created equal; try the Annenberg for its great facilities and stroller-friendly boardwalk to the shore, Orange County's gentle Baby Beach, or one of these other kid-friendly beaches. I’ll admit that my little one’s first “beach” trip was mostly spent in the Annenberg pool, not on the sand!
Because everyone needs a picture of their little pumpkin in the middle of a patch. There are loads of pre-picked pumpkin patches right all over town that have bales of hay and other decor just waiting to be the background for your photo op. And if you want to take the kids to an actual patch, where they can sit among the still growing gourds, you’ll find that at farms like Tanaka and Underwood.
Who says there's not autumn in LA? (Or at least near LA.) Photo courtesy Tatiana Syrikova
30. Sit them in a pile of leaves
While Los Angeles doesn’t boast the variety of fall foliage you’ll find in Vermont, there are plenty of drives you can take to find fall leaves. But with a baby, you might not want to take a long drive. Instead, head to a local park (the leaves turn stunning shades of yellow at Lacy Park in San Marino) or one of the gardens that we mentioned above, and rake up a mini pile of colorful leaves with your hands and let your babe explore. Kids love the crunch of the leaves, and you’ll love the colorful picture.
31. See snow!
Yes, you can see snow in the morning and be back by the beach by dinner. Peruse our list of easy day drives where you can see snow, or visit one of the local museums or events that carts snow right into the heart of the city, like the annual Snow Days at Kidspace. (Who says we don’t get snow in LA? It’s the city of movie magic, and we can get anything we want!)
32. See Santa
LA has Santas of all stripes. You’ll find a classic Santa at the Huntington, Mrs. Claus in Beverly Hills, Surfing Santa by the beach, so just do a little research and pick the perfect Santa for your family. Then try to return to this same Santa year after year.
Most malls that host a seasonal Santa also have an Easter Bunny that will pose for pictures in the spring. For more than a mall bunny, take a trip to Irvine, where the Easter Bunny will greet little ones on the train at Irvine Park Railroad.
Originally published June 25, 2018