40 Awesome Things To Do in Santa Monica With Kids

Santa Monica Pier. Photo by Roberta Brown
Santa Monica Pier. Photo by Roberta Brown
5/24/24 - By Kylie Williams

Is there anything more iconic than the Pacific Pier, rising over the ocean with its sparkling Ferris wheel? Santa Monica is, in many ways, the most "LA" part of LA, and is number one on the list for most tourists, which is why locals tend to avoid the packed streets. 

For years I was partial to beaches north of Los Angeles, but a friend recently invited me for a beach day, and I discovered that the coastline further down the PCH is less crowded, incredibly spacious, and perfect for my little crew. After a blissful day splashing in the Pacific, I was sold on Santa Monica's shoreline and the rest of the city as well. 

Whether you are a local mom looking for adventure or an out-of-towner planning your day, here are 40 fantastic, tried-and-true recommendations for enjoying Santa Monica with kids. When you know where to look (and where to park), Santa Monica can be the perfect day out for everyone. 

Looking for more city guides? We can help you navigate around Pacific Palisades, Ventura, San Diego, Marina del Rey, and more seaside spots. Head to our day trips and weekend getaways guide for an extensive list of adventures in and around LA. 


Things To Do Outdoors in Santa Monica With Kids

Pacific Park photo courtesy of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism

1. Pacific Pier 

This may seem like an obvious suggestion as Pacific Pier is hard to miss and is a must-do for LA visitors. I think we forget sometimes that our kids haven't experienced as much of LA as we have. My kids' eyes lit up the first time we took them to Pacific Park. Between the vintage carousel, the roller coaster, the carnival-style games, and the quintessential fair food, they had the best day ever. Want to learn more about the pier? Public walking tours are available every Saturday and Sunday at 10am. 

2. Santa Monica Trapeze School 

Fly through the air with the greatest ease at this awesome trapeze school with lessons for all skill levels, starting at age 6. Whether you want to swing on the trapeze, jump on the trampolines, or try your hand at silks, the trapeze school can help you hone your skills. 

3. The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (aka The Strand) 

This blissful bike trail traces the PCH and the Pacific Ocean for 22 miles from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. We normally bring our scooters and stop off at the playgrounds dotting the trail before detouring for a dip in the sea. Bike and skate rentals are available at various stops along the way. 

4. Original Muscle Beach 

Watch toned beach-goers get in their reps, or maybe try a few of your own at the original Muscle Beach (not to be confused with Muscle Beach in Venice a few miles away). 

5. The Cove Skatepark

If you or your little ones like to shred, this is the spot with more than 20,000 square feet of bowls, ramps, stairs, and rails. 

6. Weekly Farmers' Markets

Santa Monica hosts farmers' markets in the downtown area, on Main Street, and in the Pico neighborhoods. There are currently markets on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  

7. Pickle Pop

Have you caught on to the pickleball craze yet? At Pickle Pop, you can book an open play session with your friends and play on a PPA-approved court in the middle of the 3rd Street Promenade. 

8. Santa Monica Bait & Tackle Co.

Something fun to do in Santa Monica with kids is to rent fishing poles and buy bait for a morning of fishing off the pier—no fishing license required. We saw a fisherman pull up a skate ray the last time we were on the pier. 

Great Parks and Playgrounds in Santa Monica 

9. Tongva Park 

This six-acre park is beautifully landscaped and traced with pathways. There is a great splash pad in the summer for kiddos who need to wash off sand from the nearby seashore. 

10. Douglas Park

Feed the ducks (but not too much) at this beautiful park featuring waterfowl and a great playground. 

11. Rustic Canyon Park and Recreation Center

Get your sports on with baseball diamonds, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a swimming pool at the Rustic Canyon Rec Center. There is also a playground for kids on site. 

12. Joslyn Park

Joslyn Park is especially worth a visit if you are bringing your four-footed friend along. Santa Monica has several off-leash dog parks, including the Herb Katz Dog Park at Joslyn Park. 

13. Palisades Park

Palisades Park wins for the best ocean view in Santa Monica, set up on the cliffs overlooking the seashore. There is plenty of space to run and play or set out a picnic while breathing in the salty air. 

14. Marine Park

This playground might have the most "Instagrammable" spot for kids in Santa Monica—a mini replica of the famous Santa Monica Pier sign that is just their size. Kids can play while mom and dad relax under the shade of sprawling trees. 

 Heal the Bay Aquarium is something fun to do in Santa Monica with kids
Heal the Bay Aquarium. Photo courtesy of the Aquarium

Indoor Attractions for Families in Santa Monica 

15. Heal the Bay Aquarium 

This darling aquarium tucked under the pier holds two fantastic touch tanks, eels, a two-spot octopus, and more. Almost all the creatures inside were found right around the pier. 

16. Annenberg Beach House 

If you've ever dreamed of owning a beach house, hop over to this public spot with amenities, spectacular views, and an awesome little splash pad for the kiddos. The beach house pool is open daily from mid-June to early September, though there is a nominal fee to swim (around $4-$5). 

The Cayton children's museum is a fun thing to do in Santa Monica with kids 
Find out how high you can jump at the Cayton Children's Museum. Photo by Matthew Tucciarone

17. Cayton Children's Museum

This incredible children's museum focuses on the power of learning through play with imaginative and visually stunning exhibits. Kids can test their skills in the courage climber, pretend to save the city on a fire truck, get messy in the art studio, or learn more about teamwork in the "Together We" wing. 

18. California Heritage Museum

Learn more about the cultures and art that have shaped California at this small museum with rotating exhibits. The California Heritage Museum also hosts food truck nights with some of LA's premier food trucks In warmer months.

19. Santa Monica Playhouse 

This internationally acclaimed theater showcases plenty of family-friendly musicals and plays throughout the year. 

20. Broadstage

Santa Monica's contemporary performing arts center is home to fantastic ballet, dance, and orchestral productions. Check their calendar to see what programming is available. 

21. The Aero Theater 

This classic theater calls itself a "year-round film festival." The Aero shows classic films in 35mm, 70mm, nitrate, and state-of-the-art digital formats. I once attended a showing of Casablanca on 70mm with my husband- it's still one of my favorite dates. 

22. Paint Lab

Get creative at this art studio with classes, workshops, and camps for kids, teens, and adults. ​​

The museum of flying is something to do in Santa Monica with kids 
Kids at the Museum of Flying. Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism

23. Museum of Flying 

Airplane enthusiasts will love this museum with plenty of classic aircraft, a pilot hall of fame, and a Maxflight simulator. Kids are encouraged to climb into the cockpit of several aircraft and imagine they are taking to the skies. 

24. Bergamot Station Arts Center 

The largest art gallery and cultural complex on the West Coast, the Bergamot Station Arts Center has a studio for little artists to get creative, as well as plenty of inspiration from galleries packed with fine art of various periods. 

25. Santa Monica History Museum

Learn more about this bustling city at a local museum with rotating exhibits. Don't skip the Augmented Reality Walking Tour, which takes visitors on a journey through the Broadway neighborhood of Santa Monica, which was displaced by the building of the 10 freeway. 

26. McCabe's Guitar Shop

This guitar shop is more than just a storefront, it is a hub for fans of Americana and folk music and holds a 150-seat concert venue with regular programming. 

27. Camera Obscura

This quirky attraction in Palisades Park features a pinhole camera that captures images from outside and shows them in a darkened room. It's been around since the 1950s, though the concept behind the camera dates back to Aristotle. 

Family-Friendly Shopping in Santa Monica 

28. Santa Monica Place

Santa Monica's best mall boasts a great collection of name brands, including Peloton, Tiffany & Co., Rolex, Nordstrom, Nike, Free People, and more. Santa Monica Place frequently hosts temporary attractions as well. In the past, the mall has been home to Cocomelon Party Time, Tyra Banks' Modelland, and The Whimsical World of Dr. Seuss.  ​

29. 3rd Street Promenade 

3rd Street Promenade is the perfect spot for a family stroll and is filled with family-friendly spots to dine and shop, There is always exciting happening on the promenade, such as a movie promotion or captivating street performers.

Huckleberry cafe in Santa Monica 
The patio seating at the Huckleberry Cafe. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Santa Monica 

30. Huckleberry Cafe

At this local favorite, kids can actually order green eggs and ham—just like the book (the eggs are infused with basil). Ask any native, and they will recommend this awesome spot for brunch or lunch. A must when visiting Santa Monica with kids.

31. BurgerLounge

BurgerLounge isn't unique to Santa Monica, but they do have a great location with a spacious outdoor patio right off of 3rd Street Promenade. My favorite part about Burger Lounge? Kids eat free on Tuesdays! 

32. Back on the Beach Cafe

Sink your toes in the sand while you dine at this cafe that is literally right on the beach. Bring a pail and shovel along and you've got entertainment for your kids while you enjoy a hot meal. 

33. Sidecar Donuts

Whenever I'm in Santa Monica, I make a point to stop by Sidecar. These donuts are pretty much irresistible. Make sure to grab a Huckleberry one. and a Butter and Salt one... okay, maybe just grab one of everything. 

34. Gallery Food Hall

Food halls are a great way to make sure that every family member can get the fare they want and the Gallery Food Hall on the 3rd Street Promenade is no exception. Whether you are in the mood for some fantastic tacos, a burger, a slice of pizza, or a sweet treat, the Gallery Food Hall has you covered. 

35. Rusty's Surf Ranch

Soak in an ocean view from your vantage point on the pier at this classic Santa Monica spot. The family-friendly vibe and good eats are enough to earn this one a spot on our list- but the weekend karaoke takes it up a notch. 

36. Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery 

The Italian subs at this deli are the perfect to-go snack for the beach. No trip to Santa Monica is complete without an irresistable Bay Cities sub.

37. Holy Grail Donuts 

This Hawaiian donut shop has two locations in LA- one in Larchmont Village and another in Santa Monica. The bakers specialize in taro donuts, and they are absolutely worth the hype. 

kid skateboarding at the Pier 360 festival in Santa Monica 
Pier 360 Festival. Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism

Can't Miss Events in Santa Monica 

38. ICE at Santa Monica 

Netflix hosts this epic ice rink which pops up in Santa Monica every November and typically lasts until around January. This isn't your average skating rink. ICE always creates a calendar of theme nights, offers rentals and skate lessons, and packs plenty of surprises into the season. 

39. Santa Monica Pier 360 Festival

This annual event is packed with fun for families. The festival celebrates beach culture with live music, sports competitions, food and drink, and more. 

40. Locals Night on the Pier

Once a month, the pier turns into a party for locals (but if you aren't local, we won't tell!) with live music, food, drink, and kids activities. 

Getting to Santa Monica 

Santa Monica can seem intimidating if you're not familiar with the jam-packed freeways and parking situations. We're here to help you out.

It is possible to ride the metro into Santa Monica. The city is on the E line and has three stops. Bergamot Station is right by the Bergamot Station Arts Center, the 17th Street stop which is near The Broad Stage, and the 18th Street stop near the Arts Center. The line ends near the 3rd Street Promenade, which is an easy walk to the pier. 

When it comes to parking, Santa Monica is full of options. Visitors can park in the parking garage connected to Santa Monica Place, or at various garages along 2nd Street that are owned and operated by the city. If you want to be closer to the seashore, parking lots dot the PCH. The large lot next to the Pier is often crowded, but smaller lots further down the stretch tend to be easier to access. 

Looking to entertain kids and family in a different LA neighborhood? We also have lists of things to do in BurbankPasadenaHollywood, Downtown LARedondo Beach, Laguna BeachMarina del Rey, Westchester, Thousand Oaks, or Culver City!


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