Broad Museum Family Weekend Workshop. Photo courtesy of the museum
Broad Museum Family Weekend Workshop. Photo courtesy of the museum

20 Free Indoor Activities When It's Rainy or Cold in LA

There is no limit to what a family can do outdoors in Los Angeles, and our clichéd weather makes enjoying these activities possible most days of the year. But on the occasional day when the mercury drops below 50 degrees—or when water falls perplexingly from the sky—we need a back-up plan. Indoor activities are sprinkled throughout our bucket list of 100 Things To Do with LA Kids Before They Grow Up, but wouldn't it be handy to have one list of totally free things to do with kids indoors? We thought so, too!

1. The Broad Museum

Not only is the museum free, the tours are also free and totally worth it! Or you can download the app and get a free audio tour from your own phone narrated by LeVar Burton. If it's a rainy weekend, the museum also offers Saturday and Sunday family art workshops. Online, you can reserve tickets (free, but guarantees you entry) or you can visit as a walk-up or a stand-by. 

2. Grand Central Market

Want to meet for lunch with your parent/kid friends but everyone wants to eat something different? Grand Central Market is the perfect place to meet. It's open 8am -10pm, 7 days a week, and offers a huge array of food vendors from burgers to tacos to ramen (and killer grilled cheese). While you're downtown, head over to the Broad (#1) or the Last Bookstore (#3). Or take a $1 ride on Angels Flight across the street.

3. The Last Bookstore

Okay, it may not be the very last bookstore, but close. Wander the aisles and check out the new and used books, as well as the huge collection of vinyl records. In addition to picking up a book, check out the "book sculptures" and cool book art. Have books you don't want anymore? Bring them along and donate or sell them to the store. 


In case you haven't yet heard, kids and their parents get free admission to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art any old time they want to go. Art for NexGen is the nation's only free youth membership program, offering free admission to anyone 17 and under along with one accompanying adult. To join, print an enrollment form and bring it to the museum with you—and then hit the Boone Children's Gallery anytime you want.

Journey to Space. Photo courtesy of California Science Center

5. California Science Center

There is so much to do at the Science Center it's just crazy—allow us to start you off with our 10 favorite picks for preschoolers and for tweens and teens. Naturally, the Science Center greatly appreciates contributions at the door when you can afford to make them, but when you can't you're just as welcome, with no questions asked; the "admission" price is a suggestion only.

6. Annenberg PetSpace

Culver City/Play Vista area has a place for animal lovers to hang out and get furry cuddles while learning about animal care and maybe getting sorely tempted to bring home a rescue kitten or puppy (you've been warned). Adoption is not necessary, however, to enjoy the wonderful facility; reading to the bunnies and exercising the pooches is also much appreciated by all involved.

You can never go wrong with bunnies! Photo courtesy of Annenberg PetSpace

7. Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

Everyone knows about the Ferris wheel on top of the Pier, but what about the aquarium underneath it? The touch tanks are always fun, the sharks are often frisky, and the octopus is occasionally planning his great escape. All kids up to age 18 get free admission all the time. Heal the Bay asks adults for a donation of $5, but no one is turned away.

8. Griffith Observatory

Although there is a cost to attend the films offered at the Observatory (and they are worth every penny), there is plenty to do at Griffith Observatory without spending a cent. The many interesting interactive exhibits, the epic views, and even the remarkable building itself make the trip a Los Angeles must-do.


Star gazing can be done indoors, too. Griffith Observatory. Photo by Passion Leica/CC BY 2.0

9. Wells Fargo History Museum

The free Wells Fargo History Museum connects the bank's history to the Gold Rush and early southern California, with displays that include an 1868 Wells Fargo stagecoach and rare gold coins and nuggets. A telegraph machine in the corner on the first floor allows kids to send messages between two tables using a Morse code chart.

10. SAMO The Whale

Santa Monica Place has a free play area called SAMO's Clubhouse, designed by the same team that brought us the Skirball's Noah's Ark. The enormous play-on, play-in, play-around whale is built to scale, created using recycled materials, and keeps kids up to age 8 or so entertained for a surprisingly long time. The whale is on the top floor, in the food court, with plenty of natural light and plenty of seating for parents.

11. Watch a hockey game or figure skating at the Toyota Sports Center

The Toyota Sports Center has three different ice rinks with constant action, and two of them are observable from a heated cafe area above the rinks. Check the schedule; if you time it right, one rink could have an action-packed hockey game going on while the other has top-level figure skaters in a freestyle practice session. You can watch both for free, or spend a few coins on hot chocolate and arcade games while you watch. There is even a full cafe and bar, in case anyone gets peckish or thirsty.


Indulge red carpet fantasies, or get inspired for a Halloween costume. Photo courtesy of FIDM


12. The Fashion Institute of Design Museum

Admission is always free for families to check out the historical garments and costumes at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum. Expect to see literally thousands of threads worn in movies through the ages.

13. Getty Center or Villa

The key to either Getty museum is that the seemingly hefty price is only for parking. This means that if you can get a ride, carpool, or take the bus, a day at the Getty can be free - and there is plenty going on at both locations to fill a lot more than a day.

14. Hollywood Bowl Museum

A small museum covering the history of the bowl and other music artifacts, the two-story museum is just steps from the Bowl itself. This can be a quick daytime stop to take when Highland traffic seems insurmountable.


The Fowler Museum's permanent exhibition Intersections: World Arts/Local Lives, photo by Rajat Ghosh/Fowler Museum


15. Fowler Museum

Located on the UCLA campus, this museum emphasizes cultures from Africa, Asia, and the Americas -- making it a great spot to open pint-sized minds.

16. Torrance Art Museum

Want to introduce your kids to contemporary and modern artwork for free? A rainy day seems like the perfect opportunity. 

17. The Hammer Museum

Located in the heart of Westwood, the Hammer Museum has a remarkable collection of modern art for free -- but be prepared to pay $6 for the first three hours of parking under the building. Still, you'll never get wet!

The Annenberg Space for Photography's next exhibit "Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling" opens Oscar weekend and runs from February 8 – July 26, 2020. Photo by Justin Bishop

18. Annenberg Space for Photography

Have a junior shutterbug? This small museum hosts a variety of exhibits and, while parking in the area can be pricey, entry to this museum is always free. When they are installing a new exhibition, the museum can close for several weeks so be sure and check their website for hours.

19. Central Library

While the downtown branch of the Los Angeles Public Library can become a dry and safe haven for the community's homeless population when it rains, consider coming using our tips on how best to enjoy a visit with kids. 

20. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

This cozy aquarium is worth a visit rain or shine (and especially when the grunion are running), but consider stopping in for a rainy day activity. After checking out the simulated tide pool touch tank, enjoy the aquatic babies exhibit and the giant whale skeleton hung from above. While entry is free, a contribution is always appreciated. 


Places featured in this article:

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
Free Day at Descanso Gardens
Descanso Gardens - 9:00 AM Pick
Underwood Family Farms' Annual Fall Harvest Festival
Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark - 9:00 AM
Spooky Zoo (at the Santa Barbara Zoo)
Santa Barbara Zoo - 9:30 AM
Kids Club at the Americana
Americana at Brand - 10:00 AM
Rancho Los Cerritos Storytime
Rancho Los Cerritos - 10:00 AM
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides