Best Children's Museums in Los Angeles and Orange County

Dive into fun at the Cayton Children's Museum. Photo by Matthew Tucciarone
Dive into fun at the Cayton Children's Museum. Photo by Matthew Tucciarone
2/16/24 - By Jackie Jones

Children's museums in Los Angeles and Orange County offer immersive and interactive amusement to engage young minds and foster creativity, curiosity, and exploration. Southern California has plenty of local museums to excite and inspire visitors of all ages. 

A museum where kids are encouraged to touch exhibits, climb on furniture, and ask as many questions as they want is the holy grail of indoor activities. However, some of these children's museums have exciting outdoor water features that are great for summer fun. Here are the best children's museums in Los Angeles and beyond to entertain and enrich curious kiddos. 

For more museum outings, discover free museum days in Los Angeles, and let the kids run wild at the top indoor playgrounds and play spaces in LA. There's plenty more to explore in our Museum Guide for Kids in Los Angeles and Orange County.  


Best Children's Museums in Los Angeles

Best Children's Museums in Los Angeles: Kidspace
Dig up veggies in the Muddy Boot Farm at Kidspace. Photo courtesy of Gina Ragland

1. Kidspace Children's Museum — Pasadena

Kidspace is an indoor and outdoor museum for kids ages ten and under. There are climbing towers, a trike track, and many interactive exhibits. The water play areas are the main draws, especially in the summer. Step into the Physics Forest or pretend play at the Muddy Boot Farm. You'll want to bring a change of clothes and water shoes when visiting Kidspace. 

2. Cayton Children's Museum — Santa Monica

Exhibits at the Cayton appeal primarily to the ten and under crowd. Young visitors will enjoy playing veterinarian in the animal clinic or shopping for groceries in the pretend market. Brave kids can take a rope walk above the museum on the Courage Climber, while babies can enjoy the padded Launch Your space. Little artists can get creative inside a studio that offers art classes for kids as young as nine months. 

3. Noah's Ark at the Skirball Cultural Center — Brentwood 

A life-like Noah's Ark is full of interactive activities that will engage kids of all ages.There's a multi-sensory wall with cranks and tubes, where kids can create wind, thunder, and lightning. There's a ropes course, books, blocks, stuffed animals, and tunnels to explore. 

Admission to Noah's Ark is timed and limited to 90 minutes. Admission is free on Thursdays on a first-come, first-serve basis. Advance tickets to Noah's Ark are required. 

4. The Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits — Hancock Park 

You've probably heard of the iconic La Brea Tar Pits, but there's more to discover in Hancock Park at The Page Museum. Witness ongoing excavations and marvel at the fossils of mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and other ancient creatures preserved in the tar pits. Interactive exhibits offer insights into the Ice Age and a first-hand look at the fossil lab, engaging visitors of all ages in the mysteries of natural history. 

5. Natural History Museum — Exposition Park 

With its vast collection spanning over 35 million specimens and artifacts, the museum offers a journey through time, exploring the wonders of nature and human civilization. From towering dinosaur skeletons to sparkling gemstones, visitors can immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Earth's history. 

6. California Science Center — Exposition Park 

Visitors can journey through the Ecosystems exhibit or immerse themselves in the World of Life exhibit. With its commitment to education and innovation, the California Science Center is a hub for learning and discovery, fostering a passion for scientific exploration in children of all ages. And the best part? It's always free! 

RELATED: Free Museum Days for Kids in Los Angeles 

Best Children's Museums in Los Angeles: Southern California Children's Museum
The rainbow wall at Southern California Children's Museum begs for Instagram. Photo by Ographr 

7. Southern California Children's Museum — Pasadena 

There's not one, but two children's museums in Pasadena. This lofty space feels like a mix between a kid's museum and an indoor playground. For one thing, there is a large bouncy house at the Southern California Children's Museum. There are also two playground structures with slides. A highlight is the museum's calendar of daily events. The museum is best suited for those eight and under. 

8. Griffith Observatory — Griffith Park 

Inside the Griffith Observatory, visitors can explore a diverse range of exhibits. From the iconic Foucault pendulum and Tesla coil demonstrations to informative displays on the solar system and the cosmos, the observatory provides an immersive experience. It's also free to go inside, surrounded by stellar views. 

9. Discovery Cube LA and OC — Sylmar & Santa Ana 

There are over 100 hands-on exhibits at the Cube spanning science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Kids can take on the Eco-Challenge, where they can learn about sustainability, delve more into sports science, or take a virtual helicopter tour of Southern California. 

Fantastic Children's Museums in Orange County 

10. Pretend City — Irvine 

Pretend City is like a mini metropolis where kids can role-play various professions and roles, from doctors and firefighters to chefs and mechanics. Aimed at children aged one to eight, Pretend City offers hands-on exhibits and activities that encourage imagination, creativity, and role-playing.  

11. The Children's Museum at La Habra — La Habra 

You'll find this small but sweet museum just off Route 57 in a renovated Orange County train depot. Despite its small size, dozens of hands-on exhibits are geared primarily toward the preschool set. Go round and round in the Carousel Room on the hand-carved merry-go-round. Kids can also uncover dinosaur fossils in the Science Station and visit taxidermy animals in the Nature Walk. 

Awesome Children's Museums Worth A Drive 

RELATED: San Diego with Kids: Family-Friendly Things To Do in San Diego, California 

 Best Children's Museums in Los Angeles: MOXI museum in Santa Barbara
Splash into water play on the MOXI rooftop. Photo courtesy of Gina Ragland

12. MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation — Santa Barbara 

Three floors of interactive exhibits span art, science, and technology at the MOXI. Step into a giant guitar or build a race car at the Speed Track. The rooftop Sky Garden has beautiful Santa Barbara views and an engaging water feature where kids can pump and splash. The MOXI is one of many awesome things to do with kids in Santa Barbara

13. Pennypickle's Workshop — Temecula 

Need to entertain the kiddos in between wine tastings? Pennypickle's Workshop is a quirky children's museum full of secret passages and hands-on exhibits. You'll step into the house of the eccentric Professor Phineas T. Pennypickle, where science wonders await in all different types of rooms full of magical surprises. 

14. San Diego Children's Discovery Museum — Escondido 

Kids can choose to explore, imagine, experiment, and discover at this Northern San Diego children's museum. The Discovery Garden is outdoors and includes water tables, nature play, and even a real-life tortoise. This engaging museum is for children ages ten and under. 

15. The New Children's Museum — San Diego 

From giant climbing structures and artistic play areas to sensory-rich experiences and collaborative workshops, every corner of the museum invites children to engage in meaningful and immersive activities. Bright, colorful, and located in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, the museum spans three stories and appeals to kids of all ages. Step into a giant rainbow-colored hammock in the Whammock exhibit. There are also dedicated spaces for younger children to explore, like Tikitiko and Wobbleland. 

Reciprocal Children's Museums

If you have a membership to a children's museum, chances are that it may be part of the ACM Reciprocal Network. Many children's museums across the country, and many on this list, are part of the program. This means that even if your children's museum membership is from a different state (or a different area of the same state) when you visit a museum in the Reciprocal Network, you'll receive 50% off general admission for up to six people if they are part of the program. 

Article originally published on August 26, 2019. Updated by Gina Ragland

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