The Autry Museum of the American West is known for stunning wild west paintings and artifacts celebrating cowboy culture. It’s also now home to a sweet little indoor spot for kids—the brand-new family play space.
What the new space accomplishes at the Autry Museum is powerful: it normalizes bringing kids to museums. It allows parents to soak in beauty and culture without boring the littles. While most art galleries might not appeal to young kids, this space invites children to enjoy and play. This adds to the already long list of enticing things for kids to do in Griffith Park. The Autry made a museum adventure easy and even relaxing for our family. Read on for everything you need to know about this new family play space!
For more local museums with great kid spaces or attractions—like the Skirball, the Getty, and The Huntington Library and Gardens—read all our local parent museum secrets in our Museum Guide for Kids in LA and OC.
The New Family Play Space at the Autry Museum
When friends ask me about this little spot, I describe it as similar to a library play time but with much more to do. The Autry capitalizes on low-key fun. Kids can choose from a play kitchen stocked with food, as well as a small grocery check-out stand, craft table, train table, a large assortment of children’s books, plenty of fun board and card games, a dress-up station, stuffed animals, bins of toys, and tot-sized tables.
When we arrived, my kids went straight for the kitchen (which looks just like the one in our playroom, but things are more exciting in museums than at home). Afterward, they constructed a train track. We moved to the craft table, glued together a few postcards, then colored pictures. Next, we assembled some LEGO creations. Shortly after that, it was time to design a marble track. Many toys here are great for STEM engagement and imaginative, stimulating play.
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The kiddos will be occupied with books, stuffed animals, games, and so much more.
Best Ages for the Family Play Space at the Autry
The activities were perfect for my toddlers but would also engage older children. Two to nine-year-olds will love this space and all it offers. If you've got younger kids with older siblings up to age nine, these age ranges will be ideal for the Autry Museum play space and will have plenty to do. Ten-year-olds might be interested but then want to move on to something else as the play space is for children, two to ten-year-olds. Under-two-year-olds might enjoy the books and stuffed animals but will likely need to steer clear of LEGO bricks and other small toys.
Several docents monitor the play area and help to straighten up when kids move from one activity to another. I was thankful I didn't have to pick up LEGO blocks off the floor for once, as I do that enough at home.
Where to Find the Family Play Space
Upon entering the Autry Museum, walk past the Information Counter in the lobby. Take the stairs or elevator to the lower level, and find the play space front and center. Your kids will even see a sneak peek of the fun over the balcony as you head toward it.
When You’re Done at the Family Play Space
The play space is adjacent to one of the more kid-friendly galleries at the museum. Hop on a (pretend) horse or wave at a (taxidermied) longhorn in this fun room before heading out.
Take a breath of fresh air by walking out the glass doors at the back of the museum and meander through the California Continued Ethnobotanical Garden. My kids loved the uneven stone pillars, the waterfall, and the rocking horse hiding outside.
There is a beautiful, grassy area outside the Autry, so you can easily combine this outing with a fun picnic. The LA Zoo is steps away if the kids want to see their favorite animals, ride a train in Travel Town or enjoy Shane’s Inspiration playground.
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Explore all the western wonders after the little ones are ready to move on from the play space
When To Visit the Autry Museum
The play space is only open on free Tuesdays (the second Tuesday of each month) from 10am to 1pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm.
We went on free Tuesday and were pleasantly surprised that it was not overcrowded. I highly recommend going then. We always post free days at the Autry on our website calendar, so check there for a reminder. Make sure to arrive at the early end of the window to get plenty of playing time.
If you opt to come on a weekend and are not a member, plan to pay $16 per adult and $8 per child over two years old. Active duty military and veterans can enter for free. The Autry also has a student and senior discount rate of $12.
What To Know Before You Go
- The Autry does not allow food or drinks inside. There are tables in the outdoor courtyard for snacks. There is also a cafe near the entrance, in case you choose not to bring lunch. We had one minor incident inside the museum when my very hungry three-year-old opened up a pack of fruit snacks and was told (kindly) by a staffer to put them away. We had to head outside for a snack break before everyone fell apart, but after full bellies, the kids were begging to go back in (which is allowed).
- Parking at the Autry is free, and an easy walk from the lot to the entrance. Parking is across the street from the LA Zoo.
- Strollers are allowed and welcome. We utilized the many accessibility buttons to swing the doors wide open since it can get tricky to navigate a multiple-seat stroller alone.
- The play space is right next to a large restroom which is super convenient. It’s a quick minute to get to the toilet when your kiddo suddenly “has to go really, really bad.”
All photos are courtesy of the author.