Los Angeles

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor: Are Your Kids Ready for this Scary Halloween Haunt?

No parent likes to contemplate it, but the day will come for our kids when trick-or-treating is no more. If your family is as hooked on Halloween as ours is, you'll want to find a way to keep the magic going, even once your baby starts to look really big to other people (particularly people opening their doors at night). Filling this void is the main reason for the many seriously spooky big kid haunts around the Southland—haunts like Universal Horror Nights, Knott's Scary Farm, and Dark Harbor. But how to transition? You can't just hit the brakes on collecting candy with Elsa and suddenly start running from chainsaw wielding zombies.

I had a theory (having visited a few of these fright nights) that Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary might be the perfect tween transition to a different way of celebrating All Hallows' Eve, and I committed so fully to this theory that I booked our whole family (and some friends) for an overnight on the haunted, haunting ship. And guess what? It worked! Three tweens I know had the time of their lives screaming with the spooks all night at the Queen Mary. The evening was enormous fun, and I think a few things we did to prepare helped stack the deck in favor of success.

This Weekend's Fun for LA Kids: Watts Tower, OC Book Fest, and Coast Open Streets

Well, hello, October!  You snuck up on us like a gourd in the night, and here you are with your pumpkins and your mazes and your harvests. The Month of Hallows is upon us, and it's nothing but tricks and treats to the sweet, sweet end.

Starting this weekend you can visit a spooky farm and learn some spooky science, say boo! at the zoo and at a puppet show; you can hope for some plastic bricks in your treat bag (or some brews in your stein, if you are of age). You can hop on a train and howl at the moon. That banana you think you see? It's just a pumpkin. In a costume.

I'll let you in on a secret: some of the fun this weekend is so well disguised it doesn't appear to have a thing to do with Halloween! The Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drumthe Orange County Children's Book FestSanta Monica's Coast Open Streets event... E-ticket activities, every last one of them, but Halloweeny? You wouldn't think so. And yet, if you think about it, any of these choices would be a perfect treat for this early October weekend.

Reach into our bag of tricky treats for this weekend...

Kids Free October in San Diego: Zoo, Legoland, Seaworld, and More

The lazy days of summer may be over, but that's no reason to trade adventurous family outings for a never ending cycle of school drop-offs, pick-ups, and algebra homework. Instead, pack up the car and head south during San Diego Tourism Authority's annual Kids Free promotion.

The citywide campaign kicks off October 1, enticing families to visit San Diego's big-ticket attractions like Legoland, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wildlife Park, and Seaworld. Children can eat, stay, and play for free at more than 100 participating hotels, restaurants, museums, and parks until October 31.

We've selected 10 offers that we think are particularly good deals; put two or three together, and you've definitely got savings worth traveling for. Scroll down for a link to all 100+ free opportunities for kids in October.

Weekday Picks: Sea Otters, Paw Patrol Live, Movies, & Pumpkins

Animals, real and imaginary, headline this first full week of fall. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is celebrating Sea Otter Awareness Week to raise the profile of the adorable and endangered species. After learning about these furry, back-floating creatures and exploring all the facility has to offer, families can check out the tidepools at Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park. The aquarium is open every day but Monday. For more animal fun, Paw Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue—the first-ever live tour featuring the popular rescue dogs from Nickelodeon—comes to Thousand Oaks for two days. Before heading out, take a look at our 25 Things To Do Around Thousand Oaks with Kids for other activities to do while in the area.

Check out some highlights for the week ahead below, and then head over to the Mommy Poppins Event Calendar for more.

Corn Mazes and Haunted Mazes for LA and Orange County Kids

As kids are mostly settled into the new school year, and local orchards are open for apple picking, the next sign of autumn is the corn maze.

Corn mazes are created by a tractor in a growing field of corn—usually following a fairly intricate design. For large mazes, GPS is often used to create a picture that can be seen from the air. A mature corn maze is a true adventure, with walls of corn that are taller than most adults; children (and adults) can for sure lose their way! Most operators recommend kids be at least 5-8 years old before going in alone; use your judgment, of course. Closed-toe shoes are recommended for comfort (sneakers are best), as corn mazes involve walking on uneven ground and broken cornstalks. And if you head into the maze at dusk, be sure to bring a flashlight!

This Weekend's Fun for LA Kids: Dino Fair, Museum Day, Abbot Kinney Fest

We've been bemoaning the end of summer for a while now (back in school with summer favorites come and gone) so this may come as a surprise to you, but fall only officially starts this weekend. We're still saying goodbye to a few suspiciously summery series, with the LA County Fair and Festival of Children ending this weekend.

Yet for a supposedly autumnal weekend, there are a whole lotta festivities going on: festivals that splash, festivals that roarfestivals that make you shout Opa!  Festivals that remind you LA is a series of small towns, (with some very happening streets!), festivals that wiggle and waggle and put the dog on the board, festivals that make you put on a bib. And that's not half the festive festivities we've got going on this weekend.

Summer? It ain't over til the fat talented lady starts singing.  

Fall into our favorite picks for this weekend...

Top 10 Reasons Orange County Is the Best Place To Raise Kids

Disneyland may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but it's far from the only reason locals brag about living in Orange County. Great beaches, picturesque parks, and close proximity to the desert and mountains are just a few of the many perks of raising your kids within a stone's throw of Mickey Mouse. That, and the fact that it's not LA. Here are the top 10 reasons why children and parents alike love growing up in The OC.

25 Things To Do around Thousand Oaks with Kids

Thousand Oaks, named (and incorporated) in the 1960s to honor the many majestic oaks in the area, may be the perfect SoCal suburb; it can feel as far from city or as close to city as you like. If you have little ones and live in Thousand Oaks, you probably know some of the must-see spots on our list below—but have you visited them all? So much to do! And when you've exhausted your options and are ready to travel elsewhere in the Southland or beyond, take a peek at one of our many city lists. From Culver City to Pasadena, Redondo Beach to Hollywood, Marina Del Rey to Burbank our lists have got you covered. We'll even guide you through Anaheim on your way in and out of Disneyland. But today, the rolling hills and cultural allure of Thousand Oaks.

Weekday Picks: Mickey's Halloween Party, Spiders, Lobsters, & a Pumpkin Train

We don't scare easily, until we look up from our busy lives and realize Halloween is just around the corner! All the signs are there, including a few annual events that kick off this week—like Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland. Disney's special event evenings, when kids can trick-or-treat throughout the park, continue through Halloween, but tickets are very limited (so the park does not get overcrowded). Our insider tip: Hit up the treat stations early in the evening, then rent a locker to stow goodies, so you aren't hauling them around the park and onto attractions. We learned this lesson while climbing Tarzan's Treehouse with a treasure trove of treats in our backpacks!

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch is also up and running for the season. The annual Halloween event features plenty of family-friendly fun, including the Pumpkin Train, haunted house, a hay ride and hay maze, panning for gold, and carnival games. The creepy crawlies are back downtown, too, with the return of the the Natural History Museum's Spider Pavilion. Visitors walk among orb weavers and their intricate webs, which might freak out some folks out, but rest assured the spiders aren't dangerous and prefer to keep to themselves. To know what to expect, read our review.

All that, plus Tuesday is Talk Like a Pirate Day—and Santa Monica Aquarium knows how to celebrate, putting parrots on landlubbers shoulders as they learn how to make rope and get those little ships in little bottles.

Besides these activities, there are plenty more ideas to be found on the Mommy Poppins Event Calendar; and be sure to check out our picks for the month in the September GoList.

Best Pumpkin Patches for LA, Ventura, & Orange County Kids

The time has come to surrender to the Great Pumpkin. Mind you, the big guy is spoiled for choice around the Southland in Halloween season. We won't presume to call one pumpkin patch more sincere than the others, but LA’s pumpkin patches (and pseudo pumpkin patches) run a satisfying gamut from small to large, folksy to commercial. Whether you're hoping for a hit-and-run Halloween photo or a day's outing in autumnal reverie, your destination is below...

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