It's one of the most iconic symbols of our city, but have you ever hiked to the Hollywood sign? Sure, you can't get close enough to touch it, but you can hike to the top of Mt. Lee, reaching a vantage point above and behind it, and enjoy one of the most amazing views of the Griffith Observatory, Downtown LA, and Hollywood. The most kid-friendly route follows the wide, graded Hollyridge Trail to a paved road (closed to cars) up Mt. Lee. Roughly 3.5 miles round trip, it is not too much for most kids; there are generally plenty of preschoolers out on the trail. The entire hike follows fire roads and paved road, so even a stroller can make this trip—if you don't mind pushing it up about 800 feet of elevation gain, and controlling it on the way back down.
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Space exploration is a big topic these days, with the Rosetta Mission comet landing and Space X's International Space Station resupply missions. Many kids eat up these news stories, read books about astronomy and exploration, and dream of being an astronaut or working on rockets and satellites. Here in Southern California, we are especially lucky to have many options for the space-loving kid. Museums, businesses, observatories, and even a space camp all open their doors to our budding astrophysicists.
If your child cartwheels in the living room or uses the couch as a trampoline, you might want to start calling gymnastics schools in LA. Local parks and afterschool gymnastics programs can get the ball rolling (or the kid jumping) but there eventually comes a time when you just need a little more instruction, and a lot more sophisticated equipment. A good gymnastics school teaches far beyond fun tricks: Kids build strength, stamina, and flexibility. They learn about self-discipline and the importance of practice. Students may start with toddler classes, but as they get older they choose between recreational and competition tracks. As with most things, Los Angeles offers a variety of options.
Our city may be known for its star maps, but LA's light pollution makes it hard to sit outside and identify actual shooting stars, planets, and constellations. Whether your kids love staring at the stars when they're out of the city or have never taken a good look at the Milky Way, planetarium shows and observatories can be a great way to examine the wonders of the night sky.
Planetariums offer a virtual sky experience, generally following a specific theme; shows may give an overview of the current sky, take a trip through the solar system, or focus on a phenomenon like the Northern Lights. Observatories offer a chance to look straight at the universe via someone else's (often superpowered) telescope. We are lucky to have a few observatories in town, as well as a good selection of planetariums (or planetaria, if you prefer) for spotting the biggest Los Angeles stars. Some locations, like Griffith Observatory, even do it all in one place: high-tech shows, enormous telescopes, and public star parties (no red carpet involved).
Walking in LA? Don't believe the song—people really do walk in LA. And if CicLAvia is one of your family's favorite events, then The Big Parade (Saturday, May 2-Sunday, May 3, 2015) is something worth checking out. The Big Parade is not a race—it is about exploring, learning, and celebrating everything our city has to offer. And, with The Big Parade, no one is ever left behind.
Orange County has some great and well-known museums for kids, including the Discovery Cube in Santa Ana and the La Habra Children's Museum. But OC also has a number of small and low-cost museums that are also great for kids, and more manageable for parents. Just as we offered 8 Small and Low Cost LA Museums, here are 8 Small and Low Cost Museums in the OC.
Kids love just being outside, and they love exploring in nature. We are so lucky that greater Los Angeles has so many different types of natural environments and plant communities—coastal, mountain forest, chaparral, and wetland—with so many opportunities for our kids to explore and learn. If your kids are super active and just want to get out and hike, our Hiking Guide offers specific hike info, as well as lists of great places to hike with toddlers, strollers, and more. But do your kids love learning about nature in an organized way? Know what's close by, inexpensive, safe, and geared toward kids' programming? Nature centers! There are nature centers throughout LA and OC. These are small museums with a variety of displays that focus on the local area and typically have nature trails as well as regular scheduled kids' activities. Any of these locations gives kids the chance to learn something new and have fun in a place that's neither overwhelming nor huge.
Los Angeles is full of museums, including some well-known free ones—The Getty, The California Science Center, and LACMA (free through their NexGen kids program). These free museums are also all huge and often very crowded with summer camps, field trips, and members. Free museum days offer access to many other large museums, and MOTA Day is a free day for several in the Pasadena area. But if you are looking for something a bit smaller, less crowded, or just for something new-to-you, on a day you choose, you still have options. These eight museums, all located in Los Angeles County, are all either free or donation-based - meaning you can get a family of four in for twenty dollars or less. Some may only take an hour to visit, but you may want to spend the whole day at others.