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.
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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.
Kids sometimes find history boring. And, really, who doesn't find memorizing lists of dates and names to be a bit dull? Kids love learning by doing, so the way to learn history is to go back in time! At a living history event, actors are in period costume, crafts relate to the time period, music and dancing are time-specific, and kids and their adults can hear the noises and smell the smells of the era. Actors dressed as historic figures talk about themselves in character, and traditional food is often available.
Family-friendly living history events occur all over greater Los Angeles (not just at that annual Renaissance Faire), and many events offer special activities for young ones. Some are completely free; others have free admission but charge for parking or pay-as-you-go activities. All of them offer an opportunity for a time-traveling weekend.
Every kid loves a birthday party! And we have a whole lot of information on different theme parties, party guides, and even party crafts. Sometimes, though, you just need a great park for the perfect party—a playground, grassy areas, picnic tables, a grill, and maybe a bounce house or piñata. These 10 Valley parks are all great for kids' birthday parties, all have bathrooms available (check the hours), and all are a bit different. Do you want shade? A fenced playground? Water features? Lots of grass? Plenty of table space? There is something here for you.
Big Sunday Weekend (May 1-3, 2015) is a time for residents all over Southern California to come together to serve the community; more than 50,000 volunteers are expected to participate. The weekend offers a fabulous opportunity to introduce children to volunteering; even toddlers and preschoolers can help weed, pick up trash, draw cards for troops, and feel the joy of helping others. And you could check off #61 on our list of 100 Things to Do in LA With Kids Before They Grow Up by helping out on a beach clean-up as a family! The weekend is special—spirits are high; people are excited; a huge variety of projects is available for all age groups (see a small sample below), and work is done. And if you've ever noticed people wearing Big Sunday t-shirts in past years, that's because everyone who volunteers gets a free tee.
If you don't live nearby, you may best know Westchester as being the home of LAX. But, there is a lot more than just the airport and related businesses! Westchester is a bustling family-oriented community that continues north to the bluffs overlooking Playa Vista. There is a wide variety of things to do and see for kids of all ages—history, classes and camps, entertainment, food, and fun (and free!) play. Whether you are meeting someone with a 3-hour or overnight layover or you are a local looking for something different to try, there is something for you. (Done all of these? You can move on to 25 things to do in Marina del Rey, Culver City, or Redondo Beach next!)
On the hunt for that perfect piñata for your kids' birthday party? If you've checked the local chain stores, you've probably found the same designs, the same small sizes and large prices, and the same styrofoam construction. If you're looking for something simple and traditional, check the neighborhood Mexican markets first. But if your need is for a black horse or a taxi cab or a specific character for a child's birthday party; for a one-of-a-kind custom piece for a themed event; for a larger piñata that won't open on the fourth whack of the stick, or for a traditional large Mexican star for Cinco de Mayo—then you need to go to one of these independent party stores that specializes in traditional papier maché piñatas.
You may be a fan of our list of 100 Things to Do Lists with LA Kids, and perhaps you've also checked out our 25 Things To Do lists in Culver City, Burbank, or Hollywood. Well, if you're ready to do some more exploring, how about the South Bay? Whether you're a local wanting to try something new or from farther afield looking to spend a day (or even a weekend) at the beach, Redondo Beach has plenty of options to keep families with kiddos entertained. TIme to get off the freeway and enjoy the fresh ocean breezes!