Take the kids to Los Angeles on your California family vacation, and you’ll likely hear one big request: Hollywood. After all, teens, tweens, and even smaller kids tend to be pretty pop-culture savvy, so this part of L.A. carries a lot of magic. Build your visit based on these family-friendly, don’t-miss Hollywood attractions—some related to TV shows and movie stars, and others offering just-for-fun museums and sweets.
Stroll the Walk of Fame
Kids can find their favorite celebrity’s star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located on Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Vine Street. Wander along the boulevard and see how many of the 2,500-plus names family members can identify, or use the StarFinder feature on the walk’s website to track down your favorite stars. Hollywood Boulevard can get bustling, especially on weekends, with street performers, costumed movie characters, and trinket sellers, but there’s also plenty of good people-watching.
Score Seats at a Live TV Show Taping
While many Hollywood-based television shows offer free seats to live tapings, the age minimum for most is 18. There are a few shows, however—such as Nickelodeon’s Figure it Out and The Thundermans, or game shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune—that welcome kids as young as 8 or 10. Double-check age restrictions and request tickets online through a ticket broker such as Audiences Unlimited or On Camera Audiences. (One great ticket: Seeing the annual Kids’ Choice Awards, which limits audience members to ages 10–15.) Keep in mind that while tickets are free, they don’t actually guarantee admission, since shows often overbook for no-shows. Save a chunk of the day if you’re hoping to see a live taping: Waiting in line and the show taping itself can take from 3 to 6 hours.
Experience Universal Fun
Combining a studio tour with rides, restaurants, and shopping, Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk thrill kids and adults alike. Take the backlot tour of this working studio for a chance to see sets and soundstages from current movies and TV shows, then explore the rides, lives shows, and attractions featuring characters from Despicable Me, King Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Transformers, Shrek, and more. Don’t miss the park’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with its motion-simulator ride through Hogwarts Castle, as well as the re-creation of Hogsmeade village, complete with a Honeydukes sweet shop. The most popular rides require that kids be at least 40 inches tall, so check height restrictions before you go.
Explore the Ultimate Hollywood Mall
More than just shops and restaurants, Hollywood & Highland Center includes a number of must-do Hollywood activities. Take a tour inside the Dolby Theatre, where the Academy Awards are held each year, or grab tickets to the TV festival PaleyFest, where you can see your favorite TV stars in person. Head up to the second level to create your own chocolate bar at the Chocolate Lab inside Sweet! Hollywood, then visit the fourth floor for a postcard-quality family shot with the iconic Hollywood sign in the background. Up for a friendly family competition? Prove your bowling prowess at the hip Lucky Strikes bowling lanes on the ground floor. (Just keep in mind that the alley becomes 21-and-up after 8 p.m.)
Spot a Few Celebrities
One surefire way to get a selfie with a star is to visit the L.A. branch of famed wax museum Madame Tussauds, which features famous faces such as Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant, Taylor Swift, and Shrek. If you’re set on seeing a star in person and don’t have luck at the local coffee shop or pressed juicery, check out Seeing Stars for a list of upcoming opportunities, including Walk of Fame unveilings, movie premieres, TCL Chinese Theatre footprint ceremonies, and more.
Visit a Working Movie Studio
Take the Warner Bros. Studio Tour—technically in neighboring Burbank—for a serious show-biz fix. The two-hour guided tour includes visits to backlots and soundstages used for classic films and TV shows such as Casablanca, Gilmore Girls, and Friends, as well as current WB programs. The tour also includes special exhibits of props and costumes from the Harry Potter films (as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and DC Universe, which features first-edition comics, DC video games, and even the actual Kryptonite used in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Don’t miss the chance to see all the Batmobiles ever used. (One hitch: The tours are for ages 8 and up.)
Take in an Old-Style Movie
A visit to the historic El Capitan Theatre includes much more than a movie. This Disney-owned theater offers both new-release and classic films from Disney, Pixar, and Marvel. Besides seeing the gorgeous Art Deco interior, you can experience sing-alongs, live-action shows before the movie, prop and costume exhibits, or character meet-and-greets. Seats are first come, first served, or you can order VIP tickets online that include a reserved seat, popcorn, and a drink.
Break a Record
Know how many items are in the largest Star Wars memorabilia collection? Want to guess the record for the most hamburgers eaten in three minutes? If your kids love odd and unusual trivia, they’ll love the Hollywood Guinness World Records Museum. More than just looking at exhibits, kids can also attempt the world’s long jump record, compare their weights to the world’s heaviest person, and experience the feel of speed records in the Adrenaline Theater. If you have enough time to see them all, consider a combo ticket that also includes the Hollywood Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Make Dessert Like a Celebrity Chef
Fans of cooking reality shows will dig Duff’s Cakemix, owned by Food Network star Duff Goldman. Stop by and savor a premade cake or cupcake, or sign up for one of the bakery’s Drop-In and Decorate sessions that include prebaked goods, decorating supplies, and an hour of studio time. Weekends often fill up fast, so grab a reservation online.