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Los Angeles: Family-Friendly Vacation Ideas

Los Angeles: Family-Friendly Vacation Ideas

As home to the stars, world-class museums, and sunny beaches, Los Angeles is a bucket-list family vacation destination

Los Angeles dazzles in every direction. To the north, Griffith Observatory offers a view of the entire Los Angeles basin, from downtown to Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. Along the shore, coastal communities such as Santa Monica, Venice, and Malibu each offer their own take on surf culture. For families, this means there are things to do for every personality and interest, whether your kids want to catch some waves, walk with dinosaurs, or experience theme park thrills. When you’re ready to see the sights and soak up some sun in La La Land, here are seven Los Angeles family-vacation itineraries that are great for all ages.

Play by the Pier in Santa Monica

Where to Stay: Shutters on the Beach

Why It’s a Top Spot for a Family Vacation: From an over-the-ocean amusement park to the Original Muscle Beach, Santa Monica is filled with opportunities for waterfront fun, people-watching, and outdoor recreation.

Beach-bound families can stay steps from the sand at Shutters on the Beach, where borrowing a hotel cruiser makes it easy to pedal up and down the bike path that spans from Malibu to Manhattan Beach. Ditch the car and bike a few minutes north to the Santa Monica Pier. Here, kids can discover marine life at Heal the Bay Aquarium or ride the historic carousel, Ferris wheel, and other Pacific Park attractions. The 3rd Street Promenade is another family favorite featuring alfresco dining, a weekly farmers’ market, and car-free blocks filled with street performers. For indoor experiences, explore some of Santa Monica’s cultural attractions such as the Museum of Flying, home to more than two dozen aircraft and interactive areas where kids can climb into the pilot’s seat of a Boeing 727.

Los Angeles Family-Friendly Vacation Ideas, Hollywood Walk of Fame

See Stars in Hollywood

Where to Stay: Loews Hollywood Hotel

Why It’s a Top Spot for a Family Vacation: Kids will be starstruck in this city of glitz and glam, but movie magic’s not all that Tinseltown has to offer. Alongside museums and attractions, there are plenty of ways to be at one with nature—and even see some literal stars.

A weekend in Tinseltown is the ultimate Los Angeles family-friendly vacation idea: Think celebrity home tours, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and quirky museums galore. Make Loews Hollywood Hotel your home base to take advantage of its family program that includes complimentary baby-bath amenity kits, game consoles to check out, and sweet treats. Let your kids strike a pose with their favorite Marvel characters at Madame Tussauds, located just outside the hotel, or head down Hollywood Boulevard for more out-of-the-box attractions such as the Guinness World Records Museum and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Worth the short drive for entertainment-loving families is the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour, a working backlot where movies and TV shows including How I Met Your Father and Dr. Phil film.

To see a different kind of star, head to the hills where Griffith Observatory offers public telescopes, live shows in the planetarium, and views of the Hollywood Sign. The nearby Los Angeles Zoo provides more respite from the city lights with more than 270 species, including Asian elephants and animals from the Amazon. For more opportunities to spot the stars, check out 10 Spots to See Celebrities and How to See Live TV Shows.

Walk the Museums on Miracle Mile

Where to Stay: Short Stories Hotel

Why It’s a Top Spot for a Family Vacation: Squeeze a little learning into your family trip to Los Angeles. This stretch of Wilshire Boulevard is packed with interactive cultural experiences that prove museums can be a whole lot of fun.

Adjacent to Beverly Hills, the mid-Wilshire neighborhood is home to world-renowned cultural hot spots. Known as Museum Row, the half-mile stretch of city street boasts four major institutions, including LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and Petersen Automotive Museum. At the Petersen, stop by the Cars Mechanical Institute and let kids trace and color their own Cars character, personalize digital cars, and even virtually face off against Lightning McQueen. Just north of the museums you can eat and shop at The Grove, an upscale outdoor mall that hosts weekly family-friendly events like the Kids Club music and story time in collaboration with Apple TV+. Stay at the Short Stories Hotel, which is just up the street from Museum Row and within walking distance of The Grove. The boutique property offers a heated pool and cozy restaurant with indoor-outdoor seating—plus, it’s pet-friendly, so you won’t have to leave your furry friends back home.

Plan a Beach Retreat in Malibu

Where to Stay: Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club

Why It’s a Top Spot for a Family Vacation: The 27 miles of coastline in Malibu are ripe for exploration, from rocky shores to soft, sandy stretches found at spots like “Billionaire’s Beach” (formally known as Carbon Beach).

Crashing waves and clear blue skies define the Malibu experience. The tony community is also surprisingly kid-friendly if you stick to the shores. Calamigos Guest Ranch has its own beach club where families can book paddleboarding lessons or lounge in comfy chairs. When you’re ready to venture out, the shallow waters at Malibu Lagoon State Beach are perfect for preschoolers, while El Matador’s sea caves offer thrills for adventurous teens. All ages can enjoy whale watching at Point Dume or tide pools at Leo Carrillo State Park. To escape the sun, reserve a free afternoon entry time at Getty Villa Museum just past the eastern border of Malibu. Stop by the visitor pavilion for an Art Detective Card, which sends kids on a quest through the museum to earn their explorer badge. For more rugged exploration, book a family climbing lesson with Rock N Rope Adventures, which offers family sessions for kids six and older—equipment included.

Experience Cultural Immersion in Downtown L.A.

Where to Stay: Omni Los Angeles Hotel

Why It’s a Top Spot for a Family Vacation: Big cities offer lots to do for short attention spans, and downtown Los Angeles delivers all that and more thanks to cool museums, cultural neighborhoods, shops, and trendy eateries.

Downtown L.A. operates at the intersection of arts, fashion, and creativity, where even the mundane becomes an elevated experience. Take The Last Bookstore—an independent venture that’s become the largest new and used book and record shop in California, with installations and architectural features constructed of old books. You can expose your kids to arts of all kinds in this urban oasis, from contemporary works at The Broad to musical history at the Grammy Museum. Dining at the historic Grand Central Market is not to be missed, with food stalls that serve lobster rolls and artisanal bread alongside burgers and burritos. Within the 5.8 square miles of the downtown area, there are also ethnic enclaves that offer immersion into other cultures, including Little Tokyo and Olvera Street, celebrated as the birthplace of Los Angeles with Mexican street vendors, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. When you need a break from the city, retreat to your room at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel. It’s tucked away on a quieter street in the financial district, away from the buzz of tourists, but offers the convenience of a courtesy vehicle that will drive your crew to destinations up to three miles away.

Find Action-Packed Entertainment in Universal City

Where to Stay: Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City

Why It’s a Top Spot for a Family Vacation: Home to Universal Studios Hollywood, this entertainment haven is a must when visiting L.A. with kids who want to see their favorite movies and TV shows brought to life.

Let convenience guide your visit by staying at the Hilton Universal, located just a short walk from Universal Studios Hollywood. There’s also a free shuttle if you’d rather ride, plus rooms that offer views of the theme park or the Hollywood Hills. Once you arrive at Universal, make a beeline for popular attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Super Nintendo World, and don’t miss the backlot studio tour that the whole family will love. While the park is the main draw, Universal CityWalk offers another three blocks of shopping and kid-friendly dining options such as Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs. Leave time on your Los Angeles family vacation itinerary for a stop at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which allows visitors to walk the sets of shows like Friends and The Big Bang Theory.

Explore the Outdoors in Pasadena

Where to Stay: The Langham, Huntington

Why It’s a Top Spot for a Family Vacation: Located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and a short drive north of downtown L.A., Pasadena offers wide-open areas where kids can roam and explore in nature.

Spanning 23 acres, The Langham in Pasadena features ample space for kids to explore, including the charming Picture Bridge and a kids’ activity zone that has outdoor games for all ages. In addition, there’s a children’s program upgrade that includes a crayon and coloring book upon check-in, plus a scavenger hunt activity and complimentary kids’ meal each night in The Terrace restaurant. The hotel is a stone’s throw from The Huntington, an expansive garden, library, and art museum that was the former residence of railroad tycoon Henry Huntington. Don’t miss the children’s garden, where kids can walk through pint-sized tunnels and wander freely among water features. Teens and science fiends may want to visit NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which offers limited tours of spaces like the spacecraft assembly facility and mission control center. With younger travelers in tow, check out the nearby Kidspace Children’s Museum where they can get their wiggles out by digging into exhibit spaces like the Muddy Boot Farm or climbing into a giant hawk’s nest.

Even when you think you know Los Angeles, the City of Angels will find a way to surprise you. Magical experiences abound, ensuring a family trip to Los Angeles can be uniquely tailored to you—whether that’s splashing in the surf with your water-loving crew or opting for urban exploration. Whatever itinerary you choose, one thing is clear: Visiting L.A. with kids will be an epic adventure where there’s something new to discover every day.

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