Family Vacations to Los Angeles, California

Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California
Grauman's Chinese Theatre (Corbis)

Los Angeles Family Travel Tips

  • Ride the movies at Universal Studios.
  • Count the stars on Hollywood Boulevard.
  • Bike, stroll, and picnic in Griffith Park.
  • Enjoy the sun, sand, and surf at Venice, Malibu, and Cabrillo beaches.
  • Discover sea lions, jellyfish, and giant octopi at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

This sprawling metropolis boasts one of the biggest city parks in the United States, legendary surfing beaches, great museums, and, of course, the film mecca of Hollywood. Here, find celebrity footprints and handprints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, as well as the stars of the stars embedded in the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalk.

The best big-screen magic for kids, however, is likely to be the movie thrill rides at Universal Studios Hollywood. At this ride-the-movies park, you can challenge The Mummy, face-off with a 50-foot T-Rex in Jurassic Park, and go zipping Back to the Future. Younger kids can join Shrek and his friends on an adventure or visit Animal Planet Live. Those fascinated with the silver and small screens can find out what goes on behind the scenes on a NBC Burbank or a Warner Brothers studio tour.

Besides the movie scene, the L.A. lifestyle encourages lots of time outdoors. Three good choices for family beach breaks: Venice, with its boardwalk full of jugglers, mimes, skateboarders, and people-watchers; Malibu to watch the experts surfers catch waves; and Cabrillo, where the breakwater creates calmer conditions.

In L.A., spend time in Griffith Park, a 4,210-acre urban oasis and the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the country. Young kids can ride the merry-go-round, ponies, or a mini-steam train. Still within the park's vast grounds, visit the L.A. Zoo, the Museum of the American West, and, starting in fall 2006, the Griffith Observatory. When it reopens, it will have an upgraded planetarium and five new exhibition halls.

At the California Science Center, check out space capsules, peer at bacteria through a microscope, and find out why the laws of physics won't let you fall down when you bicycle across a cable strung 43 feet above ground. "Marvel Super Heroes: Live the Comics. Live the Science," on show through summer 2006, explores the Incredible Hulk's brain, the Iron Man's strength, and Spider-Man's special powers.

Discover the wonders of the deep at the Aquarium of the Pacific. See California sea lions, sea jellies, giant octopi, and sea otters among the more than 12,500 aquatic residents. Ancient wonders come to life at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Scores of dinosaurs, one of the world's largest gold exhibits, as well as artifacts from ancient Aztec and Inca cultures are among the most popular exhibits. Fossils are the finds at the La Brea Tar Pits & Page Museum, where you can see some of three million remains that were uncovered here.

Allow time too for the J. Paul Getty Museum's extraordinary collection of paintings, sculpture, and photographs. Young kids enjoy the Family Room's hands-on activities. The facility's Art Detective Cards turn children into sleuths as they track down certain pieces. Art Adventures for Families is an activity-filled, one-hour gallery tour held Saturdays and Sundays year-round, plus Tuesday through Friday in the summer.

Tip: Catalina Island, 21 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, forbids cars. That alone makes the place family-friendly. You walk to the beach and attractions or rent bicycles or electric carts.

Recommended Side Trips: San Diego, Santa Barbara's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 1 May 2008 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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