Los Angeles: Top Attractions
|Mann's Chinese Theater, Hollywood (Nadine Markova)|
This sprawling metropolis boasts the biggest city park in the U.S., legendary surfing beaches, great museums, and the film mecca of Hollywood. You can find foot and hand prints of the famous 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.
Venice, Malibu, and Cabrillo Beaches
Venice, Malibu, and Cabrillo are three of the top choices for family beach breaks in L.A. At Venice, the sand is almost beside the point. Stroll the boardwalk to see the jugglers, mimes, skateboarding swamis, and other funky street performers. Watch experts catch waves at Malibu's Surfrider beach, one of the sport's birthplaces, and enjoy swimming at Cabrillo where the breakwater creates calm conditions.
Surf Report: Venice: 310.578.0478; Malibu: 310.457.9701; Cabrillo: 310.379.8471
Additional Info: www.visitlanow.com, beaches.co.la.ca.us
Aquarium of the Pacific
More than 12,000 ocean animals live in the aquarium's 19 major habitat zones. California sea lions frolic and moon jellies float. Giant octopi, sea otters, and spider crabs live in the Northern Pacific gallery. Opening May 27 is "Whales: A Journey with Giants"Â—a multimedia exhibit using light and sound to take visitors on an ocean journey with a blue whale and her calf.
Aquarium of the Pacific: 562.951.1660, www.aquariumofpacific.org
Bike, horseback ride, and stroll through this 4,107-acre urban oasis where young kids can ride the merry-go-round, ponies, and a mini steam train. Spend time at the L.A. Zoo, Travel TownÂ—a collection of locomotivesÂ—and the Museum of the American West, where a mix of saddles, Gold Rush gear, Chinese clothing, and old movie posters depict the reality and myth of settling the Wild West. At the Family Discovery Gallery, kids learn history through games and interactive exhibits, including a firsthand look at the life of one Chinese American family in the 1930s.
Griffith Park: 323.913.4688, www.laparks.org
California Science Center
Check out the 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. Exhibits at this interactive science museum explore inventions, flight, the body, and the environment. The IMAX 3-D film makes you feel part of the action and a behind-the-scenes tour shows you the massive projector, which is the size of a small car. Little kids can get hands-on with the Discovery Room's blocks and books.
California Science Center: 213.744.7400, www.californiasciencecenter.org
Universal Studios Hollywood
In one day at this ride-the-movies thrill park you can challenge The Mummy, help Van Helsing fight his way through Fortress Dracula, face-off with a 50-foot T-Rex in Jurassic Park, and go Back to the Future. Younger kids can join Shrek and his friends on a new adventure or visit Animal Planet Live. Coming in late May: Fear Factor Live, where visitors compete against each other just the way contestants do on the show.
Universal Studios Hollywood: 818.777.1000, www.universalstudios.com/hollywood/
La Brea Tar Pits & Page Museum
More than three million fossils have been found at this world-famous site, including those of mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and giant ground sloths. All of them were entombed in the asphalt that began seeping out of the ground some 40,000 years ago. As of June 26, 2005, Pit 91 will be open to visitors, who can watch as paleontologists and volunteers dig for more ancient discoveries. Afterward, visit the glass-enclosed Paleontology Lab to see how the fossils are recovered.
La Brea Tar Pits: 323.934.7243, www.tarpits.org
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Allow at least half a day to explore the third-largest natural science and cultural history museum in the U.S. Scores of dinosaurs, one of the world's largest gold exhibits, and artifacts from ancient Aztec and Inca cultures are among the most popular exhibits. Young kids can listen to stories, make crafts, and meet live animals at the Discovery Center. Hundreds of iridescent butterflies flutter by in the Pavilion of Wings, April through August.
Natural History Museum: 213.763.3466, www.nhm.org
Catalina Island, 21 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, forbids cars. That alone makes the place family-friendly. Just walk or hop a rental bike or electric cart to get to the beach and other attractions. Jeep tours take you to secluded coves and valleys, kayaking expeditions show you the coast, and the semi-submersible S.S. Nautilus treats you to a diver's-eye view of fish swarming the vessel's portholes to get at the food torpedoes that kids fire from inside the sub. Arrive at Catalina by ferry, plane, or helicopter.
Catalina Island Conservancy: 310.510.1520, www.catalina.com
Warner Brothers & NBC Burbank Studio Tours
Those fascinated with the silver and small screens can find out what goes on behind the scenes with a studio tour. At NBC, one of the few networks still taking visitors into a working television studio, you see the special effects, makeup and wardrobe departments, as well as the Tonight Show set. Warner Brothers gives you a peek at movie sound stages and prop shops, and when possible, a look at a current project in the middle of filming. Eight years old is the minimum age for the Warner Brothers tour. Universal Studios' tours, meanwhile, are incorporated into their theme park.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour: 818.840.3537, www.warnerbros.com
NBC Burbank Studio Tour: 818.846.1403, www.studioaudiences.com
J. Paul Getty Museum
This museum, with its extraordinary collection of paintings, sculptures, and photographs, works hard at engaging children. The facility's Art Detective Cards turn children into sleuths who track down certain pieces. Young kids enjoy the Family Room's hands-on activities. Art Adventures for Families is an activity-filled, one-hour gallery tour held year-round on Saturdays and Sundays, plus Tuesday through Friday in summer. And after your tour, allow time to relax in the Getty's garden. You can even call ahead to order a picnic lunch.
J. Paul Getty Museum: 310.440.7300, www.getty.edu
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication