Los Angeles is a fantastic city to visit with kids, and we really enjoyed the time we spent there recently on a stopover en-route to Europe. We had some great family time as we explored one of the theme parks, checked out Hollywood and learned all about space at the Griffith Observatory.
It’s worth noting that LA is a sprawling city, and public transport isn’t really ideal when you’re traveling with younger kids. Using Lyft or Uber can be an expensive option too, particularly if you’re visiting a few different attractions around the city. We’d highly recommend hiring a rental car in Los Angeles to get around.
Here’s our guide of the top 5 things to do with kids in LA!
Check out the Hollywood sign
Our kids were so excited to finally see the giant Hollywood sign in real life! They had seen it so many times in movies (or parodies of it such as the “Far Far Away” sign in Shrek and Springfield in The Simpsons!), so it was a real buzz for them once they spotted it in the distance.
The 45-foot (13.7 metre) high sign was only ever meant to be temporary – it was originally erected in the 1920’s in the Santa Monica mountains to advertise a local real estate development but it ended up being a permanent fixture over time (a bit like that other famous temporary structure, the Eiffel Tower!).
These days it’s part of the beautiful Griffith Park, and one of the best places to spot it is from the Griffith Observatory, however if you’re feeling energetic you can take a hike up to the sign.
Visit Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory is an observatory and planetarium located at Griffith Park in LA. If you have space lovers like our kids, it’s an absolute must-do. Amazingly, it has free admission and a number of incredible displays about space and the universe.
Highlights for our kids were the Foucault Pendulum which demonstrates the earth’s rotation, the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky which teaches all about the seasons, day and night, phases of the moon and tides, and solar eclipses.
A must-do is to time your visit around one of the daily programs, where scientists present facts and demonstrations in an easy-to-understand and entertaining format. We managed to catch the “Let’s make a comet” program that demonstrated how to use common household items with dry ice to make an actual comet. Our kids were absolutely enraptured by it!
Be sure to visit the gift shop on the way out for some incredibly unique and educational items as a memory of your visit.
Get the adrenaline pumping at Universal Studios
We’ve been lucky enough to visit Universal Studios in Tokyo, Japan so we were excited to see how the Los Angeles version compared. Well, according to our kids it’s even better.
We had the BEST day experiencing everything the park had to offer – from experiencing the studio tour where some of our favourite movies are made, having fun hanging out in Springfield with the Simpsons (including having a Krusty burger for lunch), the thrills of the JAWS ride, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, getting soaked on the Jurassic Park ride and a fun 3D ride with the Minions.
It really is the perfect place to head for family fun – but bring your walking shoes as it’s big. We clocked up over 22,000 steps on the day we visited! It’s important to pace yourself as well, so build in lots of time for snacks and refreshment stops particularly if you’re travelling with younger children.
If your budget permits, it’s worth investing in a Universal Express™ ticket which allows one-time express access to each ride. This will allow you to make the most of your day visiting the park.
Go star-spotting at the Hollywood Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. It’s where the entire footpath is covered with ‘stars’ embedded, named after many famous movie stars, musicians and celebrities in the entertainment industry.
There’s over 2,600 of them, and it’s a fun way to pass the time checking out your favorite celebs star. There are also lots of look-alike actors that hang around the area, so for a small fee, you can get your photo snapped with a ‘star’! The day we visited we saw Spiderman, Superman and Marilyn Monroe hanging around…
It’s a good idea to do some research before you visit, so you’re not spending all day hunting down the particular stars that you want to see!
Hit the shops at The Grove shopping center
The USA is consumer paradise, and our kids were super excited about spending some of their hard-saved pocket money during our trip. We headed to The Grove shopping center, a well-known shopping destination and restaurant strip. It’s also located right next door to the Farmers Market.
It’s a really well laid-out complex that makes the most of the Californian sunshine. The shops didn’t disappoint, with many of the brands we can’t get at home like American Girl, Barnes & Noble, Gap, J.Crew, a big Nordstrom department store and Crate and Barrel.
We got really hungry after all that shopping, and there is a wide choice of eateries that are kid-friendly. We opted for delicious Umami Burger which didn’t disappoint.
Where to stay
We loved our stay at the retro-styled Beverly Laurel Hotel, which was in a great location and easily accessible for all of these main sites. We had a Cali Double room that easily fitted us in and we really enjoyed having a refreshing swim in the hotel’s pool after all that sight-seeing.
We enjoyed breakfast next door at Swingers coffee shop, exactly like what you see in the movies! The food was delicious with generous portions.
How to get around
As mentioned previously, LA is a busy sprawling city, and it can be tricky and costly to travel around. Your money will go much further with a rental car and you’ll have the freedom to travel where and when you want around the city. It’s worth looking out for a trusted agency like Miles Car Rental who have excellent scores on TrustPilot.
Los Angeles is the perfect place for a family vacation, and there’s so much to do for kids of all ages. We only scratched the service with our short stopover, and can’t wait to return next year and explore more of this fun city!