Known as the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles is also bustling with educational, family-friendly activities — including beaches, museums and aquariums. The great part is, you can always find dozens of free events centered around learning and fun any day of the week!
If you live in Los Angeles, or if you’re just visiting, here are some not-to-miss activities to enjoy with your child that are educational and, best of all — free. Some are even tax-deductible. I’ll post this list on our refrigerator so the kids can see all of the fun activities we’re planning this summer.
The Getty Los Angeles, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90049-1679
Family festivals, art-making workshops, gallery activities, storytelling and more are offered at the Getty Center. All family materials and activities are free and most are offered in English and Spanish. In summer, some of the best children’s musicians from across the nation perform at the free “Garden Concerts for Kids” series in the Central Garden. Admission to the Getty Center is free for the whole family, however, advance tickets are required and can be booked online. There is a $15 parking fee during the day but free after 5:00 p.m. for all evening events. (310) 440-7300 http://www.getty.edu/visit/groups/families.html
Japanese American National Museum, 369 East First St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
My kids always seem to be elbow-deep in the craft drawer, so the Target Free Family Saturdays, held once per month, and are always the perfect family activity. They give families unique ways to learn, play and grow together through exciting workshops, cultural performances and arts and crafts. On Saturday, June 11, kids can express themselves by making a poster with stencils, stickers and markers, learn to make origami or a card for dad just in time for Father’s Day. Go online to review the schedule for each designated Saturday. (213) 625-0414 http://www.janm.org/events/2011/target/
Conejo Valley Botanical Garden, 350 W. Gainsborough Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91359
These 33 acres of unique terrain offer families panoramic views of the Conejo Valley and many opportunities for education recreation. The Kid’s Adventure Garden (KAG) is open every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and provides an exciting place for children to learn about nature and gardening. The garden features a tree house, a zoo garden and much more. Go online for directions. Sundays are free. (805) 494-7630 http://www.conejogarden.org
Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur, 3601 South Gaffey St.,San Pedro, CA 9073
Aquariums are one of our favorite family outings and the Mammal Care Center, a hospital for ill, injured and orphaned marine mammals, offers a unique way for kids to learn about marine life. The primary work at the Marine Mammal Care Center is the treatment and release of rescued California sea lions, northern elephant seals, harbor seals and northern fur seals. The Care Center educates children and adults alike in conjunction with the Center for Marine Studies. There is no entry fee, but donations are welcome, as well as a wish list of desired goods. The center recommends arriving between 11:30 a.m. and noon for feeding time, when all of the animals are active. A guide is onsite to give families tours. (310) 548-5677 http://www.marinemammalcare.org
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Part of Heal the Bay, this family-friendly facility is home to more than 100 species of marine animals and plants found in the Santa Monica Bay. When we visited, our children loved the three large touch tanks (which have small steps for the smaller children) filled with sea stars, sea cucumbers, anemones, hermit crabs and other tide pools critters from the Santa Monica Bay. The Aquarium holds a free quarterly lecture series that explores marine-related topics throughout the year with special activities and fun-filled celebrations at the Pier. Kids 12 and under are free. (310) 393-6149 http://www.healthebay.org/santa-monica-pier-aquarium
Craft and Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
Families and children have the chance to discover and learn about the world around them through art and culture. The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) champions cultural understanding by encouraging curiosity about the diverse world through art. Children under 10 are free and the first Wednesday of every month is free for everyone. (323) 937-4230 http://www.cafam.org
Griffith Observatory, 2800 East Observatory Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
One of California’s most popular attractions, the Griffith Observatory, located in Griffith Park, has an astronomy museum and offers visitors a glimpse of the cosmos through their super Zeiss telescope. Free Public Star Parties are held monthly, giving families a chance to look at the sun, moon, visible planets and other objects, try out a variety of telescopes and to talk to astronomers. Most activities are free. (213) 473-0800 http://www.griffithobservatory.org/
Discovery Center at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007
Dinosaur and Ice Age encounters, story times, gallery exploration, live animal presentations and more await families at the Discovery Center. On weekends, a “Critter Club” for 3- to 5-year-olds teaches about science, live animals, art and songs and the children participate in hands-on activities with knowledgeable educators. Children 4 and under are free. (213) 763-3466 http://www.nhm.org/site/
Tuesday Kids Club on the Green at The Americana, 889 Americana Way, Suite 330, Glendale, CA 91210
Enjoy a terrific selection of enriching activities for kids, parents and caregivers every Tuesday. Activities include music, entertainment and arts and crafts. The Club is held rain or shine and is free. Kids also eat free on Tuesdays at select restaurants. (818) 637-8982 http://www.americanaatbrand.com/glendale/entertainment/kids_calendar.php
Las Angelitas del Pueblo Free Tour, Visitor’s Center at the Sepulveda House, 622 N. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Take advantage of this free, 50-minute historic walking tour of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, where Los Angeles was founded. Tours take place every Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon and take visitors through the history of Los Angeles, walking past significant museums and buildings, the famous Olvera Street and much more. Kids can also learn about the Mexican culture and history of Los Angeles, see colorful arts and crafts and hear mariachi music. Parents be sure to take a stroller and handy snacks, plus comfortable walking shoes. Call or go online to register. (213) 628-1274 http://www.lasangelitas.org/freetours.htm
Whatever activities you plan with your children, it is recommended to call or visit online for the most current and up-to-date parking and weather conditions, hours and changes in schedule. Exposing your child early to these types of events, programs and learning activities is what Ready. Set. Grow! is all about!