5 days. 4 walls. A couple of kids. No plans. What are you gonna do? (Insert foreboding music here….) Spring Break is bearing down fast upon us, and if Winter Break was any indication, it’ll stop showing mercy around noon on Day One. So if you don’t have a fancy trip planned to the exotic reaches and beaches of the universe (we don’t either), don’t worry, we have a few cheap tricks up our sleeve that will keep kiddos of all ages happy, and give wallets of all sizes a break.
Be King or Queen of the Getty
Travel back in time and across the sea for a 19th century escapade through Queen Victoria’s beloved Scotland. No time machine? No problem. We’re talking about the Getty museum’s family festival, Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography. Revel in the splendid stylings of Highland bagpipes, join in lively music hall melodies and dancing, and even take a 19th century side-trip to Japan with a shortened performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, The Mikado. Your mini-monarchs can make their reign at the Getty complete by designing their own crowns and tiaras – fancy or funny style – while they are there. Check the website for more details about this and other family festivals at the Getty. Hint: if you can’t make the festival, the exhibit runs daily and a trip to the Getty is always fun!
Come On Get Crafty
Every Saturday participating Michael’s locations open the doors for their own Kids Club where budding artists can create whimsical crafts using paint, wood, canvas, looms, and other materials. Each week features a different theme and craft type, and sessions start every half-hour from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Michael’s (various locations)
When: Saturdays 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Admission: $2 per child
Discover an Underwater World
You don’t have to travel very far to explore kelp forests, mud flats, and tidepools. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro offers interactive exhibits and outdoor programs for marine life scientists of all ages.
While you’re there explore the the aquarium’s coastal park and its tidepools, salt marsh and beach. (Note: Low tide is the best time to explore tidepools. Check here for a tide chart.)
Where: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Dr., San Pedro
When: Tue through Fri from Noon to 5 p.m.; weekends 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: Suggested donation of $5 for adults and $1 for children and seniors.
Hike to a Waterfall
We know the mere mention of hiking starts sends most kiddos running for the hills (or away from them, to be more precise). But promise a waterfall and watch them turn right back around. (Go ahead, try. We’ll wait). Ready? Our most winning wet hikes with kids are: Monrovia Canyon Park, with several flat and shady trail options plus a nature center to launch your trek; Sturtevant Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains, a 3.25 mile, dog-friendly hike to a 50 foot cascade; and the stroller-friendly Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains which takes you to some real bone-fide LA ruins (yes, LA has ruins) on the way to the falls. All this amidst sweeping views of the ocean. Who needs Hawaii? Check the websites for trail maps, parking info and occasional trail closures. (Note: Despite the drought, all of these waterfalls are flowing, although water levels may be lower than usual for this time of year.)
We know you’ll probably stick to Gelsons for your marine morsels. But the kiddos can catch and release* all over LA at any of our tried and true fishing holes. First on the list is the newly renovated Echo Park Lake (yes, that Echo Park), which is stocked regularly and also has a playground and paddle boats. Best part? Square One Café sits right on the dock, which means fishing for them, artisan snack for you. If you’re looking for something a little more beachy, trawl out to Santa Monica Pier which has its own bait ‘n tackle shop in case you forget the worms. Troutdale, in the Agoura Hills, has a stocked lake and plenty of helpful folk to help make sure newbies catch their limit. Got some non-fishing kiddos with you? Head to Lake Balboa in Van Nuys, which has lots of green space, bike trails and a playground in addition to its seasonally stocked lake.
*Note: kids under 16 do not require a fishing license, but if you plan to cast a line, you will need one in any public venue.
Park it Downtown
Who says you have to board a plane to visit a new city? We say put on your walking shoes, grab a camera and be a tourist in your own town. Leave the car at home and jump on the Metro Red Line to the Civic Center stop, where you can start your day at Grand Park, an urban oasis that begs for a blanket, picnic, and good book. Don’t worry, it also boasts plenty of space for kicking a ball and a huge fountain where, on a warm day the kids can splash to their heart’s content while you sip on an frozen latte from the fountain-side Starbucks. (May we suggest a change of clothes for the kids?)
Grand Park is a short walk from architectural and cultural gems like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Bradbury Building. Stop for lunch or a snack at Grand Central Market. Then slow down, rest up and snap some city shots from the nearby Angels Knoll, a hillside park with great city views.
(Note: This route is walkable, but each of these attractions is conveniently located near a Metro Red Line stop in case little feet start losing steam. Check here for complete info on fares and maps.)
Bless Your Beast
Come on down to Olvera St., home of the bustling, open-air Mexican Marketplace – and don’t forget to bring Fido, Fluffy or even your pet Python for the annual Blessing of the Animals, an all day event featuring yummy food, traditional music and an animal parade in this vibrant little corner of the city.
Where: Olvera St., located across from Union Station on the Metro Red Line
When: Sat., April 19th from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Like, Drop into a Pool, Dude
They want to play Skate 3 from dusk till dawn. You want some fresh air. So do everyone a solid and take them to a real skate park where they can have their own epic ride (and maybe even get some lessons). Or just watch – even the littlest guys love watching big kids catch air.
Some of our favorites are Verdugo Skate Park in Glendale and Valley Park in Burbank which both have playgrounds and ample picnic areas; and Marsh Skatepark, adjacent to the Glendale Narrows section of the L.A. River and bike path .
(Note: if you plan to skate, most skate parks require you to have proper protective gear and sign a waiver before entering. Some charge a nominal fee at peak hours. Check websites for details.)
Take a Factory Tour
Looking for a way to spice up Spring Break for the older kids? How about a tour of the 650,000 square-foot Sriracha factory . Here they’ll discover the secret to the peppery Rooster’s success – and why Dad insists on putting this mystery sauce on everything from hot dogs to watermelon.
Where: Huy Fong Foods, Inc., 4800 Azusa Canyon Rd, Irwindale
When: Mon. through Fri. between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., by appointment only.
Phone: (626) 286-8328
If you’ve got bigger little rockers under your roof check out the Fender Factory Tour to see how music really gets made (the instruments, that is). The 60 minute tour includes a visit to the “Dream Factory” for a firsthand look at Fender stringed creations. (Note: Kids under 9 are not admitted and all Factory tour guests must wear closed-toe shoes.)
Where: The Fender Visitor Center, 301 Cessna Circle, Corona
When: Mon., Tue., Thur. and Fri. Tours at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Admission: Adults, $10; -$10; Teens, $6; Kids under 13, free.
Phone: (951) 898-4040
Want more tours? We found other favorite food tours in town.
What are your favorite Spring Break activities? Let us know!
– Jennifer Wolfe
Photo Credits: Analise Dubner, Jennifer Wolfe, Richard Meier via Creative Commons, familymwr via Creative Commons, Jennifer Arrow, Sarah Bowles, Golden Road Brewing via Facebook, Rafael Castillo via Creative Commons and the Annenberg Space for Photography