It’s awesome when Grandma and Grandpa visit! But, sometimes the thought of having to entertain both your parents and your kids is enough to give you heart palpitations. Luckily, LA has endless avenues of entertainment that delight babies, tots, teens and grandparents—all at the same time. Check out our fave spots that will give Gram and Gramp plenty of fun with the babes while keeping it stress free.
The Getty Villa (and Getty Center!)
Bring the entire family for a walk through the beautiful grounds that are are a replica of a Roman Villa. This place is full of spectacular views, an incredible collection of art and amazing gardens. Be sure to visit the family room where the kids can build draw on Etruscan vases, search for art treasure or become part of a shadow play. Plus, the Villa Cafe has Mediterranean meals that range from kid-delighting pizza to salads (and wine) that make parents swoon. And, you are a stone’s throw from the ocean; let Grandma and Grandpa bask in the beauty of the Pacific and end the day with a sunset stroll on the beach.
Or, if you’re feeling super energetic, your $15 parking fee at the Getty Villa also gets you free parking at the Getty Center. Make your way east and enjoy more breathtaking views, incredible art and family activities.
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy
Get a Bird's Eye View
Daredevils will love a zip down the glass slide that's up on the 70th floor of the US Bank Tower. But everyone, from toddlers to the older generations, can skip that step and still enjoy stunning 360-degree views of the city at every turn; the most breathtaking we’ve seen from any spot in LA. The 69th floor is home to the open-air observation deck. Munchkins will love looking through mounted telescopes to track down their favorite LA landmarks. And you’ll realize just how high up you are when you spot helicopters zipping around you through the sky below. It's a great overview of our city for first time guests.
After you've gotten your fill of vistas, walk down to Grand Central Market for lunch, where you'll find something for everyone in your party.
OUE Skyspace LA
633 West Fifth St.
The LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
Take a peacock (and goose!) filled trek out to Arcadia to visit the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. This oft-overlooked 127-acre treasure is a wonderland of native plants, epic trees, a lush natural lake and loads of history. Let the kids romp through the forests and come up with their own adventure. History loving Grandparents will want to be sure to venture to Queen Anne Cottage: Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin’s “belvedere” built in 1885. The Arboretum is a rich site of natural beauty, Native and California history. This spot also hosts great events for kids, including nature-themed story time, gardening (you might finally get inspired to rip out that lawn and create a native plant oasis) and family adventure classes. Check their website for more details.
LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
301 North Baldwin Ave.
The Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory is enough to spark curiosity in your little astronomers and the older generation of stargazers alike. If everyone is feeling spry, hike up one of trails beginning near Fern Dell (which is a great mini hiking spot for Gram and Gramp to take your littlest hikers in and of itself!) or the Greek Theater. Otherwise, you can drive up as far as possible and park.
Head up to this iconic spot to take in views of the Hollywood Sign, the Valleys, Downtown and beyond. Once inside, be sure to see one of the shows in the planetarium and explore the wonder of the cosmos. Downstairs, there are more exhibitions where the family can learn about the planets, stars and the equipment that makes all of this information available to us. And the view isn’t limited to the daytime. On clear nights, the observatory hosts public telescopes every evening, sunset hikes with a Ranger monthly and public star parties one Saturday a month. Check the website for program schedules.
2800 East Observatory Rd.
The Pony Rides and Train Rides at Griffith Park
Speaking of Griffith Park, take advantage of one of the great cheap thrills this city has to offer: the Pony Rides and Train at Griffith Park are one of the LA staples that are easy on the pocketbook and energy levels. Young jockeys love the opportunity to ride the ponies (there are slow and medium speed ponies suitable for a variety of ages and adventurousness) and grandparents will get the ultimate photo op as the kids ride by with ear to ear grins. Pony rides are $5 a go.
And the train ride is a great way to round it out as the family can sit and enjoy the mile long rail adventure. The first train leaves at 10 a.m. every day. Last train departs between 4-5 p.m., depending on the day of week and time of year. Real train lovers can head down the street to Travel Town, where kids can climb on real retired trains and everyone can ride the mini-train around the tracks.
Griffith Park Train Rides
4400 Crystal Springs Dr.
The Original Farmers Market
If the folks are looking for a place to take an easy stroll, get lunch and enjoy an impulse buy or two, The Original Farmers Market is the place. Everyone can wander the stalls, find something that catches their eye and take in some music or other entertainment on the weekends and evenings. The kids will be entranced by Sticker Planet and the adults can peruse Riceteria (a shop filled with colorful Danish housewares). And no need to agree on lunch. Some can grab Mexican at Loteria Grill, while others might step in at The Gumbo Pot for a taste of the bayou. Hop on the tram for a ride through the Grove, where kids can hop on and off for some ipad play at the Apple Store or to peruse American Girl, while Grandparents keep riding, relaxing and sipping coffee or take a Melting Pot Food Tour of the market.
If the kids need a run afterward, Pan Pacific Park is just a couple of blocks away on Beverly. It’s the perfect way to round out the day.
The Original Farmers Market
6333 W 3rd St.
The Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens
The Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens were closed to the public for years, but have reopened their doors (for a few days each month). The gardens are an exquisite example of the American fascination with Japanese art and culture of the late 19th Century. This 2 acre masterpiece contains traditional Japanese gardens, ponds, bridges, vista points and a classic tea house. The gardens are open every Thursday and every second & last Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free docent-led tours are available at 2 p.m. Admission is $7.50. Kids 12 and under are free. This beautiful outing isn't too tiring for legs that are little or tired, and will bring a little zen to your whole family (and we could usually all use that!).
The Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens
270 Arlington Dr.
The Skirball Cultural Center
Brave the 405 and bring the family out to the Skirball Cultural Center.This expansive space has incredible rotating art exhibitions that always include a fun family element. Plus, Nana and Papa will get a kick out of watching the kids romp through Noah’s Ark, an interactive learning and playspace based on the timeless story of the Ark that spans continents and cultures. Be sure to stop in at the Family Art Studio for a fun art activity that implements recycled items. There is inspiration galore for the whole family at this Jewish cultural institution.
The Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
You don't have to be a guest at the resort to visit and marvel at the amazing ocean views. Just drive down for the day and have lunch at one of their restaurants on the water. Then stroll the gorgeous grounds, taking in the sea air. If anyone in your party is ready to rest, leave them at the coffee shop to recuperate with coffee and chat and take the kids (and everyone with loads of energy) for a walk down the cliff path to the beach and tide pool area, where kids will scramble over rocks and even take a dip. Then head back to Nelson's for a cocktail (or giant pretzel and french fries for kids) while you watch the sunset over the Pacific.
100 Terranea Way
Rancho Palos Verdes
Spend the Whole Day at Exposition Park
If the temperature has dipped below 65 (or maybe above 85) and it’s feeling like a museum kind of day, Exposition Park is the place to be. Science enthusiasts can have a ball at the California Science Center. Besides the plethora of learning exhibits and Discovery Rooms for the kids, Grands will, no doubt, be impressed by the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Hop over to The Natural History Museum and bask in the glow of diamonds and dinosaur fossils and learn about the wonders of our local flora and fauna. Stop in at the California African American Museum that always has a great rotation of art and history on display, and then picnic in the gorgeous Rose Gardens.
The Huntington Library & Gardens
If Grandma or Grandpa are history or art buffs this is the place. Also, if they really like elegant things. And peace and quiet. Which we all know, your kids aren't providing. The Huntington boasts a library chock full of rare books, collections and photographs and the art galleries house classic works to more recent rotating exhibitions. They also have an elegant tea room. Grandparents happy. The Children's Garden is a fantastic, splashtastic exploratory romping space for your young hellions, and they can also terrorize ducks at the pond and play ninja in the Japanese Gardens. You can sip wine at the new cafe by the entrance. Everyone happy.
The Huntington Gardens
1151 Oxford Rd.
Tour Dodger Stadium
Even if the grandma and grandpa root for another team, a tour of Dodger Stadium may be just the ticket. This 90 minute walking tour includes visits to the Dodger dugout, the Lexus Dugout Club, Vin Skully’s former (we’re going to miss you, Vin) press box and a walk on the field itself (among other surprises). The family will catch a glimpse into some of the coolest spots in the stadium all while getting an exciting history lesson on the history of baseball and the fascinating Dodger organization. Kids 14 and under are $15 and adults are $20. Kids 3 and under are free.
1000 Vin Scully Ave.
Do you have a football family, not one filled with baseball nuts? Take them on a tour of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, current home of the Rams, future home of the 2028 Olympics!
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Just downtown we have a modern architectural marvel at our fingertips in the Disney Concert Hall. Whether or not you’re a Gehry fan, it’s a pretty stunning piece to take in for the day. And with self-guided and guide led tours available, the family can learn all there is to know. While you’re there, take in a show. Round out your day with a romp in Grand Park where kids can splash in the fountain and explore the playground, just two blocks away on Spring Street. Then, take your tuckered kids back by the Disney Concert Hall to the Broad Museum, where modern out-sized works will delight your tots, and enthrall art loving Grandparents.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Ave.
Mid-City Has Culture & History
The tens of thousands of year old Tar Pits just happen to be in one of the liveliest hubs in the city. Make your way to Mid-City and enjoy the entire La Brea campus. Grandma and Grandpa feel young compared to the fossils at the Page Museum! Head outside to ogle at the actual liquid asphalt that still seeping right beneath your feet (be sure to bring a change of clothes for kids who WILL get sticky because they WON'T be able to resist poking at it). After a roll down one of the greatest hills in the city, walk over to LACMA. The NexGen program gets the kids and one adult (per kiddo) in for free. Enjoy the galleries, special exhibitions (not included with NexGen) and the Children’s Gallery where the young artists can paint to their heart’s content. A little further down the street car enthusiasts can explore the newly renovated Petersen Museum, and crafty relatives may prefer to browse at CAFAM.
Play Tourist for the Day
Take the whole family to play tourist for a day, reveling in the bustle, excitement and history of Hollywood. You can hit Hollywood Boulevard and the Wax Museum, the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater. Go ahead and let everyone have a go at slipping their fit into their favorite celebrity’s footprint. And perhaps take in a tour or show at the El Capitan Theatre where your movie is accompanied with a live stage show. Sure it seems touristy (and it is!), but you know what? It's also a lot of fun, and your guests will have a blast.
What are your sure-fire ways to entertain visiting relatives? Let us know any super tips we missed in the comments below.
—LeTania Kirkland Smith
main photo: Dakota Callaway via Flickr