Get ready for the Best. Checklist. Ever. This is the ultimate list of the 100 things every kid growing up in Los Angeles should experience. It has essential city spots. It has hidden gems. It has plenty of only-in-LA moments. And it has the makings of memories that will stay in your heart (and theirs) forever.
1. See the whole city before you when you whoosh down the glass Skyslide.
2. Catch the world’s wackiest parade: the annual Doo-Dah Parade.
3. See a movie at the old-fashioned movie palace that is the El Capitan.
4. History comes alive at the Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial.
5. Discover the beauty of eating seasonal pomegranates or pineapple guava at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, one of the biggest and best in the country.
photo: Michael Dorausch via Flickr
6. O sole mio… sing if you like, as you stroll the Venice Canals. No passport required.
7. Walk the Enchanted Ferndell Nature Center Trail, and reward your efforts with pie at Trails Café.
8. Hum the Andy Griffith theme song as you visit the ducks, turtles and pheasants that call Heavenly Duck Pond home.
9. Thar’ she blows! Los Angeles is along the migration route of the great something whale. Whale watch to see how many you can spot.
photo: Isaac Kohane via Flickr
10. Welcome Santa as he comes to town for the Hollywood Holiday Parade.
11. Play rocket scientist with a private tour at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
12. Don’t forget to change into play clothes before poking in the sticky stuff at the La Brea Tar Pits. Say hello the the Mastodons who have been hanging around for ages.
14. Meet the peacocks at the LA Arboretum.
15. Go behind the glam and visit the site of the Academy Awards the evening before the big show. Hollywood & Highland is open as they lay the red carpet and wheel the giant golden Oscars into place.
16. Ride a horse through the hills in Griffith Park. It’s a great way to see the Hollywood Sign up close!
17. Take a spin on the ice at Pershing Square at Christmas time.
18. Bring your blankets to the beach to see a movie under the stars.
photo: Meghan Rose
19. Watch a polo match at Will Rogers State Park; you can also tour Will’s house and stables and hike to see a gorgeous view of the mountains and ocean.
20. Meet the endangered animals that make their home at the STAR Eco Station.
22. Soak up the art deco style at Union Station and ride the rails.
23. Tour a movie studio.
24. Bike, walk, scooter or jog around the historic Lake Hollywood Reservoir.
25. Pick your Halloween pumpkin at the Underwood Farms Pumpkin Patch.
26. Get your free NexGen membership at LACMA and visit as often as you can; be sure one of your visits is on a Sunday for the family art workshops.
27. Meet the fantastical creatures that inhabit Noah’s Ark at the Skirball Center.
photo: Kim Orchen Cooper
28. Walk down Santa Monica Pier and take a ride on the Ferris wheel at sunset.
29. Say the magic words to the owl guarding the entrance at The Magic Castle, and have a magical and mystical brunch.
30. Take a moonlight hike through our magical mountains with the Tree People.
31. Meet the majestic wolves at the Shadowland Foundation. They’ll even eat out of your hand. Or mouth!
32. Ride the carousel that inspired the creation of Disneyland.
33. Nibble a churro as you stroll down Olvera Street in the oldest part of the city.
34. Jump in the ball boat or pilot the plane at the Zimmer Children’s Museum.
36. Book ‘em, Mom-o, at the Los Angeles Police Museum.
37. Two words: Grunion. Run.
38. Take young wenches and knaves to the Renaissance Faire.
39. Barnsdall Park has it all: Frank Lloyd Wright’s historical Hollyhock house, free family art afternoons, amazing art classes and a cutting edge art gallery. Do at least one of those things!
40. Search for treasures at the world famous Rose Bowl Flea Market.
41. Be serenaded at supper at Miceli’s.
42. Who cares that we don’t have snow? Sled the sand berms at the beach.
43. Hike the otherworldly Vasquez Rocks. (It really doubles for other worlds – it’s been in Star Trek as several different planets!)
44. Bruin or Trojan? Pledge your allegiance and join in the cross town rivalry to see some LA football. (College ball is better anyway!)
45. Spend the day at Paradise Cove.
photo: Tim and Selena via Flickr
48. Go strawberry picking! (Fun fact: almost 90% of the strawberries grown in the US are grown in California. Only we can eat them while they’re still sun-kissed and warm.)
49. Visit the Children’s Garden at the Huntington Library and Gardens. Don’t forget to bring a change of clothes.
50. Visit the Original Farmers Market at 3rd & Fairfax for classic LA food, live music and the chance to spot tourists in The Price is Right t-shirts.
51. Ride the Enchanted Railroad and see the cherry blossoms in full bloom at Descanso Gardens.
52. Visit the antiquities at the Getty Villa, one of the most spectacular spots in the whole city.
photo credit: Meghan Rose
53. Make like a pirate at the Festival of Tall Ships.
55. BAM. POW! Make like Batman and visit the Bronson Caves.
56. Bird watch on the beach. (If you don’t know your plovers from your starlings, go with the Audobon Society.)
57. See a Bob Baker Marionette show.
59. Go camping at the beach!
60. Wands out! Send an owl post to your friends and drink a butterbeer at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
61. Visit our own enchanted isle where the buffalo roam and no cars are allowed: Catalina.
62. Explore the stacks at the Central Library.
64. Take the Christmas Train to chop down your own tree, on the Fillmore and Western Railroad.
65. What is the only US city to host the Olympics twice? That’s right, Los Angeles! See the Olympic flame at the Coliseum; it’s lit during the 4th quarter of USC football games and while the Olympics are taking place in another city. (This one requires a little planning ahead!)
66. Root for the boys in blue! Visit the coolest mid-century baseball park in the country to see the Dodgers.
67. Drive to the desert for date shakes, the stunning sights in Joshua Tree and a tram trip to the snow.
68. Find the faeries in a local park with A Faery Hunt.
69. LA loves to read! Visit the LA Times Festival of Books, one of the best book fests in the country.
70. Pick any three of the following LA food institutions to eat at: Philippe’s, Pink’s Hot Dogs, Langer’s Deli, King’s Burgers, The Apple Pan, Canter’s Deli, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffle, Original Pantry, Spago or Musso and Franks.
photo: Marianne Cothern via Flickr
71. See a show in the planetarium at the Griffith Observatory. (And find out what you’d weigh on Jupiter.)
73. Visit Disney Concert Hall and see a show or take a tour.
74. Spend an evening with the roughest, toughest chicks in town: LA’s Derby Dolls.
75. Visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a summer movie screening OR the Day of the Dead celebration.
76. Have an ice cream sundae at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour on your birthday. (It’s on them!)
77. Hop over to the Bunny Museum. Just to say you’ve been.
78. Visit the Kidspace Children’s Museum.
79. Spend the day at the LA County Fair.
80. Lions and tigers and bears all wait to say hello at the Los Angeles Zoo. (So do elephants, gorillas and some loud and friendly chimpanzees.)
81. See a live taping of a show—Nickelodeon and Disney both shoot shows and game shows for kids locally.
82. Swing out over the ocean at Malibu Bluffs Park’s playground.
83. Visit the Natural History Museum to see delicate Monarchs and giant dino bones.
85. Play tourist in your own town with a visit to the hand and foot prints Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
86. See if you can catch a glimpse of the ghost that lives on the Queen Mary.
87. Start one year off with the Rose Parade! (Or, if getting up that early just isn’t in the cards for your family, you can take a tour behind the scenes to see the floats as they get the final touches put on them.)
88. Say hi to the seals & sea lions at Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific.
89. Every child needs at least one visit to “the happiest place on earth”, especially if you grow up in LA!
90. Spend the night at a museum–NHM, the Zoo, the Tar Pit, Skirball and Aquarium of the Pacific all host family sleepovers.
91. Splash in the fountain at downtown’s Grand Park.
92. See a Big!World!Fun! show for kids in the summer at the Ford Amphitheater.
93. Make like the Beach Boys and take a surfing lesson.
94. Put your pinkies up for tea at the Bel Air Hotel.
95. Visit The Last Bookstore and expand your bookshelves (and mind!).
96. Take the train at Travel Town, where you can see the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe cars that Judy Garland sang about.
97. Step aboard a real battleship- the USS IOWA.
98. Take the tram tour at Universal Studios.
99. Visit the amazing Watts Towers by Simon Rodia.
100. Make like a “pretty woman” and stroll down Rodeo Drive. (Christmas is a favorite time for kids, when Santa and Dickensian Carolers are out and about.)
Note: This list is in no particular order. We tried to mix up the neighborhoods, ages and experiences.
Overwhelmed? Start with our shortlist of the 10 essential experiences for the under 10 crowd. And please let us know if we’ve missed anything! (It’s LA, we love sequels! We’ll make another list if we have to.)