One of the best things about growing up in LA is being just a freeway jaunt away from a gazillion (we counted) exciting experiences for young kids. In fact, the list of amazing toddler-tailored activities in LA is longer than the wait-list at any Westside preschool! Luckily, we’ve narrowed down the must-dos to these twenty, so you can spend your time on better things—like getting out there with your tots and exploring.
1. Enjoy a mid-week beach day. In February.
2. Give your tots their first lesson in art appreciation at LACMA. Between the neon noodles and the giant rock, you can make an impression on your budding young artists without the terrifying thought of stepping into one of the actual art galleries with a toddler. (That’s for when they’re big preschoolers!)
3. Visit Travel Town. Because what toddler doesn’t love trains and what LA parent doesn’t love free anything?
5. Unless you want your toddlers growing up thinking pumpkins are raised in parking lots, pay a visit to Underwood Farms during the Fall Harvest Festival.
6. Head to Disneyland before your little one’s third birthday while they still get in for free. The Happiest Place on Earth is a lot happier when it doesn’t cost more than your monthly mortgage.
7. We may not get snow, but we definitely have plenty of sand. Take a “snow day” sledding the Venice Beach sand dunes. No snow jackets needed.
8. Your toddler may scratch their head in wonder when you try to explain the concept of “rain” and “flood”, but there will be no confusion over how much fun their first visit to Noah’s Ark at the Skirball will be.
9. When you live in the movie-making capital of the world, your first movie-going experience should be either a red-carpet premiere or the newest Disney movie at the El Capitan.
10. Give those wobbly legs a workout with a sunset walk at Palisades Park in Santa Monica.
11. Teach your tots that there are “stars” other than the celebrity guests on Yo Gabba Gabba, while you get an up-close look at a real space shuttle at the California Science Center.
12. Imagine what Wilshire Boulevard must have looked like covered in mastodons instead of Mazeratis, while you watch the perpetually stuck elephants sink into the Tar Pits. (Bring a change of clothes, as this outing is more fun when parents let young paleontologists poke in the actual bubbling tar.)
13. Every pint-sized Angeleno flirts with the idea of becoming an actor at some point. Start your tiny thespians off on the right foot with a theatrical experience made just for them at one of LA’s best interactive children’s theaters.
14. Give your junior jet-setters their first lesson in air traffic watching the airplanes take off and land at LAX’s Flight Path Learning Center.
15. Your little monkeys can get in touch with their wild sides, even in this concrete jungle, with a visit to any of these amazing spots where they can get up close and personal with the animals!
16. Attend an outdoor concert. Your mini-music lovers are going to end up at Coachella someday, so the sooner you start prepping their musical taste buds and concert-going skills, the better.
17. Eating a gourmet grilled cheese from a food truck is a must-do for all future hipsters. Plus, then the mess stays outside.
18. Ride the Metro to the Natural History Museum or Union Station. It really doesn’t matter where, the ride is the experience.
19. Go ice skating for the first time while wearing a tank top and sunglasses.
20. Taking a whirl on the Carousel at the Pier; it’s an absolute right of passage for all toddling natives. And now realize that wherever you are from, your kiddo is in fact a native Angeleno! (No matter that you’ve had them in a Red Sox cap since birth!)
21. Rain in LA is like a magical unicorn: a rare and elusive beast that legends say really do exist. When that day finally arrives that water pours down from the sky, grab those galoshes that have been collecting dust and go for a splash.
What’s on your toddler’s must-do list? Share your favorite activities for pint-sized tots in the comments!
—Written and Pictures by Shahrzad Warkentin