Those holiday credit card bills come in and—Ouch! It’s time to find some family winter activities that are free, free, free. Here are our favorite 25 things to do with kids in the winter in Los Angeles, and they won’t cost you a nickel!

Sand Sledding Mainphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

1. Hit the berms by the ocean, grab a sled (or cardboard box) and sled like you’re in Alaska.  Only you’ll need sunscreen, not snow pants!

2. Hike by the light of the moon with the kids—the moonrises are earlier in the winter, meaning you can get in a moonlight walk and still be ready for a reasonably timed beddy bye.

3. It’s whale season! While a boat trip will set you back a few bucks, there are spots on land where you can see the migrating wonders as they swim along our shore.

Los Angeles Fire Museums, Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society, Vintage Firefighting Equipment and Vehiclesphoto: Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society

4. Every little firefighter gets a fire hat and a warm welcome at the Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial in Hollywood. If you have the time, pop into the current Hollywood Fire Station next door, where firefighters who aren’t out fighting fires are happy to give kids a tour and let them sit in the real trucks.

5. Little Thomas the Tank fans (and bigger engineers, too) can’t get enough for the trains at Travel Town.

Bike Path Lacy Parkphoto: Bella B. via Yelp

6. Perhaps our favorite tucked away park in the city, where the playground is stellar, the bike paths huge and safe and the rose garden a perfect spot to look for fairies is Lacy Park in San Marino. (If you’re not a resident, this park has a weekend fee, so visit on a weekday.)

7. Hands on sea explorations are plentiful at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. It’s also the spot for a Grunion Run, which is a must do for all LA kids.

8. Reach for the stars at the Griffith Observatory, where admission and parking are both always free. If your adventures happen to fall during the winter vacation weeks, you can see a free show on how to make a comet.

IMG_2008photo: Jennifer O’Brien

9. A trip downtown is just the ticket, where you can explore the Broad Museum, play at the Grand Park playground, see Oscar nominated costumes (including some super hero duds!) and browse the Last Bookstore (browsing is free, and new books can be as little as $1).

10. The cooler months are the perfect time to check out Watts Towers, since the concrete jungle can get hot in the summer.

11. No matter how many times we visit, we can never get over the fact that one of the coolest museums for kids in the city (world?) is totally free, every day.

12. At William Hart’s home, where the buffalo roam (really!), you can visit the ranch, mansion, park and take part in loads of activities for kids for free.

Get Back to Naturephoto Analise Dubner

13. Walk to a waterfall—winter is when the water comes, and after the wet weather we’ve had (relative to the last few years) the falls are finally flowing.

14. Best ‘get the kids to the museum’ program in the nation: a LACMA’s NexGen membership, which is free to all kids under 17, and allows them to bring along a grownup for free, too.

15. Winters are for curling up with a book. Check out all the books you can find at the beautiful Central Library in Downtown LA. Or one of our other fave libraries for kids.

16. Meet a Ranger at one of our local hands-on nature centers. Here’s a tip: one of our favorites is Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Montecito Heights.

Museum Eats The Gettyphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

17. Go, go Getty! (While we love the Villa with all our hearts, if you’ve never taken the kids, we recommend starting with the Center—the tram to the top alone will have the kids happy before they even get to the museum.) Yes, parking will cost you $15, but you can take the metro, to save money on that front!

18. LA is at it’s most lush in the winter—perfect for a walk through the Ferndell Nature Walk.

19. Find the art outside, with street art, Instagrammable walls and public sculptures that pepper our fair city.

WestMatadorphoto: Erin Harris

20. Go spelunking!

21. Fly a kite. Winter winds help your efforts immeasurably. These spots provide excellent lift.

22. Seek out Friday Fun at Madrona Marsh’s program for preschoolers.

23. Forget waiting for a kid-appropriate super hero movie. (Don’t they all seem just a little too adult and violent?) Take the kids for a day at a comic book store, where they can read classic comics to their hearts content.

photo credit: Andrea Conway Kagey

24. Meet some feathered friends. One of our favorite spots is the surprisingly lush LA River, where ducks, geese, herons and other fowl creatures live.

25. Want to play princesses and knights? Local Greystone Mansion is a public park that looks like a castle and is perfect for pretend play and picnicking.

Want more winter fun in LA? We’ve got 50 more things you gotta do before spring hits, right here.


—Meghan Rose