Los Angeles is synonymous with world-class, kid-friendly museums. So much so, you’d be hard pressed to find another city with as many kid-friendly museums. From interactive exhibits, cool experiments, and live animals to spectacular play spaces, bookmark this page of our must-visit museums and you’ll always have somewhere fun to go, every day of the week.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
We’ve been concentrating on museums mainly for kids, but this grown-up, world-class art museum is a wonderful introduction to art for kids of all ages. You can find a gallery for every interest—mummies and Egyptian art, playing “I Spy” in the Impressionist rooms, imagining the lives of people from long ago in the furniture collections and looking at the amazingly kid-appealing contemporary exhibits (many pieces look like giant toys to little people) in the BCAM building. There are also several exhibits that appeal directly to kids (Metropolis II is mesmerizing) as well as story times, family tours, weekend free concerts, family Sun. workshops, the Boone Family Gallery and more. And it’s always free for kids! (See below.)
Hours: Mon., Tues. and Thu. from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Fri. from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; weekends from 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Admission: Hit the museum membership desk and sign up for the NexGen program. Kids under 17 and one accompanying adult (per child) get into LACMA for free with a NEXGEN pass.
Need to Know: If you can find easy street parking, score! If not, we think it’s worth it to pay $16 to park in the underground lot. Also, after a long day of art, get yourself a cool drink at Rays & Stark Bar and relax while you keep an eye on the kids playing hide-and-seek in the Urban Light installation.
Good to Know: Metropolis II only runs Fri.-Sun. and select holiday Mon. like President's Day during select times. And while it is impressive to see this frantic traffic display start, it's totally worth skipping the crowd and timing it towards the end of its run when the traffic gets turned off and the cars all park quietly.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Autry National Center
We do live in the wild, wild west after all, and the Autry Museum in Griffith Park is a fantastic place to bring kids to explore our history. From early settlers to the days of sheriffs and gunslingers, Annie Oakley to cowboy movies, Chinatown to the Gold Rush, this spot gives kids an overview of the history of what made the West so wild and how it was tamed (or was it?). Kids adore the chance to pan for gold, to be in a cowboy movie (green screen and all) and everyone will be fascinated by the newest permanent exhibit, California Continued.
Don't miss Investigating Griffith Park on view now. Not only is it an interactive exhibit, it is also a developing one where they are gathering information from viewers about the park which is helping to inform the growth of the display.
Hours: Open Tues.–Fri. from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sat-Sun. from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Admission: $6 for kids, $14 for adults and kids under 3 are free.
Need to Know: Gold panning is only offered on weekends (it’s included with admission), so if that’s something your kiddo wants to try, plan your visit for a Sat. or Sun. between the hours of 11 a.m-3 p.m.
Good to Know: The second Tues. of the month is free for everyone but check their calendar of events as they often host fun festivals and family-based events on the weekends.
4700 Western Heritage Way
Skirball Cultural Center
This West LA Jewish cultural institution offers many wonderful family programs as well as a favorite destination for kiddos, Noah’s Ark. This timed-entry interactive exhibit occupies 8,000 square feet and plenty of activities to fuels everyone from a preschooler to elementary aged kids. The floor to ceiling ark is filled with animals and items that encourage the family to build, create, climb and explore (cleaning up the faux poop is a favorite ark activity!). In addition to Noah's Ark, there are fascinating exhibits about being an immigrant in America, Jewish history and rotation exhibits exploring the lives of famous Jewish figures. Plus fun weekend events and concerts that are worth putting on your calendar.
Upcoming exhibits we can't wait to see: Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, a spotlight on Andy Warhol, and beginning May 9, Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich
Hours: Tues.-Fri. from noon-5 p.m; Sat.-Sun. from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: Kids are $7 and adults are $12.
Need to Know: On any given day, the Ark has surprise encounters and drop-in activities, so be prepared for anything.
Good to Know: Thurs. are free and are first-come, first-serve, subject to availability.
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
California Science Center
Located in Downtown’s Exposition Park, this is a science and space lover’s heaven. But even if your little one isn’t a future lab dweller, there’s plenty to get their minds working. The IMAX Theater is a big draw for older kids. The three Discovery Rooms are perfect destinations for the 6 and under crowd—they are filled with tons of hands-on experiments like a construction zone, a kitchen, a garden and even a kid-sized TV studio complete with costumes. Check out our full article on the California Science Center for more.
Plus, there's the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the fabulous Ecosystems exhibition where you can visit an icy land, go under the sea and even get grossed out in the rot room.
Watch on IMAX: Volcanoes 3D: The Fires of Creation is now playing where you'll dodge boulders at the edge of an active volcano in Indonesia, descends to a boiling lava lake in Vanuatu, and visit incredible acid ponds, geysers and mineral deposit fields in Ethiopia.
Beginning Mar. 16, the exhibit Dogs! A Science Tail opens along with Superpower Dogs 3D on the IMAX theater and will surely be a don't miss for kids of all ages.
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Admission: Permanent exhibits are free. IMAX tickets: Child (4-12 yrs) $6.75, Adult $8.95. For Space Shuttle Endeavour viewing timed ticket are required.
Need to Know: Avoid planning a visit during USC game days as the center shares parking with the Coliseum, and traffic is disastrous. Or better yet, simply take the Metro to the stop right across the street.
Good to Know: Got caught here longer than you expected? Thanks to a recent renovation on the ground level, the food options get two thumbs up. Get a snack at the grab-n-go food market, a caffeinated drink and sweet at the coffee bar or for more filling, kid-satisfying options, hit up Trimana Grill.
700 Exposition Park Dr.
La Brea Tarpits and Museum
Did you know the Tar Pits came into existence 50,000 years ago (65 MILLION years after that last dinosaur ceased to exist)? Kids will love this oldie but goodie on Wilshire Blvd., in the shadow of LACMA. The bubbling tar pit is a big attraction, not to mention the open grassy area where kids can be kids.
Inside the museum, artifacts and fossils from the Ice Age never fail to awe little minds. Be sure to catch the newest exhibit (free with admissions) Mammoths and Mastodons as well as fan-favorite: Titans of the Ice Age 3D movie and Ice Age Encounters (only Fri.-Sun.) with a life-size Saber-toothed Cat puppet (both of these latter activities require additional tickets).
Hours: Daily from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: $7 for kids, $15 for adults and tots under 3 are free.
Need to Know: Come in play clothes—kids adore poking around in the mini bubble-ups of tar that dot the park, but that sticky black goo does not come out of clothing.
Good to Know: Get in for free on the first Tues. of the month (note that there are no free Tues. in Jul. and Aug.) but every Tues. in Sept. is free. LA County residents get in for free every Mon.-Fri. from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. with a valid ID or utility bill.
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Kidspace Children’s Museum
This Pasadena establishment is an amazing family destination where activities and learning abound. They have everything a little mind can imagine, from the trike tracks to Kirby’s Kid Corner where it’s all about splashing and helping toddlers develop motor coordination. Visit the Digging Deeper Gallery to discover nature—from examining bugs and insects to learning about raindrops. The Gardens boast bee and butterfly exhibits, a wildlife pond and even a Spider Web climber. The Galvin Physics Forest has hands-on fun that inspires kids to be innovators and creators, as does the Imagination Workshop. The newest spot is the outdoor Arroyo Adventure, with plenty of hands-on wet fun that makes this hotspot lovely in summer months, too. Wherever they choose to play, your tyke will leave tuckered out!
Don't miss family-favorite caterpillar adoption days (Mar. 16-Apr. 30).
Hours: Tues.-Fri. from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: $14, kids under 1 are free.
Need to Know: Check the event calendar for festivals and special exhibits and hands-on crafting. Also, be aware of UCLA game days and concerts—check the website for closures on those days.
Good to Know: After all that play, your kids will be hungry. The Kidspace Cafe has drinks and a menu full of kid-sized favorites from hot dogs and pizza to salads and dessert.
480 N Arroyo Blvd.
Natural History Museum
Let’s have a show of hands—who has a kiddo who loves dinos? Most kids go through a dinosaur phase, and when you visit the Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Hall, you’ll be (re)struck with your own child-like wonder. It’s a spectacular space, and the multi-media stations are informative and fun for all ages. You can also see animal dioramas from all over the world, and be sure to check out the Nature Gardens and Labs. Mark your calendars for the NHM's after-hours evenings; that just might be the best time to visit.
Make sure to visit the newly remodeled theater that is featuring Oceans 3D and check out the life of Los Angeles's most famous feline: The Story of P22 on the ground floor. And of course, you can't miss the Butterfly Pavilion open Mar. 17 through Sept. 2 to catch (with your eyes) over 30 species of the winged wonders.
Hours: Open 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.
Admission: $7 for kids (3-12), $12 for teens (13-17), $15 for adults and under 3 are free. The first Tues. of the month is free for everyone (there are no free Tues. during Jul. and Aug., but every Tues. is free in Sept.). Reserve tickets in advance to guarantee entry.
Need to Know: In the spring and summer you won’t want to miss the Butterfly Pavilion, where you can get up close and personal with beautiful winged creatures. In the fall this becomes the Spider Pavilion—a perfect Halloween adventure!
Good to Know: The nature garden is a great area to let the kids run around and let off some steam (if they still have any left) so grab a coffee from the cafe, take a seat and let them climb, dig and roam around to their heart's content.
900 Exposition Blvd.
Discovery Cube LA
Located near the Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley, plan to spend a whole day exploring the Cube: There are so many activities it’s like a science amusement park, and your kids are going to want to go on every ride. Look for chair lifts, pulley races, a climbing wall, kayaks, a 70 MPH wind tunnel, a clever “aquavator” that simulates an elevator ride into an underground aquifer and a simulated helicopter ride. And that’s just the permanent exhibits. There are also rotating exhibitions all the time, including the super popular holiday Science of Gingerbread extravaganza.
Don't Miss: Opening May 25, Wild Kratts® is the newest exhibit where little ones can explore the secret lives of amazing creatures, immerse themselves in animal habitats from around the globe all while discovering incredible creature powers.
Hours: Daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: Adults are $19.95, kids $12.95, and free for children under 2.
Need to Know: Babies welcome; there’s a special section just for kids under 5 where they’re totally safe from getting trampled while they explore.
Good to Know: During the holidays, they host a Winter Wonderfest with sledding and other snow-play activities but the best part? The free photo-op with Santa.
11800 Foothill Blvd.
At the top of Griffith Park, you are met with sweeping views of the city, where on a clear day you can see from the San Gabriel Mountains to the beach. See if kids can spot your neighborhood far below. Then head inside and learn all about our planets and universe. What would we weigh on Jupiter? How is a comet made? What can you see through the giant telescopes? Don’t miss a visit to the planetarium for one of their amazing shows. Public Star Parties are held once a month, where you can go look at the sun, moon, and planets and try out a variety of telescopes. Check out our in-depth article on the Griffith Observatory and why it's a favorite place to visit with the kids.
Hours: Tues.–Fri. from noon-10 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Admission: Free but shows in the planetarium are $3 for kids (5-12); $7 for adults. Kids under 5 are only admitted to the first show each day and must sit on an adult's lap.
Need to Know: Parking is notoriously difficult, so on a weekend expect a long walk. The good news is the walk will be gorgeous, with the best views in the city of the Hollywood Sign. The bad news is that it’s all uphill so bring strollers or carriers for wee ones.
Good to Know: Avoid the parking dilemma altogether and take the DASH Observatory bus from the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station.
2800 East Observatory Rd.
Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society
If you’ve got a mini firefighter on your hands, this tucked away museum in Hollywood is a must visit. The museum has two locations, but for kids, we prefer the Hollywood spot. The LAFD has turned the old Hollywood Fire Station (once the largest one West of the Mississippi) into a center for learning about fire safety as well as a place to see historical fire trucks, gear, model engines and more.
The upstairs is a huge play space for kids to try on firefighter suits and hats and play with fire trucks and toys. The museum is staffed with retired firefighters who love to talk with kids, and right next door is the current Hollywood Fire Station, with on-duty firefighters who are happy to give tours and let kids sit in fire trucks (when they’re not busy fighting fires). I
Hours: Sat. from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Need to Know: There is limited free parking but once you park, you can walk from here to Sunset Blvd. to Umami Burger, Stella Barra Pizzeria or Groundworks Coffee if you are looking for a bite to eat.
Good to Know: If your kiddo's goal of protecting and serving takes the form of Police hero-worship, then you want to also plan a trip to the Police Museum!
1355 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
5 More Fabulous Museums
It is so hard to pick the top cultural institutions to hang when LA is bursting with amazing museums for kids. So we wanted to mention these museums as well since they are well worth the visit for both kids and adults alike.
Getty Museum and Villa: Both Getty locations (you can visit both museums on the same day for one parking fee) have incredible Family Rooms and Art Detective cards that will keep your kids hunting through the museum all day long. They also have beautiful gardens and special events or concerts for kids.
Children's Museum La Habra: Hands-on exhibits and a dino garden plus historic caboose make this a great outing.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library: The absolute must-see is Air Force One. No matter your politics, the library’s interactive exhibits are designed to keep future officeholders (or just voters) engaged. It is surprisingly fun (and educational) for everyone.
Petersen Automotive Museum: A must-visit for car-loving kids, the recent renovation is spectacular and well worth a visit if you haven't been in a while.
The Broad Museum of Contemporary Art: Giant teacups, massive balloon animals, Alice in Wonderland-esque splashes of color and the Infinity Room will convince any kiddo that contemporary art is where it’s at. The always immediately sold out family workshops are worth stalking the online calendar of events for.
Wait! Just a couple more!
There's LA’s crazy, kid-friendly hidden museums, a hands-on kid’s museum that's worth the drive to Santa Barbara, and we can’t skip these two OC Kids Museums we adore: Pretend City and the Bower’s Kidseum!
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—Meghan Rose & Andie Huber