Whether a visit from your in-laws or parents fills you with relief (extra help, hooray!) or dread (let the criticisms begin), at least one thing is always true: You want to try to keep the grandparents entertained. Luckily, Los Angeles is full of kid- and grandparent-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy. Check out all the must-visit museums, under-the-radar gems and only-in-LA activities perfect for all ages.
Autry Museum of the American West
This is a great place to bring kids and older folks to discover California history. Located in Griffith Park, it's rarely too crowded and manageable in size. Wander through to see a real stagecoach from the 1850s, a full-size chuck wagon and more. For kids, don't miss the Imagined West Studios, a kid-friendly space where little ones can make their own western movie with fun props and an interactive set. And when you're ready for a meal break, head to the museum's cafe, which is sure to please the whole family.
Skirball Cultural Center
Brave the 405 and take 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 play-space all made from recycled materials. Be sure to stop in at the Family Art Studio for a fun art activity inspired by one of the center's exhibits.
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
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 numerous learning exhibits and Discovery Rooms for the kids, Grandparents will, no doubt, be impressed by special exhibit A Dog's Tail and of course, the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Buy your tickets in advance so no one is disappointed by a sold-out show upon arrival.
Still have some time and energy? 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. And if you've been there done this, 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 Original Farmers Market
If out-of-town guests 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 to go (and has been since 1934). 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 love Kip's Toyland, the oldest toy store in the city, while the adults will love Riceteria (a shop filled with colorful Danish housewares).
And no need to agree on where to eat! Grab a slice at Patsy's Pizza, fried chicken at Fritzi Coop, or old-school diner classics at Du-Par's. Grandparents can sneak sweets to their little brood from Bob's Donuts, Bennett's Ice Cream and Magic Nut Company. Don't forget the four-legged members with a stop at The Dog Bakery. Don't forget to throw a penny into the wishing well outside of Monsieur Marcels Gourmet Market.
After all of that? 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 peruse The American Girl Store and get the grandparents to buy your littles a new doll. And if the kids need to burn some energy 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 Getty Villa (and Getty Center!)
Take the family for a walk through a replica of a Roman Villa—without leaving the timezone. The Getty Villa is full of spectacular views, an incredible collection of art and amazing gardens. Stop by the family room where the kids can draw on Etruscan vases, search for art treasure, and become part of a shadow play. All that art made you hungry? The Villa Cafe has Mediterranean meals that range from kid-delighting pizza to salads (and wine) that make parents swoon.
If you’re feeling super energetic, your $15 parking fee at the Getty Villa also gets you free parking at the Getty Center on the same day. Make your way east and enjoy more breathtaking views, incredible art, and family activities.
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy
OUE Skyspace LA & Grand Central Market
Daredevils in the family will love an adrenaline-filled zip down the glass slide that's on the 70th floor of the US Bank Tower. If sliding isn't your thing, everyone, from toddlers to the older generations, can 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 and munchkins will love looking through mounted telescopes to track down their favorite LA landmarks. A great overview of the city for first-time guests but even tried-and-true LA locals will be impressed when they spot helicopters zipping through the sky below.
After you've gotten your fill of the vistas, walk down to Grand Central Market for lunch, where you'll find something to eat 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). 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 and park as close as possible Hint: The earlier in the day you go, the easier it is to 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 Sat. a month. Check the website for program schedules.
2800 East Observatory Rd.
Pony & 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 ride at Griffith Park—two LA staples that are easy on the pocketbook and energy levels. Young jockeys love the opportunity to ride the ponies (there are slow, medium, and fast 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 turn.
The train ride is a great way the family can sit and enjoy each other and the mile-long rail adventure. The first train leaves at 10 a.m. every day. The last train departs between 4p.m.-5p.m., depending on the day of week and time of year. For even more locomotive fun, head down the street to Travel Town, where you can hop aboard antique train cars and everyone can ride the mini-train around the tracks.
Griffith Park Train Rides
4400 Crystal Springs Dr.
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 Thurs. and every second and last Sun. from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free docent-led tours are available at 2 p.m. This beautiful outing isn't too tiring for legs that are little 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.
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
The Huntington Library & Gardens
If Grandma or Grandpa are history or art buffs, then this is definitely the place to take them. It's also a good stop if they really like elegant things. And peace and quiet. 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.
The Children's Garden is a fantastic, splash-tastic exploratory romping space for your young hellions, and they can also terrorize ducks at the pond and pretend to be a ninja in the Japanese Gardens. You can sip wine at the new cafe by the entrance. Everyone wins.
The Huntington Gardens
1151 Oxford Rd.
Even if the grandma and grandpa root for another team, a tour of Dodger Stadium is a must for baseball fans. 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.
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
Downtown we have a modern architectural marvel at our fingertips: the Disney Concert Hall. Whether or not you’re a Gehry fan, it’s a pretty stunning building to take in for the day. And with both 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. If you have the energy, head over 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 Culture & History
The tens of thousands 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. The grandparents will feel young compared to the fossils at the Page Museum! Head outside to ogle at the actual liquid asphalt that is 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 kid) 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 Petersen Museum, while crafty relatives may want to check out CAFAM.
Featured image: Adobestock
—LeTania Kirkland Smith & Andie Huber