When kids complain, “I’m bored,” take a trip to Exposition Park. Brimming with educational opportunities and plenty of outdoor space, it’s a perfect mix of culture and fun for the whole family. Located across the street from University of Southern California in Downtown Los Angeles, Exposition Park is a collection of museums and sports arenas. The park was established in 1872 when 160 acres were set aside for agricultural purposes. In 1913, the space was revamped to become Exposition Park and anchored with the California Museum of Science, the Rose Garden (pictured) and the Natural History Museum. Today the park also boasts the California African American Museum, the new IMAX Theater, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which both the USC Trojans and the LA Galaxy call their home field, the Los Angeles Sports Arena, and the Olympic Swim Center.
The park boasts wide green spaces for kids to get their wiggles out and a new playground across from the Natural History Museum. In addition to the museums and sporting events, there are plenty of special happenings throughout the year, ranging from concerts to food festivals.
When to go: Anytime! Naturally, weekdays have fewer crowds and more school groups. Check the calendar on the website for special events at the various museums or the stadium. If it’s a USC game day, we recommend planning for another day!
What to see and do: The Natural History Museum is a must on the cultural to-do list. Families can explore California’s rich past, from the mammals that once roamed the lands to the people who settled here. Plus, there are fantastic exhibits on dinosaurs, ice age mammals, insects, and much more. Best of all, your dinosaur loving kiddo will be in prehistoric heaven with the sightings of the Megamouth Shark and more. Plus, check the schedule for the Dinosaur Encounter, a live puppet show with a bigger than life T Rex. It is quite lifelike, so some young children might find it scary. Be sure to check out the Butterfly Pavilion, a unique ecosystem boasting more than 55 different butterfly and moth specimens and the Spider Pavilion for the bug lovers.
The California Science Museum is another kid favorite with an aquarium and plenty of hands-on models for tinkering. There’s plenty of science to be discovered, check out the Ecosystem exhibit featuring everything from how a species adapts to its surroundings to the process of evolution or head over to the Discovery Room where the kids can check out helicopters, big magnets and more. The IMAX Theater has rotating films and is great for older kids.
Got a soccer or football fan in the family? Then the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the place to catch a game. Summer features the L.A. Galaxy led by baller David Beckham (so there’s some eye candy for mom!) while the fall lends the space back to the American footballers of the USC Trojans. Game schedules are easily located on the Exposition Park website.
Lunch Spots: Pack a lunch and settle into the benches overlooking the Rose Garden for a lovely afternoon or head over to the play area across from the Natural History Museum where park tables and benches are plentiful. The California Science Center also boasts a Taco Bell and McDonald’s in the downstairs café as well (the café food itself leaves a bit to be desired).
How to dress: Depends on the season! Summer months require a light sweater as the museums are much chillier than the blazing outdoors. In the winter, it may well be warmer inside than out, so light layers are appropriate. If you plan to visit the gardens, keep in mind it can be windy as the downtown buildings can create quite the breeze.
Need to know: No need to find parking outside of Exposition Park, there’s plenty available for $10. Looking for parking outside of the area means a longer walk and possibly spending even more for a space. Save your energy and time!
Bonus: Mark your calendar for the annual Fourth of July Extravaganza. The festivities begin around noon and end with an hour-long firework show. Live music, food, carnival rides and more make this a great way to spend Independence Day. In addition, check the calendar for other great events from the Outdoor Cinema Festival to concerts and more.
Cost of trip: Moderate. Natural History Museum admission is free to children four and under, $5 for those ages 5-12 and $12 for adults. California Science Center and the Rose Garden are free.