Dragons, insects, migrating birds, aircraft carriers, parachuting teams – the common theme? Aside from their obvious connections to lofty flight, these critters, boats, and people also happen to feature prominently in Los Angeles’ best family events this weekend. Long Beach is the site of two great outings that are worth the drive: the Dragon Boat Festival and LA Navy Week. Insects creep in Pasadena, birds soar on screen, mythical chariots parade in Venice… throw in cultural and art festivals, a rousing production of The Music Man, and one very educational event at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, and you have the makings for happy, occupied kids!

Los Angeles

Navy Day at the Zoo
The Official Navy Week event might be in Long Beach, but here in Los Angeles, the Zoo creates a little high-impact fun of its own with a day of animal sights, education, and visitor activities. Children can boogie to the Navy Band, meet on-duty Navy Sailors, try their hands at interactive displays, and marvel at super-cool vehicle displays. Fri., 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Free with Zoo admission. All ages. Event Details.

Audubon Film Fridays
Families can settle in under the gorgeous giant oaks of the Audubon Center at Ernest Debs Park for an evening screening of Winged Migration, a film that follows birds all over the globe as they take their incredible journeys. The feature movie is preceded by a short film about Audubon’s work to protect migratory birds. Fri., 8:00 pm – 10:30 pm. Free. 5 & up. Event details.

Valley

Tirgan Summer Festival
Persian culture gets the spotlight at the Tirgan Festival, which offers plenty to do for children, both educational and entertaining. Expect family stage entertainment, carnival rides, cultural dance performances, a talent show, authentic foods, and more than 100 community and business vendors. Sat-Sun., 11:00 am – 6:00 pm. Free. All ages. Event details.

Westside

Malibu Arts Festival
The 40th Annual Malibu Arts Festival promises something for all ages. Grown-ups love perusing booth after booth of fine arts and crafts, while children are drawn to the entertainment stage and a special kids workshop during which artists share their tips and tricks to help youngsters create their own art. Festival foods, live music, and the beauty of Malibu round out the great offerings. Sat-Sun., 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Free. All ages. Event details.

Ocean Appreciation Day
Games, arts and crafts projects, wildlife observation, music and naturalist presentations, and other nifty programs are on tap when the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium celebrates its annual event, teaching children and grown-ups all about four critical habitats of the local bay: the sandy bottom, the kelp forest, the rocky shore and the open ocean. Sat-Sun., 12:30 pm – 6:00 pm. Free with aquarium admission. All ages. Event details.

Festival of the Chariots
The wow factor is certainly present at the Festival of the Chariots (pictured), which showcases Indian culture with a fabulous parade, complete with three fully decorated, four-story chariots leading the revelers. Families can also enjoy live entertainment, authentic foods, and exhibits and booths. Sun., 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. Free. All ages. Event details.

Santa Monica Place Celebrates Smurfs Week
Bring your little smurf or smurfette (in their blue outfits of course!) to the Santa Monica Pier to celebrate the upcoming 3D movie. The event starts with a yoga class for kids and parents, and will also include arts and crafts, meeting Smurf characters, photos with a giant Smurf and more prizes and giveaways! Fri., 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. Free. All ages. Event Details.

Pasadena

Kidspace Bug and Insect Fair
Creepy crawlies are celebrated all day long at Kidspace, which hosts its second annual fair for entomology enthusiasts of all ages. Kids can get in on dynamic presentations from the experts, conduct experiments, take part in a ladybug release, and peruse all kinds of “buggy goods” from vendors. Sat., 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Free with museum admission. Event Details.

Beach Cities

Broadway in the Park
Popcorn lights and costumed, roaming barbershop quartets set the festive Victorian mood and the Pre-Show gets the crowd warmed up, but the grand finale is what gets everyone excited: a fully staged production of The Music Man. Even if the littlest audience members don’t quite follow the story, they’ll surely leave humming “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “(Ya Got) Trouble.” Thu-Sun; Gates 6:00 pm, Pre-Show at 7:00 pm, Show at 7:30 pm. Adults $20, Youth $12, Children under 6 free.Event details.

Worth the Drive

Long Beach Dragon Festival
They don’t breathe fire, but the dragon boats at the annual Long Beach festival are certainly explosive as they glide across the water during an event worth the drive this weekend. Visitors can expect great artistry in the boats and their expert handling, as well as Chinese traditional art demonstrations, Chinese acrobats, traditional dance, live music, martial arts demonstrations, and authentic foods. Sat-Sun., 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. Free. All ages. Event details.

LA NAVY WEEK
Big boats, big air, big events – it’s all part of the amazing LA Navy Week, which showcases the high-impact skills of the US Navy. Families can take in live music from Navy bands, simulator experiences, the Leap Frogs parachuting demonstrations,  and public tours of four massive Navy ships docked at port. Mon-Sun., Times vary. Free. All ages. Event details.

– Sarah Hilbert