Editor’s note: Most of LA’s museums remain closed due to the pandemic. Fortunately, though, many are now offering online and virtual programs to educate and entertain kids. Here’s a roundup of our favorites.
We’re all about finding the best of everything in LA for kids—from the newest arts-and-crafts studio to iconic family-friendly restaurants. Of course, we couldn’t leave out museums, and this city has plenty to choose from. Whether you want to introduce your tykes to modern art or you’re looking for a space where they can learn and play (and touch everything!), here are LA’s 17 best museums for kids.
Best Overall: Kidspace Children’s Museum
This indoor-outdoor space next to the Rose Bowl is filled with play-based activities and learning tools for kids. Highlights include the massive multi-story climbing towers, the Trike Tracks, an outdoor rope bridge, mini beach, stream and oh so much more. If you have crawlers, head to the Early Childhood Learning Center. This space is filled with age-appropriate games and climbers away from the onslaught of busy older kids!
Why We Love It: Where to begin? The parking is easy, the layout is open and airy, there's just the right mix of learning moments and pure play and even the on-site eatery is awesome.
Added Bonus: In the summer, little ones will love cooling off in the Arroyo creek area—just be sure to bring a change of clothes.
Hours: Tues.-Fri., 9:30a.m.-5p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10a.m.-5p.m. (check notifications for closures due to Rose Bowl event)
Admission: $14.95 for everyone, kids under 1 are free
480 N Arroyo Blvd.
Best for Rainy Days: Skirball Cultural Center
This West LA Jewish cultural institution is home to the award-winning interactive kids exhibit, Noah’s Ark, featuring animals made from recycled materials. Little ones can climb, build, create and explore (cleaning up the faux animal poop is a favorite Ark activity!). There's also an art room open to kids on weekends (with activities inspired by the exhibits), a Rainbow Mist Arbor, and a dress-up area tucked in the Ellis Island section of the Values and Visions exhibit.
Why We Love It: With a timed-entry system, the 8,000 square foot play-and-learn area never feels too crowded. You can even reserve Noah's Ark tickets in advance—otherwise if you show up on a Sat. or Sun. after 11a.m., you may have to wait until 1p.m. or later for entrance to the exhibit.
Added bonus: The museum offers plenty of Family Programs throughout the year, including Sensory-Friendly Sundays, Story Time in Noah's Ark and an after-dark Pajama Party.
Hours: Tues.-Fri., noon-5 p.m; Sat.-Sun., 10a.m.-5p.m.
Admission: Kids are $7 and adults are $12.
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Best STEM Destination: California Science Center
Located in Downtown’s Exposition Park, this free museum has everything from a mini aquarium (where kids can touch a starfish!) to a tour of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. 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.
Older kids can check out the 7-story IMAC theater, where Volcanoes 3D, Superpower Dogs 3D and Apollo 11 are all playing.
Hours: Daily, 10a.m.-5p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Admission: Permanent exhibits are free. IMAX tickets start at $6.75 for kids; $8.95 for adults. For Space Shuttle Endeavour, timed reservations 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: 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.
Best for Dino Lovers: Natural History Museum
Let’s have a show of hands—who has a kiddo who loves dinos? The Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Hall is 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 theater that is featuring Oceans 3D: Our Blue Planet and Titanosaur 3D, the story of family of gargantuan dinosaurs who roamed the southern hemisphere.
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.
Need to Know: In the spring and summer you won’t want to miss the Butterfly Pavilion (on display until Sept. 2), 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, roam and splash around.
900 Exposition Blvd.
Best Newcomer: Cayton Children's Museum
The colorful and fun-filled 21,000-square-foot Cayton Children’s Museum opened on the third floor of Santa Monica Place in the summer of 2019. Kids can scramble their way through the Courage Climber, a mesh web of ropes suspended from the ceiling; jump into To the Rescue! (a ball pit with a recycled Coast Guard rescue boat in the middle); marvel at the Rube-Goldberg-inspired All Systems Go! Ball Machine, climb aboard a fire truck, get creative in the art studio and so much more.
Why We Love It: A museum just for kids on the westside? Yep, we're in.
Added Bonus: You can host your kid's next birthday bash at the museum with party packages starting at $950.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10a.m.-7p.m.; Sun. 12p.m.-7p.m.
Admission: $14 for adults and children; free for infants 12 months; free for members
395 Santa Monica Pl.
Best for Cali History: The Autry Museum of the American West
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?).
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.
Hours: Tues.–Fri., 10a.m.–4p.m. and Sat-Sun., 10a.m.–5p.m.
Admission: $6 for kids; $14 for adults; kids under 3 are free
Need to Know: Gold panning is only offered most 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 11 a.m-3 p.m.
Good to Know: The second Tues. of the month is free for everyone!
Best Summer Outing: The Getty Center
While there are a lot of lovely views in and around Los Angeles, luscious gardens to walk around and loads of places to absorb culture, history, art, architecture, and more, The Getty Center is one of the only spots in the city where you get to experience all of that and then some. Plus, there's even a tram ride that takes you from the parking lot up to the museum itself. And once you're there, be sure to check out the Family Room for hands-on kids activities.
Hours: Tues.–Sun., 10a.m. to 5:30p.m.
Admission: Free (parking costs $15)
Good to Know: Once you pay for parking at The Getty Center, you'll also score free parking at The Getty Villa in Malibu for the same day (if you have the stamina to visit both).
Sepulveda Blvd. & Getty Center Dr.
Best Classic LA Destination: 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. The bubbling tar pit is a big attraction, not to mention the open grassy area where kids can roll down a sloped grassy hill and climb on animal sculptures throughout the park.
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 activities require additional tickets).
Hours: Daily from 9:30a.m.-5p.m.
Admission: $7 for kids, $15 for adults, tots under 3 are free
Need to Know: 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.
Best Art of Every Kind: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
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—discovering 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 cool contemporary exhibits (many pieces look like giant toys to little people) in the BCAM building. There are also story times, family tours, weekend free concerts, family Sun. workshops, the Boone Family Gallery and more. And it’s always free for kids who live in Los Angeles County!
Hours: Mon., Tues. and Thurs., 11a.m.–5p.m.; Fri., 11a.m.–8p.m.; weekends, 10a.m.–7p.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 NexGenLA 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 (a sculpture with moving parts made to look like a mini city) only runs during select time Fri.-Sun. and certain holidays, like President's Day. 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.
Best Quick & Easy Trip: Discovery Cube LA
Located near the Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley, the Cube is home to a mini climbing wall, a 70 MPH wind tunnel, a clever “aquavator” that simulates an elevator ride into an underground aquifer, and a simulated helicopter ride. There's also a garbage-sorting game kids will love and a chance to sit on a Zamboni in the Science of Hockey LA Kings upstairs exhibit.
Hours: Daily from 10a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: Adults $15.95, child $13.95, senior $15.95 (online); Adults $19.95, child i$14.95, senior $16.95 (on-site)
11800 Foothill Blvd.
Best Views: Griffith Observatory
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.
5 More Local Faves
Already exhausted the ones on our list? Keep scrolling for five more kid-friendly spots.
Petersen Automotive Museum: A must-visit for car-loving kids (and grown-ups), this shrine to all things cars is home to Batman's Batmobile, Back to the Future's DeLorean and more. Head to the Discovery Center where little ones will love zooming toy speedsters around the track and building their own LEGO racecars. And don’t leave without snapping the quintessential shot of your kiddo "driving" the Ford Model T.
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 very popular family workshops are worth stalking the online calendar of events.
Fowler Museum at UCLA: Located on the sprawling UCLA campus, this museum explores global arts and cultures primarily from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. Check out their Fowler Families programs, which include art workshops, yoga and more. The museum is also a short walk from the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, a lush 7.5 acre "natural museum" that kids can explore.
Los Angeles Fire Department Hollywood Museum: On Saturdays from 10a.m. to 4p.m., you can visit Fire Station 27, which was established in 1930. The space features equipment dating back to the early 1900s, along with fire-fighting artifacts and equipment from the 1880s through the present day.
Worth the Drive
Now that you've check all the LA museums off your list, here are some more within an hour or two of the city.
Go inside a guitar, create a wind-, sun- and human-powered symphony with the Weather Orchestra and more at Santa Barbara's hands-on MOXI Museum.
featured photo: Steve N. via Yelp
–Meghan Rose, Andie Huber & Shannan Rouss