Most families head to the Los Angeles area for a weekend getaway at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios or Magic Mountain. But does family fun have to come at such a cost? Of course not, Los Angeles is filled with great budget-friendly family adventures.
Skip the amusement parks, here are five relatively inexpensive opportunities to have some family fun in Los Angeles:
1. California Science Center
Located in historic Exposition Park adjacent to USC, The Coliseum, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center is billed as the largest hands-on science museum on the West Coast. It’s exhibits range from environmental/ecosystems, vehicle and motion exhibits, rotating features from around the world, and aircraft along with manned and robotic spacecraft. This goes without saying its one of only four spots in the world to get up close and personal with a former space shuttle. There is even a mission control mock-up and several displays about the space shuttle program and its ties to Los Angeles. (Tip: While the Science Center is free, there is a $2 per person fee for the space shuttle exhibit. There are a select number of tickets sold per day to avoid over crowding and they do sell out, so reserve them early.)
2. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Next door to the California Science Center is the Natural History Museum. Founded in 1913, it features 35 million specimens and artifacts covering 4.5 billion years of history. It houses everything from dinosaur bones, dioramas of the animals found around the world to the history of Los Angeles— think of the museum from the movie, “Night at the Museum.” A recent renovation added to the all ready packed three floors. The renovation added a hands-on discovery center and insect zoo, a nature lab, and outdoor southern California urban wildlife discovery area. (Tip: The museum does charge a nominal entry fee and it can be busy during the school year in the mornings with school groups.)
3. La Brea Tar Pits
Located along Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles’ “Miracle Mile” neighborhood, is the George C. Page Museum, or as it’s commonly called La Brea Tar Pits. The tar pits have been enchanting Angelinos since the early 1900s when bones started being pulled from the clutches of the dark ooze. The museum was built in the late 1970s and features reconstructed fossils found within the pits—sorry, no dinosaurs here. There is even a lab where you can watch the scientist clean and work on the finds from the pits. (Tip: The museum charges a nominal entry fee and can be busy during the school year. If you have older children or just fancy art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is next door along with numerous other museums along Wilshire Blvd. You can even see the largest section of the Berlin Wall outside of Berlin itself set aside across the street from the Tar Pit and Museum of Art at 5900 Wilshire Blvd )
4. Griffith Observatory
Perched above Los Angeles in Griffith Park with sweeping views of downtown to the westside, the Griffith Observatory is always a crowd pleaser. Built in the early 1930s on part of the 3,000+ acres park given to the City of Los Angeles by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, the observatory was built with funds from the Griffith Trust so admission could be free for the masses. It features a Planetarium, multiple exhibits (space, earthquakes, the moon, and tides) along with a large telescope to peer into space. (Tip: Check ahead for hours when the free telescope is open. While the observatory is free, the shows in the planetarium do require separate tickets sold onsite.)
5. Santa Monica Pier
At the end of Colorado Blvd. and the western end of Route 66 is the Santa Monica Pier. Its neon entrance sign and colorful Ferris wheel are well known as landmarks in coastal Southern California. The pier is filled with over a 100 years of history. You can visit Pacific Park, a small amusement park perched on the pier, enjoy a meal overlooking the Santa Monica Bay, or peruse the shops along the boardwalk. After sauntering the pier, walk across Ocean Blvd. to Third Street Promenade and enjoy some shopping along with the sights and sounds of street performers. (Tip: The pier and parking can be busy during the summer time and the local parking meters/no parking zones are heavily enforced.)
Getty Museum: Located above West Los Angeles and home to countless pieces of art, this amazing museum on top of the hill is a great place to see priceless works from around the world.
Aquarium of the Pacific: Located in Long Beach next to the Queen Mary and Shoreline Village, features many different exhibits divided into galleries. They even have a Lorikeet exhibit where you can feed the colorful birds in an open-air aviary.
Huntington Gardens: Nestled in the foothill community of San Marino, the former home and estate of Henry E. Huntington houses an impressive collation of European and American Art along with 120 acres of amazing botanical gardens.
(Disclosure: Burbs2Abroad traveled to the above locations as guests and was not compensated for this review. As always, our opinions are our own.)