By Barry ChoiUpdated May 16, 2019
Photo: Courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority
Griffith Park has a train and ponies, which means the biggest decision the kids will have to make is which to ride first! Thankfully, riding both won't break the bank (US$3 for the train, US$5 for the ponies). Just up the street, there’s a huge playground and an old-time merry-go-round that's been spinning since the 1930s. Save some time for tiny astronomers to explore the stars and learn about space through the various exhibits at the Griffith Observatory.
Even if you’re aren’t a car buff, the collection of vehicles at the Petersen Automotive Museum is impressive. Kids will head straight to the life-sized model of Lightning McQueen from Disney's Cars, but make sure they check out the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit where they can see the Batmobile, the Lexus from Black Panther, and more.
Go back tens of thousands of years into the past at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. The La Brea Tar Pits are an active dig site where paleontologists are making discoveries almost daily. You won't get to enter the pit, but the excavator tour (which comes free with your museum admission) will give you a closer look at some discoveries such as a near-complete Columbian mammoth and a dire wolf.
The California Science Center has exhibits covering everything from the different ecosystems on Earth to how humans designed aircrafts, making it the perfect place for a hands-on learning experience. Rotating special exhibits such as Dogs! A Science Tail will teach kids about how their furry friends see the world. There's an on-site cafeteria, but just down the street is The Fields LA, a food hall that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame may be a tourist trap, but it’s also really fun for the little ones. Their eyes will light up when they come across the stars of Big Bird, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy and more. They can even get a picture with some of their favourite characters (for a tip) outside of the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood & Highland complex. Other nearby attractions include Madame Tussauds and the Hollywood Museum which has one of the best collections of movie memorabilia in the world.
Located just an hour from L.A. and many of Orange County's top attractions, Huntington Beach is the perfect place to relax for a few days (or a good option for a home base.) The Hyatt Regency Hotel has direct access to the beach and is within walking distance of the pier and downtown where the International Surfing Museum is located. Head to the beach where there are regular free events happening just about every weekend or rent an electric duffy boat on the harbour to explore the area from the water.
Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park is a hidden gem you don’t want to miss. It started as a family farm in the mid 1920’s and evolved into a massive theme park. Come for the thrill rides and Camp Snoopy where you can meet the Peanuts gang, but don’t miss the boysenberries-inspired cuisine and legendary fried chicken. If you indulge, maybe wait before getting on HangTime, which has a 96 degree drop and reaches speeds of up to 92 kmph.
With two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, it'll be hard to decide where to go first so make sure you budget enough time for both (or plan to spend two days here.) Disneyland Park is sure to get some attention in 2019 with the opening ofStar Wars: Galaxy Edge where you can go to a galaxy far far away and board the Millennium Falcon. At the Disney California Adventure Park, Cars Land will have you feeling like you're part of the crew as you speed through the desert on the Radiator Springs Racers and you can also help Rocket Raccoon rescue the Guardians of the Galaxy who are being held by the Collector in his towering citadel.
Near downtown San Diego, you can hop aboard the USS Midway, a former naval aircraft carrier that surved multiple wars turned museum, and experience life like it was for the approximately 200,000 sailors who served aboard the carrier. You'll see where the crew ate, slept, and even received medical attention. Admittedly, the mannequins may seem a bit stiff, but the volunteers on board are full of stories from their time served on the ship. Above on the flight deck, kids can interact with fighters, bombers, and helicopters, and learn about the logistics and planning required to manage a fleet of planes on an aircraft carrier.
The New Children's Museum is one of those rare attractions where parents are encouraged to play with their kids—like really play with them. Bounce around in a room full of mattresses and tire pillows or, beginning in the summer of 2019, you can lounge and swing around in a large hammock, as part of the Whammock! exhibit. You'll soon forget that this museum is designed for children.