Have all the theme parks checked off your family’s Southern California adventure list? If you’re looking for more fun the whole family will enjoy, you are in luck. The L.A. area offers a plethora of kid-friendly fun—even beyond the theme parks.
Boone Children’s Gallery
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, families can visit the Boone Children’s Gallery—which is more of an active studio than a gallery. Kids can learn about brush painting from China and Korea, try it out themselves and catch a story time presentation.
Head to Dana Point on the coast southeast of Anaheim for a scenic drive, and a visit to the Ocean Institute, where families can learn about local wildlife and see The Pilgrim, a replica of a 19th-century, three-masted schooner anchored in the harbor. Take a short walk down to the rock-strewn beach to find tide pools full of anemones and starfish.
Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center
And this drive is a twofer. While there, you can also visit the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center, which offers tours and talks most Saturdays on nature, history and whales. The center even includes a brand new Kids Fun Zone featuring educational games and interactive exhibits.
La Brea Tar Pits & Museum
The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, smack in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, provide a glimpse of some fascinating ice-age ooze and a chance to learn about the many creatures the city once teemed with, from mammoths to saber-toothed cats. The museum tells the natural history of the pits that began to form 50,000 years ago, displays some of the specimens extracted from the tar, and includes a 3-D theater. Researchers have removed more than 750,000 fossils from the tar pits, and their efforts continue today. Watch paleontologists hard at work in Pit 91 as you tour the grounds.
Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach, on the coast due south of L.A., is another fun destination for families. It’s home to the astonishing Aquarium of the Pacific in Rainbow Harbor that attracts more than 1.5 million visitors a year, and is just a 10-minute walk from the Downtown Long Beach Rail Station.
It’s easy to see why people flock to this extensive indoor and outdoor facility that houses more than 11,000 creatures. On every floor kids will encounter a new marvel, from the bright rainbow wrasse in the Gulf of California exhibit to the charming horned puffins in the Diving Birds Habitat. But you can do more than just look at the animals. In the Shark Lagoon, visitors can stroke sharks and rays, and in the Lorikeet Forest, they can feed multi-colored lorikeets cups of nectar.
Harbor Breeze Cruises
Right next door, the family can board a boat and seek whales with Harbor Breeze Cruises, which is affiliated with the aquarium. Wildlife sightings are not guaranteed, but staff members are excellent whale spotters, and more often than not, passengers are treated to a glimpse of whales in their natural habitat. When whales appear, biologists on deck provide a play-by-play and description of the species and its behavior. Depending on the season, you might be lucky enough to see fin whales, humpbacks, dolphins or Pacific gray whales during a quick trip on a large, smooth-sailing vessel with non-skid decks and high railings to ensure safety for kids.
You may have come to Los Angeles and Anaheim to visit the theme parks with the kids, but you just might end up creating even more unforgettable family memories outside them during your trip to Southern California.