20 Free Things to Do with Kids in Los Angeles

Several years ago, our family took a road trip to California. Los Angeles was a great place to start our adventure as there are so many free activities throughout the city. Take a look at 20 free activities for families that should top your list of things to do with kids in Los Angeles.

1. Star Watch on the Red Carpet.  Our first night in Hollywood happened to be the red carpet screening of the Disney movie Brave. It was exciting to watch the stars enter the theater on the red carpet. We were even lucky enough to get pictures with a few young celebrities.

2. Get Free Candy Samples. Fans of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory are in for a treat at candy emporium, Sweet! Hollywood. Step off the grand piano stairs and explore more than 10 boutique candy rooms with names like Lollywood (lollipops) and Stay Puft (just the room for marshmallow lovers).

3. Walk the Stars. Take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard to see more than 2,500 stars adorning the sidewalk. Go on a scavenger hunt to find your favorites. Or, head to the Hollywood Walk of Fame website to find the location of the stars of your favorite stars.

Related article: Universal Studios Hollywood: 7 Must-Know Tips for First-Timers

4. Explore The Grove. The trendy outdoor shopping center, The Grove, is a great place for teenagers to spend an afternoon. Younger kids will enjoy the free trolley ride or watching the dancing fountain. Who knows, you may even see a celebrity or two, so keep your eyes open.

5. Stroll the Farmers Market. Browse the “original” Farmers Market, which has been at Third and Fairfax since 1934. Pick up some goodies from over 50 restaurants and shops and head outside for a picnic. Check out the events calendar for fun activities, like the Fall Festival and Mardi Gras Celebration.

6. Spend an Afternoon at The Getty Center. The views, architecture, gardens and intriguing family programs in The Getty Center will keep you and your kids busy for hours. Explore the Family Room, which includes five activity coves just for kids. Before your visit, download the Top 10 Things to Do with Your Family at The Getty Center.

7. Visit Olvera Street. Head to Olvera Street where you can explore an authentic block-long Mexican marketplace. Attend a traditional Mexican celebration, such as Las Posadas, a holiday celebration held in December. Also, check out the Siqueiros Mural and America Tropical Interpretive Center.

Related: Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Santa Clarita, CA

8. Take a Free Tour of Historic Los Angeles. El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument offers free guided tours Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 am, 11 am and noon. Visit Avila Adobe and the Visitors Center to learn about the birthplace and heritage of Los Angeles.

9. Tour the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Enjoy a free, one-hour guided tour of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Or, try a self-guided audio tour, which may work well for children ages 10 and up. Check the event calendar on the website for free events, like Friday Night Sing-Alongs.

10. Stroll Along the Santa Monica Pier. Cruise down Sunset Boulevard until you reach the famous Santa Monica Pier. Take in the sights, then enjoy a free historical walking tour to learn the 100 year history of the iconic landmark. Also, browse the colored sea shells and crystals in the Oatman Rock Shop.

11. Explore Venice Beach. From the Santa Monica Pier, take a walk down the boardwalk to Venice Beach. Run and play along the wide beach and watch street performers, like jugglers and musicians, along the paved walkway. Wander a few blocks from the beach on quiet streets to view the canals.

12. Roam with the Dinosaurs. Visit Hancock Park, home to the La Brea Tar Pits. Kids can view ongoing excavations and download a Scavenger Hunt. See a life-sized statue of a giant mammoth in the Lake Pit. The Page Museum also offers free general admission the first Tuesday of each month.

Related article: Huntington Beach: 10 Things You’ve Got to Do in Surf City USA

13. Visit the Pleistocene Garden. Step back over 10,000 years to enjoy the prehistoric landscape at the Pleistocene Garden. Show your kids what plant life was like during the last Ice Age in the Los Angeles area, long before palm trees lined every street.

14. See the Moon and Stars. Visit Griffith Observatory on the slope of Mount Hollywood where you can visit the observatory and the various exhibits. Kids may enjoy special programs, including Sunset Walk & Talk events and Public Star Parties.

15. Hit the Beach. Nearby Manhattan Beach offers the classic California beach experience. The Sea View Inn is a great hotel choice with freebies like beach chairs, towels, boogie boards and bike rentals. Pick up a bike and cruise along a paved trail alongside over two miles of beach.

16. Take a Hike. Hike from the Griffith Observatory lot to the summit of Mount Hollywood. There is a 53 mile network of trails, roads and bridle paths in Griffith Park to choose from.

17. Head to the Hills. Pick up a map of the stars and take a self-guided tour of the Hollywood Hills. The views are stunning on a clear day, but know that most celebrity homes are behind gates. My teenager insisted on finding the house from the 90’s sitcom, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, in nearby Brentwood.

Related: Save on Top Attractions with Southern California CityPASS

18. Explore Tide Pools and Sea Caves. Head north on the Pacific Coast Highway to Leo Carrillo State Park. Kids and dogs will enjoy exploring on this rocky beach. You’ll also find guarded areas for safe swimming at this lovely park.

19. Experiment at the California Science Center. Kids will love four major exhibit areas as well as hands-on activities, such as the Heart Discovery Cart and the Slime Bar, at the California Science Center. Admission to the permanent exhibition galleries is free.

Related: LEGOLAND California: 10 Reasons Why It Really is Incredibly Awesome 

20. Stop and Smell the Roses. Take a break from the noise and activity of the city to enjoy a relaxing walk through the Exposition Park Rose Garden. Open daily at 9 am, the Rose Garden is closed each year from January 1 to March 15 to prune the roses in the garden.

Have only one day in Los Angeles? I’ve got you covered. Eager to explore beyond Los Angeles? I’ve got you covered there too with this one-week Pacific Coast road trip itinerary to get you started, including stops in Point Reyes National Seashore, Big Sur and Yosemite National Park. 

About the Author: Kath Race and her husband, Rick, live in Northern Virginia with their three teenage children. She shares her road trip adventures at familyTravelsUSA. Kath and her family have visited many national parks, big cities and small towns over the years. She hopes to inspire others to do the same.

Photo Credit: Phil Scoville