When you think of Los Angeles, the City of Angels, you think of the glitz and glamour of Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood sign on the hills overlooking the city and warm, sunny beaches. Movie studios and theme parks also come to mind. There is Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, the “Thrill Capital of the World,” aka Six Flags Magic Mountain to the north, and of course the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland, to the south. Los Angeles is also rich in history, originating as a Spanish colony. All of these things, plus an enviable climate, make California’s largest city a popular vacation destination for families. If you want to tackle La-La Land with your kids — that would be tadpoles to Mommy Frog and me — you’ll need some tips for visiting Los Angeles with kids to get you off to a great start.
Here are our tips for visiting Los Angeles with kids. We also head down the coast, with some suggestions in Orange County and San Diego as many visitors travel through these destinations while in town.
Tips for Visiting Los Angeles with Kids
Tackling Transportation While Visiting Los Angeles with Kids
Los Angeles is different from other major cities in that it is very spread out. There is not one central area, but rather, pockets of dense areas you may hear about or want to visit such as Hollywood, Downtown, Century City, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Venice Beach, Burbank, Westwood (home to UCLA) and more. To the south is Long Beach, and further south is Orange County, home to Disneyland and famous beach towns. In between these areas, you'll find lower-level buildings and suburban-urban sprawl connecting them. Los Angeles covers an area of over 502 square miles with an elevation that varies from sea level to 11,499 feet!
Los Angeles Area Ground Transportation Options
All of this space to explore with the frog fam means you’re probably going to want to rent a car. Even if you don’t necessarily want to rent a car, you’ll find it more affordable and convenient to have a car in Los Angeles and the surrounding area than trying to rely on other forms of transportation. Don’t let the massive freeway system overwhelm you! It really is the fastest way to hop around Los Angeles, even when all seven lanes in your direction appear to be standing still.
Whether you are renting or riding in private cars while visiting Los Angeles with kids, it’s a good idea to know the seatbelt and car seat laws, as they may differ from the laws in your state. All drivers and passengers who are 8 and older must wear seatbelts. Children must ride in child safety seats in the rear seat until they are 8 years old or over 4 feet, 9 inches (57") tall. Children must remain in rear-facing car seats until they weigh 40 pounds or more, or are at least 40 inches tall. Children ages 8 to 16 must be properly secured in a seatbelt. You can travel with your own boosters or car seats, or look at costs for renting a booster or car seat when you make your reservation.
Taxi cabs and hired cars
If you will be taking a taxi, UberX or Lyft in Los Angeles with children, you will need a car seat or booster for any child under 8 years old or shorter than 57 inches tall. You can order a ride with an appropriate car seat for ages 12 months and up if you do not have your own, but that can be problematic if you require multiple car seats. In taxis, only adults in the front seats are required to use seatbelts, but it’s always a good idea to buckle up.
If you fly into LAX and want to use an app to catch a ride, there is one pick-up area for all the ride-share apps. You can walk (from Terminal 1) or catch a bus to the pick-up area.
Buses, trains or mass transit
Car seats are not required for your tadpoles when traveling by these methods. The main train station in Los Angeles, servicing Amtrak and Metrolink, is Union Station, located across from the historic Olvera Street. You can catch trains down to Anaheim (near Disneyland), other cities in Orange County (some stops are literally at the beach) and even San Diego. Taking the train will take about the same amount of time as driving, but it can be more relaxing. There is also a subway system, the Los Angeles Metro Rail. It's not as vast as subway systems in other cities such as New York. But it connects with the Metro bus line and Metrolink commuter line to get you to some areas around the city such as the Civic Center, Hollywood and Santa Monica. Just be sure to check the schedule, including for your return trip, before hopping on a train.
Los Angeles Area Airports
Los Angeles’ main and largest airport is LAX, although many people fly into the smaller Long Beach (LGB), Orange County John Wayne (SNA) of Hollywood Burbank (BUR) airports. Orange County is the closest airport to Disneyland, with Long Beach being the next closest. If you are not renting a car and do not have a ride service picking you up, here’s a look at some airport transportation options:
LAX FlyAway Bus
There is a bus that runs between LAX and Union Station and Van Nuys. In normal times it runs every 30 minutes and the route generally takes 45 minutes. Due to recent nationwide labor shortages, you might encounter some delays, but generally, these buses provide convenient, affordable means of transportation and run on a consistent, round-trip schedule. You can pick up the bus at LAX on the Lower/Arrivals level at each terminal next to the blue FlyAway columns. Children ages 5 and under are free.
When you land at LAX or Orange County airports, you can take Karmel Shuttle to a number of popular destinations, including the Disneyland Resort. (Did we mention we have discounts?) If you are not planning to explore outside of the resort area, this is a way to get by without a car. You can always rent cars in Anaheim if you do decide to sightsee outside of Disneyland or want to visit other areas after you have had your fun with the Big Cheese, Mickey Mouse.
Prepare for the Weather When Visiting Los Angeles With Kids
You might be thinking, "Isn’t Los Angeles always sunny? What’s to prepare for?" And with about 292 sunny days a year, and average highs in the 60s in the winter, 70s in spring or fall and 80s in the summer, you'd be right! The weather is often pretty mild in LA. Nine out of 10 days are dry, with the wettest months falling between November and April, with February being the rainiest.
To prepare for LA weather, check the forecast before your trip. Know that May and June are the gloomiest months, causing locals to refer to the heavy clouds and morning fog as “May Gray” and “June Gloom.” But that dissipates as the water temperatures heat up, leaving July through September dry and warm; even warm days convert into cool nights in Los Angeles, though, so pack a sweatshirt for after the sun goes down. You’ll want hats and sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s strong rays between April and October. The fall is pleasant and still holds onto occasional hot days through October. If you are planning to visit during the cooler months, check the forecast to see if you should pack an umbrella and rain poncho, jeans and sweatshirts, or even shorts and T-shirts.
For the most part, Los Angeles is a pretty casual place, so unless you have some fancy dinner plans or are trying to catch a television taping, then casual attire, flip flips and good walking shoes will get you by. It's always a good idea to bring that sweatshirt or light jacket, just in case. Visitors are always surprised by the cool night air. (Good sleeping weather, we like to call it!) There are only a handful of hot nights in Southern California each year.
Read Up Before Visiting Los Angeles with Kids
Before we visit a new city, Mommy Frog and I love to read books about the city, or that take place there, with Lily and Tad. It helps the tadpoles make connections and get excited to see their stories come to life. There are many frogtastic books for kids about LA such as "Going to the Getty," by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Seibold, which highlights what kids love about visiting this family-friendly museum that has inspiring art on the inside and beautiful gardens and breathtaking views of the Los Angeles area on the outside. Another great pick is "Larry Gets Lost in Los Angeles," by John Skewes, which takes kids through all of the iconic sights of LA. Young history buffs will jump for "City of Angels," by Julie Jaskol and Brian Lewis. Older readers can enjoy so many classics set in California. Scott O’Dell’s historical fiction "Island of the Blue Dolphins" is set on one of the Channel Islands off of the coast of Southern California. "Weetzie Bat," by Francesca Lia Block is an edgier young adult novel that follows the adventures of a girl and her best friend around LA after they are granted three wishes from a Genie.
Fun Activities to Do in Los Angeles
Visit Historical Sites
Los Angeles has newer history than, say, an East Coast city such as Boston, but it is interesting nonetheless. Visit Olvera Street, the area where the first settlers put down roots to learn about LA history by visiting small, free museums that tell the story of taking LA from a tiny Spanish colony called El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles (The Town of the Queen of Angels), to the creation of the Missions, to the aqueduct system that brought water to the area, allowing the city to grow. Olvera Street is located across the street from Union Station.
Get a Go Los Angeles Card for Tours, Theme Parks and More
Depending on your interests, there are many tours in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego (as you head down the coast). The multi-day Go Los Angeles Multi Attraction Pass can be an especially good value if you will be visiting attractions in Los Angeles, Orange County and even San Diego. You can use it to get into Universal Studios Hollywood, tour Warner Bros. Studios, take a Hop On, Hop-Off Los Angeles Bus tour, or take a Hollywood Behind-the-Scenes or Malibu Celebrity Homes tour. You can even take a Hollywood Hills hike or a self-guided Movie Star Homes Bike tour.
The Go Card also offers theme parks such as Knott’s Berry Farm, Knott’s Soak City Water Park, LEGOLAND and Six Flags Magic Mountain, or celebrated zoos and aquariums such as the San Diego Zoo, LA Zoo and Botanical Gardens, or the Aquarium of the Pacific. Plus, there are several museums available with the card.
Visit a Movie Studio
Your family (ages 5 and up) will love getting a behind-the-scenes look at how television and movies are made. We cannot recommend the Warner Bros. Studio Tour enough. Sit on the Central Perk couch from "Friends" or in Sheldon's spot in the set for "The Big Bang Theory." Learn about façades, practical sets, soundstages and more. It's a must for Harry Potter fans. You can learn more about this half-day excursion and how to save money on tickets in our guide to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
If you are visiting Los Angeles with kids, you might want to hit some of Los Angeles’ amazing museums. The Getty Center offers an indoor/outdoor experience that will give you the most fantastic, sweeping views of the city and the Pacific Ocean. The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum will take you back to the time of wooly mammoths and saber-toothed cats. Dinosaur-lovers will enjoy the Natural History Museum. If you want to get those selfies with the stars, or the next best thing — lifelike replicas — then take a trip to Madame Tussauds Hollywood.
Film-lovers will not want to miss the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. If you and your tadpoles love music, you should definitely check out the GRAMMY Museum in downtown LA.
Get Out on the Water
As amphibians, we frogs love exploring cities by both land and water, and the blue Pacific cradles the coast up and down the Golden State. Depending on the season of your visit, you may enjoy a whale watching or dolphin cruise out on the water. If the open ocean is not your cup of tea, a Harbor Cruise might fill your cup, or a day of paddleboarding (choose a flat harbor location) could be fun. More adventurous watersport fans may enjoy parasailing or jet skiing. While you are on the West Coast, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn to surf, so line up surf lessons for the tadpoles … or the whole family!
Hit the Beach
There are many beaches between Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. The area between Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach offers wide beaches with soft sand. You can rent bikes for a ride along the coast and sightsee. The Santa Monica Pier has a small amusement park with games and rides, as well as an aquarium. Close-by Tongva Park has climbing equipment and a splash pad for the tadpoles, and acres of paths to explore.
Orange County has many great beaches such as Seal Beach with a quaint, surf-town feel, Huntington Beach with ample parking, beach trails for riding bikes, a wide variety of restaurants and fire pits for roasting marshmallows at night (who wants s'mores)! As you travel south, you’ll hit several beaches in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana Point (with a harbor for excursions, plus bike/beach chair/umbrella/body board/surfboard rentals and BBQs at Doheny State Beach).
If beauty is what you’re after, Malibu in Los Angeles, Laguna Beach in Orange County and La Jolla Cove in San Diego are the beaches for you.
Dig Up Some Local Eats
Los Angeles is generally known for clean eating with locally sourced ingredients, but you can dig up all kinds of favorites from the healthy to the decadent. People in Los Angeles love to take pictures of their food more than they admit to eating it — fewer calories that way! Urth Caffe has locations in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Laguna Beach and other spots in the region. They serve up incredibly Insta-worthy dishes (that taste good, too!) and beautiful teas of our favorite color (green, of course). Pink's hotdogs are LA’s famous dogs, although we also love the Portillo’s in Buena Park if you happen to be making a trip down to Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm. If you find yourself walking though Universal CityWalk, be sure to hop into Voodoo Doughnut for a famous treat.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong in Los Angeles with Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, Donut Friend, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams or Salt & Straw for the best donuts and ice cream in town. If you want a burger, you cannot beat the prices and freshness of In-N-Out Burger and their fresh-cut fries and real ice cream shakes. On the fancier side (and we are talking business casual), Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air is one of the more famous restaurants in LA. You just might catch sight of a celebrity while there! Be sure to grab some Mexican food while you are in town, perhaps on historic Olvera Street.
Cheer On a Sports Team
The Los Angeles area has many teams popular with sports fans. Depending on the season, you may be able to catch a Lakers or Clippers basketball game, a Dodgers or Angels baseball game, a Kings or Ducks hockey game, or a Rams or Chargers football game.
Visit a Theme Park ( ... or Two or Three)
We are theme park frogs, so we love the choices in the Los Angeles area. There’s something for everyone! Disneyland is the best choice for all ages, including young children, whereas Universal Studios appeals to school-aged kids and teens, especially Harry Potter fans. Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm are the places to go for thrill-seekers, although the Western-themed Knott’s has enough entertainment for young children, as well. As mentioned, some of the theme park admissions are covered in the Go Los Angles Multi Attraction Pass, but not all of them. You might be interested in spending multiple days at a particular theme park, such as Disneyland, which can take three days to do it all. Get a jump on savings for California theme park tickets though Undercover Tourist! Other parks such as Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s can usually be managed in one day. Be sure to check out our blog for advice on maximizing time in those parks so that your frog family can see and do it all!
Be Street Smart When Visiting Los Angeles with Kids
There’s a 1980s song that says “Nobody Walks in LA.” While that is not exactly true, the spread-out nature means you aren’t hitting the city streets all the time like you might in New York. Most tourist areas are generally safe, but there are a few things to keep in mind in Los Angeles:
- Watch out for pickpockets — especially if you are watching a street show in Venice Beach.
- Beware of Hollywood scams. While it might be flattering if someone posing as an agent thinks you or your kids would make a great model or actor, do not go anywhere with them and do your research on them before you go to a meeting. Do not shell out money for headshots for your tinseltown-talented tadpoles.
- Be aware that there are a lot of homeless people in Southern California. They are generally not a problem, but they can be unpredictable, so give them some space.
- Don’t leave purses or wallets unattended or in the open — they can be swept right off of your restaurant table.
- Lock your car and do not leave valuables in it, especially in plain sight.
- Look both ways when crossing the streets.
- Use a crosswalk — no jaywalking!
- Discuss a plan in case you become separated.
- Note your hotel address — you can pick up a business card when you check in.
- Keep valuables in a safe. Do not carry money or ID in a backpack. Keep money and credit cards hidden on your body.
- Ask for directions if you are not sure where to go.
- Hold hands when visiting theme parks and follow these tips to avoid losing a child at Disneyland or any other theme park.
- Just use your street smarts, keep valuables and cell phones safely stowed and out of sight and keep the kids close to you whether you are on the street, in a theme park or using public transportation.
Kid-Friendly Los Angeles Hotels
When visiting Los Angeles with kids, you’ll want to pick a child-friendly hotel near your must-see attractions. If you will spending a few days in the Los Angeles area and a few more in Orange County or even San Diego, you might want to split your stay to avoid unnecessary driving.
Undercover Tourist is now booking discount hotel rooms in Los Angeles so that you can get a jump on saving money on your family-friendly hotel! Here are a few suggestions for hotels in great locations:
- We are always fans of an included breakfast buffet when traveling to save time and money, and you can find a great breakfast and pool at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City. Plus, the location makes it easy to hit Universal Studios before it opens without braving rush hour traffic.
- Beverly Hills — if that’s where you want to be — has a Four Seasons with spacious, luxurious rooms, and your tadpoles will be living it up LA–style with a welcome gift and their very own bathrobes. You can even request a room with fitness equipment! Universal Studios is about 30 minutes away.
- In Anaheim, we have a few Frog Family favorites near Disneyland. Staying within walking distance to Disneyland means saving the hassle of parking, which can take 45 minutes to an hour to pay, park and get through security. You’ll still have to go through security, but you’ll have the convenience of going back to the hotel for a nap or swim … or to change clothes if you need to. If you want a lot of space, a breakfast buffet, an evening wine social and a kitchen, you can’t go wrong with the Homewood Suites by Hilton. It’s within walking distance of the Toy Story Lot shuttle. The Great Wolf Lodge is a little further down the road, but it has an indoor waterpark and other kid-friendly activities on-site. The Courtyard Marriott and Howard Johnson by the front gate of Disneyland both have mini waterpark-like pools and a short walk to the parks. Bonus: They have bang-up views of the Disneyland fireworks! The Courtyard has spacious rooms with bunk beds and extra bathroom space.
Los Angeles makes a great family vacation no matter how old your tadpoles are. With these tips for visiting Los Angeles with kids, you’ll be off to a great start. Got any tips to share for visiting Los Angeles with kids? Share them with us in the comment section below!
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