All the Free & Cheap Things to Do with Kids in Los Angeles Right Now

Editor’s note: Because events are changing rapidly, make sure to check the websites for the latest information.

LA can be an expensive place to live (hello housing prices!) but we’ve got our fair share of fun, free and sometimes really cheap things to do with the kids in LA. From must-go splash pads, in-the-know events and a new way to explore our awesome museums for free, here’s our go-to list for all the activities and things to do with kids without spending a dime.

Free Events & Happenings in LA

DOGust Birthday Celebration

It's a birthday party for shelter dogs! And you're invited! The Wallis Annenberg PetSpace is throwing their annual birthday party, dedicated to all shelter dogs on Aug. 28. Bring your own pup and birthday spirit because there will be games and free activities, plus treats for the whole family—including special ones for your four-legged bestie. This will be a birthday celebration that you'll never forget!

Don't forget to bring a gift! To help make this day extra special, you can donate supplies to dogs in the care of the County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC). You can find their Amazon wishlists here.

Good to Know: RSVP here to guarantee your spot.

12005 Bluff Creek Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: wallisannenbergpetspace.com

CicLAvia Returns!

When it comes to finding free things to do with kids, CicLavia is the place to be. You have three chances to participate in this super fun, family-friendly event where the streets are turned into public parks, before the year is over (and we can't wait until they announce what's in store for next year!). Mark your calendar for Aug. 15, Oct. 10 and Dec. 5 to bike, scoot, roller-skate and stroller your way through the car-free streets of Los Angeles. 

Online: ciclavia.org

Free Live Music in LA

For free places to take the kids where they'll still be entertained, check out these live music events that are all free to attend.

Parks, Splash Pads, Tide Pools & Outdoor Spaces 

Cool Down at a Splash Pad

Nothing beats a hot day like playing in a cool, splashground. Just grab the hats, sunscreen and a towel and your day is made. To find a splash pad nearby, check out our comprehensive list of the best splash pads and spraygrounds near LA—all without spending a dime.

photo: Jenifer Scott

Explore Tide Pools Near Me

From the Malibu tide pools to those down in Laguna Beach, discover starfish, sea urchins, crabs, anemones and more at these awesome, tucked-away tide pools along the coast

RELATED: Water Shoes Perfect for Summer Adventures 

Investigate a New Playground

We've got a running list for the most fun playgrounds around LA—some may even be hiding in your own neighborhood. Check out these gems and never hear "I'm bored" again...almost.

RELATED: Durable Playground Shoes You Can Buy Online

 

Spend the Day at Grand Park

There's always something fun happening here! Home to one of our favorite fountains and splashpads (when it's open for waterplay), playgrounds and outdoor art exhibits makes Grand Park a fun and easy destination for everyone in the family to spend the day.

200 N Grand Ave.
Los Angeles 
Online: grandparkla.org 

Explore a New Neighborhood around LA

LA is about as diverse as you can get and there's no better place to explore all the different museums, street art, playgrounds, (and ice cream shops!) than in a neighborhood near you.

Kid-Friendly Hikes Near LA

Leave Runyon to the tourists. Instead, take your little trekkers to one of these lesser known trails where the views are still Instagrammable, but the crowds won’t overwhelm you. From a hidden 58-acre park in Culver City to a natural preserve in Pasadena, here are our favorite easy-to-moderate hikes the whole family.

Easy Bike Trails for Families

So your two-wheelings tots have maxed out on riding around the block? Fortunately, LA’s beach bike paths—along with a few other car-free paths and trails—are open. Finally, kids can feel the wind in their hair, practice their pedaling and enjoy a change of scenery. If you’re looking to avoid crowds (um, yes please), we recommend visiting these routes during the week or early in the a.m. on weekends. Check out all of LA's best kid-friendly bike paths.

RELATED: The Best Kids Bikes & Tricycles for Every Kid & Stage

Dine at Hidden Picnic Spots

There’s no better time than now to dine outdoors with your family—and any other members of your quarantine pod. Spread out a blanket and enjoy a meal al fresco at these hidden LA picnic spots

Free Museums & Indoor Spaces in LA

 

photo: Hammer Museum

The Hammer Museum

In addition to offering free admission, this UCLA art museum regularly hosts pop-up art studios for little ones, family-friendly movie screenings and guided tours-plus-games for kids ages 7 and up. A visit to the relatively small yet impressive (and manageable!) museum will expose kids to a range of artwork, from 17th century Rembrandts to the more contemporary work of Kara Walker. Make advance reservations here

10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: hammer.ucla.edu

The Broad

Giant teacups, massive balloon animals, Alice in Wonderland-esque splashes of color and the Infinity Room will convince any kiddo that contemporary art is where it’s at. The museum "For Families" guide offers a "scavenger hunt" and fun art-themed activities. For older kids, they can also download and listen to a free audio tour which includes family-friendly information about the art. Reopening as of May 26, all visitors must reserve timed tickets in advance

221 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles
Online: thebroad.org

photo: Courtesy of The Getty Center

The Getty Center

While there are a lot of lovely views in and around Los Angeles, luscious gardens to walk around and loads of places to absorb culture, history, art, architecture, and more, The Getty Center is one of the only spots in the city where you get to experience all of that and then some. (Yes, you'll have to pay for parking, but admission is free.) The fun starts with a tram ride that takes you from the parking lot up to the museum itself. Once you're there, be sure to check out the Family Room for hands-on kids activities. Keep on an eye on their calendar as events open up—throughout the year, The Getty also hosts free family events and festivals that are not to be missed!

Sepulveda Blvd. & Getty Center Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: getty.edu

LACMA

Right in our home town is a world class museum that wants you to bring your kids so much that they created a fabulous program: LACMA NexGen membership where kids get in free along with one adult. It's a pretty amazing deal, especially when you realize that at LACMA, there are art exhibits that appeal to kids like rad modern art sculptures, a giant suspended rock and of course, every kid (and grown-up kids’) favorite, Metropolis II. There is also a painting studio in the Boone Gallery where your inspired little artists can create watercolor masterpieces and listen to story time. Tickets are released in blocks of two weeks and must be reserved in advance. 

5900 Wilshire Blvd.
Miracle Mile
Online: lacma.org

The California Science Center

Where else can you see a space shuttle and a shark tank, not to mention play in one of three kids-only Discovery Rooms, explore rotating science exhibits and watch as baby chicks hatch? And all for free? Rainy days, hot days, vacation days, or just “I’m bored” days, the California Science Center is here for you. And for just a few extra bucks ($6.75 for kids; $8.95 for adults) you can round the day off with a spectacular 3D IMAX show. 

700 Exposition Park Dr.
Exposition Park, near USC
Online: californiasciencecenter.org

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Start your Aquarium visit with the sea stars in the simulated “tide pool touch tank” then spend your time winding through the thirty-eight aquaria. Don’t miss out on the favorite aquatic babies exhibit and let the little ones learn a little something at the research station. Be sure to look up and meet the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

The museum is free for all but they do suggest a donation to help keep this wonderful community resource going. Parking is free and easy on the street or you can pay $1 per hour to park it right out front. The aquarium hosts loads of kid friendly activities and events, including the fabulous spring time grunion runs—a So Cal tradition.

Hours: Wed.—Sun. from noon to 5 p.m.

Check out these other noteworthy Los Angeles aquariums, many of which are also free! 

3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
San Pedro
Online: cabrillomarineaquarium.org

photo: Courtesy of CAAM

California African American Museum

Located in the heart of Exposition Park, California African American Museum (CAAM) is a hub for exploring and learning about the art, history and culture of the African-American diaspora in Los Angeles and beyond. Current exhibitions include Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century and LA Blacksmith, showcasing African American artists who work with metal. Once things return to pre-pandemic life, the museum also offers kid-friendly art workshops inspired by the exhibits.

600 State Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: caamuseum.org

La Brea Tar Pits

Next door to LACMA are the famous La Brea Tar Pits. While the Page Museum at the center will cost you an entrance fee (unless you visit on the first Tues. of the month when admission is free), there is plenty to explore around the tar pits and gardens that surround the museum.

Check out Ice Age plant life in the Pleistocene Garden, roll down the grassy hills and learn all about being a paleontologist with a peek inside Pit 91 and Project 23, which are still actively being excavated. No visit would be complete without snapping a selfie with those perpetually stuck elephants in the bubbling tar pit. Advance timed tickets are required.

5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Miracle Mile
Online: tarpits.org

The Griffith Observatory

Spend a day at the Griffith Observatory, poking through the exhibits, figuring out your weight on Jupiter, looking through the telescopes, having lunch in the cafeteria and gazing out from the terrace, where you can see the whole city below. Free public star parties are held monthly, where kids can meet professional and amateur astronomers. And don’t forget about the Planetarium! There are currently two live shows scheduled every 60-90 minutes daily, for just $3-$7 (it’s the only thing at the Observatory with a fee, and kids under 5 can only attend the first show of the day).

If the kiddos need a break, there are beautiful hiking trails behind the Observatory with breathtaking views of the Hollywood sign.

If you want to avoid the parking lot, which fills up fast on weekends, hike one of our favorite trails, Ferndell. Then when you hike back, reward yourself with coffee and pie.

Hours: Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat.—Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

2800 E. Observatory Rd.
Griffith Park
Online: griffithobservatory.org

photo: NHM

A Way to Explore Even More LA Museums for Free

With your LA County Library card, you can reserve family passes to local museums and cultural institutions for free through Discover & Go.

How to Reserve a Pass:

  1. Visit the Discover & Go portal and log in using your library card number and PIN.
  2. Browse by museum or date.
  3. Make a reservation by selecting a date and venue.
  4. Shortly before your visit, print out your pass. Note: You cannot cancel your passes once they have been printed.
  5. Enjoy your visit!

photo: Shahrzad Warkentin

Travel Town

Every mini engineer and trainspotter will have a blast exploring this outdoor transportation museum dedicated to all things trains. You can climb around on real steam locomotives, check out wagons and other antique vehicles in the barn and even go for a ride on a mini train that circles the park for just $3.

Pack some snacks and grab a seat on the lawn where you can wave at the train as it drives past. 

Don't miss their docent-led tours are available by reservation. Check their events calendar for more great activities.

Insider Tip: You can throw birthday parties at Travel Town or hit the gift shop for an awesome gift for a train-themed birthday party or just because. 

5200 Zoo Dr.
Griffith Park
Online: traveltown.org

LA's Central Library

If you have a budding bookworm at home then a visit to your local library is always treat and LA is full of some really special kids collections. Come for the books and stay for the free story time at dozens of Los Angeles Public Library branches, but the coolest by far is the Central Library downtown which houses a massive children’s literature department and hosts story times, puppet shows, and music.

Our other favorite spots are the Santa Monica Main Library and Beverly Hills Library, both of which have awesome collections and kids activities.

Visit their reopening page for a list of libraries and resources now open.

Good to Know: Once things return to pre-pandemic socializing levels, your LA County Library card is also your ticket to more exciting freebies through the Discover & Go program. Login online here and you can reserve free family passes to dozens of museums and attractions across the city, like The Autry Museum and the Natural History Museum.

LAPL
630 W 5th St.
Downtown LA
Online: lapl.org

Santa Monica Library
Online: smpl.org

Beverly Hills Library
Online:  beverlyhills.org/exploring/beverlyhillspubliclibrary

Read & Shop at Children's Book World

Kids can get lost in the stacks at the beloved book store, which regularly hosts readings with top children's authors and performances by popular kiddie musicians. Make an appointment for in-person shopping and make sure to check the upcoming schedule here

10580 1/2 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: childrensbookworld.com

—Meghan Rose, Shahrzad Warkentin & Andie Huber

feature image: Annenberg Beach House

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