Fun activities for a 12-year-old girl in Los Angeles?
June 20, 2013 9:25 PM   Subscribe

My little sister -- an athletic, smart, totally awesome 12-year-old -- will be staying with me in the greater LA area in a couple weeks. I've been living here for a few years, but most of my spare time is spent on things like galleries/museums, strange, arty movie theaters, or experimental music shows (either watching or playing). This is the life for me, but I don't expect it to be enjoyable for my kid sister. So what are some fun things for a smart, conscientious pre-teen (tween? I don't know the terminology anymore) girl that likes to be outdoors or reading?

My obvious first thought was Disneyland, but the $130/ticket is more than my post-grad-school, starving artist budget can afford. We might go surfing with a friend (who has a lot of experience and some extra equipment), which I think she'd get a kick out of. Any other ideas would be super appreciated.
posted by TheRoach to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How close are you to Magic Mountain? When I was that age, trips there were a staple whenever I visited my LA(ish) friend. Tickets should be way more affordable than Disneyland.
posted by tan_coul at 9:35 PM on June 20, 2013

Geocaching. Anywhere and everywhere.


The tar pits. As someone from the other side of the country, it's still weird and awesome to me that the back lawn of the art museum is an archaeological site.
posted by Myself at 9:43 PM on June 20, 2013

some stuff off the top of my head, based on things the kids I know around that age seem to like: La Brea Tar Pits, Griffith Observatory, Huntington Library and Gardens (you can make reservations for tea!), Descanso Gardens, Santa Monica Pier, Amoeba (if she's into music beyond tween pop stuff -- not to criticize her if that's her thing, but if she's getting beyond it, then Amoeba might be fun), the Grove/Farmer's Market.
posted by scody at 9:48 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I loved the La Brea Tar Pits when I was 7, 12, 19, and still at 30. Dinosaur bones never get old.

On preview, what Myself said.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 9:49 PM on June 20, 2013

Surfing. Hiking. The beach. biking.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:50 PM on June 20, 2013

The butterfly garden at the Natural History Museum is amazing.
posted by mogget at 9:53 PM on June 20, 2013

Oh, and there's horseback riding in Griffith Park, too.
posted by scody at 9:55 PM on June 20, 2013

Here's a pdf link to the July - September events calendar for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. There are lots of different activities, from beach walking to mountain biking to plein air painting.

REI also offers classes and events.

Also, check Goldstar (free registration required). I've seen discounted Dodger and Angels tickets (fireworks on Fridays!), and also outdoor Shakespeare and other fun stuff.
posted by mogget at 10:04 PM on June 20, 2013

Take her to Manhattan Beach and hand her a boogie board.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:31 PM on June 20, 2013

Athletic? Take her to "the stairs" in Santa Monica and see how many times she can walk (or run?) up and down. While there also take her to the Third Street Promenade on a weekend evening to see the street performers, and take her to the pier. If she likes biking, earlier in the day definitely bike along the bike path (north toward Pacific Palisades or south toward Venice and Marina Del Rey).
posted by Dansaman at 10:42 PM on June 20, 2013

La Brea Tar Pits

Take her to see the Netsuke at LACMA's asian art museum while you're out there.

I don't know the terminology anymore) girl that likes to be outdoors or reading?

There's lots of short day hikes in the Santa Monica hills. I only know the ones near Pacific Palisades, but ...
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:36 AM on June 21, 2013

What everyone else says =)

The Museum of Jurassic Technology (may interest both of you)
Rollerblading in Venice Beach
The Planetarium (I think the 'light shows' are cheesy, and the educational ones are phenomenal)
Knotts Berry Farm (theme park - should be cheaper than Disneyland, we went here in junior high)
A set/studio tour? (Prices?)
A hardcore Retro diner is pretty fun too. When I was about that age, there was one (in LA) where the waitstaff were all actors and had 'characters' and we loooooooved it. I can't remember their name, so no idea if they're still around (15+ years ago). Maybe someone else on metafilter can help out here.
I also enjoyed the Getty and Hollywood Bowl at that age, but it depends on the 'kid'.

I was a camp counselor several summers for ages 12-16, and it can be a great age! I bet she surprises you. Don't be afraid to expose her to stuff YOU like too. Keep it age appropriate and short, and don't take it personally if she's not into it - but it's good for her to get to know you. You'll expose her to new things she won't otherwise have access to. Some sort of experimental interactive art installation, or afternoon jam session at a cafe... band playing vegetable instruments or something ???
Have fun!!!
posted by jrobin276 at 2:58 AM on June 21, 2013

I would not necessarily assume that a 12 year old wouldn't be in to weird arty things. Playing glamorous grown up can be fun for kids sometimes.
posted by empath at 4:34 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I always liked an early morning bike ride on the beach boardwalk between Marina Del Ray and Santa Monica, passing under (I think) the Santa Monica Pier. I only got to do it twice in my life.
posted by megatherium at 5:04 AM on June 21, 2013

Take her to a WNBA game--LA Sparks schedule.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:50 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Walk along Melrose and poke into all the cool shops. It's not NEARLY as awesome as it was when Flip was there, but there's a cachet to it none the less. Go to Beverly Connection (Beverly and LaCienega) and hit the Rexall/Longs/CVS. Guaranteed to see TV and Movie Stars there. I have a hilarious Seth Green encounter story, let's just say the man is a Mench.

Rodeo Drive for window shopping?

Drive the PCH and look for whales, enjoy the gorgousness. Stop at the Santa Monica pier and walk around. Get your name written on a grain of rice.

And I nth the WNBA, Husbunny never misses a game and it's cheap, cheerful and YAY, women's sports!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:58 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The bike path and the pier are my usual go-to suggestions. Here's how you can make an inexpensive day of it.

Get your roller coaster fix at Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier. There is also a nice aquarium on the pier.

She'll be here just in time for the start of the free Thursday summer concerts on the pier in Santa Monica. This would also be a good day for a bike ride at the beach since you'll avoid a bit of the extra weekend crowds.

The bike path between Venice and the Palisades is a popular stretch but it goes all the way south to Palos Verdes if you want a longer ride. The new Santa Monica Bike Center has rentals (other services are for members) as does Perry's, which has locations dotted along the bike bath in Venice and Santa Monica.

There's also a free outdoor movie series on the Third Street Promenade the last three Fridays in July. The first movie is Back to the Future!

Back on the Beach is a fun place to eat right on the beach (literally on the sand) if you're near the north end of the bike path.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:20 AM on June 21, 2013

Universal Studios is really fun and may be a little more budget-friendly.
posted by radioamy at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2013 has a ton of hikes in and around the area.
posted by wcfields at 12:51 PM on June 21, 2013

Response by poster: So many great suggestions here, thanks so much.

I've actually never visited the La Brea Tar Pits -- neither while living here nor on visits when I was younger. Would probably be fun for both of us to check out. Hilariously, I've lived basically down the road from Magic Mountain for the entire time I've been in LA, but I've never actually gone. That's a definite possibility (and way more affordable than Disneyland), although my little sister lives in Hershey, PA and might be roller-coastered out. I'll have to check in with her.

Also, I very well might take her to some of my favorite arty spots/activities -- she very well might enjoy seeing some of the weird things her older brother gets up to -- but I figured I should have some more traditionally kid-friendly things on the roster as well. For those who mentioned it, The Museum of Jurassic Technology is my favorite place on the planet. I bring pretty much every LA visitor, and have actually gotten to know David Wilson (the founder) through the general LA art scene. Not sure my little sis will be able to handle that place, but we might give it a try.

But yeah, my lack of a "Best answer" is only because everyone here said something great. Thanks, all! I'll bring up a bunch of these ideas with her and see what sounds exciting.
posted by TheRoach at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2013

The Malibu Sea Lion, now Dukes, used to have a buy-one-get-one dinner deal from 5:00 to 5:15 on weekdays. I went with a friend of mine and it was GREAT. That was also 3 million years ago. The 'Barefoot Bar' looks affordable, and you can't beat the view.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:15 PM on June 21, 2013

Going over to Canter's Deli and maybe a spin around Melrose Blvd might be fun. If she likes thrift shopping, you could take her to the Jet Rag $1 sale.
posted by dottiechang at 7:35 PM on June 21, 2013

Maybe head over to either Abalone Cove or Leo Carillo at low tide to check out the tide pools.
posted by everybody polka at 6:21 PM on June 22, 2013

but most of my spare time is spent on things like galleries/museums, strange, arty movie theaters, or experimental music shows (either watching or playing).

Take her on a tour of a working artist's studio, and some other craftsfolk. It will be fun, and might give her ideas for her future profession or calling.

Also, there simply must be "LA for kids" websites and books to mine for ideas.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:31 PM on June 23, 2013

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