What unusual family entertainment is there in Los Angeles/San Francisco?
June 15, 2015 3:10 PM   Subscribe

We - mum, dad and two teenage boys aged 13 and 17) - will be in Los Angeles for a few days at the end of July and San Francisco for a few days at the start of August. We'd like to spend one evening in either city letting someone else entertain us - a sporting event or a show - but we'd like it to be either a bit odd or typically Californian. (Or both!)

Don't worry about the dates, I can check those. I'm interested in hearing about cool events anyway, regardless of whether they suit our schedule.

Just to give you a feel for what we're looking for, I've checked out Point Break Live, LA Kiss Football, roller derby and Mexican wrestling, none of which worked out either because of age restrictions or scheduling.

Thanks, people!
posted by Beverley Westwood to Travel & Transportation around California (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
People love Beach Blanket Babylon, which is a campy sendup of many San Francisco landmarks and traditions. All ages shows are Sunday matinees. If you decide you want to give it a whirl, be sure to go to Goldstar.com to see whether they're offering discount tickets for your performance date (they often are).

Although this isn't entertainment like where you sit and watch someone do their thing, the biggest hits for teenage boys in my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience have been The Exploratorium and the Academy of Sciences. Both have interactive aspects and are extremely cool.
posted by janey47 at 3:20 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

They have it other places in the US, but Medieval Times in Buena Park (south of LA) is a classic. Plus that gets you down in the realm of Disneyland (classic but pricey) and Knott's Berry Farm (cheaper with more roller coasters and fewer lines and still some history).

You're here during the regular season of Major League Baseball, and there is no more classic American endeavor than going to see a game and eat a hot dog. Giants in SF, and Dodgers in LA and Angels south of LA in Anaheim (again, near Disneyland).
posted by sleeping bear at 3:21 PM on June 15, 2015

This may not be precisely what you're looking for but a few ideas in San Francisco would be:

The soundscape theater at The Audium. (Arguably cheesey.)

Indoor mini golf at Urban Putt. (I found this surprisingly fun.)

The quality of the output from the sketch comedy group Killing My Lobster has been a little variable but the last bit of theirs I saw was pretty enjoyable.
posted by vunder at 3:25 PM on June 15, 2015

The Magic Castle in Los Angeles, "the most unusual private club in the world," is a pretty uniquely LA thing to do, assuming you have any interest in magic performances (it's also the basis for The Gothic Castle on Arrested Development). Evening shows are 21+ but if you're in LA over a weekend it's open to kids during the day.
posted by telegraph at 3:29 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There's the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach from July 25-Aug 2.
posted by culfinglin at 3:35 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not a specific event, but I'm kinda fond of the La Brea Tar Pits.
posted by easily confused at 3:38 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The old arcade (with old timey games ) at Fisherman's Wharf is awesome and a hit with kids of all ages.
posted by Toddles at 3:43 PM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

The old arcade (with old timey games ) at Fisherman's Wharf is awesome and a hit with kids of all ages.

It totally is! And it's called the Musée Méchanique BTW if you're looking for directions or reviews.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:51 PM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The Pinball Museum in Alameda is pretty great: http://pacificpinball.org
posted by mollymayhem at 4:11 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Pinball Museum in Alameda is pretty great: http://pacificpinball.org

Good one. Alameda also has a place for vintage arcade games and an indoor mini golf place.
posted by vunder at 4:24 PM on June 15, 2015

Best answer: I live in SF and lived in LA for a decade before SF. There are lots of good suggestions here already!

Seconding Beach Blanket Babylon, even though it's a bit pricey, because my favorite Italian joint in town (Capp's Corner) is right around the corner and also well worth a visit. Which, OMG, after looking up to share with you I'm now learning closed a couple months ago. TRAVESTY!

I also think the Musée Mecanique is an oft-overlooked gem. It's in the heart of the tourist-dense wharf, but it can be the least costly easy thrill if anyone in your family enjoys pinball machines, old-fashioned arcade curiosities, and best of all actual wet process film photo booths. Our family has several respected traditions involving this place: an annual trip to update our fridge photo booth strip, and a trip to take any visitor on their first trip to the city.

You'd also enjoy taking a ferry trip just for the sake of the ferry trip. You can head over to San Rafael and back, or go over to Angel Island, or... lots of options.

If you're up for it, you can rent a bike and do some amazing tours. We take a lot of people on the Golden Gate Bridge / Sausalito / Tiburon route through this company (which is easier than you might think).

If you're cool with your kids seeing people drink / smoke weed very casually, Dolores Park is a great option for SF people watching. People may argue about this, but it's quite safe (there's a kid's playground in the middle where we took our kids all the time when they were smaller) and, from our perspective, a very iconic SF thing to do: spend a warm sunny day at the park. Note: it's being refurbished, one half at a time, so currently half the park is closed.

If you're on the west side, brunch/lunch at Swingers Diner is super affordable, tasty, and very west LA. There's a Hollywood location, too, but it can be more crowded and scummy (and maybe that's your thing).

You should also consider seeing a movie! There are some neat theaters, like the Cinerama Dome or the New Beverly (which is mired in Tarantino controversy but still shows great movies that aren't mega-release scale).

Take advantage of the weather and go on some hikes. All the canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains are easy to get to, and each has its own identity. Runyon is crowded, broad, and great for people watching. Mandeville is narrow, quiet, and maybe a little less manicured. And so on. If you want to get really into a hike/drive day trip, doing the length of the Angeles Crest Highway and stopping at some trailheads/overlooks will give you a very different LA experience (but please remember to gas up your car before you go--no gas for 60 miles!).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:29 PM on June 15, 2015

For teens, there's nothing like Venice Beach. There's Muscle Beach (with bleachers-- you can actually sit and watch bodybuilders work out). There's frequently something being filmed around there (we just saw Usher doing a music video). Lots of buskers too. It's about a 2 mile walk from there to the Santa Monica line. I like to look for the huge murals on the sides of the buildings and photo them. (There's one of Ahhh-nold at Muscle Beach-- I guess he was 'discovered' there.)
Venice has a bad rep, but it seems safe enough to me, during the day, and the beach is beautiful and well-kept.
posted by pippin at 6:31 PM on June 15, 2015

BATS can be fun, if there's a show while you're in SF. Or a night tour of alcatraz?
posted by tan_coul at 6:53 PM on June 15, 2015

You might like watching an old movie outdoors at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:21 PM on June 15, 2015

Go see a Groundlings show. Be sure to hang out in the lobby before and after -- you might spot someone you recognize from TV, film or commercials.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:57 PM on June 15, 2015

Twilight concerts at the Santa Monica Pier.

Grand Performances at California Plaza in Downtown LA.

Theatricum Botanicum to see a play in Topanga Canyon.
posted by mogget at 8:06 PM on June 15, 2015

Take in a concert under the stars at The Hollywood Bowl. One of our most favorite summer rituals. Depending on where you are staying in LA you might also catch a performance in a park from Shakespeare by the Sea, although Shakespeare in the park is probably not your idea of uniquely Californian. But it makes for a nice night out, especially when the weather is hot.
posted by vignettist at 8:11 PM on June 15, 2015

The Los Angeles Live Steamers give train rides behind miniature steam engines.

A visit to one of the California Missions is pretty neat, and gives you a sense of the long history of the area.

The Museum of Neon Art is pretty cool too.
posted by nickggully at 8:34 PM on June 15, 2015

The Wave Organ in San Francisco struck me as a uniquely Californian art piece and interactive experience.
posted by Ardea alba at 9:10 AM on June 16, 2015

Response by poster: Fantastic answers, everyone, thank you. Wish we were staying for a couple of months so we could do all of these!
posted by Beverley Westwood at 10:44 AM on June 17, 2015

Response by poster: So we went and now we've come home; the entire trip was incredible fun from start to finish, thanks again everyone for the suggestions. I just dropped back in to add an answer of my own, for the benefit of anyone reading the question in the future. We went to Venice Beach on the Sunday, and stumbled across the Venice Basketball League (link to their FB page, they do have a website but Google says it might be hacked) - exactly the kind of thing I was looking for, if only I could have expressed it a bit better.
posted by Beverley Westwood at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2015

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