Things to do in LA with a 4-year-old
September 19, 2018 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm dragging my wife and preschool-aged daughter to LA next week for a conference. We're (unfortunately) staying at the conference hotel, the Loews Hollywood at Hollywood & Highland, but will have a car. A trip to Griffith Park is in the plans, but what else might they want to do while I'm schmoozing all day Thursday and Friday?

Bonus points for a kid-friendly place nearish-by we can eat dinner early Wednesday evening to fend off jetlag.

(Double bonus points if you know how we can get into brunch at the Magic Castle on Saturday the 29th.)
posted by uncleozzy to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Getty Center, definitely. Definitely definitely. The Getty Villa less so for a kid that age but the Getty Center? Definitely.

Santa Monica can be fun for kids, particularly around dinnertime when the street performers are more often outside. The boardwalk is lovely, the beach is marvellous. Just be careful of the sun at noon, even in September.

I've never managed brunch at the Magic Castle but dinner and the evening show was achieved only by staying a night at the Magic Castle Hotel.

Eating options on Wednesday: you have all the typical eateries in that area and plenty within walking distance. There's a lot in the H&H Centre and it might be easiest just to pick something right there. Head up to the walkway for a view of the Hollywood sign before and after dinner (or both).
posted by humuhumu at 7:50 AM on September 19, 2018 is kid oriented and hands on.
posted by nickggully at 7:57 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If your kid has any dinosaur/natural history interest, our kids enjoyed the La Brea Tar Pits quite a bit around that age.
posted by Mid at 8:01 AM on September 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Does the kid like Harry Potter? Universal Studios/Hogwarts is one subway stop away.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:17 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The zoo is in Griffith Park. The Autry across from the zoo is potentially kid-interesting? Maybe not. There are several libraries in close proximity to that area. Kidspace children's museum isn't toooooooo bad a drive away. Tar Pits, as mentioned, is often popular (if small), and the Peterson Automotive Museum right by it is a hit with some LA toddlers I know (though this definitely depends on your kid).
posted by annabear at 8:41 AM on September 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My preschool-aged nephew had a great time at Noah's Ark at the Skirball Cultural Center. Also the Travel Town train museum in Griffith Park.
posted by ContinuousWave at 9:26 AM on September 19, 2018

posted by ApathyGirl at 9:28 AM on September 19, 2018

Best answer: The Zimmer Museum is ***perfect*** for that age. Check their schedule carefully -- they close for Jewish holidays and Shabbat. Also seriously seconding Travel Town and Noah's Ark at the Skirball.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:49 AM on September 19, 2018

Seconding Noah's Ark at the Skirball (get tickets in advance and go early), and the Autry, which is charming and diverse.

Last weekend we went to the Japanese-American National Museum where they have a cool exhibit featuring Japanese kaiju (and all their monster toys) and then to Little Tokyo, which has dozens of cool shops filled with cute Japanese things, video game stuff, and collectibles, as well as lots of restaurants.

We also like the aquarium in Long Beach.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:07 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you are not staying at the Magic Castle, You need an invite from a castle Magician to make a reservation for brunch or dinner. Even if you get one, it's likely booked for next week already. I've always had to plan pretty far ahead.
posted by pizzazz at 11:28 AM on September 19, 2018

Response by poster: Yeah, I figured that even if I managed to score a guest pass, it'd probably be booked... but wouldn't hurt to ask! Thanks for all the suggestions, everybody. Noah's Ark is definitely on the radar now; I hadn't heard about it before but it looks really neat.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:38 AM on September 19, 2018

Best answer: Griffith Park has an abandoned zoo where you get to go inside the old cages for elephants and lions. It's way better (and free) for small kids than the actual LA Zoo, which is just a zoo. I thought that place was so cool, and so did my kids getting to climb on everything and go down the narrow stairways into the small cages.

I also second La Brea Tar Pits and the Santa Monica Pier, which has (had?) $1 hot dogs and a carousel and small rollercoaster.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:52 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Agreed with all the above suggestions!

For Wednesday evening dinner - I would recommend eating at the food court on the roof of Hollywood and Highland Mall. It is surprisingly nice up there, calm compared to Hollywood Blvd, and will literally be a stairway or two away from your hotel. They have great ramen and poke places if your family is into that. There is also a Johnny Rockets if you'd prefer diner food and a sit-down restaurant.

You will also be nearby the Hollywood Bowl, which is often open to the public during daytime. It is walking distance (uphill) from that hotel and I had a blast exploring it! You just walk right in. If I was a kid I would have loved running up and down the aisles.
posted by sweetjane at 11:56 AM on September 19, 2018

California Science Center
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
These are both in Exposition Park along with some other museum type things.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:24 PM on September 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nthing the Exposition Park museums and the La Brea Tar Pits museums.

Travel Town has been a big hit when finding things to do with friends who have similar aged kids in LA. It's a fine side trip paired with either Griffith Park or the zoo.
posted by eotvos at 2:38 PM on September 19, 2018

Best answer: All great suggestions, most kid-tested by my grandson, a little younger than your 4 year old, but at that age they should have even more fun. My son takes him to the science center and Natural History Museum so often he knows where everything is! The LA Zoo is very good, and they tried the Autry Museum and found it very kid friendly, some great interactive stuff for little ones, he had a great time. I had not heard of Noah's Ark, that sounds good too. There is a nice little train that goes to the Santa Monica Pier, and I think to the Exposition park museums but not sure where you get on from where you will be.
posted by mermayd at 4:52 PM on September 19, 2018

This tip applies if you happen to be downtown in old LA. The food court in Grand Central Market between Broadway and Hill is really great. There's a funky little funicular on Hill St, the Angels Flight Railway. It's just a funny 8 minute ride that a 4 year old might like.
posted by ovvl at 5:57 PM on September 19, 2018

Nthing the museums at Expo Park.
posted by kensington314 at 10:51 PM on September 20, 2018

Put the Bob Baker Marionette Theater on the top of your list; there is nothing else like it.

For the Magic Castle, check the online schedule for who is performing at the brunch show you'd like to attend, find their personal website and request a pass to see them. This usually works. (Then catch their act and thank them later. Also, bring folding money for Irma.)

When out and about, be aware of the mental illness and homelessness that is rampant in the city, but especially Downtown. It can be a lot for a kid to take in.

Philippe's home of the French Dip sammich in Chinatown is a neat dining experience, and Chinatown is fun to explore.
posted by Scram at 10:42 PM on September 23, 2018

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