This lovely, private beach is a bit pricey, but has loads of amenities for families. There’s no surfing allowed, so the water is safer for the little ones. The nearby Paradise Cove Beach Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you can either eat in or get take out and have a picnic down by the sand. They also rent chairs, umbrellas and cabanas, although they tend to book up quickly. The beach is quite famous and has been the location of countless movies, TV shows and commercials over the years, so you may even see a celebrity or two the next time you’re there! Parking is $25 for four hours, but only $3 if you eat at the café and get validated.
Santa Monica Beach
Annenberg Community Beach House
The facility is on the site of the former Marion Davies estate, and comes with its share of history, including the original pool, which is open weekends in September and October from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. There is usually plenty of parking here for $8-$10/day, and the beach is made very accessible by a long boardwalk jutting out towards the sea, so carrying all your beach belongings is that much easier. There is a shaded play area on the sand for kids, and the Back on the Beach Café is there to meet your dining needs.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is over 100 years old and is famous all over the world as being the end of the line for Historic Route 66. It’s also an amazing place to take your kids to the beach, because there are plenty of things to keep them occupied all day long. The Pier itself has several restaurants, the Pacific Park amusement park, the famous and very kid-friendly Carousel, and a newly-opened old-fashioned soda fountain. There are cool, architectural play structures in the sand, a giant outdoor chess set, balance beams and gymnastics rings for the kids to work out on, as well as bike & skate rentals so you can ride along the bike path in the sand. There’s even a small aquarium, run by Heal the Bay, with touch tanks and fun exhibits for the kids. Parking on the Pier itself can fill up fast, but there are several other public lots nearby. Oh, and then there’s the ocean, too!
Marina del Rey
This beach has long been a favorite with parents of small children looking to keep their little ones away from the surf. Mother’s Beach is a protected water area near the boat marina, and the County has recently added a filtration system for the water, making this one of the cleanest beaches around. There’s a great play area with a Pirate ship the kids love to climb on, plus there are picnic tables and BBQ facilities, as well as several restaurants and hotels nearby. There is street parking, but it can be a challenge, so read posted signs carefully.
Ocean Park Beach
Located at the very Western end of Ocean Park Boulevard, near Santa Monica Lifeguard Tower 26, this is a great beach for hanging out with the kids. There’s a small play structure near the parking area, and the waves can be good for boogie boarding. There’s a snack bar, bike and skate rentals, and it’s a great spot to see dolphins playing in the waves. Acres of public parking available for between $5 and $10.
@ The end of Windward Avenue
This is the famous Venice Beach, complete with all the characters and street performers working along the boardwalk, an endless source of amazement for kids and adults alike — the people-watching is terrific in Venice. The beach itself is also terrific, although the surf can be high at times. There’s a large play structure right at the edge of the bike path, and dozens of restaurants to choose from if you decided not to pack a picnic. The public parking is several blocks away, near the end of Venice Boulevard, but there are plenty of private lots available nearby, charging somewhat higher rates. Sometimes there is street parking available, but be sure to check posted signs.
@ The Venice Pier
Take Washington Boulevard West all the way to the end and you’ll find a much quieter version of Venice. There’s a giant public parking lot, and a few restaurants nearby along Washington, but mostly it’s just the beach. The body surfing is great for kids here since the waves break farther out from shore and are therefore smaller when they reach where the little ones play. Taking a walk out on the Pier is great for a view of Santa Monica Bay. And you’re not far from the famous Venice canals, where you can stroll past mansions and funky Venice houses, keeping an eye out for ducks.
Playa del Rey Beach
Playa del Ray
Located at the very end of Culver Boulevard, Playa del Rey beach is a great place to escape the crowds, since it’s practically a secret, even to the locals. There’s a large grass park with a play structure and a lagoon to fascinate the kids, and it’s walking distance to restaurants and shops in Playa del Rey itself. Since it’s on the edge of the Marina, it’s a great spot to watch sailboats and yachts either heading out to sea or coming back to port. But it’s also just north of LAX, and that means you can definitely hear the airplanes overhead. There’s only street parking here, but some of it’s free.