A leading city like Los Angeles has so many activities for tots to enjoy with their parents that it’s hard to resist not going out every day of the week. The following are five fun outlets to enjoy as a family that are free, cheap or employ creative ways around steep admission charges.
Noah’s Ark at the Skirball
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Obviously inspired by the story of the floods that is hitting big screens in 2014 in an epic movie version, this City of Angels attraction teaches a big lesson on how to build a better community and thus a better world. The floor-to-ceiling ark is literally filled to the rafters with furry beasts with which to play with, climb on and explore while kids realize their new friends are all made from recycled materials, from mop heads to bottle caps to bicycle parts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg at Noah’s Ark. You can even experience the rainbow through the mist in Arroyo Park. Admission is free on Thursdays and tots under age two take part gratis any day of the week.
5200 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
A trip to Travel Town will give your older kids bragging rights on the playground and your younger ones a place to beg to visit again and again. This transportation-oriented outpost located near LA Zoo reached via the Riverside entrance of Griffith Park is a Tinseltown tradition, offering an eight-minute ride aboard a vintage train that begs for do-overs. Bring along 51 cents for this adventure since penny stretching is literally part of the fun.
Gardens of the World
2001 Thousands Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
Introduce your little one to a host of colorful plants all in one place that takes only about 15 to 20 minutes to discover all that is before them and costs nothing to experience. Beyond the rich gardens are such fantastical extras as a giant chess set located in front of the visitor’s center and step fountains that flow one into the other – a big splash with the shorter crowd in your family. Afterwards, replay your new discovery by asking the kids about their favorite flowers.
The Wildlife Learning Center
16027 Yarnell St.
Sylmar, CA 91342
Featured amongst an old olive grove, this wildlife rescue is home to more than 50 different species from around the world. Kids get in for only $6 if they’re younger than 13 while toddlers two and younger are admitted for free. Inside, animal interaction is the order of each day. Your kids will meet zoo-born animals typically found in the wild as well as smaller critters that captivate, especially those who live in the reptile room. Be aware that this learning center is small and certainly more intimate than a zoo. Also know that there’s a hefty charge for petting the animals here, but you don’t need to indulge in that part to get a great experience.
29 Hubble Irvine, CA 92618
Although this particular outlet isn’t in Los Angeles proper but rather in the next county of Orange (about 45 minutes from downtown LA), the specialized museum is worth the outing for little kids who want to find out how adults get through their day. Toddlers just love going to the dentist and the police station, to the beach and through a construction zone, to a farm and to the bank — all of which are inside this outpost and presented in miniature version. Once your kids experience this place, it will be a place they’ll want to return to again and again. That could get expensive as the cost of admission is high. However, buying a membership will get you out of all entry fees and will get you and your kids into members-only events that are exclusive, creative and never crowded like this captivating space can become at times.