While college students like to party hard in destinations like Cancun, Punta Cana and Panama City, when it comes to entertaining, educating and enlightening, no one does staycations better than the City of Angels. From old-school fun fairs and beach-side family BBQs to ice age fossils and state-of-the art shuttle orbiters, LA has got a variety of spring break staycation destinations to suit any budget.
Aquarium Of The Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
Price: $25.95 adults/$14.95 children (3-11)/$22.95 seniors /$8 parking
From shark lagoons and polar penguin habitats to spiny lobsters and frisky sea otters, Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific provides kids of all ages with an aquatic adventure at an affordable price. The aquarium has a variety of novel programs and attractions to help visitors stretch those dollars, from adult overnight sleepovers and behind-the-scenes tours to combo tickets that include 4D movie screenings, tours of the RMS Queen Mary and whale watching cruises in the Los Angeles South Bay.
La Brea Tar Pits/Page Museum
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 857-6300 ext. 110
Price: $12 adults/$5 children (3-12)/$9 seniors /$7 parking
Find an eclectic collection of fossils that are even older than your grandparents by planning a visit to the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Boulevard. Check out some of LA’s former four-legged residents from mastodons and saber-toothed tigers to giant sloths and majestic bison or take a stroll in the Pleistocene Garden, a prehistoric landscape designed to introduce visitors to the type of vegetation that flourished in the Los Angeles Basin some 40,000 years ago. Extend your visit by including a tour of the adjacent Los Angeles Museum of Art’s “Levitated Mass” exhibit or head down the block to the Petersen Automotive Museum.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Price: Museum Free/IMAX $8.25 adult/$5 children (4-12)/$6 seniors/$10 parking
The California Science Center has become an extremely popular venue since the arrival of NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour in October 2012. Begin your extra-terrestrial spring break adventure with a visit to the “Endeavour: The California Story” exhibit and then head out to the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion before checking out the museum’s permanent displays and special exhibits. To avoid disappointment, shuttle visitors need to book a timed ticket, which can also include a visit to the IMAX theatre.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Price: Pier Access Free/$1 per hour metered parking
The Santa Monica Pier may be 100 years old but kids will love the kitschy old-time entertainment provided by the roller coaster, arcade and carousel, while romantics will likely favor a sunset tryst on the Ferris wheel. With bait shops, rock shops, live music and a cool compact aquarium run by Heal The Bay, there’s something for everyone. Check out the food vendors in the Pac Park food court or stop in at eateries like Soda Jerk, Pier Burger and Bubba Gump Shrimp to help keep your batteries recharged.
Dockweiler Beach RV Park
12001 Vista del Mar
Playa del Rey, CA 90293
(800) 950 7275
Price: $55-$65 per night
Not only is Dockweiler Beach LA County’s solitary pet-friendly beach-side RV campground, it’s also one of only two LA beaches that provide public fire rings. Located adjacent to beach volleyball courts, as well as the 22-mile-long South Bay Bike Trail, a two-day staycation for the family with free family-oriented entertainment (surfing, swimming, cycling) plus the cost of gas, food, firewood and a camp site could come in at less than $175. Sun, sea and sand on a shoestring budget makes Dockweiler Beach RV Park the perfect spring break staycation destination.
Julian Gothard is an internationally published freelance writer covering all things Los Angeles. You can check out his popular RVing and travel column at Examiner.com.