How to Keep the Grandparents Entertained When Visiting LA

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California is reopening which means we’ll finally get to visit our favorite spots in the city (yahoo!), but more importantly, it also means long-awaited reunions with grandparents who’ve missed us and our little ones so. In anticipation for when they finally come to town, we’ve rounded up the best things to do with grandparents around LA. From museums galore to gardens and more (that rhymed!), there’s much to enjoy whether you’re young or simply young at heart. Since COVID regulations can be rather fluid, make sure to check directly with the following venues for the latest health protocols and policies for entry.

The Original Farmer's Market

If out-of-town guests are looking for a place to take an easy stroll, get lunch and enjoy an impulse buy or two, The Original Farmers Market is the place to go (and has been since 1934). Everyone can wander the stalls, find something that catches their eye and take in some music or other entertainment on the weekends and evenings. The kids will love Kip's Toyland, the oldest toy store in the city, as well as Sticker Planet with more stickers than you can imagine.

And no need to agree on where to eat! Grab some of the best Cajun grub around at The Gumbo Pot, mouthwatering fried chicken at Fritzi Coop, or old-school diner classics at Du-Par's. Grandparents can sneak sweets to their little brood from Bob's Donuts, Bennett's Ice Cream and Magic Nut Company. And don't forget your four-legged family members with a stop at Three Dog Bakery.

After all of that? Hop on the trolley for a ride through the Grove and maybe even stop at The American Girl Store for a new doll (wink-wink). And if your littles still need to burn off some energy after all of that, Pan Pacific Park is a just couple of blocks away on Beverly.

The Original Farmers Market
6333 W 3rd St.
Mid-City
Online: farmersmarketla.com

Getty Villa (& Getty Center)

Take the family for a walk through a replica of a Roman Villa—without leaving the time zone. The Getty Villa is full of spectacular views, an incredible collection of art and amazing gardens. Stop by the Family Forum where the kids can draw, search for art treasure, and become part of a shadow play. Worked up an appetite? The Villa Cafe features Mediterranean fare that ranges from sandwiches and wraps to charcuterie and salads. There’s even beer and wine available—you’re welcome.

If you’re feeling super energetic, your $20 parking fee at the Getty Villa also gets you free parking at the Getty Center on the same day. Make your way east and enjoy more breathtaking views, incredible art, and family activities.

The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Malibu
Online: getty.edu/visit/villa

Skirball Cultural Center

Update: The Noah's Ark indoor play space will be reopening soon. Check website and social channels for latest info.

Brave the 405 and take the family out to the Skirball Cultural Center. This expansive space has incredible rotating art exhibitions that always include a fun family element. Plus, Nana and Papa will get a kick out of watching the kids romp through Noah’s Ark, an interactive learning and play-space all made from recycled materials. Be sure to stop in at the Family Art Studio for a fun art activity inspired by one of the center's exhibits or uncover replicas of ancient artifacts in the sand at the Archaeology Dig. For a delicious bite during your visit, swing by by Zeidler’s Café or Judy’s Counter.

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: skirball.org

Autry Museum of the American West

The Autry Museum of the American West is a great place to bring kiddos and older folks to discover California history. Located in Griffith Park, it's rarely too crowded and is almost always manageable in size. Wander through to see a real stagecoach from the 1850s, a full-size chuck wagon and more. For kids, don't miss the Imagined West Studios, a kid-friendly space where little ones can make their own western movie with fun props and an interactive set. And because most COVID restrictions have been lifted, the Autry is able to reopen its Southwest Museum to guests once again.

Autry Museum of the American West
4700 Western Heritage Wy. (across from the LA Zoo)
Los Angeles
Online: theautry.org

Exposition Park

If the temperature has dipped below 65 (or gone above 85) and it’s feeling like a museum kind of day, Exposition Park is the place to be. Science enthusiasts can have a ball at the California Science Center. Besides the numerous learning exhibits and Discovery Rooms for the kids, grandparents will, no doubt, be impressed by a couple special exhibits like The Art of the Brick—the world’s largest display of LEGO art and "All in This Together" –a scientific look at the COVID-19 pandemic. And of course, no visit would be complete without a stop by the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Timed entry reservations are currently required.

Still have some energy? Walk next door to the The Natural History Museum and bask in the glow of dinosaur fossils and learn about the wonders of our local flora and fauna. It's highly recommended to secure advanced tickets online before your visit. Another fantastic option in the area is the California African American Museum that always has a great rotation of art and history on display, and advanced reservations are no longer needed. Afterwards, head outside for a picnic in the gorgeous Rose Gardens.

Good to Know: To protect their youngest guests, the California Science Center, Natural History Museum and California African American Museum still require all visitors to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Exposition Park
Exposition Park Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: californiasciencecenter.org, nhm.org & caamuseum.org

LA Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Take a peacock and goose-filled trek out to Arcadia to visit the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. This oft-overlooked 127-acre treasure is a wonderland of native plants, epic trees, a lush natural lake and loads of history. Let the kids romp through the forests and come up with their own adventure. History-loving grandparents will want to be sure to venture to Queen Anne Cottage: Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin’s “Belvedere” built in 1885. The Arboretum is a rich site of natural beauty and California history. Online, advanced reservations are required.

LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
301 North Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia
Online: arboretum.org

Pony & Train Rides at Griffith Park

If you find yourself in Los Feliz, take advantage of one of the great, cheap thrills this city has to offer–the pony rides and train ride at Griffith Park—two LA staples that are easy on the pocketbook and energy levels. Young jockeys love the opportunity to ride the ponies (there are slow, medium, and fast speed ones suitable for a variety of ages and adventurousness), and grandparents will get the ultimate photo-op as kids ride by with ear-to-ear grins. Pony rides are $5 a turn.

The train ride is a great opportunity for the family to sit and enjoy each other on a mile-long rail adventure. The first train leaves at 10 a.m. every day. The last train departs between 4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., depending on the day of week and time of year. For even more locomotive fun, head down the street to Travel Town, where you can hop aboard antique train cars and everyone can ride the mini-train around the tracks.

Griffith Park Train & Pony Rides
4400 Crystal Springs Dr.
Griffith Park
Online: griffithparktrainrides.com & griffithparkponyride.com

Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens

The Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens have reopened their doors to registered visitors on Fri. & Sat. evenings and during the day every Sun. The gardens are an exquisite example of the American fascination with Japanese art and culture of the late 19th Century. This 2-acre masterpiece contains traditional Japanese gardens, ponds, bridges, vista points and a classic tea house. This beautiful outing isn't too tiring for legs that are little and will bring a little zen to the whole family (and after the last year, we could all use some of that!).

The Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens
270 Arlington Dr.
Pasadena
Online: japanesegardenpasadena.com

Terranea Resort

You don't have to be a guest at the Terranea Resort to visit and marvel at the amazing ocean views. Just drive down for the day and have lunch at one of their restaurants on the water. Then, stroll the gorgeous grounds and take in the sea air. If anyone in your party needs to rest, leave them at Sea Beans coffee shop to recuperate with a cup of jo while you take the kids for a walk down the cliff path to the beach and tide pool area. There, kids can scramble over the rocks and even take a dip in the ocean. Afterwards, head back to Nelson's for a cocktail (or giant pretzel and French fries for kids) while you watch the gorgeous sunset over the Pacific.

Terranea Resort
100 Terranea Way
Rancho Palos Verdes
Online: terranea.com

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The Huntington Library & Gardens

Update: The famous Rose Garden Tea Room is currently closed for renovations and will reopen in winter 2021. 

If Grandma and Grandpa are history or art buffs, this LA gem is definitely the place to take them. The Huntington boasts a library chock full of rare books, collections and photographs, and the art galleries house classic works to more recent rotating exhibitions.

The Children's Garden is a fantastic, splash-tastic exploratory romping space for your young hellions. Be sure to stop by the new Jade Court Café in the Chinese Gardens for a bite or grab a meal at the 1919 Café where you can sit on the patio and enjoy the summer air (and mom and dad can enjoy some well-deserved vino–yep, we have your back.)

The Huntington Library and Gardens
1151 Oxford Rd.
San Marino
Online: huntington.org

Mid-City Culture and History

The tens of thousands year old Tar Pits just happen to be in one of the liveliest hubs in the city. Make your way to Mid-City and enjoy the entire La Brea campus. Grandparents will feel like young whipper snappers compared to the fossils at the Page Museum! Head outside to ogle at the actual liquid asphalt that is still seeping right beneath your feet (be sure to bring a change of clothes for kids who WILL get sticky because they WON'T be able to resist poking at it).

After a roll down one of the greatest hills in the city, walk over to LACMA. The museum’s NexGenLA membership program is open to kids aged 17 and younger and entitles kids to free admission plus one guest. Enjoy the incredible galleries, events and special exhibitions (not included with NexGenLA). A bit further down the block, car enthusiasts can explore the Petersen Museum, while crafty relatives may want to check out CAFAM.

Good to Know: The new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (located next to LACMA) is set to open September 30, 2021.

Online: tarpits.orglacma.orgpetersen.org & cafam.org

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Update: Concert hall tours are temporarily suspended. The LA Phil will be making an announcement soon regarding concerts dates for the 2021/2022 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall. For the latest, check the website and social channels. 

Downtown we have a modern architectural marvel at our fingertips: the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Whether or not you’re a Frank Gehry fan, it’s a pretty stunning building to take in for the day. And with both self-guided and guide-led tours available, the family can learn all there is to know. While you’re there, take in a show (once they're up and running again). Round out your day with a romp in Grand Park (set to reopen in mid-July) where kids can splash in the fountain and explore the playground, just two blocks away on Spring St. If you have the energy, head over to the Broad Museum, where modern out-sized works will delight your tots, and enthrall art loving grandparents.

Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Ave.
DTLA
Online: laphil.com

Grand Central Market & Angel's Flight

If you want to showcase one the most unique dining experiences in town, take the grandparents to Grand Central Market downtown, where you'll find something to delight every member of your family. Since 1917, this beloved food emporium has been a gathering spot for Angelenos looking to enjoy incredible foods from the many diverse cultures that make our city great.

After you grab a bite, head directly across the street for a ride on Angel’s Flight—the 118-year-old funicular tram on Bunker Hill. The fare is just $1 each way and is a quintessential LA experience.

Grand Central Market
317 South Broadway
Los Angeles
Online: grandcentralmarket.com & angelsflight.org

Dodger Stadium

Update: Stadium tours are temporarily suspended. For the latest, check the website and social channels. 

Even if Grandma and Grandpa root for another team (we forgive them), catching a game at Dodger Stadium and seeing our World Series winners in action, is an absolute must for baseball fans. For those who want a little extra history, we also recommend the 90-minute walking tour which includes visits to the Dodger dugout, the Lexus Dugout Club, Vin Skully’s former press box and a walk on the field itself (among other surprises). The family can catch a glimpse into some of the coolest spots in the stadium all while getting an exciting history lesson on the history of baseball and the legendary Dodger organization. 

Dodger Stadium
1000 Vin Scully Ave.
Elysian Park
Online: dodgers.com/tours 

Do you have a football family, not one filled with baseball nuts? Take them on a tour of the new Sofi Stadium, in Inglewood—home to both the LA Rams and LA Chargers.

Griffith Observatory

Update: The Griffith Observatory is still closed to visitors until further notice. For the latest, check the website and social channels. 

The Griffith Observatory is enough to spark curiosity in your little astronomers and the older generation of stargazers alike. If everyone is feeling spry, hike up one of trails beginning near Fern Dell (which is a great mini hiking spot for Gram and Gramp to take your littlest hikers in and of itself!) or the Greek Theater. Otherwise, you can drive up and park as close as possible. Hint: the earlier in the day you go, the easier it is to park.

Head up to this iconic spot to take in views of the Hollywood Sign, the Valleys, DTLA and beyond. Once inside, be sure to see one of the shows in the planetarium and explore the wonder of the cosmos. Downstairs, there are more exhibitions where the family can learn about the planets, stars and the equipment that makes all of this information available to us. And the view isn’t limited to the daytime. On clear nights, the observatory hosts public telescopes every evening, sunset hikes with a Ranger monthly and public star parties one Sat. a month. Check the website for program schedules.

Griffith Observatory
2800 East Observatory Rd.
Griffith Park
Online: griffithobservatory.org

—Jennifer O’Brien

featured image: istock

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