These family-favorite museums are some of the best in the world and lucky for us, they’re all in Los Angeles
Let’s face it, not every museum you love as an adult is going to thrill your kids in the same way. And while some museums may feel like a total snooze-fest to your pint-size counterparts, that’s not the case in LA thanks to curating some of the world’s best that will not only expose your kids to incredible culture, science, art, and unforgettable learning experiences, but also, dare we say, show them a good time? So whether you have dino fans, train-loving kids, acad, car lovers, or pint-sized Warhols at home, we’ve put together a list of the best museums to explore in LA with kids.
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Save This for Later: On Sunday, February 5, 2023, over thirty museums in the LA area will open their doors and offer free general admission. With museums from Long Beach to Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, there is so much to explore. View the full list of museums at socalmuseums.org
The Best Museums in LA with Kids
Petersen Automotive Museum
Drivers, start your engines and zoom over to the Petersen Automotive Museum for a day of revved up fun! Families will love seeing some of the most famous cars from TV and film, including the 1981 DMC-12 Deloreon from Back to the Future, as well as the Batmobile and other faves. There are other amazing exhibits to check out as well, including Inside Tesla: Supercharging the Electric Revolution, Andy Warhol Cars—Works From the Mercedes Benz Art Collection, and Hypercars 2: The Allure of the Extreme, among others.
Why We Love It: You don't have to be total gearhead to fall in love with the Petersen. The automobiles and innovative design on display are incredibly impressive, no matter what your interests are.
Don't Miss Exhibits: Make sure to bring the kids by the Cars Mechanical Institute (a super cool interactive experience inspired by the Disney/Pixar animated film) that immerses visitors in a variety of fun activities and displays where they can learn about the science and design of cars.
Insider Tip: If you have a die-hard car fan (age 10 and up) in the house, we highly recommend including a trip to the Vault on your itinerary. This area includes some of the museums's most rare pieces and houses more than 250 cars at a time. It requires a separate entrance fee, but gets you a discount at the gift shop and on parking.
When Is the Petersen Museum Free? Unfortunately, the Petersen does not have any special free days, but kids under age 4 and educators are always free.
6060 Wilshire Blvd.
Kidspace Children's Museum
Kidspace is designed to delight and engage children through joyful kid-driven experiences where they can play, create, and explore the world with curiosity and kindness. Situated on a sprawling 3.5 acre campus, the museum features over 40 hands-on exhibits with many of them outdoors. Whether littles want to check out the massive climbing structures, splash in the interpretive Arroyo Stream, play with mud and clay, perform investigations in science and nature, or express their artistic sides – there's something for everyone.
Why We Love It: Kids tend to stay engaged longer when they can get their hands dirty (so to speak) doing activities. Kidspace is an expert when it comes to interactive discovery and it shows by the excitement and smiles on kids' faces.
Don't Miss Exhibits: Make a beeline for the Physics Forest where kids put science into motion with 12 hands-on, interactive exhibits that explore concepts such as levers and pulleys, trajectory, and momentum. As an added bonus for your pint-sized Issac Newtons and Albert Einsteins—the forest is outdoors so they're getting fresh air!
Insider Tip: Butterfly Season at Kidspace is an annual favorite filled with lots of activities, programs and new exhibits that celebrate the habitat and life cycle of our winged friends.
When Is Kidspace Free? The museum is free on the first Friday of every month. Advance reservations are required and tickets are released around two weeks prior to the date of your visit.
480 N. Arroyo Blvd.
Travel Town Museum
All aboard! Griffith Park's beloved Travel Town Museum is on a mission to preserve and celebrate LA's rich railroad heritage. Train fans will oooh and ahhh over the magnificent selection of locomotives, freight cars, passenger cars, cabooses and artifacts on display. Also, during your visit, be sure to ride the rails on the museum's miniature train that circles the complex.
Why We Love It: Who doesn't want to explore choo-choos all afternoon?! Kids can scamper around freely and let their imaginations run wild while they play conductor for the day. Lunch is also a snap with access to on-site picnic tables. And since you're already in the park, be sure to check out the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round as well if you're there on a weekend.
Don't Miss Exhibits: Currently, the museum is featuring the exhibit, Fred Harvey: Civilizer of the West, which explores how Harvey served railroad travelers by shaping the hospitality industry and tourism throughout the American Southwest.
Insider Tip: On certain Saturdays once a month, visitors are invited to participate in docent-lead tours through the historic Pullman Sleeping Cars. Be sure to check the website for dates.
When Is Travel Town Free? Admission is always free to visitors, but donations are gratefully accepted. Train rides, however, cost $3 for kids age 11 and under and adults are $4.
5200 Zoo Dr.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
As the largest museum in the U.S. dedicated to the arts, sciences, and artists of movie making, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has quickly become a beloved spot for film buffs of all ages. Current exhibitions include Stories of Cinema—three floors of exhibits that explore the diverse, international and complex stories of moviemakers and the stories they create; Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971 that delves into the rich history of Black participation in cinema; and Backdrop: An Invisible Art, among others.
Why We Love It: LA kids grow up with the movie industry right in their backyards, so it's exciting to finally have a museum that celebrates everything we love about film. With such an in-depth look behind the magic of moviemaking, the museum may very well inspire the next generation of Spielbergs, Scorceses and DuVernays.
Don't Miss Exhibits: The Oscars Experience costs extra, but it's super fun—especially if this is your first visit to the museum. The experience invites visitors to step up to the podium and accept an Oscar in front of bright TV lights and a virtual audience while a soaring music score plays. The entire thing is captured on video to share on social media with friends. Also, be sure to stop by the Encounters room where kids can get up close and personal with iconic movie characters like C-3PO, R2-D2, E.T., Edward Scissorhands and Okoye's uniform from Black Panther.
Insider Tip: Every Saturday morning at 11 a.m., the museum features kid-friendly family matinees in their state-of-the-art theater. Films rotate weekly, so be sure to check the website for a schedule of upcoming screenings.
When Is the Academy Museum Free? While adult tickets cost $25, children age 17 and under are always free.
6067 Wilshire Blvd.
California Science Center
The California Science Center is a favorite of kids because there's always something new and exciting to see! From the Space Shuttle Endeavour and flight simulators to riveting exhibits about air and space, ecosystems and even Covid, this is the place to visit when you want your kids to stay engaged.
Why We Love It: You can spend an entire day here—no problem. And the first level food court is filled with tons of delicious and healthy dining options.
Don't Miss Exhibits: The Fire! Science & Safety interactive exhibition invites kids to play fire danger detective as they seek out burn hazards that one might find at home. Kids can also safely experiment with fire and practice their fire fighting skills with an extinguisher. We also love the Life! Beginnings exhibit that explores how humans and all living creatures reproduce, develop, and pass on their genes to bring new life into the world. Might make that birds and bees talk a little easier down the road—wink-wink.
Insider Tip: Avoid visits on USC game days since they share parking with the Coliseum and traffic is heavy. Or you can spare yourself the headache and take the Metro which stops right across the street—easy peasy!
When Is the California Science Center Free? General admission is always free, including the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The only extra cost might be if you want to check out one of the simulators or catch an IMAX film—that requires reservations.
700 Exposition Park Dr.
Skirball Cultural Center
High above the 405 Fwy is one of the leading cultural institutions in LA, the Skirball Cultural Center. The center is known as a place of meeting guided by the Jewish tradition of welcoming the stranger and inspired by the American democratic ideals of freedom and equality. With their mission of fostering human connections and building a more just society—we believe the Skirball's role is more important than ever. Current exhibitions include Fabric of a Nation: America Quilt Stories, Quilting for Good: Caron Tabb and the Quilting Corner, Chloe Bass: Wayfinding, Noah's Ark, a Discovery Center, and so much more.
Why We Love It: The Skirball brings together people from every community of LA, and this hands-on experience for kids is truly one-of-a-kind.
Don't Miss Exhibits: Award-winning Noah's Ark invites kids to play, climb, build, and make-believe while exploring an 8,000 sq. ft. wooden ark filled with over 400 exotic animals—all handcrafted from recycled materials and everyday objects. Little ones can even conduct their own storms with thunder, wind and lightning! Noah's Ark requires its own ticket and advance reservations are highly recommended. We're also huge fans of the museum's archaeology dig (Saturdays and Sundays only) where kids can sift and sort through sand to find replicas of ancient artifacts.
Insider Tip: Be sure to check out the numerous programs that Skirball offers to families as well—everything from story times and outdoor art making to the center's annual Hanukkah Festival.
When Is the Skirball Free? The Skirball is free to all on Thursdays.
2701 N. Sepulveda
The Natural History Museum
LA’s Natural History Museum is a dino-mite way to spend an afternoon with your kiddos! Dinosaur Hall’s awe-inspiring exhibition filled with fossils and dinosaur skeletons transports visitors back 65 million years in the past. Other museum highlights include the engaging live show, Dinosaur Encounters, featuring life-size dinosaur puppets that will blow your mind. Also, be sure to visit the animal diorama halls from all over the world, the Nature Gardens, the Dino Lab and one of the newest exhibits, L.A. Underwater—an immersive and multi-media rich experience that explores our city’s prehistoric past beneath the Pacific Ocean.
Why We Love It: It’s a stunning space that invites pint-sized paleontologists to romp, roam and witness creatures beyond their wildest imaginations.
Don't Miss Exhibits: Spring and summertime mean spending time at the beautiful Butterfly Pavilion, where you can visit with your favorite butterflies and witness each stage of their lives first hand. Fall delivers eight-legged fun with a rare glimpse into the secret lives of spiders at the museum’s seasonal Spider Pavillion.
Insider Tip: The Nature Garden is the perfect place to let kids get some fresh air and run around. You can take a breather with a cup of coffee from NHM Grill and watch them splash in the Urban Waterfall, hunt for earthworms in the compost bins, and play hide-and-seek in a giant willow house.
When Is the Natural History Museum Free? L.A. County residents receive free museum admission Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.—tickets are available at any museum ticketing desk.
900 Exposition Blvd.
Cayton Children's Museum
Just blocks from the Pacific in downtown Santa Monica, Cayton Children's Museum offers 21,000 sq. ft. of discovery based exhibitions and immersive play for kids. The museum consists of five core wings filled with incredible hands-on exhibits. From a real-life helicopter, a play animal hospital and miniature marketplace to art studios, a colorful climbing structure, and a gigantic ball pit, littles will have more than enough to stay entertained.
Why We Love it: This brightly colored space is warm, welcoming and inclusive from the moment you enter, and with so many hands-on activities, kiddos will never get bored.
Don't Miss Exhibits: In the spirit of raising kind and empathetic kids, we love the fire truck and veterinarian office where kids can take on imaginative and caring responder roles. Like Mr. Rogers once said, "Always look for the helpers."
Insider Tip: Reservations are encouraged to guarantee entry, but are not required. However, if you're stopping by on a weekend when it's crowded, we highly recommend reserving ahead of time to make your visit easier. Also, the first Thursday of every month is only open to members all day.
When Is the Cayton Free? The Cayton Children's Museum does not offer free admission days, but children under age 1 are always free.
395 Santa Monica Pl.
Autry Museum of the American West
The Autry Museum explores the art, history, cultures and stories of the American West and its people. This impressive collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection—one of the largest and most significant collections of Native American material in the U.S.
Why We Love It: The Autry tends to be less crowded than other museums in the area, and its convenient location right across from the LA Zoo can't be beat—you can explore both in one day!
Don't Miss Exhibits: Stop by Imagined West Studios, the Autry's kid-friendly movie studio where children can act in and film their own cinematic visions of the American West using creative props on a western-themed set.
Insider Tip: On Saturday, Sunday, and on free Tuesday, visit the Autry's family play space for tons of kid-friendly activities that teach kids about the American West. Also, coming in May 2023, the Autry will feature the exhibition, Imagined Wests, where visitors of all ages can explore the ways we tell stories about the American West through pop culture, clothing, toys, art, archives, and other media.
When Is the Autry Free? Every second Tuesday of the month is free to visitors.
4700 Western Heritage Way
The Getty Center
Come for the art and stay for the mind-blowing views of LA! High in the hills, the Getty Center features modern architecture, world-class exhibitions, a Central Garden filled with stunning water features and colorful plants that change seasonally, and delicious dining options at the restaurant on site or Garden Terrace Cafe.
Why We Love It: Getting there is part of the thrill! A tram takes you for a steep ride up the hill from the parking lot to the museum.
Don't Miss Exhibitions: Kids will enjoy getting to see some of the artists they're likely learning about in school with works on display from masters like Monet and Van Gogh. But the real draw for little ones is the incredible view and breathtaking gardens outside.
Insider's Tip: Once you pay for parking at The Getty Center, you’ll also score free parking at The Getty Villa in Malibu for the same day—just make reservations at both sites on the same date.
When Is the Getty Free? The Getty Center offers free admission year round, you just need to reserve a time for your visit in advance. However, parking costs $20 per car.
Sepulveda Blvd. & Getty Center Dr.
The Broad is filled with an extremely impressive selection of contemporary art from the 1950s—the present. Once you arrive, we highly recommend downloading the museum’s mobile guide on your phone that provides a map to the museum and family recommendations of what to see while you’re there. One of the first highlights of The Broad isn’t the artwork at all—it’s the extremely long escalator that takes visitors to the 3rd floor galleries. On this floor, you can explore artwork by Jeff Koons, including his famous Balloon Dog, as well as works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Therrien’s Under the Table.
Why We Love It: Filled with bright color and whimsical wonder, this is the perfect place to get your kids excited about art and the world’s most incredible artists.
Don’t Miss Exhibits: If you're lucky enough to score tickets, we highly recommend a visit to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of a Million Light Years Away located on the first floor. This extra special exhibit requires a separate timed-entry ticket. Tickets are released on the last Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. for admission the following month. Also, a special exhibition, Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody, is coming to The Broad in May 2023.
Insider Tip: The mobile museum guide on your phone has a free kid’s audio tour featuring LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow.
When Is The Broad Free? Timed-entry tickets for general admission to the museum are always free and are released the last Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. Some last-minute tickets are also released daily, so be sure to check the website the evening before you’d like to go.
221 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
This world-class art museum is a fantastic intro to art – whether you're a novice or connoisseur. From impressionism and Egyptian art to furniture collections and rad contemporary exhibits, the collections run the gambit and will give your littles a taste of everything.
Why We Love It: There’s always something happening here for families: from story times to fun activities at the Boone Family Gallery and more. And it’s always free for kids who live in LA County!
Don't Miss Exhibits: Before you leave for the day, make sure to check out one of the museum's newest exhibits, Language of the Birds—stark, abstract bronze sculptures suspended from the north side of Resnick Pavilion outside. It will remain on display until June 2023.
Insider Tip: If you can't find street parking, it's worth it to pay $20 to park in the underground lot so you don't have to circle the area for hours. Also, after your museum adventure, grab a drink and a bite at Ray's & Stark Bar or C+M Grab & Go, and kick back while your kiddos play hide-and-seek in the Urban Light installation nearby.
When Is LACMA Free? Hit the museum membership desk and sign up for the NexGen program. Kids under age 18 and one accompanying adult (per child) get into LACMA for free with a NexGenLA pass.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum
Travel back in time during your visit to the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum—one of the richest depositories of Ice Age fossils in the world. Inside the museum, explore incredible fossils on display from over 650 different species like ground sloths, dire wolves, and saber-tooth cats. Outside, stroll the beautiful park grounds and witness life-size statues of mammoths and American Mastodon standing in bubbling asphalt, or swing by Project 23 and Pit 91 to watch scientists perform live excavations of fossil deposits on site. For an extra $6 per person, we also recommend the Ice Age Encounters live stage show or the Titans of of the Ice Age 3D movie.
Why We Love It: We totally dig (pun intended) the indoor/outdoor vibe of the experience.
Don't Miss Exhibits: One of our favorite things to do is visit the Fossil Lab where kiddos can observe paleontologists hard at work right in front of their eyes—cleaning and prepping Ice Age fossils for study and exhibition.
Insider Tip: Bring a picnic to eat on the grounds outside and let kids burn off some extra energy by rolling down the steep grassy hills.
When Is the Page Museum Free? The park area is always free, but the Page Museum gives LA County residents free admission from 3 p.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday at any museum ticketing desk or kiosk. Children 2 and under are always free.
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Discovery Cube LA
The Discovery Cube LA is a children’s museum that brings STEM education to life with a wide range of immersive and interactive science activities. With a mission to inspire and educate young minds, the museum features over 50 hands-on activities, including the LA Kings Hockey exhibit where you can pretend to be a hockey player and train like a pro, a wind exhibit where you can hop inside a wind simulator to see what’s happening to our climate, a grocery store where you can scan items, and a physics area where kids can play with various pulleys.
Why We Love It: This museum is completely interactive which is always more entertaining for kids. And if they’re into science on top of that—it just can’t be beat!
Don’t Miss Exhibits: With the environment top of mind for everyone these days, we love the Recycling Plant exhibit where littles can sort various items correctly to race to zero waste. Also, if you’re at the museum before Jan. 16, check out the Thomas and Friends Explore the Rails exhibit where kids can play with a gigantic wooden train set and partake in tons of fun activities with Thomas and his crew.
Insider Tip: There’s a giant park located right next door if you kids have any gas left on the tank after your day at the museum.
When Is the Discovery Cube Free? Children age 2 and under are always free.
11800 Foothill Blvd.
At the top of Griffith Park, you are met with sweeping views of the city, where on a clear day you can see from the San Gabriel Mountains to the beach. See if kids can spot your neighborhood far below. Then head inside and learn all about our planets and universe. What would we weigh on Jupiter? How is a comet made? What can you see through the giant telescopes? Don’t miss a visit to the planetarium for one of their amazing shows. Public Star Parties are held once a month, where you can go look at the sun, moon, and planets and try out a variety of telescopes. Check out our in-depth article on the Griffith Observatory and why it's a favorite place to visit with the kids.
Need to Know: Parking is notoriously difficult, so on a weekend expect a long walk. The good news is the walk will be gorgeous, with the best views in the city of the Hollywood Sign. The bad news is that it’s all uphill so bring strollers or carriers for wee ones.
Good to Know: Avoid the parking dilemma altogether and take the DASH Observatory bus from the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station.
When Is the Griffith Observatory Free? The Griffith Observatory is free but shows in the planetarium do have a small fee. Kids under 5 are only admitted to the first show each day and must sit on an adult's lap.
2800 East Observatory Rd.
If you have music lovers at home, we highly recommend a visit to the GRAMMY Museum which aims to educate visitors about the history and cultural significance of American music and inspire the next generation of musicians. The space is made up of four levels and guests start at the top and work their way through various exhibits until they reach the bottom. Exhibitions give visitors a chance to pose On the Red Carpet, explore the Mono Immersive Experience Room that takes you on a visual and audible journey of the evolution of recorded sound, or check out the recording booths, costumes, and other interactive exhibits on display.
Why We Love It: This museum provides a master class in music history. If you have aspiring singers and musicians at home, this is a rare opportunity to see all the hard work that goes into making some of the most memorable music of all time.
Don’t Miss Exhibits: On display through Spring 2023, check out the exhibition, Marley: A Family Legacy that explores why Bob Marley was one of the greatest performers the world has ever known. Guests are also invited to take a seat at the kit for an interactive drum lesson by reggae drumming icon, Santa Davis.
Insider's Tip: The GRAMMY Museum isn't that large and won't take up your whole day, so you'll have plenty of time to grab a bite, see a movie, or go bowling at LA Live too.
When Is the GRAMMY Museum Free? Children age 4 and under are always free.
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
More Local Favorite LA Museums You Shouldn't Miss
Already exhausted the ones on our list? Keep scrolling for five more kid-friendly museums we love in LA.
Fowler Museum at UCLA: Located on the sprawling UCLA campus, this museum explores global arts and cultures primarily from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. Check out their Fowler Families programs, which include art workshops, yoga and more. The museum is also a short walk from the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, a lush 7.5 acre "natural museum" that kids can explore.
Los Angeles Fire Department Hollywood Museum: On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can visit Fire Station 27, which was established in 1930. The space features equipment dating back to the early 1900s, along with fire-fighting artifacts and equipment from the 1880s through the present day.
Museums near LA Worth the Drive
Now that you've check all the LA museums off your list, here are some more within an hour or two of the city.
Go inside a guitar, create a wind, sun, and human-powered symphony with the Weather Orchestra and more at Santa Barbara's hands-on MOXI Museum.
Also a short distance from LA? A few of our OC favorites: Pretend City, the Children's Museum at La Habra and the Bower’s Museum.