What to Do with Kids in LA before the Summer Is Over

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It’s hard to believe it, but summer is almost over (insert crying emoji). But before your calendar and to-do-list fills back up with back-to-school orientations and shopping trips, you deserve to get maximum fun out of the remaining weeks. Read on for our ultimate end-of-summer bucket list for LA families.

LA’s Last Summer Carnivals & Fairs

The OC Fair: Whether you want to eat ridiculous amounts of fried food, see baby farm animals, or ride the carnival rides, the OC Fair is your spot. Along with the fair’s iconic 164-foot-tall Ferris wheel, there are more than 50 rides to choose from—with bonafide thrills for older kids and kiddie rides for the littles. As for food, this year’s calorie-whopping winners include Pink’s deep fried hot dog bites, a chocolate chip Nutella ice cream sandwich, and (you ready?) a “Hot Cheeto-n-Cheese Burger,” which is described as “a burger sandwiched between a buttery bun dipped in melted cheddar cheese, rolled in ground-up hot Cheetos then topped with melted cheese and whole crunchy hot Cheetos.”

Good to Know: To mitigate crowds, the fair is operating at a voluntary reduced capacity and will only sell a limited number of tickets every day. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

When: Now through Aug. 14
Cost: Admission varies by day and starts at $12 for ages 13+; $7 for children and seniors; free for kids 5 and under (Note: Rides and food not included). Parking is $10.

88 Fair Dr.
Costa Mesa
Online: ocfair.com/thefair

Summer Fair of LA: Ferris Wheel? Check! Carnival games? Check! Pig races and dog shows? Those, too! The Summer Fair of LA at the Santa Anita Racetrack has more than 50 rides (unlimited ride wristbands are available), live tribute bands, pig races, a dog “stunt show,” and tons of food—including giant turkey legs, deep fried Oreos, and fried butter (because apparently that’s a thing!).

When: Jul. 21 through Aug. 20
Rate: $10-12 adults; $7 kids ages 6-12; free for kids under 6

285 West Huntington Dr.
Online: santaanita.com

That Last of the Summer Nights that Light Up

Paso Robles
Online: sensoriopaso.com

RELATED: 9 Other Good Reasons to Visit Paso Robles

Participate in the Glow Ride. Ride by the beach… at night…decked out in glow gear! Decorate your wheels (scooters, bikes and wagons) and yourselves for a colorful ride from the Hermosa Beach Pier to the Manhattan Beach Pier while supporting Claire’s Place Foundation—an organization that supports children and families with Cystic Fibrosis. All registered riders will receive a Glow Ride t-shirt.

Date/Time: Aug. 27 (meet at 5:30 p.m., the ride begins at 7:30 p.m.)
Cost: $45 per person

1 Pier Ave.
Hermosa Beach
Online: glow2022.funraise.org

Rent a Swan Boat on Echo Park Lake after 7:24 p.m. (how’s that for specific?) and your ride will be illuminated. The paddleboats can fit up to five and they’re also dog-friendly. Reservations required.

Online: wheelfunrentals.com

At Disneyland and California Adventure, the Nighttime Spectaculars are back and dazzling, including the Main St. Electrical Parade, the World of Color show and the fireworks.

Catch the Last Summer Concerts

Free Sunset Concerts at The Skirball: Sing and dance to a world-class lineup of local musicians whose work amplifies the Skirball’s values to pursue justice, build community, show kindness, and honor memory. On the schedule: Rocky Dawuni (July 28), Nefesh Mountain (Aug. 4), Booker T. Jones (Aug. 11), ADG7 (Aug. 18), and Son Rompe Pera (Aug. 25) at 8 p.m.

Good to Know: Parking is $20 upon arrival, $15 with advance purchase ($5 for members with advance purchase)

2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: skirball.org/sunset-concerts

Join in KCRW Summer Nights: Free, all-ages, outdoor concerts being held across the city during the month of Aug. at various locations like Chinatown, One Colorado and Descanso Gardens.

When: July 28, 30, Aug. 13, 20, 28, Sept. 3, 10, 11, 22 and 29
Cost: Free
Online: kcrw.com/summer-nights

Head to the Hollywood Bowl: The roster of events features plenty of fun for the kids, including showings of Back to the Future with a live score performance by the LA Phil, a Sing-Along Sound of Music and a Tchaikovsky spectacular with post-show fireworks to make you feel like it’s the Fourth of July all over again.

When: Aug. 5 & 6: Back to the Future with the LA Phil; Aug. 12 & 13: Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks; Sept. 17: Sing-Along Sound of Music.
Cost:  $14-85

2301 N Highland Ave.
Los Angeles
Online: hollywoodbowl.com

Enjoy Global Music at Levitt Pavilion LA: Throughout the summer months, MacArthur Park transforms into a sonically charged urban oasis with free concerts from established and emerging artists. The electrifying lineup features international greats as well as LA’s own superstar talents who perform a wide variety of genres including cumbia, rock, soul, ska, mariachi, electronic dance music, folkloric music from Mexico & Central America, Tejano, reggae and many more.

When: Fri.-Sun., through Sept. 4.
Cost: Free

2230 W. 6th St.
Los Angeles
Online: levittlosangeles.org

Watch Movies under the Stars

Take advantage of not having to wake up early for school (yet), BYOP (that’s Bring Your Own Popcorn) and watch an outdoor movie at these fun LA spots:

Boat Cinema: Reserve a mini electric boat and sit on Santa Clarita’s Castaic Lake to watch flicks like Grease, The Sandlot and Mamma Mia.

Online: boatcinema.com

Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Upcoming kid-friendly favorites include A League of Their Own and Raiders of the Lost Ark

Online: hollywoodforever.com

Street Food Cinema: At locations all around LA, sample tasty street food and popular films after the sun goes down. This summer’s kid-friendly picks include: Encanto, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Princess Bride, High School Musical and The Goonies

Online: streetfoodcinema.com

Or check out one of these night-based activities with the kids.

Last Chance to See these Exhibits

Deep dive into the vibrant works of artist Frida Kahlo in the interactive exhibit Immersive Frida Kahlo—slated to close Aug. 13.

The Butterfly Pavilion at the NHM will be wrapping up its seasonal exhibit—slated to close Sept. 5.

Create a Memory Sphere, punch buttons on the Control Panel and explore all your big feelings in Emotions at Play with Pixar’s Inside Out, a hands-on exhibit at the Discovery Cube based on the beloved Pixar film—slated to close Sept. 11.

At the magical Bob Baker Marionette Theater, watch the puppets in ¡Fiesta!, a love letter to Latin America—slated to close Sept. 18.


Take One Last Quick Getaway

Escape to Big Bear. It’s like summer camp without the week-long commitment. Ride the chair lift, glow golf, go tubing, mountain biking and more at Big Bear Mountain Resort. Coast down the mountain on a bobsled track or water slide at the Alpine Slide. Or take to the lake for paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing and boating. Hungry? Check out Wrap It Up, Stick Em Up for summer classics like deep-fried twinkies and funnel cake, or hitCafé Crepe, a convenient stop on the way out of town.

Check out our full list of what to do in Big Bear with kids including where to stay and eat.

Explore the Summer Gardens before They Turn to Fall

Visit Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge. Here kids can play hide and seek in the majestic Oak Forest with trees hundreds of years old, or relax by the serene Japanese-style garden with its shaded paths and koi-filled stream. Adam Schwerner’s immersive art experience, Your (Un)Natural Garden, is happening now through the end of the year.

Good to Know: Non-members must purchase an advance ticket to Descanso. Members can visit anytime.

Explore The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia. If you haven’t been yet this summer, this should definitely be on your summer bucket list. With 127 acres of flowers, trees and plants to explore (plus peacocks roaming about and a waterfall!), it’s a true oasis. Enjoy live concerts during Arboretum Summer Nights, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 29, Aug. 5 & 19. 

Good to Know: Tickets must be bought in advance online.

Explore LA’s Beaches & Tide Pools

Leo Carrillo State Park: Discover snails, sea anemones, starfish and more at the tide pools.

El Matador Beach: Another Malibu must. Explore the sea caves and tunnels off-the-beaten path. This beach is also a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.

See the Grunion Run. August is the last month you can catch the Grunion run.

Last Days of Summer at the Farm

Pick your produce: Skip the middleman and head straight to the source! Go pick your own delicious summer fruits at these amazing LA area farms.

Animals & More: If you’d rather see farm animals than produce, here are our favorite animal encounters near LA.

Dive into LA’s Best Donuts, Ice Cream & Instagrammable Desserts

It’s just not summer without ice cream. Here the scoop on where to find the best ice cream in LA.

LA is a donut town. Check out our favorite donut shops around LA.

Do it for the ‘gram. Impress all your friends back east with our only-in-LA desserts that are meant to be shared…socially.

Shop & Play in Los Angeles

Cheer on the Angel City Football Club. In Jul. 2020, the ACFC was announced as an LA-based member of the National Women’s Soccer League and in April of this year, the team took to the field. ACFC is co-owned by actor and activist Natalie Portman and supported by an impressive lineup of investors including Serena Williams, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, Glennon Doyle and Billie Jean King to name a very few. Tickets start at $17.

Play ball with The Dodgers who are in the heart of their season. On Fri. nights, fans can come down onto the field after the game to watch fireworks.

Shop Unique Markets: A long-standing tradition in LA and a must-do with the family. Discover the best emerging brands and help small businesses survive by attending the 2-day outdoor marketplace featuring over 100 curated sellers, meticulously hand-picked to ensure an inspiring experience. Kids 14 and under free.

—Holly Hays

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