Free Things to Do with Kids in LA in May

A mother and kids garden as an outdoor family activity
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Editor’s note: Because events are changing rapidly, make sure to check the websites for the latest information.

It’s May and that means it’s time for our monthly round up of free things to do with kids in LA this month. Check out all the cool things to do in LA below–from free story times at The Grove, a dance party you can shake what your mama gave you and a touch-a-truck event with over 100 vehicles for kids to drool over (literally and figuratively). There’s definitely a fun event near you that won’t break the bank. Also, don’t miss some free Mother’s Day activities that are sure to delight Mom too. Hint: If you are still looking for a gift, we’ve got a great round-up of LA-based gifts Mom is sure to love.

photo: iStock

Free, Kid-Friendly Events around LA in May

Los Angeles International Children's Film Fest
The 16th annual film festival is showcasing an afternoon of short films and animation from around the world at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre in Hollywood. Admission is free, please RSVP. May 1. Event details.

Storytime with Barnes & Noble
Get whisked away every Wednesday morning with story time in The Park! Kids, parents and caregivers are invited to join Barnes & Noble for a safe and special reading. Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP prior to the event! Every Wed. throughout May. Event details.

Recycled Art Making: reDiscover Center
Get crafty with the whole family! Culver City's reDiscover Center hosts this fun, kid-friendly "make and take" event for ages 4-8 on the plaza at Ivy Station Culver City. Tap into your inner maker and create something new out of recycled and reclaimed materials. All materials provided. See you there! Every Sat. throughout May. Event details.

Long Beach Touch-A-Truck
Kids and adults can explore more than 100 awesome vehicles up close, with boarding opportunities on most vehicles. More than 100 large vehicles expected to be on display for free, annual "Long Beach Touch-A-Truck" interactive event.  The event is co-sponsored by Councilwoman Suzie Price, Mayor Robert Garcia, Port of Long Beach and Justin Rudd’s nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT). NOTE: Every human will need to be pre-registered, regardless of age, since a liability waiver is required for each attendee. May 7. Event details.

Mother's Day Pop-Up at The Point
Sun & Sea will be popping up with 25 vendors at this curated outdoor market. These local makers and artists will be selling everything from sweet treats and drinks, to apparel, jewelry, plants and more! RSVP for this free event to stay up to date on all things Sun & Sea. May 7. Event details.

Gather Flowers for Mom at Brentwood Country Mart
Brentwood Country Mart is hosting a scavenger hunt Mother's Day weekend. Children can gather flowers at participating stores to make a bouquet for mom. First 50 RSVP's get a special Brentwood Country Mart Tote Bag. May 7. Event details.

Sunday Funday at The Wallis
The Wallis continues its beloved free monthly outdoor Sunday Funday family events with a variety of engaging programming that includes Story Pirates and Dance Sunday with Debbie Allen & Friends. Dance instruction will be offered by Emmy Award-winner Debbie Allen and instructors from Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Open to all levels and ages! Located on the Promenade. May 8. Event details.

Weekend Projects at Arlington Garden
Weekend Projects is a biweekly program at Arlington Garden where volunteers work on longer-term garden projects while learning about regenerative gardening and landscaping. No prior experience is necessary, but space is limited, and you must sign up for free in advance. Please bring water (there is no potable water on site), weather appropriate clothing and/or sunscreen, and gloves. May 8 & 22. Event details.

2nd Annual People's Kite Festival
This family-friendly cultural festival will serve as an opportunity to bring together diverse communities in Los Angeles through the art of kite making and a day full of joy, culture, and uplift through the arts. In collaboration with the American Kiteflyers Association it will feature a “gallery in the sky,” including flying demonstrations, natural fabric dyeing workshops, design/printmaking workshops, and musical performances. May 21. Event details.

Jazz Music on the Lawn at Ivy Station
Enjoy some swingin' New Orleans traditional jazz courtesy of the Big Butter Jazz Band. Picnic on the lawn or swing dance on the plaza! All ages welcome. Free validated parking. May 21. Event details.

LA Fleet Week
LA Fleet Week® is an annual, multi-day celebration of our nation’s Sea Services held on the LA Waterfront at the Port of Los Angeles over the extended Memorial Day Weekend. Past events have included active duty ship tours, military displays and equipment demonstrations, live entertainment, aircraft flyovers, STEM Expo for kids of all ages, sports tournaments, and the Galley Wars culinary cook-off competition between Sailor, Marine & Coastguard teams. Lots of fun for the entire family. And best of all, entrance is free to the general public. May 27-30. Event details.

Free, Must-See Art Exhibitions around LA in May

Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse
The first McQueen exhibition on the West Coast, Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse contextualizes the designer’s imaginative work within a canon of artmakers who drew upon analogous themes and visual references. Exploring imagination, artistic process, and innovation in fashion and art, the exhibition examines the interdisciplinary impulse that defined the designer’s career. Displaying select McQueen garments from the Collection of Regina J. Drucker alongside artworks largely from LACMA’s permanent collection, Mind, Mythos, Muse presents a case study of the designer’s methods and influences, and in doing so, provides the opportunity to better understand artistic legacy and cycles of inspiration. Throughout May. Event details.

Alice Beasley Quilt Exhibit
The California Heritage Museum is pleased to present a 30 year retrospective by Oakland quilt artist Alice Beasley. The exhibition concludes on Jun. 12th. There is free parking for this event directly behind the Heritage Museum’s building. Make a whole day of it by swinging by the Farmer's Market open on Sun. Throughout May. Event details.

Art of the Ramen Bowl
Although this exhibition touches on the history and culture of ramen, its primary goal is to spotlight the donburi itself. To examine donburi more closely, these bowls are "dissected" and observed in detail, like a specimen. Then, in the hands of thirty artists, the bowls serve as blank canvases on which the fun, the deliciousness and the many possibilities of ramen are uniquely expressed. In addition, the exhibition introduces the region of Mino–Japan’s largest producer of porcelain ramen bowls–and its long and important history of ceramic production, from tea bowls to house wares to donburi. Throughout May. Event details.

Barbara Kruger Exhibition
Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. is a major exhibition devoted to the work of Barbara Kruger, one of the most significant and visible artists of our time. Spanning four decades, this exhibition is the largest and most comprehensive presentation of Kruger’s work in 20 years; it spans her single-channel videos from the 1980s to digital productions of the last two decades, and includes large-scale vinyl room wraps, multichannel video installations, and audio soundscapes throughout LACMA’s campus. Throughout May. Event details.

Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room
Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013) is reopening with free advance reservations required. Tickets will be released on the last Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. PT for admission the following month. Throughout May. Event details.

 

How to Explore Even More LA Museums for Free

Jenifer Scott

With your LA County Library card, you can reserve family passes to local museums and cultural institutions for free through Discover & Go.

How to Reserve a Pass:

  1. Visit the Discover & Go portal and log in using your library card number and PIN.
  2. Browse by museum or date.
  3. Make a reservation by selecting a date and venue.
  4. Shortly before your visit, print out your pass. Note: You cannot cancel your passes once they have been printed.
  5. Enjoy your visit!

And another way to explore LA Museums for free? Check out these LA Museums & Botanical Gardens with Free Admission Dates!

Outdoor Activities around LA That Are Always Free

Investigate a New Playground

We've got a running list for the most fun playgrounds around LA—some may even be hiding in your own neighborhood. Check out these gems and never hear "I'm bored" again...almost.

RELATED: Durable Playground Shoes You Can Buy Online

Spend the Day at Grand Park

There's always something fun happening here! Home to one of our favorite fountains and splashpads (when it's open for waterplay), playgrounds and outdoor art exhibits makes Grand Park a fun and easy destination for everyone in the family to spend the day.

200 N Grand Ave.
Los Angeles 
Online: grandparkla.org 

Explore a New Neighborhood around LA

LA is about as diverse as you can get and there's no better place to explore all the different museums, street art, playgrounds, (and ice cream shops!) than in a neighborhood near you.

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  • READ: Visit Visalia before the Rest of LA Discovers This Hidden Gem

    Kid-Friendly Hikes Near LA

    Leave Runyon to the tourists. Instead, take your little trekkers to one of these lesser known trails where the views are still Instagrammable, but the crowds won’t overwhelm you. From a hidden 58-acre park in Culver City to a natural preserve in Pasadena, here are our favorite, easy-to-moderate hikes the whole family will enjoy.

    Easy Bike Trails for Families

    So your two-wheelings tots have maxed out on riding around the block? Fortunately, LA’s beach bike paths—along with a few other car-free paths and trails—are open. Finally, kids can feel the wind in their hair, practice their pedaling and enjoy a change of scenery. If you’re looking to avoid crowds (um, yes please), we recommend visiting these routes during the week or early in the a.m. on weekends. Check out all of LA's best kid-friendly bike paths.

    RELATED: The Best Kids Bikes & Tricycles for Every Kid & Stage

    Dine at Hidden Picnic Spots

    There’s no better time than now to dine outdoors with your family—and any other members of your quarantine pod. Spread out a blanket and enjoy a meal al fresco at these hidden LA picnic spots

    Free Museums in LA

    Hammer Museum

    The Hammer Museum

    In addition to offering free admission, this UCLA art museum regularly hosts pop-up art studios for little ones, family-friendly movie screenings and guided tours-plus-games for kids ages 7 and up. A visit to the relatively small yet impressive (and manageable!) museum will expose kids to a range of artwork, from 17th century Rembrandts to the more contemporary work of Kara Walker. Make advance reservations here

    10899 Wilshire Blvd.
    Los Angeles
    Online: hammer.ucla.edu

    The Broad

    Giant teacups, massive balloon animals, Alice in Wonderland-esque splashes of color and the Infinity Room will convince any kiddo that contemporary art is where it’s at. The museum "For Families" guide offers a "scavenger hunt" and fun art-themed activities. For older kids, they can also download and listen to a free audio tour which includes family-friendly information about the art. Reopening as of May 26, all visitors must reserve timed tickets in advance

    221 S. Grand Ave.
    Los Angeles
    Online: thebroad.org

    The Getty Center

    While there are a lot of lovely views in and around Los Angeles, luscious gardens to walk around and loads of places to absorb culture, history, art, architecture, and more, The Getty Center is one of the only spots in the city where you get to experience all of that and then some. (Yes, you'll have to pay for parking, but admission is free.) The fun starts with a tram ride that takes you from the parking lot up to the museum itself. Once you're there, be sure to check out the Family Room for hands-on kids activities. Keep on an eye on their calendar as events open up—throughout the year, The Getty also hosts free family events and festivals that are not to be missed!

    Sepulveda Blvd. & Getty Center Dr.
    Los Angeles
    Online: getty.edu

    LACMA

    Right in our home town is a world class museum that wants you to bring your kids so much that they created a fabulous program: LACMA NexGen membership where kids get in free along with one adult. It's a pretty amazing deal, especially when you realize that at LACMA, there are art exhibits that appeal to kids like rad modern art sculptures, a giant suspended rock and of course, every kid (and grown-up kids’) favorite, Metropolis II. There is also a painting studio in the Boone Gallery where your inspired little artists can create watercolor masterpieces and listen to story time. Tickets are released in blocks of two weeks and must be reserved in advance. 

    5900 Wilshire Blvd.
    Miracle Mile
    Online: lacma.org

    The California Science Center

    Where else can you see a space shuttle and a shark tank, not to mention play in one of three kids-only Discovery Rooms, explore rotating science exhibits and watch as baby chicks hatch? And all for free? Rainy days, hot days, vacation days, or just “I’m bored” days, the California Science Center is here for you. And for just a few extra bucks, you can round the day off with a spectacular 3D IMAX show. 

    700 Exposition Park Dr.
    Los Angeles
    Online: californiasciencecenter.org

    Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

    Start your Aquarium visit with the sea stars in the simulated “tide pool touch tank” then spend your time winding through the thirty-eight aquaria. Don’t miss out on the favorite aquatic babies exhibit and let the little ones learn a little something at the research station. Be sure to look up and meet the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

    The museum is free for all but they do suggest a donation to help keep this wonderful community resource going. Parking is free and easy on the street or you can pay $1 per hour to park it right out front. The aquarium hosts loads of kid friendly activities and events, including the fabulous spring time grunion runs—a SoCal tradition.

    Hours: Wed.—Sun. from noon to 5 p.m.

    Check out these other noteworthy Los Angeles aquariums, many of which are also free! 

    3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
    San Pedro
    Online: cabrillomarineaquarium.org

    Courtesy of CAAM

    California African American Museum

    Located in the heart of Exposition Park, California African American Museum (CAAM) is a hub for exploring and learning about the art, history and culture of the African-American diaspora in Los Angeles and beyond. Current exhibitions include Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century and LA Blacksmith, showcasing African American artists who work with metal. Once things return to pre-pandemic life, the museum also offers kid-friendly art workshops inspired by the exhibits.

    600 State Dr.
    Los Angeles
    Online: caamuseum.org

    La Brea Tar Pits

    Next door to LACMA are the famous La Brea Tar Pits. While the Page Museum at the center will cost you an entrance fee (unless you visit on the first Tues. of the month when admission is free), there is plenty to explore around the tar pits and gardens that surround the museum.

    Check out Ice Age plant life in the Pleistocene Garden, roll down the grassy hills and learn all about being a paleontologist with a peek inside Pit 91 and Project 23, which are still actively being excavated. No visit would be complete without snapping a selfie with those perpetually stuck elephants in the bubbling tar pit. Advance timed tickets are required.

    5801 Wilshire Blvd.
    Miracle Mile
    Online: tarpits.org

    The Griffith Observatory

    Spend a day at the Griffith Observatory, poking through the exhibits, figuring out your weight on Jupiter, looking through the telescopes, having lunch in the cafeteria and gazing out from the terrace, where you can see the whole city below. Free public star parties are held monthly, where kids can meet professional and amateur astronomers. And don’t forget about the Planetarium! There are currently two live shows scheduled every 60-90 minutes daily, for just $3-$7 (it’s the only thing at the Observatory with a fee, and kids under 5 can only attend the first show of the day).

    If the kiddos need a break, there are beautiful hiking trails behind the Observatory with breathtaking views of the Hollywood sign.

    If you want to avoid the parking lot, which fills up fast on weekends, hike one of our favorite trails, Ferndell. Then when you hike back, reward yourself with coffee and pie.

    Hours: Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat.—Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

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

    Shahrzad Warkentin

    Travel Town

    Every mini engineer and trainspotter will have a blast exploring this outdoor transportation museum dedicated to all things trains. You can climb around on real steam locomotives, check out wagons and other antique vehicles in the barn and even go for a ride on a mini train that circles the park for just $3.

    Pack some snacks and grab a seat on the lawn where you can wave at the train as it drives past. 

    Don't miss their docent-led tours are available by reservation. Check their events calendar for more great activities.

    Insider Tip: You can throw birthday parties at Travel Town or hit the gift shop for an awesome gift for a train-themed birthday party or just because. 

    5200 Zoo Dr.
    Griffith Park
    Online: traveltown.org

    LA's Central Library

    If you have a budding bookworm at home then a visit to your local library is always treat and LA is full of some really special kids collections. Come for the books and stay for the free story time at dozens of Los Angeles Public Library branches, but the coolest by far is the Central Library downtown which houses a massive children’s literature department and hosts story times, puppet shows, and music.

    Our other favorite spots are the Santa Monica Main Library and Beverly Hills Library, both of which have awesome collections and kids activities.

    LAPL
    630 W 5th St.
    Downtown LA
    Online: lapl.org

    Santa Monica Library
    Online: smpl.org

    Beverly Hills Library
    Online:  beverlyhills.org/exploring/beverlyhillspubliclibrary

    Read & Shop at Children's Book World

    Kids can get lost in the stacks at the beloved book store, which regularly hosts readings with top children's authors and performances by popular kiddie musicians. Make an appointment for in-person shopping and make sure to check the upcoming schedule here

    10580 1/2 W. Pico Blvd.
    Los Angeles
    Online: childrensbookworld.com

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