Check Out the Stars
Sure, celebrity spottings in Southern California happen, but you're more likely to see stars at the Griffith Park Observatory. Parking and admission are free. The Griffith Observatory offers interactive hands-on and interpretive exhibits that teach children about the universe. In the daylight, the observatory is surrounded by picnic areas, hiking trails, bike paths, scenic vistas and places to play. At night, look through the giant telescope to see the moon, stars, constellations and planets. Docents are on hand and eager to answer visitor's questions.
Griffith Park Observatory
2800 E. Observatory Road
Los Angeles, California 90027
Building San Castles on Malibu Beach
Some kids may recognize the view of Malibu Beach at Pacific Coast Highway from the Hannah Montana show, but this famous stretch of coastline is one of Southern California's favorite beaches. Malibu and the adjacent Zuma beaches allow kids to build sand castles, turn themselves into sea monsters with washed-up kelp, swim in the surf and collect sea shells. If you're in the mood for a beachside walk or rollerblading, head down the coast to Venice for people-watching or just for lunch. The sidewalk path is direct and stroller-friendly.
Just north of Malibu beach is Leo Carrillo State Beach. They have camping (not free) and amazing tide pools that kids can explore. There's nothing quite like watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean while sipping hot cocoa by a beach bonfire. Kids enjoy scampering through the tide pools early in the morning, spotting sea stars, anenomes and a million little sea creatures like sand crabs, tubeworms and even small fish.
Leo Carrillo State Beach (parks office)
35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, California 90265
Strolling through a shopping area might not sound like much fun to a child, but when they see the whimsical out-of-this-world shops of CityWalk, they might reconsider. Admission and bicycle parking are complimentary. Valet parking is cheaper than self-parking. Gigantic statues, funky interactive displays, novelty and game shops make CityWalk a surreal haven for window-shoppers. With a rock climbing wall and a walk-on water fountain that squirts in time to the music, it's a wonderland of city fun, located just outside the gate of Universal Studios theme park.
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, California 91608
California Science Center
Admission to the California Science Center is free, and it's the perfect place to visit with children when the weather gets too hot. They charge a fee for parking, but the bicycle racks are free. Where else can you ride a bicycle suspended on a cable three stories high, enjoy over 100 hands-on activities and stroll through a rose garden? For a fee, IMAX films are shown.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, California 90037