Family vacations in and around Los Angeles can be rewarding experiences or absolute disasters — it all depends on pre-trip homework. To make planning easier, we've done all the preparation. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on traveling with children, here are recommended attractions for those planning Los Angeles-area family vacations.
Santa Monica Beach
The famous Santa Monica Beach offers three-and-a-half miles of clean, sandy fun. Swimming, beach volleyball, biking, fishing and surfing are just a few of the activities this beach boasts. It is also adjacent to Santa Monica Pier, home to many rides, restaurants and entertainment.
Address: Colorado Avenue and Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: Lifeguard headquarters: 310-394-3261
Hours: Dawn until dusk. Lifeguard headquarters open 24 hours.
Price: No fee for beach access. Parking rates vary.
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
Enhance the kids' ocean experience with a fun facts about local sea life. Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, located on the Santa Monica Pier, is home to more than 100 species of marine animals and plants that live in the Santa Monica Bay.
Address: 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; weekends, 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: Kids 12 and under are free; all others: suggested donation of $5 per person, or a $3 minimum entry fee
Pacific Park is a family-friendly amusement park located on Santa Monica Pier. This amusement park has rides for all ages, including Pacific Wheel, the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel. There is an arcade and plenty of dining options featuring funnel cakes, ice cream, themed food carts and fast food favorites like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut Express.
Address: 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3128
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: Entrance to the park is free. All-day unlimited ride passes: $13.95 for kids 7 and under, $18.95 for ages 8 and older, available for purchase online.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park
The Disneyland Resort is home to two fabulous parks where families create lasting memories and have a blast. Walt Disney's original theme park, Disneyland Park, is a wonderful world of rides and attractions for visitors of all ages, including Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Mickey's Toontown for the little ones, dining and shopping in the picturesque New Orleans Square, and the futuristic rides of Tomorrowland.
Disney California Adventure Park gives visitors a insider's view of Hollywood at Hollywood Pictures Backlot, a bug's perspective of the world at A Bug's Land, and super thrill rides at Paradise Pier, among other exciting attractions.
Address: 1313 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802
Hours: Disneyland Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Disneyland California Adventure Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: Disneyland Resort Park Hopper tickets range from $198 for 3 days for kids ages 3 to 9 to $251 for six days for visitors 10 and up. Check the website for special promotions and packages.
The Griffith Observatory has housed a 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope since 1935 when the observatory opened. It also features the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, which shows a number of spectacular shows. The grounds of the observatory is an attraction in itself. Its terraces and observation decks provide stunning views of the city.
Address: 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hours: Wednesday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Price: Admission to the observatory and the grounds is free. Tickets for shows in Samuel Oschin Planetarium range from $3 to $7 and may only be purchased at the observatory for that day's show.
The Getty Museum
A wonderful way to expose the family to both art and architecture is a trip to the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. With both a permanent collection and a range of exhibitions, such as Fashion in the Middle Ages and In Focus: The Tree, every member of the family will find something to be inspired by. The center also includes the Getty Villa in Malibu, which focuses on art from ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.
Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California, 90049
Hours: Sunday and Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Monday.
Price: Admission to the Getty Center and to all exhibitions is free. An advance, timed ticket (also free) is required for each adult to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu and may be booked online.
Los Angeles Zoo
Two attractions in one, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to learn about exotic animals and plants. The zoo also offers education programs for children such as Toddler Totes and Critters 'N Kids.
Address: 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Christmas Day.
Price: Adults ages 13 and up, $14; seniors ages 62 and up, $11; children ages 2 to 12, $9. Children under 2, free. Parking is free.
Have you been to Los Angeles? What are your favorite attractions?
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