The Getty Center in Los Angeles
If you're planning a trip to Disneyland or Universal Studios (or both!), consider adding a day or two to your trip to Los Angeles to visit some of these family-friendly attractions that are affordable, educational and fun — and not theme parks.
1. The Getty Center
Perched on top of a hill with spectacular views of the city, The Getty Center houses an impressive permanent collection of art, including Van Gogh's "Irises" and Cezanne's "Still Life With Apples," as well as rotating exhibits. The museum is free. Get there by bus, taxi, car share or drive and pay for parking.
You can spend a whole day here. After taking the tram up to the entrance, start at the admission desk where the helpful staff will be happy to direct you to exhibits and activities that will engage your family. Enjoy lunch at the museum’s casual dining café. Visit the Family Room, featuring activity areas where kids can play, make art or just relax. Bring sketchbooks and pencils and your kids will enjoy sitting outside and drawing some of the museum’s impressive collection of sculpture.
And even if you don’t have lots of time, you can still enjoy the museum on the way to the Hollywood Burbank/Bob Hope Airport, as my family did recently. We spent less than two hours, saw everything we wanted to and even hit the gift shop before heading to the airport.
2. Exposition Park
Located four miles south of downtown Los Angeles, Exposition Park is a 160-acre historic public park, home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a beautiful rose garden and several great museums. If you have a college-bound teenager, you can also schedule a tour of the adjacent campus of the University of Southern California by making registering online. Or stroll the campus on your own on a self-guided tour.
3. California Science Center
The California Science Center is the largest hands-on science center on the West Coast and it's located in Exposition Park. On our recent visit we saw a wonderful exhibit featuring some of the treasures of King Tut’s tomb and visited the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Watch an IMAX movie here then visit the food court for lunch where you can enjoy made-to-order pizza, hamburgers or tacos. Admission to the general museum is free, with fees for special exhibits, IMAX movies and access to view the Endeavour.
4. California African American Museum
Also located at Exposition Park, this museum presents art, music, culture and history exhibits with a focus on California, plus live events. Admission is free. On the weekends, the museum offers free programs for kids and families.
5. Natural History Museum Los Angeles County
At the Natural History Museum, you can see an impressive collection of fossils in the Dinosaur Hall and learn about the history of Los Angeles in the "Becoming LA" exhibit. Museum admission is free for children under age 2, $7 for ages 3–12, $12 for students with ID and ages 13–17 and $15 for adults with additional fees for special exhibits including the Butterfly Pavilion.
More family fun in southern California...