Hidden Gems for Families in Los Angeles

Lake view at SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”) in Van Nuys
SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”)  |  Photo:  Yuri Hasegawa

There are unlimited family-friendly events, activities, and world-famous destinations to enjoy in Los Angeles. But if you’ve had your fill of the most famous tourist attractions in the City of Angels and are looking for more off-the-beaten-path experiences, consider a visit to one of these hidden gems for families.


Amir's Garden tree branches
Photo: Amir's Garden, Facebook

Amir’s Garden

Tucked away in L.A.’s sprawling Griffith Park—also home to the L.A. Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, and The Autry - you’ll find the less famous, but equally enjoyable Amir’s Garden, a wonderfully lush, shady spot for a picnic. This five-acre ornamental garden was designed as a respite for hikers and equestrians by Amir Dialameh in 1971 after a brushfire wreaked havoc on the area, leaving behind little but carbonized tree stumps. Today, Amir’s Garden boasts towering sycamores, along with an abundance of succulents and numerous picnic tables. Bring the family, including the (leashed) four-legged members along for a short hike, scenic views, and a refreshingly shady spot for lunch.

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the LA Phil | Photo: Hollywood Bowl, Facebook

LA Phil Free Rehearsals at the Hollywood Bowl

Gather the kids, pack a picnic, and head to the iconic Hollywood Bowl for live music, without the admission or parking fee! During the summer season (early July through mid-September), the public is welcome to attend LA Philharmonic rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday mornings beginning at 9:30am. In addition to the regularly scheduled rehearsals, select concerts have open rehearsals throughout the season.

Email Audience Services at information@laphil.org or call 323-850-2000 for the latest information and to confirm availability.

Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn in Griffith Park
Photo: Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn, Facebook

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn

Though he’s best known as a pioneer of animation, Walt Disney’s unparalleled imagination, curiosity, and passion for learning and discovery earned him the moniker of “imagineer.” Of the many imaginings he brought to life, one was a red barn that he built as a replica of a barn from the Disney farm in Missouri.

Operated today by the Carolwood Foundation, the Carolwood Barn (AKA "Walt’s Barn") is a family-friendly museum (5202 Zoo Dr, Los Angeles 90027) that boasts a collection of Disney’s tools, train equipment, miniature train depots and more. Walt's Barn is open on the third Sunday of the month from 11am to 3pm. Check the Calendar for the latest info.

SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”) in Van Nuys
SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”)  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

The Japanese Garden

Located in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, the 6.5-acre Japanese Garden (6100 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys 91406) is a jaw-dropping oasis that is actually numerous gardens in one. Using reclaimed water throughout, SuihoEn ("Garden of Water & Fragrance") welcomes families to the Dry Zen Meditation Garden, complete with a three-Buddha arrangement of stones. Meandering along the Plover Path, visitors will delight in the Wet-Strolling Garden, complete with lakes, streams, waterfalls, and hand-carved stone lanterns. Continuing on, visitors will come upon an authentic Tea House and Tea Garden, and can pick up beautiful keepsakes made in Japan, and throughout Asia and the Pacific from the gift shop.  

Eco-Tours presented by TreePeople in Coldwater Canyon Park
Eco-Tours in Coldwater Canyon Park | Photo: TreePeople

Tree People

At the top of the ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains where Studio City meets Beverly Hills, and just adjacent to Coldwater Canyon Park, you’ll find TreePeople (12601 Mulholland Dr, Beverly Hills 90210) an environmental nonprofit that works to create a climate-ready Los Angeles with equitable tree canopy and local water supply. TreePeople hosts numerous Guided Activities, such as Family Tours, Eco-Tours, and Moonlight Hikes - open to hikers of all ages and experience levels, with options ranging from Relaxing Stroll to Brisk Walk to the two-mile Trek Hike.

Golden Lotus Temple and swans at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
The Golden Lotus Temple at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa
Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine

Scenery, serenity, and spirituality abound at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine (17190 W Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades 90272). Case in point, behind the shore of the lake’s Golden Lotus Archway, you’ll find the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, where some of Gandhi’s ashes are ensconced within an ancient Chinese sarcophagus. You might also consider attending a Sunday morning service inside the lovely hilltop temple. Or, simply stroll through the grounds, which include gorgeous gardens and a spring-fed lake that's home to koi, swans, and ducks. To boot, you’ll find a museum, and gift shop at this stunning 10-acre site.

“Rotten Luck: The Decaying Dice of Ricky Jay” at Museum of Jurassic Technology
“Rotten Luck: The Decaying Dice of Ricky Jay” at Museum of Jurassic Technology | Photo: Sgerbic, Wikipedia

Museum of Jurassic Technology

In a metropolis boasting more than 250 cultural attractions, one of the most intriguing has to be the Museum of Jurassic Technology (9341 Venice Blvd, Culver City 90232). With daily three-dimensional films, a tea room, and per its website, an “incongruity born of the overzealous spirit in the face of unfathomable phenomena;” suffice it to say the Museum of Jurassic Technology deserves its well-earned reputation as one of America's strangest museums.

Two Bit Circus Quadair Multiplayer Air Hockey
Quadair Multiplayer Air Hockey at Two Bit Circus | Photo: Two Bit Circus, Facebook

Two Bit Circus

Two Bit Circus (634 Mateo St, Los Angeles 90021) is L.A.’s favorite micro-amusement park and offers fun for all ages. From escape rooms to trivia games, VR games to old school arcade classics, Two Bit Circus has it all and then some. With a throwback to old fashioned boardwalks in The Midway, to private gaming cabanas, plenty of food, sweets, and yes, adult beverages, an afternoon or evening spent at Two Bit Circus provides endless family fun in the heart of L.A.

Photo: Charlie James Gallery, Facebook
Photo: Charlie James Gallery, Facebook

Chinatown Galleries

An evening stroll along Chung King Road in Chinatown can provide hours of entertainment for parents and kids alike. With quintessential art galleries, special installations, cause-based artwork, and pop-up galleries all year long, Chinatown’s galleries are also within walking distance of numerous restaurants and eateries on Hill Street and Broadway.

WaveRunner from Marina del Rey Boat Rentals
WaveRunner | Photo: Marina del Rey Boat Rentals, Facebook

On the Water in Marina Del Rey

From boat rentals to parasailing and jet skiing, if you’re looking for fun on the water, Marina del Rey has a wide range of options. Marina del Rey Boat Rentals (13717 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey 90292) has everything you need for a perfect afternoon on the water. Rent a Duffy Electric Boat, which can hold up to 12 people; or zoom around on a WaveRunner with your partner or kids.

Fishing with the family aboard the New Del Mar
Fishing with the family aboard the New Del Mar | Photo: Marina del Rey Sportfishing

Whale Watching & Sport Fishing

If you’re looking to meet some marine life, Los Angeles has you covered. Dolphins, sea lions, and whales are just some of the creatures you may see on a Whale Watching Eco Tour from Marina del Rey Sportfishing (13759 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey 90292). Or, if you’re feeling competitive, try a half-day or three-quarter day sportfishing trip, which provides hours of fun at sea, enjoying the sun, and possibly even catching your dinner.

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