The Best Places in LA to Beat the Heat with the Family

Cool off with water parks, splash pads and ice skating!

Splash Pad | Photo courtesy of Annenberg Community Beach House, Facebook

When it's too darn hot, where in the Los Angeles area can you go with the kids to cool off and have some fun to boot? Here are a dozen L.A. spots that deliver relief.

Annenberg Beach House

Annenberg Beach House

When what you want is a week-long resort vacation but all you have is a few hours, this public beach house hits the spot. Yes there’s a gorgeous pool. You can grab lunch and sink your toes in the sand at Back on the Beach Café. But there’s so much more to like about this Santa Monica treasure, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019. Challenge your kids to a game of Ping-Pong or giant Connect Four in the game room. Visit the mini splash pad and playground. Summer specials include Half Price Mondays (excluding holidays) and Sunset Swims from 7-10pm on Fridays (18+ over, final summer session is August 23). Mark your calendar for the annual Cardboard Yacht Regatta on August 24. There's also Beach=Culture, a year-round series of exhibitions, artist residencies, literary programs and other scheduled and pop-up art experiences. 

Note this is a very popular destination, especially on those summer scorchers. On pool days, pases go on sale at 9am - early arrival is strongly suggested.

Cabrillo Beach

Cabrillo Beach

“Here at Cabrillo Beach, you can park your car and everything is within 300 yards,” said Mike Schaadt, director of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. “Everything” includes a protected harbor beach that's popular with families, a fishing pier, and a tide pool area. (Note the best time to spot sea stars, anemones, and hermit crabs is low tide.) If you plan to spend the day, pack a picnic since there are no beach concessions. Arriving early on hot summer weekend days is also advisable since parking tends to fill up.

During the spawning season (usually March through August) thousands of silvery, sardine-size grunion come ashore to lay eggs on the beach. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium hosts grunion programs several nights during the season. These special events will go past your kids usual bedtime, but it’s an experience they won’t soon forget. For more info, visit the aquarium website.

Wurlitzer pipe organ at the El Capitan Theatre
Wurlitzer pipe organ | Photo courtesy of El Capitan Theatre

El Capitan Theatre

Since 1991, this gorgeous 1926 movie palace - originally a vaudeville house - has been known as “Disney’s home on Hollywood Boulevard.” But that doesn’t mean it's just princesses and talking dogs. After all, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar are all under the Disney umbrella. Every Tuesday at 10 a.m. is Tiny Tot Tuesday, featuring films that are screened in 2D with reduced volume and dimmed lighting. Guests are welcome to bring their shakes and banana splits from Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop next door.

Highland Park Bowl bowling lanes and pins
Photo: Wonho Frank Lee, Highland Park Bowl, Facebook

Highland Park Bowl

Highland Park Bowl has the distinction of being L.A.’s newest oldest bowling alley. Established in 1927, it was recently lovingly refurbished to the tune of $2 million, and it’s positively gorgeous. Kids are mesmerized by the pin machines, which are fully exposed, and reminiscent of something out of Hugo. Because the billing system here is slightly different - there is an hourly charge per lane, each of which accommodates up to six players - it’s worth visiting with friends. Hey, it’s more fun that way anyway. In addition to burgers and fries, the kitchen turns out Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. Note: Highland Park Bowl is adults-only after dark. But families are welcome weekdays from 5-8 p.m. and weekends 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

City Cruises

Hornblower Cruises & Events offers several family-friendly options. Because the cruises stay in the marina, which is a calm no-wake zone, you need not worry about anyone turning green. Treat the family to a two-hour Saturday or Sunday brunch cruise complete with bottomless Champagne, and sparkling apple cider for the kids. Another fun option takes place on Wednesday evenings. (Despite the “Sunset Cocktail Cruise” title, kids are welcome.) The outing includes drinks and appetizers. Passengers also enjoy prime viewing of hundreds of sailboats returning to their finish line at the yacht club.

Skating lesson at LA Kings Valley Ice Center
Photo: LA Kings Valley Ice Center

LA Kings Valley Ice Center

Because it has two sizable rinks, this Panorama City ice skating center is able to offer public skating sessions every day. Their skate rentals are a step up from most. And they have plenty of skate trainers (like walkers for use on ice) also available to rent, for young skaters just getting accustomed to the ice. Their L.A. Kings Kids First Skating program is justifiably popular. Starting up again after Labor Day, the program includes eight classes for $140 (or $20 per individual class). Rental skates are included, coaching is provided and there's a free public session after each class. 

Wave Cove | Photo courtesy of Raging Waters Los Angeles, Facebook

Raging Waters Los Angeles

USA Today recently named Raging Waters Los Angeles one of the ten best water parks in the country. The largest water park in California, Raging Waters has something for everyone, from the 30,000 square-foot Kid's Kingdom and the Amazon Adventure lazy river to the Aqua Rocket, an exciting four-person water coaster. 

Online-only discounted ticket options include the Family Four Pack - 4 tickets, a family pizza and 4 soft drinks for $149.96; Smart Days Admission ($35.99) and 7-Day Advance General Admission ($36.99). Season Passes include the Los Angeles Season Pass (unlimited admission) for $59.99 or upgrade to Premium or VIP to access additional discounts on food & beverages, retail purchases and more.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Los Angeles

Python Plunge at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor sounds foreboding, but the park’s Sue Carpenter calls it “a family slide complex… for thrill seekers in training.” Family friendly rides include the Bamboo Racer, the Lost Temple Rapids, and the 30,000-gallon Splash Island kids zone. On Friday afternoons through Aug. 30, the park hosts Dive-In Movies at the Forgotten Sea Wave Pool. Float in an inner tube and enjoy films like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (August 16) and Zootopia (August 30). Note that while the park closes weekdays beginning Labor Day weekend, it remains open on weekends through September.

Photo courtesy of Verdugo Aquatic Facility

Verdugo Aquatic Facility

This well maintained, public Burbank pool is open year round. But come Memorial Day weekend, they open the adjacent water park area. It features two sizable slides - one open and one enclosed - as well as a small play area with a slide for tots and various other interactive components. There is a $2 per person surcharge to access this area, but it’s well worth it. Admission for non-residents is $10. Kids 3-17 are $5. While it’s pricier than Los Angeles city pools, it’s significantly less than the big water parks.

Photo courtesy of Koning Eizenberg Architecture

Virginia Avenue Park

The splash pad at Virginia Avenue Park is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m seven days a week, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The splash pad represents the very best kind of innocent and free summer fun. There are small water cannons you can aim at your friends as well as fountains of water that shoot from the ground and wall, as well as plenty of shaded seating for grown-ups not looking to get wet. Time your visit to coincide with the Saturday Farmers Market, which runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and you can indulge in freshly picked golden raspberries and nectarines, or maybe quesadillas and chilaquiles.

Photo courtesy of Virtual Snow

Virtual Snow

So there’s no actual powder. After all, the name of the business is Virtual Snow. If you want a taste of the slopes any time of year or getting an early start to planning your family’s first ski trip this winter, get the kids on the ski simulators at this Santa Monica business. Bring your own ski or snowboard boots. (If you don’t have them, don’t worry. They have loaners.) Bob Salerno, a former world champion skier and the owner of the business, has worked with everyone from toddlers to seniors. The experience can really help first timers. In addition to learning the vocabulary and having fun, Salerno said that students “have the muscle memory so when they go to a mountain and take a lesson they can actually do what the instructor is talking about.”