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10 Budget-Friendly Kids Activities in Los Angeles

Sheila Szabo
June 25, 2012

Having fun with kids in L.A. doesn't have to break the bank, especially with all of the low-cost options in and around the city. Get the kids out of the house and out on the town at awesome area venues that boast a little something extra every time. From sunny seashores to excitement with a side of education, this city's got a bit of every activity for any occasion, and it all fits right in that cash-strapped nanny budget.

1. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 548-7562

Find Nemo--and a few hundred other sea creatures--at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. With free art activities and marine life exhibits, a trip here is definitely an all-day activity that's perfect for cooped-up kiddos. Guides dazzle young minds with wonders of the deep sea, as they discuss preservation and underwater environments while slipping a few lessons in with the day's excitement. You can also find events like the "Sunday story studio," where kids can hear poems and watch puppet shows about marine life; and "little squirts," which lets kids participate with sea-inspired arts and crafts projects. There's a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $1 for children.

2. The Getty
1200 Getty Center Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 440-7320

From Cupid's mythological history to art classes for kids older than 5, the Getty promises a fun time for the whole family. Located on a scenic hillside, the Getty amazes patrons of all ages with exhibits, botanical gardens and architecture designed to awe and inspire visitors. Families here also enjoy on-site eateries, shopping and research libraries. The Getty is free, but parking is $15. The 761 bus runs to the Sepulveda/Getty stop less than a mile from the gallery.

3. Grauman's (Mann's) Chinese Theatre
6925 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 464-8111

What child doesn't want to meet a super hero? Kids at Grauman's shake hands and take photographs with Wonder Woman, Batman and other character look-alikes at the movie capital of the world. Not every day can your child see if his hands fit Tom Cruise's, or if she could fit in Marilyn Monroe's shoes. Here children may browse celebrities' hand and footprints for free. For more than 75 years, this opulent theater has been entertaining visitors of all ages, including some of the most famous actors walking red carpet premiers. Click here to see movie showings and times. The Walk of Fame is free and theater tickets start at $13.75 per show.

4. The Griffith Observatory
2800 E. Observatory Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(213) 473-0800

Kids and grown-ups alike will be mesmerized by cosmic wonders and breathtaking views at the Griffith Observatory. For just $5, take a tour of the planets under a star-studded adventure dome in the planetarium or take the kids to explore the observatory and grounds for free. Outside parties encourage everyone to gaze at constellations using telescopes and other fun, space-age equipment. Or, watch the sunset over the city lights while you save a bundle on a star-studded adventure. Admission is free or up to $5.

5. The Grove
189 The Grove Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 900-8080

Stroll through a grove that'll have country dwellers more than a little jealous. With kid-friendly shopping, dining and exciting entertainment, anyone with kids or even those watching children for the day will appreciate The Grove. Oh, and the kids themselves always love it here! Photo opportunities abound with a choreographed water fountain show, musical Glockenspiel clock and old-time trolley. Take the little ones to the movies every Monday at 11 a.m. during Pacific 14 theater's mommy Mondays, or jump in on Pottery Barn's kids' book club Tuesdays at 11 a.m. The Grove is always free.

6. The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Rd.
San Marino, CA 91108
(626) 405-2100

When little girls dream of their own secret gardens, it's time to head to Huntington Library. A special garden designed just to capture kids' imaginations and enliven their senses awaits at the library that offers a bounty of art exhibits and botanical gardens for visitors of all ages. Discovery carts for kids are available on weekends from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., combining plants, artifacts and other objects for a hands-on experience. The Huntington Library is free the first Thursday of every month.

7. La Brea Tar Pits (Page Museum)
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 934-7243

It's true kiddos, time travel is possible. Step back in time with the Pleistocene Garden that features prehistoric plants landscaped to resemble the Ice Age. Trickling streams, plant-life and fragrances will launch visitors' senses to a place where woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers used to roam. Children of all ages may be a part of paleontology in action as fossils excavated from remote locations are examined on site. Exhibits include a display of fossilized bones, a fishbowl lab and an atrium of exotic plant life. Children younger than 4 get in for free, children ages 5 to 12 are $5 and adults pay $11.

8. LA County Museum
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 857-6000

Art on display promises not only oohs and ahs, but also education about music, film and literature that the kids will actually enjoy. All of these things make the LA County Museum a place to remember. Sit in for a story-telling session, or come during Andell Family Sundays to recycle, transform trash and create art. It's located adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits, so a wholly different trip through time is right next door. Click here for a calendar of upcoming events. Children get into the LA County Museum free and adults pay $15.

9. Sand Dune Park
Between 33rd Street and Bell Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90026
(310) 802-5410

Face it, at the end of the day, you want them exhausted and ready for bed without the "I need water," "I'm hungry" or "but, I'm not tired" arguments. Let them expel all that energy by running up and down the sand dunes at this awesome area park. A favorite destination for families looking for a quick cardio workout, Sand Dune Park also offers panoramic views of Manhattan Beach. Trails that lead up to the summit of sand provide an invigorating hike right in nature's back yard. Pack a picnic and send the kids out into the 12 and younger play area. Open daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at $1 per hour for children older than 13 with a reservation. Click here to reserve.

10. Santa Monica Pier
200 Santa Monica Pier Ste. A
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-4248

Nothing beats a day at the beach or a little one-on-one fishing with the kids. The Santa Monica Pier gives families all of that with a side of street performances, amusement park rides and sunny California beaches. Enjoy sightseeing at Heal the Bay Aquarium, an old-fashioned soda or take a ride on a 1922 merry-go-round for an exhaustingly fun day out on the town. Admission to Santa Monica Pier is free, but bring $8 for parking or take the Rapid 10 Santa Monica Freeway to the pier.

Sheila Szabo is a born cheerleader, and recovering love addict. Passionate about love, art, cooking, storytelling, and inspiring others, she is currently a freelance creative writer from her home in Northern San Diego. Her work can be found at here.

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