Family Fun

Surefire Family Fun All Spring and Summer Long

Photo by Brian Baer/Courtesy of California State Parks

It’s finally time for that warm weather to kick in, and there are plenty of ways for the whole family to make the most of it. Here, we’ve rounded up sure winners when it comes to the outdoors—and where to go when it’s time to cool off.

Family Fun Centers

Mulligan Family Fun Center
A family fun putt-putt center with two 18-hole courses decked out with mining caves, haunted houses, and tons of water and sand traps. There’s also paddleboats, rock-climbing walls, batting cages, go-karts, a laser tag arena, and a kid-friendly arcade filled with video games. 1351 West Sepulveda Boulevard, Torrance

The 18-hole indoor glow-in-the-dark golf course is great for when it’s too hot to putt outside. Cyclones and challenge wheels keep the course tougher than it looks. There’s also a soft city, where the younger kids can run and romp, plus an underground laser tag arena, a skyscraper ropes course, bumper cars, and an atomic rush game, all black-lit for glow-in-the-dark fun. 6051 De Soto Avenue, Woodland Hills

Arroyo Seco Golf Club
This is the place to go if you’re looking to slow it down with the kiddos and relax on a small nine-hole course, complete with the classic mini golf landmarks (windmills, castles, and barns). 1055 Lohman Lane, South Pasadena

Sherman Oaks Castle Park
Castle Park has three 18-hole mini golf courses, batting cages, and a laser maze. There’s also a fun old-school arcade that has games like Skee-Ball, air hockey, and Ms. Pacman. Arrive between 9–10:30 a.m. on the weekends—all players pay $3 to golf. 4989 Sepulveda Boulevard, Sherman Oaks

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Photo by Raychel R/Yelp

Golf N’ Stuff
This place boasts four 18-hole golf courses to choose from, each with its own theme. Swing your way through a haunted mansion, a tree house, a candy house, and even Big Ben. When you’ve exhausted the putter, check out the Lit’l Indy Raceway, the Disk’O Thrill ride, bumper boats—and then top it off with the kiddie train and a trip to the arcade. 10555 East Firestone Boulevard, Norwalk

Armand Hammer Golf Course
This isn’t mini golf but mini-size actual golf! The 18-hole pony course at Holmby Hills Park allows you to play the front 9, back 9, or all 18 for the same $3-$4 fee (club rentals are $1). The longest hole is 68 yards, so grown-ups can get in a good short game practice, while kids won’t require a golf cart to walk the whole course. For those not interested in golf, there’s also a playground, picnic tables, and barbecue pits, as well as wandering paths. And if you’re into celebrity history, the former Spelling Manor is right across the street. 601 Club View Drive 

Family-Friendly Beaches

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Photo by Chuck M./Yelp

Santa Monica State Beach
The pier is right there for a frenzied experience involving food, an arcade, the carousel, an aquarium, a Ferris wheel…and the ocean, of course. There’s also a solid playground, plenty of bathrooms and changing facilities, as well as a grassy area for when the sand just gets too hot. Ocean Park Beach Tower 26 is a good place to set up shop for the day. Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica

Mother’s Beach
This sweet and shallow swimming spot in Marina Del Rey is a favorite of moms and tots. There’s even a roped-off area specifically for kids, as well as a playground and kayak and paddleboard rentals. 4135 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey

Malibu Lagoon State Beach
As picturesque as it is popular, this rock pool lagoon is also a bird sanctuary, as well as a great spot for surfing and other social fun, so there’s plenty to see and do. It’s a short, flat hike through woodlands from the Malibu Creek State Park, with a beach right next to the Malibu Pier, so there are beaucoup options for food and drink when hunger calls. 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Tide Pool Beaches  

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Photo by Mark Muller via Wikimedia Commons

Leo Carrillo State Beach
This beach at low tide is chock-full of sea stars, anemones, sea urchins, and crabs. Kids can climb under rock arches, through tunnels, and inside small coves. There are also beautiful campsites (but be sure to book these at least six months in advance). Park along PCH, or call ahead to see if the day-use parking lot is open. Dogs can run free just a little north at North Beach. 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
A beautiful beach with views for miles and tide pools galore. The pools are quite rocky, and the hike to get to them is pretty hilly, so grip-y water shoes are a must. This outing might be better suited for slightly older kids, as it’s not so toddler friendly. 5970 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes

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Photo by John B./Yelp

White Point/Royal Palms Beach
Once a location for natural sulfur hot springs, this space is now loaded with sea stars, urchins, sea cucumbers, and a large variety of low-tide marine life. Paid parking on-site, clean public restrooms, picnic tables, a playground, and the stroller-friendly White Point Nature Preserve right across the street makes this a top spot for families. Not recommended for swimming. 1799 Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro

El Matador State Beach
A fantastic place to explore ocean caves, pools, and rock arches. During low tide, there’s plenty to discover in the tide pools and along the rocks, blanketed in mussels, clams, and barnacles. Park either along PCH or in the small metered lot at the top of the stairs (the lot fills up fast, so best to get there early). The stairs down to the beach are a bit on the steep side. 32200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Point Fermin Park Beach
Green crabs, mussels, anemones, sea stars, and even the occasional sea slug come out to hang around these tide pools. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is just down the way, and it’s free. 807 Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro

Family-Fun Movie and Puppet Experiences

El Capitan Theatre
The majestically restored El Capitan blends a Spanish Colonial exterior with an over-the-top lavish interior. Screenings are either first run or old Disney favorites and often accompanied by a preshow in line with the film. If your child is very young or has special needs, the Tiny Tot screenings (Tuesdays at 10 a.m.) are designed to reduce sensory overload: Lights go dim (not down), the volume lowers, and all films are screened in 2-D. Tip: Stop by the awesome Ghirardelli chocolate shop nearby for a delicious hot fudge sundae after the show. 6838 Hollywood Boulevard

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Photo by Ilya S/Yelp

Vineland Drive-In Theater
The Vineland is one of the last of its kind in the greater Los Angeles area, with four screens bringing you the classic drive-in experience seven nights a week. Most screens are double features, and on weekends the first movie plays an encore after the second ends. Head to the concession stand for classic snacks and a display of memorabilia. Tickets are only available at the gate, which opens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 7:45 p.m. the rest of the week. 443 Vineland Avenue, City of Industry

Cinépolis Junior Theater
A movie theater and indoor playground in one! The Junior Theater, located within Cinépolis, screens movies for kids all week long, with a play structure inside the theater. The concept is genius for toddlers and other kids with a low tolerance for sitting still for extended periods of time. Two slides, a tire climber, and plastic animal sculptures give little ones a place to get the ants out of their pants for 20 minutes prior to the start of the film and during a 15-minute intermission. 8540 Whittier Boulevard, Pico Rivera

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Photo courtesy of Bob Baker Marionette Theatre/Facebook

Bob Baker Marionette Theatre
Wonderfully weird, whimsical, and certainly a Los Angeles institution, the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is an immersive puppet experience that dates back to the 1960s. Come as you are or with the kids for a transcendent and enchanting show. Budget enough time to come early and stay late to explore the theater and enjoy the free ice cream in a charming sweets parlor with decor that seems to have not changed since it opened. 4949 York Boulevard

Street Food Cinema
A pop-up alfresco movie theater series, where admission also gets you a ticket to live music performances and lots of delicious food truck eats. Children age 5 and under are free. With 14 locations, from Glendale to Malibu, there’s plenty of kid-friendly programming from now until late October. See the website for screening locations and times.

Pools and Splash Pads

Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain at Grand Park
The splash pad at Grand Park has alternating jets to keep the kids occupied for a good while—and there are plenty of chairs for parents, plus a Starbucks nearby! Clean restrooms are right there and open all day. 210 North Grand Avenue

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Photo courtesy of Annenberg Community Beach House

Annenberg Community Beach House
This is one of the most old-school Hollywood sites in Santa Monica, with a restored pool that hosted everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Samuel Goldwyn when it was under the ownership of William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s. Today, the five acres of beautiful beachfront property is open to the public for swimming, consuming art, and touring the historic Marion Davies Guest House—and there are even lessons for kids, a place for them to romp on a splash pad, and a playground. While the grounds are open year-round, the pool is open only from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Reservations in advance recommended. 415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica

Stoner Park Pool
Stoner Park has a pool with a brightly colored, creative splash park featuring sprays, spouts, and umbrellas. The pool is 4 1/2-feet deep, used for all ages, with a twisty slide for bigger kids. Children under age 7 must be accompanied by an adult. Children under 4 must wear a “swim diaper” or plastic pants. 1835 Stoner Avenue