Best Family Tours To Learn About Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a rich city — rich in diversity, rich in sensory experiences, and rich in history. Families can take advantage of visiting these local spots to learn a bit more about the history of the City of Angels.
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Family Tours at The Gamble House
4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, CA 91103
The Gamble House offers Family Tours (the next one is scheduled on July 30th at 11:00 am). These specially designed tours are recommended for children ages 5-16 and will be led by a trained, former junior docent (a current eleventh grader). The sixty minute tour will include visual learning aids to help keep younger visitors engaged. The Gamble House has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is recognized as an example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. Children 16 and younger are free. Space is limited; advance reservations are recommended.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
125 Paseo de la Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012
A visit to El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument brings your family close to the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles. In September 1781, “forty-four settlers of Native American, African and European heritage journeyed more than one-thousand miles” and established a farming community, what is now known as Los Angeles. At different periods of time in history, Los Angeles has been under the control of Spain, Mexico and the United States. El Pueblo is considered to be a “living museum” and strives to celebrate the variety of cultures that helped shape our city. You will find several historic buildings here as well as murals, statues, and the popular Olvera Street. Olvera Street is an outdoor marketplace offering a variety of shopping and dining choices “reflecting the Mexican and Latino culture, traditions, and heritage of Los Angeles.” Families can also visit the Avila Adobe. The Adobe’s construction dates back to 1818, a time when Mexico governed California. Today, families can visit this museum-like space, which is now furnished as it may have looked back in 1840. The Avila Adobe was built by Francisco Avila, a wealthy cattle rancher. (The Adobe is open Monday through Sunday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm). Free guided tours of El Pueblo are offered Tuesday through Saturday at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, and 12:00 pm.
Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours
The Los Angeles Conservancy offers walking tours that explore “the history and heart of our amazing city through interpretation of L.A.’s unique architectural resources.” Certain tours are offered on a regular basis while others are only offered for a limited time (such as during the summer). Families may opt to explore the Victorian neighborhood of Angelino Heights, tour City Hall, and more. Check the website for details and to reserve your spot. (And be sure to click here to access additional resources specially designed for kids, such as a kid-friendly guide to City Hall).
The Campo de Cahuenga
3919 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91604
You may have driven by the Campo de Cahuenga without realizing its historical significance. It was actually the site of the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga in 1847. The Treaty ended the conflict that existed over southwest territory between the United States and Mexico. At this site, you’ll find a replica of the adobe that stood on the site during the time of the Treaty’s signing as well as a number of monuments and plaques dedicated to historic figures of the time. You’ll find a collection of artifacts here as well as “historical records from five crucial phases of California history” (Spanish Mission period, Mexican Rancho period, American Acquisition period, Butterfield-Overland Stage Coach stop, and Civil War encampment site for Union troops. Families can visit the site for an Open House on the first and third Saturday of of each month from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm and offers free admission. Additionally, special events are periodically held throughout the year including an annual reenactment of the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga each January.
La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
Wander through the Museum and feel like you’re walking back in time. Kids (and parents) might be surprised to learn that Wilshire Boulevard wasn’t always the site of cars and traffic. Instead, the area, which used to be called Rancho La Brea, was home to a variety of species. The Museum has thousands of different Ice Age fossils from 650 different species, including saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, ancient horses, the Columbian mammoth, and coyotes on display. Outside the Museum building, be sure to wander through the Tar Pits — “the world’s most famous Ice Age excavation site.” You’ll find excavators at work sorting through fossils at Project 23 as well as large sculptures perfect for climbing and large grassy areas perfect for picnics. And if you’d prefer, the Museum offers a guided Excavator Tour taking visitors to Project 23, an active dig site. (Tours are included with Museum admission). Basic admission prices are $12 for adults, $9 for students ages 13-17, and children 3-12 are $5. However, if you opt to participate in an extra activity (such as viewing “Titans of the Ice Age 3D”) there are additional fees.
800 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles, CA
Union Station describes itself as the place “where Los Angeles begins.” It was built in 1939 and is considered to be the “last of the great train stations” as well as the “largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States.” Today, Union Station is much more than a transportation hub; it is also a venue for arts and entertainment. In addition, families can choose to participate in the “Metro Art Moves” tour (free tours of artwork in the Metro Rail system; all tours begin at Union Station) and the “Union Station Tour” (a free tour offered the second Sunday of each month highlighting the history, art, and architecture of Union Station).
Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana
15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills, CA 91345
The San Fernando Mission (also referred to as the “Mission of the Valley”) is a popular field-trip destination for many Los Angeles schoolchildren. A visit to the Mission helps make the facts in a child’s social studies book seem more alive and consequently more interesting. The Mission was the 17th of the California Missions. Here, you can learn more about the Spanish priests and California Indians who lived at the Mission. Check the website for information about self-guided tours.
Mission San Gabriel Arcangel
428 S. Mission Dr., San Gabriel, CA 91776
The San Gabriel Mission was the fourth of the California Missions and is another popular field trip destination for schoolchildren. In addition to being an active church, San Gabriel is also home to a collection of sacred art pieces. As you wander among the “Pride of the Missions,” you’ll also have the chance to learn more about the history of the Spanish priests and the Native Americans who lived here. The San Gabriel Mission was also known for its winery as well as for its agriculture. Check the website for information about self-guided tours.
Heritage Square Museum
3800 Homer St., Los Angeles, CA
Heritage Square Museum allows families to virtually travel back in time to the end of the 19th century. The historic structures you’ll see here allow families to learn about “Southern California history, architecture and culture.” This living history museum “explores the settlement and development of Southern California during its first 100 years of statehood.” On site, you’ll find eight historic structures including an octagon-shaped house, a corner drugstore, and several residences reflecting different architectural styles. Throughout the year, the Museum hosts special events complete with museum interpreters wearing authentic period clothing. The Museum is open 11:30 am to 4:30 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Guided tours begin hourly (from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm) and are about 1 hour and 15 minutes in duration. Admission is $10 for visitors 13 and older and $5 for for children 6-12. Children younger than 6 are free and discounts are offered for AAA members.