Children are natural scientists. They are always asking “why” or “how.” Celebrate their innate curiosity and plan to visit these science-friendly sites in and around Los Angeles.
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Columbia Memorial Space Center
12400 Columbia Way, Downey, CA 90242
The Columbia Memorial Space Center is designed to be hands-on and interactive so that kids are curious and excited about science and space exploration. Additionally, the Space Center aims to preserve Downey’s place in history as playing an important part in aerospace engineering. Every Apollo Command Module was designed and assembled on the site the Space Center now occupies. The Space Center also includes the only Los Angeles-area Challenger Learning Center as well as a Robotics Lab. The Columbia Memorial Space Center also hosts periodic Saturday Science events, family nights, and other special events. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday (be sure to check the website for occasional changes in hours). Adults and children 4 and older are $5 each; children 3 and younger are free.
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. On display you’ll find thousands of different fossils from 650 different species, including dire wolves, ancient horses, the Columbian mammoth, coyotes, and more. Additionally, at the Fossil Lab, families are given the chance to see paleontologists at work right in front of your eyes! 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. 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 sculptures and large grassy areas perfect for picnics.
STAR Eco Station
10101 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
The STAR Eco Station is the place to bring kids who are interested in animals and their role in making sure these animals are safe. Partly a museum and partly an exotic wildlife rescue facility, the STAR Eco Station is a special place. Here you’ll find animals that you won’t find anywhere else. Families will participate in hands-on ecology lessons and be able to observe a variety of birds, reptiles, and mammals. Public tours are offered each Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, beginning on the hour. (The last tour begins at 3 pm). The tours are 45-60 minutes in length and will introduce families to more than 200 hundred different rescued wildlife. Adult admission is $8, children are $6, and children under 2 are free. (Be sure to check the website before visiting. The facility is sometimes closed for private parties).
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
On 133 acres, you’ll find more than 1,000 mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles at the L.A. Zoo! Among some of the exhibits you’ll explore, you’ll find the new Rainforest of the Americas, the Elephants of Asia habitat, the LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles), and more. The Zoo also offers special events, activities, and daily shows (including Giraffe Feedings). Families may bring their own picnics or purchase food from several spots throughout the Zoo. The Zoo is open each day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. (It is closed on Christmas). Adult tickets are $20, Children 2-12 are $15, and children under two are free. Parking is free.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, CA 91109
You may be visiting Pasadena, but you’ll be learning about satellites and probes that are traveling throughout our solar system. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) offers free Visitor Day Tours (for 10 people or less). Information about dates and reservations are available online. The tour begins with a presentation that explains the activities at JPL as well as visits to the Space Flight Operations Facility and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
2800 E. Observatory Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Griffith Observatory presents the wonder of outer space in a family-friendly, accessible way. There are telescopes and a multitude of exhibits that will keep the kids (and parents) engaged, curious, and in awe. And on clear days, you’ll enjoy great views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign! There is a cafe on site as well. (Outside food and drinks are not permitted inside the Observatory). Admission to the Observatory, and parking, are free. Although there is a fee for shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. The Observatory also hosts special events such as Public Star Parties once a month, eclipse viewings (the next partial solar eclipse will be in August), and more. (Note that the Observatory is closed on Mondays).
Kidspace Children’s Museum
480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91103
Geared for kids ten and under, Kidspace Children’s Museum will have your kids completely engaged and entertained. The Museum’s mission is “nurturing the potential of all children through kid-driven experiences inspiring them to become joyful, active learners.” Through hands-on, interactive learning activities, children learn about physics, erosion, engineering, habitats, and more. Some exhibits utilize water, so make sure you come prepared with towels and a change of clothes and shoes. You’ll also find an on-site cafe, the Kidspace Cafe. Admission is $13 for adults and children (children under 1 are free). The Museum is closed on Mondays. Check the website before visiting because hours of operation are impacted by events at the Rose Bowl.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90037
The California Science Center has it all. Plenty of things for kids to do, touch, and experience first-hand. All the exhibits encourage kids to ask questions and find out answers about “how” and “why” things are the way they are. Kids can learn about ecosystems, the Creative World, and the World of Life. The Science Center is also home to the space shuttle Endeavour, the planet’s only External Tank, an IMAX Theater, capsules from the early days of the manned space program, and much more. Be sure to check out their newest exhibit, The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition which takes a look at the science and technology involved in making some of our favorite films such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and more. (The exhibit will be at the Science Center through April 16th). General admission to the Science Center is free though there is a slight charge to see the space shuttle and an admissions fee to the Pixar exhibit.
Discovery Cube Los Angeles
11800 Foothill Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 91342
Kids won’t run out of things to do at the Discovery Cube. Whether kids are exploring the “Science of Hockey,” having fun in the “Discovery Market,” or learning about California’s natural resources, everything at the Discovery Cube is designed to be touched and played with, and serves as a way for kids to learn about science. One of the newest exhibits is “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secrets of the Sewer” which gives kids the chance to navigate mazes and obstacles as they learn teamwork, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. (The exhibit will be at the Museum until April 23rd). An online admission price of $12.95 applies to both children and adults.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802
The Aquarium of the Pacific is more than an aquarium. It is also the site of a variety of festivals and special programs held throughout the year. Daily, though, families will find more than 11,000 animal exhibits which represent about 500 different species, with many opportunities for kids to get up close and personal to a variety of marine life. The Aquarium focuses on three main regions of the Pacific Ocean. Outdoor exhibits include the Shark Lagoon and Lorikeet Forest. Being this close to such a variety of marine life really brings home the idea of how dependent species are on each other for survival. A variety of admission ticket options are available, some of which combine the price of admission to the Aquarium and other sites such as the Los Angeles Zoo and the Natural History Museum.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007
There’s really something for everyone at the Natural History Museum. Their exhibits include Dinosaur Hall (where you can see a trio of different aged/different sized T. Rex fossils), the Gem and Mineral Hall (including more than 2,000 specimens of gems and minerals from around the world), the outdoors Nature Gardens, the Animal Habitat Halls (featuring impressive dioramas), and much more. And while many parts of the museum are hands-off, there are also sections that are entirely interactive and very kid-friendly. Be sure to visit the Hall of Birds (featuring interactive exhibits), the Discovery Center (complete with microscopes, touchable fossils and furs, and a polar bear collected in Norway back in 1964), and the Nature Lab (giving kids a hands-on sense of the nature surrounding us on a daily basis).
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