Whether you’re doing the Hollywood thing or touring nearby Malibu, Santa Monica with its multitude of family friendly activities is the perfect base to stay and play. Here are our top ten activities for you and the little ones to try:
Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier
Does this amusement park look familiar to you? That’s because this famous beauty, located at the end of the pier, can be seen in countless Hollywood movies such as Lost Boys, Forrest Gump and Falling Down. The perfect size for little legs, the park is full-service and has plenty of unique rides and activities such as a five-story West Coaster roller coaster, overwater miniature golf course and a solar-powered, over-water Ferris wheel. It’s the perfect place to be as the sun is setting over the Pacific.
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
Located under the carousel, the aquarium is smaller than most but features plenty of hands-on presentations and interactive exhibits the kids will love. Kids 12 and under are free while there is a ‘suggested donation’ of $5 per person for everyone 13 and over.
South Bay Bicycle Trail
Whether you’re into tandems, performance bikes, tag-a-longs, tricycles or anything else, grab the family and hit the 35km South Bay Bicycle Trail which is the world’s longest oceanfront bike path. You can hire everything you could possibly need from one of Perry’s Cafe and Rentals, located at a number of spots throughout Santa Monica.
Admittedly, it’s not the first place you think of when you when ‘child-friendly’ activity, but this famous spot located just south of the pier features a small jungle gym for kids and a padded gymnastics area – just the thing to keep them occupied while you sit back with a coffee, take in the locals and think WTF?
Annenberg Community Beach House
Known locally as a ‘public beach facility’, Annenberg is essentially a beach club where you and the little ones can start the day right with a little brunch – served outdoors so you can eat with your feet in the sand. Then, it’s onto the courtyards, beach courts, children’s play area, splash pad, gallery and viewing deck.
Santa Monica Place
Well, you can’t come to SM and not shop so why not kill two birds with one stone and take the family to Santa Monica Place, the newly opened and entirely outdoor three-story shopping mall that’s loaded with kids’ stores (The Disney Store, Kitson Kids, Gymboree etc) as well as the usual Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. Best of all, there’s a SAMO’s Clubhouse on the rooftop deck which is a play and learn environment for children up to eight.
Cheryl Fudge Fashion Camp
You may live to regret this (depending on how badly your child coordinates their outfits), but mini fashionistas can head over to this ‘fashion camp’ over on Montana Avenue and spend some time creating their own cool clothes by personally designing a couple of numbers and having them professionally stitched in store.
Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica has a lot of cool bars and clubs – but chances are if you’re travelling with kids, you’re not likely to see any of them. Feel better about your situation by spending your evenings wandering this lovely pedestrian-only strip instead. The shopping is great sure, but the street entertainment is stellar and will keep the whole family amused well into the night.
Tuesday Night Food Trucks
Give the restaurants a flick (for the night anyway) and hit up one of the many delicious food trucks that are parked roadside before enjoying an alfresco dinner on the beach. Many trucks are off-shoots of established restaurants. Check out the California Heritage Museum for the best trucks in the business.
Show me a parent who swears they don’t seek out local playgrounds while they’re travelling and I’ll show you a liar. Dishonest or not, may I suggest a visit to the magnificent Tongva Park? A recent addition to the area, the park includes an amphitheatre, garden, fountains, picnic areas and an incredibly popular playground. It took me a solid hour to convince my little ones to leave.
– Fly the kids-only flight simulator at the Museum of Flying
– Enjoy the Night Sky Show at the Santa Monica College Planetarium
– Ride the ponies at the Sunday morning farmers market on Main Street.
– Undertake a children’s workshop or see a family show at Santa Monica Playhouse