1. See the Stars at Griffith Observatory
Perched up high on the hill, on a clear night this gorgeous Art Deco observatory gives a perfect view of the Hollywood sign and the city of Los Angeles below. As dusk falls, you can use the telescopes on the front lawn to star gaze.
You can also catch one of the live shows in the state-of-the-art planetarium theatre. GOOD TO KNOW: children under 5 are admitted only to the first show each day, which is12:45 p.m. on weekdays, 10:45 a.m. on weekends.
>> Griffith Observatory
2. Catch a Movie at a Drive-In Cinema
LA has a couple of longstanding open-air drive-in cinemas, which are great for a retro family night out. The Paramount Drive-In has two huge screens, a snack bar and shows a good selection of new releases. The Vineyard Drive-In is a four-screen theatre with capacity for 1,700 cars, which originally opened in 1950. Although a modern cinema might offer a more luxurious environment, the drive-in wins hands down in sheer novelty value.
>> Paramount Drive-In
>> Vineland Drive-In Theater
3. Escape to a Lesser Known Beach
If you need a break from the hustle of downtown LA, head for the night to one of the quieter beaches, such as Hermosa. Here your kids can learn to surf and play beach volleyball like a local, then bed down at the family friendly Hermosa Beach House hotel, with rooms overlooking the beautiful surf.
>> Beach House Hotel
4. Explore a Working Film Studio
If your children are aged 8 or over, then taking a tour of the Warner Bros. Studio is a must. As part of a small group you’re taken around the back-lots, film sets and props department, before trying on the Hogwarts sorting hat and being photographed holding up an authentic Oscar statuette.
As Warner Bros is a functioning movie studio, crew and actors whizz past on buggies, so you might even catch a glimpse of a star during your visit.
>> Warner Bros Studio Tour
5. Step Back in Time at Mels Drive-In Diner
There are three Mel’s Diners in LA, all serving up a nostalgic slice of the past. The decor is like a scene from Happy Days, the booths have their own juke boxes and their kid’s meals are served up in cardboard Cadillacs. What’s not to love?!
>> Mel’s Drive-In Diner
6. Experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios is a much more condensed, manageable size than many of its competitors, making it very doable in a single day. One of the major draws is the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter section, where you can walk the streets of Hogsmeade, have lunch in the Three Broomsticks tavern and soar above Hogwarts castle on the Forbidden Journey ride.
As Universal is a working film studio, you can also tour location sets and discover the secrets of on-screen special effects too.
>> Universal Studios
Hogwarts castle, with a view of Flight of the Hippogriff, Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster
7. Hit the Old West
OK so this one isn’t strictly LA, but if you’re already in the City of Angels then the two-hour drive to Pioneertown is certainly worth it!
Originally created as a Wild West film set in the 40s, Pioneertown has since transformed itself into a unique tourist attraction. People now flock through the Joshua Tree desert to be photographed looking like outlaws outside the frontier buildings.
Pioneertown is also home to a great BBQ restaurant called Pappy & Harriet’s, and the very hip Pioneertown Motel, making it a great overnight stop-over.
>> Pioneertown Motel
>> Pappy & Harriet’s
8. Decorate Your Own at Duff’s Cupcakes
The great thing about Duff’s Cupcakes on Melrose Avenue is that not only can you buy all kinds of cakes and cupcakes there, but you can also arrange to decorate them yourself. If you’re going for the D-I-Y option, then cupcakes can be brought in batches of six and there’s a rainbow of gorgeous sweets to decorate them.
GOOD TO KNOW: This place is insanely popular, so it is best to book your session well in advance, especially if you’re visiting at the weekend.
>> Duff’s Cake Mix
9. Meet Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm
Alongside the usual rollercoasters and thrill-rides, this theme park also offers lots of attractions to keep younger children entertained. Kids can pan for gold, hang out with the Peanuts gang at ‘Camp Snoopy’ or meet the horses at the livery stable onsite. There are also lots of theatrical shows and story-telling sessions for children.
>> Knott’s Berry Farm
10. Get Pampered at the Beverly Wilshire Spa
If all this gallivanting around LA has left your family in need of some rest and relaxation, then head over to the super luxurious Beverly Wilshire hotel (yes, the one of Pretty Woman fame).
There’s an extensive treatment menu for adults and a kids spa menu, which includes the princess mini-facial, the rock star massage and mini-manis to get the whole family Rodeo Drive ready!
>> Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel