Free Things to Do with Kids in LA This Month


Editor’s note: Because events are changing rapidly, make sure to check the websites for the latest information.

There are so many free things to do in January in LA with kids that you may not even have to spend a dime entertaining the little ones. Not a bad way to kick off 2022! From festivals and volunteer opportunities to art walks and art exhibits, check out the full (and ever-growing) list below.

 

photo: iStock

The Annual Japanese New Year's Oshogatsu Festival
Held at downtown Weller Court Shopping Center and Japanese Village Plaza, Japanese art and entertainment will be center stage. The Japanese New Years or "Oshogatsu" is one of the most important celebration for the Japanese. Jan. 1. Event details.

Wacky Winter Adventures Puppet Show
Luce Puppet Company presents the story of Pepe the Dog and Freezey the Snow Girl as they travel to the North Pole to find the Gingerbread Princess who can grant them a special wish. For families. Space is limited. To register, email ann.wilson@santamonica.gov. Jan. 8. Event details.
 
Cabrillo Aquarium Museum Beach Clean Up
Join CMA Educators and volunteers in a beach cleanup, clearing the shore of marine debris. Meet at the steps in front of the auditorium. Groups are required to make reservations by the Thursday before the event. Open to all ages. Jan. 8. Event details.

Free Sunday Funday at The Wallis
The Wallis continues its beloved free monthly outdoor Sunday Funday family events with a variety of engaging programming that includes Story Pirates, Parker Bent, Spring Groove, Kiddle Karoo, and more! Dance instruction will be offered by Emmy Award-winner Debbie Allen and instructors from Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Open to all levels and ages! Located on the Promenade. Jan. 9. Event details.

Kingdom Day Parade
Join us at the 2022 Martin Luther King Freedom Festival and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through music, art, and activism. The Kingdom Day Parade passionately honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and has grown from its humble beginnings into the largest and longest-running Birthday Celebration in the nation! This years’ theme is “Healing America” and we will be back bigger and better than ever with COVID and variant safeguards in place. Jan. 17. Event details.

MLK Day at CAAM
After last year’s online MLK Day program, we’re excited to welcome you back to CAAM to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in person! Enjoy open galleries and special programs offered throughout the day, including a King family storytime with the Los Angeles Public Library, a King speech study group, and a performance by members of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA), the largest majority African American orchestra in America. Jan. 17. Event details.

Help Restore Paramount Ranch: The goal of this restoration is to expand important riparian habitat and return native cover to areas that burned in the Woolsey Fire. Work will consist of planting hundreds of live plants grown from locally collected seed to rebuilding creek habitat that has disappeared from the site. This activity is appropriate for ages 5 and up. Pre-registration is highly recommended. Every Fri. & Sat. throughout Jan. Event details.

Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia's Top End
This exhibition takes us on a journey around northern Australia, known as the “Top End,” and invites us to explore more than 70 distinctive, screen-printed textiles made by contemporary artists at five Aboriginal-owned art centers. Since the 1960s, these textiles have become a vibrant medium for Indigenous expression, perpetuating traditional knowledge and reinvigorating its visual manifestations. Today these fabrics both serve the needs of their communities and circulate as prized collectibles, interior furnishings, and fashion apparel. Throughout Jan. Event details.

Black-Owned African Marketplace
Join us for live music and performances, yoga, cultural food, handmade clothes & jewelry, fresh produce, and much more, in Leimert Park. Every Sun. Event details.

Leimert Park Artwalk
The Leimert Park Artwalk is a monthly public celebration of Art, Music, Cinema & History. The Artwalk takes place the last Sunday of each month in Leimert Park Village, the cultural hub of the Black arts community. It is a FREE event featuring food, gift shops, free movies children’s art making,a variety of music such as Pop, Jazz R&B, Hip Hop  & Spoken word, as well as a continuous African Drum Circle in scenic Leimert Park. It also includes Phantom gallery displays of known and emerging visual artists. Jan. 30. Event details.

It's sand sledding time! Grab those body boards (for those in-the-know, it's the best way to head down those hills) and click here to find a sand berm near me.

Black American Portraits TourTo complement the presentation of The Obama Portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald on tour from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, this collection spans over two centuries from c. 1800 to the present day, with approximately 150 works draws primarily from LACMA’s permanent collection and highlights emancipation and early studio photography, scenes from the Harlem Renaissance, portraits from the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, and multiculturalism of the 1990s. Open daily except Wed. Advanced reservations required.

5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: lacma.org/art/exhibition/black-american-portraits

Fire! Science & Safety: The newest exhibit to open at The California Science Center is all about fire safety and prevention. Set in a “typical” Los Angeles home presented as a training site for young “fire danger detectives.” Guests will find themselves at the Casa del Fuego Apartments, #911, where they can explore an immersive environment and engage in hands-on activities to learn about the science of fire, discover fire hazards and practice fire-safe behaviors. Open daily.

700 Exposition Park Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: californiasciencecenter.org

 

Outdoor Activities around LA That Are Always Free

Investigate a New Playground

We've got a running list for the most fun playgrounds around LA—some may even be hiding in your own neighborhood. Check out these gems and never hear "I'm bored" again...almost.

RELATED: Durable Playground Shoes You Can Buy Online

 

Spend the Day at Grand Park

There's always something fun happening here! Home to one of our favorite fountains and splashpads (when it's open for waterplay), playgrounds and outdoor art exhibits makes Grand Park a fun and easy destination for everyone in the family to spend the day.

200 N Grand Ave.
Los Angeles 
Online: grandparkla.org 

Explore a New Neighborhood around LA

LA is about as diverse as you can get and there's no better place to explore all the different museums, street art, playgrounds, (and ice cream shops!) than in a neighborhood near you.

Kid-Friendly Hikes Near LA

Leave Runyon to the tourists. Instead, take your little trekkers to one of these lesser known trails where the views are still Instagrammable, but the crowds won’t overwhelm you. From a hidden 58-acre park in Culver City to a natural preserve in Pasadena, here are our favorite easy-to-moderate hikes the whole family.

Easy Bike Trails for Families

So your two-wheelings tots have maxed out on riding around the block? Fortunately, LA’s beach bike paths—along with a few other car-free paths and trails—are open. Finally, kids can feel the wind in their hair, practice their pedaling and enjoy a change of scenery. If you’re looking to avoid crowds (um, yes please), we recommend visiting these routes during the week or early in the a.m. on weekends. Check out all of LA's best kid-friendly bike paths.

RELATED: The Best Kids Bikes & Tricycles for Every Kid & Stage

Dine at Hidden Picnic Spots

There’s no better time than now to dine outdoors with your family—and any other members of your quarantine pod. Spread out a blanket and enjoy a meal al fresco at these hidden LA picnic spots

Free Museums & Indoor Spaces in LA

photo: Hammer Museum

The Hammer Museum

In addition to offering free admission, this UCLA art museum regularly hosts pop-up art studios for little ones, family-friendly movie screenings and guided tours-plus-games for kids ages 7 and up. A visit to the relatively small yet impressive (and manageable!) museum will expose kids to a range of artwork, from 17th century Rembrandts to the more contemporary work of Kara Walker. Make advance reservations here

10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: hammer.ucla.edu

The Broad

Giant teacups, massive balloon animals, Alice in Wonderland-esque splashes of color and the Infinity Room will convince any kiddo that contemporary art is where it’s at. The museum "For Families" guide offers a "scavenger hunt" and fun art-themed activities. For older kids, they can also download and listen to a free audio tour which includes family-friendly information about the art. Reopening as of May 26, all visitors must reserve timed tickets in advance

221 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles
Online: thebroad.org

photo: Courtesy of The Getty Center

The Getty Center

While there are a lot of lovely views in and around Los Angeles, luscious gardens to walk around and loads of places to absorb culture, history, art, architecture, and more, The Getty Center is one of the only spots in the city where you get to experience all of that and then some. (Yes, you'll have to pay for parking, but admission is free.) The fun starts with a tram ride that takes you from the parking lot up to the museum itself. Once you're there, be sure to check out the Family Room for hands-on kids activities. Keep on an eye on their calendar as events open up—throughout the year, The Getty also hosts free family events and festivals that are not to be missed!

Sepulveda Blvd. & Getty Center Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: getty.edu

LACMA

Right in our home town is a world class museum that wants you to bring your kids so much that they created a fabulous program: LACMA NexGen membership where kids get in free along with one adult. It's a pretty amazing deal, especially when you realize that at LACMA, there are art exhibits that appeal to kids like rad modern art sculptures, a giant suspended rock and of course, every kid (and grown-up kids’) favorite, Metropolis II. There is also a painting studio in the Boone Gallery where your inspired little artists can create watercolor masterpieces and listen to story time. Tickets are released in blocks of two weeks and must be reserved in advance. 

5900 Wilshire Blvd.
Miracle Mile
Online: lacma.org

The California Science Center

Where else can you see a space shuttle and a shark tank, not to mention play in one of three kids-only Discovery Rooms, explore rotating science exhibits and watch as baby chicks hatch? And all for free? Rainy days, hot days, vacation days, or just “I’m bored” days, the California Science Center is here for you. And for just a few extra bucks ($6.75 for kids; $8.95 for adults) you can round the day off with a spectacular 3D IMAX show. 

700 Exposition Park Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: californiasciencecenter.org

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Start your Aquarium visit with the sea stars in the simulated “tide pool touch tank” then spend your time winding through the thirty-eight aquaria. Don’t miss out on the favorite aquatic babies exhibit and let the little ones learn a little something at the research station. Be sure to look up and meet the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

The museum is free for all but they do suggest a donation to help keep this wonderful community resource going. Parking is free and easy on the street or you can pay $1 per hour to park it right out front. The aquarium hosts loads of kid friendly activities and events, including the fabulous spring time grunion runs—a So Cal tradition.

Hours: Wed.—Sun. from noon to 5 p.m.

Check out these other noteworthy Los Angeles aquariums, many of which are also free! 

3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
San Pedro
Online: cabrillomarineaquarium.org

photo: Courtesy of CAAM

California African American Museum

Located in the heart of Exposition Park, California African American Museum (CAAM) is a hub for exploring and learning about the art, history and culture of the African-American diaspora in Los Angeles and beyond. Current exhibitions include Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century and LA Blacksmith, showcasing African American artists who work with metal. Once things return to pre-pandemic life, the museum also offers kid-friendly art workshops inspired by the exhibits.

600 State Dr.
Los Angeles
Online: caamuseum.org

La Brea Tar Pits

Next door to LACMA are the famous La Brea Tar Pits. While the Page Museum at the center will cost you an entrance fee (unless you visit on the first Tues. of the month when admission is free), there is plenty to explore around the tar pits and gardens that surround the museum.

Check out Ice Age plant life in the Pleistocene Garden, roll down the grassy hills and learn all about being a paleontologist with a peek inside Pit 91 and Project 23, which are still actively being excavated. No visit would be complete without snapping a selfie with those perpetually stuck elephants in the bubbling tar pit. Advance timed tickets are required.

5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Miracle Mile
Online: tarpits.org

The Griffith Observatory

Spend a day at the Griffith Observatory, poking through the exhibits, figuring out your weight on Jupiter, looking through the telescopes, having lunch in the cafeteria and gazing out from the terrace, where you can see the whole city below. Free public star parties are held monthly, where kids can meet professional and amateur astronomers. And don’t forget about the Planetarium! There are currently two live shows scheduled every 60-90 minutes daily, for just $3-$7 (it’s the only thing at the Observatory with a fee, and kids under 5 can only attend the first show of the day).

If the kiddos need a break, there are beautiful hiking trails behind the Observatory with breathtaking views of the Hollywood sign.

If you want to avoid the parking lot, which fills up fast on weekends, hike one of our favorite trails, Ferndell. Then when you hike back, reward yourself with coffee and pie.

Hours: Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat.—Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

2800 E. Observatory Rd.
Griffith Park
Online: griffithobservatory.org

photo: NHM

A Way to Explore Even More LA Museums for Free

With your LA County Library card, you can reserve family passes to local museums and cultural institutions for free through Discover & Go.

How to Reserve a Pass:

  1. Visit the Discover & Go portal and log in using your library card number and PIN.
  2. Browse by museum or date.
  3. Make a reservation by selecting a date and venue.
  4. Shortly before your visit, print out your pass. Note: You cannot cancel your passes once they have been printed.
  5. Enjoy your visit!

photo: Shahrzad Warkentin

Travel Town

Every mini engineer and trainspotter will have a blast exploring this outdoor transportation museum dedicated to all things trains. You can climb around on real steam locomotives, check out wagons and other antique vehicles in the barn and even go for a ride on a mini train that circles the park for just $3.

Pack some snacks and grab a seat on the lawn where you can wave at the train as it drives past. 

Don't miss their docent-led tours are available by reservation. Check their events calendar for more great activities.

Insider Tip: You can throw birthday parties at Travel Town or hit the gift shop for an awesome gift for a train-themed birthday party or just because. 

5200 Zoo Dr.
Griffith Park
Online: traveltown.org

LA's Central Library

If you have a budding bookworm at home then a visit to your local library is always treat and LA is full of some really special kids collections. Come for the books and stay for the free story time at dozens of Los Angeles Public Library branches, but the coolest by far is the Central Library downtown which houses a massive children’s literature department and hosts story times, puppet shows, and music.

Our other favorite spots are the Santa Monica Main Library and Beverly Hills Library, both of which have awesome collections and kids activities.

Visit their reopening page for a list of libraries and resources now open.

Good to Know: Once things return to pre-pandemic socializing levels, your LA County Library card is also your ticket to more exciting freebies through the Discover & Go program. Login online here and you can reserve free family passes to dozens of museums and attractions across the city, like The Autry Museum and the Natural History Museum.

LAPL
630 W 5th St.
Downtown LA
Online: lapl.org

Santa Monica Library
Online: smpl.org

Beverly Hills Library
Online:  beverlyhills.org/exploring/beverlyhillspubliclibrary

Read & Shop at Children's Book World

Kids can get lost in the stacks at the beloved book store, which regularly hosts readings with top children's authors and performances by popular kiddie musicians. Make an appointment for in-person shopping and make sure to check the upcoming schedule here

10580 1/2 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: childrensbookworld.com

feature image: iStock

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