Considering a trip to Southern California? Only about a two hour drive apart, San Diego and Los Angeles can be intimidating with kids, but with a little preparation, both cities are well worth the trip. You’ll see historic public parks, experience cool museums, eat tasty food and more. Check out these fun things to do in San Diego and Los Angeles.

San Diego

Old Town. Considered the birthplace of California, go back to the 1800s and explore old buildings and learn about how settlers lived in Southern California. Visit the blacksmith, old school, jail and more. Have a delicious meal and a margarita at Casa de Reyes, a traditional Mexican restaurant in the middle of Old Town.

New Children’s Museum. Not your typical kid’s museum, this unique art and play space in downtown San Diego has lots of neat activities for kids. They can paint a covered wagon, make what they wish out of clay, jump in an inflatable art tube, and climb in a way cool wooden art sculpture. Don’t miss the fun activities, like making your own comic book and other contemporary art projects, scheduled daily.

San Diego Zoo. One of the best zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo is located in historic Balboa Park and has the coolest orangutans, koalas, cougars and more.

Balboa Park. There’s more to Balboa Park than the zoo. Ride tandem bikes, experience the Fleet Science Museum, ride on the Balboa Park Miniature Train, and enjoy the beautiful, Spanish style architecture and gardens of this historic park.

Downtown San Diego. Visit the San Diego Central Library, a stunning, modern public library with a large children’s section and on-going schedule of family friendly activities. Enjoy a San Diego Padres game at Petco Park, right in the middle of bustling, downtown San Diego.

Consider taking the bus and trolley to get around the city.  It’s easy and affordable. Kids will love riding the trolley, and it’s convenient to take to Old Town from downtown San Diego. Buy tickets at the trolley stations or buy tickets on the bus.  You will need exact change for the bus, otherwise.

Los Angeles

Griffith Park and Observatory. See the famous Hollywood sign up close and other excellent views of the city. Admission is free.Dodger Stadium Tour. Tour this iconic stadium built in 1962, which overlooks Los Angeles. Go on a game day for the last tour to (maybe) catch a glance of a player riding the elevator with you down to the locker rooms.  Or go on the first tour on a weekday for a more intimate experience.

Grand Park. One of L.A.’s newest green spaces, Grand Park is located in the center of downtown Los Angeles. Kids will love the splash fountain and playground. It’s fun to splash around in the middle of the city. Plus, the splash area is next to a Starbucks, so you can get your coffee fix as your kids let off some steam.

Laurel Canyon. Channel your inner Joni Mitchell. Stop at the Canyon Country Store for snacks and food, and picnic at Coldwater Canyon Park with its cool canyon views.

Santa Monica Pier. Embrace the crowds at the Santa Monica Pier, and you’ll have so much fun. Take in the view at the end of the pier or enjoy the beach near the pier (there are plenty of bathrooms and showers available for beach goers). For us, we especially enjoyed taking in the amusement park on the pier. Our favorites were the ferris wheel looking over the city and ocean and the kiddie boat ride.

Food in Los Angeles. Don’t miss Philippe the Original, an order at the counter establishment near Downtown L.A. serving sandwiches since 1908; order a French Dip of many types. In Santa Monica, we enjoyed Books and Cookies  with its excellent selection of kids books, a small play space, and kids activities throughout the day –and all so close to the Santa Monica beach. Border Grill, in Downtown Los Angeles and at LAX, serves creative Mexican food and cocktails. And last but certainly not least, get a burger, fries and a milkshake at In-N-Out Burger (animal style, of course) at numerous locations around Los Angeles.

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