10 Classic Field Trip Spots Where You Can Relive Your L.A. Childhood

Ever miss the days of field trips? Instead of sitting in the classroom staring out the window, you got to file into a bus and head out someplace where the learning was as fun as, well, anything you might do on a weekend.

For those who grew up in Los Angeles, there have long been a handful of places that remain a part of our collective childhood memories. Maybe we went there on a school trip or with our scouting troop or some other youth organization. While some of our old favorite spots no longer exist (oh, Marineland and the Children's Museum of Los Angeles, we still miss you), plenty are still here and offer programming that we can continue to enjoy as adults. Check out 10 field trip favorites below.

1. La Brea Tar Pits
When I asked Angelenos on Facebook and Twitter about their favorite field trip, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of La Brea Tar Pits. It's not hard to understand why: Even as an adult, the thought of dire wolves and saber-toothed tigers roaming what is now Wilshire Boulevard seems fascinating. Plus, La Brea Tar Pits has a robust educational program that has made the excavation site/museum nearly a rite of passage for young Angelenos. But the learning doesn't have to stop once you've finished your school years. La Brea Tar Pits offers a variety of experiences for all age groups, including the chance to view excavations at Pit 91 during the summer months; private tours also are available.

5801 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire. tarpits.org/la-brea-tar-pits.

2. Griffith Observatory
Few places in Los Angeles are as iconic as the Griffith Observatory. Visitors might know it from movies such as Rebel Without a Cause, and locals certainly recognize the hilltop dome as the sign of a clear day, but those who grew up in Los Angeles know it from field trips. Back then, you may have taken a break from learning about the solar system in class to hop on a bus headed into Griffith Park. Today, well, you can do something pretty similar. L.A.'s DASH bus line has a new weekday route heading to the Observatory as of March 21. You can catch it from the Red Line stop at Vermont/Sunset if you want to make a lunchtime excursion for the noon talks about the sun's location. Want to continue learning about the stars? On the first Friday of the month, All Space Considered presents evening astronomy discussions.

2800 E. Observatory Road; Griffith Park. griffithobservatory.org.

3. Olvera Street
Olvera Street is an ideal field trip destination. It's educational but doesn't feel as stuffy as a museum. (And if you can stop to buy some candy before heading home, it's all the better, right?) For kids, it might also be the first time we understand that Los Angeles wasn't always this massive city. Coming back as an adult is an altogether different experience; now, you're old enough to drink margaritas at lunch. For more historical insight, you can catch a tour of Olvera Street for free Tuesdays through Saturdays. Also, check out the calendar for staple events including the Blessing of the Animals, Día de los Muertos and Virgen de Guadalupe Celebration.

Olvera Street; downtown. olvera-street.com.

Leo Carrillo State ParkEXPAND
Leo Carrillo State Park

4. Tide Pools
For me, second grade was awesome. We had a teacher who dressed up as Little Bo Peep for Halloween and busted out an accordion for birthday sing-alongs. That year, for our class field trip, we got to go to Leo Carrillo State Park and experience the beach in a way that was completely different from the usual Valley family trips to Zuma that I knew well. At Leo Carrillo, we wore street clothes and abided by strict don't-mess-with-nature rules as we looked for coastal creatures that went far beyond the sand crabs I was used to feeling beneath my toes.

When asked, a couple of people recalled memories of Leo Carrillo. More mentioned Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, part of the National Park system, as well as other spots. Tide pools captured our imagination as children, but the beauty of the California coast can be just as mesmerizing for adults.

5. L.A. County Arboretum
I had a few different responses for garden field trips, but the one that stuck out was L.A. Arboretum, mostly because I had never been there and my cousin mentioned the existence of the Fantasy Island house on the premises. So I headed here only as an adult and found the house that I remember from my couch-potato childhood and so much more. Inside the old Santa Anita Depot on site, a docent mentioned that this is a popular field trip spot, and some small kids lurking in the background jumped in to agree. Whether you're a kid or an adult, L.A. Arboretum is like a botanical Disneyland. It's huge — I might have gone through half of it on my trip — and organized into different lands. It's a good place to let your imagination run wild as you creep through the bamboo trees or hike to the top of a waterfall. Or you can just sit back at the cafe and watch the peacocks and peahens roam.

301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. arboretum.org.

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >