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10 Fun L.A. Things to Do With Kids That Don't Suck For Grownups

The tween band Pretty Little Demons
The tween band Pretty Little Demons
Rob Reger

Have a favorite L.A. experience? Nominate it for a Best of L.A. 2015 Readers' Choice Award.

Who's cool? Who still knows what's up? Not you. You used to rock and roll all night and party ev-er-ee day. Now you're home by eight o'clock on school nights, and weekends too. Because you've got kids. 

At least, that's how it feels during the dark moments. The moments in which you're alone and cringing in a hard plastic booth at a Chuck E. Cheese, counting the minutes before you can escape the animatronic caterwauling. The moments in which you find yourself at a Gymboree and realize that you paid good money to be surrounded by people you want nothing more than to strangle. The moments in which you strongly suspect that your childless friends whisper with pity about how much more interesting you used to be - in the time before.

But in the good moments - and admit it, there are plenty of them - your kids are fantastic. Their newness, their curiosity, their wonder, their total lack of been-there-done-that, and their especially useful insistence that you get your ass of the couch and go out and actually see this miraculous city we call home. 

Put down that leftover chicken nugget you were about to filch and get out on the town. There's plenty of fun to be had here - even before bedtime.  

10 Fun L.A. Things to Do With Kids That Don't Suck For Grownups
Courtesy Northridge Skateland

Best Place To See If You've Still Got It: Skateland

Opened in January of 1958, Northridge Skateland is now one of L.A.'s last remaining roller rinks, outliving all of its competitors. And there's a reason: Old as it is, this place doesn't feel like a relic - it's sparklingly well-maintained, and of course, the fact that DJs always spin whatever is in the top 40 this week always makes it feel current. Fabulous lighting, lots of video games and a lazer maze give you everything you'd want from a roller rink experience.

Little kids will like:
Learning how to roller skate, and doing the hokey pokey.

Older kids will like:
Feeling like they're in a nightclub, complete with lights, music, and flirting.

Grownups will like:
A much-needed opportunity to burn off the calories accrued from all of those pilfered chicken nuggets. Of course, if you're going to be a dud about it, you can bring your laptop and use the rink's free wifi while the kids skate. Or if you just can't get enough, come back for the 18-and-over adult night on Sunday and skate to Old School jams.

But does it have booze?
Sorry, no dice.

18140 Parthenia St., Northridge. (818) 885-7655. skateland.net.



Penetrable in Neon Lime by Jesús Rafael Soto.
Penetrable in Neon Lime by Jesús Rafael Soto.


Best Place To Introduce Absolute Beginners To Art: LACMA

As if LACMA weren't kid-friendly enough with their Family Days and free admission NextGen program for kids, the installation of Chris Burden's Metropolis II, basically the world's best Erector set / building blocks / Hot Wheels city that buzzes and zips on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, clinched the deal.

Then there's Richard Serra's Band, an expansive ribbon of rusted metal that creates flowing spaces which simultaneously intimidate with their immensity and enchant with their intimacy. The waves of metal invite hide-and-go-seek, yet also provide parents with a perfect opportunity to cultivate a young child's "look but don't touch" museum manners in a low-stakes setting. Throw in a ride in Barbara Kruger's romper-room-sized elevator and maybe a side trip to the cafe for a pastry, and you will have decisively buried the myth that museums have to be "hands on" to be interesting to children.

Little kids will like:
The rain of rubber tubing that is Penetrable in Neon Lime by Jesús Rafael Soto.

Older kids will like:
Pretty much a lot of the same stuff grownups would like. 

Grownups will like:
How easy it is to get the kids enthused in a not precisely "for kids" setting. 

But does it have booze?
Quite so, and in grand style (with grand prices to match, but hey, it's art) at Ray's. Grownups can sit and sip on the patio within visual distance of Urban Light, while kids delight in weaving in and out of rows of lampposts.

5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000. lacma.org

The tween band Pretty Little Demons
The tween band Pretty Little Demons
Rob Reger

Best Band To Blow A Little Girl's Mind: Pretty Little Demons

The duo of drummer Marlhy Murphy, age 10, and guitarist Lydia Night, age 12, were the youngest band to be invited to play at SXSW, where they wowed the 2013 crowd with their not-just-a-gimmick originals and a compelling cover of Hole's "Violet." Murphy is a jaw-dropping drumming prodigy who often steals the show, and Night cites Karen O., Regina Spektor and Amanda Palmer as influences. Actor Ryan Gosling shared the stage with the tweens at SXSW, but you don't have to fly to Austin to take your kids to see them. - they're doing a residency this month at Thee Escondite downtown. Check for their frequent gigs all over L.A. at their website, PrettyLittleDemons.com.

Little kids will like:
Jumping around like savages to wailing guitar.

Older kids will like:
Seeing kids their own age on stage, actually doing something very cool.

Grownups will like:
Watching their daughters latch on to new rock star role models who are about ten billion times cooler than Miley.

But does it have booze?
Yep! Thee Escondite has a full bar as well as some truly excellent burgers. 

Thee Escondite, 410 Boyd St, Downtown. (213) 626-1800. theescondite.com.

The Ransom by John Everett Millais
The Ransom by John Everett Millais
Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

Best Place To Challenge A Budding Art Enthusiast: The Getty Center

Ironically, the children's area at the Getty Center is a snooze even for kids. Skip it and head straight for the galleries, where you'll need to take your younglings by the hand, convince them to slow down and take a good look at the stories being told.

Unlike the comparatively riotous exhibits of LACMA's Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the galleries of the Getty Center look more like what one thinks of as a classic art museum (read: walls hung with paintings). This can be a challenge for children, who might not immediately be grabbed by the offerings.

But the perfect place to start is with the theatrical pre-Raphaelite painting The Ransom (shown above). Kidnapping is a compelling narrative for a child to contemplate, and although the painting has its art world detractors, point out to your kids that - hey look - even the dog is concerned. 

But does it have booze?
Absolutely. Check out this wine list!

Little kids will like:
Riding the train, weaving through the zigzag pathways of the garden, and rolling on the grass lawns. 

Older kids will like:
The all-metal scale model of the Center in the courtyard, and borrowing one of the center's umbrellas to keep the sun or the rain off.

Grownups will like:
Really good coffee at courtyard carts. 

1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300. getty.edu.

10 Fun L.A. Things to Do With Kids That Don't Suck For Grownups
Flickr/julialat34

Best Place To Outwit The Madding Crowd: Los Angeles Zoo

As a favorite school field trip destination, the L.A. Zoo has predictable peak attendance hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. It's also busy on any sunny weekend. But if you can be there after 2 p.m. on a weekday or on a weekend that's anything less than cloudless, it's easy to feel like you've got the place to yourself. 

If peak times are your only option, you can still find peace and enjoyment simply by slowing down. Many zoo visitors feel the need to drag their kids from animal to animal in a frantic race to see it all, which means that if you simply stay put at any exhibit for more than thirty seconds, the wave of humanity will gradually ebb around you. 

A winning strategy is to ask your kid to pick two favorites - elephants and giraffes, say - and make a beeline for those. That done, the rest is gravy. 

But does it have booze?
Yes - the L.A. Zoo is a highly beer-friendly place. You can buy a beer and stroll the grounds with it at your leisure, and the zoo even holds a special beer tasting events like "Brew at the L.A. Zoo," from time to time.  

Little kids will like:
Seeing the animals. 

Older kids will like:
Seeing the animals misbehave. Park yourself at the grandstand across the way from the "Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains" exhibit, unpack your lunch, and sit a spell. It won't be long before your patience is rewarded with (a) adorable chimp antics (b) a gnarly chimp fight (c) mortifying chimp masturbation or (d) all of the above. 

Grownups will like:
One of the biggest yet lowest stress bangs for your entertainment buck, especially if you buy a membership, which pays for itself in just a few visits. 

5333 Zoo Dr, Los Angeles. (323) 644-4200. lazoo.org.

10 Fun L.A. Things to Do With Kids That Don't Suck For Grownups
Flickr/skunks

Best Downtown Afternoon Jaunt: The Last Bookstore, then Baco Mercat for lunch

It's got a record shop, a vintage toy shop, a yarn shop and more books than you've seen in one place in a long time. The Last Bookstore is a Los Angeles must-see for kids if you want to them to comprehend the olden-times folkways - you know, buying books from an actual, physical store. Of course, not every bookstore was a elaborately cavernous as this one, but they don't have to know that. Heck, you could tell them that in your day there used to be a bookstore this cool on every corner and they'd probably fall for it. Kids are suckers like that. 

After nourishing their budding intellects, take the four-minute walk over to one of L.A.'s most highly praised yet reasonably-priced restaurants, Baco Mercat, and order them a coca (Baco-speak for flatbread pizza) and some vegetables. Yes, vegetables. Because if Baco can't turn your kids around on the vegetable question, no one can. 

Little kids will like:
The bank vault that's been converted into a sci-fi space, and the panna cotta.

Older kids will like:
The labyrinthine $1 book section, and the root beer and chocolate soda pop.

Grownups will like:
Browsing for books, followed by showing off how well your kids have learned to behave in a world-class restaurant. You have taught your children how to behave in a restaurant, haven't you? 

But does it have booze?
Very much so. It has a nifty selection of house-made non-alcoholic drinks too. 

The Last Bookstore, 453 S Spring St., Downtown. (213) 488-0599. lastbookstorela.com.
Baco Mercat, 408 S Main St, Downtown. (213) 687-8808. bacomercat.com. 

10 Fun L.A. Things to Do With Kids That Don't Suck For Grownups
Flickr/tiarescott

Best Outing With The Grandparents: Griffith Park

The miniature train ride, the pony rides, the merry-go-round, the trains at Travel Town - all of it has a wholesome, timeless, traditional quality that feel like an essential part of a Los Angeles childhood. As simple as it is, there's something really solid about a day spent at Griffith Park with kids. The prices range from free to reasonable, and when it's all over, you'll say to yourself, "I've done a good thing today." 

Little kids will like:
The pony rides, the vast Shane's Inspiration playground.

Older kids will like:
Playing frisbee on the grass, and (though they might not want to admit it at their age) the train ride.

Grownups will like:
The plethora of options, the low prices, the spaciousness and the great outdoors. 

But does it have booze?
That depends. Do you own a flask? 

4730 Crystal Springs Dr, Los Angeles. (323) 913-4688. laparks.org.


Best Place To Expose Kids To Controlled Doses Of Weird: Venice Beach Boardwalk

There's something about becoming a parent that brings out the puritanical streak in a lot of people. Sure, everyone wants to protect their kids from "bad influences," but who's to say what those might be? It's all relative.

The nice thing about the Venice Boardwalk is that for a heavily touristy destination, it's still maintained a decent bit of countercultural energy, and there's something about that beachy sunshine and fresh ocean air that keeps it all seeming nice and healthy. Sure, there are pot shops a plenty, street performers making off-color jokes, vendors selling lurid paintings and a few characters whose grasp on reality may be tenuous at best. But there's also souvenir shops, ice cream stands, pizza by the slice, a cute little freak show, and a whole beach to go to! Whee!

You might have moved to a nicer neighborhood where the schools are better, but Venice is still available for you to visit, any day of the year. You owe it to your kids to let them know about life beyond the suburbs. 

Little kids will like:
Playing in the sand, and getting an ice cream cone. 

Older kids will like:
Shopping for fun T-shirts and cheap sunglasses. 

Grownups will like:
All the fun of being a tourist, with none of the airfare and exhaustion. 

But does it have booze?
Oh heck yes. And a number of other things. 

1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice. (310) 399-2775. www.laparks.org/venice.?


Best Free Place Next To An Expensive Place: Muscle Beach Traveling Rings in Santa Monica

Sometimes, it seems like a good idea to go to the Santa Monica Pier. But sometimes, you're just not in the mood to get sucker-punched in the wallet. If you find yourself headed toward the pier, consider making a sharp left onto the beach instead and taking the kids to the Muscle Beach Traveling Rings. Unlike that other Muscle Beach, at this one, the kids can jump right in on the action. But it's also fun to just sit and watch, because at any given time you might stumble onto a Cirque du Soleil-worthy acrobatic performance. Afterwards, reward your own little monkeys for their aerial ballet-watching with a trip to nearby Hot Dog On A Stick, even if you're a vegan who would sooner eat foie gras than get near a hot dog. Why? Because Hot Dog On A Stick makes the best lemonade in the known universe, and that's something everybody can support. 

Little kids will like:
Watching the show.

Older kids will like:
Giving it a try themselves.

Grownups will like:
Watching the show.

But does it have booze?
Nope. In fact, seeing some of the crazy in-shape people that come here might make you want to give up all of your vices.

Muscle Beach Traveling Rings, travelingrings.org

10 Fun L.A. Things to Do With Kids That Don't Suck For Grownups
Flickr/T.Tseng

Best Street Party: Chinatown Summer Nights

It's not a completely unique idea: get together some DJs, some bands, some food trucks, have a street party. But Chinatown Summer Nights manages to consistently put together some of the coolest DJs, bands and food trucks, in a colorful setting, which makes for a winning party. It's a low-commitment opportunity to introduce kids to live music without having to go to a club, and there's a dance floor to boot. Walk among the vendor stalls, check out the cooking exhibitions, or just show up without any expectations and let yourself be surprised by what places itself in your path. This year's three events are scheduled for June 14, July 12 and August 9, so mark your calendars. 

Little kids will like:
Pretty lights! Arts and crafts! Other kids! 

Older kids will like:
Sampling food, craft booths, and live music. 

Grownups will like:
Getting out and about in the hustle bustle of a great party you can take the kids to.

But does it have booze?
Certainly - provided by local restaurants or at the beer garden.

Chinatown Summer Nights, 943 - 951 N. Broadway, Los Angeles. chinatownsummernights.com 

Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
The Escondite

410 Boyd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

213-626-1800

www.theescondite.com

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The Getty Center

1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049

310-440-7300

www.getty.edu

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Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

323-644-4200

www.lazoo.org

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LACMA

5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

323-857-6000

www.lacma.org

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The Last Bookstore

453 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

213-488-0599

www.lastbookstorela.com

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Bäco Mercat

408 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

213-687-8808

www.bacomercat.com

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Venice Beach Freakshow

909 Ocean Front Walk
Los Angeles, CA 90291

310-314-1808

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Chinatown

943 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Santa Monica Pier

200 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401

310-458-8900

www.santamonicapier.org

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Griffith Park

4730 Crystal Springs Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

323-913-4688

www.laparks.org/dos/parks/griffithPK

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Hot Dog on a Stick

4 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

858-755-3049

www.hotdogonastick.com


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