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.
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.
6. Whale Watching
My own sixth-grade whale watching excursion came with a bit of anxiety: What if I'm the kid who pukes on the boat? I wasn't, but there's a definite preteen fear of embarrassment that came with that first-ever trip on a boat in the ocean. All that went away, though, out on the water where even the slightest glimpse of a whale was impressive. No doubt, the wonder that comes with seeing giant marine creatures doesn't end with youth. Southern California whale watching trips occur at various spots along the coast, with the sites changing according to seasons. In Long Beach, Aquarium of the Pacific works with Harbor Breeze Cruises for a package that includes admission to the aquarium and a whale and/or dolphin watching cruise.
7. Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills and Glendale)
When my friend David Thorn mentioned a field trip to Forest Lawn, my first thought was, what a cool creepy field trip! “No one was creeped out on the trip but after, when we'd look back, we would realize, 'Wait, that was kinda weird,'” he responded when I asked him via online chat about the trip. Thorn remembers the long trip from Buena Park to the Hollywood Hills cemetery, a film about the U.S. Revolution that he would see again on a school trip to Washington, D.C., and seeing the grave of Stan Laurel.
Forest Lawn Glendale is a must-visit for anyone who likes to walk around cemeteries. The grounds are filled with lots of art to explore and there are events throughout the year. If you head there before June 15, check out “David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters” in the Forest Lawn Museum.
8. Exposition Park
Natural History Museum and California Science Center (which, as some Twitter users reminded us, used to be the Museum of Science and Industry) have long been popular field trip spots. Now, as adults, you might want to go back to Exposition Park and visit the museums in one day. At California Science Center, you can check out the Space Shuttle Endeavor or exhibitions like “Earth in Concert.” The Natural History Museum's First Friday events are now a nightlife staple that brings together music, libations and education. When you're in the neighborhood, try to stop by the California African American Museum as well, where the admission is free and the exhibitions include both art and historical artifacts.
700 Exposition Park Drive, Exposition Park.
9. L.A. Zoo
L.A. Zoo is one of those incredibly popular field trip destinations that may seem like it's just for kids. While the zoo is heavy on youth-oriented activities, from school to Scout programs, it also has events and education opportunities for adults. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the L.A. Zoo, the Sustainable Wine + Dinner Series brings together the grown-up crowd for conservation and conversation over locally made wine and a farm-to-table dinner. Adults interested in learning about animal behavior can sign up for a course through UCLA Extension that takes place at the zoo and includes an observational training session.
5333 Zoo Drive; Griffith Park. lazoo.org.
10. Norton Simon Museum
There were a few different art institutions that people mentioned visiting for field trips, one of which is Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum. The museum has a permanent collection that includes works from the former Pasadena Art Museum and the late Norton Simon's personal holdings. Art extends into the lush sculpture garden, which, like the museum, is heavy on European and Asian art. Adults who want to do more than just look at the art can stop by on Saturday afternoons for the Drop-In Drawing series, while movie lovers might want to check out the Friday evening film series.
411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. nortonsimon.org.