Santa Monica Pier - Santa Monica Pier has year-round entertainment for kids. Built in 1908, it's the oldest "pleasure park" on the west coast. There's lots of choices - from eating cotton candy to taking a whirl on the carousel to henna handpainting to renting a fishing pole and hanging out with the locals waiting for a bite.
The Looff Hippodrome
has an old-time carousel
that's been here since 1916, with 44 beautiful hand-carved animals kids can ride for just 25 cents.
- Next to the carousel is a playground with a sea dragon, your own wooden ship to climb on, sand to play in, swings to swing on, all with a view of the Pacific Ocean.
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
, underneath the Carousel, is an aquarium and learning center oriented completely towards kids. It's well worth the time you'll spend exploring interactive displays (such as touch-tanks) about Santa Monica Bay. There are weekly special events on everything from whales to jellyfish.
Pacific Park amusement park
- Soar five stories above the waves on the rollercoaster. For little ones, the 9-story tall ferris wheel or the mini-submarine may be a better bet. The Playland Arcade has video games, and there's lots of snack stands for hot dogs, pizza and cotton candy. If you love the rides, get an all-day unlimited ticket.
Santa Monica Pier has free concerts
on the Pier, Sundays from 2:00- 4:00pm, and evening concerts in the summer.
Palisades Park - The long narrow Park sits right on the cliffs over looking the Pacific, with one of the best views you can find in Los Angeles County: from Palos Verdes in the south to Malibu in the north. It's a great place for a picnic or taking a stroll with the kids. From the park, there are pedestrian walkways to the beach below.
Santa Monica State Beach - Santa Monica has miles of sandy beach that's good for swimming - little kids can jump in the waves here. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer. Pick up towels and beach toys at Marlene's Beachcomber on the Pier, or rent boogie boards, chairs and umbrellas at Perry's Beach Cafe and Rentals on Ocean Front Walk (near Ocean Park Blvd.) Fly kites on the beach too - stop into the toy stores at Santa Monica Place to buy an inexpensive kite.
Learn to surf
- Santa Monica has great beaches to ride the waves, and if kids are going to learn to surf, this is the place. Lessons include surf boards and wetsuits.
South Bay Bicycle Trail
- This wide concrete bike trail goes for miles, all the way from Will Rogers State Beach (just north of Santa Monica) down to Torrance. Rent bikes
, or roller blades
at Blazing Saddles at Santa Monica Pier, Perry's Beach Cafe and Rentals, or at stands all along the beach front walk.
- Along the Ocean Ave. are several beach parks with picnic tables, swings and slides, grassy areas, and some have barbeques. Bay Park
(at Bay St.) is a small but nice area with swings, including baby swings, and gymnastic bars. Ocean Park
(Barnard Way) has a large playground, with swings and gymnastics bars and rings.
International Chess Park at Ocean Front Walk is where everyone from beginners to masters meets for a pick-up game. There are lots of players on any given day, and everyone's welcome to play!
Third Street Promenade - This pedestrian-only shopping street is the place to wander, shop, and eat. Kids will enjoy the ivy covered dinosaur fountains. There are dozens of street performers here, many of them aiming to please kids. You'll hear a different style of music on every block, as well as jugglers, dancers, and probably a few talents you didn't know existed.
Museum of Flying - Zoom over to the Museum of Flying at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. It has vintage Douglas and World War II era aircraft, (including the Douglas World Cruiseter: first plane to fly around the world) as well as tons of aviation artifacts and photography. In the AirVenture part of the Museum you'll find interactive exhibits and a flight simulator. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
- At Clover Park, near the Museum of Flying, the children's playground has an aviation theme, with an Observation Tower, Flight Seat, Telephone Tubes, and flight graphics. It's also where the Santa Monica holds many of its big festivals so you may find an art fair, or baseball game game, or folk festival (sometimes all at the same time).
Parks - Had enough surf and sand? Santa Monica has some great parks away from the beach.
- Head for the four acres of Douglas Park, there's a great big playground (including a water park), two public tennis courts. All in all, a great place for playing, strolling, and picnicking (lots of tables, or just stretch out on the grass.)
- If you're looking for an oasis for really little kids, the one acre Ozone Park has two playgrounds (but only one picnic table) and is a favorite with local tots.