Downtown Los Angeles, California, has always had kid-friendly destinations, but the number of activities has expanded exponentially in the last few years to include things that were once impossible to find: playgrounds, cupcake bakeries, and special events like concerts and puppet shows. Here’s our subjective guide to the top 10 activities to do in DTLA with kids under 12. (It’s an itinerary that most grown-ups will enjoy too.)
1. Los Angeles Central Library is still the rock star of family destinations in DTLA. In a spacious room dominated by gorgeous wall murals of early California, kids can browse unique collections or enjoy storytimes and special events like sugar skull-decorating. Don’t forget to ride the escalators from top to bottom for amazing views of the library atrium.
2. Take the Red, Purple or Gold Metro line to Union Station, then walk over to the Amtrak lines and watch the double-decker trains departing or chugging into the station. Grab a bagel in the huge lobby and settle in to people-watch, or exit on the south side and check out the tiled patio and fountain in the MTA courtyard.
3. The restored (and wade-able) fountain is the marquee attraction for kids at Grand Park, but the multi-tiered park also has a huge grassy area for frolicking just above Spring Street, and a fenced-in toddler play area across from City Hall. A few blocks away, Spring Street Park has a nice little playground tucked into a shady corner.
4. At Peddler’s Creamery, adults and kids are invited to help make the shop’s selection of frozen desserts by hopping on a stationary bicycle and pedaling to churn out the ice cream. Flavors include banana chocolate chip, mango, salted caramel, and plain vanilla.
5. Give the kids a buck or two and let them wander (supervised) around the Last Bookstore‘s mezzanine level, which features creative art and a room full of bargain books, including a substantial kids’ section. Exit through the Alice-in-Wonderland-like tunnel of books.
6. The mom-and-pop stalls along Broadway in Chinatown are full of affordable trinkets like pint-size chopsticks, paper dragons, barrettes and dolls. Shop for presents or just give the kids a couple of dollars and let them go wild. When meltdowns threaten, head to Wonder Bakery for sponge bread or fortune cookies.
7. Piñata District. What could be better than a block of warehouses filled with balloons, lollipops, chocolate-dipped marshmallows, bouncing balls, and every kind of piñata imaginable. Choose from stars, cars, dolls, cupcakes, the Despicable Me minions, and Donald Trump.
8. The children’s garden at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is a shady oasis of olive trees and bronze camels, monkeys, and sleeping bears. Scampering is encouraged. Nearby, Galero Grill serves kid-friendly pizzas and pastries.
9. Olvera Street. A lively pedestrian block of small stalls and shops replicating a Mexican village market street, here you can enjoy tacos al fresco and buy marionettes, sombreros, serapes, huaraches, musical instruments, flags, toys and even Lucha Libre wrestling masks. Mariachis, sketch artists, fortune tellers and handwriting analysts add to the fun.
10. Some of L.A.’s finest kid-friendly events can be found in DTLA. A few of our favorites: the International Children’s Film Festival at REDCAT, the noon music concerts at California Plaza in summer, and the Family Festivals at the Japanese American National Museum.