Fun Things to do in Southern California to Keep Your Kids Engaged

Thinking of what to do in Southern California with kids? Here’s a list of activities and things to do in the vibrant Southern California that guarantee ultimate fun, adventure and happy times together:

1. Spend a day at Universal Studios Hollywood

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Spend a day at Universal Studios Hollywood and attend its famous shows! Check out the website and see which shows are lined up for the month and embark on a roller coaster ride.

Do keep in mind:

  • Buy discount tickets ahead of time online.
  • Guests should try and arrive at the park at least 30 minutes before the park opens to allow for parking.
  • There is a 60-minute guided tram tour that features several shows and rides along the way, including a backstage look at some the studios sound stages, prop warehouses and executive offices. Attend this first.
  • Attend Simpson’s- a 3D ride
  • Attend Waterworld Show
  • Watch theatre-type shows Terminator 2: 3D and Shrek 4D.
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure, a water ride that will leave its riders wet with fun and water ofcourse.
  • NBC Universal Experience, an interactive exhibit of props, costumes and memorabilia from NBC Universal classic.

2. An Exciting Trip to Cabrillo Marine Aquarium San Pedro

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The marine aquarium at San Pedro is a perfect place to visit if you are accompanied with kids. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium has an attractive collection of exhibits and fish tanks that exclusively display Southern California marine life. Its three sections include:

  • The tide pool area that displays loads starfish, sea anemones and urchins for everyone to touch.
  • The exploration centre is known for offering a perfect backdrop to take marine pictures. There is a mud walkthrough exhibit where visitors get a worm’s eye view of the mud and everything that inhabits it.
  • There is a main exhibit hall with fish tanks displaying various habitat along the California coast.

3. Ride some hair raising rides at Knotts Berry Farm Theme Park

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When it comes to offering fun, sometimes the oldest is the best! Knott’s is Southern California is the oldest theme park that offers something for every age group, young children, teens, parents and even grandparents. This park was known as America’s first theme park, Knott’s and serves this purpose very well even till today. Some of its attractions include:

  • There are nine roller coasters including Xcelerator, Ghost Rider, Jaguar, Pony Express and Silver Bullet.
  • There are also three water rides, Bigfoot Rapids, Perilous Plunge and original Timber Mountain Log Ride.
  • Plenty of rides for younger children including Charlie Brown’s Speedway, Lucy’s Tugboat, Woodstock’s Airmail and Rocky Road Trucking’ Company.

The best thing about Knott’s is that its ticket prices are minimal and don’t cost a hole in your pocket.

Dare to ride these 14 Scariest Roller Coasters in US

4. Chukchuk with Griffith Park Railroad Kids Day Trip

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Opened in 1948, the Griffith Park Railroad Kids has been entertaining families ever since it was established. Your children will thank you for a day spent at this park. Assuring beautiful train rides to children, this place guarantees absolute fun. Some of the train rides here are:

  • Begin with a trip aboard the miniature train which will take you over a fifty-year-old creaking bridge and into the woods of Griffith Park within span of 15 minutes. You will also come across an old western town and an Indian village during this trip. This train can hold up to seventy passengers and departs from the station about every 30 minutes on the weekends and during the busy summer season.
  • The Colonel Griffith train whichis a replica of western steam train.
  • The Stanley Diamond which is a replica of narrow gauge locomotive and the Freedom Train streamliner which is only used on special occasions.
  • There are also pony rides for children. These Pony rides are open six days a week d are closed on Mondays Except Holidays. Rides are only $3.00, cash only.

Tickets for rides on the Griffith Park Southern Railroad are $2.75, cash only.

5. Learn some magic at Merlins Magic & Comedy Dinner Theatre

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Nothing can be as fascinating to children as the world of magic is. Located at the Rib Trader restaurant in the city of Orange, CA, the Merlins Magic is a great venue for families with kids, date night or birthday party celebrations. The special features of this magic theatre include Merlins dinner show that lasts a little over two hours and includes dinner as well. Shows are held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 5:00 pm, 7:30 pm or 8:00 depending on the day you visit.

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6. Pick up oranges at Heritage Park La Verne U-Pick Oranges

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Orange picking can be an awesome experience especially when done with family and kids. The hues of oranges can leave indelible marks in the memories of the children. The Heritage Park La Verne U-Pick Oranges is the place to go if you want to enjoy some communion with nature, especially oranges. Situated below the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, this place offers beautiful afternoon views of the surrounding area as well. Do you know that at one time this area was called the "Heart of the Orange Empire” as it was blessed with acres of citrus trees.

When to go for orange picking: January through mid-March, The La Verne Heritage Society offers U-Pick oranges on Saturdays.  

Price: For or $5.00 visitors get a bag that they can fill with oranges or grapefruits.

Other things to see and do:

  • Heritage Park is also home to the historic Weber house, a barn, a windmill, a vegetable garden and about 150 mature citrus trees, all of which you can visit together.
  • Tours of the Weber house are also available on picking days and Heritage Park has a nice play area to keep children amused.
  • Annual events at LaVerene’s Heritage Park include a Christmas tree lot, Pumpkin Patch, summer concerts, and U-Pick Oranges.

Also Read: This Fall, Go Apple Picking In America's Best Orchards!

7. Plan a day trip to Orange Empire Railway Museum Perris

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Trains keep the children the happiest. Riding on the trains can render immense pleasure and excitement to the tiny tots. Plan a day trip to the Orange Empire Railway Museum to let your children understand and learn how the trains work. Located in Perris, California the railroad museum was founded in 1956 at the Pinacate Station as the "Orange Empire Trolley Museum.” The highlights of this museum include:

  • There are many of the locomotives on display that were originally rescued from scrap yards after serving their everyday duties. There are also historic trolley cars that have been kept on display.
  • Pick up the Tours of the grounds, exhibits and shops that are self-guided and allow you to explore.
  • A collection of rolling stock will take you into a journey back on Southern California’s railroad history.
  • Some of the exhibits in the locomotive collection include the Emma Nevada, and 1881 steam locomotive purchased by Disney animator Ward Kimball for his backyard. It features Kimball’s own artwork on the cab.
  • There is a Pacific Electric collection that consists of over 30 pieces of equipment, several of which were featured in the film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

Checkout handpicked tours & activities with guaranteed lowest prices throughout the year.

8. Reach those heights with Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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This can be a real thrilling experience for the kids. Take a ride at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway that will take you from the hot desert floor to the cool San Jacinto mountains. This exciting trip would mean you are sitting on the world’s largest rotating tram cars that hold up to eighty passengers.

Features for your day on this tramway:

  • Once on board the tram will climb 8,563 feet in about 15 minutes rotating 360 degrees several times during the accent. Each time the tram passes over one of the towers there is a slight drop which will make your heart go crazy!
  • At mountain station, you will find the Top of the Tram Restaurant and a fantastic view of Palm Springs in the valley below. Spend some time here.
  • Those who are afraid of the heights can sit in the center of the gondola that will take you to the top of the mountain.
  • Keep yourself warm though. It can be 90 degrees at valley station and quite cool when you arrive at the mountain station.

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Also Read: 10 Places for Glamping in California

9. Explore the marine life with Aquarium of the Pacific

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This aquarium is sure to attract many a parents as well as kids alike. As soon as you enter you will come across a life size blue whale hanging from the ceiling to welcome you.

The best time to visit: Visit the Aquarium during early morning or late afternoon. Expect a lot of crowd between 11:30 am until 2:00 pm. Avoid weekdays and holidays.

What to see here:

  • This is one place where you will find fishes from all over the Continent-Southern California, Northern Pacific, and Tropical Pacific all in one place.
  • The special attraction for the kids is the touch tanks where they can see Shark Lagoon and the Penguin Habitat.
  • There is a two level indoor area with galleries of smaller aquariums where you can see interesting sea creatures and an outdoor area with the Lorikeet Forest, Shark Lagoon and the Seals & Sea Lions area.
  • There are two extra cost 3D attractions: a Fish Story 3D and Monsters of the Abyss 3-D.
  • Visit the Lorikeet Forest which is free but charges a few dollars for a small cup of nectar to feed the birds. Your kids are going to love it for sure!

10. Watch some whales at Whale Watching Newport Landing

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Newport Landing Whale Watching offers California whale watching trips multiple times daily year round. The departure point is from Newport Beach California.

The best time to see whales:

  • The winter and spring months bring the annual gray whale migration with thousands of whales traveling to the coastline and giant blue whales appear during summer and fall months.
  • Apart from whales, you can also watch over half dozen dolphin species, and sea lions year round. 
  • Kids will have a blast watching playful dolphins chasing the whale watching boat.

This tour lasts for about two and a half hours.

Also Read: 8 Best Places where you can swim along with Whales and Sharks!

11. Ride back in time with Calico Ghost Town Day Trip

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Although deserted today, the Calico Ghost Town was once an original mining towns of the west. Well preserved today, this town was donated to the County of San Bernardino in 1966 by Walter Knott. Presently this place is a tourist attraction where the tourists can explore the town and experience the past in a perfect way.

Things to do here:

  • You can take a ride of the Calico and Odessa Railroad
  • Take a tour through the Maggie Mine or go, Gold Panning.
  • From the hill of Calico, you can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the Mojave Desert and beyond.
  • You can also catch up a gun fight right on the main street.
  • Camping is also available with 261 tents and RV sites.
  • Nearby Mountain Bike Trails and an off-road vehicle area are popular with day-trippers and overnight campers.

Take these famous Ghost tours and hear interesting stories behind them.

12. Interact with the marine life with Dana Point Ocean Institute Day Trip

 

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At Dana Point Ocean Institute, Visitors can view hundreds of marine animals in aquariums and touch tanks. They can also witness animal feedings and enjoy some ocean-theme exhibits. Other attractions here include:

  • The Ocean Institute is home to two tall ships, the Spirit of Dana Point and Pilgrim. You can also opt for cruises onboard the Spirit, but for an additional charge.
  • The Pilgrim is open for interactive tours most Sundays from 11 am to 3:30 pm, which is included with the price of admission.
  • For an additional charge, visitors can take whale watching trips onboard the Institute’s R/V Sea Explorer and view grey or blue whales.
  • The Institute scientists lead regular tours of its tide pools as well.
  • The Institute also offers spring and summer marine science and maritime history programs. Monday through Friday, the Institute welcomes groups of school children for marine science and maritime history programs.
  • Facilities are also available to rent for birthday parties, receptions, meetings, and other special events.

Combining fun with knowledge, this place offers an ultimate day out for families and kids.

13. Get your children amused at La Habra Children’s Museum

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Located in the historic 1923 Union Pacific Train Depot, the La Habra children’s museum offersthe utmost amusement for your kids. There are engaging galleries to keep your child busy and involved. Outside there is a dinosaur topiary and historic 1942 caboose. Some of the highlights of this museum include:

  • There are playrooms set up for different activities which include large play room with toys, a dress up room and an OCTA bus where the children can pretend to be a bus driver.
  • Another room is the carousel room which runs about every 30 minutes.
  • There is also a room with a train set nearly as big as the entire room. The train only runs every ten minutes.
  • The animal room has stuffed toys with whom they can play and have fun.
  • Outside, there are swings and play equipment kids can climb on.

Some Practical information on the museum

  • Once a month on the first Saturday admission is free.
  • La Habra Children’s Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • The museum also has a birthday party room with a 40 guests maximum. Party dates should be scheduled a minimum of 2 weeks in advance.
  • 90 minute guided tours are offered for elementary classes, preschools, day camps, church groups, and special needs groups.
  • Advance reservations are required for groups of 15 or more children, ages 3-years and older.
  • Tours are available Tuesday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance.

14. Let your children see the wildlife with Santa Barbara Zoo Day Trip

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Santa Barbara zoo is an immense area that holds the wildlife preserved in its precincts. With 30 acres, over 500 animals and a scenic location the Santa Barbara Zoo is a wonderful place to spend the day. An ideal destination for kids, this place offers plenty of room to run around as well.

Activities here include:

  • Feed the domestic sheep at The Barnyard.
  • The Santa Barbara Zoo Carousel features hand-carved exotic animals, Giraffe Feeding with the tallest residents of the Zoo, Kallman Family Play Area.
  • The Santa Barbara Zoo’s popular new show, How to Train Your Dinosaur; is a favourite with kids and features Duncan, a 15-foot long and 7-feet tall lifelike adolescent T-rex dinosaur. Look out for Dinosaur shows that are held at the outdoors at the Rolling Hills Theatre and are free with zoo admission.
  • Another popular attraction is California Trails. This exhibit Includes Condor Country, home of four juvenile California condors, Channel Island fox, Rattlesnake Canyon, bald eagles, and desert tortoises. From here, you can enjoy views of the Andree Clark Bird Refuge, Santa Ynez mountains and city of Santa Barbara.
  • Crawford Family Penguin House, Elephant Walk, Western Lowland Gorillas, Cats of Africa, Gibbon Island and The Aviary with tropical birds from Africa and South America.

15. Let your children pretend at Pretend City Southern California

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Located in the centre of Orange County California, there lies a magical, interactive 'city' where children can pretend to be grownups by dressing up as adults and with activities such as going to work, buying groceries, going to the doctor and relaxing by the beach.

Things to do here:

  • As soon as you arrive, you will be given a map of the 'city'explaining what type of exhibits can be found inside its pretend boundaries. The exhibits are basically miniature play-size versions of real life locations found in most cities.
  • There are fun exhibits, like a police and fire station, a grocery store, bank, medical center and post office.
  • Children can roam around freely, and are even provided time cards, which are stamped at various locations like the pretend construction site or gas station. Once their time card is full, children can deposit pretend money at an ATM, or insert their time card so they can receive play money.
  • There is a farm and beach area, where children can relax after a fun filled day.
  • Children can learn how to garden and pick fruit on a farm as well as learning to fish or make a raincoat.
  • Children can pretend to be a rock star on stage at the "pretend" amphitheater.
  • Children can drive around in ride-on toys, stopping at lights and obeying street signs.
  • Children can put on costumes of the adults.
  • Other activities include periodic scavenger hunts, special holiday-themed affairs and recycle days.

So how do you wish to engage your family and children in Southern California?

You may also like to read:

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