Los Angeles, the 2nd largest city in the United States, is a popular city for visitors because of its great yearround weather, beautiful beaches, and popular attractions. Flights into LAX are frequently very affordable. Many budget airlines come into this major hub. Other visitors, like us, drive in from nearby areas for a fun getaway. If you are looking for a unique 5 Day Los Angeles Vacation with Kids, continue reading!
This week long itinerary is focused on the northern part of LA, but there are tons of other things to do in the southern region as well. It takes at least an hour or 2 to travel across downtown LA. My advice is that if you intend on visiting Los Angeles with your family, you choose the main attraction you’d like to visit and plan the trip around that. If you’re wanting to see attractions all over the LA area, you can also split your stay between 2 hotels to minimize your driving time.
A friend of mine asked me to help her plan her trip to Universal Studios with her son for this upcoming spring break. Since I did the research, and we have visited that area several times, you can also use this sample itinerary to plan your family vacation to northern Los Angeles!
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Where to Stay on Los Angeles Vacation with Kids
While there are tons of incredible spots to visit in the LA area, it is a huge city and not all areas are equally safe. In fact, there are a lot of unsafe areas in LA. If you are visiting Los Angeles with your family for spring break, you want to be sure you are staying somewhere comfortable and secure. Also, you want to be in an area that is near the activities you will be doing during your time there so you aren’t spending half your vacation battling LA traffic.
Stay Near Universal Studios
If your main goal is to be close to the tourist attractions of northern Los Angeles, like Universal Studios, then you might want to consider staying in Studio City. If you stay close enough to Universal Studios, you can walk, uber, or BIRD scooter from your hotel up to the theme park. Otherwise, you can pay for parking at Universal Studios for the day. Here are some suggestions of affordable hotels that still look family-friendly in Universal City (and booking them through these links on Expedia will ensure you’re getting the best prices available!):
Stay in Calabasas, CA
Get out of the downtown area, into a little more historic area of LA. Calabasas has a deep history, with an Old Town area dating all the way back to 1844. Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains Region, this is a great spot to enjoy nature, while still being close to many of the big attractions Los Angeles has to offer.
There are several hotels that are more affordable than other areas of LA, while still offering top-notch services & a safe environment for your family on your vacation. Calabasas is rated one of the safest cities in the USA, which is not common in the Los Angeles area. Check out these great options for stays during your time in LA:
5-Day Los Angeles Vacation with Kids:
Day 1 in Los Angeles :
Since day 1 of vacation is usually partially taken up by travel, don’t plan for too many extra activities. If you choose to stay in Calabasas, a little bit further out of the downtown area, then you will want to visit Old Town and maybe pay a visit down to a nearby beach if there’s time.
Kick off your California vacation by seeing the ocean! This is usually one of the main reasons us Arizonians go to California, because we are dying to see the open water and dig our feet into the sand. Malibu beach is a serene beach with smaller crowds than many of the more popular beaches further south. When we visited in the spring, we were surprised with wildlife encounters at Malibu Beach!
Years ago while we were visiting, there was a small seal that came up onto the shore out of the water. This was a such a fun experience for our family! Then a couple of years later we saw dolphins in the distance as we watched the sunset.
I can’t promise that you will see any sea life during your spring break trip to Los Angeles, but it is definitely more likely that you will see something if you visit a less crowded beach.
Huntington Beach & Newport Beach have their draw, and it seems like that’s where most people go when in Los Angeles on vacation, but I suggest staying up in the northern part of LA with your family. Malibu is an affluent area where you will feel safe with your kids.
Mom Hacks for the Beach:
The beach water in California is always very cold, so come prepared to the beach with warm clothes for your kids to change into! When I lived in southern California as a kid, I would always have a cozy pair of sweats to warm up in after getting in the chilly pacific water.
My other big mom hack for the beach is to bring a bottle of baby powder along. Nothing is worse than being covered in sand or your kids getting sand all over the inside of your vehicle. Simply rub baby powder on those sandy feet, bottoms, or legs and the sand falls right off!
Walk Around Calabasas
Calabasas is an upscale town in the northern LA area with a deep history. While in this area, you will want to pay a visit to the historic sites and museums to learn more. Your older kids will find the Leonis Adobe Museum interesting as it depicts life on a ranch from the 1880s. Part of the museum is also Calabasas Creek Park with several 1880s antiques on display. The kids can run around, see the ducks, and see the pretty flowers in the gardens.
Then head over to The Commons for some shopping and great food! The kids will have fun looking into the ponds for turtles and koi fish as you walk around this relaxing mall. It is a very safe area, so it is a great option for families wanting to enjoy the beautiful California weather after a day of travel.
Select souvenirs from the local vendors at The Commons, grab a bite to eat and even walk over to the public library. There is a children’s area inside that your kids can enjoy before heading back to your hotel for the night.
Day 2 Los Angeles Vacation with Kids:
Universal Studios Hollywood
Have a kiddo who loves Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, or even the Minions?? Universal Studios is such a fun day for the entire family because so many popular Hollywood movies and TV shows are featured at this theme park. Attend entertaining shows, ride all the exciting rollercoasters, and eat incredible food! You don’t want to miss out on the infamous Harry Potter butterbeer!
Universal Studios Hollywood is still a popular theme park, but it will not be quite as crazy during spring break as Disneyland. Again, I think staying in the northern part of Los Angeles is a great option for family vacation during peak times like spring break or summertime.
If you are concerned about waiting in long lines, you can pay for a VIP pass that is similar to a “fast pass” at Disneyland. This will minimize your wait times for shows and rides in the park. Ticket prices vary by day of the week as well as the time of year.
But, you can often get deals on groupon.com, Costco, or Sam’s Club have offered discounted tickets for members. I always check for deals through third-party sellers before booking directly with Universal Studios. That way you have the extra cash to spend while inside the park! Groupon will frequently have tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood for about $100 per adult which is a great deal!
Read our other post on money-saving tips for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Orlando. Although they are not the same location, you may still find some helpful tips.
Day 3 in Los Angeles with Kids:
Santa Monica Beach
After spending all day at Universal Studios Hollywood, you will want a day for relaxing on the beach! Rest your feet in the perfectly soft, white sand in Santa Monica. Not only will you have beautiful views of the ocean, but you will see the curving coastline disappear in the distance.
A fun activity for the family is to rent bikes and ride the bike path that stretches over 20 miles both to the north and south of Santa Monica Beach. There are tons of people who go up and down this path on all forms of transportation. You can just walk or jog if not everyone in your family is comfortable on a bike. It’s so fun and a classic California experience the entire family will enjoy.
Be aware that as you get closer to Venice Beach, the vibe changes a little bit and my safety rating for the area definitely goes down. I wouldn’t plan on spending much time there, but rather staying close to Santa Monica. There are still a fair share of homeless people in Santa Monica, but it is generally nicer. The shopping area with tons of food options just above the beach is a great spot where you can find a comfortable place to eat with your family.
Santa Monica Pier
After soaking up some vitamin D and cooling off in the refreshing water, you can walk up to the Santa Monica Pier. Capture some cute pictures of your family up there, ride the small rollercoasters they have, or get handmade souvenirs from the vendors.
Also on the pier is a small aquarium, Heal the Bay Aquarium. It is free for children 12 and under and only $10 a person 13+. Inside, you and your family will learn all about the hundreds of marine animals and species in the ocean right below you. With displays for the kids to admire and hands-on activities available, this should definitely be part of your Los Angeles Family Vacation Itinerary.
Heal the Bay Aquarium is closed on Mondays, so plan your visit for any other day of the week. Check their website https://healthebay.org/aquarium/ for hours as they change seasonally.
Day 4 in Los Angeles:
Hike around the Santa Monica Mountains
For a small state park entrance fee of $8-$10 per vehicle, you and your family can adventure through the cliffs and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. There are even dog friendly trails if your furry family members come along on vacation too. Topanga State Park is known for being the largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city. It is an incredibly unique state park because of its variety of geological formations. The surrounding areas are equally as beautiful and have great options for hiking with your family.
Depending on the level of difficulty you want to attempt, you can find a trail that best suits your family. Here are some suggestions that are either in or near Topanga State Park:
- Temescal Canyon Trail
- moderate to difficult
- 935ft. elevation gain
- 3.8 miles
- Santa Ynez Canyon Waterfall Trail
- 206 ft elevation gain
- 2.2 miles
- Eagle Rock via East Topanga Fire Road
- moderate to difficult
- 853 ft elevation gain
- 3.8 miles
- Temescal Canyon Viewpoint Trail
- easy to moderate
- 1.3 miles
- 482 ft elevation gain
- Cave of Munits (via El Escorpion Trail)
- 1.7 miles
- 308 ft elevation gain
- Escondido Falls
- 3.7 miles
- 534 ft elevation gain
Malibu Hindu Temple
After walking around the gorgeous rolling hills and getting incredible views of the ocean, make a stop at the Malibu Hindu Temple. This is a beautiful architectural creation that is open to the public for viewing. They welcome people of any belief system and walk of life to come and see the grounds of the temple.
Leo Carrillo State Beach
If you have the time and are willing to drive down the coast a little further past Malibu, you will want Leo Carrillo State Beach on your family vacation itinerary. At this state beach, you will find flourishing tide pools & sea caves to explore! Before going, be sure to research the low tide time window. If you go during high tide all the tide pools will be covered in water. The safest opportunity to venture through the sea caves is also during low tide.
You can capture absolutely stunning pictures from inside the caves & the kids will love walking around these formations.
Day 5 of Los Angeles Vacation:
The iconic Hollywood Sign should definitely be on your LA family vacation itinerary. Whether you just drive up to the viewpoint and get an up close family photo with the sign, or take the steep hike all the way to the top of the sign, you won’t forget seeing this iconic monument. It is a popular trail & stop for many visitors to make, so you can expect finding parking to be a little tricky. There’s a lot with limited parking spots at the viewpoint, but you will get a great surrounding view of the LA area.
Downtown Hollywood Walk of Fame
After paying a visit to the Hollywood Sign, head down to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This is a must if you’re visiting northern Los Angeles! Take pictures of your kids with their favorite movie characters along the street & with their stars embedded in the sidewalk. There are always street performers out as well as a fair share of homeless people.
If you are visiting Hollywood with young kids, you probably won’t want to spend too long on the walk of fame, but there are souvenir shops that have fun things to pick up and commemorate your trip with. We even got to be in the audience of a show on Nickelodeon one time we visited! The studio was near the walk of fame and it was a super memorable experience. You will have to research what shows are being recorded during the dates you’re visiting to see if you too can have this unique experience with your family!
Staying for Longer?
Looking to stay in Los Angeles for more than 5 days? Or maybe some of the activities suggested above are not suitable for your family’s interests. Los Angeles has a Go City Pass that permits entrance into several amusement parks, including Universal Studios Hollywood. Other popular attractions that are included with this pass are:
- Madame Tussauds Hollywood
- LEGOLAND California
- Knott’s Berry Farm
- Six Flags Magic Mountain
- SoFi Stadium Tour
- Aquarium of the Pacific
- Hollywood Sign Tour
- Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood
- AND MORE!!
This is a great way to see several of the main attractions in the area and save some cash while doing it all with your kids! Click the links to get yours at the best discounted price.
If you are wanting to head a little more south, look into getting a CityPASS. This will give you the best discounted price on several of the popular attractions in Southern California. Universal Studios Hollywood is included in this pass so you can still complete some of the suggested itinerary above, but you’ll also gain access to other fun parks! Get a CityPASS here: www.citypass.com
If you make it down to San Diego, California with your family here are 15 Things to Do in San Diego for $20 and Under.