Recently I moved from London to the Pacific Palisades with my husband and daughter. The Palisades is a small beachside community located between Santa Monica and Malibu. Our daughter, Sadie, will be two years old in May, and while I am from California I have never lived in this area before, so once we got moved in I started looking for kid friendly activities for her. Wether you live here or are just visiting, there are a lot of activities to do in West LA! From my experience here are 12 fun things to do with little kids in the Pacific Palisades, Malibu and Santa Monica.
1) SELF REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP LAKE SHRINE
Fellowship Lake Shrine is a Temple, a Shrine, and a Meditation Garden on Sunset Boulevard, just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, in the Pacific Palisades, offering people from around the world a quiet place for meditation. My godmother Sue has been coming here for years and told me about this amazing oasis. The lake shrine is just a five-minute drive from my house and my daughter loves it, so we go at least once a week. You can walk the dirt path around the lake and admire the beautiful flowers, waterfalls and pristine foliage, which is a great way to give your little one some much-needed exercise.
But the best part about the Lake Shrine is that children are allowed to feed the ducks, swans, turtles and huge koi fish that live in abundance in the lake! Simply stop by the visitor center with your child and they will hand you a free bag of food! The animals here are not shy at all and will swarm you to get every last pellet. My daughter is obsessed with turtles so this is one of her favorite things to do. One word of caution though, the docks are wood, so you have to be careful that your child doesn’t grab the railing. My daughter got a very bad splinter here on our last visit, but she had so much fun she still managed to leave smiling!
2) THE GETTY VILLA
The Getty Villa is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum, located off of PCH, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Pacific Palisades. I live right next door the Getty Villa so we take my daughter here quite often. The grounds are beautiful, and the museum collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD.
The Getty Villa also offers a special Family Forum gallery room which has activities for kids including decorating Greek vases and projecting shadows onto a screen that represents a Greek urn. The room also has props from Greek and Roman culture that children can play with and use to cast shadows. My daughter loves playing in this room, and she also loves visiting the koi fish pond in the herb garden here.
3) BRENTWOOD FARMER’S MARKET
The Brentwood Farmer’s Market is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm on S Gretna Green off San Vicente Blvd, just a couple of miles from the beach, in Brentwood. This is a great farmer’s market to take young kids to because it is right next to the Brentwood School. During the weekend the school grounds are open and there are three fun playgrounds for young kids!
Every Sunday we take my daughter to the Brentwood Farmer’s Market. We buy our vegetables for the week, get her a fresh coconut (she is obsessed with coconuts!), and then we go to the playground. There are always tons of parents and kids so it is a great place for children to play and socialize.
4) THE SANTA MONICA PIER
The Santa Monica Pier is a fun place to visit on your first trip to Santa Monica. Little kids will enjoy the aquarium, and older children will enjoy the ferris wheel and roller coaster. This is also a great place to take family photos with the beach and city in the background. Just try to avoid the weekends here because it gets very crowded with tourists.
5) KIDVILLE, BRENTWOOD
Kidville in Brentwood offers fun dance, music, gym, art, and enrichment classes for children in the Santa Monica area. All classes are geared towards babies and little kids and are held in a mommy and me format – a parent or caregiver attends with their child and can join in on the fun. My daughter has a membership here so we go a couple of times a week and she loves the gym class and creative movers class. Your child’s first class is free so if you are visiting from out-of-town this is a great way to let your kid experience a class without a long-term, financial commitment.
6) DOUGLAS PARK – AKA THE DUCK PARK
Located in Santa Monica at 24th and Wilshire Blvd, the Douglas Park is a wonderful place to take children to play for a few hours. It is known as “the duck park” because there are two ponds connected by a stream here that many ducks call home. There are also dozens of turtles that live here too, and come out to sun themselves on the rocks. My daughter loves going to see the turtles and ducks and she also loves to play at the playground here, which is geared towards young kids. After playing you can head across the street to Bru’s Wiffle for lunch. They are very kid-friendly and have a great brunch menu and kid’s menu!
7) WILL ROGERS STATE BEACH
The beach is always a fun place to take little kids but if you’d like to enjoy a less crowded beach I suggest going to Will Rogers State Beach. This beautiful stretch of coastline runs from Gladstone’s Restaurant down to the front of the Getty Villa in the Pacific Palisades, and is just far enough outside of the city that there are fewer tourists here. We are lucky to be just a five-minute walk from this beach so I take my daughter here every week. Her favorite thing to do is have a beach picnic at the water’s edge (with extra cheesy pizza of course)!
9) LUNCH OR DINNER AT GLADSTONE’S
Located at the historic intersection of PCH and Sunset Blvd—where the sun meets the sea, Gladstone’s has been offering beachside dinning for almost 50 years! This famous spot in the Pacific Palisades serves fresh seafood and cocktails in a charming, ocean-front setting, and is very kid friendly. Gladstone’s has excellent clam chowder, the kid’s fish and chips is very good, and they recently went through remodel to commemorate their 50th anniversary coming up in 2020. But the real estate is being taken over by Wolfgang Puck and Frank Gehry in 2022, so if you’d like to experience this renowned spot, be sure to stop by before it’s gone.
8) THE PACIFIC PALISADES LIBRARY & PALISADES PARK
If you are looking for a fun, free, indoor activity for little kids to do in the Pacific Palisades I suggest heading to the Palisades Branch Library. They are open every day except Sunday and have a very fun kid’s area with games and toys in addition to all the wonderful children’s books. They have volunteers here that read to children and they have special family story time readings every month. My daughter is a little book worm so we take her here a couple of times a week! And just down the street you’ll find the Palisades Park & Recreation Center which has a fun playground for kids of all ages.
10) DINNER AT TALLULA’S
Tallula’s is a kid-friendly restaurant in the Santa Monica canyon across from the beach, offering excellent Mexican food and delicious cocktails. My family loves Mexican food (especially my daughter who devours, beans, rice and guacamole like she is certain it will be her last meal!), so we eat here almost every week. On one of our first dinners here, our waitress told us the restaurant is named after the owner’s four-year-old daughter, and it shows with the huge bin of toys they have for young kids, along with books, paper, and colored pencils, as well as a great kid’s menu. On Mondays they have a special of BBQ chicken tacos which my husband loves, and they also have delicious fish and mushroom tacos, and excellent margaritas. The word is out on how good this place is, which means it gets busy and loud, so go early!
11) THE MALIBU COUNTRY MART
The Malibu Country Mart is just north of the Malibu Pier and has a clean, fun playground geared towards young kids. Many playgrounds only have a few swings which leads to fighting over whose turn it is, but not here. The Malibu Country Mart playground has a whole row of bucket swings for babies and toddlers, and a whole separate row of big kid swings! They also have great restaurants, coffee shops and cafés, a toy store, boutiques that carry kid’s clothing, as well as great designer shopping for mom and dad. And if you drive an electric car they have several charging stations you can use. After playing here head over to Malibu Pier for a fun family lunch.
12) LUNCH AT THE MALIBU PIER
Malibu Farm Restaurant and Malibu Farm Cafe, both located on the Malibu Pier are great upscale options for a fun lunch with young kids. The restaurant is located at the base of the pier and is full-service with full bar and specialty cocktails. The cafe is located at the end of the pier and offers counter-service. Both have amazing views of the pacific ocean, and Surfrider Beach where you will see surfers catching waves almost every day! Neither spot takes lunch reservations, so get someone in your party to wait in line while you take your kids to wander the pier, watch the surfers and explore the cute pier boutique before you sit down to lunch. The Malibu Pier is smaller but much nicer than the Santa Monica Pier.
Have you explored Santa Monica, the Palisades or Malibu? Please share your tips or questions in the comments below! To receive my articles and reviews straight to your inbox please SUBSCRIBE HERE.
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