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Looking for fun things to do in Los Angeles with teenagers? So were we. Our youngest had a soccer tournament in Southern California, and her two older brothers, ages 14 and 17, were brought along for the ride. To be fair, it wasn’t too hard of a sell, being that LA is both a beach city and a movie-making powerhouse. With the promise of a theme park or two, a hike up to the Hollywood Sign, and some awesome museums, the boys were in. Here’s what they liked best.
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Universal Studios Hollywood
Why They’ll Love It: Movie-loving teens and those who loved (and honestly, still love) Harry Potter will go ga-ga for Universal Studios Hollywood. The trick to avoiding sullen glares? It’s all in the Pass.
The number-one tip for teens at the theme park and active movie studio is to purchase the Universal Express ticket to help skip the lines. Even better, a great way to shorten wait times is to take advantage of Single Rider Lines for some of the top rides, including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Transformers: The Ride 3D. Take a load off by taking the newly redone studio tour conducted on open-air trams. And don’t leave without trying The Simpson’s Krusty Burger.
DON’T MISS! 7 Best Places to Stay in Los Angeles with Family
This all being said, it’s also smart to get the teens out of bed early (tough, I know) to keep the line waiting even shorter and to take advantage of cooler morning temperatures. Then, when their energy is flagging in the afternoon, return to the hotel so they can swim and reacquaint themselves with their phones.
Getting to Universal Studios Hollywood
There are a few amusement parks around Los Angeles (Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, Disneyland in Anaheim), but Universal Studios Hollywood is the closest to most areas.
The entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood is off the Lankershim exit on the U.S. 101 Freeway. Parking is plentiful. There are general and preferred lots. General parking before 5 PM is $30 and $10 after. Preferred is $50 before 5 PM and $20 after. Front Gate parking is $60.
Discount Tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood
We get our DISCOUNT TICKETS to Universal Studios Hollywood (including the Express Pass and VIP Experience) through Undercover Tourist! Love them, and we save a TON of money.
Where to Stay Near Universal Studios Hollywood
Some hotels in the area have special relationships with the theme park and may allow guests early admission and discount tickets. Hilton Los Angeles – Universal City is one. It’s a beautiful hotel less than a mile from the park with a gorgeous glass garden atrium and an outdoor pool. The Sheraton Universal Hotel, about a mile from the entrance, provides a shuttle to the park. It also has an outdoor pool with a bar inside it. Both are also super convenient to enjoy City Walk, which is like an amusement park of retail shops and restaurants. In North Hollywood, about 2 miles from Universal, the Garland is a swanky hotel that has family suites and rooms with bunk beds. It also has a pool, restaurant and bar.
Santa Monica Pier
Why They’ll Love It: With street performers, shopping, movie theaters, and tons of dining options, the 3rd Street Promenade near the historic Santa Monica Pier is a must for families traveling to the Los Angeles area with teenagers. The entertainment keeps going all day and into the evening, and when they’re tired of shopping, there’s always Pacific Park, an amusement park set right on the pier. With a Ferris wheel, thrill rides, and plenty of carnival treats to enjoy, you’ll see grins you may not have noticed for a while.
Why They’ll Love It: Take your creative teenagers to the Getty to marvel at art from the Middle Ages to today, all set amid modern architecture and manicured gardens. Pick up a Demons, Angels, and Monsters audio tour guide, which highlights the use of the supernatural throughout the Getty’s collection. The museum offers a cool tram ride from the main parking lot to the top of the hill for incredible views of the Center itself and the city. Although admission is free, the center is a popular spot and is currently requiring timed reservations. Located between Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley, this is an easy day trip.
Where to Stay in Santa Monica
If you decide to make Santa Monica your home base, and why wouldn’t you, since it’s so gorgeous and convenient, try the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows, centrally located on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard with a view of the pier or an ocean view from many of its rooms. The Fairmont Miramar has a great pool secluded by tropical trees and plants obscuring the city beyond. FIG Restaurant has a lovely garden dining option. Readers rejoice! The hotel participates in the Bedside Reading program, where books are left bedside, and guests are free to read and even take the books home with them or onto their next adventure. Also lovely is Shutters On The Beach. Set right off the Strand bike path, steps from the ocean and pier, it’s a treat for the whole family. Plus, they have a pool, poolside service, a spa, and two oceanfront restaurants.
Why They’ll Love It: From shopping on famous Rodeo Drive, or at least window shopping, to indulging at the world’s first 24-hour cupcake ATM at Sprinkles Cupcakes, Beverly Hill is a great place to make them feel like winners. Consider a Beverly Hills Segway Tour to learn about the neighborhood’s history, art, and architecture in a super fun way. Don’t miss taking a selfie in front of the Beverly Hills sign in Beverly Garden Park.
Or, hop on an open-air bus and tour Beverly Hills, Hollywood and West Hollywood to see star homes and hot spots. The TMZ Celebrity Tour is a popular choice, with a peek at some of the trendiest spots in town and some very Instagrammable opportunities.
La Brea Tar Pits
Why They’ll Love It: Step back in time at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, where Ice Age fossils will impress even the most jaded of teens, from ancient horses to the Columbia mammoth. Learn how the animals got trapped in just a few inches of tar in some cases and watch paleontologists at work, and check out the Pleistocene Garden with Ice Age-era plants that would have been found in Los Angeles.
Why They’ll Love It: So. much. shopping. Any day of the week, your teenagers can skip between stylish outposts like ALLSAINTS, Alexander McQueen, and Paul Smith. If you’re in town on a weekend, hit up the Sunday vintage flea market – called the Melrose Trading Post – for rare finds. The famous street, which also has myriad dining and entertainment options, starts at Santa Monica Boulevard where Beverly Hills and West Hollywood meet.
Why They’ll Love It: Teens will be starstruck in a whole new way at the Griffith Park Observatory. Not only is there a killer planetarium show, but you can also return at night to look at the dark sky through a Zeiss telescope. Daytime gives a nice view of the sun through the solar telescopes.
More fun than your typical science class, the Observatory’s interactive exhibits display and explain meteorites that landed in California, earthquakes and seismometers, Foucault pendulums and Tesla coils.
For teens who enjoy the outdoors, Griffith Park also offers horseback riding and plenty of hiking. Rent horses at the Griffith Park Horse Rentals at the LA Equestrian Center and ride along bridle paths through sagebrush and manzanita. Or, hit the trails on foot and seek out quail hiding in the chaparral as you hike from the Observatory to Fern Dell, or the Mt. Hollywood trail.
Where to Stay in West Hollywood
Bring the teenagers along and impress them with the highest rooftop pool in LA, at Andaz West Hollywood. Stay for the full-service poolside food and beverage service. West Hollywood locals choose this spot for their own staycations, so you know it’s going to be great. (Take it one step further and take the teens shopping on Rodeo Drive.)
Natural History Museum
Why They’ll Love It: History- and archaeology-minded teens will be in awe at this world-class museum in downtown LA, where you’re greeted with massive skeletons of a T. Rex and a Triceratops locked in battle. Spend time at the Becoming Los Angeles exhibit in the Kevin Sharer Hall, with artifacts and stories from the diverse groups of people who have made LA home. Learn about P-22, Los Angeles’ most famous feline. And check out all sorts of glitter in the gems and minerals exhibit, including the Mojave Nugget, the largest known nugget of California gold.
California Science Center
Why They’ll Love It: Our boys love a good IMAX experience, so the seven-story screen at the California Science Center was a huge hit. We all loved the space shuttle Endeavour, which has completed 25 missions into space. There’s more than meets the eye at this huge complex, with exhibits for every interest. Watch scuba divers interact with leopard sharks in the 28-foot-high kelp forest tank and head to the desert exhibit to experience a flash flood. Put your hand on an ice wall and explore how building insulation works in the Arctic and Antarctica. Right next door to the Natural History Museum in Downtown LA, this is a no-brainer day out for teenagers.
Turn those scowls upside down with these 15 fun things to with a teenager in Los Angeles!
Where to Stay in Downtown Los Angeles
Freehand, Los Angeles is located right in downtown LA, making it ideal for city sightseeing. We love the simple, modern decor with Native American touches. The family suites are super spacious, and there’s an outdoor pool.
More Things To Do In Los Angeles With A Teenager!
- A great thing to do is to check out the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a multi-floor extravaganza showcasing the history of movies set in a restored Art Deco May Co. department store building. Don’t miss the jaw-dropping view from the roof-top deck.
- Then, catch a blockbuster film at the famous TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Check to see who’s playing at the Hollywood Bowl.
- See if there are any games at the Crypto.com Arena (formerly known as the Staples Center).
- Take a drive through Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Hills, past the private residences of their favorite stars. Or take a guided bus tour to do it!
- Swim in the Pacific Ocean, then head to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach for a closer look at the local marine life.
GO WILD and save a ton of money by getting the Los Angeles GO City PASS – which offers 40% off 40+ attractions!
Los Angeles is one of the best places in Southern California and, actually, the United States for teens to have a (gasp!) fun time with their whole family … and they might even admit it!
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