The 10 Best Kid Museums in Southern California 2023

by | May 31, 2023 | Family Adventures

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There are so many fantastic family outdoor activities to take part in around the Southern California area that it is easy to overlook just how much fun there is to be had indoors! Throughout the Southern Pacific area, there are endless opportunities for curious families to learn, discover, and explore while having tons of fun together. For some great indoor fun, check out our list of the best children’s museums and kidspace areas to visit in Southern California with family in 2023! 




Children’s Museums in the Pasadena Area


Kidspace Children’s Museum –  Pasadena

A trip to the Kidspace Children’s Museum is the perfect way to spend the day with family in Pasadena. The 3.5-acre non-profit museum is made up of both indoor and outdoor exhibits and provides children dozens of hands-on experiences at every turn. Kids are able to physically explore museum spaces by climbing rocks and tunneling through obstacles, learn about nature by taking part in exhibits about butterflies and beehives, and try their hands at farming at the museum’s “Muddy Boot Farm” exhibit. The museum is geared towards children ages 1-10 years old and is located close to the Rose Bowl. Some learning experiences can be wet and messy, so make sure to pack the kiddos a change of clothes.  


Southern California Children’s Museum – Pasadena 

The Southern California Children’s Museum is a great place for families with younger children (ages seven and under) to spend a few hours. The museum was actually founded by parents, and the featured hands-on exhibits are geared specifically to young children’s interests and age group. The museum has some fun workshops on naturalist topics such as bees and composting and offers many cultural events. There are also weekly on-site educational programs such as crafts and sing-alongs. 


 Where to Stay Near Pasadena

The Hyatt Place Pasadena Hotel is close to the city center and nearby attractions. Families can enjoy the tennis courts and outdoor pool. The hotel also offers a free breakfast, which is always a plus when traveling with kids.


toddler girl with big plastic camera - The 10 Best Kid Museums In California

Say cheese! There is no saying “Don’t touch” at these great children’s museums. Photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash.


Throughout the Southern Pacific area, there are endless opportunities for curious families to learn, discover, and explore while having tons of fun together.


Children’s Museums In Perris 


Southern California Railway Museum – Perris

Anyone who loves trains will have a great day at the Southern California Railway Museum (formally the Orange Empire Railway Museum) in Perris. Guest will be transported to the era of the steam engine as they learn about the history of railway travel and discover model trains and historical freight cars. A train ride around the museum’s property is always a highlight of any visit. Unlimited rides are offered on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year.  The Museum also offers special “Polar Express” rides during the holiday season.    


Pro Tip: For even more railroad fun, be sure to visit Lomita Railroad Museum in Lomita. 


Where to Stay Near Perris

The Best Western Plus Lake Elsinore Inn and Suites is a family-friendly hotel that is located about eight miles from the Railway Museum. There are lots of activities nearby, and the hotel features a pool and spa. 


Red train on train set - The 10 Best Kid Museums In Southern California

Hop aboard for a fun trip to the Southern California Railway Museum! Photo by Darren Bockman on Unsplash.


Children’s Museums In Orange County


Children’s Museum at La Habra – La Habra

There is so much fun to be had at the Children’s Museum at La Habra. Curious young children will have a blast exploring a 1942 caboose and taking a ride on an authentic carousel. There are also opportunities for kids to put on a costume and hit center stage or dress up as their favorite community helper.  Additional highlights include visiting the museum’s nature center (filled with dozens of taxidermied creatures), participating in STEAM activities, and creating masterpieces in the art studio. 


Discovery Cube Orange County, Santa Ana

The Discovery Cube Museum in Santa Ana is a science-based children’s museum filled with interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. There is no better place in the area for older children to learn and discover the properties of science while being thoroughly entertained. Popular museum exhibits include Physics Labs, the Rainforest Adventure area, and the Space Gallery.  Family memberships are available for purchase. Not only do these provide free access to the Discovery Cube, but also give guests free access to other science-based museums around the world.


Pro Tip: There is a second Discovery Cube Museum located in Los Angeles. Highlights include hands-on Science of Hockey, Eco-Challenge, and Paw Patrol Adventure Play exhibits. 


Pretend City Children’s Museum – Irvine

Imaginative play is not only fun, but it is essential for learning and enriching young minds.  At Pretend City Museum in Irvine, small kids can let their imaginations run wild as they explore a pretend city that is just their size. Little ones will have so much fun participating in play-based activities like shopping at the grocery store, driving a fire engine, and fixing ailments at the doctor’s exhibit. The museum also hosts a monthly neurodivergent family night and offers free developmental screenings.


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Where to Stay in Orange County

When we visited Irvine and amused ourselves for hours in Pretend City, we stayed at the Hotel Irvine, a modern and convenient high-rise hotel close to San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary and centrally located to everything else. There is a clubhouse with free breakfast and an onsite restaurant with fabulous food. An outdoor pool and lawn games are perfect for an active family.


The 10 Best Kid Museums in Southern California

All ready to fight the fire. Playing dress up is so much fun! Photo by Amina Filkins on Pexels.



Children’s Museums in the Los Angeles Area


California Science Center – Los Angeles

The California Science Center is a must-see for inquisitive elementary school-aged children. The most popular exhibit is the permanent display of the space shuttle, Endeavour. Guests are able to view the shuttle up close, learn about space exploration, make discoveries about the shuttle’s missions and astronauts, and find out how high-tech technology was used to build this amazing ship. This top-ranking SoCal science-based children’s museum also boasts other interesting exhibits, including some on Mayan culture and Ecosystems. There is also an IMAX theater that brings educational experiences to life. The museum offers free admission to all permanent exhibits.  


Pro Tip: Interested in learning even more about space travel?  Make sure to visit the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey.  


La Brae Tar Pits and Museum  – Los Angeles

Be transported back in time with a visit to La Brae Tar Pits, a one-of-a-kind active fossil excavation site. Families can discover fascinating facts about natural history by exploring fossils (including new discoveries), attending a live Ice Age Encounters stage show, and encountering gigantic mammoths and mastodons. The museum also has an impressive 3D theater. End the day at nearby Hancock Park with a picnic and some time on the playground. 


Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial –  Hollywood

For a unique museum experience, consider visiting the Los Angeles Fire Department Museum. The museum is actually housed in Old Fire Station 27, and its artifacts are well preserved by the historical society.  The whole family will have opportunities to see LAFT fire equipment (some dating back to the 1880s), learn about famous fires, and practice safety lessons at the life safety program. The museum is open on Saturdays and offers guests free admission.


Petersen Automotive Museum/Los Angeles Car Museum – Los Angeles

For families that are interested in cars, there is no better place than Petersen Automotive Museum to make some new discoveries. The museum features more than 250 cars ranging from classic automobiles to new high-tech vehicles. Current exhibits include “Ford Fever” and “Cars on Film and Television.” The museum also hosts a variety of car-themed events, such as cruise-ins, block parties, and movie nights. 


Autry Museum of the American West – Los Angeles – California

A fun cultural experience can always be found at the Autry Museum of the American West. Visitors can learn about the American West through the museum’s many art exhibits, learning centers, and Native American artifacts exhibits. Although the Autry is not specifically a children’s museum, it has a special kid-friendly play space (featuring rotating special exhibitions) and hosts several family-friendly events. The museum is conveniently located on Western Heritage Way, across from the zoo, making it an easy stop during a day of sightseeing in LA.  


Where to Stay in the Los Angeles Area

The Kimpton Everly Hotel in the heart of Hollywood makes visiting Los Angeles easy. A block from the Walk of Fame, every room has a city view or a clear view of the Hollywood sign which is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2023.


The 10 Best Kid Museums in Southern California

Kids will feel like they are blasting off into space when they get to see the Endeavour at the California Science Center. Photo by kvnga-nP0hBTvSLo0 on Unsplash.


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Children’s Museums in the Santa Monica Area


Cayton Children’s Museum – Santa Monica

The Cayton Children’s Museum (formerly the Zimmer Children’s Museum) is a play-based children’s museum for kids ages eight and under to explore with their family and friends. Favorite exhibits include an animal hospital, helicopter, fire engine, and art studio. There is also a special play area for children under two years old. The museum has several free guest activities, including storytimes, drama, and music, and offers a variety of family pass options. 


Skirball Cultural Center- Los Angeles

At the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, families can learn about Jewish heritage and culture through historic exhibits, art displays, and archeological artifacts. The most popular spot in the museum for young children is Noah’s Ark, an 8000-square-foot wooden ark on which kids can climb, play, and interact with hundreds of handcrafted animals. The museum additionally features many special family-friendly events, including archeological digs, storytelling, and live music.  


Where to Stay in Santa Monica

The Shutters On the Beach in Santa Monica is located on the Pacific Ocean beach, which makes this an ideal place for families to stay. Kids can also enjoy poolside games and nearby activities. The outdoor pool overlooks the ocean. The onsite restaurant is adjacent to the boardwalk and loungers and umbrellas are available to guests. Families can stroll to the nearby Santa Monica Pier.


The 10 Best Kid Museums In Southern California

Music time at the museum is so much fun! Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash.


Children’s Museums in the San Bernardino Area


Chino Youth Museum – Chino

The Chino Youth Museum offers families a variety of cultural and interactive exhibits that tell the tails of the history of the Chino Valley. Weekly programs for young kids focus on music, reading, and crafts. The museum also hosts free general admission days, kid’s nights out, and other special events. The museum is located on Sixth Street and operates Wednesday through Saturday.   


Where to Stay in San Bernardino 

The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Bernardino is close to the interchange and airport. Family-friendly amenities include a heated outdoor pool, connecting rooms, and an on-site restaurant. Find nearby attractions like the San Bernardino County Museum and the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum


painting with brushes - museums for kids in socal

Children’s museum arts and crafts times are the perfect time for kids to channel their inner artists. Photo by Andrew-Valdivia on Unsplash.


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Children’s Museums in Temecula 


Pennypickle’s Workshop – Temecula

A fun place to stop with kids when visiting the Temecula area is Pennypickle’s Workshop. The museum combines science discovery with whimsical imagination to create a magical interactive space for families to learn and explore. Kids can join Professor Pennypickle on a quest to learn about science through time travel, interesting inventions, and crazy discoveries. Museum mazes and secret spaces make this museum an entertaining place to explore. 


Where to Stay in Temecula

South Coast Winery Resort and Spa in Temecula may not be the first property to come to mind for visiting families. Their outdoor pool, however, is a huge draw. Set alongside growing vineyards and orchards of fruit trees, kids will have a blast running through the rows and collecting their next snack. Parents can indulge in the onsite wine-tasting room while kids enjoy their grape juice.


boy looking through magnifying glass - The 10 Best Kid Museums in Southern California

Your child is never too young to start conducting science experiments. Photo by Mart Production on Pexels.


Children’s Museums in the Claremont Area


Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology – Claremont/San Dimas

Kids who are interested in fossils will certainly want to visit the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. The museum features two main exhibits. The “Hall of Life” exhibit focuses on the vast history of the earth, while the “ Hall of Footprints” highlights the museum’s fossils and trackway collection. Visitors can also learn about current research and observe the fossil preparation process. The museum is located on the Webb Schools Campus in Claremont.


Where to Stay in Claremont 

The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Claremont is just a six-minute drive from the museum.  The hotel features a pool, hot tub, restaurant, and dueling piano bar.  Other nearby attractions include the California Botanic Gardens and Raging Waters water park. 


Did you know that you can visit dinosaurs in Southern California? Photo by Rowan Lamb on Unsplash.





Kimberly Falchek is a freelance writer and child development specialist based out of Salem, Massachusetts. She has contributed to several parenting and travel publications. When not working, Kimberly enjoys hiking, photography, and traveling with family.