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When thinking about the best things to do in Santa Monica with kids no doubt you’ve heard about the gorgeous beaches and the iconic pier, but are you aware of all the fun things to do at Santa Monica? 

This gorgeous little beach town offers so much for families including kid friendly museums, excellent shopping, fabulous parks and more.  From Santa Monica, you’ve also got easy access to all the other family friendly attractions around Los Angeles.

So if you’re planning on a Santa Monica family vacation, then this Santa Monica things to do with kids guide is perfect for you.  In this guide, we cover all the super fun things to do Santa Monica has for families including fun things to do on Santa Monica Pier, fun things to do in Downtown Santa Monica, fun things to do at Santa Monica beach and more.

In addition to things to do with kids in Santa Monia, we also provide some tips on where to stay.

So let’s get started and find you the best things to do Santa Monica has for families.

Talk to other families about their tips on visiting Santa Monica and join our Thrifty Family Travel Facebook Group.

Or if you’re more of a visual person, get inspired on our Thrifty Family Travel Instagram Feed.

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Santa Monica- Things to do with Kids Map

Before we get started, to help you decide what order to do all the fun things to do in Santa Monica, I’ve provided this handy map below, which shows you where all the different attractions are located. Zoom in and out for a better view.

 

Best Things to do in Santa Monica with Kids

Below in this guide, I’ve provided a comprehensive list of things to do with kids in Santa Monica. I have tried to provide as much information as possible to make your planning easier, including locations, opening hours and ticket prices.  All information was correct at the time of publishing.

Santa Monica Pier

What to do Santa Monica? One of the top things to do in Santa Monica is of course visit the Santa Monica Pier! This historic landmark has been around for over 100 years and is an iconic destination. There are so many things to do Santa Monica Pier offers – from rides aplenty including the Ferris Wheel, Carousel, Pacific Park Amusement Park, to entertaining street performers and concerts. 

There are restaurants, treat shops and food carts to satisfy any cravings including the must-have cotton candy. And of course, the views! Stroll along and take in Malibu and the South Bay, check out the surfers hang’n 10 and breathe in the salty air – it is truly a magical destination for families, with so many things to do on the Santa Monica Pier.

And as the Santa Monica Pier is open until 10pm, it is also one of the fun things to do in Santa Monica at night the whole family will enjoy!

Location: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Daily 6am to 10pm – individual businesses/attractions have their own operating hours

Price: FREE (if you’re just strolling)

Pacific Park

One of the best things to do in Santa Monica Pier is Pacific Park. Featuring 12 thrilling rides including the nine-storey Pacific Wheel (the world’s first solar powered Ferris wheel) and the nail-biting West Coaster rollercoaster, and also the exhilarating 44 foot drop of the Pacific Plunge! 

If you prefer the old-school carnival games, Pacific Park has you covered with Ring Toss, Long Range Basketball, Whac-A-Mole and loads more… all with the obligatory stuffed animal prizes! With millions of visitors each year you know this has got to be one of the best things to do at Santa Monica Pier.

Location: 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Generally 11am to 9pm, however times change seasonally, check the Pacific Park Calendar for your travel dates

Price: Admission is FREE | Rides range in price from USD $5 – $11, or you can purchase unlimited rides for USD $40 for people aged 8 and over | USD $20 for people aged 7 and under

Looff Hippodrome Carousel

For over 100 years the Looff Hippodrome Carousel has been one of the iconic Santa Monica Pier things to do. Families love riding any of the 44 hand-carved horses, 2 sleighs, rabbit or goat, whilst festive band music transports riders back to the golden age. And it’s not only the carousel which is eye-catching, the Carousel is housed in the unique Looff Hippodrome building with whimsical arches and turrets – definitely one of the things to see at Santa Monica Pier.

And if you feel like you’ve seen it before, you very well could have as it’s been featured in loads of Hollywood movies and TV shows including Forrest Gump, Iron Man and The Sting. If you’re looking for top things to do Santa Monica Pier has on offer that are affordable family fun, the Carousel is worth checking out!

Location: 276 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Mon & Thu 11am to 5pm | Frid – Sun 11am to 7pm | Tue & Wed Closed

Price: USD $2 per adult | USD $1 per child | Under 2s are free

Playland Arcade

If you’re looking for things to do at the Santa Monica Pier when you need a break from the sun, or need to dodge some rain… head indoors to the Playland Arcade and test your skills on over 200 games. 

Playland Arcade has the whole spectrum of arcade games… from air hockey tables, a shooting gallery, foosball, pinball machines, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, Dance-Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, and so much more – from classic to contemporary!

This is one of the fun things to do at Santa Monica Pier where you can show the kids some old-fashioned games and let them school you on the new tech, and why not capture the moment with a pic in the photo booth! And the great thing is the Playland Arcade is one of the things to do at night in Santa Monica, as it’s open to 10pm! 

Location: 350 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Daily 10am to 10pm

Price: Games start at USD $1

Santa Monica State Beach

Looking for fun things to do near Santa Monica Pier? You can’t go past the beach! And what a long beach it is! It stretches 3.5 miles and has to be divided by; North of the Pier and South of the Pier, so visitors can get their bearings. 

The mild surf, manned lifeguard stations and plenty of restrooms make Santa Monica Beach perfect for families and if you’re looking for things to do in Santa Monica Beach (besides swimming), there’s stretches of paved pathways – perfect for walking, cycling, rollerblading!

The beach is one of the must do things in Santa Monica, so grab your buckets and spades, surfboards and bikes and enjoy this iconic So-Cal beach – it’s one of the things for kids to do in Santa Monica they will love!

Location: Located along the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Anytime

Price: FREE

Original Muscle Beach

Even if you’re not into fitness, the Original Muscle Beach is one of the best things to see in Santa Monica! Kids will love watching the acrobatic feats and muscle flexing and you might even be inspired to dust off that gym gear and practice some pull ups.

Located South of the Pier and not to be confused with Muscle Beach in Venice Beach, the Original Muscle Beach was established in the 1930s for acrobats and stunt-people to practice their acts for films shot during the Great Depression (to distract people from their own financial crises).

It has since morphed into an outdoor fitness area with plenty of retro gym equipment such as parallel bars, rings and ropes. So why not join the ‘fitspo’ movement and visit the Original Muscle Beach, one of the unique things to do in Santa Monica.

Location: South of the Pier, Ocean Front Walk, Santa Moncia

Opening Hours: Anytime

Price: FREE

3DAR Trick Art Museum

The name sums it up, with 3DAR Trick Art Museum basically being a trick with art in both 3D and AR. Whilst these types of museums are popular now, this particular one in Santa Monica was America’s first 3D augmented reality museum!

You’ll be able to act your heart out with over 40 interactive scenes… will you get eaten by a T-Rex? Survive the flames of a dragon? Fall off atop the Hollywood sign? 

Whatever you decide, it is the perfect setting for Instagram and Tiktok, making this one of the things to do in Santa Monica with teenagers – they’ll love it… and love you for taking them to one of the fun things in Santa Monica, that will give them some great Social pics!

Location: 1254 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Sun/Wed/Thu 11am to 7.30pm | Fri & Sat 11am to 8.30pm | Mon & Tue Closed

Price: USD $27 per adult | USD $15 per child

End of Route 66

US Route 66 is one of the legendary original highways from East to West across America, established in the 1920s. Starting in Chicago and running through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before finishing in Santa Monica.

As this was the primary route for those migrating west, the communities along the way benefitted and became quite prosperous. When the highway was under threat of being bypassed these communities fought to keep it open. They were successful until 1985 when Route 66 was officially removed from the highway system.

However, the iconic end to this route is signposted on the Santa Monica Pier and is one of the cool things in Santa Monica thousands of visitors get photographed with each year. When visiting the Pier, definitely add this as one of the things to see Santa Monica.

Location: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica (just before the Playland Arcade)

Opening Hours: Daily 6am to 10pm 

Price: FREE 

Heal the Bay Aquarium

Kids activities Santa Monica don’t get much better than a visit to an aquarium where they can plunge their hands into ‘touch tanks’ – getting hands on with starfish, hermit crabs and sea urchins – making this one of the fun things to do with kids in Santa Monica.

Heal the Bay Aquarium is located at the Pier, on the beach level which is awesome for the ‘Under the Pier’ exhibit, allowing you a glimpse of the halibut and rays that like to lay low under the Pier.

With over 100 local species to discover, daily educational programs and hands-on programs, the Aquarium is literally one of the cool things to do in Santa Monica.

Location: 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 12pm to 4pm

Price: USD $10 per person | Under 12s are free

Take a Bike Tour

Discover the iconic beaches and streets of Santa Monica and Venice Beach on your Electric Bike Tour. This laid back riding style allows you to sightsee without any huffing and puffing, alternatively if you want to get physical you can simply use your leg power – the bike has both settings. 

Your guide will point out key attractions and all the things to do and see in Santa Monica as you cruise the famous Venice canals and cycle the Santa Monica Beach trails.

So if you’re looking for things to do around Santa Monica and not sure if you have the energy for 3-hours of cycling, why not check out this electric Bike Tour, where you get the best of both worlds!

Location: Departure Point – 214 Pier Ave east of Main Street, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Departure Time – 10am (approx. 3 hours duration)

Price: USD $89 per person (age restrictions apply) – Click here to book your tickets online

Annenberg Community Beach House

The Annenberg Community Beach House is a public facility with loads of activities at Santa Monica Beach, located on five acres of oceanfront property. The grounds and gated area of this unique community attraction are open to everyone with no membership or reservation required.

You are able to access the playground, beach areas, beach volleyball and soccer courts and the splash pad which is a water feature shooting water out of the ground and is one of the best Santa Monica toddler activities – all are free things to do in Santa Monica.

There is a calendar of free events along with free tours of the Marion Davies Guest House. There are a few facilities onsite which incur a fee including the pool and beach umbrellas.

If you’re looking for family friendly things to do Santa Monica Beach and also free things in Santa Monica – the Annenberg Community Beach House is definitely worth checking out!

Location: 415 Pacific Coast Hwy, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Varies seasonally, check Beach House calendar for your travel dates

Price: FREE (Beach House Grounds & Gated Area)

Shopping in Downtown Santa Monica and Third Promenade

If you like to shop til you drop or alternatively save your dollars and window shop… then Downtown Santa Monica and Third Street Promenade is one of the activities to do in Santa Monica for you.

Just East of the Pier, the 3rd Street Promenade is a pedestrian mall esplanade – made up of three outdoor blocks and closed off to street traffic. Speciality retailers abound including Lululemon, Urban Outfitters, Patagonia and more. There are loads of eateries and street performers provide the perfect entertainment.

The other major shopping area nearby is Santa Monica Place, where you’ll find luxurious retailers including Nordstrom, Rolex, Louis Vuitton and more. This premier space has three open air levels and if you’re looking for things to eat in Santa Monica Place, just head to the rooftop which is packed with eateries. This shopping area is also one of the things to do in Santa Monica when it rains – as there are enough undercover areas to keep you dry, so you can keep shopping.

If you’re looking for things to do around Santa Monica Pier, why not wander over to the shops and take a peek.

Location: 1351 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Individual businesses have their own operating hours, check directory here

Price: FREE (if you window shop)

Cayton Children’s Museum

If you’re wondering what to do with kids in Santa Monica, what about play? The Cayton Children’s Museum is all about kids experiencing the benefits of creative and purposeful play. The discovery-based exhibits encompass a real life helicopter, augmented reality and art studios… to name but a few of the loads of exhibits on offer, this really is one of the coolest things to do in Santa Monica for families!

Divided into five ‘exhibit wings’ there really is something for all ages. The first exhibit is for babies with a kaleidoscope of visual sensory. The second exhibit is where kids get to experience helping the community via a rescue sea operator, fire station, rescue chopper and an animal hospital. The third exhibit encourages children to face their fear of heights. The fourth exhibit allows children to practice introspection through calming activities and the final exhibit is all about collaborative play.

For Santa Monica attractions for kids you really can’t go past the Cayton Children’s Museum, it is one of the great family things to do in Santa Monica.

Location: 395 Santa Monica Pl Suite 374 Level 3, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Wed – Sun 10am to 5pm | Mon & Tue Closed 

Price: USD $16 per person | Under 1s are free

Tongva Park

Tongva Park is a modern, urban park, stretching over six acres and divided into four sections; Observation Hill, Discovery Hill, Garden Hill and Gathering Hill. Tongva Park is one of the things to do around Santa Monica Pier as it is located just a couple of minutes walk away.

Why not admire the unique art sculptures, or discover the diverse plants and trees or take a stroll along one of the many walking paths to explore this beautiful Park. And the great thing is your budget will love you – as this is one of the free things to do in Santa Monica!

Location: 1615 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Anytime

Price: FREE

Museum of Flying

One of the best things in Santa Monica for flight enthusiasts is the Museum of Flying. with 20 aircraft, five cockpit displays and loads of interactive exhibits – you’ll feel just like a pilot!

Learn about Southern Californian’s aviation history and the proud legacy of the Douglas Aircraft Company through more than 200 artifacts as well as 300 rare original vintage aircraft models. On display there are also murals, bronze sculptures and original artwork.

The Museum is also home to the California Aviation Hall of Fame, making this one of the Santa Monica things to see. And as a bonus it is also one of the cheap things to do in Santa Monica!

Location: 3100 Airport Ave, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Thursday – Sunday 10am to 4pm

Price: USD $10 per adult | USD $6 per child (3-12) | Under 3s are free

Farmers Markets

The Downtown Farmers Market is one of the things to do in Santa Monica for free. Open on both Wednesday and Saturday from 8am to 1pm in rain, hail or shine. The Wednesday market has been running since the 1980s and is recognised as one of the largest and most diverse markets featuring over 60 Californian farms.

The Saturday market has the largest percentage of certified organic growers located within the 40 farming stands. Keep your eyes peeled as celebrities are known to frequent the markets amongst locals, chefs and other visitors.

So if you’re looking at getting amongst the local action, the Farmers Markets are one of the things to do downtown Santa Monica that will make you feel like part of the community. 

Location: 155-199 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica

Opening Hours: Wednesday & Saturday 8am to 1pm

Price: FREE 

Marvin Braude Bike Trail

Looking for the best things to do in Santa Monica and Venice Beach? Why not pedal power your way along the 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail! The trail actually runs through Venice and onto Hermosa and Redondo Beach before finishing at Torrance County Beach. 

Cycling 22-miles does not sound like one of the most kid friendly things to do in Santa Monica… but here’s the great thing, you don’t need to ride it all – just choose a section and turn around!

Location: Santa Monica 

Opening Hours: Anytime

Price: FREE (unless you hire a bike)

Best Family Hotels in Santa Monica

Now you know exactly what to do in Santa Monica with kids, you’re probably wondering what are the best family hotels in Santa Monica?

Well, below we’ve covered our top three picks when it comes to the best family accommodation in Santa Monica.  Each of these hotels offers great value for money and are in excellent locations for visiting all the attractions in the area.

Click here for our more comprehensive guide on the family hotels Santa Monica has.

Cal Mar Hotel

 

Located in the heart of downtown Santa Monica, minutes from the beach and 0.9m / 1.5km from Santa Monica Pier, the Cal Mar Hotel Suites are a fantastic option for those looking for the best hotel to stay in Santa Monica with kids.

Each suite can accommodate a family of up to four people with bedding configurations of either two double beds and a sofa bed or just the one double bed and sofa bed.  Each of the suites is spacious and comes with a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, living room, and separate bedroom. 

One of the best things about this hotel is it has a swimming pool – the only one in this guide to do so!  You usually have to pay quite a bit extra to have accommodation with a swimming pool – so this is a lovely bonus.

Other amenities include onsite parking, a relaxing garden courtyard and laundry services.

Click here for more information and to check the current price

Hotel Carmel


If you want to know where to stay in Santa Monica area where you’re close to everything – then the Hotel Carmel is the place to be.  Located in the centre of downtown surrounded by shops and places to eat and located only 0.4m / 0.6km to the Santa Monica Pier, you can walk to everything from here.

Families of up to four people are accommodated in rooms offering two large double beds, while the larger suites also have an additional sofa bed. In addition, each of the Santa Monica accommodation family rooms includes air conditioning, a TV, tea and coffee making facilities and WIFI, while the larger suites also have a fridge and a separate sitting area.

Each morning the hotel serves a complimentary breakfast and parking is also available onsite.

The Hotel Carmel by the Sea is a stunning hotel and worth considering for families looking for the best family hotels in Santa Monica.

Click here for more information and to check the current price

Ocean Lodge


The Ocean Lodge is one of the hotels in Santa Monica near Santa Monica Pier (0.3m/ 0.5km) and Beach (0.2m / 0.3km), just a few minutes walk to either the Pier or the Beach, this 1950s California Beach vintage-style hotel will have you reminiscing of yesteryear. 

The standard rooms can accommodate families of four in two double beds, if you’re after more space, the King Suite still fits families of four, however it has a separate room. And for families of five there is a Queen Bedroom Suite, also with a separate room and two doubles / one single bed.

All rooms come with free WiFi, air conditioning, fridges, coffee makers (upon request) – however why make your own coffee when you can take advantage of complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate in the lobby each day!

One of the great perks of the Ocean Lodge is the onsite restaurant. Chez Jay Restaurant is a renowned celebrity hangout, so keep your eyes peeled and tastebuds ready to try the delicious steaks and fresh seafood – and free peanuts.

Click here for more information and to check the current price

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We hope this guide has got you excited to visit Santa Monica! Click here for more things to do in Los Angeles with kids.  We also have specific guides on things to do in Hollywood with kids and things to do in Anaheim with kids.

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