In case you haven’t yet heard, kids and their parents get free admission to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art any old time they want to go. Art for NexGen is the nation’s only free youth membership program, offering free admission to anyone 17 and under along with one accompanying adult. To join, print an enrollment form and bring it to the museum with you – and then hit the Boone Children’s Gallery anytime you want.
California Science Center
There is so much to do at the Science Center it’s just crazy – including visiting the new exhibit housing the space shuttle Endeavor. Naturally the Science Center greatly appreciates contributions at the door when you can afford to make them, but when you can’t you’re just as welcome, with no questions asked; the “admission” price is a suggestion only.
Although there is a cost to attend the films offered at the Observatory (and they are worth every penny), there is plenty to do at Griffith Observatory without spending a cent. The many interesting interactive exhibits, the epic views, and even the remarkable building itself make the trip a Los Angeles must-do.
Paley Center for Media
This is so LA; formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio, the Paley Center has recordings of old TV and radio shows running during opening hours, plus a library where you can request a private screening of any show in history. Like the Science Center, the Paley has a suggested donation posted, but admission is free every day.
Wells Fargo History Museum
The free Wells Fargo History Museum connects the bank’s history to the Gold Rush and early southern California, with displays that include an 1868 Wells Fargo stagecoach and rare gold coins and nuggets. A telegraph machine in the corner on the first floor allows kids to send messages between two tables using a Morse code chart.
Glendale College Planetarium Public Shows
A series of free astronomy presentations for both the GCC community and the general public covers a variety of topics every Wednesday (Spring 2013) from 12:30pm-1pm in the GCC planetarium (CS257). Topics for the different presentations explore our solar system, lunar phases, and the possibility of life on other planets.
SAMO The Whale
Santa Monica Place has a free play area called SAMO’s Clubhouse, designed by the same team that brought us the Skirball’s Noah’s Ark. The enormous play-on, play-in, play-around whale is built to scale, created using recycled materials, and keeps kids up to age 8 or so entertained for a surprisingly long time. The whale is on the top floor, in the food court, with plenty of natural light and plenty of seating for parents.
Watch a hockey game or figure skating at the Toyota Sports Center
The Toyota Sports Center has three different ice rinks with constant action, and two of them are observable from a heated cafe area above the rinks. Check the schedule; if you time it right, one rink could have an action-packed hockey game going on while the other has top-level figure skaters in a freestyle practice session. You can watch both for free, or spend a few coins on hot chocolate and arcade games while you watch.
Getty Center or Villa
The key to either Getty museum is that the seemingly hefty price is only for parking. This means that if you can get a ride, carpool, or take the bus, a day at the Getty can be free – and there is plenty going on at both locations to fill a lot more than a day.
The Fashion Institute of Design Museum
Admission is always free for families to check out the historical garments and costumes at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum. Expect to see literally thousands of threads worn in movies through the ages.
Credit: Mommy Poppins