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What's Fun for Kids in Los Angeles

whatsfun_art

1. ON THE BOARDWALK Young cyclists can take off on the smooth, flat bike path along Santa Monica Beach. Rent bikes, helmets, baby seats, and jogging strollers at Perry's Beach Cafe (2400 Ocean Front Walk; 310-452-7609) and pedal two miles north for lunch at Back on the Beach Cafe (four locations, including 445 Pacific Coast Highway; 310-393-8282). At the Santa Monica Pier, you can take a spin on an 82-year-old carousel and ride a solar-polared Ferris wheel at the amusement park.

2. ART WITH A VIEW "Art Detective" cards and an activity room where kids can craft sculptures and masks make the Getty Center L.A.'s most fun art museum for kids. A tram takes you from the underground garage up a steep hill to the entrance, where spectacular city views, a spiral garden, and J. Paul Getty's amazing collection await. Admission is free; parking is $5. 1200 Getty Center Drive; 310-440-7300

3. PARK PLEASURES Rich with recreational gems, Griffith Park's 4,000 acres include a state-of-the art playground (Shane's Inspiration, near the Park Center picnic area), real locomotives and a mini train (Travel Town Museum; 5200 Zoo Drive), pony rides (Crystal Springs Drive, near the Los Feliz Blvd. entrance), a 1926 merry-go-round, and the L.A. Zoo.

4. UNIVERSALLY APPEALING At Universal Studios theme park, kids can get close to their favorite ogre at the Shrek 4-D mini-movie and shake paws with the Cat in the Hat. Though the park is a must-see for some, many attractions, including the famous studio tour, are too scary for young children. 100 Universal City Plaza; 800-UNIVERSAL

5. MEXICAN HERITAGE In 1781, 11 Mexican families started a pueblo on Olvera Street that became Los Angeles. Today, visitors to downtown L.A. can tour the 1818 Avila Adobe, the city's oldest house, listen to strolling mariachis, or shop for traditional Mexican crafts.

6. PITS STOP Marvel at the skeletal remains of prehistoric cats and woolly mammoths and the gloopy goo that preserved them at the La Brea Tar Pits Page Museum (5801 Wilshire Blvd.; 323-934-PAGE). Hungry? Stop by Koo Koo Roo (5757 Wilshire Blvd. and other locations), L.A.'s healthy fast-food chain, featuring flame-broiled chicken and veggies.

7. IN THE GROVE Though the Grove is a big, gussied-up outdoor mall, it's pure pleasure for kids, with a fountain that sprays water to "That's Amore" and a double-decker trolley that runs back and forth to the neighboring Farmers Market. For treats, the market's stalls offer everything from Korean barbecue to French crepes. Corner of Fairfax and Third.

8. HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD At Grauman's Chinese Theater, kids can compare their palms to the handprints of old-school stars like Frank Sinatra, then go next door to the Hollywood & Highland complex, home of the Oscars. Plus, get a great view of the Hollywood sign. 6925 Hollywood Blvd.

9. EXPLORING 90210 After window-shopping on Rodeo Drive, take the kids one block east to Beverly Drive and browse at Tom's Toys, an old-fashioned toy store. It's a short drive to Beverly Hills' beautifully maintained public parks; try Roxbury Park (471 S. Roxbury Drive) or Coldwater Canyon Park (1100 N. Beverly Drive), with its manmade babbling brook.

10. STARGAZING Absolutely have to see a movie while you're in Tinseltown? Check listings at the ArcLight Cinemas and historic Cinerama Dome, and have dinner at the hip on-site Cafe Bar. Bonus: unsurpassed celebrity sightings in the lobby. 6360 Sunset Blvd.; 323-464-4226.

SPORTSMEN'S LODGE HOTEL The big draw for kids at this unpretentious hotel in family-friendly Studio City is a heated Olympic-size pool. A popular perk: free shuttles and ticket discounts to Universal Studios. Doubles start at $124. 12825 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; 818-769-4700; www.slhotel.com

LE PARC SUITE HOTEL The spaciousness of the rooms at this all-suite hotel, tucked into a residential street, will appeal to parents, as will the mini fridges, microwaves, and CD players in every room. For the kids, there's a rooftop pool. For a quick bite, walk down to Melrose Avenue for a chicken curry sandwich at the Urth Caffé. The people-watching there -- beautiful people, that is -- is trés amusing. Doubles start at $165. 733 West Knoll Dr., West Hollywood. 310-855-8888; www.leparcsuites.com

LOEWS SANTA MONICA BEACH HOTEL Strangely enough, in the land of endless summer, there are very few actual beachfront hotels. Here, you are literally on the ocean, steps from the Santa Monica Pier, and within walking distance of the Third Street Promenade. Other perks include a lovely swimming pool and a free gift for kids (cookies or a sand pail) at check-in. Doubles with ocean views start at $350, street-facing rooms at $275. 1700 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica; 310-458-6700; www.loewshotels.com

THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL Who wouldn't want to visit the Pink Palace in the leafy paradise of Beverly Hills? This landmark hotel gives kids a card that entitles them to free drinks at either the retro cool Fountain Coffee Shop or the Cabana Cafe by the beautiful pool. Mom and Dad may want to drop by the fitness center, take advantage of the two tennis courts, or check out the famous Polo Lounge. Doubles start at $420 a night. (The famous detached bungalows, which feature sitting areas and more privacy, start at $460.) 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-276-2251; www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com

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Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the October 2005 issue of Child magazine.