Before the dawn of parenthood, the setting sun on a Friday night ignited the beginning of fun festivities for some of us. Now, every night is a frenetic race to feed, bathe, and put your kids to bed by a reasonable hour. An evening out generally prohibits the presence of anyone whose drink of choice is derived from cows. There is, however, a certain beauty about the city that is illuminated during the night. Wouldn't it be fun to expose your little ones to a night time adventure? Maybe you can show them an amazing view of the lights from skyscrapers or the stars. Or you can also take advantage of many local kids' night out programs and enjoy a date night with your spouse. Here are some ways to make the most of an evening excursion and bring new meaning to the phrase "the night is young."
Los Angeles, CA
Spring is a wonderful time to take the kids to Griffith Observatory at night. The sun sets before 8:00 p.m. so you can get an earlier start to seeing the stars. Before you even enter the building, be sure to check out the amazing view of the city and the Hollywood sign. Inside your kids will love the Foucault pendulum and other cool science exhibits. The planetarium has some wonderful multimedia shows that the kids would enjoy, but keep in mind that children under five are only granted admission to the first show of the day (12:45 p.m. on weekdays, 10:45 a.m. on weekends). There are two telescopes where you can see the wonders of our universe such as planets and stars. Once a month, there is a public star party in which telescopes are set up outside of the observatory for more celestial viewing opportunities. Before you visit, check out H.A. Rey's The Stars. It's a great guide for young (and not-so-young) stargazers.
Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach, CA
On most Friday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the Aquarium of the Pacific hosts a free program called Shark Lagoon Nights. There is no entrance fee, and you can pet the sea life in the outdoor shark lagoon. Get an up close look and touch real bamboo sharks, sand tigers, and sting rays without the usual large crowds. Light refreshments like hot cocoa and desserts are available to purchase. There is no access to the inside of the aquarium, but petting sharks makes it a worthwhile trip. If you want to make the evening a bigger adventure, there are Long Beach harbor tours available just across the aquarium. The last one usually leaves around 6:00 p.m. and lasts 45 minutes. Grab a quick bite to eat at the Pike at Long Beach, take a harbor tour, and then head out to the aquarium for an evening your kids will never forget.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA
The view from the ferris wheel of Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier is arguably one of the best views of the city. If you head to the pier around sunset, it will be an unforgettable image for you and your children. During the spring, evening hours are limited on the weeknights so be sure to check the schedule if you want to ride the ferris wheel. There are a lot of other rides appropriate for preschoolers and up. There is a parking lot adjacent to the pier off Colorado Avenue, which makes a nighttime adventure to the pier more manageable. There are a lot of fast food options for dinner on the pier. If you want to eat somewhere fun, you can walk down to beach level toward muscle beach (south of the pier) and order fresh corn dogs, fries, and lemonade at the original Hot Dog on a Stick. It is in moments like these that make you grateful that you live in Los Angeles.
Chino Youth Museum
The Chino Youth Museum is a small but sweet interactive children's museum. They have a lot of exhibits that the kids will enjoy such as dress up, Legos, and imaginative play centers. On one Friday a month, the museum hosts a kids' night out from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (click here for the schedule). For only $12, the museum will provide dinner, special activities, and access to the museum's exhibits for potty-trained children ages 3 to 12 years old. It is a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time with your spouse or friends while your children are in a safe environment. After you drop off the kids, you can enjoy a distraction-free dinner at Shoboo Kitchen in Chino Hills—a delicious Japanese sushi restaurant. Both you and your kids will have had a fulfilling evening of fun!
Coldwater Canyon Park
Beverly Hills, CA
The wonderful folks at TreePeople lead Full Moon Hikes at Coldwater Canyon Park. It is once a month when it is a full moon (thus the clever name) and the start time depends on dusk. From check in/registration to the end of the hike, it is a good two hours so keep that in mind. There are three hike levels—one specifically for families with kids so there will be plenty of stops and a slow pace. Once you begin hiking, you will be amazed at how quiet the city can be. You will hear owls and other creatures of the night that you normally do not get to hear. The views of the city as well as of the mountains are breathtaking. Be sure to bring water and layers as it gets cold quickly. If Coldwater Canyon Park is not close to you, there are other Full Moon hikes at many popular hiking trails.
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