Family times in the city of angels

Los Angeles might be known for its modern glamour, but it also offers plenty of unique learning experiences the whole family will enjoy.

Check out the huge variety of animals at the Zoo, discover ice age creatures fossilised in ancient tar or become star-struck by far-off galaxies in the clear night sky.

Watch as scientists excavate ancient creatures, chiselling away newly discovered sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves, giant sloths and mammoths.

Zoo entrance, Los Angeles, USA.

Inner city jungle

Gorillas, tigers, elephants - and one huge flock of flamingos. You'll see them all at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, a great place to take the family without having to leave the city. If you're travelling with kids, they'll have a blast exploring this vast area, which is home to more than 1,100 mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Be sure to check out the Rainforest of the Americas, the zoo's newest exhibit. It's an immersive space shared by piranhas, giant otters and eagles. Then head to the Lair, where you'll find more than 60 species of amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles. Follow this with Elephants of Asia, where you'll see the great animals up close and learn about the cultures of Thailand, India, China and Cambodia. Check out the programmes if you have time – there are great family and children's classes on everything from camouflage and how animals survive the winter, to the strange places they make their homes.

 
View from Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, USA.

The real Hollywood stars

When the light starts to wane, you won't get a more impressive holiday photo than the one at Griffith Observatory. Situated on Mount Hollywood, this world-class facility is the place to visit for that all-important sighting of the famous Hollywood sign, not to mention unbelievable views of the city.

With its multiple levels, indoor and outdoor facilities, planetarium and galleries, there's plenty to inspire learners of all ages. Check out exhibits on meteorites, and don't forget to investigate the crazy lightning emanating from the awe-inspiring Tesla Coil. On a clear, Los Angeles evening, you'll want to take advantage of the free telescope for the best views of the night sky. But don't worry if it's cloudy – the observatory boasts the world's largest astronomical image, and there are up to 10 live shows each day, to really give you a sense of where we are the universe. If you get hungry on your space travels, there's a handy café on site.

 
La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, USA.

Time-travelling fun

Kids fancy themselves as future palaeontologists? Do you want to know what Los Angeles was like 10,000 years ago? Pack a lunch and visit the La Brea Tar Pits, an incredible archaeological site unique to LA. Given the city's warm climate it's hard to imagine that ice age animals once roamed the area, but here you'll see all manner of fossilised animal specimens trapped in the tar, a natural asphalt that has seeped up from the ground for tens of thousands of years.

You can also watch first-hand as the museum's scientists excavate ancient creatures, chiselling away newly discovered sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves, giant sloths and mammoths right before your eyes. Have your photo taken in the Pleistocene Garden, next to a life-size replica of an extinct mammal, check out the three million ice age specimens the museum has already unearthed or take an exciting 3D journey back in time.

 
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