Los Angeles is a bustling metropolis home to Hollywood movie studios, famous beaches and trendy restaurants, but would you believe me if I told you it is also home the world’s most famous fossil sites? Well, it is. Smack dab in the middle of L.A are 10,000 to 40,000 year old asphalt pools that contained many Ice Age animal bones, like mammoths and saber-toothed cats. That is right, alongside skyscrapers and city traffic, is a live fossil excavation site. I’ve wanted to take my kids for a while now, so when my daughter wanted to go to L.A for her birthday, I seized the opportunity to explore the La Brea Tar Pits with kids.
At a Glance...
Keep the Cost in Check:
For being as cool as it is, the price for admission is very reasonable and there are even areas that are free. If possible, purchase your tickets online for extra savings. For first time visitors, the best value is the Tar Pits Passport as it includes admission to all attractions within the museum.
Tar Pits Passport include admission to the museum, the Titans of the Ice Age film and Ice Age Encounter live show.
$16 Senior (62+)/Student (13-17)
$11 Child (3-12)
$0 Child under 3
Museum +1 includes museum admission and a choice of show.
$13 Senior (62+)/Student (13-17)
$8 Child (3-12)
$0 Child under 3
Museum Admission includes admission to museum only, no shows.
$9 Senior (62+)/Student (13-17)
$5 Child (13-17)
$0 Child under 3
Hancock Park & the Pleistocene Gardens are free to explore minus the cost to park, which is $12.
For more information on tickets and memberships visit their website, HERE.
La Brea Tar Pits is more than just a museum. Out of all the fun things to do in Los Angeles with kids, I’d have to say a visit to the La Brea Tar Pits is one of the best. It is not only educational, but it is interactive, kid-friendly and fun! I mean, it is a live excavation site and fossils are still being recovered from the land. How cool is that? So, come on. I’ll show all there is to do at the La Brea Tar Pits with kids.
The fun starts as soon as you park your car. The aroma of steaming asphalt fills your nose as you take in the sights at Hancock Park. Named after George Allen Hancock, the last owner of the land who understood the scientific significance of the fossils found in the tar pits. In 1924 he donated 23 acres of the ranch land to Los Angeles County for the preservation and exhibition of the fossils. Today the park is sprinkled with life-sized Ice Age replicas and bubbling tar pits. Kids can run and play on these larger than life creatures, snap some photos, and get a giant sloth hug, but beware of sticky asphalt seeps throughout the area. The largest tar pit is located directly in front of the museum entrance and features large replicas displaying how the animals got trapped in the liquid asphalt.
Located within the Hancock Park is the Pleistocene Gardens, which showcases flora that was around during the Ice Age 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. The vegetation was able to be recreated based on the fossils found in the tar pits. That’s right; L.A wasn’t always home to the glamorous palm trees it is famous for now. In fact, this area was covered in sage, buckwheat and pine. It is a very different landscape than we see today.
When the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the neighboring museum to La Brea Tar Pits, started construction on an underground garage, they found more than just rocks. What they found were 16 fossil deposits, including an intact Columbian Mammoth. The fossils were loaded into 23 tree crates and set over to Hancock Park for study. Now, visitors can see observe Project 23 for themselves!
Free with your admission to the museum, the Excavator Tour allows visitor to what a live excavation looks like. Located at Pit 91, the Observation Pit contains real bones, yet is stage to replicate the 1950 excavation.
You will need your tickets to enter the museum. If you purchased your tickets online, you will need to bring the printed version with you. If you bought the passport, you have a ticket for each individual attraction. I know it is a lot of papers, especially when you’re visiting with a large group.
There are over 1 million fossils from 650 species on display at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum. Some of the animal fossils exhibited here include, Bisons, Camels, Condors, Coyotes, Dire Wolf, Ground Sloth, Horses, Mammoths, Smilodon, and many more.
Here, you actually to see the scientist studying and preparing the fossils. What is usually done behind closed doors, large observation windows allow visitor to watch this interesting process of paleontological lab work. My daughter loved this so much that I had to pull her away from the window to explore more of the museum.
Titans of the Ice Age
This is a 3D 25 minute film that takes you on a journey to the Ice Age. The film features all the major Ice Age mammals, as it explains the climate and environment these beautiful creatures inhabited. It also goes on to show how small changes in climate led to their extinction.
Ice Age Encounters
Although you can purchase tickets for this show separately, I recommend buying ahead of time with a museum admission package. Advance purchasing also allows you to reserve your seating time, which you will need to do as the shows fill up fast. If you are a first time visitor and you are traveling with kids, I encourage you to see Ice Age Encounters, which tells the story of the Saber-Tooth Cat.
The show only lasts 15 minutes, but the kids will love the life-sized Saber-Tooth Cat puppet. It is so realistic, it is scary, and it gets right up close to the kids. Over 2,500 of these cats were found in the La Brea Tar Pits, which makes it even more interesting to how they moved, hunted, and died in the pits. After the show, the kids are encourage to hangout touch replica fossils of sabers and ask questions, which my daughter did of course.
That’s A Wrap:
Los Angeles has a lot to offer, but nothing will be as unique as this experience. How often can you visit a huge and active excavation site in the middle of a thriving metropolis? Trust me, you will not regret a day spent at the La Brea Tar Pits with kids. The large asphalt pools, prehistoric fossil exhibits, and live excavations are truly fascinating. Best part? You are just minutes from other fabulous L.A attractions and restaurants, such as The Grove, Farmer’s Market and Hollywood Walk of Fame. Take a step back in time without leaving the city, the La Brea Tar Pits with kids is not only educational it is fun!
Have you ever been to the La Brea Tar Pits?
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