Summer is the perfect time to schedule family day trips to interesting places with educational value, like museums, science centers, zoos and gardens just beyond the Inland Empire’s borders.
Escape the heat in Southwest Riverside while exploring inspirational places outside your city that your family never seems to find the time to visit during the hectic school year.
Here’s a list of 10 amazing places to visit this summer that can make for a memorable day trip.
- Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Visit the Griffith Park Observatory and planetarium; rent bikes; take a pony ride; visit the Travel Town train museum and take a miniature train ride; or visit the Museum of the American West, (formerly the Autry Museum of Western Heritage), where the American West comes to life.
- Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. Located in Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles, this museum showcases huge fossil dinosaur skeletons; life-sized animal dioramas; a dazzling selection of gems and minerals; rare pieces of ancient Latin American art; California history artifacts and much more. Visit by September 3 and experience the Butterfly Pavilion, a must-see for children who can wander among the more than 53 different butterfly and moth species that flutter around this unique living seasonal exhibit.
- California Science Center. Also located in Exposition Park. See fun and interactive exhibits that teach about human inventions and innovations, ecosystems and the life processes of living things. There’s an IMAX Theater and a Fun Lab with online games.
- The Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana. The center’s 100-plus interactive exhibits encourage visitors to think and explore. It’s divided into several themed areas: Perception, Dynamic Earth, Quake Zone, Techno Arts, Air & Space and Discovery Stadium. The Digital Lab computer center offers classes in word processing, digital photography, Web design and more.
- Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. View sharks, a living coral reef, a kelp forest and a range of sea animals at this scenic aquarium located on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla. Learn about the Pacific Ocean’s sea creatures, how the force of water has influenced nature and people, and touch ocean animals in a tide pool.
- The J. Paul Getty Museum. With two locations — the Getty Villa in Malibu and the Getty Center in between west Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley – the Getty offers a wide range of exhibits. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and European and American photos. The Villa showcases Greek, Roman and Etruscan artworks and antiquities. Both locations offer programs for children.
- Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, near Pasadena features lush, themed gardens (Australian Garden, Camellia Garden, Children’s Garden, Chinese Garden, Conservatory, Desert Garden, Herb Garden, Japanese Garden, Jungle Garden, Lily Ponds, Palm Garden, Rose Garden, Shakespeare Garden and Subtropical Garden) on 120 acres open to the public show off more than 14,000 different plant varieties. The Huntington also showcases major pieces of European and American art at the Huntington Art Gallery and the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art on the property. Admission is free to all on the first Thursday of every month with advanced tickets.
- Balboa Park in San Diego. Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. Home to 15 major museums, performing arts venues, gardens and the San Diego Zoo, your family could spend days exploring this park. Take in a museum exhibition, see a play at the Old Globe Theater, a concert or stroll the famous El Prado pedestrian walkway. Civic leaders established the park in the 1860s on 1,400 acres, but the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition led to the creation of the park as it is today. Highlights include the Air & Space Museum, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the historic Botanical Building and the International Cottages, which offer regular cultural programs. For more information, visit balboapark.org.
- The Los Angeles Zoo or San Diego Zoo. The Los Angeles Zoo at Griffith Park features more than 1,100 mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles representing more than 250 different species (29 are endangered.) New and interesting animals to visit this summer include a beautiful pair of rare Sumatran tiger cubs, the Elephants of Asia and The LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles) exhibit, which houses unique and endangered amphibian, invertebrate and reptilian species. The San Diego Zoo, located in Balboa Park, has more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals representing more than 650 species and subspecies, and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.