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Looking for a safe and fun place to take your kids in the Los Angeles area? Why not go to the beach? This list of family-friendly beaches has things that will entertain and educate your kids and have lifeguards during peak times to keep them safe.

1. Mother’s Beach, Marina del Rey

IMG_1707 (Large)Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey is in a sheltered spot in the marina, meaning no big waves which makes it perfect for small children. The shallow, roped-off swimming area is monitored by seasonal lifeguards and a nearby playground gives children another way to burn off some energy. In the summer months, Mother’s Beach is one of eight stops on the Marina del Rey WaterBus route. More adventurous families can rent paddle boards and kayaks at the north end of the beach. Mother’s Beach has a large pay parking lot, but it does fill up on summer weekends.

Tip:  Park in Playa Vista (at Jefferson and Lincoln Blvds) and take the free summer Beach Shuttle.

2. Santa Monica State Beach

IMG_3891 (Large)Ocean Park Beach, one of several great parks south of the Santa Monica Pier, is located at the west end of Ocean Park Blvd in Santa Monica. Look for lifeguard Tower 26. There is a playground for kids, plenty of restrooms and changing facilities, and a wide grassy area perfect for little ones who need a break from the sand. Parking does fill up on summer weekends, so go early. Another great nearby option for kids is the Annenberg Community Beach House, located on Coast Highway 1 on the north end of Santa Monica State Beach.

3. Venice City Beach

Venice BeachJust south of Santa Monica sits Venice Beach, famous for its boardwalk full of an eclectic assortment of shops and people. To access the beach near the Venice Pier (under which you can sometimes find sea stars clinging to the posts), park in the lot at the west end of Washington Blvd. There is another parking lot at the west end of Venice Blvd., which has closer access to the busy boardwalk as well as a small playground on the beach.

4. Playa del Rey Beach

IMG_0693 (Large)To escape the beach crowds, head to sleepy beach town Playa del Rey, just south of Marina del Rey. This beach is never crowded but still has regular lifeguards on duty. There are beach volleyball courts, a restroom/changing facility, and a bike path that makes toting gear to the sand a little easier. There is usually street parking available, although on summer weekends you might have to drive around the block a few times to find a spot. There is also a parking lot located next to the grass park.

5. Manhattan Beach

IMG_5317 (Large)It’s got a reputation for beautiful people and lavish beachfront homes, but Manhattan Beach also has one of the most picturesque beaches in LA. Park next to the pier, and set up on the north side where body surfing and swimming are allowed. (The south side of the pier is only for surfing.) While the waves can get high further out, the water at the edge of the beach stays relatively shallow, good for little kids to splash around in.

Tip:  Take time to visit the aquarium at the end of the pier. It’s small but has a touch tank and plenty of interesting native sea creatures.

6. Dockweiler State Beach

IMG_5188 (Large)Dockweiler Beach near LAX airport in El Segundo is easy to get to and runs nearly three miles in length, so there’s plenty of space for summer crowds. It’s directly under the flight path for LAX, so it gets noisy but the planes are fun for kids to watch. The fire pits make this beach particularly popular near sunset, so come early to stake one out.

7. Leo Carrillo State Park Beach

IMG_4429 (Large)For a more natural beach landscape, head north on the Pacific Coast Highway to Leo Carrillo State Park. Nature-loving families can explore tide pools, hike meandering trails (easy enough for young kids, but watch out for steep drop-offs), or simply play in the sand and surf. To access the beach, follow signs for Leo Carrillo State Park. There is a day use parking lot connected to the beach through a tunnel under the PCH.

8. Zuma Beach

IMG_4359 (Large)Malibu’s Zuma Beach boasts panoramic ocean views set against untouched rocky bluffs. This beach is great for younger and older kids alike with its wide range of activities. There is a small playground and plenty of space for Frisbee, volleyball, and more. Body boarding is also popular here, and you’ll usually catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two playing out in the waves. There is a large pay parking lot, or free parking on the PCH if you’re willing to walk a little further.

9. Malibu Lagoon Beach

IMG_4145 (Large)Malibu Lagoon State Beach is located next to popular Surfrider Beach, which got its nickname from the droves of surfers that flock here for the swells created by Malibu Point. The lagoon is great destination for families, too, with its stunning scenery and stretches of shallow water for kids to play in.

Tip:  Take a stroll down the historic Malibu Pier and have lunch at the restaurant at the end of the pier.

10. Abalone Cove Beach, Palos Verdes

IMG_1070 (Large)Abalone Cove Beach is part of the Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve and is a must-see for nature-loving families. An easy to moderate trail leads down a bluff to where tide pools abound along the small beach. Make sure to go at low tide as some of the tide pools aren’t accessible at high tide. This beach rarely gets crowded as it is off the beaten path. An adjacent parking lot provides ample parking for $5.