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Family Values Don't Get Any Better Than This

Planes, trains, automobiles and stagecoaches (plus lots of other free outings). Read and head on out.

March 20, 1997|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Spring break may be a welcome break from the school grind for countless students, but there's only so much rest and relaxation a kid can tolerate before boredom sets in, only so many episodes of "Saved by the Bell" one can watch. So if there's no Caribbean cruise on the horizon, no trailblazing to the slopes of Aspen, don't fear. There are dozens of fun things to do in our own backyard. Here are 50 that won't cost a dime.

1. Climb the rails at Travel Town, on the north side of Griffith Park. The low-key park opened in 1952, a vision of Charlie Atkins as a haven for old steam engines and railroad cars, 5200 Zoo Drive (near Forest Lawn exit off Ventura Freeway), Los Angeles, (213) 662-9678, open daily at 10 a.m.

2. Look into the La Brea Tar Pits, Wilshire Boulevard and Curson Avenue in Los Angeles. The tar that seeps from these pits was used by Native Americans and early settlers to seal boats and roofs. In 1906, geologists discovered the pits had entrapped 200 varieties of mammals, plants, reptiles and insects from the Pleistocene era and preserved them in fossils available for viewing (for a charge) at the nearby George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries, (213) 936-2230.

3. Learn about California in the Gold Rush days and ride an old-fashioned stagecoach at the Wells Fargo History Museum, 333 S. Grand St., Los Angeles, open weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., (213) 253-7166.

4. Touch the sea stars, cucumbers and urchins in a "tide pool touch tank" Tuesday through Friday at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., and weekends at 11:30 a.m., 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen White Drive (off 36th Street), San Pedro, (310) 548-7562.

5. See original art by children's book illustrators Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Every Picture Tells a Story, 7525 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 932-6070.

6. Visit the California Afro-American Museum and learn about African American achievements in the arts, Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 600 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, (213) 744-7432.

7. Learn about the history of firefighting at the 1884 Old Plaza Firehouse, Paseo de la Plaza, El Pueblo, Los Angeles, Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m., (213) 625-3741. Don't miss the collection of old fire helmets.

8. Tour the offices of the Los Angeles Times or the Olympic Plant by reservation, weekdays, 145 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, (213) 237-5757.

9. See one of the exhibits or selections from the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, free Thursdays, 5-8 p.m., 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 626-6222.

10. Have fun with hands-on exhibits and stories from around the globe at the Kidspace Museum, 390 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, last Monday of each month, 5-8 p.m., free, (818) 449-9144.

11. "Brave Little Girls," an exhibition of children's books and original illustrations about girls and young women of courage, accomplishment and imagination, through March 31 in the Lodwrick M. Cook Rotunda, 2nd Floor, Main Building, Los Angeles Public Library Central Library, 630 W. 5th St., (213) 228-7000, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Wednesday noon-8 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m.

12. Selections from the "International Child Art Collection Junior Arts Center Barnsdall Art Park" will be on view through April 6 in the Children's Gallery, 2nd Floor, Main Building, Los Angeles Public Library Central Library, 630 W. 5th St., (213) 228-7000, see hours above.

13. Tour exhibits on topics as varied as volcanoes to insects to Hollywood at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, 900 Exposition Blvd. at Vermont, admission free first Tuesday of every month, (213) 744-3466.

14. Pretend you're an astronaut in the Gemini 11 space capsule, on view at the California Museum of Science and Industry, 700 State Drive, Los Angeles, daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m., (213) 744-7400.

15. Listen to the hubbub on the floor of the Pacific Stock Exchange, 233 S. Beaudry Ave., free viewing weekdays 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., (213) 977-4500.

16. Explore the Japanese Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., free on the second Wednesday of every month, (213) 857-6000.

17. Get your feet wet in the tide pools at the Orange County Marine Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, (714) 496-2274. Touch tanks, offering hands-on exposure to marine life, are open most Saturdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and the brig Pilgrim, moored alongside OCMI, throws an open house most Sundays from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (donation requested).

18. Learn about the Holocaust at the Martyrs Memorial Museum of the Holocaust, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday 1-3 p.m., closed Saturday. (213) 852-1234 Ext. 3202.

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