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OC's Best Kid-Friendly Music Venues

house of blues header
(credit: House Of Blues)

Just because you've traded in the late nights spent moshing for late nights changing diapers doesn't mean that you should also succumb to the curse of listening to Barney songs 24/7. Introducing your kids to live music is the perfect way to get them excited about the music you actually like — and keep your sanity. Luckily, there are plenty of live music venues around Orange County that welcome kids. Just make sure you bring noise-cancelling headphones to protect your little one's hearing and you're good to go!

House Of Blues
(credit: House Of Blues)

House of Blues Anaheim

1530 S. Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 778-BLUE (2583)

Not all of the House of Blues' shows are all ages, but when you find a show that lets you bring your little one, you should go. The acts who play at the venue are usually family friendly and top-notch (BB King and They Might Be Giants, for example), and the two-story building is spacious enough for lots of running around and dancing. The House of Blues is also a restaurant, making it convenient as a single stop for a night out. (Bonus: Your family can take a break from the music in the restaurant area if you get tired!) Its Downtown Disney location also means that there's a plethora of places to amuse your tiny music fan before the show. There's a Build-A-Bear workshop, Ridemakerz and Lego Store in the promenade, and the first three hours of parking are free.

the observatory santa ana - Nightlife & Music Live Music, Observatory OC
(The Observatory OC via Facebook)

The Observatory

3503 S Harbor Blvd
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 957-0600

Located within the heart of the Santa Ana/Irvine/Costa Mesa business parks, the Observatory is the place to go if you want a great space to introduce your 6-year-old to a variety of up-and-coming indie acts. (Garage rockers the Black Lips and conscious rapper Flosstradamus are two of the kinds of acts on the schedule.) There are two stages within the building — the Observatory, a bigger stage for larger crowds, and the Constellation Room, a smaller, more intimate venue. The venue, which holds anywhere from 550 to a thousand, is great for people watching — and it's clean and safe, with lots of free parking available.

chain reaction
(credit: Chain Reaction)

Chain Reaction

1652 W Lincoln Ave
Anaheim CA, 92801
(714) 635-6067

If you do bring your kid to Chain Reaction — the grungy, legendary Anaheim all-ages location — be prepared to be the oldest person in the audience by decades. The tiny room, located in a strip mall, caters mostly to teenagers — and it can get packed. Many local bands (who play a variety of genres, from reggae to punk) perform at Chain Reaction as a place to get their start, and all of the shows are reasonably priced — tickets are between $8 and $20. The moshing, cavorting audience creates an electric charge of high energy; if you want your tot to see the essence of rock & roll, this is it.

OC Fair FB
(credit: OC Fair)

OC Fair & Event Center

88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 708-1500

This outdoor venue is home to the annual OC Fair, where even babies are welcome to enjoy music in an amphitheater setting in the summer. But the venue hosts music year-round, usually for day-long lineups that give you the most bang for your buck. (Think the tattoo and music convention MusINK in March, which has Bad Religion and Pennywise headlining). And as long as you bundle up, it's easy to spend the afternoon to early evening immersed in music with your kids.

gypsy den
(credit: Gypsy Den)

The Gypsy Den

Grand Central Cafe
125 N. Broadway Ave.
Santa Ana, 92701
(714) 835-8840

This little coffee shop in Santa Ana's Downtown arts district transforms into a folk hub during open mic nights on Tuesdays, and weekends, when more established performers are booked. Ornate lamps, mismatched furniture, guys scribbling poetry in the corners — all contribute to the hippie, loungey vibe. Bonus: the sandwich, soup and salad-menu reeks of homemade goodness, and there are delicious vegan options. Oh, and the Gypsy Den is the one music venue where it's OK to leave the noise-cancelling headphones for your kids at home.

Lilledeshan has lived all over the world but now calls Orange County. home. She also writes for KCET, BUZZMEDIA and OC Weekly.

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