A list of things to do with the under two set in Los Angeles Part 1

Recently a mom, friend of ours, was wondering about where to go with her young son.  This is what we have come up with so far.   Look for part two, next week!
Okay Eastsiders,
Griffith Park is where it's at!  It boasts three separate mini trains .
There is :

Travel Town.
This is a great place to let wee ones just run around without holding hands. There is a mini train here and rides are just $2.50!  No lunch option but lots of picnic tables. There are a lot of large trains, it may be a bit challenging for young toddlers who may want to go under the trains (which they can't) but there are a lot of places for them to climb and explore freely. If your little one loves Thomas like the little ones I know, bring a baggie full. There is a train table in one of the buildings with a track but no trains (if you forget, no biggy they have them in the gift shop. All proceeds go to the museum's restoration project.)
Live Steamers and a train at the entrance of the park.
Then there's ...

Shane's Inspiration 
from their website: "Shane’s Inspiration” was the first Universally Accessible Playground in the Western United States and the largest in the nation." It is very large and a lot to do! It is not enclosed so no talking on the cell phone or reading a book. You need to keep your eyes open here. It may be a challenging park with twin toddlers.  There is also from time to time an overly familiar coyote.  I hope the many many complaints have finally resulted in them moving the poor guy. I haven't seen him in the last couple of weeks.
picture courtesy of yelp.com

The Merry Go Round
A word of fair warning for those with sensitive ears- IT'S LOUD. Really Loud. But super fun for two and up. You can ride on a horse or there are a couple of benches. I haven't been on a weekend, just in the middle of the week in the summer when it's open every day. I wish they opened earlier. 11 is a little hard on nappers unless you live around the corner and have transitioned into a nooner.  I will say that the operators are very attentive, willing to stop and let you get off if someone becomes overwhelmed. There are concessions: popcorn and lemonade and the like,  all for 1990's pricing which is fun and nostalgic. Who knew you could get anything in LA for just a buck any more? Here is what I wished was different: it wasn't sooo loud and that they weren't still using 90's containers- there is no place for styrofoam in our lives anymore. Bring your own bottles and they will fill them up, just tell them you don't need the over flow in a cup.

The ZOO!
If you live nearby I would highly recommend a membership. It makes going in at 10 and leaving an hour later no big deal at all. And it's a great go to for fun and non directive play. I enjoy going right when they open in the middle of the week. When it's not crowded, it's a great place to let those little legs run! It's a blast when the time spent at the zoo is child led. It's so much fun to see them notice on their own a new animal! And then they look back at you to make sure you have just seen what they see- priceless! Their food options are getting better. Try the Mexican stand by the Jaguar, the tots I know have eaten an entire adult plate of carne asada and rice/beans.  Gotta love a protein meal to keep energized.  And they are (hallelujah) using corn plastic cups and compostable plates and spoons which feels good. Also, if you want to let a little one run but think that getting back might be a bit of a hike- pick up tram tickets and just walk as far as you can and hop the tram back. These are also a life saver when nap time sneaks up on you and you are trying to fend off a melt down.  Plus, there are double strollers available for rental in case you have multiples or mixed ages that might need to take a load off!
picture courtesy of yelp.com
The Old Zoo:
Okay this one and the next are for older kids, as there is often broken glass in the old cages, but older kids dig it! Well, so do we! There is an open lawn that works great for picnics. If you have little ones that are easily referred back to the road, it may work, but the amount of "no's" may make it frustrating for everyone with children under 8.

The Autry Museum this too is for a little older than two. We've mentioned them before, but they are worth repeating because it still feels a bit like a secret.  I've found that this is a great place on a rainy day if you have a child that doesn't enjoy crowds. It's generally pretty quiet in the middle of the week, unless there are school tours. Older toddlers and preschoolers will love the Family Discovery room upstairs.  There is a play restaurant and kitchen and costumes.  There is also a play horse to ride, a stagecoach. And on weekends- there's panning for GOLD! The cafe has decent options for food. They also are using compostable disposables and have a can for all food waste and compostable materials. This makes eating out feel really good.

Moving out of Griffith Park and heading even further east and a bit north are two great gardens to check out. These are the perfect places to hang with young toddlers. There are very few rules. Wide open spaces. Both have features designed for children and there is food on site!
Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino is worth the drive and really worth the membership if you live reasonably close. Certain memberships allow entry at 8 a.m.!! Finally, someone who understands the hours of young children!  I haven't eaten there, but plan on having tea there in the next couple of months. I'll let you know what I think. It is peaceful and allows for so much freedom you and your toddler will be in heaven.

There is a wonderful Children's Garden as well. For the warmer months- there are a number of water features that always have everyone squealing with delight!

Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge is also fun for toddlers, once again it has plenty of wide spaces to move about. Fun ponds of fish to see and a mini train. So your Thomas fan can feed his or her fix here are well.  Last fall they had a program called Toddler Treks where you and your wee one could take a guided tour through the Gardens, discovering as you went. Featuring weekly themes, stories and crafts were also woven into the fun! Looking forward to their next set of six! I have found that the docents at the Boddy House are very happy to see and speak with little ones. One even let a wee friend (who had just discovered stairs)  break the rules and go up them with his dad! The cafe here is run by the Patina Group. They also have a tram. I haven't used it, but I love knowing it's there if I need it.

Near by in sunny Pasadena right next to the Rose Bowl is Kidspace.
Their outdoor area features the "Little Arroyo" a river with a water wheel at the top that children can climb about in! Great for the hot months! Shoes are required at all times even in the water, so bring extra's or shoes like Keens that dry fast. I have brought rain boots and shoes. An extra set of clothes is needed as well. Word to the wise just remember the plastic bag for the wet ones- I forgot once and it wasn't very fun! This is a great place for mixed age groups. There are really lots of different areas that can please a wide range of ages.

For rainy days, try their indoor space for little children. With lots of equipment perfect for toddlers, this is a great place for the under two set. Great place for a playdate. There is a cafe on site, but it's a lot of "kid food": Kraft Mac and Cheese, Smuckers PBJ etc. They have a few healthy choices: veggies and dip, grapes and cheese, a few salads. It makes for a super easy day!
Moving back towards the westside...

Play on 3rd Street is a pleasant little place for the under three set. With many trains, books, cars, puzzles, balls, and a lovely assortment of other simple toys. This is a great place to meet up with friends and then just sit back and let the tikes play. There are a number of great options for the older toddler- messy art sounds fun and I can't wait to try it, there are a number of music classes, and Spanish classes.  They sell snacks but not really lunch so much.

Down the street is Pan Pacific Park and they have a great playground as well.
Renee's Playground is brought to you by the same amazing group that brought the world Shane's Inspiration.  Next door to The Grove, this park is really great for burning off extra steam!
The water fountain and the Train at the Grove are generally a hit as well.
picture courtesy of flickr

The Zimmer Museum.
is a great place to take small children! So much too do, so little time was how I felt when I was there. I was as impressed as my two year old friend. Closed Mondays and Saturdays, but open most other days except for Jewish Holidays. This place will keep everyone happy for many many visits! I can only imagine how busy they have been these last few weeks with all the rain here in SoCal.  No lunch on site but they do have an area if you are brown baggin' it. Here is my favorite feature- grandparents are free when they are accompanied by a grandchild! Guess you know where you are going when Nana and Pops are in town.

picture courtesy found here

Next week Part Two: LA's Westside.

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