One of the great things about living and working in Los Angeles—besides the (almost) perfect weather—is that there is no shortage of wonderful parks to visit with children. Los Angeles and the surrounding areas offer some of the prettiest and most innovative play spaces in the country, and there truly is something for every kid. To help you narrow down which park to choose on your next outing, we talked to Neila Steilein, a longtime nanny and a self-proclaimed Los Angeles park expert. Here are Steilein’s picks for the best parks to visit for kids of every age, ability, and play style:
For toddlers: Westchester Recreation Center
This ocean-themed park offers covered play areas, lots of slides, and tons of charm. Children will love the big plastic whales that adorn this park, while caregivers will love that it is one of the most secure places for small children to play, since it has accessible ramps and is fully enclosed. “It’s a small park with gates all around [it],” says Steilein. “They have foam on the ground, too, so it makes it safer.”
For elementary-aged children: Pan Pacific Park on La Brea
Pan Pacific Park has multiple play areas that make it fun for elemenrary-aged children who are ready to run, climb, jump, swing, and get messy in the sand. This park also features a covered picnic area that’s convenient for eating or grabbing some shade. “I really like the playground here because it’s easy to watch the children, and they can climb on their own,” says Steilein. “Plus, they’ve got a huge sand box!”
For an accessible play experience: Aidan’s Place at Westwood Recreation Center
Aidan’s Place is an adaptive playground that is fully accessible to children of all abilities. The jungle gyms have ramps, the sandbox is wheelchair accessible, and play areas like the swings and zip line have special accommodations for children of differing needs. “All of the play areas here are designed to stimulate all children, says Steilein. “They also have a great sandbox and lots of shade. It’s really a great park for every child.”
For children who love to climb: Chatsworth Park South
Chatsworth South Recreation Center has kid-friendly climbing walls, as well as man-made tree stumps, spider webs, and even boulders for climbing. Children who love to scale the furniture can get outside and scale all of these fun play structures instead. Plus, as a bonus, there’s a smaller park that is friendlier for younger children tucked nearby on the other side of the Chatsworth Park South Community Center, providing a place for children of all ages to play.
For children who love slides: Polliwog Park
Polliwog Park is one of the largest parks in the South Bay and features three gazebos, a pond, picnic tables, and tons of other places to explore. But the best part for most children is the slides! This playground has a handful of slides in all different styles: twisty, curly, wavy, etc. Children who love to slide will have hours of fun here, and once they’re ready to move on to, there are tons of things to do without having to get in the car and relocate.
For exploratory play: Grand Park
This downtown fixture looks like something out of a storybook. It features a 20-foot custom “treehouse” with an attached slide, plus tons of crawl spaces and platforms for children who love to go exploring and get lost in a magical maze of fun. There are also fountains a short distance away for kids who want to splash. Grand Park makes the perfect addition to a day trip, as it’s located near restaurants, museums, bookstores, and other cool city sights.
For the perfect playdate: Cold Water Canyon Park
Almost any park in the area would be a great space to meet up with other children, but Steilein has a soft spot for Cold Water Canyon Park in Beverly Hills. This park has tons of shaded areas, a sparkling stream for children to play in, and lots of sand. There are also plenty of places to set up a homebase for the children to hang out, have snacks or lunch, and play together, which is why Steilein rates it as a playdate favorite. “They have a big grass area where you can put blankets,” she advises, “or they have picnic tables by the playground.”
For the ultimate splash pad experience: Tongva Park
On warm days when kids want to cool off with some water play, look no further than Tongva Park, which is situated on a 6.2-acre green space in Santa Monica. In addition to the awesome splash pad that is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., his park has numerous play areas for kids that include a cool climbing wall, unique play sculptures, and fun slides. And, as a bonus, this park is within walking distance of the Santa Monica Pier for even more fun or a quick jaunt down to the beach. The best thing about this park, says Steilein, is that there is truly something for kids of all ages.
NOTE: as hours and rules may vary due to COVID-19 restrictions, we encourage you to check your destination’s website for the most up-to-date info!