Weekend Getaway With a Toddler: Los Angeles

With its year-round, practically perfect weather, Los Angeles, California, is a great weekend getaway destination, and there are many wonderful activities here that families can enjoy. However, because the L.A. area is large and spread out, you will save time and energy by making plans in advance for the things you want to do. From indoor museums and play areas built especially for small children, to world-famous theme parks, the City of Angels and its outlying communities and attractions offer endless opportunities for fun that toddlers and their parents will long remember.

Los Angeles hot sunset view with palm tree and downtown in background. 

Los Angeles hot sunset view with palm tree and downtown in background. 

Start Small With Amy’s Playground

If you are staying in or close to Pasadena, you must pop into Amy’s Playground on Mission Street, 3,000 square feet of safe, clean and colorful indoor play space for children five years of age and younger. The facility is closed on Saturdays and Sundays for private parties, but you can begin your getaway weekend here on a Friday morning. There are bouncers, a charming play house, a giant maze and more. Let your little one work up an appetite, then head out for some open-air fun.

Birthday party at Amy's Playground. Photo: Yelp

Birthday party at Amy's Playground. Photo: Yelp

Move on to Brookside Park

If your toddler loves to play in the great outdoors, Brookside Park is another not-to-miss Pasadena destination. Given the park’s 60 acres, this is a wonderful place for the family to spend time together. Your toddler will love the playground equipment, and the park makes the perfect spot for a picnic. Since you are in the area, consider take-out from the Pasadena Sandwich Company. Call ahead and they will have your lunch ready. A word of caution: The sandwiches are huge—but delicious.

The popular “Big Steve” sandwich at Pasadena Sandwich Company. Photo: Pasadena Independent

The popular “Big Steve” sandwich at Pasadena Sandwich Company. Photo: Pasadena Independent

Check in at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Children of all ages love animals, and your little one will adore the Los Angeles Zoo, especially the Rainforest of the Americas exhibit, the magnificent elephants, giraffes, monkeys, giant anteaters—and, by the way, what is a Babirusa, or a Hyrax? These and many other burning questions will be answered as you explore the zoo and its associated Botanical Gardens, and this wonderful venue offers plenty of opportunities for snapping photos.

See Stars at Griffith Observatory

Operated by the City of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department and situated on Mount Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory is one of the area’s biggest attractions. With one million visitors a year, it is the most-visited public observatory in the world. It is a combination of planetarium, public observatory and exhibit space. If you and your family are out for dinner, stop by the observatory after dark and take a look at the heavens through their 12-inch Zeiss telescope. If the sky is clear, you will see the sun, moon and stars. Admittance to the observatory is free. You can also go during the day and take in the exhibits. For children under five, admittance to a showing in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium is also free – but little ones in this age group will only be admitted to the first program of the day. Incidentally, the Griffith Observatory is the best place in town to get an up-close view of the famous Hollywood sign.

The Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles city skyline at twilight

The Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles city skyline at twilight

Take a Toddler Break at The Children’s Museum

If you are planning to spend much of your time south of Los Angeles, your toddler would love to visit The Children’s Museum at La Habra in Orange County. This is a small museum, which is located in an old, renovated train station. It has many hands-on exhibits: a prehistoric dig site, perfect for uncovering dinosaur bones; a Nature Room where your toddler can learn about wildlife; a garden where your little one can grow pretend carrots; a tiny grocery store; a model train exhibit with a full-size caboose; a delightful carousel and more.

Get Your Second Wind at Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park was actually the first theme park in America, but it is surprising how many people still do not know about it. Have you ever seen the company’s line of jams and preserves in the grocery store? These products have been around since 1920 and the theme park began operations in the 1940s. There are some thrill rides as well as classic rides, like a ferris wheel and bumper cars, but you will also find kiddie rides, perfect for your toddler to enjoy. There are live shows and musical performances plus shopping and dining options—in short, something for everyone in the family. Knott’s Berry Farm is about a half-hour drive from metropolitan Los Angeles, and only a few minutes’ drive from Disneyland.

Camp Snoopy Knott's Berry Farm. Photo: Mommy on the Money

Camp Snoopy Knott's Berry Farm. Photo: Mommy on the Money

Finish Big at the Magic Kingdom

If you have children, you cannot miss going to Disneyland if you are vacationing in the Los Angeles area. Located about 27 miles south of L.A. in Anaheim, the world-famous Magic Kingdom is every child’s dream destination. If you are planning on a summer visit, you and your family are in for a special treat. Until August 20, 2017, you can watch the Main Street Electrical Parade. This delightful after-dark event has not been seen for 20 years. With its return, you will witness a spectacle that debuted in 1972. The parade begins with Engineer Goofy driving a steam locomotive. Your toddler will watch, wide-eyed, as Mickey and Minnie, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and other beloved characters come into view, all brought to life by over half a million sparkling lights. You can even confirm parade-viewing space when you reserve a table online at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. Enjoy American, Cajun and Creole selections, and as a bonus, you can watch the boats from Pirates of the Caribbean float by when you are seated on the outside patio. Before day fades into night, however, your family will love exploring as much of Disneyland as possible. From the Casey Jr. Circus Train to Dumbo the Flying Elephant—an original 1955 ride—your toddler be sporting a constant grin and plenty of giggles. And speaking of Dumbo, this is a great place for you to snap a picture of your child with the winsome little elephant.

A Few Tips on Toddler Wearing Apparel

You will undoubtedly spend a lot of time outdoors while you are in the Los Angeles area, and there is usually plenty of sunshine. Make sure your toddler has a hat to wear, and that sunscreen is always on hand. Keep in mind that although Southern California days are warm—very warm in high summer—the temperature usually begins to cool down starting around four o’clock, and your child will need a sweater or jacket. With plans made for where you will go, where you might eat and what you will wear, you will have nailed down the essentials for a wonderful weekend getaway with your toddler in Los Angeles.

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