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Two words: Griffith Park

The famous merry-go-round.
The famous merry-go-round.
Griffith Park

When my children were young, younger and youngest (all under seven), I schlepped them around Los Angeles because there was so much to see and do. Now suddenly that the youngest IS seven, we’re staying closer to home because I’ve allowed them a say in how they’d like to spend their free time. During the soccer season, there was no such thing. Now, inching toward spring, I find myself longing for the days when I strapped them into the car and took off on adventures both unpredictable and fun. Not once do I recall any of them saying, upon arriving back at our house, “We shouldn’t have done that, Mom. Bad idea.” Nine times out of ten, they were asleep in the backseat because they’d gone out and done something. I was reminded of those days this past weekend when I took a long run through Griffith Park, one of the unsung jewels in the life of any Los Angeles denizen. Parents, especially, need to remind themselves of its myriad attractions for children and the adults who hang out with them.

I don’t even know where to begin. If it’s not raining on Saturday, I’m taking the girls to The Trails Café, where we can sit under the trees and have a tasty lunch. After, we’ll go on a twenty-minute hike to the Observatory and explore, maybe even take in the Planetarium show so I can close my eyes and nap. There’s a good chance they’re going to want a cookie before our hike back down to the car, so we can stop into the Café at the End of the Universe, looking over the Los Angeles Basin and up to the Hollywood Sign and I can get some coffee. Something tells me if I try to do more with them, there might be mutiny in the minivan, so we’ll head back home, past:

The Pony Rides (10am-4pm, closed Mondays)
The Southern Railroad (10am-4ish)
The Merry-Go-Round (weekends, and weekdays during Spring Break and Summer)
Spokes n’ Stuff bike rentals (weekends during winter and most of spring, $8-12 for bikes, $20 for surreys)
Shane’s Inspiration (the first of the Universally Accessible Playgrounds)
Harding Municipal Golf Course (green fees $6-39, driving range also)
The Autrey Museum (10am-4pm weekdays, 11am-5pm weekends, closed on Mondays)
The Los Angeles Zoo (10am-5pm)
The Live Steamers (11am-3pm Sundays only)
Travel Town (10am-4pm)

Did I mention the hiking trails, the running paths, the Greek Theatre during the summer, the bird sanctuary? Picnics, tennis, barbecue pits?

If you ever question where some of your tax dollars are used, Griffith Park provides answers. It is our essential oasis. Take the kids.

And please, come visit me over at


  • Sarah 5 years ago

    Thanks JoAnn, for the great Griffith Park info. I have an almost 15-month-old son, and we're planning to get a zoo membership soon. We've been to the Autry recently, too. Time to check out some of these other jewels. Don't days out make parenting seem easier, if only because you can't mess up the house while you're out?

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