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Kids screams of delight at the sight of a fire engine tearing down the street can give the fire sirens a run for their money!  And sometimes you would love to take a morning to get your kids up close and personal to one of these urban wonders on a non-emergency basis.  Luckily, Los Angeles is chock-full of firefighting museums that will stoke the flames of your child’s interest. Pick one that suits your family, and spend a superfun day learning about the heroes who protect our city from fire, smoke and so much more.

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Los Angeles Fire Department Museum & Memorial
If you only visit one fire museum in Los Angeles, let it be the Los Angeles City Fire Department Museum and Memorial in the heart of Hollywood. The biggest station west of the Mississippi when it was opened in 1930, Old Fire Station 27 has been turned into an absolute showpiece for the department. A great collection of old-time trucks, the Fallen Firefighters Memorial, a fire safety education facility, room after room of memorabilia and vintage equipment, a children’s play area and a lovely little gift shop make this the premiere fire museum in town.

Open every Sat. and staffed by retired LAFD volunteers, each little firefighter gets a fire hat and a warm welcome from an old-timer. Admission is free, but tourists are encouraged to sign the guest book and consider a $5 donation to support the museum’s work. Kids can play and explore here all day, and parents enjoy the vintage details in the building’s architecture (the bathrooms are gorgeous!) and the views of Hollywood from the second-floor windows. If you have the time, do pop into the current Hollywood Fire Station next door, where firefighters who aren’t out fighting fires are happy to give kids a tour and let them sit in the real trucks.

Hours: Sat, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free but a $5 donation is suggested

1355 N. Caheunga Blvd.
Hollywood

Online: lafdmuseum.org

Los Angeles Fire Museums, Long Beach Fire Museum
Long Beach Fire Museum
The Long Beach Fire Museum is a total hidden gem! Staffed by retired LBFD firefighters and local history aficionados who do all their own maintenance and upkeep on the vintage fire trucks, the Long Beach Fire Museum is absolutely worth the trip. Located near the Little Cambodia neighborhood of Long Beach, the LBFM has a veritable catalog of great old fire vehicles, including one built from a Model T and a vintage hose truck donated by TV legend Larry Hagman. You and your kids can chat with some wonderful old-timers and if you show up on the right day, they might even take you out for a spin in one of the fire engines.

The museum doesn’t have a dedicated sign, but look for the currently in-use Long Beach Fire Station 10; the museum is housed in the neighboring building with Engine 10 inscribed above the door. Parking is available in the small lot to the right of the building, and if that’s full, there are usually spots on the street.

Hours: Second Sat. of the month, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. (Visitors may also drop by the museum on Wed. from 7:45 a.m.–11:45 a.m. when volunteers assemble to do maintenance on the trucks.)
Cost: Free

1464 N. Petersen Ave.
Long Beach

Online: lbfdmuseum.org

Los Angeles Harbor Fire Museum, San Pedro

Los Angeles Harbor Fire Museum
San Pedro and Wilmington’s fire history is on display for the public to enjoy inside “Old Fire Station 36,” located within San Pedro’s old city hall, across from the famous Ports O’ Call Village. Trucks from the 1920s are the highlight of the collection, as well as several displays highlighting the special problem of firefighting on the water, including marine firefighting equipment, old-fashioned scuba gear and information about the historically significant Ralph J. Scott fireboat, which is on display two blocks away on the waterfront at working Fire Station 112. Yep, you’ll be wanting to walk down and check that out, too.

Hours: Sat. 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Cost: Free but donations appreciated

630 Beacon St.
San Pedro

Online: lafdmuseum.org/museum_sanpedro

African American Firefighter Museum, Los Angeles Fire Museums, Interior

African American Firefighter Museum
Located kitty-corner from the Streamline Moderne Coca-Cola Building, this museum is a monument to the history of civil rights in Los Angeles as much as a fire museum suited for siren-crazy kids. They have one vintage truck downstairs, and the exhibits upstairs document notable African-American firefighters in Los Angeles. This smaller museum is a great stop during a visit to downtown LA.

Note to parents building up their dress-up collections: Most fire museums have red plastic fire hats on hand for little visitors, but the AAFM hands out black fire hats to kiddos who stop by.

Hours: Tues. & Thurs., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.; Sun. 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free but donations are appreciated

1401 S. Central Ave.
Los Angeles

Online: aaffmuseum.org

8:00 – 12:00 AM

Los Angeles County Fire Museum in Bellflower2nd Saturday
Los Angeles County Fire Museum
Not to be outdone by the fire museums of Los Angeles city, the county fire department also has a dedicated fire museum. Open to visitors once each month, the museum is located in southeast Los Angeles county near the intersection of the 605 and the 91. The Bellflower location is known as the museum’s main “showroom,” but there is a huge archive of trucks located off-site in a Southgate warehouse, as well as a engine from 1941 parked at the Artesia Historical District’s Old Fire Station 30. For most parents, the highlights of the museum’s collection are the “Squad 51” and “Engine 51” vehicles from the 1970s NBC series Emergency!

Hours: Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Cost: $5 donation requested

9834 Flora Vista St.
Bellflower

Online: lacountyfiremuseum.com

Old Plaza Firehouse, Los Angeles Fire Museums, Interior

Old Plaza Firehouse
Next time you’re downtown enjoying the sights and sounds of Olvera Street, be sure to step inside the Old Plaza Firehouse to see what life was like in a Los Angeles firehouse over 100 years ago. This charmingly restored attraction is California Historical Landmark No. 730. The one-room museum includes the original stalls for the fire horses, an ancient horse-drawn fire engine and a collection of vintage fire hats.  Definitely a photo-op spot.

Hours: Tue.–Sun., 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Cost: Free

501 N. Los Angeles St.
DTLA
Online: discoverlosangeles.com

 

Firefighters Memorial, Los Angeles Fire Museums, LAFD Hollywood

L.A.’s Annual Fire Service Day
Don’t forget that the second Saturday in May is always Fire Service Day in Los Angeles. Most fire departments organize station open houses where you can chat with local firefighters, see equipment and trucks, and even enjoy a pancake breakfast. Check in with Los Angeles Fire Department and other local departments on their social media channels for updates in the spring.

Online: lafd.blogspot.com

-Jennifer Arrow.

Los Angeles County Fire Museum image via LACOFD HISTORICAL MUSEUM on Flickr, Los Angeles Harbor Fire Museum image via ATOMIC Hot Links on Flickr, all other photos by Jennifer Arrow.

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Do your little ones love books? Do you love what books do for your kids, but hate the $18 price tag on a brand-new hardback picture book? Well, fret no more. If you want to build up your home library of children’s books hit one of the new used book emporiums that have recently popped up around the Southland. Even as new bookstores have closed, these used bookshops have flourished, so take advantage of their bargain prices and build up your book stockpile today!

The Last Bookstore, Downtown
This used bookstore is a good reason to make a visit downtown. The store’s sophisticated buyers stock lots of film, art and language books, but you’ll also find a fair helping of children’s books. The well-curated children’s collection on the main floor covers all age ranges and interests and tends to be in excellent condition. If you’re a pure bargain hunter, head up to the loft, where the funkier inventory is all priced at $1!

Why You’ll Love It: The space is as much a steam-punk art exhibit as it is a bookstore, and the location in a refurbished bank is complete with authentic vault and vintage tile floor.

453 South Spring St.
Los Angeles

Online: lastbookstorela.com

BOOKOFF, Torrance
This fantastic chain buys and sells every kind of media you can imagine: DVDs, CDs, video games, manga and yes, books! Of the several SoCal locations, the Torrance store in the Del Amo Fashion Center has the biggest collection of English-language books; other BOOKOFF locations specialize in Japanese-language materials. One side of the children’s book aisle has higher-end hardbacks; most of the $1 books are on the other side and they tend to be paperback storybooks (Scholastic editions, etc.). If you head to this location, park near the JoAnn’s Fabrics storefront for the shortest walk through the mall. Note for bargain-hunters: Don’t forget to sift through the pull-out bins below the shelves for hidden goodies.

Why You’ll Love It: Incredibly clean and well-organized, with great customer service, you’ll barely notice this store is selling used goods.

Del Amo Fashion Center
Lower Level #290
21712 Hawthorne Blvd.
Torrance

Online: bookoffusa.com

Piccolo’s Books, Westchester & Long Beach
This chain of used bookstores has taken over former Borders locations and filled them to the brim with used books that are all $1 each. The selection is huge and organization can be chaotic at best, so plan to dedicate a substantial amount of time to your treasure hunting.

Why You’ll Love It: The inventory moves quickly and they’re always restocking, so you’ll find surprises and treats every time you visit. We’ve spotted everything from vintage DeLuxe Golden Books from the 1950s to recent Mo Willems releases.

Piccolo’s Books
Howard Hughes Center
6081 Center Dr.
Los Angeles

The Pike at Rainbow Harbor
101 S. Pine Ave.
Long Beach

Online: piccolosbooks.com

$10 or Less Bookstore, Northridge
This store actually specializes in what are called remaindered books, most of which are priced at closer to $5 than $1. However, they do also offer used books and they do have a selection of $1 titles. The selection is not as vast as at some shops listed here, but the quality of the inventory and the overall charm of the store make up for the limited choice.

Why You’ll Love It: The remaindered inventory offers a great array of gift-quality books. If you’re stocking up for birthday gifts, be sure to include this place on your shopping circuit.

19500 Plummer St.
Northridge

Online: 10-dollar-bookstore.com

Dollar Book Fair, Cerritos
Most of this chain’s locations are a bit of a drive (the nearest one to us is in Cerritos) but Dollar Book Fair is worth a look if you’re in the vicinity and you want to restock your kid’s bookshelves. Seemingly less atmospheric than some of the other options, Dollar Book Fair is a no-nonsense used bookstore with very reasonable prices.

239 Los Cerritos Center
Cerritos

Online: dollarbookfair.com

Library Book Sales, Multiple Locations
As dedicated book hunters know, library book sales are some of the best ways to develop your own library, all while supporting a good cause. If you’re ready to branch out (pun intended) from your usual locations, register at booksalefinder.com to get a weekly email newsletter listing the locations of upcoming library book sales near your zip code.

Online: booksalefinder.com

Do you have a used bookstore or thrift store where you love to browse the shelves? Where do you like to shop for new children’s books?

(We wholeheartedly recommend Children’s Book World in West Los Angeles and San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe on the Eastside!) Share your faves in the comments!

— Jennifer Arrow

photo credit: photogramma1 via flickr, Lars Plougmann via flickr, and John-Morgan via flickr

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Kids are naturally as bouncy as Tigger, but you might prefer they don’t spend warm days bouncing off the walls or in the sun. Happily, we’ve got two ways to work up a sweat in air-conditioned comfort. At one of L.A.’s trampoline gyms, big kids can bounce and slam and dodge. For little ones who need a smaller bounce, a local indoor bounce-house provides the best part of the birthday party, every day.

skyzone2photo courtesy of SkyZone

SkyZone
If you’ve never been to a trampoline gym before, you’ll be amazed at what a workout it is. At first it seems like the trampoline is doing all the work for you, but by the next morning you’ll discover that all those leaps and bounds used many different muscle groups. Sneaky exercise, for kids and parents! SkyZone facilities are split into three main areas: the giant field of many connected trampolines, the “sports” areas including bouncy basketball and a foam pit for diving practice, and the birthday party area for groups. Plan to bring socks or buy a pair from SkyZone; they come in one flashy color (orange) and have rubber grips on the soles (so you can make like a gecko and stick).

For Open Jump hours, we find this spot works best for ages 6 & up, but each location also hosts Toddler Time where kids 6 & under can jump with their parents and have a blast. Pay for bounce time by half hour increments, starting at $12 for 30 minutes. They also have special Family Friday Nights, which includes a family of 4 plus pizza and drinks.

There are currently locations in Covina, Van Nuys, Torrance, Riverside, Anaheim and Ventura, with two more in the works; check the website for details.

Online: skyzone.com

 

scooters junglephoto credit: David L. via yelp

Scooter’s Jungle
If your little ones love the giant bouncy slides and mazes that come with seasonal carnivals, you can get those thrills year-round at Scooter’s Jungle, which features a huge, air-conditioned, indoor space stocked with soft slides, bounce rooms and climbing equipment. Largely dedicated to parties on the weekends, little ones and their parents can enjoy the space during Toddler Time for $8 or all ages Free Play for $9 at various times at each location during the week. Scooter’s Jungle and other inflatable indoor gyms are great for any kid over three.

Scooter’s Jungle locations in El Segundo, Aliso Veijo, Placentia, Simi Valley and Valencia. Check their website for addresses and hours.

Online: scootersjungle.com

skyhighphoto courtesy of SkyHigh

SkyHigh
Grownups, when and if you are tagged out of trampoline dodgeball, you can relax at SkyHigh’s adult lounge with a snack, big-screen plasmas and free Wi-Fi, while the kids keep on bouncing (and tire themselves out so they’re ready for an early bedtime). SkyHigh’s three trampoline rooms include the aforementioned dodgeball court as well as a foam pit for dives and safe belly flops. Grown-ups can also use the gym for SkyHigh’s famed AIR-obics trampoline-based cardio workout. SkyHigh and other trampoline gyms are best suited for kids seven & up. Prices are for how long you jump: it’s $8/30 minutes, $13/hour and $18/90 minutes.

SkyHigh has spots in Valencia and Woodland Hills. Check the website for addresses and hours.

Online: woh.jumpskyhigh.com

5748735147_65a3742317_bphoto courtesy of Pump It Up

Pump It Up
At Pump It Up’s local venues there are huge rooms full of inflatable fun, plus you can order up all the available trimmings for your little one’s birthday: balloons, goodie bags, snacks and more. But if you just want to play, each location offers Open Jump times throughout the week for $10, and even hosts 3 hour drop off playdates for $25 for ages 4 & up. Check the spot nearest you to see what Open Jumps are available now.

Pump It Up has locations in Torrance, Van Nuys, Rancho Cucamonga and Chino Hills. Check the website for the addresses and hours.

Online: pumpitupparty.com

bounce housephoto credit: Gordon via flickr

Your House
If you’re looking for a bounce-house rental for a party, our favorite local option is Planet Bouncy, which is based in Gardena and delivers throughout the greater Los Angeles area. They don’t have a dedicated location for visitors like the sites above, but they have phenomenal customer service on the phone and in person. Houses are set up and anchored down with great care (no bounce-house flyaways here!) and are spotlessly clean inside and out. Why not invite the neighborhood over for a bounce at your house?

310-977-4160
Online: planetbouncy.com

Where do you love to bounce with your kids? Tell us in the comments!

—Jennifer Arrow

 

Now Open: The Discovery Cube Science Museum LA

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A cube has landed in the San Fernando Valley. Actually make that The Cube. After nearly 20 years at the original location in Orange County, the Discovery Cube Science Museum has finally expanded to a second location in the LA area. Nestled in a corner of the scenic and expansive Hansen Dam Recreation Area, the new Cube is a great day-trip destination for families looking for great fun with a little learning mixed in.

DISCOVERY CUBE exterior

Plan to spend a whole day exploring the Cube: There are so many activities it’s like a science amusement park, and your kids are going to want to go on every ride. Look for chair lifts, pulley races, a climbing wall, kayaks, a 70 MPH wind tunnel, a competitive recycling game, a clever “aquavator” that simulates an elevator ride into an underground aquifer, and a simulated helicopter ride that illustrates how the water supply is transported from the Sierra Nevadas to the Los Angeles Basin. (Fair warning on the last one: Several adults reported feeling a little ill while watching the film, so consider avoiding if you don’t have a terrifically strong stomach.)

Discovery Cube - Elevation 2

Going Up for Big Kids
And all that is just the downstairs gallery! The partially open upstairs gallery currently includes exhibits on science concepts for fourth and fifth graders, illustrating, for example, the nature of sound waves.  There is also space for a future exhibit on the science of hockey, as sponsored by the L.A. Kings.  Regulars at the Cube in OC know that the hockey exhibit is actually pretty “cool” for little kids and non-hockey fans, too.

Discovery Cube - Block Room

Bring Your Babies, Too
The Cube Jr. Zone downstairs is a safe nook designed for little learners five and under. Your youngest ones can create towers and abstract gizmos in the soft block room, or ride astride stegosaurus and T-Rex models in the dinosaur area. Be sure to get a photo of your own babies hatching out of the nest of Maiasaura eggs!

Discovery Cube - Bean Sprouts

Good Eats
Forget everything you know about cafeteria food.  (Thank goodness!) Bean Sprouts, the restaurant at the Cube, caters to all your specialty diets—vegan and gluten-free—and has amazing kid-friendly plates including a clever avocado crocodile and sandwiches cut to look like piano keys. Incredibly edible, indeed.  No need to bring the snacks to this cube.

The 411
Be sure to check the website for new shows and events that will be coming to the museum in the New Year.  First up is a Thomas the Tank exhibition that opens on January 24, 2015.

Cost: For a limited time only, all admission tickets are only $10. Beginning in 2015, tickets will be $16.95 for adults, and $12.95 for both seniors and kids ages 3-14.
Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Discovery Cube L.A.
11800 Foothill Blvd., Los Angeles
Phone: 818-686-2823
Online: discoverycube.org/la

-Text and pictures by Jennifer Arrow

What’s your favorite L.A. science museum? What else do you like to do out at Hansen Dam? Let us know in the comments!

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Los Angeles’ balmy weather and plethora of actors make it a fantastic town for summer Shakespeare in the park. Even young kids love the Bard – the physical humor and broad staging plays right to a six year old sense of humor.  Plus, the shows are almost all free!  Here’s what’s playing around town this summer that will appeal to little Groundlings.

shakespeare sea

 

Shakespeare by the Sea
Kid Pick: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Price: Free
Online: shakespearebythesea.org

The local launchpad for Shakespeare by the Sea is the beautiful bandshell in San Pedro’s Point Fermin Park, but they also travel throughout the summer to perform at scores of parks throughout the area, including spots in Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and Encino. Check the locations list on their website to see if Shakespeare by the Sea will be stopping by a park near you. Performances begin in mid-June and run through mid-August.  Our pick for kids is the fairy kid-friendly A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but Hamlet is also playing, for big kids or date night.

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Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga
Kid Pick: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids seven to 12, free for kids six and under.
Online: theatricum.com

This legendary outdoor venue under sits under gloriously spreading oak trees in the wilds of Topanga, and your LA kids should see at least one show here before they grow up. Will Geer’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren remain highly active in the operation of the Theatricum Botanicum, which is so named because it features not just the amphitheater and stage (built of wood reclaimed from the old Santa Monica Pier) but a noted Shakespeare garden that includes every plant mentioned in the poems and plays. In addition to their famous production of Midsummer, we recommend Much Ado for kids, who delight in the bickering of Benedict and Beatrice.  The company is also performing a female Lear and All’s Well That Ends Well in repertory this summer. Summer performances begin the first week of June and run through the end of August.

actorsgang

The Actors’ Gang, Culver City
Kid Pick: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the kid edition
Price: Free
Online: theactorsgang.com

Tim Robbins’ players come out every summer to perform their unique take on Shakespeare at Media Park. Past shows have included a punk circus version of Taming of the Shrew, a Star Wars take on the Tempest, Romeo and Juliet were monsters in love and Superheroes populated Twelfth Night.  We can’t wait to see what they do with their kid-tastic take of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Also showing: Tim Robbins himself directed the troupe’s adult version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it looks fasntastic, but as tickets are $30-$35, it might be best left to the grownups.

oldzoo-dusk-shakespeare

Independent Shakespeare Company, Los Feliz
Kid Pick:The Taming of the Shrew
Price: Free
Online: iscla.org

The Taming of the Shrew will be presented in a natural amphitheater in Griffith Park by the Independent Shakespeare Company. The historic Old Zoo makes for a remarkable setting. Performances begin this year on June 26, parking is plentiful, and everything is delightfully free.  Check the ISCLA website for directions, showtimes and tips about enjoying the venue – you’ll also see which performances begin with Players in the Park (pre-show family workshops) or an Invertigo Dance Company performance.  Twelfth Night is the other show in rep this summer.

kingsmen-rehearsal-thousandoaks

Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, Thousand Oaks
Kid Pick: Twelfth Night
Price: Free
Online: kingsmenshakespeare.org

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity of the Conejo Valley, check out Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s free shows at Kingsmen Park within California Lutheran University’s Thousand Oaks Campus. This year’s summer shows will be Twelfth Night and Antony and Cleopatra. Admission is free, but you can reserve special lawn boxes if you’d like. Tickets for those are $20 each for adults, kids under 18 are free but still require reservations.

Do your kids like Shakespeare?  What’s your favorite of the Bard’s plays?  Let us know in the comment section.

-Jennifer Arrow

Photos courtesy Shakespeare by the Sea, Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, ISCLA, Meghan Rose and Kingsmen.

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We know what you’re doing this summer… Minion Mayhem, Universal Studios Hollywood’s newest ride, has just opened and now all your mini Despicable Me fans can turn into rascal-y little yellow dudes for a day. With a 3-D ride, games, treats and water play in the sunshine, your kids have found a new place to play, and it’s the perfect combination of scary and nice (like Santa*!).

*If you don’t recognize this quote, you may need to re-watch ‘Despicable Me’ before attending the park ,for maximum enjoyment.

Minions Despicable Me

Dr. Nefario is building out Gru’s army of cuddly little banana fiends, and the “conversion process” inside Gru’s lab is the centerpiece of the new attraction. Minion Mayhem is a immersive 3-D show and ride that’s fun for kids but has just enough lasers and jolts to be exciting for adults. (You have to be 40 inches tall to ride, and kids under 48 inches must have a companion 14 or older.)

Minion Mayhem Despicable Me WATER FEATURE

Now, the ride itself is a blast, but for our money, the best thing going is the new Super Silly Fun Land attraction adjacent to the ride. You can – and should – spend all day there.

Minions Despicable Me Super Silly Fun Land

In case you’re a little fuzzy on the details of the Despicable Me saga, Super Silly Fun Land is the amusement park where Gru first really fell in love with his girls. There’s no giant roller coaster at this version, but they’ve swapped in a full-size playground, a kid-friendly spin ride and a water play area. There are changing rooms inside the water play zone, and your kids could easily spend hours splashing in the water (heck yes to that, as it’s hot in the San Fernando Valley in the summer!) while you lounge with a drink at the adjacent Gru’s Café.

Minions Despicable Me Super Silly Fun Land

Next to the café you can find carnival games like the Space Killer game from the movie – win your very own SO FLUFFY stuffed unicorn – and a grand, glorious gift shop for all your Gru Industries souvenir needs. Plus, even if your littles don’t meet the height requirements on most of the rides at the park, visitors of all ages (even babes in arms) can enjoy Super Swirly Fun Ride which also offers wonderful clear-day views over the Valley.

Minions Despicable Me

Full-size characters from the movie happily stop for pictures with kids – look for Minions, Gru, Margo, Edith and Agnes. You can also see Gru’s car (“Why didn’t he park it in the parking garage, mom? Oh, maybe he really lives here!”) and “props” from the film like the freeze ray and the rhino chair. Fans of the films will find the experience totally rewarding (and delicious, see those tasty cupcakes eying you below) – although one little Despicable Me aficionado said with yearning in his voice: “I wished they had invited Lucy, too.”

Minion Cupcakes

Minion Mayhem will have your kids echoing Agnes in the first movie: “Cool, let’s go destroy some other rides!”

Universal Studios
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, Ca  91608
Phone: 800-864-8377
Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. most weekdays, weekend hours vary, check park calendar for specific dates
Tickets: $76, kids ages 3 to 9; $84 for visitors 10 and over. The park is currently running their “Buy a Day, Get 2014 Free” annual pass offer; black-out dates apply for return visits.
Online: universalstudioshollywood.com/

The Minion Mayhem ride is best for kids six and up; Super Silly Fun Land is appropriate for kids as young as two.

Do you have any little Spickledemi, er, Despicable Me fans at your house? What amusement parks do you plan to hit this summer? Tell us in the comments!

Copy and images by Jennifer Arrow

 

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It’s time to shake up that usual playdate plan! These two Westside parks (Tongva Park in Santa Monica, which opened earlier this year, and three-year-old Legacy Park in Malibu) are both part of the new “natural parks” movement.  So much more than swingsets and monkey bars; kids can learn about native plants, the water cycle and community enrichment, all while still getting to slide, puddle-stomp and climb up, up, up.  Both parks beautifully balance wild touches with an ultra-contemporary, family-friendly appeal that will have your kids asking to go back again and again.

Take a look:

A New Perspective

Kid-scale binoculars give curious kiddos a chance to birdwatch within Tongva Park's rich riparian ecosystem-influenced design, or to peer across the 10 freeway into downtown Santa Monica. fuck

Tongva Park
1615 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, Ca  90401
Hours: 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Online: tongvapark.squarespace.com

Legacy Park
23500 Civic Center Way
Malibu, CA 90265

-Jennifer Arrow

Have you visited these, or any of Los Angeles’ other new natural parks (like Vista Hermosa Natural Park near downtown or Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park in south L.A.)? Which is your fave? Tell us in the comments!

Images courtesy of the author.

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So, you’ve probably sung to your kids the old rhyme, “One two three four five, once I caught a fish alive…” but have you actually done it? Have you caught a fish alive? Earn your parenting badge in fishing (‘fess up, you totally have a running checklist of experiences you want to expose the kids to, so they remember the perfect childhood you gave them!) with a visit to Troutdale. Perfectly suited for amateurs and newbies, easy-drive Troutdale offers a classic American pastime – without the schlep into the wilderness.

REDTRI-troutdale1-losangeles

Whistle the Andy Griffith Theme
At this small-scale, adorable throwback to the 1950s, you don’t even need to have your own equipment–everything is provided–and you’re virtually guaranteed to hook something you can take home for dinner. It’s family fishing at it’s first time finest.

Sheltered in a grove of oak trees off Kanan Road, this spot is perfect for an adventure that appeals to both your rugged outdoorsy types (fishing poles and wriggling worms) and those of us who think a hotel without room service is roughing it (they’ll help you bait the pole and clean the fish).  It’s also a great option for birthday parties; you can rent the dedicated barbecue area and cook up the fish right out of the pond.  Just bring some cute fishy cupcakes, and you’re all set.

redtri-troutdale2-9883508915_2efc9899ed_o

Where’s Nemo?
The fish themselves can be found in two ponds aerated by fountains and a small canal. The ponds are restocked every Thursday with rainbow trout from a farm upstate. (So, you’re guaranteed to catch something.)

Visitors begin their adventure at the snack shack, where the staff will provide you with a basic fishing set-up, which includes a bamboo pole and corn bait, and where you can upgrade to real fishing pole and worm bait if you so desire.

Your little ones will love choosing from the character-theme kid-size poles they have on hand for children: Spider-Man! Lightning McQueen! Thomas! Then select a bench under the oaks and start casting, and before you know it, you’ll be planning your fish dinner. Will you pan-fry your catch, or wrap it in foil with some lemon and herbs slap it on the grill?

I Get My Fish at the Sushi Bar
Clueless about fishing? The staff at Troutdale are awesome and will, literally, hook you up. In addition to the great folks in the snack shack, helpers circulate around the ponds to advise visitors on the finer points of using the fishing hole. They can hook your line, de-hook your fish, suggest a bait upgrade (corn to worms, for example), or even add a special lure to your line if the fish are nibbling but not biting. They can also clean your trout and pack them in a bag of ice for the trip home. (Visitors who have time to plan ahead, and like the DIY route, might bring their own coolers and/or a sharp knife for cutting worms and cleaning the fish.  So we’ve heard.)

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Existential Issues
Just so you know, if you or your children are sensitive, and you haven’t ever gone fishin’ before, there are two tricky spots for kids. First the worm has to go on the hook (we heard one adorable tot declaim:  “Oh, he’s not going to like that, is he?”) and then, of course, hooked fish fight and thrash and splash. Troutdale will put you and your children in closer touch with the origin of an everyday food – which is great, but may lead to a discussion about how fish starts as a live animal, not as a breaded stick in the freezer. Just something to be aware of…

Don’t Take the Road Less Taken
The best way to get there is by exiting at Kanan Road from the 101. Under no circumstances should you announce, “Hey guys, let’s take the scenic route up P.C.H. and past Malibu Creek State Park.” Sure, it’s scenic, but it’s also an unnecessarily long ride and with kids in the car, efficiency is the order of the day. Once you get there, Troutdale has its own parking lot so spots are free and plentiful.  Ahh, the beauty of getting out of the city.

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Forewarned is Forearmed (With Credit Cards)
Your feast of line-caught pan-fried rainbow trout is going to be one of the pricier meals of the week. Of course, you’re buying the picture of your kiddo holding up a fish, Huck Finn style as much as the fish, and it’s totally worth it. But it’s good to know before you go, to avoid the sticker shock. There’s an entrance fee ($7 per person, which includes a bamboo pole, bucket, corn bait, the license and ice), then you buy each fish you catch depending on length.  You can bring your own pole, but if you want to rent a more serious one, or get worm bait, both are extra costs. (But they help catch fish faster.)  If you ask us, the most worth-it extra charge is the $1.50, which gets your fish cleaned for you.

Troutdale
2468 Troutdale Dr.
Agoura Hills   91301
Phone: (818) 889-9993
Online: allyoucanfish.com
Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm; Saturday, Sunday, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

Copy and photos by Jennifer Arrow

Have you ever taken your kids fishing? What’s your favorite fishing spot in Southern California? Share in the comments below!

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Despite L.A.’s sand-and-sea reputation, sometimes getting your kids out into nature is harder than it ought to be. Think schlepping across five freeways to get to the zoo or down to the aquarium, or even running a real distance race to get to a national forest or a cactus-rich state park. Drive no more!  The Natural History Museum’s outstanding new Nature Garden and Lab is central to everything (including transit–really!), and your kids will love chasing dragonflies through the garden, squealing at the caged rats in the lab, and then finishing off a rewarding day with a picnic on the lawn.

Even if you think you know the Natural History Museum, you’ll find that this new addition is a transformative update, morphing the elegant old building into an incredibly hip and “now” space. Find out how to make the most of L.A.’s latest must-visit family destination:

Butterfly Girl

The end of summer doesn't need to mean the end of fun! Prevent Nature Deficit Disorder: Dose your kids with fresh air, cool critters and green growing things by visiting the Nature Garden and Lab at the Natural History Museum. The brand-new exhibit and garden space is a super-inspiring, super-local weekend field trip that will leave your kids feeling refreshed and reconnected with the outside world, even if they <em>do</em> have to spend most of their days inside a classroom.fuck
  • Butterfly in jar at Natural History Museum
  • Boardwalk bridge at the Natural History Museum Nature Gardens
  • Otis Booth Pavilion and Nature Gardens, Natural History Museum
  • Hummingbird feeders and food plants
  • Artichokes in bloom have radiant purple flowers
  • Green beans and cosmos in the garden
  • Video display at Natural History Museum's Nature Lab
  • Natural History Museum's Nature Lab
  • Natural History Museum's Nature Lab

Natural History Museum
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca. 90007
Phone: (213) 763-3466
Online: nhm.org

Hours: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm daily
Admission: Adults, $12; Kids under 12, $5; Kids under 2 are free.

We can’t decide which we love more: the new Nature Gardens and Lab or the new-ish Dino Hall.  What’s your favorite spot at the Natural History Museum?

Copy and photos by: Jennifer Arrow

 

Where Critter-Loving Kids Go to Play

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Do you have a critter-loving kid? Does your toddler trot off to the backyard and come back clutching nightcrawlers, crickets, snails, rolly-pollies and detached lizard tails? If yes, then your little kid is the perfect candidate for a visit to the Los Angeles Zoo’s new LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles) facility! The creatures at the LAIR are supersize, superscary wild things, and now’s the perfect time of year to visit them all.

If you grew up in L.A., you might remember the old reptile house as a dark and gloomy warren of tiny aquariums that were hard for both kids and adults to see into. The new LAIR, however, has solved this issue with cleverly designed floor-to-ceiling glass viewing windows that allow zoo visitors of all sizes to see eye-to-eye with everything from high-climbing tree snakes to sand-dwelling lizards.

Even if you hit the zoo a lot, the extensive LAIR is worth a separate trip! The zoo’s LAIR area is divided between two buildings–one for dryland creatures, the other space devoted to tropical animals–and a handful of outdoor enclosures. (The intriguing exterior exhibits include some surprisingly spry desert tortoises and a cartoonish-looking crocodilian called a gharial.)

In the main space, expect special enthusiasm from your kids for the floor-level aquarium, featuring the clever archer fish (which can shoot their prey out of the air!), and for the Care & Conservation Room, which features umpteen baby rattlesnakes and a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how zoo herpetologists manage the facility’s population of marquee creepy-crawlies. Expect to shudder at the lethal green mamba snake and marvel at the zippy skittering of the Mexican giant horned lizards.

In the Desert LAIR building, you’ll learn all about the many varieties of reptiles you could encounter in our very own local Southwestern desert ecosystem; especially appealing creatures include the chunky, stubby-tailed Gila monsters and the uniquely rattle-less Santa Catalina Island rattlesnakes.

Insider’s tip: On many days, if there is a line out the door of the main LAIR, you can always skirt around the building and enter through the back door or just start your tour with the outdoor enclosures or the smaller Desert LAIR. Zoo administrators are hip to this trick and sometimes set up cordons for crowd control, but your chances on any given fall weekday are going to be good!

The entire LAIR zone is thoughtfully designed with families in mind: stroller parking is available outside and every area includes a rest area where parents can take a load off while their little critters crawl around.

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanic Gardens LAIR
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, Ca 90027
Hours: Open daily, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Admission: Adult tickets $17; children ages 2 to 12, $12

Online: http://www.lazoo.org/lair/

Have you already entered the LAIR or are you clinging to herpetophobia for the time being? What’s your favorite L.A. Zoo critter? Hit the comments with your take on the best attraction at the Griffith Park facility!

–Jennifer Arrow (thanks to Jen for the photos!)