Once your kiddo starts going to school, there’s a new word that instantly becomes part of your family’s vocabulary: playdate. Playdates can be as simple as “come over” (like we used to say), but if you’re looking to up the ante and venture outside the predictable playdate box, we’ve got some unique ideas that are just the ticket.  Parks that are worth the drive, bouncing, climbing, ball pits and more; here’s how to have the most fun hanging out with new friends.

photo: Jennifer O’Brien

Park Playdates
LA is chock full of swell parks for littles, but we’ve picked a few that make great playdate choices because they bring a little something extra to the party.

West Hollywood Park
For families in the mid-city area, West Hollywood Park is perfect choice for after-school playdates. They have two playgrounds—one for tiny tots and one for bigger kids. If tykes get bored on the playground (does that ever happen?), you can venture over to the West Hollywood Library next door. And we love a playdate that incorporates an early dinner so it’s one less thing to worry about when you get home. On this front, WeHo really delivers. Right next to the park is Pizza Rustica which is great for a post-play nosh and across from the library is Le Zinque Wine Bar which has yumtastic choices for kiddos and most importantly, lots of wine for parents. If you want to skip dinner and just treat your tots to something sweet, Millions of Milkshakes is right next to the park.

Online: weho.org

Roxbury Park
For 90210’ers, the most popular pick for parents tends to be Roxbury Park which underwent an extensive facelift (it is Beverly Hills after all) just last year. The park features twisty, turny high-tech playground equipment that’s perfect for little daredevils and an awesome sand and water table that will occupy babes and their petite pals for hours. There are plenty of picnic tables around, so why not go potluck with the other parents and take care of play and dinner all in one swoop? Yahtzee!

Online: beverlyhills.org

Tongva Park
For Westsiders, we love Tongva Park in Santa Monica. The slides are some of the best around, there’s a splash pad and the park is stunning. Make sure to stop by the lookout points while you’re there for breathtaking sunset views of the Pacific. If kiddos are famished from all the fun, why not treat them to a delicious Mexican dinner (and margaritas for you, of course) at Casa Martin right across the street, or cruise over to nearby Third Street Promenade for myriad dining choices that kiddos will love.

Online: tongvapark.smgov.net

If none of these parks are convenient, check out our list of the coolest playground in the city.  One of them is sure to be in your hood for some easy get together fun.

photo: Sherman Oaks Castle Park via Erik L. on Yelp

Sherman Oaks Castle Park
For those families who live in the Valley, you’re in luck! You have access to one of the coolest playdate opportunities around—mini-golf! Sherman Oaks Castle Park offers 18 holes of fantastically fun mini-golf for your pint-sized PGA’ers. After you wrap up your golf game, head over to the arcade and school your little ones in some Ms. Pacman and air hockey. If all that competition has worked up an appetite, there’s a concession stand inside with everything from pizza and hot dogs to burgers and churros.

While this outing is worth the drive for a special playdate, if you’re looking for a (mini) golf game closer to home for everyday fun, check out these great little greens all over the city.

4989 Sepulveda Blvd.
Sherman Oaks
Online: laparks.org/castlepark


photo: SkyZone via Facebook

Just think, if you wear out your kiddos and their buddies after school, they might actually go to bed without a struggle tonight. (Cue angels singing!) The perfect place for them to jump out all that extra energy is SkyZone indoor trampoline park. With locations all around LA, it’s easy to find one near you. Prices run around $15 for an hour-long jump and go up the more time you add on. Jumpers are separated by age and size, so don’t stress that your 4-year-old will be squashed by a teenager. Be sure to check the calendar beforehand online for jump times and ticket availability.

Skyzone las multiple locations in the Los Angeles area; check the website for details.
Online: skyzone.com


photo: Rockcreation via Facebook

Take the boring old playdate to new heights with a trip to Rockreation rock climbing gym in West LA. Climbers (aged 6 & up) can book a 2-hour climbing session most days after school with an experienced belayer guiding them every step of the way. This makes for a great group playdate as well, as sessions can accommodate up to five kiddos at a time and can be booked in advance online.

11866 La Grange Ave.
West LA
Online: rockreation-la.com


photo: Santa Monica Pier via Facebook

Santa Monica Pier
Taking your kids and their pals to the Santa Monica Pier during the week is a real treat. Crowds are much smaller than weekends, giving you more room to have fun. Kiddos will love riding the Ferris wheel and coasters at Pacific Park and showing off their skeeball and video game skillz at Playland. Of course no trip to an amusement park is complete without some delish snacks like burgers, funnel cakes and Dippin’ Dots. We recommend hitting up the food portion of the program after the rides though.

Colorado Ave. & Ocean Front Walk
Santa Monica
Online: santamonicapier.org

photo: Lemon Tree via Facebook

Lemon Tree Family Restaurant & Playground
Koreatown’s Lemon Tree Family Restaurant & Playground isn’t just for birthday parties, it makes a swell spot for after-school playdates, too—especially on those rare rainy or more frequent hot afternoons. The indoor playground is designed for kids up to 10-years-old and features plenty of nuggets to keep small-pints entertained: a ball pit, mini train, jungle gym, carousel and more books and toys than you can shake a stick at. We love that it’s convenient for dinner as well; the café offers everything from salads and pasta to pizza and kimchi fried rice.

621 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles
Online: lemontreekidscafe.com


photo: Au Fudge via HH on Yelp

Au Fudge
Kiddie restaurant hotspot, Au Fudge, is another groovy playdate spot, and one that gives you a break, or a chance to make friends with your kids new friend’s parents (that’s a mouthful!). Your kids and their best buds play to their heart’s content in the restaurant’s whimsical creative space, participating in various activities, games, music and crafts under the safe supervision of Au Fudge Au Pairs. While tots frolic, parents can kick back and relax in the restaurant sipping one of Au Fudge’s fab signature cocktails like the Summer Sangria or MILF (yes, MILF). Be sure to check the restaurant’s website beforehand to make sure the creative space will indeed be open during your visit as they often hosts special events and workshops in that space.

9010 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood
Online: aufudge.com

What are some of your favorite go-to’s for after-school playdate fun? Let us know in the comments below!

–Jennifer O’Brien

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