6 Imaginative Playgrounds Perfect for Pretend Play

Kids never fail to amaze with their limitless imaginations. One minute, they’re lion taming the family cat. The next, they’re boarding a spaceship to Mars (and that’s just before lunchtime). Luckily, LA is home to some of the most unique and imaginative parks in the country. So whether you have a pint-sized pirate, future fireman or aspiring astronaut on your hands, we’ve rounded up the best playgrounds to help them foster all that budding creativity and take pretend play to a whole new level.

Vincent Lugo Park via Rachel D. on Yelp
photo: Rachel D. via Yelp

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La Laguna de San Gabriel at Vincent Lugo Park
If your little ones love battling sea creatures (and really, who among us doesn’t), La Laguna de San Gabriel playground at Vincent Lugo Park is the ultimate place to go. Located in Alhambra, this historic sculptural playground filled with oversized beasts from the deep can’t help but inspire your miniest Moby Dick (or Jane, or Ahab, really) in training. From an enormous concrete whale and octopus they can climb to the park’s thrilling serpent slide, it’s truly one of Southern California’s kitschiest and coolest play spaces.

300 W. Wells St.
San Gabriel
Online: sangabrielcity.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/La-Laguna-de-San-Gabriel

Reese's Retreat Pasadena via Tee W. on Yelp
photo: Tee W. via Yelp

Reese’s Retreat at Brookside Park
Speaking of sea adventures, maybe you’ve got a swashbuckler, not a sea captain on your hands. And what’s a pirate without their mighty ship! Pasadena’s Reese’s Retreat is the perfect playground for your fierce young marauding babes and their mateys. With a giant mast, ship’s wheel, cannonball climbers, huge swing set and long ramps perfect for walking the plank, your Captain Hook cuties will have hours and hours of fun. Thar should be warned though, pirates may only have one response when it’s time to go home, “Arrrrgh!”

360 N. Arroyo Blvd.
Online: cityofpasadena.net

Costanso Fire Station 84 via Councilmember Bob Blumenfirld on facebook
photo: Councilmember Bob Blumenfeld via facebook

Costanso Fire Station 84 Park
When tykes are asked what they want to be when they grow up, “firefighter” is almost always at the top of their list. We don’t know whether it’s the all the good these brave heroes do in our communities, or just the super cool truck and gear, but kids go crazy for firefighting. Costanso Fire Station 84 Park opened this past summer on the site of former Woodland Hills Fire Station 84 to honor LA firefighters and inspire the future first responders. Small-pints can battle blazes atop the elaborate play equipment shaped like a giant fire truck complete with slides and swings. After all, every hero has to start somewhere.

5340 Canoga Ave.
Woodland Hills
Online: facebook.com/pages/Costanso-fire-Station-84-park/793128640805127

Los Arboles Rocketship Park via Dave A on Yelp
photo: Dave A. via Yelp

Los Arboles Rocketship Park
Houston, we have a problem. Young astronauts love Los Arboles Rocketship Park so much they may never want to leave. Located in Torrance, this rocket shaped play structure is one of the last of its kind in the country and is even officially protected by the Torrance Historical Society. Standing tall with four levels for play and one of the best views in the city, the rocket ship will thrill small-pint space explorers as they blast off into the final frontier. And what intergalactic adventure would be complete without a lunar module nearby with tons of controls and ladders—perfect for a play date that’s out of this world.

5101 Calle de Ricardo
Online: torranceca.gov/Parks/22183.htm

West Wilshire Pan Pacific Park via Patti F. on Yelp
photo: Patti F. via Yel

Renee’s Place at Pan Pacific Park
All aboard! Renee’s Place, located at the north side of Pan Pacific Park, is a train themed playground ideal for tiny conductors looking to ride the rails cross country. Train loving tikes will love scampering through custom train cars, complete with Grand Central Station signage, railroad crossing signs, a train whistle, train engine and sounds that replicate a real life locomotive going over the tracks—all making the experience even more authentic. There are plenty of slides for little ones, as well as ample shade (which mom and dad will appreciate). Plus it’s a great park to bring your own wheels to, when you get tired of riding the rails, as bike, scooter and trike paths are plentiful.  (And you’re right across the street from both ICDC and Sweet Rose Creamery, when you need an ice cream break!)

7600 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: laparks.org/dos/playground/facility/panPacificUAPPk.htm

Griffith Park Zipline via Wendy W. via Yelp
photo: Wendy W. via Yelp

Griffith Park Rec Center Playground
What kiddo doesn’t want to be Indiana Jones for a day? Griffith Park’s newly refurbished Rec Center Playground is the grooviest spot for aspiring Indys to experience an afternoon of adventure. Whether zooming across two long ziplines into enemy territory, scaling the rocks or digging in the sand for archaeological treasures, there’s a rip-roaring time waiting for all. There are also plenty of slides, a rickety bridge for those brave enough to cross and a rope wall for curious climbers. Parents will love that the play area is completely enclosed. Just watch out for snakes! (The totally pretend kind of course.)

3401 Riverside Dr.
Los Feliz
Online: laparks.org/dos/reccenter/facility/griffithparkRC.htm

What local playgrounds inspire your little ones’ imaginations? Let us know! We’d love to add them to our list!

–Jennifer O’Brien

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