If your kiddos’ idea of nature is the sprawling freeways and concrete jungle of Los Angeles, well, let’s be honest, who can blame them, right? Beyond the raccoons that frequent our yards (and other animal encounters we pay admission for), there are excellent local nature centers where your kids can learn about our ecosystems, experience the sights and sounds of our nearby flora and fauna and get a sense of what the natural world looks like beyond the familiar concrete and controlled chaos of the big city without heading out of town to places like Lake Arrowhead or Big Bear.

Stoneview Nature Center
At this 5-acre ever-evolving park, you’ll find yoga classes, guided urban walks, artwork, a demonstration garden and a community kitchen not to mention a scenic view of DTLA and the Santa Monica Mountains. The center is also the beginning of the “Park to Playa Trail,” the recreational corridor that connects state, county and city parks from the Baldwin Hills to Playa Del Rey and one of our favorite hikes with kids (parts of it, that is).

Good to Know: There is transportation to the park from the Metro Expo La Cienega Station to Kenneth Hahn State Recreational Area and the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. The Parklands Shuttle operates 8 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Sat., Sun. and holidays. Rides are 25 cents one way and free for Seniors and children under 5.

5950 Stoneview Dr.
Culver City
Online: parks.lacounty.gov/stoneview-nature-center

RELATED: A Local Dishes on the Must-Do’s in Culver City

Madrona Marsh Preserve and Nature Center 
This beautiful, busy nature preserve in the heart of Torrance (just blocks from the giant Del Amo Fashion Center mall) and thought to be one of the last remaining vernal freshwater marshes in Los Angeles County, is not to be missed by city kids who need a dose of fresh air and fun. The best way to experience the marsh your first time out is to take the Tyke Hike offered the first Thurs. of every month ($5 donation) for ages 0-6. Check out their calendar for other great hosted walks like Fri. Fun, Night Hikes, Nature Storytime and more. Bring a hat and sturdy shoes—it’s alternately sunny and damp in different parts of the preserve—and consider taking binoculars, because this spot is a paradise for birders.

Don’t Miss: The Nature Center houses several live animal exhibits including snakes, turtles and other animals on a rotating basis.

3201 Plaza Del Amo
Online: friendsofmadronamarsh.com

Audubon Center, Debs Park
Located in the fourth-largest park in Los Angeles, this Center aims to restore the connection between people and the land in Los Angeles. “As the first center that Audubon built within an urban environment to specifically engage the Latino community, the Audubon Center at Debs Park has played an important role in building a more diverse and inclusive conservation movement here in Los Angeles and beyond.”  In addition to restoring habitats at Debs Park and along the L.A. River, the center hosts regular family hikes, art workshops, habitat restoration events as well as movie nights.

Don’t Miss: The Audubon Center courtyard features some of the best naturalistic play area we’ve ever seen—your kids will have a blast, and you might even get a chance to relax and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings.

4700 North Griffin Ave.
Los Angeles
Online: debspark.audubon.org

Deane Dana Friendship Natural Area
Situated on a hilltop overlooking the harbor, this park offers one of the most expansive views of Los Angeles and Catalina Island to be found anywhere. In addition to hiking trails, a picnic area and a pleasant playground with a pirate-ship theme, the well-designed County-operated nature center offers enrichment classes for school groups, education on local species. Sat. mornings, nature superintendents hold a free meet-and-greet to share knowledge about the park, its inhabitants and all the ways to have fun at the park, called Every Body Explores (also taking place at other nature centers across the city).

1850 West 9th St.
San Pedro
Online: parks.lacounty.gov/deane-dana-friendship-natural-area/

El Dorado Park Nature Center
If you live on the Westside and you make the trip down to Long Beach—even better, if you want to spend the weekend in Long Beach, check out our insider tips—don’t miss El Dorado Park, a 100-acre park featuring everything from stocked fishing lakes, 4 miles of bike paths and a train park for train-crazy kids. In the heart of El Dorado’s recreational smorgasborg is the Nature Center. Nearly everything is stroller-accessible—making it a boondoggle for those with babies looking to get outside. Parking in the lot is $7, but easy street parking can be also be found nearby.

Don’t Miss: Family night walks and the self-guided hikes through the area.

7550 East Spring St.
Long Beach
Online: longbeach.gov/naturecenter

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