Did someone say playground? While it’s impossible to pick just a few of the best, we did manage to pick our favorite 15. From pirate parks to swings with an ocean view, you’ll want to book each and every one of these for your next park play date.
Best Paparazzi Lookout: Coldwater Canyon Park
This stunning jewel of a park is exactly what you’d expect from fancy pants Beverly Hills. Pristine grounds, blooming flowers, animal sculptures, immaculate playground equipment and the star of the show—a sparkling stream for kids to frolic along. Oh, and more nannies than a Mary Poppins convention. Shaded benches throughout this peaceful paradise offer an ideal spot to sit back, relax and renew your sense of zen (that is until your tots try to tear each other's hair out in a battle for slide domination).
1100 N. Beverly Dr.
Best View: South Beach Park
Situated right on the beach boardwalk in Santa Monica, this is the ultimate place to enjoy an amazing view while your kids climb and play. The entire rubber padded play area resembles a large boat run aground, perfect for pint-sized ocean explorers to pretend they’re on a deserted island. There are climbing ropes and all kinds of artistic and interactive elements to discover. There is a roller slide, swings, a sandpit with a water feature and some spring-mounted boogie boards to practice surfing the waves while you watch the real ones crashing in the distance.
3400 Barnard Way
Best for Young Climbers: Chatsworth Park South
The rocky peaks of Chatsworth make the perfect backdrop and serve as the inspiration for this amazing playground, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In keeping with the rock-filled terrain that surrounds the area, the massive playground is all about climbing. From rock walls to a giant web, tree stumps to a man-made boulder, if you can climb it, this playground has got it. There are so many different ways to scale this structure, your mini-explorers may not even have time to discover them all, but that’s okay because this park is destined for repeat visits.
Bonus tip: If your toddling tots are still too tiny for the big playground, make your way to the smaller one tucked behind the rec center and covered in plenty of shade.
22360 Devonshire St.
For Art You Can Play On: La Laguna Playground
This historic playground was designed by a Mexican concrete artist named Benjamin Dominguez in 1965. It’s a sand lagoon, filled with 14 concrete creatures and monsters that kids can use for climbing, playing, sliding and imagining. It was saved from demolition in 2006 and fully restored. It’s a different, imaginative and fabulous playground for kids, and has made several national lists of “best playgrounds in the country.”
Wells & Ramona Streets
Best for Buccaneers: Reese’s Retreat
Ye had us at pirate ship! Reese’s Retreat inside Pasadena’s Brookside Park offers pint-sized buccaneers the chance to play Captain Jack Sparrow for a day. Replete with canons, sails, and a padded ocean floor, kids can swashbuckle with glee across the playground’s main attraction shouting things like, “Walk the plank, Grandma!” and “Me parrot’s got scurvy!” This universally accessible play space also features tons of swings and slides for mateys of all ages, as well as a cool sand and water area that’s guaranteed to leave a lasting impression in ye car (aaarrrggghhh!). We highly suggest bringing an extra change of pantaloons.
Bonus: The park’s really close to the Kidspace Children’s Museum for playtime and Rose Bowl Aquatic Center for swimming.
360 N. Arroyo Blvd.
The Original Accessible: Shane’s Inspiration
As the first universally accessible playground on the west coast, this special place set the bar for how much fun kiddos of all abilities can have when given the chance to play together. From its airplane cockpit and train to the monkey bars and rocket ship, this play space literally has something for everybody. The fact that it’s tucked into the wooded wonderland of Griffith Park is just a super cool bonus. Speaking of bonuses, you’re also steps away from the LA Zoo, carousel, Griffith Park Observatory, Travel Town, Old Zoo Grounds, Autry Museum and more pony rides than you can shake a carrot at.
4800 Crystal Springs Rd.
Best Lakeside Park: Anthony C. Beilenson Park
If you’re looking for a lakeside playground that feels like a weekend getaway from the city, Anthony C. Beilenson Park delivers and then some. With a universally accessible play structure that’s almost as big as the park itself, little ones have more than enough elbow room to swing, shimmy through tunnels and frolic on the jungle gym. Picnic tables are plentiful, making it an ideal spot for birthday fetes. There’s also a delightful bike path that takes adventurous tikes past gaggles of honking geese and quacking ducks (no feeding allowed though, much to their chagrin). You can also rent a multi-rider cycle and pedal the path as a family.
6300 Balboa Blvd.
Best Place to Spend the Whole Day: Polliwog Park
As one of the largest parks in the South Bay, Polliwog Park features a lovely amphitheater, several grassy areas, picnic tables, a pond, gazebos and even a museum. But honestly, who cares about all that when you have some of the coolest playground slides in LA! Curly slides, wavy slides, winding wack-a-doodle slides. There are quite a few play areas to choose from, so if you have an afternoon to spare, start at one end of the park and work your way to the other.
1601 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Best “Top of the World, Ma” Play Place: Culver City Park
Redesigned and reopened in 2012, Culver City Park looks part playground, part futuristic art installation. This intimate hilltop play space showcases much more than just monkey bars and seesaws. State of the art play equipment using whimsical shapes was specifically developed to challenge tikes both mentally and physically. There’s also a sand and water area where kids interact with a working water pump and water wheels, build dams and construct sand castles that would put Frank Gehry to shame. Though there isn’t much coverage over the playground itself, a shaded grassy area offers respite from the warm California sun and provides the perfect backdrop for a game of Red Rover.
9800 Jefferson Blvd.
Best for Little Escape Artists: Glen Alla Park
This nautically-themed, universally accessible park is perfect for young pirates who like to make a quick getaway. This fully-enclosed playground has oodles of swings, slides and enough climbing things to fill an active tot’s afternoon. It’s also got plenty of shade, picnic tables, and a large grassy area surrounds the playground, in case you decide to roam outside the perimeter.
4601 Alla Rd.
Marina del Rey
Best For Astronauts in Training: Los Arboles “Rocketship” Park
If your little space cadets want a place to fly to the moon, there’s no better playground than Torrance’s “Rocketship” Park, where a 28-foot-tall rocket towers on top of the hillside. The park recently underwent a big renovation that left its 52-year-old namesake retro-rocket intact but added a slew of new play elements making it a modern blast for young rocketeers. Views stretch from the Santa Monica Bay to the San Gabriel Mountains make this 6-acre park a great place to bring the whole family to relax and picnic (and scooter and bike on the surrounding pavement) for the day.
5101 Calle de Ricardo
Best Neighborhood Gem: York Park
This oh-so-hip enclave has reclaimed an old lot and created a brand new space for the kids to roam, right in the center of it all. York Park was built on the site of a former gas station, and while the parklet covers just a third of an acre, it is a little pocket of wonder. While you won’t find much in the way of grass, the urban space is covered with a bright teal and orange, shock-absorbent surface and two main play surfaces. With a snake slide (clearly the kid fave at this park), an urban forest and musical instruments, this pocket park provides outsized entertainment in the middle of the city, and is a perfect place to stop and let the kids run wild before hitting a hipster hang that will fuel them up with sweets, like Donut Friend or Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.
4596 N. Ave 50
Best Valley Shade: Woodland Hills Park
Your little monkeys will love exploring all the different ways to scale the larger play structure at this newly re-opened playground, while the smaller one offers plenty to keep little adventurers engaged, too. With six different slides, swings, and all kinds of exploratory spots, this playground is small in size, but big on fun. But best of all, the entire space is dotted with bright blue canopies keeping the entire playground in shade. There is also a fully shaded picnic table area. Of course the very best way to cool off on a hot valley day is with a dip in the pool and at Woodland Hills Park you can do exactly that. The pool is open seasonally in the summer and early fall, so call ahead to make sure it’s open if you plan to take a swim.
5858 Shoup Ave.
Most Seussian Park: Grand Park
Sure, you’ve brought the kids to splash in the fountains at Grand Park, but the magical playground across the street is a destination of it’s own, like nothing else in the city. Among the many highlights your wiggle worms will enjoy are a custom 20 ft. high treehouse with a tall roller slide and a 12 ft. tube slide, along with three tiers of platforms tucked inside the climber that offer a “kids-eye-view” of the sprawling park and breathtaking cityscape. We like to call it the Seussian park, for the way it would fit right in in a Dr. Seuss book.
Bonus tip: Oh, the places you’ll go, downtown! While you’re here, be sure to snack at Grand Central Market, soak up the art at the Broad Museum, have lunch at Clifton’s Cafeteria and load up on books (like a new Seuss?) at The Last Bookstore. Then take a chocolate tour at Mast Brothers and see the sights from the SkySlide! There’s so much to explore in the heart of the city.
200 N. Grand Ave.
Downtown Los Angeles
(Playground is on southeast end between Broadway & Spring)
Best Natural Playground: Tongva Park
Art and nature meet at this seaside ode to the “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. Kid-scale binoculars give curious kiddos a chance to birdwatch within Tongva Park's rich riparian ecosystem-influenced design, the reflecting pool is perfect for splashing on a hot day and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle's kinetic sculpture "Weather Field No. 1", which is a flock of anemometers will captivate both you and your kids. Then, is that a slide hill? Or a climbing wall? Both are correct answers; it's a multi-sensory children's paradise. Which is a good way of describing this whole park.
Bonus: You’re right across from the pier, making a trip to the carousel (and ice cream) or a walk on the beach a super simple extension of this outing. Also, the new Expo line takes you right here, so make a car-free day of it!
1615 Ocean Ave.
Want more great playgrounds? For the little escape artists, we also love these fenced in parks.
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–Jennifer O’Brien & Shahrzad Warkentin