Playgrounds are the only place in the whole wide world where your sole responsibility is to have as much fun as possible-besides Vegas! Kids can be an astronaut soaring to the moon on rocket swings or archaeologists in search of buried treasure (or mom’s iPhone) in the sand. From Dino digs to pirate parks, seaside swings to sparkling streams, check out the very best playgrounds LA has to offer.

Best View: Malibu Bluffs Park

Some things are well worth braving the bumper-to-bumper headache on PCH and this is one of them. Malibu Bluffs Park serves up playtime with a heaping side of jaw-dropping views. Here, kiddos hop from slide to slide with Pepperdine and the shimmering Pacific as their backdrop. The ocean-themed playground is well-maintained, and the bathrooms at the Michael Landon Community Center are actually clean. If you’re in the mood to picnic, there are plenty of tables and a large grassy area so kids can run like the wild-eyed banshees they are.

Bonus: The park also features free wi-fi so you can obsessively update Instagram with each precious moment in real time. The grandparents will thank you.

24250 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu
310-317-1364
Online: ci.malibu.ca.us/Facilities/Facility/Details/Malibu-Bluffs-Park-6

Best Shade in the Valley: Brandon’s Village

Nestled in the tranquil hills of Kardashian Country, the vibrant colors of Brandon’s Village at Gates Canyon Park instantly plant a smile on even the fussiest tot’s face. Giant yellow canopies shade most of this universally accessible (inclusive to kids of all abilities) play space, making it a perfect spot for families to hit up on those blindingly sunny afternoons. There’s also a basketball court, tennis courts, covered picnic area with barbecues and tidy bathrooms that don’t require a scrubdown after using them.

25801 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Calabasas
818-880-6461
Online: cityofcalabasas.com/vtour/gates-canyon/gates-canyon.html

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).

6300 Balboa Blvd.
Van Nuys
818-756-9743
Online: laparks.org/dos/playground/facility/balboaUAPk.htm

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.
Pasadena
818-771-5544
Online: facebook.com/reesesretreat

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.
Griffith Park
323-913-4688
Online: laparks.org/dos/playground/facility/griffithUAPk.htm

Best Place to Spend the Whole Day: Polliwog Park

As the largest park 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.
Manhattan Beach
310-802-5408
Online: citymb.info/city-officials/parks-and-recreation/parks-and-facilities/polliwog-park

photo: Jennifer O'Brien

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.
Culver City
310-253-6470
Online: culvercity.org/Government/PRCS/Parks/ParkSites/CCPark.aspx

For Art You Can Play On: La Laguna Playground

A tip from Aimee G., another RedTri reader (you are our best sources for finding the coolest stuff) led us to check out this historic playground, which is often called “Dinosaur Park” by locals. The 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 is currently being 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
San Gabriel
626-308-2875
Online: sangabrielcity.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/La-Laguna-de-San-Gabriel-32

Best for Little Escape Artists: Glen Alla Park

Once again, our amazing Red Tricycle readers (Sashique and Stephanie D.) come through with another fab playground. After seeing multiple kudos for Glen Alla Park in Marina del Rey, we checked it out for ourselves. Universally accessible? Check. Fully enclosed? Check. A canopied sea theme structure with oodles of swings, slides and enough climbing majiggies to fill an active tot’s afternoon? Check, check and check. The park also offers beautifully maintained green areas, picnic tables, and tennis and basketball courts. RT readers, you were right. This one’s a keeper.

4601 Alla Rd.
Marina del Rey
310-396-1615
Online: laparks.org/dos/parks/facility/glenAllaPk.htm

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 others hair out in a battle for slide domination).

1100 N. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills
310-285-6820
Online: beverlyhills.org/exploring/cityparks/coldwatercanyonpark/

photo: Melissa Heckscher

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
Torrance
Online: http://www.torranceca.gov/22183.htm

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Best Neighborhood Gem: York Park

The 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
Highland Park

photo: Grand Park

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)
213-972-8080
Online: grandparkla.org

photo: Jennifer Arrow

Best Beachside Play: 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.
Santa Monica
Online: tongvapark.squarespace.com

Best Bit Of Boston: Heritage Park

Do you know about the midnight ride of Paul Revere? After reading your Longfellow, you can live the history with a short trip near the border of Orange County. It’s worth the drive, as this amazing little park is located on an island, and is filled with mini American Revolution-era replica buildings fitted with slides, climbers and all sorts of nooks and crannies. Add in some boats with cannons, ducks, turtles and three other, more modern, playgrounds and you’ve got a place to spend the whole day, 3,000 miles and 240 years ago, yet right in our backyard.

Good to know: The park doesn’t open until 2 p.m. on Tuesdays (all other days it’s open at 10 a.m.). And no food is allowed on the island, so snack upon this side of the bridge.

18600 Bloomfield Ave.
Cerritos
562-916-8570
Online: cerritos.us/RESIDENTS/recreation/facilities/heritage_park.php

Want more great playgrounds?  For the little escape artists, we also love these fenced in parks.

Our readers have been so incredible with playground ideas, we’d love to know what LA parks you feel have the best slides? Best swings? Best water play? Best views? Give us a shout!

–Jennifer O’Brien

 

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