Has your local neighborhood go-to playground become old news? Are your outdoor explorers itching for a new adventure? Then it’s time to make a trip to one of these impressive playgrounds sprinkled throughout Los Angeles. From rocket ships and deserted boats to dinosaurs and ooey-gooey mud play, read on for our favorite LA playgrounds!

Best Place to Spend the Whole Day: Polliwog Park

Covering 18 acres, Polliwog is one of the largest parks in the South Bay and boasts a scenic amphitheater overlooking a giant duck and turtle-filled pond as well as a botanical garden, natural wildlife refuge, picnic tables, gazebos, and even a museum.

But honestly, who cares about all that when you have one of the coolest playground slides in LA that features curly slides, wavy slides, and winding wack-a-doodle slides. With three expansive play areas to choose from (including a concrete boat in the middle of a sand ocean), it’s best for your mini minnows to start at one end of the park and work their way to the other. Make it a family furry affair and bring your pup on this outing as there is a large dog run on one end of this pooch-friendly park!

Hours: Nov. – Mar 6:30a.m.–8p.m.; Apr.–Oct. 6:30a.m.–9p.m.
Parking: Street parking.

1601 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Manhattan Beach
Online: citymb.info

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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 its own and certainly not to be missed. Among the many highlights your small Sneetches will enjoy are a custom treehouse, super long roller and tube slides, rope ladders, tunnels, and a soft (simulated forest) floor. There are also three platform levels tucked inside the climber that offer a “kids-eye-view” of the sprawling park and breathtaking cityscape. It’s almost as if this place was lifted right out of Whoville itself!

Hours: 5:30a.m.–10p.m.
Parking: Paid parking in Lot 10 on N. Broadway between First St. and Temple. We strongly encourage families to take the Metro Red/Purple Line to the Civic Center/Grand Park stop. It’s tons easier and a lot cheaper!

Know Before You Go: And 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 (maybe The Lorax?) at The Last Bookstore. Then grab a scoop of gelato at Gelateria Uli and see the sights from the SkySlide!

200 N. Grand Ave. (Playground is on southeast end between Broadway & Spring)
Downtown Los Angeles
Online: grandparkla.org

The Original Accessible: Shane’s Inspiration

As the first universally accessible playground on the west coast (and the largest in the Nation), this special place set the bar for how much fun kiddos of all abilities can have when given the chance to play together. Shane’s Inspiration has been closed since mid-Jan. 2019 for renovations but finally reopened this summer!

New and improved elements will include a ship, double arched buddy zip line featuring a high-backed seat, new surfacing, and even an accessible merry-go-round! The new playground will also include sensory-rich, musical instruments and Too Small To Fail early childhood interactive literacy panels to encourage families to talk, read and sing to their little ones. This play space literally has something for everyone and 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, Griffith Park Observatory, Travel Town, Old Zoo Grounds, The Autry Museum and pony rides galore.

Hours: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.
Parking: Free public parking in a nearby lot.

4800 Crystal Springs Rd.
Griffith Park
Online: shanesinspiration.org

For Art You Can Play On: La Laguna Playground

La Laguna (affectionately known as Dinosaur or Monster park to the locals) truly puts the “whimsy” in “whimsical” and has made several national lists of “best playgrounds in the country.” This historic playground was designed by Mexican concrete artist Benjamin Dominguez in 1965 and over 50 years later it’s still a place sought out by both young and old.

You won’t see swing sets and your run-of-the-mill slides here; instead, young dreamers will find 14 colorful cement sea creatures rising out of the sand just perfect for climbing and playing. This is a place for imagination to reign supreme and where clinging to the tail of a giant monster is encouraged.

Hours: 7:30a.m.–10p.m.
Parking: Public parking lot

Wells & Ramona St.
San Gabriel
Online: sangabrielcity.com

Best Paparazzi Lookout: Coldwater Canyon Park

Beverly Hills continues to keep it classy with this picturesque park and playground located just 10 minutes down the road from Rodeo Drive. Beautifully kept grounds complete with shaded benches throughout this peaceful paradise offer an ideal spot to sit back, relax and renew your sense of zen (until that is, you need to referee battles over slides and sand toys). The piece de resistance here is a sparkling stream for kids to play in the water during warmer months!

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Parking: Free parking in a small lot or look for (non-permit) neighborhood street parking.

Know Before You Go: This park is a hotspot and tends to be crowded on the weekends so plan accordingly.

1100 N. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills
Online: beverlyhills.org

Best View: South Beach Park

Avast there off the port bow! Looks like a ship has run ashore on the Santa Monica beach boardwalk directly across from the water and turned itself into a playground fit for all sorts of aquatic adventurers. With climbing ropes, swings, a roller slide, and sandpit with water pump, your curious captains will have a blast pretending they are ocean explorers adrift at sea. A soft rubber padded play area covers the entire park’s floor making parents breathe out a sigh of relief while they breathe in that crisp ocean air.

Parking: Beach parking lot (fee-based)

3400 Barnard Way
Santa Monica
310-458-8300
Online: smgov.net/

Best View Honorable Mention: Malibu Bluffs Park

You’ll have views for days at this 6-acre park while your little lobsters scrabble all over the expansive playground, sandpit, zip line, and climbing wall! Oh, and did we mention there is a whale watching station? With the Pacific Ocean shimmering below (and Pepperdine University across the street), this spot is a perfect place for everyone to blow off a little steam (and maybe even catch a glimpse of an ocean animal or two along the way)!

Hours: 8a.m.-sunset
Parking: Free parking in an adjacent private lot next to the park

24250 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Malibu
Online: https://www.malibucity.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/Malibu-Bluffs-Park-6

photo: Shahrzad Warkentin

Best for Young Climbers: Chatsworth Park South

Chatsworth’s mountainous rocky terrain is, not only a beautiful natural backdrop but also the inspiration for this amazingly unique playground. In keeping with its rock-filled surroundings, the massive park is all about climbing and boy does it deliver! From rock walls to a giant web, tree stumps to a man-made boulder, if you can climb it, this playground has got it. If your little billy goats are climbing the walls at home, let them loose here where they can scamper until their hearts (and hooves) are content.

Hours: Mon.–Fri. 9a.m.–10p.m.; Sat. 9a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. closed
Parking: Free parking in a small lot.

Know Before You Go: If your toddling tots are still too tiny for the big playground, make your way to the smaller one tucked behind the recreation center that is covered in plenty of shade.

22360 Devonshire St.
Chatsworth
Online: laparks.org/park/chatsworth-park-south

Best for Buccaneers: Reese’s Retreat

A’hoy mateys! Reese’s Retreat inside Pasadena’s Brookside Park offers pint-sized pirates a coveted chance to channel their inner Captain Jack Sparrow. Your swashbucklers will have plenty of room to hoist the sails and fire the cannons while they guide their trusty ship over a padded ocean floor. This universally accessible play space also features tons of swings and slides for landlubbers 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.

Know Before You Go: If you want to make a whole day of it, the park is very close to the Kidspace Children’s Museum and the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center (swimming anyone?). The parking lot is free but not when there are major events taking place at the neighboring Rose Bowl. Make sure to check the Bowl schedule before you head to this park to avoid crowds and parking fees.

Hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Parking: Free parking in the large public lot adjacent to the park.

360 N. Arroyo Blvd.
Pasadena
Online: facebook.com/reesesretreat

 

Best Lakeside Park: Anthony C. Beilenson Park

Lakes in Los Angeles are not the norm so if you’re looking for a playground that feels more like a weekend getaway than just another city park, Anthony C. Beilenson Park delivers in spades. 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 romp around on the jungle gym.

There’s also a lakeside bike path where you can BYOB (bring your own bike) and take tikes past gaggles of honking geese and quacking ducks (there are also bikes for rent if you forget yours at home!). Once your brood has had their fill of land-based activities, hop in a swan paddle boat (for a small rental fee) and tour the lake the way ducks intended!

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Parking: Free public lot but small so fills up quickly!

6300 Balboa Blvd.
Van Nuys
Online: https://www.laparks.org/aquatic/balboa

Best “Top of the World, Ma” Play Place: Culver City Park

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 the younger set both mentally and physically.

Speaking of physical, older ones can try out a fitness hike up the famous Culver City stairs or strap on a helmet and hit up the skate park. For those littles who want to get their hands wet, there’s a sand and water area with a working water pump and water wheels where they can build dams and construct sand castles that would make Frank Gehry proud. Once everyone has had their fill of the outdoors, cross the street to the Star Eco Station and take a quick tour of their exotic rescued wildlife center (and maybe even get to pet a boa constrictor!).

Hours: Sunrise – 10 p.m.
Parking: Free public parking in a nearby lot.

9910 Jefferson Blvd.
Culver City
Online: https://www.culvercity.org/Home/Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory/307/231

Best for Little Escape Artists: Glen Alla Park

This nautically-themed, universally accessible park is perfect for young scallywags 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. Because of the flat, expansive layout, it’s pretty easy to have eyes on everyone (which is super helpful if you’ve got a larger brood in tow). Glen Alla also has plenty of shade, picnic tables, and a large grassy area surrounds the perimeter, in case you decide to let your Houdinis loose outside the gates for a bit.

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Parking: Street parking.

Know Before You Go: The delicious Del Rey Farmer’s Market sets up shop on the sidewalks surrounding this park every Fri. afternoon from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. This can be a fun bonus to a Fri. park visit but it also makes the already tricky parking options that much slimmer so plan accordingly!

4601 Alla Rd.
Marina del Rey
Online: https://www.laparks.org/park/glen-alla

 

Best For Astronauts in Training: Los Arboles “Rocketship” Park

Blast off to Torrance’s “Rocketship” Park and treat your little space cadets to a 28-foot-tall rocket tower they can actually climb inside of and slide down (after they’ve simulated a proper launch of course). Situated on top of a hillside, this hidden neighborhood gem of a park offers spectacular ocean views stretching from the Santa Monica Bay to the San Gabriel Mountains. With a mix of new and old playground equipment, scenic swings and sand for days, your young rocketeers will certainly be over the moon!

Hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Parking: Street parking.

Know Before You Go: Kinda like space, there are no restrooms at this park so good to have a travel potty on hand just in case!

5101 Calle de Ricardo
Torrance
Online: https://www.torranceca.gov/Home/Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory/1028/1094

 

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Best Neighborhood Gem: York Park

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 slice of metropolitan magic. 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 outside 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 (Donut Friend and Mr. Holmes Bakehouse is just across the street). York Park is also securely gated and enclosed so you can breathe easy that your tiny trendsetters will be snug as bugs!

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Parking: Street parking.

4948 York Blvd.
Highland Park
Online: https://www.laparks.org/park/york-boulevard-park

Best Valley Shade: Woodland Hills Park

We all know how hot Los Angeles can get (especially in the Valley) so finding a playground that is super shady is actually a huge plus in our book! Recently renovated Woodland Hills Park has two separate play areas, both catering to different age levels, that are fully covered by bright blue canopies (there is even a fully shaded picnic table area!).

With six different slides, swings, and all kinds of exploratory spots, this playground is small in size, but big on fun. Of course, the very best way to cool off when the temps are high 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.

Hours: Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun. Closed
Parking: Free public lot but can fill up on weekends during sporting events.

5858 Shoup Ave.
Woodland Hills
Online: https://www.laparks.org/reccenter/woodland-hills

Best Natural Playground: Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

At 338 acres, this urban oasis is one of the largest inner-city parks in Los Angeles, making it a great spot to let your wolf pack run free for an afternoon. Sure, there are a couple of cute playgrounds here but the big draw is the natural beauty plunked smack dab in the middle of the city. Babbling brooks, a Japanese garden, a small but charming waterfall, and a duck-filled pond are only some of what makes Kenneth Hahn so special. Throw in family-friendly hiking trails, spectacular views of the city, acres of grassy fields and even an actual visitors center and you’ve got yourself a diamond in the rough just waiting to be explored!

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Parking: Large parking lot that is free to use during the week but charges $6 per car on weekends.

4100 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Baldwin Hills
Online: http://parks.lacounty.gov/kenneth-hahn-state-recreation-area/

Best Worth-The-Trek Excursion: Adventure Playground (Irvine)

You’re going to want to pack an extra set (or two) of clothes before heading out on this adventure. One of Irvine’s best-kept secrets, this University of CA Irvine adjacent park is chock-full of everything your little loves could possibly want and more! Prepare for the rugrats to get nice and dirty here as there is a large mud play area as well as water pumps on deck to help build that perfect sand castle.

Along with an incredible castle-like structure, tree house, kid’s fort building zone, concrete slides, and even a sensory garden, your little piggies will never want to leave!! The best part for parents? This park is fully enclosed so while the kiddos wallow in the muck, you can sip coffee and watch them go hog wild from the comfort of a (clean) bench.

Know Before You Go: There is little shade here so hats and sunscreen are a must. Because of the mud and water features at this park, it’s highly encouraged to bring changes of clothes as there are hoses near the bathrooms to spray the kids down before it’s time to go. Also, the water pump station will be closed every Mon. for maintenance.

Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mar. - Oct.
Parking: Free public parking lot.

1 Beach Tree Lane
Irvine
Online: https://www.cityofirvine.org/parks-facilities/adventure-playground

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 & Jenifer Scott

featured image: Jennifer O’Brien

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