Los Angeles State Historic Park just reopened (on April 22) and is a great place to bring the family to soak in the open air, see the beautiful landscape and walk on a piece of LA history. This 34 acre beauty is at the intersection of Chinatown, Elysian Park and the LA River and is a perfect place to bring the scooters, a ball, a picnic and enjoy the greenification of the city in a spot where grassy fields meet stunning city views.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

History Has It’s Eyes on This Park
Los Angeles State Historic Park was closed for 3 years and has been completely renovated to be better than ever. The park is truly a piece of the LA spirit and history. On the northern half of Chinatown and the edge of Elysian Park and the LA River, this is the place where migrants from Mexico and later from other parts of the world and the US came to find water. Later, this became a final stop for many Chinese American Immigrants traveling by rail and landing at what was the Southern Pacific Railroad’s River Station. Chinese immigrants largely helped build the cross-continental railway here, which is one reason Chinatown exists.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

The Park was infamously nicknamed the cornfields (though no corn actually grew there until an art installation entitled “Not a Cornfield” was installed, years later). After the railways faded, the land was set to become an industrial park.  Eeeeww.  No way, said the locals, who organized a strong grassroots movement and demanded the space become a public park. When you walk (or run) your young activists through the space, be sure to point on the sign that states “A Park Is Made By People.” Thank goodness this one was saved by and for the people, because it is a gem.

OK, history lesson done, now let’s go explore!

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Where Green and Skylines Meet
The new green space is filled with native plants, newly planted trees, picnic areas and spaces for communal fire pits. There are also long stretches of manicured walkways, dirt running paths and a stunning elevated pedestrian walkway that offers incredible views of downtown. Let your little city dwellers gaze out and enjoy the majesty of this city that is at once industrial, innovative, green and full of history.  If you have avid scooter riders in your house this is the best place to start. Wear them out as they roll for long stretches and catch a little wind. If you have ballplayers or Frisbee lovers in tow, there is lots (we mean lots) of grass. Set them free! The park is also surrounded by gates (with openings at the north near the parking area and southeast edge of the park) so this is a safe place for your little explorers to feel independent. There are plenty of picnic tables but you can also lay out a blanket and enjoy those soft ground beneath you.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Along the western edge of the park are original cobblestones from the railroad days. Archaeologist also worked hard to uncover the foundations of the train station, roundhouse, a hotel and other buildings. The park was designed to trace the outlines of those former structures within the green space.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

At the northern edge of the park designers planted fresh trees in metal planters that are inscribed with phrases like “I needed to be in a melting pot” and other words of inclusion in English, Spanish and Chinese. Definitely take a walk through these talking trees.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

It’s So Easy, Being Green
Since we’re celebrating the greening of the city, why not take the train? LA State Historic Park is just steps away from the Gold Line’s Chinatown Station. There’s a slew of fun family adventures on the line.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Why Pack a Picnic?
While this park is the perfect place to have a family picnic, that doesn’t mean you have to spend your morning making sandwiches. Chinatown is full of of restaurants and if you want to keep it super close there is an LA classic in Nick’s Diner right across the street. This place is open for breakfast and lunch daily with outdoor or counter seating. There can be a wait on the weekend, but it’s worth it especially if your young munchers love ham with their eggs (not of the green variety). If you like spice, be sure to use their house made salsa!

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Coming Attractions
The park is just barely opened, so there is even more to come. A restaurant, that is being prefabricated with shipping containers, is set to open in June (stay tuned, we’ll give you the scoop on Red Tricycle!). The restaurant will also offer grown up beverages, so you can plan on enjoying a glass of your favorite something while your little people get out their last bit of evening wiggles. The Welcome Center is also slated to host a number of cultural events in the coming months. Keep checking their website for updates.

Parking at the Park
There is a parking lot available at the north edge of the park. There is also ample 2 hour street parking on Spring Street (but it is restricted between 7-9 a.m.).

LA State Historic Park
1245 N. Spring St.
Downtown
323-441-8819
Online: lashp.com

What’s your favorite space where green meets city?  Let us know in the comment section!

—LeTania Kirkland Smith