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Google “kid-friendly parks in Los Angeles.”  Go ahead, we’ll wait.  Or we’ll save you the trouble: you’ll find lots of the same old familiar parks where you’ve probably play-dated plenty.  What you won’t find is either of these two hidden gems: Barnsdall Park and Greystone Mansion Park. Even their names sound very grown-up.  And at first glance, they both seem like beautiful, romantic places perfect for a doting, artsy couple in the honeymoon days of their relationship (yes, we were there once too).  But once you uncover what these parks have to offer, you’ll soon realize that they are both oft-overlooked family friendly spots that offers gorgeous outdoor views as well as fun attractions for the kids.  So this weekend take the family to explore one of these parks (instead of hitting the one down the street for the umpteenth time, the one where your kids take off for the jungle gym and you browse your iPhone) – we think they’ll become new favorite destinations.

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Greystone Mansion & Park
Greystone Mansion was built by an oil magnate in 1927 and is a real piece of LA history.  The kids will get a kick out of visiting this castle-like structure (called Greystone because of all the grey stone used to build it – just like a castle!) with impressive grounds that include ponds with turtles and koi.  When driving up to the entrance be sure to look for a small green sign that says, Greystone Park Entrance, which marks the drive uphill to the spacious and free parking lot.

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Once parked, head for the winding stairs, which are accessorized with cool plants of all sorts, including greens that are unconventionally planted on top of mini roofs.

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Visit the many koi ponds that they have on the grounds.  The kids can sit for hours just observing the fish, baby tadpoles, and sun-basking turtles.

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Equip the kids with comfortable shoes since there are a lot of paved paths great for strolling (but not great for strollers, so if you’ve got pre-walkers, don’t forget the baby carriers).  When you wander, don’t forget to stop and enjoy gorgeous views of Beverly Hills and beyond.

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Being a little known spot means that this is a wonderful park to come to on a hot day – it’s rarely crowded and you can always find a place for a blanket under a shady tree to curl up with books, or watch the kids run around.  And don’t forget the cameras – there are tons of beautiful backdrops for family portraits or pictures of the kids (especially if they’re wearing their knight or princess costumes, as they’ll look right at home with the castle-like mansion in the background).  And check out the website for special events hosted here: car shows, tea time on the terrace, foodie classes for grownups and special summer music concerts all take place throughout the year.

Potty Presence
When you park, you may wish to note that the bathrooms are located at the bottom of the stairs next to the koi pond before you get to the mansion. This is convenient when you first arrive, and not as handy once you’ve started wandering.  You might want to make a pit stop upon arrival…

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Greystone Mansion & Park
905 Loma Vista Drive
Beverly Hills, Ca
Phone: 310-286-0119
Online: greystonemansion.org
Hours: Daily 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Barnsdall Park
Located in the Hollywood/Los Feliz area is a surprisingly peaceful, kid-friendly park with loads of free parking.  Upon entering the park, you can park at the ground level or drive up the hill to park closer to the art gallery and grounds. (If you are toting your kids and your stroller, we definitely suggest parking at the top of the hill.)

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There is a large sunny lawn area for the kids to run around and catch some amazing views of the city.  Play “I Spy” with the kiddos and see if they can spot the Hollywood sign or the Griffith Observatory from afar.

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Sun or shade?  This park has both.  When you need a break from the sunshine, grassy play, and spectacular views in front of the Hollyhock House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), move to the shady side in front of the Art Gallery, where you can get a little respite from the heat.  This side also has nice paths for scooters and little bikes.  And every Sunday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm kids can let their creative minds loose at the free family art workshops that are open to the public .

barnsjrarts In addition to the free weekend art classes, daily art classes for kids (and adults) are also offered varying by age and topic (and at very reasonable city-subsidized fees).  Check the website for the most recent list of classes here.

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Barnsdall Park also offers wine tastings at the Hollyhock House (curated by Silverlake Wine) on Friday afternoons all summer, that offer juice boxes & crafts to the kids, and food trucks & hipster DJs spinning tunes for all.  You can always take a tour of the Municipal Art Gallery that houses some of Southern California’s rising stars in the art world or tour the Hollyhock House, also known as architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s very first project in Los Angeles.  Still need a reason to visit?  If you happen come on Wednesdays from 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm you can stock up on fresh fruits and veggies and enjoy an impromptu picnic at the farmer’s market.

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Potty Presence
There is a spacious bathroom located right across from the Junior Arts Studio, but be sure to ask for the key from the Junior Arts Studio. When the studio is closed, don’t panic, take the kids to the bathroom located inside the Municipal Art Gallery. (Potty training parents please note that if both the Junior Arts Studio and the Municipal Art Gallery are closed, there are no outside public bathrooms.)

Barnsdall Park
4800 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, Ca
Phone: 323-660-4254
Online: barnsdall.org
Hours: Daily 5:00 am-10:00 pm

When did you last go to either of these picturesque parks?

— Sommy Rhee

Images courtesy of Sommy herself!