Editor’s note: With California’s Safer at Home orders, many of these destinations are still off limits. If you’re looking for new ways to entertain the kids during the time of social distancing, check out this calendar of virtual events for hundreds of ideas and activities.
Los Angeles has a slew of awesome parks and playgrounds. But if you’re looking to host a kids birthday party at one of these outdoors spots, certain features are a must—think lots of shade, a picnic area and convenient parking. The parks on our list have all that and then some. (What’s more, parties at these parks are a relative bargain compared to other event spaces.) Read on for all the details.
Why it Rocks: There’s two, there’s four, there’s six, there’s eight...reasons Travel Town has been a birthday party park staple for over fifty years. With model trains to watch, vintage trains to climb, and a real mini train to ride, there’s never a dull moment for train-loving kids. Enjoy the outdoor picnic area or rent an actual train car (air conditioned!). The staff help with everything and are super friendly.
How to Book it: Call 323-662-5874 two-to-three months in advance to rent a train car (fitting either thirty or forty guests). You'll get the train for three hours which includes tables, chairs, and a refrigerator inside. All picnic areas outside can be reserved as well between 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (no bouncers).
Bonus Tips: Take your train party to the next level by having Travel Town’s staff bring mats, building pieces and over 50 train sets for your little engineers to chug during your party. Call the gift shop at 323-668-0104 ext. 11 for this service which costs extra. When packing your party gear, keep in mind you’ll be walking pretty far with it —ask for the dollies they have available to borrow. The regular train ride (two laps around) costs $3 but you can get a lower group rate for twenty or more tickets at $2.75 each.
If your kid is train-obsessed, check out our ultimate guide for where to take your trainspotter.
5200 Zoo Dr.
Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
Why it Rocks: This low-key gem offers partygoers the chance to revel in breathtaking views of the city while enjoying the tranquility of a Japanese garden and hiking trails. Parents and kids alike will be awestruck by the magnificence of this massive 338-acre park. With options to BBQ, run (around the playground), and jump (in that bounce house) all day long, this park boasts the best of all worlds.
How to Book it: To book one of the four picnic areas near the playground, give the office a shout at 323-298-3660.
Bonus Tips: This park is as uncrowded as they come, even on weekends. Take advantage of the breathing room and let the kids roam free.
4100 S La Cienega Blvd.
Coldwater Canyon Park
Why it Rocks: When bouncers and BBQ’s just won’t cut it, throw your kid an Eco-Party sponsored by TreePeople and let your budding environmentalist shine. TreePeople is a non-profit that brings folks together to plant and care for trees and empowers youngsters to advocate for the environment. During the party, a TreePeople Educator will lead the group along trails in the park and play interactive nature games. The guest of honor will have a tree dedicated in his or her name, while the rest of the kiddos get to take home a planted tree seed.
How to Book it: This eco-dream can be your’s for $600 (for up to 30 guests). Email or call the party manager at 310.228.8447. Parties must be booked 3 weeks in advance and a $300 non-refundable deposit is required to book, while the balance is due on the party date.
Bonus Tips: Recruit your child and figure out some fun ways to serve an eco-friendly meal to guests. Though they are allowed, forgo decorations altogether to ensure this party is as green as can be.
1100 N Beverly Dr.
The Party Corral at Griffith Park Pony Rides & Southern Railroad
Why it Rocks: Travel Town is one of the most beloved birthday party destinations for kids in the city (see below), but just around the bend, is an equally exciting option: The Party Corral and Southern Railroad. For two hours, kids are treated to an old-west themed party which includes a covered picnic area, a visit from miniature farm animals, and one pony and a handler. To cap off the celebration, board the Southern Railroad train for a scenic mile-long ride that will please everyone in your party. How’s that for having your cake and eating it too?
How to Book it: For up to 15 kids, the rate is $350 for 2 hours. Additional time can be added for a fee. Train tickets are $3 per ride but are available at a discount when purchased in bulk.
Bonus Tips: Parties looking for that little extra something, can request a visit from Snowball the resident unicorn!
4400 Crystal Springs Dr.
Why it Rocks: Built on the grounds of an old gas station this park is where it's at for city slicker tots. A bright teal and orange, shock-absorbent surface keeps kids bouncing along this quaint urban jungle. Kids here will have the time of their lives chasing each other through the gigantic tree trunk and zooming down the snake slide. The play structure is also equipped with monkey bars and climbing surfaces. Explorers and Superheroes in your kid's crew can scale rocks to the top of the tree or slink across a webbed rope. Revved-up kiddos can take a breather at the base of the tree trunk and pound on the musical instruments until their ready for more action.
How to Book it: To inquire about and apply for a permit, contact: (323) 257-1644
Bonus Tips: Is your kid over cupcakes and cake? We got you covered: Donut Friend is a block away!
4948 York Blvd.
Why it Rocks: A perennial favorite of Westside families who frequent this gorgeous oasis, Tongva park offers a legendary splash pad that will keep kiddos giddy and entertained all party long. For those kids who prefer drier land, toddlers and grade schoolers can climb up the soft turf hill and go bumpety bump down the roller bar slide. This park is a sensory explosion for little ones looking to party!
How to Book It: No permit or reservation (read: money) required! All patrons must abide by park rules, and as long as your party is under 150 guests, you’re welcome to show up whenever you like and decorate as you wish. Picnic tables are available first come first served, so arrive early to snag a couple.
Bonus Tips: Bounce houses are not allowed on the premises but with a park this close to Santa Monica Pier, who needs one?! Make sure you bring food or have the party catered as grilling is not permitted on-site.
1615 Ocean Ave.
Juan Batista de Anza Park
Why it Rocks: It’s all fun and games until that valley heat sears the frosting off your kid’s Peppa Pig cake. Keep everyone (and everything) from melting down and book the multi-purpose room with air conditioning. This facility checks off all the boxes (clean, spacious and vibrant) and even provides friendly staffers to set up the room. Meanwhile, kids can kick it outside while you keep a watchful eye on them and those dazzling panoramic views.
How to Book it: You can book the multipurpose room for $63 per hour (up to 80 guests) by calling 818-880-6461.
Bonus Tips: For the youngest party people (read: crawlers), there’s a side room where you can set up activities and toys at no additional charge!
3701 Lost Hills Rd.
Why it Rocks: Kiddos go hog for Polliwog! South Bay’s premiere park sits on 18 acres of land which features grassy knolls, picnic areas/grills, a pond, and gazebos. But the biggest draw here by far is the curly wurly slides at the playground. With tons of party-perfect areas to choose from, throwing your little one’s next birthday shindig here is a no-brainer.
How to Book it: Locals get dibs on dates and can book 6 months in advance. For non-residents, email facility reservations to inquire about the availability for any one of the eight picnic tables and three gazebos.
Bonus Tips: Check out The Pond gazebo if you’re looking for easy access to both the pond and playground. Bouncers aren’t allowed on site, so for kids looking to burn off a little more energy, we suggest renting the climbing wall across the street at Manhattan Heights park.
1601 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Why it Rocks: On any given Sun., there are at least five different birthday parties bumping at once. But with a park this size (including 16 BBQ grills), everyone has enough space to spread out and get in on the fun. Toddler birthday parties with a few activities and games (a pinata is a must) are best served here. While parents looking for a little friendly competition can get their volley on over at the sand court.
How to Book it: Reserve your space for 4 hours, (11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.). Santa Monica residents get a financial break opposed to non-residents—additional hours are available for a fee. Email to make a reservation or create an account online.
Bonus Tips: Street parking is a cinch to snag along the perimeter of the park.
2600 Ocean Park Blvd.
Malibu Bluffs Park
Why it Rocks: Guests, both young and old(er) will have the time of their lives at this park overlooking the Pacific. The playground is both toddler and big kid approved and there is a soccer field and baseball diamonds. Kiddos will have a field day exploring the hiking trails and discovering the whale watching deck equipped with telescopes.
How to Book it: You can submit an application via email, fax or hand deliver to the office.
Bonus Tips: Unlike most city and state parks in LA County, Malibu Bluffs Park allows beer and wine (must be consumed in a rented tent) on the premises, so it’s a win-win for everyone, cheers!
24250 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Glen Alla Park
Why it Rocks: This enclosed park is perfect for pirate tots looking to escape with their treasure. The playground features all the usual park amenities plus the chance for kiddos to daydream about life on the high seas. Sure, little ones might incessantly scream “ahoy matey” for the duration of the party but who cares when you are living your best life on the high seas safely on land?
How to Book it: Jumpers are permitted but must be provided by an approved city vendor. Permits for any picnic area can be reserved by calling (310) 836-1040.
Bonus Tips: For those parents and non-pirates looking to take a load off, there’s a large grassy area surrounding the playground just outside the gate. Bring some blankets or a lawn chair for ultimate comfort.
4601 Alla Rd.
Marina del Rey
—Shannon Guyton & Janelle Connor