Stunning views, LA history, tired tots (and bonus: tone thighs!)—all part of the perks of climbing to the top of one of LA’s amazing hidden staircases. Before the influx of cars, architects designed our hilly town with many sets of staircases that led to trolley cars, hilltop homes and shopping. Take a morning (before it warms up too much) climb a set of stairs and get a whole new perspective on the City of Angels. Here is our list of the seven top staircases for climbing kids.
The Baxter Steps
There is plenty to enjoy in Echo Park and The Baxter Steps is a perfect way to round out the visit and absorb the scenery. Pace yourself as you climb this 230 step case that will lead you to Park Drive and just steps away from the stunning Elysian Park walking trails. But before you move on, be sure to admire the view from the top—peer out over the neighborhood and all the way to the Hollywood sign (and beyond on a clear day). If the little still have tons of energy head into Elysian Park, or walk back down the steps and down Echo Park Avenue where you all can take out the unique architecture, blooming flowers and replenish your energy at Valerie’s Tea House.
Find it: Corner of Baxter and Avon Streets, Echo Park
Music Box Steps
The Music Box Steps located at Vendome Street and Descanso Drive will draw you right into a piece of LA cinematic history. Comedy duo Laurel and Hardy made the steps famous in their 1932 film The Music Box where they attempted (hilariously) to deliver a player piano to a hilltop house by pushing it up these now infamous 133 stairs. These steps are also connected what is called the Music Box Loop, which will eventually lead you to a set of steps on Sunset near Micheltorena Street that are colorfully painted and adorned with hearts and make a great photo op.
What makes this set of steps even better is the Annual Music Box Steps Day that is held every fall at Laurel and Hardy Park, just as the base of the Music Box Steps. Come for the festival which, of course, has viewing of The Music Box, Laurel and Hardy look-alikes, free food and other entertainment.
Find it: Vendome Street and Descanso Drive, Silverlake
photo: vagueonthehow via flickr
The Hollywood Bowl
Did you know that the Hollywood Bowl is actually an LA County Regional Park? While Hollywood may be one of the densest parts of the city and while you may say you don’t want to go near the tourist trap, the Hollywood Bowl is generally wide open and ready for exploring during the day. During the off season (October-mid June) and when concerts are not in session during the season (during most days) this park is open to the public. Bring the little ones out to burn some energy hiking the stairs and looking down onto that iconic stage. Sing a song, dance, let them imagine a moment on the stage. And while you’re there take the time to visit the Hollywood Bowl Museum and do the “Bowl Walk” which is 10 photo displays that will lead you through the pedestrian walkways of the park.
Find it: 2301 Highland Ave., Hollywood
Beachwood Canyon Stairs
If you want to explore the more serene side of Hollywood, the Beachwood Canyon Steps is the spot to seek. This climb requires some endurance, but is well worth it, and as it’s made up of a series of steps, you can stop at any point to rest up. Stop in at the Beachwood Cafe at the base of the base of the canyon and fill those hungry bellies before beginning your adventure. Head up Beachwood Canyon and once you pass 2800, look to your right and you’ll spot the first sets of steps. This urban hike will literally transport your family as you climb among the trees, cactus and other native plants. The visual treasures just don’t stop on this climb and your thighs will thank you by the end (eventually anyway). Since it’s made up of a series of stairs, it’s a good idea to check out the walking guide for Beachwood Canyon before you start, so you know where you’re heading.
Find it: The first set of stairs is at 2800 Beachwood Canyon Drive, Hollywood
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Hello, views! Also known as the Culver City Stairs, these rugged 282 steps will lead the family to one of the most stunning views of the LA Basin. Make sure your young climbers take their time: the steps are uneven in places but always accessible to little legs. Beyond that, there is also a lush native garden. Be sure to stop by the interpretive center where junior naturalists can learn about native plants and animals, the past development and exploitation of the surrounding land and its future of preservation. Be sure to check the website for special activities throughout the year.
Find it: 6300 Hetzler Road, Baldwin Park
photo: Lisa W. via Yelp
Head further west for an ocean breeze at the Castellemare Staircase tour in Pacific Palisades. On this tour, you can climb over 500 steps (if you’re feeling energetic) and enjoy incredible ocean views, “secret” dirt paths and an array of beautiful landscape and incredible architecture. To get started walk North on the West side of Pacific Coast Highway near Sunset Blvd and cross PCH using the pedestrian bridge near Porto Marina Way. Then climb the steps to Castellemare Drive. The staircase tour can go on for a while, so try it and see how much energy your little ones have to burn. Then come back for a date night sunset hike sometime, sans little ones.You can find a detailed description of the walk here.
Find it: PCH and Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades
Downtown is also home to its fair share of staircases. If you want the kids to experience a bit of history while they climb, take them to the Angels Flight Staircase on Hill Street. This beloved trolley car that leads to California Plaza has been closed since 2013 but is expected to reopen by Labor Day! Trolley or no trolley, the staircase is a pretty great attraction of it’s own. Head up the 153 steps to reach Cal Plaza and enjoy the stunning views of downtown on your way up. (Grown up fun: you’ll be able to soak in that iconic scene from 500 Days of Summer.) Cal Plaza, when you get there, is also an adventure. The plaza is complete with a waterway filled with human-made and manicured “islands” (watch out: your kiddos may be tempted to jump in) and stadium styled seats, which will give them another set of stairs to explore. The plaza also boasts lots of tables and chairs to sit and have lunch with the family. Grab a delicious meal from one of the array of spots at Grand Central Market (just across the street from the bottom of the stairs) and enjoy a downtown day.
Find it: 356 S Olive Street, Downtown LA
Fun fact: Did you know Los Angeles has 4 of the 6 steepest streets in America? San Francisco doesn’t even appear on the list until #9… What’s your favorite set of LA stairs?
—LeTania Kirkland Smith