One hour with a bored toddler can feel like days (or weeks). Although it’s nice to stay home with both kids and not have to deal with packing up everything to leave the house for the day, I’ve found it sometimes easier for me to leave the house because Joey is never bored when we’re out and about. Casey LOVES being outdoors and so it’s almost easier to go out rather than stay at home with the girls. Does anyone else feel this way?
While there are plenty of activities you can do at home that will satisfy your child’s curiosity and ease his or her boredom, taking them out and giving them a change of scenery once in a while is never a bad idea. The good news is that you don’t always have to spend a fortune for a few hours of fun.
I’m sharing some of the places me and my kids go to when we have a few hours to spare. Whether it’s for an entire Saturday or any lazy afternoon, these places and activities will surely fuel your child’s imagination and create happy memories for you and your family.
1. Heritage Park Play Island
What I like about living in Southern California is that there’s no shortage of good parks. Whether it’s a small neighborhood park or big regional parks, there’s always something nearby. One of my favorites is the Heritage Park along Bloomfield and 183rd Streets; I grew up playing in this exact playground when I used to live in Cerritos as a child!
Aside from the usual features like play areas with rubberized floors, gazebos, and sprawling greens, this park features a mini colonial town, with a church and old state houses surrounded by a moat. These buildings have stairs, slides, poles, and secret tunnels within that kids adore. The moat also has a small boat structure, where kids can hang out and watch the ducks.
Tip: In the summer, Heritage Park hosts free concerts in the park, with food trucks, arts and crafts, and other kids activities to boot! (Bonus: Don Knabe Regional Park—same street, a couple of blocks away—hosts free outdoor movies once a week all throughout the summer. Did I mention free popcorn? Cerritos Millennium Library, which is just as awesome, is also an easy walk from Heritage Park.)
2. Adventure Playground
If you live in OC and you have an active toddler, you’ll love Adventure Playground. But be warned: this is not your typical playground. We’re talking about a tree house, climbing poles, rope bridges, bamboo forest, mud slides, and open spaces where kids can build things.
What I like about this place is that it doesn’t have the typical play equipment—slide, swing, monkey bars—which limits the range of activities for kids. This kind of space allows for unstructured free play, which is essential to every child’s development. Plus, I love the idea of letting kids get dirty! That’s how their little bodies develop antibodies to fight future infections.
Tip: Yes, your kids will definitely get dirty. So bring extra clothes, towels, and shoes that you don’t mind throwing away right after.
Cost: Free on some days
It’s never too early to bring your kids to museums. Their brains are like sponges, they absorb more than we think they do. But museums can be pricey, especially if you have a big family. The good news? Most museums in LA offer free admission—if you know when to go. Here are some of our favorites:
- The Natural History Museum: Free every first Tuesday of the month (except July and Aug). You still need to reserve your tickets though.
- California Science Center: Free every day. Parking, however, is $10 per car.
- Griffith Observatory: Free every day, and there are free parking spaces around the area that are accessible via free shuttle. Planetarium shows aren’t free.
- Kidspace Children’s Museum: Every first Tuesday of the month (except September), from 4 to 8 p.m. There’s no need to reserve your ticket, but it’s a first come first served.
Where to Get More Information
Need more options? Here are a few other places to check out to get more information and listings:
- Your Local Library usually has bulletin boards and quarterly newsletters that list out schedules of county- or city-sponsored events.
- Facebook Events is more than just a list page of upcoming events. What’s great about this feature is that it recommends events you might like based on your location, interests, and what your friends are interested in. You can also filter the categories manually.
- Yelp is a crowdsourced app that ranks businesses, restaurants, and services based on real customer reviews. You might have used this app for finding the best restaurants and food deliveries, but it’s also good for finding kids activities or things to do near you.
Hope you find this list useful. Do you have other recommendations? Please feel free to share in the comments section below!