Devin and I take turns dutifully following him from place to place, reporting cute stories to one another during the shift change. But even with all of the attractions our backyard has to offer, there still comes a time when Oscar will stop what he's doing and look at me as if to ask, "Now what?"
Indeed. Now what? What can a family do to get out of the house, but not for too long? (Regretfully, I've allowed the nap to become sacrosanct.) What doesn't cost a lot of money? What place is not only kid-friendly, but tiny-kid-friendly?
In this edition of Tiny Los Angeles: Adventures In Toddler Amusement, I present 3 places that meet the above criteria:
Mother's Beach - Marina Del Rey
The name is not a coincidence. This beach is a mother's dream. Unlike the rest of the ocean beaches with their scary waves, rip tides, sharks and pants-optional homeless population, this secluded beach is on the edge of the marina's calm waters where pretty much nothing happens. Little ones can run and play -- no maternal panic attacks necessary!
Wildlife Learning Center - Sylmar
I first heard about this place from Groupon or Living Social. I thought it looked cool, didn't buy the deal, and forgot about it. A year later, as the parent of an animal fanatic, it popped back into my head.
This is a pretty small animal rescue center with monkeys, foxes, reptiles, porcupines, birds... nothing is over the top exotic, but all the critters are cute. Except a few of the reptiles. And the hissing cockroaches.
In my opinion, this is a better place to visit than the Los Angeles Zoo when you still have a tiny tot on your hands. I say this for a few reasons.
1. The barriers are low to the ground so they can see everything. At the zoo, all of the walls are taller than Oscar (fair enough, I realize we're dealing with Sumatran Tigers), so we have to keep lifting him up to see everything. But of course he wants to do things himself. At the Wildlife Learning Center, there are low ropes so kids can get up nice and close to everything. Don't worry, most creatures are also enclosed in cages, but you can get right near the cages and really take a look.
2. Free demonstrations. Every hour or so, a member of the staff brings one of the creatures out for petting and a very quick lesson.
3. It's not crowded. We visited on a weekend afternoon and there were only a few other families present.
4. It's small. You can make the lap around all of the exhibits in about 10 minutes. Then make it again, and again, and again. The zoo is way too sprawling for a pair of little legs to manage, which means the inevitable scenario of carrying a heavy big baby, under the hot sun (why is it always 20 degrees hotter at the zoo?) while pushing an empty stroller because will he ever, ever sit in the thing?
In conclusion, it's only $7 for adults, $6 for kids, and free for kids under 2. And you park on the street near the entrance, which is simple. And also free.
Fashion Square Mall Before 10 AM (11 AM Sundays) - Sherman Oaks
Back when we were in our apartment, we'd all start to feel cooped up and bored by about 9 in the morning. Luckily, we lived a few minutes from the mall, which opens its doors at least a half hour before the stores do. This is ideal because it means that tots can waddle or run down the length of the mall without colliding into shoppers. And because all of the stores' gates are still down, there's no way to divert off course. It's just a straight shot from Bloomingdale's to Macy's and back again.
I'm sure this plan works with almost any mall. Fashion Square gets bonus points, however, because it has some good stuff for kids. There's an indoor play space with a fish tank built into the wall. Also, train rides. And, not that we need it at this point, a family lounge in the restroom area which would be perfect for nursing breaks.
Any of you have suggestions for me? Where should we go next? Leave your comments below.