Friday, September 6, 2013

Tiny Los Angeles: Adventures In Toddler Amusement

Obviously I love our son and love being a mom and it's a joy and yaddi yadda and all the things that a parent shouldn't need to say as a preface to any small grievance, however obligated they may feel to do so. But with that out of the way, I have to disclose that on weekends things can get a little tedious around the house. I admire that Oscar can be amused for hours simply patrolling the perimeter of our property. Examining rotting oranges ("anu") that have fallen from the neighbor's tree and into our garden, pointing out dog poop ("da poo"), instructing me to pick up said dog poop, throwing the dog's tennis ball ("sheshe ball"). And then there are the trash cans. Oh, the trash cans. I really do wish that his favorite place to hang out and play wasn't so smelly, teeming with bacteria, and all around unappealing. But he does love a good trash can!

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!

 I don't see much reason why'd you'd come to this beach if you didn't have little kids, so it means you're in good company. (Though there are far fewer bikini-clad hotties. Sorry, dads!). Parking is easy because there's a designated public lot. It's about $10 to park, but I'm so brainwashed that seems cheap to me. As a bonus, if you go on Sunday morning, like we did, you'll be treated to the musical stylings of a city church group that meets up to worship in the picnic area and brings a pretty decent sound system. If Jesus isn't your thing, just don't listen too hard to the lyrics, and it's basically 90's R&B. In my opinion, it adds a little something to the whole experience.

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.

1 comment:

  1. We went to the Long Beach Aquarium this week and it was pretty amazing. Jackson loved it and like the animal rescue, there were enough exhibits that it was possible for him to stand there himself. We got several "ooohh"s throughout the day and there were lots of tots just waddling around. The food is pricey and the parking is pricey and the drive isn't close, all this makes things a little trickier. But it's good for a special treat.

    Also, Balboa Lake is great when it's not too hot because of the good play areas (there's even one specifically for smaller kids, though try telling that to the hooligan 9year olds). The sand play area is sweet and there are loads and loads of ducks! But timing it around the hot sun is the key.

    Lastly, the Topanga Cnyn Mall is also pretty great. Their playspace is clean and large and usually fairly safe before 11, then the too-big-to-play kids get in there and it's anybody's game. There's also a carousel that J loves watching, a Giggles N Hugs with an awesome ball pit ($10/kid free for adults and no food purchase required) and there's a train somewhere too that I haven't tried yet. Plus there's a Target in this mall - - WHAT?! Yup. So you can get your diapers and have fun at the same time!