Parents hear two phrases from their kids when on vacation; “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored!” But you won’t hear the latter if you spend the day with your brood at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California. Parks are a great place for families to spend quality time, and Griffith Park is a real gem.
One of the largest urban parks in North America, Griffith Park spans over 1,740 hectares (4,300 acres) and is five times larger than New York’s Central Park. And Griffith Park is clearly a place designed with kids in mind. So, if you don’t want to hear “I’m bored,” here are 6 fun things to do with the kids at Griffith Park.
1. Say hello to the animals: Visit the LA Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The classic family outing is a trip to the zoo and the LA Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a great way to spend the day. The LA Zoo receives over 1.5 million visitors a year and is home to 1,100 animals from over 250 species. A few exhibits that shouldn’t be missed are the Rainforest of the Americas, the Elephants of Asia habitat, and the Campo Gorilla Reserve. The Winnick Family Children’s Zoo gives kids the opportunity to explore a cave and a desert trail, and, of course, pet some bleating goats, braying donkeys, and snorting pigs.
The zoo is known for its commitment to conservation and has led efforts to protect the California condor. The zoo even adopted a wayward seal pup named Ziggy when it was found stranded on a rocky stretch of coast. Ziggy now joins the family of seals at The Sea Life Cliffs’ exhibit of the LA Zoo.
The botanical collection is something that can easily be overlooked when the animals are the main attraction. However, with a colorful array of over 800 different plant species at the LA Zoo & Botanical Gardens, it is worth noticing the fauna and flora. One particular spot to look out for is the cycad garden, that’s essentially a living time capsule full of plant species that have been in existence since the age of dinosaurs!
LA Zoo & Botanical Gardens
Address: 5333 Zoo Drive, 90027 Los Angeles, CA
Hours: open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: 20 USD for adults, 15 USD for children age 12 to 2, free for children under 2 years
Website: LA Zoo & Botanical Gardens
2. Griffith Park Pony Ride: A thrill for any little cowboy or cowgirl!
Sure to create lasting memories for your child is a stop at the Griffith Park Pony Ride. In business since 1948, the Griffith Park Pony Ride is an exciting option for the little ones. The ponies are of various sizes and speeds, so you can gauge which animal best fits your child’s abilities. Ranch house rules: children must be between the ages of 1 and 13 and cannot weigh more than 100 pounds. Parents are allowed to walk alongside the younger children if they wish.
Griffith Park Pony Ride is limited to an arena with guided pathways, so there are no concerns of children straying on horseback. There’s also the Pony Sweep, a live version of a “Merry-Go-Round,” where ponies are tethered in a carousel fashion. And parents aren’t completely left out. The Wagon Ride allows the whole family to experience a cowboy adventure, as horse-drawn wagon rides take family members for two laps around the outside of the arena.
Griffith Park Pony Ride
Address: 4400 Crystal Springs Drive, 90027 Los Angeles, CA
Website: Griffith Park Pony Ride
3. Introduce your kids to the bard and enjoy Independent Shakespeare Company's free performances
LA Times: "The ghoulish shrieks of this impish sprite suggests a predator stalking its prey." Puck reigns mischief,...Posted by Independent Shakespeare Co. on Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Want to enrich your child’s life and not bruise your wallet? Then summer time in Griffith Park is the place to do it. Every summer, Los Angeles’ Independent Shakespeare Company performs a free outdoor festival with different plays performed each new season. Pack a picnic, grab a blanket and enjoy a wonderful family evening under the stars with this hugely popular Griffith Park event.
The Independent Shakespeare Company’s atmosphere is laid-back and casual. The theater troupe encourages you to take photos and they’ll happily pose with you. Then post your pics on social media as a great reminder of your Shakespearean adventure.
But be aware, Shakespeare’s plays reflect many facets of the human condition; including elements of sexuality and violence. The plays are performed unedited, so it may not be suitable for very young children. Also, be aware that Griffith Park is a wild animal park, with some wilderness terrain; it is not unusual to hear a coyote’s howl during a play’s performance. Lavish costumes, great acting, and expert lighting is what you can expect from Griffith Park’s Independent Shakespeare Company’s performances. An added bonus is that the players stay true to the bard’s words, performing the plays in a way that makes the Old English words accessible for those who are Shakespeare-challenged.
Independent Shakespeare Company’s performance site is in an area of Griffith Park known as the Old Zoo. The original LA Zoo was opened in 1912, but because of the poor design and lack of space, it was relocated to its current location. But the abandoned cages and enclosures left behind are wonderful for exploring and a great way for the kids to pass the time before the show!
Independent Shakespeare Company
Address: 4801 Griffith Park Dr, 90027 Los Angeles, CA
Website: Independent Shakespeare Company
4. Griffith Observatory is a must-see for pint-size stargazers
Opening in 1935, the Griffith Observatory is one of Los Angeles’ great cultural icons. It’s also a wonderful place to get kids excited about the cosmos. And with that in mind, Griffith Observatory offers Public Star Parties. One Saturday a month, from 2 to 9:45 p.m., the Griffith Observatory gives families a chance to observe the sun, moon, visible planets and other objects in the galaxy. They’re also given the opportunity to try out a variety of telescopes and to talk with knowledgeable amateur astronomers about the sky and their equipment.
Check the website for dates. If the Public Star Parties don’t fit your schedule, The Griffith Observatory also has public telescopes available on a daily basis, with guidance on what and how to view various aspects of the solar system, provided by knowledgeable telescope demonstrators. Griffith Observatory is a Los Angeles landmark and worldwide tourist destination for over a million visitors a year. A national leader in public astronomy, the grounds, exhibits, and telescopes at Griffith Observatory are open and free to the public and will surely inspire any future astronomer.
Address: 2800 E Observatory Rd, 90027 Los Angeles, CA
Website: Griffith Observatory
5. Aspiring train conductor in the family? Let them ride the trains at Griffith Park
When it comes to train rides for children, Griffith Park gives you two great options. The first choice is Griffith Park’s Travel Town Train. Located near the LA Zoo, the Travel Town Train is a miniature train within the Travel Town Museum.
Entrance to the Travel Town Museum is free and you get the opportunity to explore life-sized, old-time locomotives and train cars. There are also great exhibits on the history of railroad activity in Los Angeles. The Travel Town Train ride makes two loops around the perimeter of the Travel Town Museum. For a much more scenic route, Griffith Park & Southern Railroad miniature trains travel across several bridges, through a 24-meter (80-foot) tunnel and pass many attractions, including an old western town. All passenger rides from both locations are 2.75 USD.
Griffith Park & Southern Railroad and Travel Town Railroad
Address: 4400 Crystal Springs Drive, 90027 Los Angeles, California (Griffith Park & Southern Railroad) and 5200 Zoo Drive, 90027 Los Angeles, California (Travel Town Railroad Museum)
6. Watch their faces light up riding the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round
Marisa and Diego riding the Merry-go-Round 7/11/2011Posted by Griffith Park Merry go Round on Thursday, 2 May 2013
The historic Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round has been providing pleasure to children since 1937. The carousel was the inspiration for Disneyland. As the father of two young girls, Walt Disney would take the pair to the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round and envision a place where all families could enjoy themselves and have fun.
The original bench where Walt Disney sat is still there! Sixty-eight hand-carved, hand-painted horses and an antique band organ, that plays more than 1,500 songs, comprise this time-honored carousel ride. The Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round is a masterpiece, with moving figurines and detailed woodwork. The kids will love the ride while the adults will enjoy just watching this beautifully-crafted machine in action.
Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round
Address: 4730 Crystal Springs Dr, 90027 Los Angeles, CA
Cost: 2 USD
Website: Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round
Griffith Park: A series of mini adventures all in one place!
Griffith Park is a great destination for parents and their children. With so many family activities on-hand, kids will experience a fun overload and Mom and Dad will be the heroes of the day. Griffith Park’s combination of woodsy terrain, landscaped parkland and picnic areas, and mountain views, along with countless children’s activities, make it the ideal place for a child’s imagination to run wild.
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