Griffith Park Entrances on Los Feliz Blvd. & Zoo Dr., Los Angeles, (323) 913-4688. You can easily spend all day in this 4,107-acre park in the Hollywood Hills. It is the largest city park in the country and offers a plethora of things to do. In addition to the attractions itemized below, it has more than 50 miles of hiking trails, 28 tennis courts, 4 golf courses, a riding stables, an elaborate modern playground, and a public swimming pool.
Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round (323) 665-3051. Daily in summer, Sat-Sun rest of year, 11am-5pm. $1. This has been a Los Angeles family attraction for more than five generations. Built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company and brought to Griffith Park in 1937, this carousel has 68 finely carved jumping horses.
Located by the merry-go-round’s lower parking lot, Shane’s Inspiration playground is handicapped accessible.
•kiddie rides Los Feliz Blvd/Riverside Dr., 4400 Crystal Springs Rd. The first two attractions have been operating since 1948.
Griffith Park & Southern Railroad (323) 664-6903. Daily 10-4:30. $2, seniors $1.25, kids $1.50. This miniature train passes through an Old West town.
pony rides (323) 664-3266. Tu-Sun 10-4. For kids up to 100 pounds. $3. A pony wheel is available for younger children, but older kids get to ride in lanes around an oval track attended to by helpers.
simulated roller coaster Must be age 6+; ages 2-5 must ride with a parent. $3.
Griffith Observatory and Planetarium 2800 E. Observatory Rd., (888) 695-0888, (213) 473-0800. Tu-F noon-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm. Free; small fee for observatory shows. No pets inside. Displays and interactive exhibits in the Hall of Science here focus on astronomy and physical sciences. Kids are mesmerized by the Foucault Pendulum that swings back and forth to the earth’s rotation, knocking down pegs as time marches on. A working seismograph can be viewed in action, and several telescopes are available for viewing the night sky. Evening planetarium shows vary, and the Laserium, which is sort of like a ‘60s lightshow pulsating to different styles of music, is quite popular with teens; both are best with children age 5 and older. Picnicking is not permitted, but a cafe is available.
Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens 5533 Zoo Dr., (323) 644-4200. Daily 10-5. $19, 62+ $16, 2 to 12 $14. Animals here are divided into areas resembling the five continents they are found on. To see it takes at least a full morning--the best time to visit as the animals are most active and vocal then--or afternoon. Animal shows include The World of Birds, and camel and elephant rides are available. Children seem to particularly enjoy the nocturnal exhibits, including the very popular Koala House. The Winnick Family Children’s Zoo has an exhibition animal care center and lets the whole family get face-to-face with goats and sheep in a contact area. An indoor theater features storytelling, puppet shows, and up-close encounters with animals.
Autry National Center 4700 Western Heritage Way, (323) 667-2000. Tu-F 10-4, Sat-Sun 10-5. $10, 60+ $6, 3-12 $4. This comprehensive collection of American western history tells the story of the Old West through murals, movies, and hands-on exhibits. You’ll see displays of firearms, tools, clothing, toys, and furnishings that include Annie Oakley’s Tiffany-inscribed shotgun and Buffalo Bill’s gloves. Contrary to what you might expect, there is little here that commemorates the legendary cowboy Gene Autry, save a bronze statue and one display case, though there is plenty of Hollywood memorabilia and movie clips. Kids love the Children’s Discovery Gallery, where they can frolic in a small replica ranch house, dress up in cowboy outfits, and ride a full-size fiberglass horse. A saddle for kids to mount and ride puts them in a Lone Ranger rerun-- have your camera ready. The Autry's collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, one of the largest and most significant in the United States. An exceptional gift shop has everything cowboy and western, from a chocolate cowboy hat on a stick to videotapes of popular classic cowboy films. Time your visit for a weekday afternoon if possible, as weekday mornings are usually crowded with school groups; weekends--when western films are screened for a small additional charge--are also generally busy.
•Travel Town Museum 5200 W. Zoo Dr., (323) 662-5874. M-F 10-4, Sat-Sun 10-5. By donation; miniature train $2.75, 65+ $2.25. Among the railroad cars displayed in this outdoor transportation museum are a narrow-gauge sugar train from Hawaii and a 110-ton Union Pacific steam engine. Retired fire engines and L.A. streetcars are also in the collection.
miniature train that circles the grounds. A free miniature 1/4-scale train ride is operated nearby by the Live Steamers Club. All this and city views, too.
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first four images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; rest courtesy of venues