By Downtown Dad
When you live in Downtown Los Angeles, you get used to certain sights, sounds and smells that are sometimes stimulating and other times just annoying. In the Historic District, where I live with my wife and 1-year-old son, we have police and fire sirens, loud buses, crowds that fill the sidewalks (workers from the nearby Fashion and Jewelry districts by day, bar hoppers at night), and lots and lots of residents walking dogs.
My wife and I enjoy the urban action downtown, but we’re also both tree huggers who like to get into nature and breath some fresh air every chance we get. We also battle daily pangs of guilt knowing our son is growing up in such a confined space, surrounded by all that noise and pollution and fearing he’s not getting enough clean oxygen to breath.
The guilt put us on a mission to find every nearby park and open space to get our son out of the loft at least a couple times a week.
Growing up on the Westside, I took for granted that we had two parks within a block of our house, and the beach was only a mile away. But for those of you who live closer to downtown, you know how hard it can be to find some green space.
* Griffith Park: One of the biggest municipal parks in the country, Griffith is a mountainous park located at the junction of the Golden State (5) and Ventura (134) freeways. Inside the park is the Los Angeles Zoo, the Southwest Museum, three golf courses, a driving range, the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Amphitheatre, Travel Town train museum, pony rides, a carousel, an all-access playground and many miles of hiking and biking trails. We’ve hiked and picnicked in this park for years, and still come across new trails we haven’t traveled before. For more information, stop in at the ranger station near the carousel on Crystal Springs Drive. Some of the attractions have a small entrance fee or optional dontation.
* Descanso Gardens: My wife turned me on to this place in La Canada Flintridge near the intersection of the Glendale (2) and Foothill (210) freeways. This sprawling botanical garden goes on for acres and has many specialized gardens, including a massive rose garden, a native California garden, a camellia forest and a Japanese garden. The site is the former home of the late Manchester Boddy, who owned the now-defunct Los Angeles Daily News in downtown Los Angeles in the 1940s. Small children love looking at the colorful blossoms, and be sure to bring your camera for some great shots! Entrance is $8 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 12 and free for children under 5.
* The Cornfield: Technically called the Los Angeles State Historic Park, this little 32-acre park (about half a mile long) is located along North Main Street near the Chinatown Gold Line stop, a few blocks north of Cesar Chavez Boulevard. It’s a popular place for joggers, with a dirt track that measures almost exactly a mile that goes around the edge of the park. One end of the park has a nice cluster of trees and grass good for picnicking, kite flying or bird watching. This state park is in transition. Plans to develop the landscaping have been put on hold because of recent state budget cuts.
* Elysian Park: This underused park overlooks Chinatown includes Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles police and fire academies and miles of hiking trails. There are also several playgrounds in the park, and some great open grassy areas and an arboretum.
* The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising: I know, I know. Your reaction is probably: “Huh?” The school is on the corner of Ninth and Hope streets, and includes a block-long park with great landscaping, a playground and workout area open to the public seven days a week. This not-so-secret-anymore little spot has become a favorite gathering place for downtowners with small kids looking for someplace within walking distance that’s clean and safe for them to run around.
On Sunday Oct. 9, many parts of the central city will shut down to automobile traffic for the CicLAvia, which allows bicyclists, roller skaters and pedestrians to take a leisurely ride or walk without all the traffic and exhaust fumes. We took the stroller out last year and had a great time walking and people watching along Spring and Seventh streets.
Check out 10 Kid-Friendly Things to Do at CicLAvia – it was originally posted before the last CicLAvia in April, but still useful for this weekend’s event!