Some Recommended Toddler- and Transit-Friendly #StreetsR4Families Places
Having a child has made a big difference for my travel patterns, not just how I get around, but where and when I go.
Our daughter Maeve is two and a half years old. I have spent more time in a car in the last two years than I had in the previous twenty years, during which my primary modes were bicycling and transit. I have also walked more in the past couple years, while still doing plenty of biking, and riding trains and buses.
Maeve is, of course, walking – but not walking enough to really walk to anywhere. She is still excited enough to want to run in cars’ way. She doesn’t really run out into the street, but she does run across driveways, alleys, etc. When we go places together, it is often with her strapped into a stroller, a bike-seat, or a car seat, so when we arrive she is ready to run around.
In the spirit of sharing #streetsr4families success stories, below is a short list of some places that I recommend for car-free travel with a toddler. Depending on where you live, how old your children are, and what your toddlers are into, your results may vary. Add your family’s favorite car-free destinations in the comments below.
Walk to the Park
This may be obvious, but I think it is a good basic starting point. Investing in Place’s Jessica Meaney regularly points out that our sidewalk network is an integral piece of Los Angeles infrastructure and the most critical fundamental building block for our transportation system – and currently contested. If we want safer streets, then we need plenty of pedestrians on them. Walk to your nearby parks.
I walk my daughter (with stroller) five blocks to Shatto Park a couple of times every week, but we also have taken longer walks to Madison West Park, Lafayette Park, and even a mile to Bellevue Park. Your kids will enjoy seeing the neighborhood, you will get exercise, run into folks, and get to know your local sidewalks.
It is perhaps cruel to bring this one up on a cold winter day, but hotter days are coming and on hot days central L.A.’s best water park is perfect for kids. My daughter enjoys Grand Park so much that when the subway announces Grand Park station stop, she looks at me, smiles, and asks if we can go to Grand Park.
It is an enclosed, very kid-friendly space. The surface is perfect for safe, active enjoyment. It is one of our go-to places. And, if you find yourself there on a cooler day, check out the play area with its unique slides, mounds, xylophones, and more.
It is very easy to get to via the Metro Red or Purple Line Train. Exit the Civic Center/Grand Park Station which is located in the middle of the park. From the station, to get to the water park, cross Hill Street, and proceed west a half block. To get from the station to the play area, walk a block and a half toward L.A. City Hall, and it will be on your right.
Downtown Los Angeles Central Library
The Central Library is architecturally and artistically beautiful, open seven days a week, air-conditioned, and has an extensive children’s section, with lots of activities programmed for kids.
It is very easy to get to from the numerous rail lines converging at 7th Street and Metro Center station. To get from the station to the Central Library, exit on Flower or Hope Street and walk north three blocks.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
LACMA has a NexGen program that lets in each child and one accompanying adult free. My daughter gets bored with a lot of the art that I like, but she enjoys the kids’ activity room (free painting and other art-making activities), Chris Burden’s Metropolis II, and many of the other sculptures. There are also plenty of good, safe, enclosed plaza spaces where my daughter likes to run around.
The Purple Line subway will get there someday (scheduled for when Maeve turns ten in 2023) but today Metro’s most frequent bus service on Wilshire makes it an easy transit ride for us. Exit the Wilshire 720 Rapid Bus at Fairfax Avenue, and walk a half-block east to enter.
So much of the space that city kids should be able to roam through is curtailed by cars, so when the cars are removed, kids run, skip, hop, and smile. Parks are, of course, good for this, but so are pedestrian plazas. There are a couple of easy-to-reach plaza spaces where Maeve enjoys running around.
We ride her on the back of my bicycle to get to Sunset Triangle Plaza, often to eat at Pine and Crane. Maeve likes to (try to) jump from polka dot to polka dot.
We also sometimes hang out at the public courtyard at the Wilshire/Vermont Red/Purple Line Station apartments. It is not all that much as a destination (and even less during a current renovation phase), but there is enough room for Maeve to run around, explore, interact with people – and it is enclosed away from nearby busy streets.
As I mentioned, this is just one short list, and it is subjective – tailored to my location, my daughter’s age, etc. What other car-free kid-friendly destination do you recommend?