Some Recommended Toddler- and Transit-Friendly #StreetsR4Families Places

How daddy and daughter typically get around together: a Yepp bike seat on a rack on the back of my 10-speed bicycle. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
How daddy and daughter typically get around together: a Yepp bike seat on a rack on the back of my 10-speed bicycle. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

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.

Maeve will probably some day kill me for including this shot of her getting her hair wet at Grand Park.
My daughter Maeve will probably some day kill me for including this shot of her getting her hair wet at Grand Park.

Grand Park

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.

Maeve really enjoys the "yellow spaghetti" sculture at LACMA.
Maeve really enjoys the “yellow spaghetti” sculture at LACMA.

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.

Plazas

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?

  • calwatch

    Don’t forget the Aquarium of the Pacific, at the end of the Blue Line (short shuttle ride optional).

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Any of the Beach piers that are close to home/transit

  • Alex Brideau III

    Pasadena’s Central Park is directly across the street from Metro’s Del Mar Station.

  • davistrain

    Has the city of Pasadena taken steps to control the riff-raff who can make Central Park a less than family-friendly location?

  • Alex Brideau III

    I can’t tell you whether and what steps the city may have taken, but the majority of riff-raff I’ve observed stick to the south portion of the park, while the renovated playground is at the northwest corner of the park, and appeared to be quite popular the last time I passed by. I would imagine the parents whose kids frequent that playground would not tolerate any shenanigans next to the playground.

    In short, I would feel comfortable bringing my daughter there.

  • Joe Linton

    My daughter enjoyed that park during the Pasadena CicLAvia – good call!

  • Terence Heuston

    I think we met unofficially on the red line last night. My son, riding on the black Dutch bike and I were returning from seeing the space shuttle. We ride the bike from Silver Lake to The Natural History Museum and Exposition Park frequently. He also loves the observatory which is a butt kicking ride or ride/hike or DASH bus from the Los Feliz redline stop. Vista Hermosa Natural Park is a hidden gem. Echo Park Lake is an old standby. I also love biking down 4th or 1st Street in Hancock Park, stopping at the park on Van Ness and Beverly, then strolling around Larchmont Village. LACMA Jazz on Friday nights. Kidspace in Pasadena is not too far from Memorial Park station. There’s even a not too terrible route to bike the whole way if you’re feeling ambitious on a Saturday. If you overdue it you can hop on the gold line at various points :). Finally a combo expo line/Ballona wetlands trail gets you to the beach without having to ride with cars which is always less stressful.

  • Terence Heuston

    I also wanted to add that the opposite side of Grand Park is great for lazy parenting. The newish play area directly in front of City Hall is completely enclosed with good visibility. It’s the easiest place to meet a friend and have an actual conversation because one of you doesn’t have to be constantly chasing after a toddler halfway across a park. They’re trapped :).

  • Alex Brideau III

    And if you have a couple bucks and want to catch an affordable movie with the kid(s), check out Highland Theatres, a small, 3-screen cinema with bargain pricing ($6 if I recall correctly). Don’t expect an ArcLight environment here, though. Aside from the pricing, one of its biggest selling points is its proximity to mass transit. Walking directions from Metro’s Highland Park Station: goo.gl/maps/FVDQkTrZXwJ2

    And when if you’re interested, a fun (or unfortunate) stop on your trip could be the Baskin-Robbins located on Fig at Ave 28, just a block away from the Metro station.

  • davistrain

    Thanks for the update–sounds like Pasadena is taking care of business.

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