With the routine of school fading into memory, and the mercury of the sun rising, little bodies are ready to be catapulted into the possibilities of summer.
Summer activities should—above all—be fun for the whole family, and take full advantage of our idyllic summer weather. (Extra points for enriching little minds by sneaking in some off-season learning.)
Here at LAUP, we’ve come up with some fresh-air ideas that highlight the natural beauty—and often-surprising history—of Los Angeles. So open up your calendars and let’s get planning!
Tip: Anticipation of a special outing the next day, or overstimulation after their experience may create a bedtime challenge for your child. In our Book Review this month, we offer several suggestions to aid in the wind down process for summertime sleep.
Los Angeles River Nature Walks
Perhaps you’ve read about restoration efforts along the LA River. The river’s amazing recovery is most visible through the Elysian Valley (stretching from Atwater Village toward Chinatown), where soft-bottom marshland is home to a multitude of wildlife, brand-new parks line the riverbanks, and summertime outings include kayaking and bird-watching.
The non-profit Friends of the LA River (FOLAR) conducts weekend nature walks that explore the river’s hidden ecosystem, showcase its colorful history, and immerse you in the vibrant community of artists, cyclists, and neighbors that congregate along its developing southern bank. The hour-long walks are suitable for all ages, and are free. Tours leave from the Frog Spot, FOLAR’s riverfront café and outreach center, where you can also get a pre- or post-walk snack. 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend.
Summer Nights in the Garden
The whole family can unwind on select Friday evenings at the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park. Their Summer Nights series makes the most of the museum’s nature garden, a botanical exhibit and event space festooned with twinkly lights on a warm evening. There are hands-on garden and science projects for the kids, garden-infused cocktails available for the grown-ups, along with live music and food trucks.
The event is from 5-9 p.m. on July 28, August 11, and August 25. While admission is free, space is limited: reservations are required.
Madrona Marsh Preserve
Did you know LA County’s last remaining freshwater marsh is hiding in plain site in Torrance, near to the Del Amo shopping mall? Summer is the ideal time to learn about these historic wetlands, which are fed by storm runoff and provide an essential link to our biological ecosystem. Because the 2017 rainy season was a doozy, the marsh is now teeming with wildlife! They have three different kid-friendly programs that operate year-round; we’ve listed some upcoming summer dates for your convenience. For more information click here.
• Designed for all ages, free docent-led nature walks offer an in-depth look at the birds, reptiles, insects and native plants that comprise this unique wetland biome. Closed-toe shoes and long pants are recommended; during summer; it’s smart to wear a brimmed hat and carry drinking water. Tours last a minimum of two hours, and are held at 10 a.m. on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of every month.
• Friday Fun is a hands-on program for preschoolers age 3-6, designed to foster respect for the planet and all living things. Parents and guardians are welcome to join in, as the two-hour program begins with classroom “story time” (including live animals!) before heading out on a walking tour that emphasizes each week’s unique topic. Spaces in this popular program fill early, so pre-registration is recommended. 10 a.m. every Friday; a $5 donation per child is suggested.
• Tyke Hike is geared toward the very youngest children (3 months to 6 years), with an easy path and simple activities like listening for birds, looking for frogs, and touching plants. Before the “hike,” prime your kid’s curiosity at the Visitor Center’s Exhibit Hall, which features “touch me” displays of snake sheddings and animal fur. The 90-minute program begins at 10 a.m. the first Thursday of every month; a $5 donation per child is suggested. (8/3, 9/7)
Too hot for outdoors? Find some air-conditioned culture at one of LA’s many popular museums. Some of the most kid-friendly are already free, and many others offer at least one admission-free day each month. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
Autry National Center of the American West (free second Tuesdays; 8/8, 9/12)
California Science Center (always free) Tip: Don’t miss the Endeavor space shuttle! Timed tickets ($2) are required during the peak summer season, so plan ahead.
California African American Museum (always free)
Griffith Observatory (always free) Tip: You must purchase tickets to experience the planetarium show. Children under five are admitted free, but restricted to the first showing each day.
Japanese American National Museum (free third Thursdays; 7/20, 8/17. Free all other Thursdays 5 – 8 p.m.)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (free second Tuesdays; 8/8, 9/12. Also free every weekday from 3 p.m. – close with proof of LA County residence).
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (free every Tuesday in September)
Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits (free every Tuesday in September only) Tip: Reserve your free tickets online to guarantee entry and avoid the lines.
Travel Town Train Museum (always free) Tip: Every child wants to ride on the mini-locomotive that circles the train yard ($2.75 per person).