Had enough of playing Candy Land and going to the same old playground? You’re in luck—the Pasadena area is rich with outings for families with young children. Here are some of our favorites.
For young ones, Kidspace is the place to be. It began as a labor of love in a makeshift, donated space and is now a state-of-the-art children’s museum located in a historic former greenhouse in Brookside Park. Featuring two huge indoor climbing structures, interactive exhibits, live bugs and critters and outdoor play areas (ampitheatre, gardens, trike course), Kidspace offers a diverse program of themed activities throughout the day. It really is a kid space, and it can be taken at a kid’s pace. But it’s comfy for adults, too—there’s even food from Wolfgang Puck.
Other great sites for kids who like to splash (and what preschooler doesn’t?) include the Arroyo Seco Casting Pond and its surrounding natural area, and Eaton Canyon, especially in the winter and spring, when the stream is running and waterfall is full (the docent tours are very good). And the best-kept secret for young families is the Caltech campus—it’s a fabulous place to stroll with little ones, especially on weekends. There are ponds with turtles, sculptures to climb on and endless pathways to wander.
The three great museum-style gardens in the Pasadena area are perfect for young children, or anybody who appreciates being outdoors in a place of groomed natural beauty. These make wonderful outings with grandparents and playgroups, too. All three have admission charges; if you’re a local, consider joining your favorite garden as a family—memberships can be a bargain, and they often provide access to special programs.
Huntington Gardens has a wide-open grounds, a traditional Japanese house and rock garden, a Chinese garden, and turtle and koi ponds. The rose and cactus gardens in particular captivate kids. Plenty of activities, plus art galleries and the Huntington Library, make this the most diverse of our museum-style gardens. It is also the most formal, and the food is rather more formal too—plus, no picnics allowed.
Descanso Gardens is hillier and wilder than the others, with more shade. Descanso boasts spectacular tulip displays, a camellia forest, a choo-choo ride, a picnic area outside the gardens and koi ponds near the Japanese teahouse. It also has the most kid-friendly snack bar and plenty of kids’ programming, including a popular performing arts summer camp. And for homesick Easterners, the lilac forest blooms every April.
The L.A. County Arboretum & Botanical Garden is the sunniest, largest and least intense of the three. Fun small-scale demonstration gardens close to the parking lot are interesting for kids, and the tram ride takes visitors around the various gardens. Don’t miss Baldwin Lake and the Queen Anne Cottage, site of many a movie and TV show (“Da plane, boss, da plane!”). Picnics are allowed (and advisable)—the pricey snack bar is to be avoided, except for drinks.
Soon to come: fun outings for school-age kids!