23 Top LA Parks for Birthday Parties Kids Will Rave About
Lucky for us Angelenos, hosting mostly free kids’ birthday parties at the many glorious parks and playgrounds around Los Angeles is an option year-round; and with our famous weather, it’s a pretty safe perk to gamble on. From rustic to scenic to built-in activities, the city’s bounty is near limitless. And the best part: no sticky floor and dirty fingerprints to scour afterward. Read on for some of our favorite party parks, with all the details you need about popular first come, first served spots, and where you can make reservations (and even set up a bounce house).
While California reopened fully on June 15, some parks are still ramping up staff and are slowly reopening party areas. A few parks that have picnic tables, gazebos, BBQ pits, and other reservable party spots are not yet accepting reservations. We have noted below which parks have online reservation systems, and which you must call to make a reservation.
Best Parks on the Westside for Birthday Parties
Will Rogers – Pacific Palisades
Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, this state historic park really feels as if you’re out in the country, right down to the grazing deer. With trails galore and horse rentals, Will Rogers would make a great venue for a Western birthday party. There are also plenty of shaded picnic tables, barbecues, and a gorgeous green lawn to lounge on, play duck duck goose or even set up a croquet set. Reservations are available – five or 10 tables.
The picnic area above the polo field has tables and barbecue grills and is available on a first come, first served basis. Parties are permitted for small groups with just blankets (no chairs, tables, catering, jumpers, etc.) on the front lawn of the ranch house. To reserve an area, or if you have a group of over 25 people in your party, call 310.230.2023 or email WRSHP.Events@parks.ca.gov.
Malibu Bluffs Park – Malibu
A free park with a dramatic view of the ocean, this Malibu location will take your breath away. Breezy (and windy) all year round, this can be a great place to throw a party during the dog days of summer (which as we all know can extend into November). The park offers trails, a jungle gym, permits for barbecues, and picnic tables, as well as allowing bounce houses (fee required). Shade is minimal.
Call the Recreation Center at 310.317.1364 to find out if reservations are available for the picnic tables (or a room inside the center) on the date you want to have your party, or just gather your group together on the gorgeous and expansive grass. (Regulations regarding permitting and rentals are still in flux for the summer of 2021.)
Rustic Canyon Recreation Center – Pacific Palisades
This hidden gem in a Santa Monica canyon offers perhaps the most shade of any park in the city and plenty of picnic tables for vittles. A seasonal pool– still temporarily closed for the summer of 2021 –is a terrific and underused amenity. Rustic Canyon also offers barbecues, basketball, baseball, tennis, and volleyball courts. Last time I was there I stumbled on a birthday party featuring a couple of giant parrots. The vintage recreation center is available for rent as backup, in case of rain.
Venice Beach Recreation Center – Venice
For a picnic-type party (no picnic tables) close to a jungle gym, skate park, and live surfers, Venice Beach is the place to hang ten. The kids' play area has a view of the ocean and not a lot of shade, so bring extra sunscreen and, as the playground is not fenced in, make sure the adult/kid ratio provides enough childcare. There are no barbecues and no bounce houses allowed, but plenty of street cred.
Barrington Park – Brentwood
Sometimes a bouncy house is all kids really want, and why not give them what they want? This park has a rentable fenced-in lawn space that allows for a bounce house, or there are picnic tables with some shade available to the earliest bird. No barbecues are on site, but feel free to bring your own. (Note that the bounce house must come from a list of approved companies.) To make a reservation, call the park center at 310.476.4866.
Sometimes only beating the candy out of a unicorn will do.
Best Mid-City, Culver City, and Beverly Hills Parks for Birthday Parties
Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area – Ladera Heights
You can see for miles and miles from this urban oasis overlooking DTLA and much more. Eight picnic areas are available for rental for the whole day—just make sure to choose one of the four that are near a playground area and not elsewhere in this sprawling park. Ambitious parents might lead the kids on a hike on the park's many trails and/or go explore the Japanese garden. Tip: Parking is not free on weekends, so come up with a plan to cover that for guests or make plans for drop off and pick up.
Pan Pacific Park – Los Angeles
Centrally located near the Grove, this surprisingly large park has two different reservable areas for parties. One is larger with a roof and near the play area. The other has a terrific view, no shade, and is up on a hill. Prices vary depending on the number of people. There are also gazebos available to reserve and many barbecues situated around the park. No bounce houses are allowed. As for themes, might I suggest Hollywood, or sports (by the baseball diamond or basketball courts)?
Roxbury Park – Beverly Hills
With Sprinkles nearby and the fanciness that is Beverly Hills floating in the air, why not have an Alice in Wonderland tea party? Roxbury offers lawn bowling and a croquet and putting green to complete the theme. Shaded picnic tables and barbecues can be reserved in advance ($31 per table, or $215 for a pavilion, which is four tables and two grills). No bounce houses allowed.
A Lake Balboa party can include paddling on swans. Photo by Randy Stern/CC-BY-2.0
Top Parks in the Valleys for Birthday Parties
Los Encinos – Encino
One of several state historic parks in Los Angeles, Los Encinos boasts a colorful history that mirrors the city’s own – from the Gabrielino people to the Spanish. Free guided tours of the refurbished De la Ossa Adobe are available by appointment. The park boasts more modern amenities as well, including barbecues, (currently unavailable for the summer of 2021), a duck pond, and shady picnic benches.
If the area you are interested in isn't reserved and no one is using the area when you arrive, you are welcome to use it free of charge. However, because this is a historic park, there are some rules of use, listed on the website (including no bounce houses, additional tables, portable BBQs, or party performers). The reservation permit is available online (and means you can bring in tables and chairs and party performers!).
Lake Balboa Park – Van Nuys
It's hard to believe a lake big enough to accommodate fishing, kayaking, and boating is nestled in a corner of Van Nuys off the 101 Freeway, but this little oasis has not only multiple playgrounds and a waterfall, but paddle boats shaped like swans available to rent (plus, a lifeguard is on duty from 9am to dusk). Little kids will love the ducks and geese (please pay attention to the signs requesting that you not feed them), while older kids may want to rent a bike or surrey for more active fun. It gets busy on weekends, but there's plenty of parking and in spring the cherry blossom trees all over the park are breathtaking. Arrive early, or contact the recreation center at 818.756.8187 to reserve picnic tables.
Tarzana Recreation Center – Tarzana
This tucked-away neighborhood park is great for birthday parties thanks to shady picnic benches and lots of convenient bathrooms inside the rec center, but kids who want to push themselves past the monkey bars will like swinging on the grown-up rings and chin-up bar. The two playgrounds (one for littles, the other for slightly older kids) are shaded, so no one will be hot and cranky before cake.
Holleigh Bernson Memorial Park – Porter Ranch
While there are the usual playground and picnic tables, the real draw here is the sidewalk loop trail surrounding the park. Little kids can invite friends and guests to bring their bikes and scooters, while adults may want to sit back and enjoy the top-of-the-hill view.
Verdugo Park – Glendale
Do you have a huge family and thus host huge birthday parties? Verdugo is Glendale's largest city park, and if you need a large space and lots of tables, this is the park for you—there are 79 (!!) reservable tables here. There are also 12 BBQ pits, lots of mature trees, plenty of grass, a kid's play area, and a skate park. Bounce houses are fine with a permit.
For reservations and permits, call the park office at 818.548.2184.
Lower Scholl Canyon Park – Glendale
This neighborhood park has BBQ pits, picnic areas, lots of grass, mature trees, and of course a play area. Bounce houses are OK with a permit, and tables must be reserved—there are also grouped tables under ramadas. Located on a dead-end street tucked against the hills in a residential neighborhood, this is a great green space where families can escape the city.
For reservations and permits, call the park office at 818.548.2184.
Brookside Park – Pasadena
Brookside Park is home to over 60 acres of green grass, Reese’s Retreat playground, biking paths, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, and loads of picnic and BBQ areas. So pick your spot for a party, and know that if you need more activities for kids, you can bring wheels for kids to race around the bike paths, and smaller parties can make their way to the playground after cake and festivities.
Reservations can be made easily online.
Lacy Park — San Marino
Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and incredibly lush and green, this park is 30 acres of gorgeous grass, biking paths, a rose garden, and a fantastic playground. The park has a great mix of sun and shade, so it’s comfortable year-round. It’s a gorgeous place for a party, and since it’s off the beaten path, you’ll be introducing this gem to most of your guests.
If your party has more than 15 people, a park area can be reserved by submitting a Lacy Park Group Activity Permit application.
Travel Town birthday for little conductors. Photo by Mommy Poppins
The Best Parks Downtown and in Griffith Park for Parties
Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round – Griffith Park
For a Mary Poppins-themed birthday party, why not celebrate at Griffith Park’s magical 1926 Spillman carousel? At the bargain rate of $2, kids could go a few times in the midst of other revelries. Chalk would be a great party favor so kids can practice their sidewalk art. There are a lot of shade trees nearby, or you could find picnic tables in another section of the park with barbecues. (Call the park offices at 323.913.4688 to make sure the carousel is open before making a reservation.)
Travel Town – Griffith Park
Travel Town charges no admission—and thus can be a low-cost low-key option for a destination party. There are several options for parties that will affect your cost: you can rent a covered picnic area or an entire train car. You can also add a Thomas or Chuggington mat, track, and cars for your guests to play with. There is the train ride (extra cost), and the indoor museum (no cost), and restored train cars and engines (no cost). There is also plenty of grass for the kids to play on. Call (323.662.5874) a few months in advance if you are coming with a larger group and wish to rent a party space, as this popular location books up fast.
Elysian Park – Echo Park
Elysian Park is famous for being the home of Dodger Stadium, but it’s also so much more. Dedicated as a park in 1886, this is the oldest public park in Los Angeles, and it’s the second-largest (after Griffith Park). The many grassy areas make it perfect for birthday parties; there is always someplace to set up a smaller party, and loads of picnic areas (and even a lodge) you can reserve by calling the park office at 213.485.5054. (You can see which areas are available for rentals online, but must make the actual reservation by phone.)
Top Parks in the Beach Cities & South Bay for Birthday Parties
El Dorado Park – Long Beach
Get this: you can actually rent a boathouse shelter with tables, and that comes with the use of 15 paddle boats that seat up to three each. This package even comes with a jumper house. Or you can rent boats individually (weekends only). And if that’s not enough maritime activity for you, there is also a radio-controlled model sailboat area (see above). The park has many other amenities available for a fee, including the frontier-themed El Dorado Express train (11am-5pm Saturdays-Sundays), panning for treasure, barbecues (first come, first served), shady picnic tables (can be reserved or first come first served), an archery range, and two stocked fishing lakes.
Tip: Parking is not free on weekends, so come up with a plan to cover that for guests or make plans for drop off and pick up.
Update for 2021: The park is not yet accepting reservations for large parties or gatherings. Call 562.570.1771 to determine if reservations are available in time for your party.
Charles H. Wilson Park – Torrance
The free choo-choo train ride alone, though it runs only on limited days, makes this a terrific park, especially for aspiring conductors. The expansive 44 acres offer dozens of shaded benches, barbecues, a duck pond, two jungle gyms, and a treehouse – and the parking is plentiful. Just make sure to plan your party on the right day, as the train typically runs twice monthly (11am-3pm the first Sunday and noon-3pm the third Saturday). Bounce houses are welcome, and reservations can be made online for $50 (for non-residents). https://www.torranceca.gov/services/parks/picnic-areas/-fsiteid-1
Update for 2021: The train is all volunteer run, and has not yet reopened. Check the website to see if the train is running again on the date you have your party!
Ryan Community Park – Rancho Palos Verdes
We always knew this park as "the one with the pirate ship on the back side of The Hill" while growing up in the South Bay. It's a beautiful spot, on a bluff near the ocean with superb views and mature trees. A pirate party theme with a treasure hunt would be ideal, as the main playground has a pirate ship structure for kids to explore and pretend to sail the seven seas. There is also a tot lot, picnic areas with barbecues, grassy fields, and a baseball diamond. Call the office at 310.377.2290 to reserve a party location.
Update for 2021: The patio and activity room, usually available to rent for up to 40 guests, are currently closed.
Polliwog Park – Manhattan Beach
The highlight of this park is the pond, which plays host to all manner of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. A natural wildlife refuge borders the pond on one side, adding to the scenic beauty. There are a number of picnic tables, eight of which can be reserved for rental, and six barbecues. There also are three gazebos available to rent (no barbecues allowed at these). Play areas include a lighthouse-inspired climbing structure, sand area, and colorful tot lot.
Note for 2021: Reservations are not yet available at this park. For updates please contact Facility Reservations at 310.802.5448.
Originally published June 19, 2012