As a recent convert to west coast life, I'm prepared to say that, while the rivalry between east and west may never be settled, there’s no doubt that Los Angeles is the best choice when it comes to raising a family. Sure, a New York subway ride has its gritty charms, but the Big Apple just can’t compete with all that the City of Angels has to offer when it comes to entertaining kids. Don’t believe it? Feel free to tour Manhattan in February, though a better idea would be to start working your way down our LA Bucket List. Meanwhile, here are my favorite 10 things about parenting among the palm trees.
1. Disneyland: New York might have Action Park, but nothing can compete with the global landmark that is LA-adjacent Disneyland. From the eight existing themed “lands” to the soon-to-open Star Wars Land, there’s something for everyone, and it's right there! Given that the park is always updating and renovating, even regulars usually have something new to explore.
2. Farmers markets galore: Sure, you could go to Manhattan’s Union Square and pick up some out-of-season produce when you’re not choking on exhaust, but living in LA means it's possible to choose from more twenty farmers markets—and that's without even counting the ones in the Valley. Santa Monica alone has three of them. The Brentwood Farmers Market every Sunday is my favorite for its fresh produce, artisanal goods, moon bounce, and petting zoo.
Venice Canals. Photo by La Citta Vita/CC BY 2.0
3. The Venice canals: This historic district boasts renovated homes, and the entire neighborhood is camera-ready, particularly if you catch it on the day of the annual Holiday Boat Parade. And the canals are a very different scene from the funky atmosphere of world-famous Venice Beach nearby (where the weekly Electric Bike Parade is also worth a visit).
4. Kidspace guarantees a jam-packed day of family fun. From its Imagination Workshop, in which children use real tools to understand how everyday objects work, to the Outdoor Play exhibit, in which kids can explore nature through sensory experience, there’s something for every little one.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
5. Nothing in NYC can compete with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. The lab offers free weekly public tours, but once a year the JPL opens its doors so that families can learn about space exploration and ongoing missions. Kids and parents can have all their space related questions answered by real NASA engineers and scientists. With loads of interactive exhibits for kids and demonstrations from actual missions to space, this tour will inspire any little future astronauts you may harbor.
6. Sure, Coney Island’s overcrowded boardwalk will do during the two months of the year when it’s not too hot or too cold to enjoy it, but LA has the Santa Monica Pier year-round. Boasting the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel and rides for tots of all age right by the beach, the Pier can't be beat.
7. Want to see the asphalt bubble? You don’t have to put up with the humid, 100-plus-degree days in NYC. Instead, head to the La Brea Tar Pits. Take the free Excavator Tour and travel back to the Ice Age, when dire wolves and mammoths roamed the continent. Explore one of the largest fossil sites in the world right in the middle of LA.
8. Sure, you spend more time in your car here in LA, but who can honestly say they miss trying to fit a stroller and a cranky toddler onto a subway car packed with even more cranky New Yorkers? At least you’re guaranteed a seat and air-conditioning when you’re the one driving. Plus, you can be sure there will be no one sitting next to you tending to their personal hygiene. Why do people clip their nails on the subway, anyway?
Griffith Observatory. Photo by Kev Herrera/CC BY 2.0
9. The Hayden Planetarium is okay, but it is missing one vital component—you can’t see actual stars. Good thing LA has the Griffith Observatory. In addition to its awesome exhibits, one Saturday a month there’s a free Star Party where kids of all ages can gaze at the heavens. With the help of on-site volunteers and a variety of telescopes, the whole family can marvel at the sun, moon, and visible planets!
10. And the best reason for raising your family in Los Angeles versus New York? Obviously, it's the weather! It’s almost always a beach or hiking day regardless of the season when you live in Southern California. So explore Los Angeles, and send your friends back in New York your hats and scarves. Or just post photos on Facebook of your kids ice skating in tank tops; that one gets 'em every time.