The Valleys

Best Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks in LA, from Downtown to the Valleys to the Beach

One thing Angelenos love doing during the winter months is pretending that it’s winter, and the most fun way we do it is by turning parking lots and other open spaces into outdoor skating rinks for the holidays. Whether your family is trying skating for the first time, or you've got budding athletes looking for a change of scenery from indoor skating lessons, nothing says Southern California quite like the sight of kids and families in tank tops and mittens gliding merrily in the sunshine.

Christmas Trains: All Aboard the Polar Express for Kids in LA, Ventura, & Orange County

Trains in Los Angeles are more or less novelties all year round, which means they hold onto that wonderful Thomas-the-Tank-Engine, Polar-Express mystique far longer for LA kids than for urban kids who take the A train regularly. And for anyone who loves trains, Christmas trains offer the ultimate "old world charm" rail experience. Add an appearance by Santa Claus and a few Christmas trees, and you have a recipe for a memorable holiday experience. Some of the dates are limited, though, so booking ahead when possible is the best way to make sure this train doesn't pass you by. All aboard the Santa Express!

Día de los Muertos: What Other City Has This Many Day of the Dead Celebrations?

Hauntingly close to Halloween, El Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – is a magical holiday that's also a living history lesson, demonstrating the tendency of conquerors to absorb indigenous customs into their own. Christian Europeans arrived in Mexico already fans of All Hallows Eve (modern day Halloween), only to stumble upon an ancient tradition celebrated by the Aztecs on November 2, with a spookily similar theme. Day of the Dead is a time when the door between worlds is meant to open, so that celebrants can honor departed loved ones and hopefully lure them back for a visit.

Say Boo at the Zoo: 5 LA and OC Zoos with Cool Halloween Week Events

Let the record show that there is more than one way to smash a pumpkin, and handing it to a hippo is definitely one of them. A gorilla does the job pretty well, too, as does a tiger, or—well, just about any other animal at the zoo. This discovery by our nation's zookeepers has led to a peculiar Halloween tradition—that we highly recommend!

Each year Southern California's zoos (and Griffith Park is only one of the options, as you'll see below) plan Halloween events, usually treating resident critters to their favorite delicacies stuffed inside pumpkins. For some, the delicacy may actually be the pumpkin itself (chomp chomp), while the more carnivorously inclined seem to view the pumpkins more as wrapping paper (smash smash). Either way, zoo animals smashing pumpkins ups the ante on traditional pumpkin patches. Check out all the beastly fun at Southland zoos this season.

Best Neighborhoods to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween Night with Los Angeles Kids

Trick or treat! Los Angeles consistently makes the top 5 cities on Zillow's Halloween list of the country's best spots for trick-or-treating. The real estate website bases its trick-or-treat ranking on criteria like home value and crime rates. That's good, but what about special effects and Halloween decorations? If one figures in the number of film industry creatives living in a given metropolitan area, LA wins first place by a country mile. Speaking of country miles, if you've walked the distance between houses in the most expensive LA neighborhoods, you know that higher home value does not always translate to better trick-or-treating. What does? Well, keep your Halloween hats on, because we've got a list of some of LA and Orange County's most legendary trick-or-treat neighborhoods. I defy anyone in Philadelphia to beat these!

Handcrafted Marshmallows? This Burbank Sweet Shop Serves Ultimate Indulgence

Long before becoming Mommy and Daddy, my wife and I were determined to have a favorite indulgence we loved even more than cake at our wedding reception: s’mores. So when Plush Puffs Handcrafted Marshmallows opened in Burbank this fall, I jumped to take my daughter to enjoy one of my favorite, decadent treats. But take note: these are far from the average bag of mallows that are probably aging in the back of your cupboard.

Ultimate Halloween Event List: 34 Best Celebrations in LA for Free or Spooky Fun

If you've already spent on the Halloween costume (and perhaps a second one if you bought too early), and the pumpkin (and perhaps a second one if you bought too early), and the Halloween candy (and perhaps an extra aerobics class if you bought too early), you might have reached your limit with spending money on this mother-of-all kids' holidays. That's when it's time to start sniffing out which are the key Halloween activities (and which are the free ones) that keep the mood going at this haunting time of year. The following events are the Halloween parties not to miss—the scream of the crop!

Best Home Haunts, Haunted Houses, Halloween Decorations, and Spooky Tours in LA

Our house loves Halloween—no, really loves Halloween. We reconnect with neighbors as we hang ghosts in trees, weave skeletons into the jasmine, drape pumpkin lights along the fence, and smear cobwebs all over the shrubbery. Our normally zen rock garden becomes a graveyard, and last year's Halloween costumes become its inhabitants.

One way we feed our macabre creativity is by avidly checking out other Halloween addicts' handiwork; we love the ghost trains, festivals, and pumpkin patches—we even love a good scream at the Queen Mary—but the real beauty of living in the film capital of the world is that private haunted houses frequently rival the spectacle of the big theme park spooks. Seriously. We've collected the scream of the crop below.

6 Restaurants Ideal for Throwing a Kids' Birthday Party in LA & OC

Planning a birthday party for your kid can be tough, no matter how easy-going your little one might be. Beyond balloons and party favors, there's the question of where to have the shindig (unless you have a large home you're willing to clean extensively before and after). The location has to be family-friendly, fun—and has to serve food your kids (and a lot of other kids) will eat. A restaurant is a good pick, but which one will let you bring in a horde of hungry, bouncy kids? We've found six that serve up lunch and a side order of playtime so you can relax (or, more likely take lots of photos) while the kids run off all that great food you didn't prepare.

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