Marina del Rey / Playa Vista

Spring Break Camps: 14 Kinds of Vacation Fun for LA Kids

Spring Break around Los Angeles is a moving feast; some districts have one week, and some have two. Some take vacation in March, and some in April. Add to the mix the complications of Easter, Passover, and parent work schedules, and Spring Break camp can be a tough knot to untie. Whether your family needs two weeks full time or a day here and there, we've chosen a few of our favorites that run the gamut. From the Valley to the sea, surfing to soccer, we think you'll find something worthy of a few days away from school among the camps below.

And if you're so on the ball that spring is already covered and you've moved on to summer, check out some of our favorite art, cooking, horse, and classic outdoorsy camps in our Summer and Vacation Camp Guide!

The Annenberg PetSpace: LA's New Spot To Play with Puppies and Kitties

Interested in getting a pet—or just spending time with one? The new Wallis Annenberg PetSpace in Playa Vista is all about building bonds between people and pets. While there are dogs, cats, and rabbits available for adoption, no pressure: this is also a family-friendly space to learn about pets and people, and maybe even get a little cuddle time if a pet isn't possible in your home. And best of all? Admission is free!

15 Great Barbecue Grills and Pits in LA Parks for Cooking Out with Family

Nothing says “summer” like barbecue. Many of our local parks are standing by with grills and pits to satisfy that craving for charred food. And the beauty of life in Southern California is that "summer" can be practically any time of year; the 15 parks below have year-round, mostly free barbecue facilities, ready for birthday parties, holiday celebrations, spontaneous picnics, or family dinners al fresco.

Kids Kayak the Marina for Free All Summer with Kayaks 4 Kidz

Note that due to construction at Mother's Beach, Kayaks for Kids will not be offering its usual classes in the 2018 summer season.

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but what about a free kayak lesson? I've wondered for years about that free kayaking class for kids in the Marina, which we shout out on our list of 50 Free Things for Kids To Do in LA this Summer. It seems so unlikely—like there must be some catch. Does someone actually offer kids a chance to spend a couple of hours kayaking the Marina for free on alternate Sundays all summer long? Has this program really existed for 15 years, teaching hundreds of kids to kayak, without most Angelenos even noticing it's there?

Weekday Picks: Horses, Puppets, Stars, and Holiday Festivals, Sept. 26-Sept. 30

As September comes to a close, horse jumping comes to Long Beach, and holiday festivals come to Costa Mesa and Ventura.

The Longines Masters makes its one stop in the US as part of the Grand Slam Indoor of Show Jumping in Long Beach beginning Thursday. Organizers say it's the first prominent event in the international equestrian scene to take place in the Los Angeles area since the 1984 Summer Olympics. Beyond the competitions, the event includes a Kids Corner with educational and fun activities, to draw in a new generation to the world of show jumping.

For those wanting to get a jump on their fall and winter holiday shopping, the Sugar Plum Arts & Craft Festival at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and the Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show in Ventura both open their doors at the end of the week. Kids are likely to appreciate the crafting demonstrations, including woodworking and glass blowing. Meanwhile, smaller local events include a Puppet Musical: Jack and the Beanstalk in Marina del Rey and Garvey Nights, a night of astronomy and star-gazing in Monterey Park.

For more ideas, visit the Mommy Poppins Event Calendar, as well as our picks for the month in our September GoList. Our favorite outings this week follow...

Favorite Surf-Free Beaches for Little Kids in LA and Orange Counties

The beach is made for kids—the sand, the sun, the surf. That last thing can be a worry, though, when it comes to toddlers and smaller children. Parents are forced to play defense all day to prevent their little ones from being tossed, turned, and dragged by turbulent waves. Knowing some beach safety rules is a good start; but there are a few beach areas in Los Angeles and Orange counties that offer the best of all worlds: the sand and sun plus shallow, gentle expanses of water perfect for wading.

10 Beach Playgrounds in LA & OC, from Santa Barbara to San Diego

Summertime and the living in Southern California is easy. While parents all around the country are looking for seasonal vacation destinations, those of us lucky enough to live in SoCal are already here. There is nothing quite like our local beaches, and no better way to spend the summer months than on our shores.

Of course, taking very young ones to the beach can feel like a lot of work. Vigilance is especially necessary when the ocean looms, and keeping the kids in shallow waters is a full-time job, albeit a fun one. Who doesn’t love digging for sand crabs, building drip castles, and running screaming from the surf? Sometimes, though, it is nice to enjoy the beach in a more relaxing, contained manner. Fortunately, many of our beaches from Santa Barbara to San Diego have playgrounds, which is the perfect way to experience the beach without even needing to get your feet wet.

10 Kid-Friendly Happy Hours in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, & LA's Westside

Let the parent who has never yearned for a drink and a cheap kids' menu cast the first stone. While Happy Hour was indeed invented as a way to sell alcoholic beverages during a restaurant’s slow period, and mostly conjures images of a not-so-kid-friendly array of inebriated partiers, it can also mean great deals on meals. Many restaurants have Happy Hours that cater to (or at least accommodate) family dining. Here on the Westside, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to late-afternoon or early-evening discounted dinners. As a rule, Happy Hour is mostly a Monday through Friday 4 to 7pm proposition, but the terms are constantly changing, so it is best to call or check a restaurant’s website before settling into a booth. And while you’re checking, it's wise to be sure that you're heading somewhere kid-friendly. Some restaurants are more about the booze than the burgers, and that’s not going to work with kids. The places we've found (and selflessly tested) below are all spots that a family can enjoy together.

Gated Playgrounds: Westside Parks with Fences for LA Kids

I only have two kids, but at times I've had the likes of four or five. You know the drill: offer to take your friend's kids to the park, and the bodies multiply. Even crazier, all those little legs start running in multiple directions. Gah! Suddenly you're dashing around like a crazy woman wondering whom to rescue first: the kid dangling from the tree branch, or the kid who's booking it to the distant ball field to watch the Little League game? CLINK! "Foul Ball!" Thankfully, there are many area playgrounds with locked gates. (Oh, the peace that comes with children contained!) So, until they learn how to climb the fence, consider bringing your herds to these paddocks, err, parks on the Westside.

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