Parks & Trails


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Illustration of several playgrounds with families playing on a hill beneath a sunny sky
(Kaitlin Brito / For The Times)

14 fantastic playgrounds in SoCal (with nice places to sit for tired parents)

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To a kid, there are few pleasures greater than a playground. They love the neighborhood spot that they’ve been to 100 times, and they love to venture out to try something new. Will this new playground have a spiral slide that creates so much static electricity it makes their hair stand on end? A thrilling zip line? A set of swings that make a 6-year-old feel like they’re soaring? Or a challenging climbing structure that seems daunting at first, but after a few tries, will teach them they can do pretty much anything they set out to accomplish?

Of course, playgrounds are great for parents, too. For one, they’re typically free, a function of a Victorian-era belief that public playgrounds were essential to teach fair play, manners, and general social development. The growth of playgrounds really took off in the early 1900s, when the automobile boom drove kids away from games like stickball in the street and toward deliberately crafted green spaces.

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The bottom line is that playgrounds rule, in their many shapes and forms. And thankfully, in the L.A. area, we’re blessed with hundreds of great ones, from the single-lot neighborhood spots that might offer a couple of swings and a play structure to the more extravagant mega-playgrounds that have sprouted up in suburban parks over the past decade or so. There’s no shortage of great spots to play in L.A., especially if you’re willing to get in the car and go somewhere new. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 14 of the L.A. area’s very best playgrounds, from vintage spots with sandy charm to brand-new structures with ropes, towers, and all the latest in playground innovation. These picks are kid-tested, parent-approved, and most boast benches, bathrooms, and even a bit of shade.

Go forth and slide.

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Primrose Park
(Temple City)

Go for a climb at Primrose Park

Temple City Park
Given that Primrose Park is Temple City’s first new park in more than 60 years, it makes sense that the San Gabriel Valley hamlet went the extra mile in building it. Opened in 2022, the $2.9 million dollar playground boasts a large central structure with a slide and lots of climbing possibilities as well as three flower-shaped shades, which sit proudly over the park and pay tribute to Temple City’s Camellia Festival.

The city’s floral logo also influences the park’s bright red coloring and can be found emblazoned across the side of a cute Hobbit-hole hiding spot. There are a bunch of other fun, floral details in this park, from petal-shaped benches to butterfly tables. Little kids will love the small house-shaped slide structure meant to look like a little green grocer.

Park perks: At only about half an acre, Primrose Park is small but mighty. There’s a picnic shelter on site, along with a calming fountain, a set of reasonably clean bathrooms, and a parking lot with four EV charging stations.
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The Highland Park Recreation Center Playground.
(Juan Carlos Chan / Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks)

Take a plunge at Highland Park Recreation Center Playground

Highland Park Park
Remodeled relatively recently, the Highland Park Recreation Center Playground is best known for its play structure, which towers high above Figueroa Street. Its three-story enclosed mega-slide is so huge it’s practically an amusement park ride. For littler kids, there’s a nearby wavy open-top slide that’s probably a bit more palatable.

Beyond the slide, the structure has cool see-through sides, a rock-climbing wall, and swing that bounces like a horse. There’s also a whole bunch of other swings on site, as well as a fireman’s pole and some of those “spin til you barf”-type contraptions kids seem to love so much.

Park perks: This playground sits adjacent to the Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library, meaning you can extend your free fun beyond just the swings and slides.
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La Laguna de San Gabriel Park.
(Michelle Woo / Los Angeles Times)

Venture back in time at La Laguna de San Gabriel

San Gabriel Valley Park
With its concrete slides that ride a little bumpy and get too hot in the sun, La Laguna de San Gabriel isn’t the most modern or kid-friendly playground on this list. But it is probably the most historic. Built in 1965, the sandy park features 14 larger-than-life climbable creatures created by little-known Mexican sculptor Benjamin Dominguez. When the city threatened to tear down the park in 2006 to replace it with something more modern, San Gabrielinos got up in arms, forming the Friends of La Laguna and snagging the park a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places. Now, those boosters help fund park maintenance and restoration on Minnie the Whale, Stella the Starfish, Ozzie the Octopus and all their pals, giving today’s kids the chance to play like their parents (or grandparents) once did.

Park perks: Bring a camera, because La Laguna is incredibly photogenic. Its massive creatures are bright and colorful, and if you post a pic of your kids alongside one on Instagram, you’ll almost certainly get a few “wait, where’s this?” queries from other curious parents.
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The pirate ship structure at Brookside Park
(City of Pasadena)

Set sail at Brookside Park

Pasadena Park
Colloquially known to some area parents as “the pirate playground,” Brookside Park is a massive wooden pirate ship-inspired play structure with a crow’s nest, captain’s wheel, and plenty of seaworthy things to climb, like a stack of cannonballs and an oversized chain that keeps the ship’s keel “moored.” The squishy rubber ground is different shades of blue so your kids will feel like they’re always at sea. If you don’t mind them getting a little dirty, there’s a large sandbox nearby where they can dig for buried treasure. There are plenty of big old trees to offer shade, making it a lovely spot for landlubbers to sit and relax.

Park perk: Park near the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center if you’re ready to board this pirate ship. The actual playground is hidden away behind some greenery, but if you walk past the pools and follow the joyful screams, you should be able to find it.
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Children play at the new Maple Park all-inclusive playground, in Glendale on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. City and other officials held a ceremony to cut the ribbon.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Shane's Inspiration - Maple Park

Glendale Park
Shane’s Inspiration, a California-based nonprofit that creates accessible playgrounds, designed this playground. Co-founder Scott Williams and his wife, Catherine, were inspired to create accessible playgrounds after their son, Shane, passed away when he was just weeks old from spinal muscular atrophy.

What was supposed to be a one-off project — an all-inclusive playground in Griffith Park that opened almost 20 years ago — has blossomed into an international phenomenon, said Tiffany Harris, chief executive of Shane’s Inspiration, which has since installed its playgrounds around the world. This Glendale location opened in 2019.

Built into Maple Park’s playground’s walls are a variety of sensory and educational activities, including musical devices, a sign-language letter chart and reading prompts written in English and Armenian. Wide ramps allow kids to pass between turrets sporting yellow flags. Underneath the equipment is an area ideal for kids prone to overstimulation, including those with autism — the shaded area offers respite from the noisier parts of the playground.
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Lincoln Heights Recreation Center
(Marah Eakin)

Celebrate culture at Lincoln Heights Recreation Center

Lincoln Heights Park
Paying homage to the mostly Hispanic neighborhood in which it sits, the Lincoln Heights Recreation Center playground is covered in nods to Dia de Muertos, including papel picado-inspired latticework and brightly colored skull-shaped steps to climb. It’s entirely enchanting, and while kids will love features like the park’s two zip lines and very fast roller slide, grown-ups can marvel at all the detail that clearly went into the park’s thoughtful design. It’s also entirely enclosed, which is nice for parents who’ve got kids who really like to tear around.

Park perk: Speaking of tearing around: Just next to the park there’s a very nice and relatively new turf soccer field, complete with bleachers for fans. If there’s not a game happening, it’s a great place for kiddo foot races, a snack break, or just some good old fooling around.
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Cold Water Canyon Park for 13-fantastic-playgrounds-in-socal.
(City of Beverly Hills)

Kick back by a (faux) tree at Coldwater Canyon Park

Beverly Hills Park
Coldwater Canyon Park is often mentioned when you ask parents about their favorite playgrounds in L.A., and for good reason: It’s a very nice little park. While it’s not as big or flashy as some of the other, newer parks on this list, it’s located in a scenic nook of the canyon, is fully wrapped in a secure fence, and offers plenty of shade. There’s a little faux-tree trunk for kids to hide inside, and lots of other charming details, like wiggly nets to climb, rainbow wheels to spin and even a sand table to muck around in.

Park perk: Traffic can get kind of backed up around the park. If you come up fast on the park and miss the turn, getting back around can be a real pain. Take it slow, prepare for street parking, and don’t forget to chill.
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The Costanso Fire Station 84 Park.
(Juan Carlos Chan/LA Deptartment)

Fight fires at Costanso Fire Station 84 Park

Woodland Hills Park
A playground for all the transpo-loving tots out there, Costanso Fire Station 84 Park has just about everything you’d want from a good, old-fashioned play structure, all packaged inside a big old red fire truck. Not a real fire truck — that would be too small and potentially rusty — but the structure is wrapped in photo-realistic gadgets and nozzles, and little ones can pretend to drive while perched behind a panel resembling the front of the truck, windshield wipers and all. There’s a large shade structure overhead so you won’t have to worry too much about junior getting roasted. If you need to take a break for a snack, there are picnic tables and benches as well.

Park perk: While checking out a real fire truck can be thrilling for everyone, Costanso Park’s faux-truck structure will probably be most enjoyable for kids under 8.
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Kids playing on a playground version of a Metro Rail car
(JuanCarlos Chan/Juan Carlos Chan/Los Angeles Dep)

Explore the city in a park at Aidan's Place

There are quite a few playgrounds in L.A. that were specifically built to be fully accessible to all kids, from Shane’s Inspiration in Griffith Park to the Neil Papiano Play Park at the L.A. Zoo. One of the newer and most interesting ones is Aidan’s Place, which sits next to the Westwood Recreation Center and is inspired by the sights and sounds of the city of L.A. Visitors can pretend they’re piloting a plane into LAX, peer over a smaller version of the Hollywood sign, and take a ride on the express slide out of Union Station. With multiple play structures, an area specifically for toddlers, and all sorts of cool accessible playground equipment, like roll-on swings and spinners, there’s lots to do — and love — about Aidan’s Place.

Park perk: If the recreation center is closed, don’t worry: There are still bathrooms nearby, should your little one just have to go. Just hop across the soccer fields behind the recreation center and you’ll find a little stand-alone spot.
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Pan Pacific Playground.
(JuanCarlos Chan/Juan Carlos Chan/Los Angeles Dep)

Take a spin at Pan Pacific Park

Montebello Park
If you’ve ever tried to keep a kid reined in at the Grove, you know that it can be a struggle. Next time, stop by nearby Pan Pacific Park Playground and let them run out some of that energy first. For bigger kids, there’s the mass of artistically arranged sky blue, hot pink, and orange playground gear, with spinning discs, climbing nets, double swings, and balance blocks. For kids ages 2 to 5, there’s a newly rebuilt smaller structure, which isn’t quite as daring and bright, but is pretty darn cute all the same. With a few umbrella-like shades, everything in the playground pavilion gets decent sun cover, too.

Park perk: Because of where it’s located — near Mid-City, WeHo, the Fairfax District and the massive Park La Brea development — Pan Pacific Park can get kind of busy. Go during the week and early in the morning if you don’t want to fight for parking. Still can’t find a spot? Park in the Grove’s garage and walk over.
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Acacia Park in El Segundo.
(City of El Segundo)

Hide away at Acacia Park

El Segundo Park
A perfectly pleasant little neighborhood playground in El Segundo, Acacia Park is one of those spots that you wouldn’t really know was there if you weren’t specifically looking for it. Set between homes on a residential street, this single-lot park is really great for little ones, who will love its slightly askew playhouse, central play structure, and walk-on “we-go-round” spinner, which is perfect for all ages and abilities. If you’ve got bigger kids in tow, though, they’ll love the webbing-heavy climber, which the park’s designers say is meant to look like a crab trap.

Park perk: “Acacia Park” isn’t just a clever name. The park is actually lined with purple-leaf Acacia trees as well as other drought-tolerant plants.
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Polliwog Park
(City of Manhattan Beach)

Hop around Polliwog Park

Manhattan Beach Park
A brand-new playground set in the middle of one of Manhattan Beach’s biggest parks, Polliwog Park has everything today’s kids (and parents) could want from a playground. At about 12,500 square feet, it’s a pretty large playground, and it features a multi-functional wooden galleon ship, a tip of the hat to an old piece of beloved playground equipment that once sat in that very space. Theme-wise, once you’re past the ship, the playground is a celebration of nature, with a tree-inspired structure that sits atop one of the park’s slides as well as a sort of flower-type basket kids can perch in after climbing a spider-like web of ropes and cords. While the big kid area is pretty free-flowing and open to the rest of the park, the adjacent playground for the littles is entirely fenced in, which is key considering the park sits close to a path popular with local fitness enthusiasts. There are also quite a few geese that call Polliwog Park home, given its proximity to a decent-sized lake. If your little one’s shy around the birds, who can get pretty big, just tell them to keep moving and hold onto their food and they should be okay.

Park perk: Actually getting to the Polliwog Park playground can be a little confusing. It sits almost dead-center in the park, which is surrounded by Little League diamonds, Manhattan Beach Middle School, and a city pool. The best parking for playground access is back near Begg and Premier Fields, which are easily findable on any good maps app.
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Huntington Beach Central Park.
(Library Services Department)

Test your strength at Huntington Beach Central Park Playground

Huntington Beach Park
When us grown-ups were little, playgrounds were all swings and slides, climbers and teeter-totters. If Huntington Beach’s massive and impressive Central Park Playground is any indication, the playgrounds of the future are more likely to be made up of rope bridges, zip lines, and climbing courses. When it opened in 2022, a rep for the city told The Times that one of the goals while designing the park was to give kids a little push: “There’s been a lot of studies that show that risk-based play forces children to take a little bit of a risk, without it actually being dangerous.”

That’s certainly the case here, where on any given day, you might see a group of previously unacquainted kids work together to help each other get over an obstacle, or a bigger kid encourage a little one who might be struggling to go up the sky-high (but still very safe) rope bridge. While Huntington Beach might be a bit of a haul depending on where you live in L.A., the Central Park Playground makes it absolutely worth the drive.

Park perk: If you’re hungry, check out Kathy May’s Lakeview Cafe, which sits about 100 yards from the park and offers kid-friendly diner-style fare.
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Lions Park in Costa Mesa.
(City of Costa Mesa)

Take flight at Lions Park

Costa Mesa Park
For generations, Costa Mesa kids have enjoyed playing in “Airplane Park,” or what some locals call Lions Park. That moniker is pretty self-explanatory once you see the park’s centerpiece: A (now concrete-encased) decommissioned F9F Panther fighter jet that kids can climb on, get inside, and monkey around with. That’s why a few years back, when the city was considering refurbishing the equipment around the jet, they decided to give everything else a jet-powered facelift.

Now, the cushy rubber ground looks like a runway, there’s a substantial seated zipline that draws kids by the masses, and even the tall climbing/slide structure has kind of an Air Force vibe to it. There are other, non-aerial features too, like a set of kid-friendly percussion instruments, a sand pit with excavator, and a two-layer spinning sphere, which — full disclosure — is very, very heavy, especially when you pack it full of kids who all want to go for a ride. Up, up, and away!

Park perk: There’s a bathroom next to the park, but if you’re looking for something that’s perhaps a little better cared for – or just a break from the outdoors – check out the Donald Dungan Library, which sits just above the park and is absolutely lovely.
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