Celebrate Kids to Parks Day in Southern California and Beyond

In Southern California, we have so much to be thankful for. Wide open spaces surround us, but the hustle and bustle of life can easily get in the way. Thanks to the National Park Trust, they are inspiring families all over the US to get outside and get exploring.

Start by making the Kids to Parks pledge to get outside May 16, 2015, alongside 287,827 other families. In doing so, you will be automatically entered for a chance to win their GRAND prize, a Nikon COOLPIX L830 camera and a boatload of other prizes guaranteed to help you have fun outdoors, so round up the kids, slap on the sunscreen and get OUTSIDE!

To find a Southern California participating park near you, check out the National Park Trust park events page. There you can search by local community to find the closest park or the coolest park. There is also a great family resources section full of free cool stuff for kids like activity guides, an adventure book, inspirational stories and awesome tips for families who are not so well-versed in the great outdoors.

Check out these awesome Kids to Parks Day events in Southern California:

Channel Islands Tidepool Talk  (Ventura)
May 16, 2015
11 am – 11:30 am & 3 pm – 3:30 pm
Channel Islands National Park, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, CA 93001, USA
Phone: 805-658-5730
Website: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/event-details.htm?eventID=347557-307230

Story Time with A Ranger (Joshua Tree)  
May 16, 2015
2:00 pm – 2:30 pm
6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, USA
Email: lorna_shuman@nps.gov
Phone: 760-367-5521

Little Planet, Big Journey at Jumbo Rock Campground Amphitheater (Joshua Tree)
Joshua Tree National Park, National Park Road, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, USA
May 16, 2015
8:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Email: lorna_shuman@nps.gov
Phone: 760-367-5521

Cabrillo Critters That Creep Crawl and Slither (San Diego)  
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
May 16, 2015
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Email: Amanda_gossard@nps.gov
Phone: 619 557 5450 ex 4589

“Ready, Set, Wear It!” Life Jacket World Record Day (Oceanside)  
May 16, 2015
All Day Event
1950 N Harbor Drive, Oceanside, California 92054
Email: suzycoop@gmail.com
Website: http://www.readysetwearit.com

Be Outside – Kids to Parks at El Dorado Regional Park (Long Beach)
May 16, 2015
9 am – 1 pm
7550 East Spring Street, Long Beach, CA 90815, USA
Email: letthembelittle1@gmail.com
Phone: 310-918-7730

Need some more ideas? Here are fifteen! Now go outside and enjoy!

Hikes:

Fern Dell – Griffith Park

Malibu Creek State Park

Toganga Canyon State Park 

Eaton Canyon

Monrovia Falls

The Grotto @ Circle X Ranch

The Bronson Caves

Fryman Canyon Trail

Solstice Canyon Trail

More awesome Southern California parks:

Leo Carrillo State Park

Ernest E. Debs Park

Franklin Canyon Park

Temescal Gateway Park

The Ventana Wilderness

Limekiln State Park

6 Totally Free So-Cal Kid-Friendly Learning Excursions

Growing up in a lower middle class household where my single mother worked two, sometimes three jobs and my grandmother played the role of father, really shaped who I am as a mother. I grew up shopping at the thrift store and at times we ate grits and eggs for dinner, but there was never a lack of love and laughter. I was never showered with unnecessary material things and I never wanted for anything. I learned that often the best things in life, like family and spending time together, are free and I try as much as possible to give those same ideals to our daughter.

From that childhood, blossomed a real respect for money and so I find it really hard to justify shelling out tons of money, when there are perfectly great FREE alternative outings all over Southern California! It requires a bit of planning and a bit of hunting, but those are two things that I love anyway. So, here are six of our favorite free things to do in Los Angeles when you’re looking for a great learning experience without a high sticker price!

The Page Museum at The La Brea Tar Pits

On the first Tuesday of every month (except for July and August), general admission to the Page Museum is FREE! They have all of the prehistoric animatronic dinosoars your kid could possibly want, not to mention over one million ice age fossils from 650 species and a fascinating fishbowl laboratory where you can watch the paleontologists clean, study and prepare fossils for exhibition!

Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits Free

Outside on the grounds are the tar pits where excavation takes place seven days a week and if you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of them working. New discoveries are made every week, if not every day through their excavation program which dates back to the early 1900s. And if that doesn’t hold their attention, there are plenty of trees to climb and grass in which to play tag.

Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits Free

Travel Town

Travel Town admission is always FREE and they are open daily (except Christmas Day), Monday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. They have everything from locomotives to freight cars and cabooses and even passenger cars, perfect for the little ones to explore and let their imagination run wild.

Travel Town Free

There is also a little train ride if you want to spend a few bucks, fare is $2.75 per person and well worth the beaming smiles. Travel Town also has large grassy area to expel that ceaseless toddler energy, a huge picnic area and tons of free parking. Win, Win, Win! If your kid is anything like mine, you’ll be dragging them back to the car, kicking and screaming at closing time.

Noah’s Ark at The Skirball Cultural Museum

Every Thursday at The Skirball Cultural Museum admission is FREE to the public (check their site for holiday closures). Their Noah’s Ark Exhibit is a veritable Candyland for kids; a cultural explosion and a discovery zone almost impossible to uncover in one visit.

Noah's Ark at Skirball Cultural Center Free

This exhibit is fulled to the brim with countless ways to connect with your little ones. At any given time, be prepared for an impromptu story time, a musical jam session, a puppet show, art time or just be amused by all of the other hands on learning stations. It’s a wonderland, indeed!

Noah's Ark at Skirball Cultural Center Free

Some other great free things to do in and around LA:

Commune with the Alpacas at Windy Hill
Explore the Tide Pools at Leo Carrillo
Hike Eaton Canyon

What are some of YOUR favorite free things to do with the kiddos in Southern California?

5 Family Friendly Southern California Outings to Explore & Rejuvenate!

Here in Southern California, we are quite lucky that there is never a shortage of things to do with the family! Getting the kids out of the house and into discovery mode is as easy as a trip to the beach tide pools or one of our numerous kid friendly museums.

This past Fourth of July weekend, we took full advantage of our geographical location by visiting a few of our favorite family spots and discovering a new family fav! I also included two great summer festivals we enjoyed this year that will definitely be on our list for years to come!

Hollywood Beach, Channel Islands Harbor

4th of July Gram Snuggles!

We discovered Hollywood Beach by The Channel Islands Harbor just a few months ago and although it’s a 45 minute drive, it offers silky smooth white sand, zero crowds, calm surf and is loaded with sand crabs for the kids to discover! It’s located just blocks away from the Channel Islands Harbor which has it’s own share of fun activities including a farmer’s market, yummy fresh seafood markets and an outdoor Concert By the Sea series!

Chillin’ with Baba!

Gull Wings Children’s Museum

The Gull Wings Children’s Museum is a new discovery for us! At first glance, I wasn’t sure it was going to be worth the admission, but we decided to meander through and we were pleasantly surprised by its interactive exhibits designed to challenge and encourage a kid’s imagination!

5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … Blast Off!

We spent hours there exploring rocks and minerals in their “underground caves”, pretending to be a paleontologist in the Fossil Quest and an astronaut in their 5 chamber rocket ship! We’ll be back for sure!

Underwood Family Farms

Farm Fam!

Underwood Family Farms is in constant rotation on our activity schedule. Not only does the baby love it, but it’s seriously one of my favorite places too! We can spend hours strolling through its fields, picnicking under its majestic eucalyptus trees and eating the fruits of our picking labors. Over the Fourth of July weekend three generations of Fontaine females went and we picked our weight in sweet, delicious strawberries!

The California Strawberry Festival

The California Strawberry Festival has been around for almost 30 years and offers a massive kids area that includes, crafts, jumpers and a carousel.

Strawberry Monster!

Foodies can enjoy everything from Strawberry Beer to Strawberry Pizza, but our favorite was simply the Dark Chocolate-Covered Strawberries! Sooooooo yummy!!

The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival

Ok, granted I’m from New Orleans so I will go anywhere and try anything that even remotely purports itself to be “Cajun” or “Blues” just to feel a sense of home and most of the time it falls miserably short, but not this one! Last year, I took the baby to The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival on a whim and we had such a great time that the whole family went back this year! And yes, it is now My Mom Approved!

Dancin’ Queen!

The festival grounds are on lush, open, soft grasslands, the live Cajun, Zydeco and Blues music is to DIE for, the food is AUTHENTIC (somewhat) and there is a great kid’s area! This is a must and we will be back next year!

This Sunday the family will be off to the woods!! We’ll be in Sequoia National Park decompressing and discovering all of the beauty Mother Nature has to offer! I can’t wait to share it with you when we return!