Ugh, winter. Synonymous with icy mornings, snowy days, dark evenings, and a deep desire to hibernate — unless you live in LA. Southern Californians know they have it good. No one has ever given off more of a ‘sorry not sorry’ vibe than an Angeleno in February. As such, it is our absolute duty to get outside and embrace our bounty of vitamin D. We know the rest of the country craves it this time of year.
We love the beaches, mountains, canyons and parks scattered throughout this giant metropolis. There is no shortage of outdoor options to challenge all that kid energy. Check out five of our favorite ways to make the most of this dreamy winter weather.
Annenberg Community Beach House
It’s hard to compete with a sweltering hot summer day for the perfect beach conditions. However, I personally happen to adore a winter beach day. Enjoy sweatpants, sweatshirts, a cool sea salt breeze, and dipping your toes in the frigid Pacific. Building sand castles all day without the looming threat of heat exhaustion and sun burns? Heaven!
Add to that the absence of bikinis and beach traffic, and you’ve got yourself the ideal day. Our favorite spot these days is the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica (just off the PCH). It’s the most darling little area right on the sand that has a playground, pool, splash pad, restaurant (with healthy options!) and restrooms. They also offer ample pay parking and complimentary beach umbrellas (first come, first served) both of which are laughably easy to secure in the off-season.
Echo Park Lake Pedal Boats
So it may be more of a manmade pond situation than an actual lake, but Echo Park Lake is one of the city’s most picturesque with towering palm trees, charming lily pads, and a massive water feature smack dab in the middle. And for getting out on the water without a boating license, it’s your best bet. Rentals are super simple to secure right at the park (particularly in winter), it’s a mere $10 for adults and $5 for children for an hour (which is plenty) and the mechanics are as simple as riding a bike (even simpler, no balancing, just pedaling). Kids will love touring around the small lake, checking out turtles bobbing along the edge, and following up your tour with a quick snack at the park café or a run around the soft-bottom playground at the north end of the lake.
Just above Beverly Hills sits Franklin Canyon, a quiet nature preserve consisting of hiking/walking trails and a large pond that’s home to a few varieties of ducks, fish, and turtles. This is a favorite spot to check out in the winter. It doesn’t get too hot on the trails, and there is a frenzy of activity in the pond. We often walk the pond loop. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes with plenty of stops for photos and duck ogling. Or you can hit the Franklin Canyon hiking trails and see how far you get. If you make it to the top on a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with ocean views all the way from Beverly Hills.
Underwood Family Farms
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I delight in the off-season. The efficiency of getting around without a crowd of vacationing families at most kid-friendly destinations takes the pressure and intensity off of things like toddler meltdowns, and…well…adult meltdowns. Underwood Family Farms is a darling little wonderland just outside the city. We find it fantastic in its busy season (end of Summer and Fall leading up to Halloween/Thanksgiving), but a true delight in the middle of winter. It’s a working farm with acres upon acres of pick-your-own veggies (a serious thrill for city kids who only know about baby carrots from plastic bags), outdoor play areas, farm animals, and small carnival rides. Spend the day picking veggies straight from the earth and watch your kids delight in preparing them back at home.
Beach Boardwalk Bike Ride
If you want to be near the beach without being at the beach, a boardwalk bike ride is the perfect solution. Park in one of the many public lots in Santa Monica right off Ocean Ave, and walk down to one of the popular bike rental spots along the boardwalk. Spokes ‘N’ Stuff right near the Santa Monica Pier or Perry’s Café (multiple locations) are great options. Get bikes for the whole family (both companies also have baby seats for rent) and ride the 15 minutes or so from Santa Monica to Venice. Take a complimentary bike lock and stop along the way for snacks and the ultimate people watching.