Now that things are beginning to return to normal, I am looking forward to doing a lot of different things with my 2-year-old and almost 1-year-old this summer. We live in the Los Angeles area, and while we have lots of plans, we are planning on staying in this area all summer. I’ve separated our LA summer ideas into: Things to do at Home, Local Activities, and Places to Visit.
Things to do at Home
#1 Go on walks in your neighborhood
Especially in the morning or evening when it’s still cool out, we like to take walks. My 2-year-old likes to find pinecones, seed pods, leaves, and flowers during our walks. Sometimes she walks with me, but usually she enjoys riding in the stroller with my 10-month-old son.
#2 Go on local hikes in the mornings before it’s too hot
There are lots of places to hike around LA, including some that are toddler-friendly. We have personally enjoyed Getty View Park and playing at Franklin Canyon Park (we’ve started a few of these trails, but turn around and don’t complete them because I’m not equipped to carry both my toddler and infant).
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#3 Sensory bins
Pinterest is full of ideas for sensory bins that are baby-friendly and toddler-friendly. You can fill a bin with rice, beans, water beads, sand (or sand made out of ground cheerios), and then have toys hiding inside. You can theme the bin, but definitely don’t have to. If you don’t have time or creative energy (that’s me) to make them yourself, you can buy ready-made sensory kits. A local teen in my area even makes them and sells them on a local moms facebook group.
#4 Water table
Water play is super popular with my kids, and I’m a huge fan of it when it’s hot outside. We bought a water table online that came with accessories, but inevitably, our beach toys, and various plants from our yard also end up in it.
#5 Do arts and crafts! Fingerpaint, coloring, play-doh, craft kits from Michaels
We tend to paint stripped down to their diapers, but that’s the only way I can watch them paint without cringing. Lily’s current favorite thing to do with paint is to paint herself so this way I’m not yelling at her the whole time, and she still has some clean clothes.
#6 Play in the sprinklers or a kiddie pool
With summertime upon us, it’s great to be able to cool off in some water. As a child, I loved running through the sprinklers with my siblings. Lily and James are a little young for that still, but they really enjoy their kiddie pool and water table full of water to splash and play in.
#7 Chalk or Bubbles
My 2-year-old has begun drawing with intent – she now scribbles and tells me that it’s a star, or me, or her brother. It’s the cutest thing. We enjoy using chalk on our sidewalk, on our driveway, and even on our porch. Other days we enjoy blowing bubbles. Little brother loves watching the bubbles, and Lily enjoys using our bubble gun or bubble wands to blow them herself. We have big pans and big bubble wands to make huge bubbles that slowly float their way over our garage.
Do Local Activities
#8 Local parks and recreation programs.
Our city has several different options for toddlers, including parent-and-me music classes, dance classes, and soccer classes. We put Lily in a six-week parent-and-me soccer class for 2- and 3-year-olds and it’s so cute to watch them all kick balls around. She has a lot of fun, though she only technically participates for about ten minutes (grass and flowers are very distracting).
Our local library used to have storytime every week for babies and toddlers, and an area with toys that the kids can play with. I am looking forward to when those activities return, especially because it gives us a chance to make friends with other mamas and babies of similar ages.
#10 Get a cold treat (ice cream trucks are fun)
We have several ice cream and frozen yogurt places around us, as well as a food truck that serves ice cream in the cities around us.
Places to Visit
#11 LA Zoo
We took my two kids and my nephew in the morning before it got too hot (and before naptime!). You have to buy tickets online beforehand, for a specific day and time, but they do not limit your time once you are inside. I even had to get a ticket for my infant (it didn’t cost anything) so that he had a reservation too. They scan your ticket (on your phone or printed out) and make sure you’re all wearing masks, then you’re allowed in. Indoor exhibits, shows, and smaller view spaces are closed off but there are still lots of animals to look at. The gift shops are limiting how many guests are inside at a time, but are still open, the tram is still operating, and at least one food booth was open. It did not feel very crowded when we went in the morning, though in some places social distancing requirements were not observed by guests (especially in front of the flamingos).
#12 Aquarium of the Pacific
My toddler ended up loving our visit to the aquarium, even in 2021, and is currently obsessed with sharks so we invested in a membership. We got the Plus membership so that it would cover both my sister-in-law and I, our kids, and one extra guest every visit. We plan on going at least once a month, since the little ones all love it. Their touch pools are open, which Lily especially loved and keeps talking about (you can touch manta rays or bamboo sharks). You have to buy tickets online beforehand, specifically for your day and time of entry, and when you go they scan everyone’s temperature and make sure that you are wearing masks. They are not doing any shows, but inside exhibits, outside exhibits, and touch pools are all open still. It doesn’t feel crowded due to their limited guests via timed-entry tickets. Their cafes are closed, but the gift shop is open (it has so much stuff inside! We bought way more than we should have both times we visited).
#13 Do a Staycation! Rent a house with a pool, or a house by the beach for a few days
We did this for two nights in the middle of the week. We stayed Tuesday and Wednesday night in an airbnb house about an hour away. We went with my brother-in-law and his family, and both fathers were able to come and work from home with us. We were able to swim together and explore a local park there. The toddlers loved having a new house to play in, a new park to explore, and a pool to splash around in. We were able to find a house that was fully childproof and even had two cribs, with professional cleaners that came in between each guest’s visit (it was the perfect house for us). Since we drove, we were able to bring a lot of just-in-case stuff in our cars, and it wasn’t too much travel-time for the little ones.
#14 Downtown Disney or Disneyland
This isn’t technically in Los Angeles, but it’s within an hour of driving, and is definitely a fun place to visit with your toddler. There are lots of fountains, benches to sit at, flowers and bushes to examine, stores to browse, and restaurants to eat at. The Lego store has fun life-size lego characters outside and inside their store (We especially love Belle and the Beast, life-size but made out of legos). The World of Disney is a ton of fun to shop inside of, of course (if you’re not prepared to buy anything, yes, it’s dangerous to go inside with your toddler).
Disneyland Resort (which is both Disneyland Park and California Adventure) is also open, with limited capacity. If you wish to visit, you will have to buy tickets online ahead of time, and make reservations with your tickets for the days and parks that you wish to visit. You can no longer just show up the day you want to go and purchase tickets that day before entering the park. You can see the park availability calendar here (they release park reservations 60 days in advance). Certain attractions are closed, shows and parades are currently not available, characters are only available from a distance, and food offerings are also limited. However, it is still a magical place and a lot of attractions are available, with social distancing measures in place. See my full review of our day at Disneyland in May 2021 here, including our stay at the Grand Californian Hotel.
#15 The Beach
You could go for more of a pier/activity place like Santa Monica, or go for just sand and water like in Malibu. There is a lot of beaches within driving distance, all available for free (depending on where you go, parking is not free). Wagons are great for taking toddlers, food, and toys to the beach, especially if your little one won’t like walking through the sand and will ask to be carried. I’ve seen a parenting hack where you take a bottom sheet (with the elastic edges) and prop your bags in each corner to make a raised, sand-free sitting area for your babies and toddlers to play.
#16 The Mountains
Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead are both within a few hours if you want to go to the mountains for a day trip, and your little one doesn’t mind being in the car for a few hours. There’s cute shops to walk around and browse, places to eat, and of course, there’s nature – both areas have lakes you can visit (or rent a boat for a ride) and woods you can walk through. The weather is cooler up in the mountains, making it a pleasant option in the hot summer months.