There's no shortage of stuff to do with kids in L.A., but sometimes it's fun to get creative. From an old-school miniature golf course in Sherman Oaks to an exotic ice cream shop in San Fernando, here are 11 things drawn from our 2017 Best of L.A. issue that cool parents can do with their cool kids.
Play a round of mini-golf at Sherman Oaks Castle Park.
Wedged in between the 405 and 101 freeways and the L.A. River lies a magical land with castles and dragons and palm trees galore. Welcome to Sherman Oaks Castle Park, the best miniature golf course in the city. OK, so it's the only miniature golf course in the city. Nonetheless, this city-owned course is the perfect place for any number of outings, from a 6-year-old's birthday party to a fun, semi-ironic first date. Castle Park features not one but three very good 18-hole mini-golf courses, intertwined with windmills, pirate ships and disturbingly bright neon blue lagoons. At only $6.50 a ball for adults, it's about a third of the price of a ticket to the ArcLight. Castle Park also offers a batting cage with up to 80 mph fastballs, plus a densely packed arcade with air hockey, skeeball and myriad video games with truly horrible sound effects. And of course, prizes — a few thousand winning tickets gets you a gumball or something. Just don't try the pizza. —Hillel Aron
4989 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 91403
Pet adoptable cats at Crumbs & Whiskers.
Others might be nipping at its heels, but Crumbs & Whiskers, which opened in September 2016, was the first cat cafe in Los Angeles. Legend says the very first opened in Vienna more than a century ago, but in more recent times it was a phenomenon that spread from Taiwan to Japan and beyond. Full of hidey holes, shelves and comfy pillows, this place is perfect for hanging out with our feline friends, and there are fluffy mice and colorful things on sticks to tempt the kitties to come out and play while java and treats come from a store nearby. You're at their whim, of course (hint: come early or late to avoid the mid-afternoon snooze), and there are rules: Don't wake or pick them up, don't take flash photos, and don't feed them. The 75-minute sessions allow enough time to meet all the bow-tied four-paws here, so try to snag a spot on the white rug, as it seems to be the prime place for patting and petting. Everyone drags their heels when they leave, but if you meet a cat you just can't leave behind, you're in luck — they're all available for adoption courtesy of Karma Rescue. —James Bartlett
7924 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, 90048
Rent a movie the old-fashioned way at Vidéothèque.
As it turns out, Netflix, Amazon and iTunes don't have every movie under the sun. If you're looking for foreign or classic films, or TV shows that'll never hit streaming, Vidéothèque of South Pasadena is one of the best-curated and most convenient spots to rent your favorite flicks. Free parking abounds in this walkable neighborhood, so a last-minute, Saturday night trip to the video store is incredibly easy. But like every good record or video store, what makes Vidéothèque special is the people who run it. Yes, streaming services can give you “recommendations,” but if you're a person with diverse tastes that elude the algorithms, good luck with that. Talk to any of the clerks at Vidéothèque, though, and five minutes later, you'll have a to-watch list that'll keep you busy for weeks. It also sells movie-themed gifts, music- and film-related books, and a curated selection of records. Follow Vidéothèque on Facebook and you'll get info about outdoor movie screenings behind the eyeglass shop next door as well as its roving French pop DJ nights. —April Wolfe
1020 Mission St., South Pasadena, 91030
Try tropical ice creams at Helados Pops
Lucuma and soursop are just two of the tropical fruit flavors you'll find at Helados Pops in San Fernando. Lucuma, an orange-fleshed fruit popular in Peru, has a unique flavor described variously as maple-like or like a candied sweet potato. Owner Marthin Ken doesn't follow an exact recipe for his pops, “because fruits aren't the same.” Sometimes this means far more or far less of a particular fruit. Ken also believes in using as little sugar or sweetener as possible. One of the rarely seen tropical sorbet flavors is marañon, the cashew fruit. It requires seven to eight pounds of the fruit, acidic skin removed, to get the true flavor, which is a sort of a blend of mango and pineapple. Another sorbet you're unlikely to find elsewhere is arrayan, known in English as the sartre guava. Other tropical ice cream flavors include raw cacao, mamey and coconut. For that final tropical touch, you can get your ice creams or sorbets served in a coconut or a pineapple. —Jim Thurman
450 N. Maclay Ave., Los Angeles, 91340
Check out the collection at the Bunny Museum.
What do you do when you've collected thousands of pieces of bunny memorabilia, made your collection into a museum, and then outgrown the museum? You open a bigger location. Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski have served the Pasadena area for many years as the owner-operators of the biggest (only?) bunny museum in the world, but the Bunny Museum's new Altadena location is hopping huge. (Sorry.) Prepare to be overwhelmed by and immersed in all things rabbit. At this point, Frazee and Lubanski have amassed more than 35,000 bunny-themed collectibles, which is more than enough inventory to hold onto their Guinness Book of World Records title. If you go, please remember to bring some little treats for their rabbits — hay if you have it, but lettuce is good too. Some people actually bring their own live bunnies to see the collection but must keep the bunny in hand at all times — there are cats in the Bunny Museum. —April Wolfe
2605 Lake Ave., Altadena, 91001
Test out some VR games at IMAX VR Center.
Virtual reality has come a long way in the past few years, and now there's a growing bounty of experiences to try. The catch is that, if you want a highly immersive experience, you'll need high-priced gear, a powerful computer and a lot of space to move your physical body. That's where IMAX VR Center comes in. The virtual reality hub is a cross between a movie theater and an arcade. You buy a ticket to try a specific experience at a designated time. Inside the venue, you enter a cubicle-type area, suit up and step inside the VR world to play. IMAX's selection of VR titles includes works based on pop-culture mainstays as well as original pieces. Don't worry if you haven't tried VR before your trip; there's content designated for VR newcomers here, too. Come solo or bring friends; there are experiences for one person as well as for duos and groups. —Liz Ohanesian
157 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 90036
Celebrate science at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The Tyrannosaurus rex is still hunting down the Triceratops in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where one of the most dazzling exhibits can be found in the Gem and Mineral Hall. Head into the darkness and seek out the 2,000 or so glittering specimens in an amazing array of psychedelic colors and otherworldly shapes: crystals and minerals from deep underground, meteorites from outer space, and enough gold, silver and precious gems to stun the eyes. Just a fraction of the museum's collection, these beauties range from California gold to the first Martian meteorite known to have landed in the United States. Many of the specimens have strange names (benitoite, rhodochrosite, spessartine) that even a sci-fi B-movie couldn't dream up. And when you see the minerals that glow fluorescent orange, yellow, red and green, you might feel as if you've been transported to such a movie. (Think Chronicle, without the nosebleeds). —James Bartlett
900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, 90007
Get a chocolate shake at Fosselman's.
You could choose Dutch chocolate, rum raisin or toasted almond when you go to Fosselman's ice cream parlor. You could even go for the more exotic flavors of taro, lychee or the seasonal Cookie Monster ice cream, resplendent in luminescent blue. But it is the chocolate shake at which the family-owned Fosselman's absolutely excels. It's a veritable chocolate Matterhorn, made only with chocolate syrup and chocolate ice cream in a ratio that remains a closely guarded secret. It melts slowly and gracefully, threatening to burst the bonds of its plastic cup with all the power of maximum chocolate heaviosity. A draw on the straw is not as uvula-shattering as some chocolate shakes tend to be, nor is enjoying a Fosselman's chocolate shake the diabetic coma-bomb awaiting you at those corporate fast-food places. It's challenging to do a simple thing exceptionally well, yet Fosselman's has, perhaps due to the fact that it's had decades to perfect the craft since opening in 1919. —David Cotner
1824 W. Main St., Alhambra, 91801
Spend the night at Millard Trail Camp.
Millard Campground, aka Millard Trail Camp, is an intimate, six-site campground that's just a few hundred yards from city streets but feels worlds away, tucked into a cool, leafy canyon. This first-come, first-served location offers access to the scenic Sunset Ridge Trail, with views of Punchbowl and Saucer Falls en route to the Dawn Mine, Mount Lowe and points in between. The main destination here is the half-mile trail to Millard Falls, a pleasant trickle in the summer and a satisfying cataract in other seasons. Weekends can be crowded, so plan your overnight stay during the week, and remember to bring your National Forest Service Adventure Pass to use any of the facilities: parking, picnic tables, fire rings, campsites. Note that parking is a quarter-mile or so from the tent sites, so Millard is considered a “hike-in” campground (you have to lug your stuff a ways). Make sure to call ahead in case of forest closures. Finally, there's a vault toilet but no potable water, so bring your own drinking water. —Suzy Beal
4041 Chaney Trail, Altadena, 91001
Go for a ride during Beach Streets.
In 2010, Los Angeles launched CicLAvia — the city's now-quarterly open-streets event, which makes miles of car-clogged roads accessible to cyclists and other human-powered transportation for a single day. It took five years but, in 2015, Long Beach obtained a grant to launch its own. Dubbed Beach Streets, the first iteration took over a large chunk of Atlantic Avenue in public space–starved North Long Beach and turned it into the biggest block party the neighborhood had ever seen. In addition to drawing out more than just bicycles (pedestrians, skateboarders and rollerbladers are less common sights at CicLAvia), Beach Streets activated choice intersections along the route with family-friendly hubs, educational seminars, action-sports demos and, to top the afternoon, a headlining performance in the park from hip-hop legends The Pharcyde. Over four more Beach Streets, Long Beach's winning formula for getting people out of their cars and into the road has not waned. From downtown to Cambodia Town, it remains the only event of its kind, one that not only promotes active transportation but gives participants alternative ways to explore, learn, listen and create new memories along the way. —Sarah Bennett
Hit the playground at Rio de Los Angeles State Park.
Rio de Los Angeles State Park is located on what was once an abandoned freight-switching yard on the east bank of the L.A. River. It sits on a spit of flatland across the river from Elysian Valley and below the hillside bungalows of Mount Washington. Part of the city's river revitalization project that aims to reclaim the postindustrial landscape for green space, Rio de Los Angeles has 47 acres of baseball diamonds, batting cages, soccer fields and basketball and tennis courts, plus a nature trail that unwinds through native flora like a backyard path. There is a playground for the kiddos, with sprinkler fountains that offer refreshment on a hot day. The recreation center hosts classes of yoga, Zumba and children's ballet. —Jason McGahan
1900 N. San Fernando Rd., Los Angeles, 90065
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