Thursday, April 9, 2009

Children's Garden is More Fun than Rare Books

The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA covers 207 acres of gardens with more than 14,000 varieties of plant life. Its art galleries feature paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as sculpture, tapestries, porcelain and furniture. The Library’s collection of rare books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, maps, and other materials in the fields of British and American history and literature totals more than six million items. But, if you want something fun to do, then head directly to the Children's Garden where little ones are allowed to splash in tot-size fountains, run under miniature arbors, dance in the foggy mist and get lost in tunnels of foliage.

While, the Library is dedicated to research and education, I only had the chance to take in some of the beauty. The Chinese Garden is the newest attraction opening in early 2008. The grounds also include lily ponds, the Jungle Garden, Rose Garden, Shakespeare Garden and many more. You'll want to keep your kids away from the Desert Garden -- one of the most amazing cactus collections you'll ever see. The Japanese Rock Garden is equally wonderfully, but Alex wanted to rake the gravel into his own zen designs.

Tar Seeps with Dinosaur Bones in Financial District

It might have been a good idea to know that Alex was terrified of dinosaurs before I took him to see a giant Mastodon at the Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits. One roar from the mechanical mammoth, and our museum experience quickly ended.

Crude oil seeps from the ground in the middle of the Los Angeles financial district on Wilshire Boulevard and every once in awhile, the paleontologists there excavate a fossil from the last Ice Age.

Millions of years ago, Los Angeles lay beneath the Pacific Ocean. When the ocean receded about 100,000 years ago, pools of asphalt formed. Before the bankers of Wilshire trapped our money, animals were trapped in the tar pools. Literally millions of animal and plant fossils have been pulled from the tar. A Fishbowl Laboratory gives visitors a chance to see the restoration process and in the summer Pit 91 is the longest running paleontological excavation site in the world -- operating since 1969.

For future dinosaur diggers, the giant Shasta Ground Sloth, the Sabertoothed cat and Mammoths can't be missed. For little guys who can't quite handle a T-Rex, you may want to save the experience until they're ready for Jurassic Park.

City Kid digs the Farm!

Just about 45 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles, a city kid can get a taste of the great outdoors in Simi Valley at the Underwood Family Farms. Alex rode his first pony, went mining for minerals, fed the goats carrots and took a train ride. There are two locations, the Somis Farm and the Moorpark Farm. Both boast pigs, llamas, ponies, goats and other farm animals, as well as opportunities to pick your own produce and buy organic at their fresh market. If you really want the full experience, you can sit on a tractor or bounce through the fields on a the back of an open wagon.

Mostly, Alex loved to dig in the giant sand box, run through the fields and climb the great pile of straw -- just like a real farm kid. As a kid who grew up on a farm myself, it's odd to pay the entrance fee and buy tickets for the giant air jumper just to get the farm experience. But, for small children in Los Angeles, its a great chance to escape the freeway, masses of people and play in the dirt!