Nestled in the heart of sunny Southern California, Glendale is a city that often flies under the radar, overshadowed by its more famous neighbors like Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. However, those in the know understand that Glendale is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its rich history, diverse culture, and vibrant blend of urban and natural attractions, Glendale has something to offer everyone who ventures its way.
To truly appreciate Glendale, it’s important to understand its history. Founded in the late 19th century, this city has roots that run deep. From its early days as a small agricultural community to its transformation into a thriving suburb, Glendale has evolved while preserving its heritage. The streets of downtown Glendale still bear the architectural influence of its past, with Art Deco and Spanish Revival buildings that tell tales of a bygone era.
One of Glendale’s most striking features is its cultural diversity. Situated at the crossroads of various ethnic communities, the city boasts a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions. Stroll through the neighborhoods, and you’ll find an array of international cuisine, boutique shops, and vibrant festivals that celebrate the city’s multicultural identity.
Nature lovers, rejoice! Glendale is a gateway to some of Southern California’s most breathtaking natural wonders. Verdugo Mountains offer hiking trails that provide stunning panoramic views of the city and beyond. Descanso Gardens, an urban oasis, beckons with its meticulously manicured landscapes and tranquil streams. Whether you’re into hiking, picnicking, or simply escaping the urban hustle and bustle, Glendale offers a serene respite.
If shopping and entertainment are your passions, Glendale has you covered. The Americana at Brand, an upscale outdoor shopping center, offers a world-class shopping experience, dining options, and even a dancing fountain. Glendale Galleria, a stone’s throw away, features a diverse range of stores to satisfy any shopaholic’s cravings.
Glendale has something for everyone. Shopping, hiking, theatre, robots and more!
The Best Things To Do in Glendale with your Whole Family
The Americana at Brand
889 Americana Way, Glendale, CA 91210
This outdoor shopping center has plenty of kid-friendly activities. Each Tuesday, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon, bring the little ones for a free “Kids Club” featuring live performances on the Green. There are generally two shows that happen at the top of the hour. Visit any day of the week to take advantage of the dancing fountain or to just hang out in the family lounge near the restrooms (not as gross as it sounds). Apple TV currently sponsors it, so you’ll find kid-friendly programming and crafts related to their latest activation.
There’s also a movie theater, shopping, dining, and more. The Americana is famed for its free trolley rides that take you from one end of the mall to the other, starting at 2 p.m. most days.
The Art Room
3439A Ocean View Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91208
Expose your littles to the big world of art with classes at The Art Room. There are daily weekday classes for Kindergarten to 6th graders and one weekend workshop for teens.
3470 Ocean View Blvd, Glendale, CA 91208
Surface Fitness specializes in group exercise classes for children as young as three. They also offer summer camps with fun activities to get your kids moving. The most popular class is for the 6 to 12 range.
135 S Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91205
Backalley Bowling, formerly Jewel City Bowl, is a great place to stop in for a quick game with the kiddos when the rest of the world is sleeping. Their rate is just $2 a person per game on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. They are open seven days a week if you’d rather come in at a more leisurely hour. Food is also available for purchase.
Parent Education at Glendale Community College
1500 N. Verdugo Rd. Glendale
The parent education program at GCC is a tuition-free program for adults that’s run similarly to a “mommy and me” class and covers ages 0-5 years. There are over twenty classes to choose from in both the morning and afternoon that take place either at the Lifeskills Center on the GCC campus or one of the local Glendale parks.
All you need to do is register as a student at Glendale Community College to take advantage of these free, non-credit courses. It’s a great place to make lifelong friendships with parents who have children the same age as yours and an excellent precursor to preschool.
1418 Descanso Dr, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
While technically not in Glendale proper, it’s too close to North Glendale not to make this list. This botanical garden offers acres of enjoyment for children of all ages to slow down and smell the roses. There’s a children’s garden and maze, a pond with turtles, and koi fish swimming near the Japanese garden. Also not to be missed is a ride on the Enchanted Railroad, which features an electric train that takes riders over 30 inches around the center of the gardens for an additional $5 a person.
Descanso Gardens is free on the third Tuesday of every month, and those tickets are made available on the first Monday of every month for booking online. Otherwise, admission is $15 for adults, $5 for children 5 to 12, and free for those under 5 years old. Parking is always free.
Related: Read our Guide to Descanso Gardens
5110 San Fernando Rd. Glendale, CA 91204
The Moonlight Rollerway skating rink dates all the way back to 1956. Their website offers a detailed calendar, including classes and dedicated skate times based on ages and abilities. Pre-purchased tickets are required and hover around $20 per person for 3 hours of skating during designated Throwback Thursday or Tuesday night All Ages. Skate rental is also available for an additional fee and begins at size Toddler 8. They are open most evenings and in the daytime on the weekends, where pre-purchase is not required, but do check the schedule before coming in.
Pacific Community Pool
509 S. Pacific Ave. Glendale, CA
Pacific Community Pool is a public pool associated with the City of Glendale Parks Department. Swim lessons and free swim hours are available year-round, with special rates given to residents. While the process of registering for low-cost group swim lessons is often tedious, Recreational Swim just involves following the schedule and paying the nominal fee to enter.
1621 Canada Blvd., Glendale, CA 91208
Verdugo Park may be able to make every kid happy. Here you’ll find a basketball court, a ball field, a skate park, and a children’s play area. Verdugo Park also has many picnic areas as well as lots of open green spaces.
216 N. Brand Ave., Glendale, CA 91203
This historic landmark has been serving Glendale since 1925. Currently, the Alex hosts a variety of performances, including music, dance, comedy, theatre, film screenings, special events, and more. The ballet, though, is probably the most kid-friendly show in the lineup.
1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale, CA 91201
Brand Park is a 31-acre park featuring hiking trails, picnic areas, a children’s playground, biking trails, and basketball courts. You’ll also find the Brand Library and Art Center, which houses over 110,000 items and offers a variety of special events throughout the year.
Additionally, they’ve just added a small children’s area. Several hiking trails ranging in difficulty will take you directly to the top of the mountain for a fantastic view. These are manageable with a little one in a backpack but might prove more challenging for toddlers.
100 W. Broadway, Glendale, CA 91210
This large indoor shopping center offers ways to keep kids entertained and happy while staying out of the heat. Head to the top floor, where you’ll find a “tot lot” free indoor play place. There’s also a variety of coin-operated rides nearby. The most fun stores to shop in with your little one include Build-A-Bear and The Lego Store, where there’s so much to see that they might not even notice if you don’t make a purchase.
131 N. Artsakh Ave,Glendale, CA 91206
If you’ve got kids who are often asking, “How does this work?” and “Why did that happen,” Rolling Robots may be the place for them. Different workshops are offered at various levels, introducing kids to concepts such as circuitry, electricity, magnetism, and more. Workshops are held after school and/or on weekends. Rolling Robots also serves as a unique venue for a memorable, hands-on birthday party experience.
TEACH Communication through Science
117 S. Louis Street, Glendale, CA 91205
Instill a love for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math for kids as young as four at these private classes in robotics and coding. Popular packages during the school year include a month of classes; in the summer, it’s all about the camps.
Live Love Play
44 Glendale Ave. Unit 1, Glendale, CA 91205
Live Love Play is an indoor playground open Monday to Friday for free play and Saturday and Sunday for private parties. The space is enormous and features something for kids of all ages, from play kitchens and dress-up to intricate slides and climbing mechanisms.
Deukmejian Wilderness Park
3429 Markridge Road, Glendale, CA
Named after former California governor George Deukmejian, the Deukmejian Wilderness Park encompasses 700 acres. Families can enjoy hiking trails as well as mountain biking. Different paths are longer than others; some are geared more toward experienced hikers. If you visit with little climbers, they will still enjoy the mostly flat walk toward the enormous oak tree as they explore the native plants. Stunning views are available even if you don’t make it too far up the trail, thanks to the drive alone, where you’ll also find ample parking. Lastly, don’t forget to visit the Stone Barn Nature Center if you’re there on a weekend, where you can enjoy examples of local wildlife without having to find it staring back at you on the trails.
The Museum of Neon Art
216 S Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91204
The Museum of Neon Art, or MONA, is the only museum in the world dedicated to electric art. Kids will love looking at the colored glass, while adults will enjoy the historic street signs. It’s open only from Thursday to Sunday from Noon to 7 p.m. most days. Admission is FREE for kids 12 and under and $5 for Glendale residents. Parking is free at 120 Artsakh Avenue, Glendale, CA 91209.
Glendale Public Library
Central Library: 222 East Harvard Street, Glendale, CA 91205
There are eight branches of the Glendale Public Library, but the Central Library in downtown Glendale is the most kid-friendly and accessible. They are open as early as 9 a.m. every day but Sunday when it’s 1 p.m. The children’s library includes a small theatre space as well as a large selection of toys. Check this website for events like story time, baby stay and play, art classes, and steam activities happening every day throughout all eight library branches.
The Casa Verdugo Library on Brand Boulevard also has the added bonus of being directly next to a fire station that always has the garage doors open. It’s like two activities in one.
2531 East Glenoaks Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91206
This is a must-visit if you have kids in Glendale. The play structure is so new that you can’t even find photos on the Parks Department website – and it’s probably the best in the city. There’s even a zipline! Other activities include basketball and tennis courts, a community building, and large green spaces. The park also features a nicely sized wading pool for the summer months.
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).
Caroline Gelabert-Noh (of Eat Drink LA) also contributed to this article.
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