A hectic weekday schedule usually prevents parents from spending the amount of quality time they would like with their children. I’m no exception to this rule. With the holidays near, this past weekend I decided to spend some quality time with my girls exploring the festivities and activities Downtown offers to families and kids.
Friday evening, my girls performed at their school – the Lumbini Development Center located at the Higashi Honganji Temple in Little Tokyo – which produced a mix of excitement, confusion, and expectation. We arrived and saw harried parents rushing their children to classrooms to prepare for the stage, with others scrambling to find prime seats for the show. Settling in as the entertainment began, we watched from the crowd as amusing toddlers shimmied and jammed to the Holiday music.
As I surveyed the room, I was astonished by the impressively high attendance of parents. Almost all of the 60 children enrolled at Lumbini attended the holiday performance, even though the event took place an hour after the school’s closing time.
Soon after the performances, we sat down for drinks and snacks, greeted and smiled at other parents, and let the girls run wild. However, we didn’t meet any new parents, too shy to approach and strike up a conversation. We had fun nonetheless and enjoyed the sense of community that is developing in Downtown.
Saturday afternoon, we walked over to Pershing Square to explore the Holiday festivities offered by the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks.
Children played on a large imported patch of snow, which created a bit of winter ambiance in the park. Shouts of glee filled the air with a refreshing energy as friendly snowball fights began and others sledded down a man-made track dug into the snow mound. A snowman bouncer was another diversion with a shorter wait for kids wanting to jump up and down. Tables set up on the perimeter of the park offered arts and crafts.
While cruising around with girls in tow, we craned our heads towards a loud shrieking sound and saw 30 kids, all kneeling on the floor around a puppet stage, laughing like hyenas. The free puppet show had the full attention of young children and parents alike. In the background, kids ran cheerfully around the park while skaters glided around on the ice rink. After running back and forth awhile, smelling the aromas from food vendors and people watching, we decided to continue our quest for novel, kid friendly entertainment.
Walking onward to our next destination though, I wondered out loud why Pershing Square doesn’t appear to have someone who plans events like this year round. A full schedule of similarly well-designed soirees would go a long way in bringing locals, families, and tourists together. It would help reinvigorate the somewhat jaundiced and unattractive hodgepodge that is the Pershing Square I’ve grown accustomed to seeing on most days of the year.
After a twenty minute walk north past the 101 freeway, our journey for fun brought us to the Art Form Studio in Chinatown. On the second Saturday of each month, the salon offers arts and crafts (and food!) to children from 3 – 7pm, freeing up their parents to glam up a bit and get a haircut. I recently cut my locks at Salon Eleven, but I filed it for future reference. Where else can you go and get your hair done while kids make new friends and entertain themselves free of charge?
A gray and chilly Sunday dampened our enthusiasm to go outside until the sun crept up and broke through the clouds around noon. We packed a snack and made our way across the street to Grand Hope Park. As I wrote this article, children ages three to seven kept pouring into the playground with their parents.
I tried to make eye contact as I sat typing away but it was as if everyone was in an island, blocking social interaction by keeping their face down or up in the sky. Whatever they found fascinating on the ground or the now graying sky I found frustrating; how can I meet other parents that live in my neighborhood when they seem oblivious to my existence?
As we finished our evening by walking to L.A. Live for the light show and then back to Ralphs for ice cream, I realized just how much I don’t want to leave Downtown for some place more “conventionally kid-friendly.” I want to make this work. I already have a play date on my calendar and I’ll soon meet up with complete strangers: parents from DTLA Kids, and hopefully some future playmates for my girls (a brave measure, since I shy away from meeting new people).
I want to make long-term Downtown living work, and to do that I need to make Downtown parenting work.
This Week’s Kid-Friendly Downtown Picks
Take Free Pictures with Santa every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Noon – 2pm (and Saturday, Dec. 20). Pets are welcome, too!
Enjoy live holiday entertainment every Friday and Saturday, noon – 1:30pm.
Kids Club Make Holiday Cards with the Children’s Museum of Los Angeles, Saturday, December 20, Noon – 2pm.
Las Posadas at Olvera Street
December 16th – 24th, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM. Entertainment and Pinata Breaking at 6:30pm. Procession from 7:30 – 8:15pm. Free! Champurado, Pan Dulce, Hot Punch and Plenty of Candy!!!
Published December 17, 2008