Leonis Adobe Museum - This small indoor/outdoor museum can help teach your kids what life was like on the ranches of 19th century California. While adults will want to tour the beautiful old homes on the property and the pristine rose garden, kids will head straight for the animals, kept both outside and in the barn. You'll find sheep, horses, goats, ducks, turkeys, and more, as well as the other trappings of life on the ranch, such as a pump house, water tower, and even a laundry area, where kids learn how to wash clothes (supplied!) the old-fashioned way.
The IKEA Store - Though this may seem a strange choice of attractions, if you're stuck in "The Valley" on a rainy day or if the kids are just tired of museums and other educational attractions, take them to IKEA. This wonderful, expansive department store not only has everything adults want for their home but it also caters to entertaining kids. And with several locations throughout the San Fernando Valley, you're never too far away from an IKEA. Older kids can stay in the supervised play area without you and you'll receive a pager in case there's a problem. Babies and toddlers can play as you watch and will love the ball pit and other amusements.
There's plenty of room for strollers in this wide-aisled store if your kids are up to shopping with you.
Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area - Located in Van Nuys, this pretty parkland is a cool place to roam. The onsite wilderness preserve is a great location from which to view a variety of birds, including snowy egrets, pelicans, and huge blew herons. Also in the middle of the recreation area is Lake Balboa, perfect for fishing or navigating one of the rented pedal boats. There's also a remote control boat area and a model airplane field where families can fly their own plane or watch others fly (and crash).
Puddingstone Lake and Frank G. Bonelli Park - When it's time for some water-related fun, this San Dimas park is a great place to go. The man-made body of water called Puddingstone Lake is not only bucolic and lovely to behold, but on alternate days guests are permitted to jet and water ski here. Visitors don't need to bring their own vehicles. Boat and jet ski rentals are available on site. However, if you prefer to stay on land, there are plenty of places to explore within Bonelli Park and both bikes and horses can be rented as well. Picnic areas and campgrounds are also located within the park. In the summer, part of the lake is set aside for swimming and fishing. Raging Waters, a water theme park, is located at the south end of the lake.
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden - Good for days when you're hoping for a slow pace, this large and attractive arboretum boasts beautiful plants and trees but your children will probably remember the ducks and peacocks that make their home here. (Don't let them chase the peacocks; they can get nasty.) Strollers are highly visible here as parents push their toddlers and pre-schoolers down wide paths and through acres of greenery. There's also a lake, a cafe, and a few historic houses. (If you're old enough to remember the 1970s-80s television show Fantasy Island, you'll recognize one of the structures - the Queen Anne mansion - from the opening scenes of the show.) It's best to visit the arboretum and gardens in the cooler weather or in the early morning as there is little shade.