The little explorer and I recently shared one of those magic moments that nature so often provides. We stood just a few feet away from one of the most majestic birds to grace our local shores: a great blue heron.
If you’d told me I’d have an up-close-and-personal moment with a great blue heron at a city park, I wouldn’t have believed it. But that’s what happened when we visited Anthony C. Beilenson Park (formerly Lake Balboa) in Van Nuys.
This place is huge. Like 80 acres huge. There’s more here to see and do than can be done in a single visit.
We started our morning at the play structures, one of which is designed just for toddlers and under. The little explorer especially liked walking on the “rock” walls that run alongside the play area. Another nice touch is the fact that this area is under cover – key when you consider that this part of town gets uber hot come summer.
My favorite part of the play area is what’s right behind it, of course – Lake Balboa. The 27-acre lake is home to a ton of birds, like the mallards, pigeons, wood ducks and coots we saw (to name but a few).
Walking away from the play area and toward a cascade that runs off the lake, we spotted not only a great blue heron that seemed to be posing just for us, but also a great egret!
The little explorer wasn’t nearly as impressed as I. He was content to chase the squirrels down the long grassy, tree-lined area that runs alongside the lake.
He chased, laughed and talked with the squirrels – even hugged the trees they ran up to escape him. Combine that with some bird chasing, a snack and several rides down the slide and it was a perfect morning.
A word of caution: We visited Anthony C. Beilenson Park during the middle of the week. I’ve read reviews that suggest this place isn’t nearly as peaceful come weekends, when parking is harder to come by and large, festive gatherings negate any chance at quiet time in nature.
Three Simple Ways for Kids to Connect With Nature at Anthony C. Beilenson Park
- Go birdwatching. Look to the water, the trees and the ground to see how many different kinds of birds you can discover.
- Explore a tree. There are tons of trees here begging to be investigated. How many kinds can you find?
- Go for a bike ride. The bike path that meanders around the park looks perfect for kids.
- This 80-acre park has a ton of activities to choose from, with the 27-acre Lake Balboa taking center stage
- Weekdays are idyllic; weekends tend to be crowded with large family gatherings that might detract from the mood
- Two covered play structures (a must on hot days), one that’s designed specifically for toddlers
- Plenty of scenic park benches adorn the lake
- A stroller-friendly walking path runs around the lake; another bike path runs around the park
- Several free parking areas throughout the park
- Ample picnic tables, barbecue pits and restrooms
- Fishing on the lake is permitted
- Blooms from the park’s cherry blossom trees take center stage come spring
Anthony C. Beilenson Park is located at:
6300 Balboa Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91406