If your view of fatherhood is colored and painted solely by what you see on television you might think that our role is limited to serving as provider/disciplinarian or bumbling fool. While there is always some truth in stereotypes the reality is often a far cry from what is disseminated on television and film.One doesn’t have to try very hard to find ample proof that fathers are quite involved in the lives of our children. In a city like Los Angeles some people might say that fathers have too many choices of things to do with their children. Choice is a good thing because it provides so many different opportunities you have to work hard to be bored.

So let’s take a moment to look at a small selection of some of the very cool things that you can do with your sons and daughters.

(credit: lego.com)

Lego Store

2148 Glendale Galleria
Glendale, CA 91210
(818) 549-0733
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585 South Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92083
(714) 991-6512
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Monday-Saturday: 10:00am-9:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am-7:00pm

When friends of mine ask me for suggestions about things to do with their children one of the first things that I suggest is a visit to the Lego Store at The Glendale Galleria. The first Tuesday of every month the Store has what they call a monthly mini model build. It is free to children from ages 6-14.

The fun begins at 5 P.M. and lasts until supplies run out. My advice is to make a point to get there early so that you can get a good place in line as sometimes it can get crowded. While it goes without saying, don’t forget your checkbook and your ability to say no as that place has some very cool sets.

(credit: traveltown.org)

Travel Town

5200 Zoo Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90027
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Monday-Friday: 10:00am-4:00pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00am-5:00pm

Travel Town should be required stop on every father’s list of places to visit with his kids. It has all of the elements that you want in a place to visit with your children. It is educational, interactive and free.

It is an outdoor museum that provides you with an up close look at the trains that used to be such a big part of the United States and in particular the western states.

As a native Angeleno, Travel Town has always been a part of my life. My childhood memories are filled with many happy moments there with friends and family. Some of those are of birthday parties and others are just happy days spent picnicking and playing there.

Since becoming a father I have had the chance to develop many new memories of watching my children laugh and smile. One of the sweeter moments came during a train ride around the park on the Travel Town Railroad. My then 2.5 year old daughter sat on my lap where she clapped and laughed during the entire ride.

(credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The Santa Monica Pier

200 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401
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The Santa Monica Pier is another one of those places that the smart father keeps on his list of places to visit.

During warmer weather they run their movies at the pier series. The movies are free viewers are encouraged to bring blankets and or chairs. For those who are old enough to remember the days of the drive-in it is sort of a similar experience that you can now share with your children.

But the pier has many other activities and things to do beyond movies. Another fun thing to do is to visit the aquarium. For a small fee you gain access to a number of different exhibits that include touch tanks in which you are encouraged to touch crabs, starfish, sea urchins and more. Nearby are exhibits containing sharks, rays, octopi, eels, crustaceans and more. The kids and I have spent more than a few moments talking about these sea creatures and what life is like beneath the sea.

And don’t forget the carousel and the old fashioned soda fountain that operates inside the carousel building. That soda fountain provides sundaes, shakes, malts and more than a few smiles. If you have young children do yourself a favor and help them with their dessert as otherwise you might end up wearing it. I am not saying whether that happened to me or if I needed to purchase a new shirt afterwards.

(credit: skirball.org)

Skirball Cultural Center

2701 North Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 440-4500
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Tuesday–Friday, 12:00pm–5:00pm
Saturday–Sunday, 10:00am–5:00pm

The Skirball Cultural Center sits in between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. It features a permanent Noah’s Ark exhibit that has been a big hit with my children as well as many of my friends.

It is an interactive exhibit that does a good job of holding the attention of the younger set as well as kids who are a bit older. While walkup tickets are available it is worth ordering tickets in advance as it saves a bit of wear and tear upon dad’s patience.

There are other exhibits that rotate in and out of the center. My son fell in love with the comic book exhibit and was more than a little surprised to learn that I knew as much or more about superheroes as he did.

(credit: rocketfizz.com)

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop

2112 West Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, California 91502
(818) 846-7632
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This is the sort of candy shop that a dentist, er child dreams about. Ok, full disclosure I dream about this place- at least I would if I dreamed about candy shops. Long rows of candy and stacks of different flavored sodas are intermixed with retro toys and gag gifts.

Just walking the aisles brings back all sorts of memories of my own childhood. My children have heard more than a couple of stories about how I would save up my allowance to buy candy XYZ.

And where else can you mosey up to the counter to pay for a bottle of Sarsaparilla? There are multiple locations so if the Burbank location isn’t convenient it is quite possible another one will be. But even if they aren’t the smile your children will give you is worth a few extra minutes in the car.

Joshua Wilner is a writer and father of two in Los Angeles.