There are few places you can get closer to a live, fully operational runway than the Van Nuys Airport's Public Observation Area. Built with kids in mind, the area includes picnic tables as well cut outs of a control tower, police car and fire truck -- in front of a mini-runway. A speaker also plays air traffic control information on the planes taking off and landing.
I first wrote about the Van Nuys public observation area in 2009:
Open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset, the observation area is located off of Woodley Avenue at the end of Waterman Drive, adjacent to the east side of the airfield.
The VNY observation area hit the Blogger Preschooler's sweet spot -- we watched as airplanes and helicopters constantly took off and landed.
This time, I came with both the Blogger Kid and the Blogger Toddler 2.0, along with their grandpa. And I smartly brought along Blogger Kid's bike. He drove up and down the mini-runway, pretending to be a plane, while the Blogger Toddler kept an eye on the take offs and landings. The L.A. County fire department's helicopters are stationed there, and we watched as helicopters took off to battle a nearby brush fire.
If you've got young kids, the Van Nuys Airport public observation deck is a good way to entertain. And Balboa Park is nearby as well.