RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Most of us haul our kids around in some kind of stroller. Maybe it's the barebones, umbrella kind; or maybe the super-tricked-out, room-for-your-latte, awesome-turning-radius kind. But really, if given the choice, would a kid rather ride in a stroller or a wagon? And not just any wagon - a really big wagon. Well, apparently, wagons are all the rage these days. Molly Callister is on the story.
(SOUNDBITE OF GIANT RIVER OTTERS)
MOLLY CALLISTER, BYLINE: Outside the sea otter exhibit at the LA Zoo, 5-year-old Emily checks out the sights while her baby sister lounges in a canopy-covered wagon. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The exhibit is of giant river otters, not sea otters.]
MAGGIE HATHAWAY: She runs this place. (Laughter)
CALLISTER: Maggie Hathaway, the girls' aunt, is one of a growing number of parents and caregivers who are putting their kids in wagons instead of strollers.
HATHAWAY: Sea World or the fair, anywhere where maybe the little one wants to lay down.
CALLISTER: The bright-blue wagon is stocked with pillows and toys, and the girls couldn't be happier. Hathaway's only complaint is the oversized wagon can be hard to navigate through crowds or tight spaces.
UNIDENTIFIED FAIR WORKER: Please have your tickets ready for the next ride, and enjoy your time at the fair.
CALLISTER: At the recent LA County Fair, Brenda Lemus has an even bigger wagon she bought at a booth here six years ago. It's 7 feet long and about 4 feet tall. It has wood railings; the front is emblazoned with an LA Dodgers logo. The back holds a cargo rack with an ice chest, and there's a chrome storage locker under the wagon's belly.
BRENDA LEMUS: We put our undercarriage on the bottom, just so we wouldn't have to be carrying bags and bags and bags. So we could just put everything there, and it's very convenient.
CALLISTER: Convenient? Yes. Affordable? Maybe not.
TIFFANY NELSON: We average from about $395 to the oh-my-God range.
CALLISTER: That's Tiffany Nelson, the owner of West Coast Wagons. She says high-ticket wagons, with DVD players and other accessories, can cost up to $2,000 and usually go to her celebrity clientele. Truth is, most kids hate being confined in strollers. But they don't necessarily want to walk, either.
NELSON: Kids, God bless them, they get lazy. They really do.
CALLISTER: So parents say wagons are a good compromise. The kids have more room to play, and parents have room to load up their stuff, too. Heavy duty wheels and handles even make them easier to pull along. But that wasn't Nelson's original intent. She customized her first wagon when her daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and couldn't sit up in a stroller. Now, West Coast Wagons has a line dedicated to kids with disabilities.
NELSON: It's nice to be able to help those kids out as well; get them out of those wheelchairs, get them out of those predicaments.
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CALLISTER: Back at the fair, the Lemuses and their Dodgers wagon are headed to the booth where they bought it six years ago, when their daughter was a newborn.
LEMUS: And we always stop at his spot and see if there is anything new that we could purchase or add or...
CALLISTER: Always in search of something bigger and better.
For NPR News, I'm Molly Callister in Los Angeles.
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MARTIN: This is NPR News.
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