Family soccer games, croquet, throwing the ball with our dogs, the beauty of the dew and sun the next morning on freshly cut grass. I don't want suggest that only lawn is the way to go, but it has a place in a families yard. Regarding maintaince. Unless you are replacing your lawn with cactus you still have to water, and the 600 calories I burn cutting the lawn means I can enjoy seconds at dinner with no guilt.
Nothing against lawn that actually gets used! But, look around you at the expanses of grass that never have a human or animal set foot on them except the poor sod who has to mow and apply chemicals.
Down here, every thing you have to do to grow lawn is expensive, work intensive and bad for the environment. Fertilizer, fungicide, insecticide, mowing, edging and watering - water's expensive here! I know it must be in CA, too.
My daughter has a big back yard in Salt Lake City that is planted entirely with perennials and shrubs, for the pathways for her two Aussie dogs, we put down flagstones or wood chip mulch and planted a few small "lawns" of low maintenance red clover for open space. Those two very active dogs get lots of running space and even have an established "lap track" all around the fence perimeter that they chase each other around several times per day. It's a thing of beauty and very water efficient too. The smaller front yard has vinca as groundcover and magnificent bulbs, shrubs and perennial plantings around a big maple tree. It's almost maintenance free.
Just my opinion, but lawns belong in England and the Pac. NW where nice grass will grow without effort for the short summer season. Elsewhere, there are groundcovers and mulches that would make play areas and not use such an immense amount of water resources and chemical pollutants to keep them looking nice. For croquet, I guess you do need grass but when you consider your water bill, that makes it a pretty expensive game, I'm guessing.