Hike, stroll, Relax. Enjoy the Leisure side of La!
Los Angeles is hectic. Surprisingly one can find peace amongst the chaos, but it does take some digging. I’ve done the work to find my slice of serenity and I hope you’ll find your’s too. Sometimes all you need is an open trail, a patch of green grass, and a vantage point to feel the warm glow of a California sunset. Here are 15 ways to slow down the frenzy while living in or visiting Los Angeles.
1. The Getty Villa
Most people know about The Getty, but when I mention the villa its usually met with an eye brow curl followed by, “What’s that?” The Getty Villa is a delight for ancient history buffs and an afternoon well spent for anyone with an eye for beauty. Where else can you stroll halls of a villa with Greek and Egyptian artifacts amongst a sea-side view of the Pacific? The mummy of Herakleides is on permanent display here with a visual guide revealing of each layer of preservation. The antique pottery, emerald jewelry, bronze statues and bright mosaic fountains are all staple features the grounds and did I mention the entrance fee is free? Parking of course is $20, but hey that’s LA.
2. Lake Shrine Self-Realization Fellowship
The Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens are open free of charge on Wednesday through Sunday. Lake Shrine is part of Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Paramahansa Yogananda. Dedicated in 1950 he envisioned a spiritual environment where people from all over the world could come and experience peace of heart and mind.
Today Lake Shrine offers a lakeside meditation garden with shrines, waterfalls, a hilltop Temple with weekly inspirational services and meditations, a retreat for silent renewal and an ashram for the monks of Self-Realization Fellowship. Its the perfect place to take a quiet stroll, meditate on a bench and take in the serene oasis.
Dimsum, sushi, noodles and Taoist Temples line the streets of Chinatown offering a sensory experience for sights and taste. Vibrant shops, cultural museums and a statue of Bruce Lee are at the heart of Chinatown main plaza. Come for lunch, vibrant gifts and steamed sesame buns. Stroll down to road for some off-beat art at The Museum of Velvet Art.
4. Hollywood Sign Hike
The infamous Hollywood Sign, get your iPhone ready. This trail is just over 3 miles round trip and takes about an hour and a half in total. The first climb takes you to Wisdom Tree, a beautiful viewpoint once reaching the crest of the Hollywood hills. Continue to the right to follow the ridge line until it dead ends by the water tower. There are a few ways to access the trail from Griffith Park, Beachwood Canyon Trail or Cahuenga Trail but I take the steep path up on the Wonder View Trail. Bring water and go early before the crowds.
5. Hancock Park
Tucked in-between 6th and Wilshire, Hancock Park has a few sights within walking distance. You can walk the path to the Urban Light display from here while gazing into the bubbling tar pits. The La Brea Tar pits are just a jaunt over the property and if you like to imagine a world with saber tooth tigers and wooly mammoths, the in-park plaques are fun to read. The Tar pits are actually liquid asphalt bubbling up from petroleum reservoirs preserving fossils and bones from the pre-historic wooly mammoth. The whole lot is currently under construction but for an open space with interesting perspective, its worth the stop. Be sure to check out a segment of the Berlin Wall just across from Urban Light Display.
6. Culver City Stairs + Doris Japanese Garden
The Kenneth Hahn State Recreation area is an expansive park with ponds, trails and picnic areas. This serene nature walk is a hidden gem just outside of Culver City, near the Culver steps. If you’re looking to get your workout in, this is the place to start. Hike the Culver City Stairs from the entrance on Jefferson Blvd to the top of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. From there take the trail to the right, pass the bathrooms and continue left through the upper parking lot. Continue down the hill, following the Jim Webb Trail. Walk over the Park to Playa Bridge to the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation area. The Doris Japanese Garden is just on the other side of the bridge, and there are several places to lay down in soft grass or continue ahead on one of the many trails.
7. Malibu Temple
Near Calabasas, the Malibu Hindu Temple is a South Indian Style temple and one of the largest Hindu temples in the Western Hemisphere. The temple is active with ceremonies and gatherings and provides many spaces for meditation and picnicking. It is a beautiful place to visit before or after spending a day in Malibu.
8. Hike to the top of Griffith Observatory
I like the hike up to the top of Griffith from the Trails Cafe or the Bird View Trail, both are easy and under an hour out and back. The Observatory has some of the best views of the city any time of the day or night. Inside the museum are many exhibitions and regular occurring shows at the planetarium.
9. Santa Monica Sunset
Park your car on Ocean Avenue and take one of the pedestrian bridge’s over the 101 to catch the sunset from the beach. If you have bikes you can easily get to the beach bike path from here or simply enjoy the walk with architectural views as you pass over the highway and onto the sand. The Palisades Park is the patch of green just above the PCH, another great spot for taking in the sunset. There is a great pagoda here just off Ocean Avenue and Washington where scenes from La La Land were filmed.
10. Hollywood Reservoir Trailhead
if you’re on the East Side be sure to check out the Hollywood Reservoir, a historical bridge landmark with trails that loop around the water. If you run, bike or stroll with kids you will find ample space to do your thing. The best part is that this trail feels a million miles from Los Angeles without having to take a long drive. The parking lot fills up fast but with plenty of cars coming and going. After you work up an appetite, drive over to Beachwood Cafe for a cozy breakfast or lunch.
11. Franklin Park Turtles
Franklin Park is a nature center and outdoor space with trails, picnic tables and a turtle pond. The loop around the water is short but the turtles are fun to watch, there are hundreds! Ranch Trail is just down the road off Franklin Canyon Drive and is a nice and quick trail with great trees and a steep summit.
12. The Flower Market Downtown
Truly, madly, deeply….Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers, create a gushing bouquet for yourself (and a friend) for under $25. You deserve it!Spanning several blocks near the fabric district, the shops here have everything from Fig trees, Hydrangeas, Lilly’s, Roses and Succulents. Many of the vendors are just off the sidewalk but there are also a couple warehouse spaces full of floral bliss. All the blossoms and foliage you can imagine!
13. The Venice Canals
Venice locals will tell tales of a former time, the golden age of Venice if you will. Yet old relics are still radiantly engraved amongst the shiny new restaurants and cafes. The Venice Canals and walk streets, a shining example. I recently visited Venice Beach on a holiday weekend. I do not recommend the hectic, heated frenzy of a late summer, holiday weekend Venice jaunt! Mercifully I was a few streets from the canals and was able to take in some shade amongst the serene and still waters.
14. Mandeville Canyon
A runners paradise. Situated near Brentwood and adjacent to the Palisades, Mandeville Canyon is gloriously empty of foot traffic and surprisingly lush. Large trees, a tire swing and trails that cut up the canyon ridge with ocean views are simply all a girl needs to feel free from the city’s grid.
15. Piano Lobby Bar at The Peninsula
Equally is my love for peaceful outdoor spaces as my love for gorgeous interiors and decadent leisure. Take your coffee or tea at the Piano Lobby Bar located inside the Peninsula Beverly Hills. For a sophisticated moment, come here Sunday mornings accompanied by Tony, the Peninsula Pianist.