L.A. City Parks Cheat Sheet

My friends! I present to you… a cheat sheet of my favorite L.A. City Rec & Parks spots and activities!

When you think of L.A. parks, Griffith likely comes to mind and, to the Valley folks, Balboa. But did you know that The Greek is an L.A. City Rec & Parks venue? And that the City has an aquarium?

Below are some of my favorite L.A. City Rec & Parks places.  Not to say that those other/usual places are not awesome. However, there’s so much more to our parks than the green space, open space, trails, and the oft-Instagrammed places. There are museums, festivals (especially in the summertime) and only-in-L.A. events (e.g., Muscle Beach Competition).  Most of the activities are FREE. Make sure you check out the websites for more info.

Last but not least, all opinions are alllll mine. This list is based on my personal explorations over the years.

Griffith Park Area

I am obsessed with Griffith Observatory. I’m there at least once a month.  But below are some of my other favorite activities at GP:

  • Tregnan Golf Academy – This is if you want to do a golf-related activity with your gal/guy but not really. The driving range has one of the best views of L.A. and Burbank. It’s also not intimidating for newbies, so you can learn together.  Check the schedule if you are interested in a class. Or if you want to practice on your own, call to make sure that there’s no class. It’s romantical, especially during sunset.

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  • Rent a bike! In addition to the yellow, dockless bikes, there is a bike rental place where you have a few more bike options. Rental spot is located near the Ranger Station on Crystal Springs Drive.
  • One more golf thing… Los Feliz Golf is Par 3, 9-holes. There is a diner on site. And if you want adult beverages, walk 30 seconds east to The Morrison, the best happy hour in L.A. I recommend you order their pretzels.

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  • If/when you go to Griffith Observatory, you should really, really watch the “The Once and Future Griffith Observatory” in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theatre. It’s a 24-minute film about the history of The Observatory and the renovation. I love it so much that I watch it every single time! Show begins at the top of the hour.

The Valley

  • Go for a boat ride at Lake Balboa Park. There is a waterfall on the north side of the lake. Pedal your swan (boat) to the waterfall for your Insta pic.
  • More bikes! Ride a surrey with the fam and friends!
  • Also in Lake Balboa Park, picnic by the stream, hang a hammock, chill. Best spots are south of the lake.
  • Climb rocks at Stoney Point Park.
  • Go for a short hike at Chatsworth Oaks Park. Down the street is a bbq joint. Across the street is Chatsworth Reservoir, as seen on Karate Kid.
  • The Hawaiian Festival at Northridge Park in the summertime is one of my favorite festivals.  Here’s an old flyer.

Northridge

  • Hansen Dam. I like how it feels like I am not even in L.A. when I’m here. There’s a lake, but also a pool. Discovery Cube LA is also onsite. There’s a great permanent exhibit on the Science of Hockey, sponsored by The Kings. It’s not just for kids!

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  • O’Melveny Park is a hidden gem. Again, it’s so far north that it doesn’t even feel like it’s in L.A. But it is! Great trails with rewarding views at various points.

East

  • Debs Regional Park has trails and a lake and not a lot of people know about it.
  • Elysian Park is not just a thoroughfare from the 5 to the 110. There’s so much more! Drive up to Angel’s Point for a great view of Dodgers Stadium and the City. The picnic areas are also quite peaceful.
  • Echo Park. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what I would like to add is that the coffee and spam sandwich with avocado at Beacon Echo Park will greatly improve your day and make you a better person. ‘K thanks.

Wessside!

  • Did you know that the Venice Boardwalk is under Rec & Parks? If you go to Muscle Beach on Memorial and Labor Day Weekends, there’s usually a body-building competition happening.

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  • One of my favorite places is Stoner Park because there is a water slide. I like water slides.
  • If you want to get your Hunger Games or Brave on, head to Rancho Park. There is a newly renovated archery range in the back. Make sure you visit Rancho Park Archers’ calendar for the Public Intro Class. You can’t just roll up.

South L.A.

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SAN PEDRO

  • Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is one of my favorite places. The exhibits are engaging and some are interactive.  The staff is super friendly. Make sure you go to the educational center across the way.  It’s where the grad and high school students hang out and do experiments. They are more than happy to share what they are doing with you. Also, check their calendar for community programs, like grunion runs tide pool walks.
  • Hey Rookie! Pool is not too far from Cabrillo. Great view of the Port of L.A. and Long Beach. And gorgeous pool!

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  • Most people already know about Angels Gate Park and the Korean Bell. But, go there when they have re-enactments! Also, walk around and venture to Fort MacArthur Museum, which is just north of the parking lot. In addition to the breathtaking view, there is so much more to this Park. It’s rich in art and history. So don’t just go and take a picture. Just sayin’. #keepingitreal
  • Point Fermin Park is just down the street, literally. It’s located where Gaffey ends. You can see it from Angels Gate.  This park reminds me of Ocean Park in Santa Monica, but without the tourists. Bite tips: When you get to the end of Gaffey, make a left. There a divey restaurant/bar.

Around Town/Mid City-ish/Etc.

  • Wattles Mansion is sooo close to Runyon but few are cool enough to know about. Now, you do! The Mansion is closed to the public but the park is open to the public. There is also a park just behind it, separate entrance. Great view of L.A. and super peaceful. Btw, the City has a lot of museums worth visiting.

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  • Last, but not least, Pan Pacific Park. What I love about this park is that it’s a simple, open, and public space in the middle of the epitome of the Hollywood L.A.

So these are a few of my favorite things.  If you do go, kindly tag #parkproudla!

Enjoy! And let me know what you think.

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53 Miles

One of my 2018 resolutions this year is to hike all 53 miles of Griffith Park’s official trails. It should be easy enough: pick a trail a week and I could be done by spring break!  How-evvver, I’m not exactly good with hills. There is a great likelihood that I could get into it for two weeks then forget about it. I’m keeping it real. So far, so good, though!

Miles 1 to 3. Maybe a bit more because I took a different route on the way down and got  lost for a bit. I hiked from The Observatory to Mt. Hollywood, which is not the same as the Hollywood sign.

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Two days later, I walked the trail from the Pony Rides to Circle K and then back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watts Up! Community Is Rich with Food For the Soul and the Tummy

I recently had the chance to take crashed a private tour of the Watts Towers Cultural Center with a friend. My friend was kind enough to invite me when he was invited to visit the historic site.  Prior to the visit, I had only really looked at the Watts Towers structure and admired the bright pieces of tiles, glass, bottles, seashells, housewares and other found objects attached to the structures.  Having worked in the area many years ago, I was somewhat familiar with the story of Watts Towers and about Mr. Simon Rodia, the artist.  But I didn’t know about or paid attention to the details which held the stories that truly made Watts Towers the special structure that it is.

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In addition to the Watts Towers, the Watts Towers Cultural Center has a gallery, art studio, music center, a garden, and other offer many arts programs. They partner with local schools, community organizations, and offer the programs to the community at-large.

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Homes across the street have similar art work that were done by students and artists from the Watts Cultural Center.

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Ms. Rosie Lee Hooks is the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus. She makes it happen! Rogelio, one of the educators, is from the community, took classes at Watts Towers, finished college, and now back in the community, giving back and enriching lives!

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After our tour, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite and discuss one of our projects.* The spot where we planned on meeting was under renovation and we were stumped on where else to go. Then a couple of young men suggested a place, Watts Coffee House, located half a block away. I was a bit wary because, although I could see the business sign, I didn’t any other sign that there was a business– a couple of tables and chairs outside, perhaps, or even one of those neon coffee signs.  When we asked the guys if they had food-food– as opposed to just coffee and muffins– they said, “They have everything!” It’s true!

Watts Coffee House is seriously a hidden gem– like, you have to find the door, walk in, then find the other door or follow the smell. Once you fine it, you will be rewarded with everything– soul food, pancakes, coffee. I had Gangsta #1 Combo which included a pork chop, link, salmon croquet, chicken wing, hash browns, three eggs, and a biscuit. OMG it was so delicious!

In addition to the deliciousness, it was so awesome to see Jordan High love and the wall signed by super cool musicians like Tony, Toni, Tone!

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My stomach, my heart, and my soul were full. What a great day!

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Staycation: Little Tokyo Edition

I am very Wesssiiide but I love everything about Los Angeles and make a point to explore the City.  The Boyfriend and I have been on this staycation kick in the past few months. L.A. is not just for tourists. We wanted to enjoy it, too. So we’ve made a point to stay the night at a local hotel, dine at local spots, and explore everything by foot only.  This Labor Day Weekend, we explored Little Tokyo.

FRIDAY

Our hotel of choice is usually the DoubleTree because 1) the amenities, 2) the price, and 3) the cookie. #keepingitreal #doubletreecookie

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We were only a couple of blocks away from Grand Park so we had a chance to enjoy The Music Center last night of Dance L.A. It was salsa night and I learned a step or two.

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After DanceLA, we ventured southwest to Gallery Row but ended up returning to Japanese Village Plaza for sushi. I can’t remember which restaurant because we stopped at a few spots and then picked the one with the shortest line. Even though it didn’t have the wait like others, we enjoyed the albacore tataki– which we were both craving.  It hit the spot which was all that mattered.

At 10 pm, it was still hot as Hades. After consulting my phone for an ice cream spot that was still open and had at least four stars, Honeymee was it.  I had the Matcha Affogato with was milk ice cream with liquid honey swirl and organic matcha. Heads up that I was on a matcha kick during this vacation. More matcha reports ahead.

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SATURDAY

Get there before 11:00 am or you will likely face a rush.  But, Jist Cafe next to EastWest Players is worth the wait. Thankfully, we arrived before the line out the door formed. The portions leave you satiated at least until early dinnertime.  They offer a unique twist to the familiar. I had a char siu pork with potatoes– akin to corned beef hash. Order it with rice to cut some of the richness. They have adult beverages, like mimosa but with soju, but I opted for coffee.

After brunch we, headed to the Arts District, which was poppin’ even during the day. We walked to the Arts District Co-op to pick up my race bib and swag for Blacklist LA’s HBDLA5K, which was happening the following evening.  Had I not been trying to Marie Kondo my closet, I would have purchased a stylish grey tote for $25. The Co-op had a lot of sylish and cute stuff at an affordable price.  Skip Forever21 and support the local designers that have their stuff here.

XLanesLA in the Little Tokyo Galleria was a blast.  For $50 an hour, we managed to get three games of bowling fun.  I might have even gotten quads and arms workout.  The bar at the back was legit and showed college football and Dodgers game on t.v.  Folks were friendly and the dude we sat next to worked at a very popular brewery nearby.  He gave us inside scoop about an upcoming event. Always be nice to people for they might give you delicious intel.

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Matcha! Matcha! Matcha! was the theme this weekend, especially with the 99 degree temp outside. On our way back from the Arts District and bowling, we stopped by Midori Matcha and ordered their match soft serve. It was really the right thing to do: hot weather + Little Tokyo = matcha soft serve.  I dont’ know how else to explain it. Since matcha is not sweet, add a little bit of honey for a light, sweet kick. You’re welcome.

After all the walking in the heat and  indulging in the matcha soft serve, I had to take a nap.  When I woke up, we headed to Highland Park for drinks and then a friend’s party.  This was sort of a cheat on the staycation, but I didn’t want to flake on plans made a month before our spontaneous staycation.

SUNDAY: RACE DAY

It’s been on our list so we’re happy that we finally made it.  The original plan was Eggslut but the line was waaay too long. I’m a grown up and don’t do lines.  We peaced out after we saw the line and decided that in order for us not to WWE and continue to love each , we needed to find a restaurant with A/C stat. Heat and hanger were really getting to us and affecting our usual positive affects.  Happy that despite our hungry delirium, we managed to think of Clifton’s.

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The kitsch was so worth it and the food was suprisingly good.  I had chilaquiles, oj, and a gelatin conconction (can’t say Jell-O anymore; ’cause, you know… that guy.)

They had a jazz band that was awesome. Adult beverages were served upstairs.

We walked back to the hotel, watched bad reality t.v., and I napped for two hours. Then I got up and ran BlacklistLA’s HBDLA5K.  The 5K reminded me why I loved running: it’s so great to be a part of L.A’s running community and be supported by people who don’t know me. I loved being told that ‘[I’m] almost there’ at every turn.  I finished the race better than I thought. I wasn’t last. The 5K got me re-energized about running again. Once upon a time, I ran one marathon and two half-marathons per year for 10 years.  I loved running so much but then I discovered golf and that didn’t suck at it.

I need to figure out how to do both…

 

MONDAY: Our Last Day

While recovering from my 5K from the previous evening, I flipped my Westways Magazine (that magazine you get from AAA) and checked out their various SoCal recommendations.  They actually had a page on matcha!!! So, for breakfast, I heeded their advice and headed to Cafe Dulce.  I have been to Cafe Dulce before but I followed their recommendation: matcha roti and coffee, black. It was perfect.  Do it!

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After our coffee and roti, we hung out at Marukai in Weller Court as we waited for Kinokuniya Bookstore to open. It was hot outside and we knew that Marukai would have air conditioning. The ice cream aisle was perfect.

The Boyfriend discovered Kinokuniya the previous day when he was out for curry and I was napping. I was in search of scented highlighters and the selection from the Sanrio store and other gift shops we visited were just aight. I wanted a couple of new highlighters and pens that would be fun to use. I am old school in that I enjoy writing letters and going crazy with highlighters when I read long docs. Kinokuniya was worth the wait. It was like being in a pen candy store! I bought of a couple of highlighters, a pen, and a new journal. I didn’t even make it to the back of the store or the locked and staffed pen case area.  It was too much for a first visit. There will be a next time very soon.

Next up:

We have staycationed in Hollywood (La La Land at Hollywood Bowl, Walk of Fame, Spiderman, stayed at Loews Hollywood Hotel on Highland,) and Pasadena (Rose Bowl, Old Town, and stayed at The Westin Pasadena). Not sure of our next destination– Universal, El Segundo, and San Pedro have all come up.  I/we suggest staycationing because there’s so much more to L.A.  Real staycationing– staying in a hotel and staying super local– offered an immersion to the different cultures and vibe in this great City. Were it not for our Little Tokyo staycation, I would not have discovered my new love: matcha.