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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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!


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


  • 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!


  • 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.


  • 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.


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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










Exploring L.A.: 818 and 310/Pilar’s Thanksgiving Weekend

REI told the world (or at least Americans) that they would be closing their stores the day after Thanksgiving and that people should #optoutside instead of shopping. According to my Facebook feed, we needed this reminder and we listened. Perhaps the 405, the 101, the 5, et cetera deter us from going anywhere past our own little neighborhood bubble. But, people! There is so much to see in Los Angeles for little to no cost! This past Thanksgiving weekend, I stayed local and rekindled my love for L.A.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day
Orange Line Bike Trail

Did you know that there is a bike trail that goes from North Hollywood to Chatsworth? The Orange Line Bike Trail is right next to the Orange Line Busway, which runs from–you guessed it– North Hollywood to Chatsworth. The total length of the trail is 18 miles.
Due to Thanksgiving duties (reheating the Gelson’s dinner, football games on t.v.), I only biked nine miles roundtrip, from Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Balboa Park to the Sherman Way Bus Stop. I was going to ride just a little bit further but it looked like it was about to rain. Most of the westbound trail from Balboa Park is on Oxnard and Topham Streets, which are located in residential neighborhoods. But once you get to Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills, go south a couple of blocks and you will hit a major shopping area.

Regardless of where you start on the trail, exploring Balboa Park should be on your agenda. One of the many reasons that people should not have any hate for the 818 is Balboa Park. Personally, I think Balboa Park is better than Griffith Park. Balboa Park has three golf courses, many running trails, the L.A. River (with water), a lake, many playgrounds, a baseball field for special needs sports programs, a shallow stream where the little ones could splash around, and even surreys for rent. And that’s only the central part of the park. Across Balboa Avenue, the west side of the park, there are numerous soccer and baseball fields and even a velodrome. The velodrome is one of the only three in Southern California. If you head south on Balboa to Burbank and go east, you will find the Hjelte Sports Center on the south side of the street. Keep going east and then head north when you get to Woodley.  Along Woodley, you will see signs for the toy helicopter/airplane field (Bruce/Caitlin Jenner used to come here), a  Japanese Garden (where you will see the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which was a Star Trek filming location), cross country trails, cricket fields, and even an archery range. And of course, lots of picnic tables everywhere.

If you decide to check out the Orange Line Trail, plan an hour or two for Balboa Park.

Black Friday
O’Melveny Park

You are welcome. This is an L.A. City Park tucked in the northwestern part of the City. I hiked this with a bunch of friends and some of us (me) huffed and puffed while others were able to quickly make it to the halfway point of the trail. Due to the cold wind, we turned around at the 1.5-ish mark.


Photo Credit: Carol Lee

I actually hiked this trail a couple of months ago. The very last part of the trail was steep and narrow.  The end of the trail was marked by a large stone at the very top. Were it not for the skunk that I saw in the bushes between me and the stone market, I could have crossed O’Melveny on my list of completed trails. Grrr! But this mini outdoor adventure did not just end with the skunk. Because instead of taking the same trail back down, I decided to take a different trail. The trail looked like it had nice zigzags with a view; I thought it would be more pleasant and scenic. However, after the first switchback, I quickly learned that taking this trail was not a good idea. The trail down was steeper than it looked and had loose dirt. I had to go down the trail sideways because it was slippery. I finally spotted the park but my happiness was short-lived as another steep hill with loose dirt separated me from the flatter parts of the trail. The hill was almost a vertical. Thank goodness for fellow hikers who placed a rope that others could hold onto. Otherwise, the only way I could have gone down that hill was on my behind. But when I finally made it down the hill, I spotted a mountain lion or a coyote from less than 50 yard away! I was by myself (note: NEVER a good idea) and didn’t know what to do. I froze and remained still. Thank goodness that I had cell reception up there and was able to Google what to do. This adventure was more than I bargained for.

Morals of the story:

  • Don’t knock out San Fernando Valley.
  • There are other hiking trails and parks in L.A. other than Griffith.  Yes, I agree Griffith is cool. My point is: explore.  Go beyond the cliché.
  • Do not go hiking by yourself.

Those are the reasons why my friend and I rallied a group. And after our hiking excursion, we feasted on everyone’s Thanksgiving leftovers. We ended the fun day by going to Wanderlust Creamery for some super delicious ice cream. I highly recommend lavender honey on ube cone.

Saturday, Confronting My Thanksgiving Meal
Culver City Park

The most difficult part of exercising for me is getting up when my alarm goes off. Like a toddler, sometimes I even exclaim in a loud, angry voice, “Ohmigod it’s so so early! Why? Why???” on the first alarm beep, as if it was someone else’s fault that it went off. Since it’s been hard to motivate myself lately, the only way I could get up to work out in the morning is to be accountable to other people. I pride myself on not being a flake. So, although I had to drive down from The Valley on that cold, Saturday morning, I was at the park by 8:00 a.m.  to meet my friends.  My friends and I joined Kate, from Happy Hour Body, who led the group in dynamic stretches and other warm ups.  After the super legit warm up (we did sit-ups and squats! whuuut!), we headed across the street to Ballona Creek Trail for a short run. The pace and distance varied based on ability.  Each of us had a running buddy.


The Ballona Creek Trail starts near Jefferson Boulevard near La Cienega and ends at the beach. Some people think that the area between Sepulveda to Lincoln can be shady. I think it’s fine; my friends agree with the other people, though. In general, it’s always better to not go alone. Plus, it’s more fun. Anyway, once you get to the end of the Ballona Creek Trail, the trail becomes the Marvin Braude Trail. Take the Marvin Braude Trail north to Marina Del Rey, Venice, and Santa Monica or south towards Playa Del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa, and Redondo.



Photo credit for this section: Jen Mason

Along the Route and Useful Info Along Trail:

Once upon a time five years ago, Jefferson Boulevard was just a short cut from Sepulveda to La Cienega. Now it’s the pretty much the eastern end of Silicon Beach. You’ll likely spot hipsters and creative types.

Exit Duquesne and head north to Downtown Culver City for coffee, brunch, bars, food, ice cream, etc. If you head south on Duquesne, you will see Culver City Park is just across the street. If you go east on Jefferson about half a mile, Baldwin Hills Overlook/Baldwin Hills Stairs/the New Stairs Because the Santa Monica Stairs is Now Passe will be on the south side of the street. There are a few bike racks at the bottom. Very few. The top has great view of L.A. and the Hollywood Sign on a clear day. The small amphitheater, garden area, and the visitor area are all worth the hike up. if you want to skip the trail and the stairs, you can also walk up Hetzler Road.

Exit Sepulveda: If you need a bathroom stop, there is a McDonald’s on the west side of the street.

Exit McConnell: There is Beverage Warehouse. It’s open to the public. Great selection. Also, if you want to grab a bite, take this exit and head past Culver Boulevard to Bonaparte and then head west on Bonaparte. Bonaparte turns into Glencoe (Glen Alla Park on the corner). Keep heading west for a couple of long blocks and you’ll see a shopping area with a lot of quick bite and dining options.

Saturday PM, Date Night/Just Another Night Out With The Boyfriend
The Getty Center

The Getty Center will be open until 9:00 p.m.on Saturdays until January 2nd. If you get there after 4:00 p.m., parking is $10, instead of the usual $15 per car. If there is long line to get on the tram, hike up! It’s about three-quarters of a mile. I hiked up wearing 2-inch boots and was fine.

The S.O. (Significant Other/Boyfriend) and I took advantage of the slightly quieter vibe. Most of the people who were there also seemed to be on dates. Who could blame them/us? It was such a clear day that we could clearly see the Pacific Ocean as soon as we arrived. We also arrived just in time to watch the sunset. Because it was not crowded, there were a lot of quiet spaces where we just chilled and drank our adult bevs before we checked out the exhibits. My favorite area: West Building, Lower Level: Sculptures.

And so I rest. The S.O. and I did the ultimate suburbia thing and went to Red Lobster and had Cold Stone Ice Cream.  Ok. *I* had Cold Stone Ice Cream.

Don’t wait for REI to remind you again. Keep exploring L.A. one area code at a time!


As what usually happens when one is sick at home, in their pajamas, and having a pity party of one, I looked to Facebook for some entertainment and/or virtual company.  I noticed that a number of my friends (for the record: also ‘real life’ friends) were posting about art and Los Angeles and some gathering.  Some were posting on Facebook from Twitter and had #ConvergeLA.  Well, I just finished watching a series on Netflix, emotionally drained (darn you Walter White!), and couldn’t talk or go anywhere, so I decided to follow the stream on Twitter.

Arts For LA hosted the 2013 LA Convergence, “a biennial day of collaboration, conversation, and shared goal setting for those working to make Los Angeles a healthy, vibrant, and prosperous region through arts and culture.” Through tweets, retweets, and top tweets. I was able to get a bit of a snapshot as to what struck a chord with some of the attendees– at least those who were tweeting.  For example, the connection between art and STEM– STEAM— resonated with a lot of people, especially when one of the panelists mentioned that 86% of MIT students play music.

In addition to learning, I was able to participate by direct messaging people who were tweeting as well as responding and asking questions via retweets. Direct messaging was akin to passing notes, while retweeting and quoting tweets were like raising my hands. I even “networked” a bit. Someone who saw one of my retweets visited my Twitter profile, clicked the link to this website, learned that we had similar interests and community work, sent me a message, and now we are connected.  One of the presenters saw my tweet asking about the presentation material and tweeted back that she could send it to me.

Of course there were limitations to the live stream experience, e.g., I was only privy to the information and thoughts of those who were tweeting.  And social media should never replace human interaction.  But this experience was a reminder that social media serves a much bigger purpose than just letting your friends know what you had for breakfast, sharing vacation pictures for people to envy, memes, and learning what the fox said.

Social media is truly another tool in community engagement.

Notes: I have participated in live tweets and chats before.  Perhaps because I was focused and not multi-tasking (e-mailing, on the phone, etc.), this one *almost* felt like I was actually in the room.    

ConvergeLA tweets
ConvergeLA tweets