By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
BEST PLACE FOR OLD-SCHOOL CHESS
The game of chess has become a largely digital pastime. Many casual players no longer bother with physical boards and pieces, preferring instead the convenience of online play. For Angeleno chess lovers looking to reconnect with the tactile and social pleasures of the game, however, there’s the Los Angeles Chess Club. From his space in West L.A., founder Mick Bighamian conducts lessons, runs tournaments and hosts a salon for casual games. Don’t let Mick’s “Senior Master” title intimidate you: His joint is hospitable to noobs and chessboard ninjas alike. The first visit is free, and membership fees are only about $10 a month for adults (and less for seniors and kids). For members, tournament fees are usually $10, while casual games and most classes are free. As a break from Internet play and a place to meet others who share a passion for chess, the club is a retro taste of three-dimensional joy. 11514 Santa Monica Blvd., W.L.A. (310) 795-5710, lachessclub.com.
BEST NONTHREATENING YOGA STUDIO
Located on a picturesque, tree-lined street in Glendale, Yoga at the Village is for the yoga-curious. Classes are upbeat, full of humor and without the I-can-do-a-headstand pretension that’s common in neighboring L.A. studios. Owner Elyse Briggs ensures an ego-free environment. “Sometimes I have the class give a collective ‘Oy,’ on an exhale . It’s not so serious,” she says. The studio hums with relaxation, enchanced by its high, wood-beamed ceilings and a huge painted “Om” by the entrance. Classes are proletariat-friendly: newcomers can take a full week for $10; after that, regular sessions are $12. Plus, the studio is remarkably well-equipped. There’s no charge for a mat, and that’s rare in the yogasphere. And there’s helpful equipment: a 12-foot pole that creates a limb-expanding experience for four backs when attempting a pose known as “downward dog,” a rope wall that aids in body lengthening, and teacher Carl Dawson’s signature Trestle Horse, which has stretched out a range of students from fit athletes to folks in wheelchairs. Most classes are small enough to be considered intimate, and meditation courses are available. After a final namaste, cruise to the nearby Jon’s Market and load up on Armenian specialties before heading home. 1306 Sonora Ave., Glendale. (818) 265-9833, yogaatthevillage.com.
BEST PARKING LOT TURNED RUNNER’S PARADISE (SORT OF)
Remember the Forum? You do if you lived in L.A. in the 1980s, especially if you were a basketball fan. It was the site of many a victory for the Showtime Era Lakers. Although today’s championship Lakers have a new home, the Forum hasn’t closed shop. Between revival meetings and reunion rock concerts, the dark-blue building still brings a fair amount of money to Inglewood. But it’s loved by neighbors for a different reason: The vast parking lot is the best place for miles around to power-walk, run or walk your dog — though some prefer pretty Inglewood Park Cemetery across the street. Four times around the lot’s outer perimeter roughly yields three miles, and locals really appreciate the safe feel of the wide-open, unobscured space. Local joggers look out for each other, so it’s got a nice community feel. Instead of deteriorating, the old Forum is more like a valued old friend — still bordered by a street called Kareem Court. 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. (310) 330-7300.
—Juliette Akinyi Ochieng
BEST INDOOR PICKUP BASKETBALL
Fresh air is nice, but playing basketball outdoors on concrete is bad for your back, your knees, your shoes and even your basketball. Indoor basketball, meanwhile, has become an expensive and difficult proposition. Membership for Sports Club/L.A. is ridiculously pricey, parking at UCLA takes four years off your life (plus, it’s costly) and most other indoor courts simply aren’t open to the public. But Memorial Park in Santa Monica has a wide range of open gym hours, with entry costing $2 for Santa Monica residents and $3 for everybody else. On one court, you’ll find older players running 3-on-3 or just shooting around, but on the other, you’ll come across some of the best full-court games in Los Angeles. The talent level is fairly high, but it’s the quality of play that really makes Memorial: The ball movement is swift, the shooting is crisp and both foul calls and complaints are kept to a minimum. There can be a decent wait for games, but unless you enjoy hearing players argue like juveniles while your back is giving out, this is the court you’ve been looking for. Currently, the primary open hours are Wednesday and Friday nights, and Saturday afternoons (all subject to change). 1401 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 450-1121.
BEST PILATES TO TAP INTO EMOTIONAL ISSUES
You could spend thousands on psychotherapy to find out that your neck pain is directly related to your domineering mother — or, for $20, attend Risa Sheppard’s mind-body mat class at Sheppard Method Pilates Studio, to work out your emotional, spiritual and physical kinks from the inside out. Sheppard begins each hour session with a “treatment,” or affirmation of truth, which you interpret to fit your own life. She proceeds with a series of floor exercises, each designed to “open up,” or “release” inflexibility and tightness, which — according to her methodology — directly connects to body parts that “hold back” emotions. There’s no intimidating equipment, just lots of hands-on instruction for students who range from neophytes to professional dancers. Sheppard has been teaching classic Pilates for 35 years and developed her Sheppard Method to instruct students on ways in which the body and mind can work together to ease pain, and gain flexibility and strength. You’ll perform standard exercises like the hundreds but also apply targeted movement to unlock emotions. 2180 Westwood Blvd., L.A. (310) 470-2828, sheppardmethod.com. Sat., 10 a.m.; Tues. & Thurs., 8 a.m. Also 4789 Vineland Ave., Toluca Lake, (818) 752-2227. Tues. & Thurs., 6:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.