Best of L.A.

Best Of 2009

Neighborhoods

  • + Beverly Hills
  • + Burbank
  • + Central California
  • + Central San Gabriel Valley
  • + Chinatown/ Elysian Park
  • + Crescenta Valley
  • + Culver City
  • + Downtown
  • + East L.A.
  • + Echo Park
  • + Foothill Cities
  • + Glendale
  • + Hollywood
  • + Inglewood
  • + Koreatown
  • + Long Beach
  • + Los Feliz
  • + Malibu
  • + Melrose/ Beverly/ Fairfax
  • + Mid-Wilshire/ Hancock Park
  • + Monterey Park/ Alhambra/ S. Gabriel
  • + Northeast L.A.
  • + Northern California
  • + Orange County
  • + Out of Town
  • + Pacific Palisades
  • + Pasadena and vicinity
  • + Pomona and beyond
  • + Riverside County
  • + Rowland/ Hacienda Heights
  • + San Bernardino County
  • + San Diego County
  • + San Fernando Valley
  • + San Francisco
  • + San Francisco Bay Area
  • + San Jose
  • + Santa Barbara County
  • + Santa Clarita and Beyond
  • + Santa Monica
  • + Silver Lake
  • + South Bay
  • + Southeastern Cities
  • + USC to South L.A.
  • + Venice/ Marina del Rey
  • + Ventura County
  • + West Adams/ Crenshaw/ Baldwin Hills
  • + West Hollywood
  • + West L.A.
  • + Westchester/ LAX
  • + Westlake
Map It

Bars & Clubs

Food & Drink

People & Places

Shopping & Services

MORE

Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

BEST WAY TO GO HOLLYWOOD
Hollywood Sign Trail

Many years ago, in 2000, the Hollywood sign was lit up — some say poorly — for the millennium celebrations that were taking place around the world on New Year's Eve. In Paris, New York, London and other world-class cities, celebrants were dazzled by light shows and fireworks. L.A. managed only to shine a few laser beams at our most-renowned landmark, with the event fizzling in disappointment. Jay Leno, who made a personal appearance at the Hollywood sign that night, cracked jokes about it. Nevertheless, the evening gave this reporter, who was there, some interesting information on how to hike to the sign. All the details won't be divulged here, but let's say that you motor up Beachwood Drive past the Beachwood Market and make a left on Ledgewood Drive. You'll pass Humphrey Bogart's old house and come to a stop sign. The side road will take you to a big iron gate and a sign that reads: "Restricted Entry: No Hiking Allowed to the Hollywood sign." Locals have been ignoring the warning for years. It's a great hike on a wide, dirt path that offers tremendous views of downtown, the San Fernando Valley and the ocean (on clear days). You actually end up above the landmark, and get a true feel for just how huge those white letters are. The Hollywood sign trail is never crowded, only takes about 40 minutes for the round trip, and you'll impress anyone you invite who's feeling like a rule-breaker. After seeing the sign, you can take another path that breaks off and ends at the Griffith Observatory, a round trip of three or four hours. Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood.

—Patrick Range McDonald
Mount Lee in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, 90068
MAP
BEST HIKE TO KILL YOUR DOG
Griffith Park
Photo: JuanCarlos Chan/Los Angeles Dept of Recreation and Parks

Pick a really hot day. Go ahead, have a long, languid breakfast at the Alcove with your girlfriend and her mother, thereby ensuring that the sun is well overhead. Take excited and unsuspecting black-haired dog to Griffith Park (his favorite place) even though you know he doesn't really take to the sun. Do not, repeat, do not bring water, thinking dog will be fine with a little on the way up. Start at Boy Scout Drive, climb to observatory. Ignore creeping signs of exhaustion, already. Drink water, making sure dog laps some up at the fountain. Continue on up past the sign to Berlin (5,759 miles), leaving the trees behind. Ignore signs of searing heat, such as wilting girlfriend and the egg frying on dog's back. Focus instead on girlfriend's Italian mother, who is taking to the sun and the hill like Pliny, the Younger to Mt. Vesuvius. If she can do it, you can do it — never mind the dog. Try not to think about Pliny, the Elder (who died in an eruption on Mt. Vesuvius). Whistling the theme song from "Bridge On the River Kwai," continue on up the long, shadeless hillside until about halfway up; dog begins to slow down, like a robot whose batteries are running out. Pick up dog, and continue on 100 yards until you look like a robot whose batteries are running out. Ask Latino family for water they brought for their Chihuahua, which is half the size of their water bottle. Don't admit that you are a cruel, gringo idiot; thank them quickly and look the other way. Find some shade the size of a dollar bill: Squeeze your dog into it and wait for him to recover enough for you to carry him the rest of the way. Consider the possibility of your dying from heart attack while carrying dog, and how stupid that would be. Don't continue to top of hill with Pliny, the Younger, but stumble on to Dante's View, and its horse water trough. Dunk dog in the trough, place in shady garden. Dunk him again. Watch dog eventually reanimate, like one of those flattened sponges at Trader Joe's when immersed in water. Cry at his wagging tail, but don't let anyone see you, especially girlfriend and her mother, Pliny. Think about explaining dead dog to your children all the way home. Make promises to God, which you will of course not keep. Once home, share beer with dog and fall into deep slumber. Dream of dog swimming lazily in the Mediterranean, Vesuvius erupting in the distance. Dog is doing the backstroke and smiling. Boy Scout Drive at Vermont Avenue in Griffith Park, Los Feliz.

—Tom Christie
4730 Crystal Springs Dr., Los Angeles, 90027
MAP
323-913-4688
BEST PUBLIC BATHING
Hankook Sauna and Spa

Bathing, particularly in public, is the tradition of the Koreans, the Japanese, and the Turks. Getting naked with a bunch of locals and scrubbing the dead out of your skin is not an American pastime, not because it involves socializing or cleanliness or water, but because people here tend to prefer to be seen traipsing around in blue jeans and high heels rather than floating around in the nude with wrinkled skin and limp hair. The idea of communal showers, of scouring your body as you would a cast iron skillet, rubbing, scrubbing, scrutinizing and scraping to rid your person of every stale skin cell until it becomes one real, live shining spectacle, is as intimidating as an extreme sport. At Hankook Sauna and Spa, the exclusively female baths in Koreatown, you can spend a day prancing around in the nude with dozens of other strangers, soaking in steaming Jacuzzis, sweating in the dry sauna, leeching your pores in the herb steam room, holding your breath in the freezing cold pool 'til your body begs to return to the heat. At Hankook, spa etiquette is not explained, but assumed. Rinse off in the showers between rooms and pools, smother your hair with conditioner and bake it in the sauna until your mane shines as brilliantly as an otter pelt. There are rooms founded on temperature: a glistening Ice Room that looks like a Christmas display at Stats Home Decorative and feels like you're sitting naked in an industrial freezer; the Crystal Jade Salt Room where you can lie down on warm, green rocks and listen to the chirp of women gossiping in Korean. Day spa use is $15 for the whole day, but for an extra fee, a Hankook assistant will provide massage, acupressure, manicures and pedicures, even a haircut. Rinse. Scrub. Soak. Repeat. 3121 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A. (213) 388-8899, hankooksauna.com.

—Erica Zora Wrightson
3121 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, 90006
MAP
213-388-8899
BEST HIKE IN YOUR JUICY COUTURE
Temescal Canyon Trail

The Temescal Canyon Trail is a great little trek and a nice alternative to a hardcore survivalist hike. You are more likely to see hikers dressed in Juicy Couture than REI in this neighborhood hike for the well-heeled denizens of Pacific Palisades. Alas, you may not find the same esprit de corps of the hikers one encounters deep in the San Gabriels or San Bernardinos. But what do you expect? The trail head is just off Sunset Boulevard, not Angeles Crest. Still, this is a very respectable hike that packs 1,000 feet of elevation gain in its four-mile loop. And where it crosses a creek at the top of the canyon, there is a nice little waterfall much of the year. Beware: This trail can be a beastly hot and dusty experience on summer afternoons. Most people take this loop clockwise, which packs the elevation gain into the very beginning and puts the ocean at one's back. Try taking it counterclockwise and treat yourself to views of the Pacific from Malibu to Palos Verdes on the way down. Temescal Canyon Trail, intersection of Temescal Canyon Rd. and Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades.

—Jedd Birkner
15601 W. Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades, 90272
MAP
310-840-2187
BEST HIKE TO THE OTHER SIDE
Ski Hut Trail from Manker Flats

The highest point in L.A. County is Mt. Baldy (officially known as Mt. San Antonio). The most serious trail up the summit is the so-called Ski Hut Trail from Manker Flats. You start at approximately 6,000 feet and gain 3,900 vertical feet in the next 4.2 miles. This calculates to a mind-blowing 928 feet of elevation gain per mile. To put this in perspective, when you hike Mt. Whitney (tallest peak in the Lower 48), while you go much farther and higher, your elevation gain is only 563 feet per mile. In other words, this is a kickass hike, and almost all uphill! Summer or winter, sun or snow, this is a strenuous little 8.4-mile day hike. My daughter and I have even come up with some colorful nicknames for some segments like Death Hill, the Hill of Death, Death Creek ... you get the idea. Enjoy! Baldy Road to Manker Flats: The trail head starts by the Port A Pottys on your left. Don't forget a wilderness pass to park your car: $5 for a day pass, or $30 for an annual pass; available at the information center in Baldy Village or at Big 5 and REI stores.

—Jedd Birkner
8600 Mount Baldy Rd., Mt Baldy, 91759
MAP
BEST TRAIL THAT INCLUDES WATERFALLS AND ISN'T ON FIRE
Winding Way

Thanks to the recent mountain inferno, these days you'll find fewer areas to hike. So while Switzer Falls isn't likely to be in great shape, Malibu is not on fire (for now), so gear up! About five miles north of Pepperdine, and just south of Point Dume, is a small road called Winding Way. You have to park just off PCH and trek a good mile on pavement through a residential area before you get into the real nature — but it's worth it. There, the trail weaves back and forth across the creek, eventually leading you to the base of Escondido Falls. The first waterfall is relatively puny (and has been known to have a vile stench), but if you follow the trail to the right, you'll be led to a second, and much more grand, aquatic display. The waterfall is roughly 150 feet tall, with a mossy overhang and a big pool at its base, making it difficult not to be a little awestruck. Some people try to work their way up farther and climb to the top, but it's very dangerous, highly unstable and littered with both fresh and rusty barbed wire. It's not recommended, and is a fairly foolish thing to do ... but does offer one heck of a view.

—Noah Galuten
27200 Winding Way Rd., Malibu, 90265
MAP
X

BEST WAY TO GO HOLLYWOOD: Hollywood Sign Trail

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >