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Best Jewish Reform Synagogue Built by Hollywood
Wilshire Boulevard Temple
Established in 1862, Congregation B'nai B'rith is the oldest reform synagogue in the city. Its home is the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, a striking, stately structure on the edge of what's now a congested stretch in Koreatown. Built in 1929, the temple was designed by A.M. Edelman, son of the congregation's...
Best Spot for a First Kiss
Hollenbeck Park Floating Bridge
Stretching across the narrowest part of a two-block-long lake, Hollenbeck Park Floating Bridge floats on thick pontoons barely visible under the intentionally aged wood planking. Made to rise and fall with water levels, the structure lends itself to the kind of romance you'd see in a Sofia Coppola film. The...
Best Yose-mine Hike
No need to drive six hours to see a waterfall. Eaton Canyon hikes start with a city view and end with a 50-foot cascade into a reflecting pond. The easy, almost flat walk suitable for children begins with a surreal cityscape of downtown Los Angeles; soon you're crisscrossing a shallow...
Best Spot for Beach Football Not on the Beach
Beach Park 1
Who's the guy in charge of naming Santa Monica parks? Surely they could find some more inspiring moniker than Beach Park 1 for this spectacular swath of buzz-cut-thin grass accented by towering palm trees, a place that solves the age-old "Everyone wants to be near the beach but no one...
Biggest Chinese Buddhist Temple in the West
Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple
If you've always wanted to visit a Chinese Buddhist temple, but you don't feel like going all the way to China, the Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple is better than next-best — it's the real deal, and much closer to home. The massive complex is a traditional Chinese Mahayana...
Best College Sculpture Garden
UCLA's sculpture garden is nice if you like pretty, but if you actually want to learn something from your institution of higher learning's statuary, head for the Old Trapper's Lodge Statues at Woodland Hills' Pierce College. There, you'll see how the West was won: on a trail soaked in the...
Best Place to Pretend You're in the Wilderness in the South Bay
Hopkins Wilderness Park
It's hard to find any true wilderness in the vast plain between LAX and the great Palos Verdes massif, which is what makes Hopkins Wilderness Park so much fun. Until 1977 this barren hilltop, perched on the border of Redondo Beach and Torrance, was home to a Minuteman site (the...
Best Psychedelic L. Frank Baum Overdose
Garden of Oz
Somewhere off of Beachwood Canyon, way up high, there's a hidden garden that I heard of, once in a lullaby. And though its exact location is a closely held secret, I set off to find it, my only clue the refrain of a half-remembered song from childhood — "Follow the...
Best Place to Spot Blue-Blood Zombies
San Gabriel Cemetery
We're not saying zombies are real. But if they were, and if they were listed in the Social Registry in life, you might find them at San Gabriel Cemetery after death (and re-animation), clasping their tattered copies of the Blue Book as they search for fresh, er, sweetbreads. Founded in...
Best Culturally Diverse Pickup Basketball Scene
Pan Pacific Park
The courts at the top of Pan Pacific Park are mediocre — cracked concrete, double rims, wooden backboards. On Saturday mornings, the players are, too — some decent and some, in encouraging coach doublespeak, "still learning the game." While a few pickup runs around the city draw crowds, these games...
Best Actual Rivers in L.A.
Amigos de los Rios
To many Angelenos the word "river" conjures up not pastoral images but trickles of water encased in concrete abutting crowded neighborhoods full of warehouses and chain-link fences. To Amigos de los Rios founder Claire Robinson, the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers are physical manifestations of the dynamic intersection of...
Best Saddest Place on Earth
As its creepy but inspiring "Builder's Creed" tells the stone kids with their puppy standing before it outside the Great Mausoleum, Forest Lawn's original location is as "unlike other cemeteries as sunshine is unlike darkness." Hubert Eaton's 1917 vision of what depressing burial sites could become rivals Disneyland for chutzpah...
Coolest Place to Ride Pint-Size Trains
Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum
Unleash your inner trainiac and hop onboard one of the miniature steam engines that chug over bridges, through tunnels and in between ghost towns at Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park. You don't even have to be a kid to do it — no one will give...
Best Middle-Earth in L.A.
There's something mystical about Glendale. It's a landlocked otherworld whose invisible defense shield of dullness masks its hidden transcendence. The shield repels tourists, gentrifiers and all but the bravest and most intuitive of hipsters — which brings us to the Beaudry Loop hike. If you're sick of dodging doggie doo...
Best Place to Watch July Fourth Fireworks
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
L.A. is a tough act for the fireworks enthusiast. Anything that explodes up into the air and is any dang fun is strictly verboten, and even July Fourth staples, such as sparklers are banned in Los Angeles and the unincorporated communities of L.A. County. This means that finding the right...
Best Cemetery for Departed Carnies
Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematory
Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematory is the final resting place for more than 300,000 Angelenos, from L.A. mayors and City Council members to Chinese immigrants, Japanese Issei pioneers and, yes, even carnival workers. Also buried at this Boyle Heights landmark are the likes of Matthew Beard, aka Stymie from Our...
Best Place to Pretend You're Enjoying Spring on the East Coast
Descanso Gardens' Lilac Garden
Los Angeles is a land of transplants, many from places that have normal seasons — like spring and fall and winter. We do have seasons here, albeit with gentler transitions. There is a place where you can inhale the fresh air of spring, just like back home: the Lilac Garden...
Best Place to Figure Some Shit Out
Institute of Cultural Inquiry
An independent research and exhibition center with its own small but salient publishing arm, the Institute of Cultural Inquiry lives up to the lofty and slightly Poindexter promise of its name, using a variety of approaches to articulating how technology is affecting our collective experience of artistic, social and political...
Best Place to Revive Your Vintage Store Finds
The Classroom L.A.
On the east end of Echo Park is a pink and parrot green cottage that looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. This is the home of The Classroom L.A., a neighborhood space for Angelenos to learn to sew or make their own alterations. Inside the Classroom L.A. sparkling...
Best Secret Garden
Trancas Canyon Nursery
When a developer linked to Wal-Mart threatened to wipe out Trancas Canyon Nursery to build a strip mall, furious Malibu residents including Martin Sheen and Katharine Ross (The Graduate's Elaine) turned out in full force to help preserve their best-kept secret. The nursery is run by a sweet Latino man,...
Best Chance to See the Ghost of a 49'er
The Dawn Mine Hike
While the Gold Rush took place mainly in Northern California, Southern California had its share of claims, including the Dawn Mine north of Altadena. The Dawn Mine Hike along Sunset Ridge Trail is a beautiful trek through some of L.A.'s enduring wilderness. You'll cross a creek more than two-dozen times...
Best View of Downtown L.A. and Beyond
Tom Bradley Room
The City of Los Angeles government and all of its buildings are owned by the residents (aka taxpayers) of L.A. That means we own City Hall. It's a public building, but we just went to the city's home page and couldn't find anywhere where our city welcomes us to visit...
Best Place to Wish Upon a Star
Walt Disney's Barn
A free Disney attraction sounds like a fairy tale, but on the third Sunday of every month, a little slice of Brigadoon appears in Griffith Park when Walt Disney's private workshop opens up from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Built in 1950 in what was then Walt's backyard, the barn...
Best Surf Spot in Los Angeles
El Porto Beach
Just a 10-minute drive from LAX — take Lincoln south to Imperial west to Vista Del Mar south — is the biggest and cleanest beach with the most reliable surf break around, thanks to an underwater canyon that creates fine waves. El Porto Beach looks like what out-of-towners envision when...
Best Breathtaking View of Urban Humanity
Mulholland Drive Parking Lot
At the top of Mulholland Drive, there's a tiny parking lot with an overlook 20 paces up a path that reveals the Hollywood Bowl about a mile away, with Capitol Records just beyond, the freeway to the left and downtown in the distance. The house on the cliff above the...
Best Place to Send It Soaring
Silver Lake Meadow
The south side of the Silver Lake Reservoir has long been popular for its playground, basketball court and (stinky) dog park. But earlier this year we finally saw the debut of the Silver Lake Meadow, a mellow, grassy haven located on the east side of the water. The no-dogs-allowed, bare-feet-welcome...
Best Condescending Tone in the Whole Issue
Monrovia Canyon Park
If your weekly workout regimen consists of alcohol-laden Art Walk gallery-hopping, it's time to get out a little, like into nature. Close enough to the city to feel secure knowing urban pleasures aren't too far away but rugged enough to get a good sense of what the San Gabriel Mountains...
Best Place to Read a Book or Get Married
Few recognize the name Maguire Gardens, but this charmingly landscaped, small but impressive green space on the western face of downtown's Central Library is familiar by description. It's one of the most unlikely and magically peaceful places in the city, and it's open to the public every day of the...
Best Hike to Observe, "It Actually IS Rocket Science"
Lower Arroyo Seco
Most Angelenos can go a lifetime without knowing the hiking possibilities in the San Gabriel Mountains, several just a speedy zip up the Glendale Freeway. The San Gabriels are real mountains, considerably taller than the East Coast's tallest peaks, but hikes often begin in the relatively gentle, lower foothills, so...
Best Architectural Variety of 1920s and 1930s Apartment Buildings
Oxford, Serrano and Hobart East of Western Avenue
To see a stunning array of buildings that shows how L.A. really knew how to do period-revival style and art deco apartments back in the day, stroll Oxford, Serrano and Hobart east of Western Avenue between Eighth and San Marino streets. While the area isn't pristine, thanks to teardowns and...
Best $2 Ever Spent on a Gated Park
The gated and enclosed Lacy Park in swank San Marino is designed for anyone wanting to escape the frustrations of urban life. Run the outer path (about one mile in distance) encircling the park. Or take your racket and partake of some tennis on one of the park's six courts...
Best Place to Pretend You're at an Island Getaway
As the crown jewel of the ritzy 'burb of Rancho Palos Verdes, Terranea Resort offers eight restaurants, posh villas and a dreamy sense of escape. With your first step onto the lobby's gleaming marble floor, you are transported into a travel brochure — the overly friendly concierge, the extravagant floral...
Best Wildflower Trail Above the Freeway
Mention wildflower viewing and people immediately think Joshua Tree or the Lancaster desert. But wildflowers proliferate in our own backyard — in Elysian Park. Spring brings out carpets of wildflowers and flocks of songbirds, not to mention joggers, hikers, dog walkers and the occasional disgruntled Dodger fan. Elysian Park's Wildflower...
Best Place to Sit Back and Think
Loyola Marymount University
The views from the Hollywood Hills and Malibu are the stuff of movies, but those locations certainly don't have a monopoly on attractive vistas. Our suggestion? Head to the lovely campus of Loyola Marymount University, where you'll see Los Angeles from a whole new perspective. Situated on a bluff overlooking...
Best Tree Swinging
Navitat Canopy Adventures' Zipline Tour
Until now, Wrightwood has been a place Angelenos visited only during the winter. Tucked away in the San Gabriel Mountains, a mere 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the town's relative proximity to L.A. has made it a frequent destination for skiers, snowboarders, sledders and other people who like snow...
Best Exhaustive and Exhaust-Filled L.A. View
Grove Parking Lot
When I have out-of-town visitors, I take them to the Grove, but not to shop, see a movie, sight a celeb or do anything associated with the commerce on the ground. As soon as we're parked, we hit the elevator and go to the very top. Yes, we're here for...
Best Local Movement: Dodger Fans Buy the Team
Own The Dodgers
There's an Own The Dodgers movement to buy into Blue by selling shares to raise $1 billion to buy out the McCourts. It's a takeoff on the Green Bay Packer business model, where the town owns the team. What do you get for your money? The satisfaction that we'll never...
Best Interfaith Setting for Feeding Swans
Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
We all know that life is nasty, brutish and short, which is why we should occasionally spend some time at a lake, preferably one with swans. The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine provides a quiet setting for strolling, feeding fowl and, for the more existentially inclined, contemplating the meaning of life,...
Best Stairways to Healthiness
Los Angeles' Historic Staircases
Los Angeles is famous for its gym culture. But if you're intimidated by all the hard bods at Gold's — or if you just want to take the jogging path less traveled — the city's network of historic staircases is an ideal way to stay fit. City planners originally installed...
Best Potentially Haunted Hiking Trail
Corralitas Red Car Property
You hike in Malibu for the ocean views, and you trek through Griffith Park to get your hippie fix, but where to go when you want to see a ghost train? Corralitas Red Car Property sits on land formerly part of the Pacific Electric Streetcar line, which cut through Silver...
Best After-Work Hike
Four miles north of the 210 freeway in Altadena, the Cobb Estate sits at the top of Lake Avenue at the corner of Loma Alta Drive. If you want a quick commune with nature after work, take the half-mile loop around the grounds, filled with eucalyptus, pepper and acacia trees,...
Best Car Museum (and Then Some)
Nethercutt Collection (and Museum)
Think you love cars? J.B. Nethercutt loved cars, too. He just happened to have gone into business with his aunt, Merle Nethercutt Norman, helming the cosmetics giant for decades, all the while amassing a priceless automobile collection. In 1971, he opened Nethercutt Collection (and Museum), free to the public, which...
Best Tribute to a Dead Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park
The likelihood of Robert F. Kennedy becoming a president of the United States disappeared in a pool of blood following a victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel just after midnight on June 5, 1968. Today, the Ambassador is gone, having been replaced by the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, a...
Best Place to Get Lost During Your Lunch Break
Most Vasquez Rocks visitors scurry straight up the towering rock that leans, like hands in prayer, over the park's dusty main parking lot. But amble off in the opposite direction — into colossal folds of pallid red stone collared with cowering scrub — and you may not see your car...
Best Secret Bird Therapy
Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary
On the sprawling grounds of West L.A.'s Veterans Administration complex, you might hear an exotic, 100-decibel din. "Every day I hear the birds squawking and screaming," Glenn, a Desert Storm vet, tells us. "And then their people show up, and they're happy." The people he's referring to are residents of...
Best Picnic Oasis Inside Griffith Park
Ever want to get away from the city and enjoy a picnic without having to face crowds or a punishing hike? You can toss your picnic in a backpack and walk up the wide, easy fire road in no time to Amir's Garden in Griffith Park. Halfway up you'll pass...
Best Shortcut Southbound Through Downtown
Shortcut Next to the 110
Bumper-to-bumper on the 110 got you bummed? There's a popular shortcut next to the 110 that'll let you breeze by hundreds of cars. If you're coming from Dodger Stadium or the Nickel headed south to the Santa Monica Freeway, get in the right lane as you pass under the 101...
Best Place We're Glad the McCourts Don't Know About
Solano Canyon Community Garden
Next time you're near Dodger Stadium, pay attention to the 110 north on-ramp in Elysian Park. A spot of green in the smog marks the Solano Canyon Community Garden, a five-acre hillside garden that runs along the highway and expands to cover the second tunnel over the freeway's northbound lanes...
Best Street to Step Back in Time
Among the sloping hills of Angelino Heights is a street where time stands still. On Carroll Avenue trees are tall, the nearby 101 freeway is a distant hum and relics of Los Angeles' past reside. The Echo Park–adjacent avenue is dotted with beautifully maintained Victorian manors from the late 19th...
Best Mile-and-a-Half Soft Track Run
Evergreen Jogging Path
Rededicated in 2008 after a partial closing for Gold Line construction, the Evergreen Jogging Path encircles one of the oldest cemeteries in L.A., home to more than 300,000 departed souls since it was established in 1877. With less drastic upward inclines if the course is taken counterclockwise, the rubber-coated running...
Best Outdoor Barbecue
Paul Carlson Memorial Park
If you're trying to find a place to have a cookout or relax during a quiet weekend, Paul Carlson Memorial Park (named after a medical missionary martyred in the former Belgian Congo) is the place to be. You can rent a party area through the parks website, or just show...
Best Lofty Park With a View
Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
The more innocent, guileless part of our mind wants to describe Ernest E. Debs Regional Park as an amazingly underused place, a wild, hilly gem about 10 minutes north of downtown off the 110 freeway, and the third largest public park in Los Angeles. The more jaded part of our...