Best of L.A.

Best Of 2011


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Best Of :: People & Places

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 culture. At times the ICI's projects are traditionally formatted gallery installations at its Mid-City location, and these often involve workshops and other public-engagement aspects. Certain projects exist entirely online. In principle, ICI is open to suggestions from artists and arts groups wishing to present their own ideas. Since opening its practice in 1990, ICI has cultivated an open-minded and offbeat program that doesn't just use the spaces it occupies to explore cultural paradigms in themselves, but to more deeply examine the very mechanisms, aesthetic and documentation strategies, and premises that shape those explorations themselves. All of this far-ranging activity takes place during gallery hours most of the time, but as ICI frequently conducts field research and/or checks in with its European outposts, you'll want to call to, um, inquire. 1512 S. Robertson Blvd., Mid-City. (310) 273-7181;

—Shana Nys Dambrot

1512 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, 90035
Best Place to Send It Soaring

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 space is considered a "quiet place," and so far it has lived up to its name. The best part is how empty it tends to be, particularly on weekdays. But even on weekends there's plenty of room to spread out with a picnic blanket, without fear of a stray Frisbee landing in the middle of your feast. In fact, if you're there with your family, you might want to take advantage of another cool element of the location — the breeze off the reservoir. It's an ideal spot for flying kites. Even if you might need to launch it into the air, once it's up, even your kindergartener can keep it high. Silver Lake Reservoir, Silver Lake.

—Rebecca Haithcoat

Best After-Work Hike
Cobb Estate

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, wild buckwheat and mustard. Your leashed dog is welcome. Enter through the historic wrought-iron gates and ascend the winding paved driveway to the site of what was once one of Altadena's premier mansions, built in 1916 by lumber magnate Charles H. Cobb. The Marx Brothers bought the 107-acre tract in 1960 and planned to sell it for use as a cemetery, but local ecologists stepped in and turned it over to the Forest Service in 1971. There are several side trails you can explore, including a couple that lead down into Las Flores Canyon, a waterfall and abandoned gold mines. If you are more ambitious, take the Sam Merrill Trail to the top of Echo Mountain, 2.5 miles of switchbacks that will deposit you at the ruins of an old hotel where you will be rewarded with vistas of the city of Los Angeles with the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Locals call the spot "the Haunted Forest," so get out of there before dark, when stoner teenagers converge on the estate to get paranoid about "flashing lights" (aka flashlights). East Loma Alta Drive at Lake Ave., Altadena.

—Samantha Bonar

Lake Ave., Altadena, 91001
Best Tree Swinging
Navitat Canopy Adventures' Zipline Tour
Photo: Farley Elliott

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 — or just wanted to be reminded of how it looks. Now, Wrightwood has become a place to visit every season, thanks to Navitat Canopy Adventures' zipline tour. Navitat has recently adapted the winter resort into a year-round destination for thrill seekers, building a network of trails, stairs, platforms and treetop bridges, all connected by rappels and zip lines up to 1,500 feet long. High-adventure addicts have the opportunity to play Tarzan, swinging from tree to tree while soaring hundreds of feet above the canyon. It's not for the faint of heart, but it is a must-have experience for intrepid, nature-loving folks aching to get out of the city. 6047 Park Drive, Wrightwood. (760) 249-9990 or (855) 628-4828,

—Tanja M. Laden

6047 Park Dr., Wrightwood, 92397
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 track has turned a formerly severe section of sidewalks into a recreation area shared by runners, walkers, baby strollers, bicycles and working-class pedestrians. Be wary of countering the health benefits with carnitas at 5 Puntos next door or a carb overload at El Mercadito, both along the eastern edge of the run. The Gothic crematorium and the headstones in every language are must-see jog-by scenery, making the mile-and-a-half loop remarkably pleasant. 204 N. Evergreen Ave., Boyle Heights;

—Abel Salas

204 N. Evergreen Ave., Los Angeles, 90033
Best $2 Ever Spent on a Gated Park
Lacy 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. Put a couple teams together and utilize the baseball field. Take a lover to the gorgeous rose garden located in the southwestern portion of the park. Despite having all these things to do, if you come here to walk your dog (doggy bags provided) or just people-watch, the park's 30 acres and its canopy of lush trees provide enough shaded areas and space to just sit and soak up the scene. Just be aware that on weekends, non–San Marino residents must pay $2 to gain entrance — and it's worth it. 1485 Virginia Road, San Marino. (626) 300-0790,

—Ontay Johnson

1485 Virginia Rd., San Marino, 91108

Best Place to Figure Some Shit Out: Institute of Cultural Inquiry


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