Best of L.A.

Best Of 2011


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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best No-Hassle Pool for Serious Swimmers
Rose Bowl Aquatic Center

Believe it or not, for as big and abundantly sunny as L.A. is, it's a town seriously lacking in good options for lap swimmers who want smooth water, regulation-size lanes and backstroke flags. One excellent solution to this problem is the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, where parking is free and the two Olympic-size pools are a welcome sight, especially when you discover that one is kept at a toasty 87 degrees — perfect for chilly nights in the colder months. The center also offers a top-notch master's program, swim lessons, lifeguard training (bonus points if you get asked to pretend to drown during one of the drills) and an on-site pro shop in case your goggles break. Even more amazing to someone who has Googled "seriously Los Angeles rec swim where" is the well-organized website, which offers comprehensive lap swimming and lane-change calendars, closure notices and even a live webcam, in case you want to watch people exercising in lieu of actually doing it yourself. 360 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 564-0330,

—Nora Crutcher

360 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, 91103
Best Place to Train Like an Athlete for People Whose Only Exercise Is Playing Wii Tennis
Breakthru Fitness

Until I joined Breakthru Fitness, the most challenging exercise I had put my body through was bending to find the remote control under the couch. Its greatest asset — among the 70 classes a week in a fully equipped center with big-screen TVs always airing the Food Network — is the Adult Total Conditioning class. ATC is meant to make an athlete of anyone, regardless of level of fitness: It's great for those who are in shape but looking for something new, and perfect for those who break a sweat brushing their teeth and require a Rosetta stone just to understand exercise lingo. (Seriously, what are burpees?) Unlike any other method, ATC delivers some major results. The cunning use of weights, climbing rope, giant rubber bands, kettle bells and sandbags not only brings out your inner model, but also increases your endurance, metabolism, flexibility and speed. Noel, one of the trainers, who is part stand-up comedian, part fitness gestapo, will make sure you don't finish without drowning in your own sweat. (Which reminds me, ladies, if you're there to meet a guy, don't bother. Your makeup will melt like a pack of crayons left on the dashboard in August.) The workouts are always different, and they beat striding aimlessly on the machines like hamsters. Breakthru is a far cry from the overcrowded gyms that smell like an indoor kiddie pool, and instead of employing high school football jocks has compiled a group of fantastic professional fitness artists who will take the shapeless blob that you are and sculpt you into a thing of health and beauty. 345 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. (626) 396-1700,

—Orly Minazad

345 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, 91101
Best Flight Lessons
Trapeze Workshop
Photo: Richie Gaona

Fourth-generation circus performer Richie Gaona has been flying the trapeze since he was 5 years old. He moved to Los Angeles in 1988 to put his circus tricks to use as a stuntman, teaching actors and fellow performers how to fly on the side. Gaona's Trapeze Workshop now has a devoted following of diverse students who attend his trapeze classes, offered three days a week out of a facility boasting a trapeze hung 20 feet high where he, his girlfriend and his son teach thrill seekers how to perform like a pro. Fifty bucks gets you a two-hour group lesson with the flight guru. By the end of the first day, you'll not only be able to soar above the ground without screaming, you might even be willing to let go of the slim wooden bar and let your partner catch you mid-air. 5702 Lubao Ave., Woodland Hills. (818) 710-8191,

—Lorinda Toledo

5702 Lubao Ave., Los Angeles, 91367
Best Belly Dance Workout
Swerve Studio's Shimmy Shape-Up

You might expect a belly dance class in a yoga studio to be impossibly new agey, or to skimp on the high-velocity, highly specific muscle moves that make the dance such a killer ab workout. But Shannon "Shea Butter" Lewallen's Shimmy Shape-Up at Swerve Studio on Third Street strikes the right balance. Described as a "newly innovated full-body medium-low-impact cardio workout," Shimmy Shape-Up offers solid instruction on the basic elements of belly dance — arm movements, hip and rib cage isolation, traveling steps and, of course, the shimmy — at a pace that's slow enough for beginners to follow, but not so snail-paced that you won't break a sweat. 8250 W. Third St., Mid-City. (323) 782-0741,

—Karina Longworth

8250 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, 90048
Best Hotel Golf Club
Industry Hills Golf Club

Funny thing about place names around L.A. — they vary wildly in descriptive accuracy. Studio City does have movie and TV studios nearby, but Panorama City lacks any obvious panorama. While City of Industry does possess a lot of light industry, much of the municipality looks pretty tame, and parts of it are rather leafy and scenic, like the Industry Hills Golf Club, attached to the Pacific Palms Hotel & Conference Center. All in all, it's a spiffy and relaxing suburban resort occupying a commanding, rolling hill in the close-in Inland Empire. The Golf Club has won numerous awards from aficionados and features two full courses: the Ike (Eisenhower) and the Babe (Didrickson), with 160 sand bunkers, eight lakes and access to the resort's spa and two restaurants. 1 Industry Hills Pkwy., Industry Hills. (626) 851-4653,

—Adam Gropman

1 Industry Hills Parkway, La Puente, 91744
Best Cheap Thwacks
Rex's Baseball Batting Cages

Whether you're gearing up to join a baseball or softball league, or just want to blow off some steam and indulge your inner Derek Jeter, take your cuts at Rex's Baseball Batting Cages. This easygoing place is cheaper and less crowded than many other batting cages. It offers cages for 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 mph pitches. The machines are self-loading, so you can put all your energy and focus into nailing that triple over the second baseman's shoulder into right-center. You can rent a bat or bring your own. Pricing can be per set of eight balls (50 cents) or by cage time (15 minutes for $6; 30 minutes for $10; an hour for $18). Rex's is right off the 105 freeway, convenient from either the 110 or the 405. Warnings: Weekends can get a little heavy with the Little League crowd. 11723 S. Western Ave., Athens. (323) 756-8101;

—Adam Gropman

11723 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 90047

Best No-Hassle Pool for Serious Swimmers: Rose Bowl Aquatic Center


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