Best of L.A.

Best Of 2012


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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best New Playground
Culver City Park

There tend to be two kinds of playgrounds. You have the standard setup: swings, slides and seesaws. And then there is the ambitious playground, which tends to feature a giant ship or a castle or something. For its newest playground, Culver City Park shunned both approaches and instead did something weird. The city turned to KOMPAN, a Danish company, which delivered a very Scandinavian jungle gym, with odd shapes and primary colors. Half the fun is trying to figure out how everything is supposed to work. For toddlers, there's a water table with a working pump, so bring a change of clothes. For bigger kids — and reckless adults — there's a large climbing apparatus made of connected dodecahedrons called "Bloqx." Doubtless there is a ton of peer-reviewed child development research to back this all up. Of course, there are still swings and slides, plus a basketball court, skate park and an open field. It's a major improvement to the neighborhood. 9700 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. (310) 253-6470,

—Gene Maddaus

9800 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City, 90232
Best Place to Watch Soccer

Say you're a die-hard soccer fan who wants to watch the Galaxy when they're out of town, or even a particular foreign match. Unless you've got a super-amazing cable package, you're out of luck, because your local sports bar isn't likely to change the channel from golf. Fortunately, the folks out at Alpine Village have dedicated themselves to showing every possible match. (And, yes, that's the same Alpine Village where you celebrate Oktoberfest every year.) They show everything they can when they're open, and even extend their hours for high-profile matches. That means every elimination-round match, as well as every Germany and every Croatia match, no matter when they air. Finally, footie fans, safe harbor! 833 W. Torrance Blvd., Torrance. (310) 327-2483,

—Diamond Bodine-Fischer

Best Bowling Alley
AMF Mar Vista Lanes

If there were an alien invasion, or an outbreak of Ebola virus, or nuclear fallout on the Westside, self-contained neighborhood hub Mar Vista Lanes would be the place to hole up for a few weeks. Besides air hockey, a full arcade and $10 unlimited bowling from 9 p.m. till midnight Monday through Thursday, Mar Vista Lanes is home to Pepy's Galley, the pirate-themed diner that serves up Mexican and continental fare (or whatever else you might want — "If we have the ingredients, we can make it special for you because Pepy's here to please!" a note on the menu reads). That's not all — the building also houses a divey, mirror-walled bar that has a jukebox stocked with indie deep cuts (Battles, Panda Bear, Funeral-era Arcade Fire), and a bowling supply shop run since 1974 by mustachioed pro Phil Yoakum. 12125 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista. (310) 391-5288,

—Tessa Stuart

12125 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, 90066-3811
12655 Ventural Blvd., Studio City, 91604
Best Outdoor Stair Workout, Eastside
Tomato Pie Walk

The 3-mile Tomato Pie Walk in Silver Lake sounds like no big deal until you realize it involves climbing up 735 steps and down 610 steps. Somehow you end up right where you started — the Tomato Pie Pizza Joint. It's a serious workout, followed by a serious helping of pizza. The Los Angeles Stairstreet Advocates, led by Dave Ptach, organizes this walk most Tuesday nights. It's an uncommonly intimate experience, for L.A. The stairs bring you right up to people's living room windows, at an hour when they're getting home and cooking dinner and watching TV. It's nearly urban, yet it's also secluded. Great views, too. Tomato Pie Pizza Joint, 2457 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. —Gene Maddaus

2457 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 90027
Best Rockout Workout

Got aggressions that need to be worked out? Love heavy music? Wanna be as lean as Tommy Lee? Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom, who love drumming, dance and fitness, have developed what may be the next major phenomenon in exercise: Pound. Slamming drumsticks into the floor as hard as you can while doing specially tailored Pilates and cardio routines might seem like raucous fun, but this is no "get physical" fad. The gals have developed special resin sticks ("ripstix") that provide resistance that goes beyond wood. The room takes on a primal, almost hypnotic feel when everyone is pounding in unison. There are no self-conscious leg-warmer types here, either. The instructors wear faded rock tees and Chucks. The classes are packed and very loud (some participants wear earplugs). If it sounds like the pit at a rock concert, it kinda is — especially the post-show euphoria part. Only here, you're the rock star. Classes are currently available at local Crunch Fitness locations.

—Lina Lecaro

Best Place to Learn the Art of Bellydancing
Dance Garden L.A.

Baring one's body (especially the belly area) obviously takes a certain level of confidence and comfort, but covered or uncovered, moving the tummy and hips in a focused and sensual manner is not easy. At Dance Garden L.A., even the most timid will learn to love doing both if they keep up with classes. The intimate Atwater Village studio, owned by dancers Jenna Rose and Zahra Zuhair, offers extensive bellydance instruction for all levels and ages, with styles including Bellydance, Tribal Fusion, Bollywood, samba and more. All are welcome, but the woman power is especially palpable and always encouraging, never intimidating. "Magical" Mondays offer all levels of belly moves throughout the evening, while Tuesdays focus on specific skills such as cymbals and veil work. Hump night belongs to scene queen Princess Farhana, who attracts students ranging from housewives to burlesque babes to punk chicks. We recommend this one both for her witty repartee (and Hollywood rock-scene anecdotes) and for the kick-ass — or rather kick-abs — workout. 3407 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village. (323) 660-4556, —Lina Lecaro

3407 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, 90039

Best New Playground: Culver City Park


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