Best of L.A.

Best Of 2012

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  • + Northern California
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  • + Southeastern Cities
  • + Venice/ Marina del Rey
  • + Ventura County
  • + West Adams/ Crenshaw/ Baldwin Hills
  • + West Hollywood
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  • + Westchester/ LAX
  • + Westlake
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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Place to Be Underwater (Without a Mortgage)
Hollywood Divers

Step into Hollywood Divers and feel the aquatic vibe. Peruse the spacious store's collection of wetsuits, scuba gear and tanks and you will half-expect to be tapped on the shoulder by an octopus, despite the store's inland Cahuenga Pass location. Blown-up undersea photomurals add to the marine feel. Hollywood Divers is the go-to place for neophytes and old salts alike. Its selection of masks, snorkels, fins, gloves, lights, gauges, hoses, bags, apparel, dive computers and underwater camera gear is considered unparalleled for quality, and its customer service wins consistent raves for friendly, helpful attitude and attention to detail. But more than a retail/rental shop, Hollywood Divers is a fantastic place to take scuba classes, including basic diving certification, refresher courses, open-water diving, rescue diving and underwater photo/video skills. This is the place to cultivate your inner Aquaman. (Note: Hollywood Divers is not held responsible for dishpan fingers and toes.) 3575 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Studio City. (323) 969-9875, hollywoodivers.com. —Adam Gropman

3575 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 90068
MAP
323-969-9875
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, alpinevillagecenter.com.

—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, amf.com/marvistalanes.

—Tessa Stuart

12125 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, 90066-3811
MAP
310-391-5288
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12655 Ventural Blvd., Studio City, 91604
MAP
818-769-7600
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. facebook.com/pages/Los-Angeles-Stairstreet-Advocates/106919209354668. —Gene Maddaus

2457 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 90027
MAP
323-661-6474
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. poundfit.com.

—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, dancegardenla.com. —Lina Lecaro

3407 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, 90039
MAP
323-660-4556
Best Place to Learn the Art of Burlesque
Hells Belles Burlesque

Move over, Dita Von Teese. Burlesque isn't just for the stage anymore, thanks to Hells Belles Burlesque, a five-person troupe whose training ranges from ballet to fire dancing, which has transformed the centuries-old seductive art form with a rock & roll twist. Tucked in a high-rise dance studio near Hollywood & Highland, the troupe teaches classes and workshops to students of all stripes, who explore their sexuality in a comfortable, safe environment — and get a pretty serious, sweat-inducing workout. The one-hour classes include classic burlesque moves and intense choreography performed to the likes of Aerosmith's "Crazy," while students tone their muscles and increase their flexibility between hair swings. It's also a big confidence booster and cheap therapy for women going through tough times in their personal lives, says Hells Belles' Natasha Vee, whose class is wildly popular. The group also offers bachelorette-party packages and special-occasion classes if you prefer to conduct your thrusting a little more privately. IDA Hollywood, 6755 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (424) 265-0699, hellsbellesburlesque.com. —Liana Aghajanian

6755 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 90028
MAP
818-851-1743
Best Vintage Bowling Alley
Montrose Bowl

One of the smallest and oldest bowling alleys operating in Los Angeles County, Montrose Bowl has been around since 1936 on small-town Montrose's quaint main shopping boulevard. With its 1950s decor, manual scoring system, jukebox and eight lanes, Montrose Bowl specializes in hosting birthdays, reunions, wedding receptions and baby showers. You actually rent the entire bowling alley (capacity 95 people) for $250 to $1,000, depending on the day. The public can bowl during certain hours for $25 per lane. The alley has been in Maria and Bob Berger's family for 30 years and such productions as Pleasantville, Teen Wolf and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark have been filmed on its charming old wood lanes. Beverages on offer include more than 60 beers — and you have the option of bringing your own food to the party. The hometown vibe of Montrose Bowl is so laid-back, you can bowl from between your legs and nobody will care. 2334 Honolulu Ave., Montrose. (818) 249-3895, montrosepartybowl.com. —Liana Aghajanian

2334 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, 91020-1822
MAP
818-249-3895
Best Outdoor Stair Workout, South L.A.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

When it's too nice to be in a gym and thoughts of the Santa Monica stairs (parking and tourists!) and Runyon Canyon (parking and hipsters!) turn sour, there is a relatively quick, family-friendly way to get buns of steel at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. In less than half an hour, visitors to this public park can sprint, jump or leisurely walk up the 375 steep, uneven slabs of concrete and earth. The reward — aside from the aerobic excursion — is a breathtaking, panoramic view of Los Angeles. While it's open from 8 a.m. to sunset daily, the best time to go is at the end of the day, as temperatures cool and the sun sets over the city in sometimes glorious ways. 6300 Hetzler Road, Culver City. (310) 558-5547, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=22790.

—Whitney Friedlander

6300 Hetzler Rd., Culver City, 90232
MAP
Best Cycle Instructor
Ellie Wenzel-Wright

The L.A. Fitness on La Cienega and 18th Street is a worn-down, overcrowded swampland, but every Saturday morning it's home to a stampede, as members of all ages and sizes clamor for one of the coveted spots in Ellie Wenzel-Wright's cycle class. A BMX champion with more than 30 years of aerobics teaching experience, who also practices kickboxing and step and body works, Wenzel-Wright, 47, is a traditionalist. Imagine Liz Lemon's "hipster nonsense" quote to approximate the look on her face at the mention of clubs like SoulCycle. Her cycle classes are 55 minutes of intense, gimmick-free cardio accompanied by whatever music she can think of to get her class going. And if that means hopping off her bike to do her best Tina Turner impression during "Proud Mary," then so be it. 1833 S. La Cienega Blvd., Mid-City. (310) 202-6823; lafitness.com. —Whitney Friedlander

1833 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, 90035
MAP
310-202-6823
Best Gym
Crunch Fitness, Burbank

Pole-dancing classes mean never say die! This chain, known for its multitude of cutting-edge classes, such as the famous spin workouts and the more unusual AntiGravity Yoga and X-Pole Dancing, offers the perfect mix: the reliability of a chain with the creativity of a boutique gym. The Crunch Fitness Burbank location opened across from Ikea at the beginning of April and boasts a clean, industrial-style atmosphere, easy parking and monthly fees that are considerably lower than some gyms' pre-recession, bankruptcy-inducing payments. Here, ponying up for all that TRX training and Zumba won't result in sacrificing a new outfit to show off the hard work. 761 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank. (818) 336-9300, crunchburbank.com. —Whitney Friedlander

761 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, 91502
MAP
818-336-9300
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8590 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069
MAP
310-659-3620
Best Adult Ballet Classes
The Colburn School

The ballet world isn't all Black Swan, although the film boosted the popularity of this classical dance style. Adults are flocking to classes, some to brush up on technique, others to stretch their toes for the first time. At the Colburn School downtown, beginning and intermediate classes for adults (along with music and dance programs for youth) draw a dedicated following — musicians, writers, lawyers, engineers, architects, TV producers and others. Dreams of dancing "Swan Lake" with the Bolshoi? Not quite. Students hope to master grand jetés and pirouettes in a supportive and enjoyable environment, and perhaps perform in Colburn's annual recital. Learn a technique that's close to King Louis XIV's style from the 1600s. Most important, join a dance-loving community that lines up at the barre week after week — with live piano accompaniment to boot. 200 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn. (213) 621-2200, colburnschool.edu.

—Daina Beth Solomon

200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-621-2200
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Best Place to Be Underwater (Without a Mortgage): Hollywood Divers

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