Best of L.A.

Best Of 2013

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  • + Northern California
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  • + Pasadena and vicinity
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  • + Westchester/ LAX
  • + Westlake
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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Urban Bike Lane

When San Fernando Valley residents put a stop to light rail years ago, some people made fun of them. Then the wildly popular, super-quiet Orange Line busway opened between North Hollywood and Warner Center, and recently the northward extension was finished to Chatsworth. The 14-mile-long Metro Orange Line Bike Path weaves beside the busway and serves those who bicycle for transportation, not guys in matching performance duds. From dawn to dark, this well-lighted lane, planted with 800,000 exotic trees and shrubs, is used by Mexican laborers hauling paint, students with backpacks and commuters pumping to catch the bus. It takes you from trendy NoHo's theater district through the vast green Sepulveda Basin to mall heaven/hell at Warner Center and finally north to Chatsworth horse country for a cold beer. Watch for cross-traffic at the many intersections. labikepaths.com/bike-paths/orange-line-busway. —Norm Jenssen

Best Hike Through Modern-Day Ruins
Old Los Angeles Zoo at Griffith Park
Photo: JuanCarlos Chan/Los Angeles Dept of Recreation and Parks

The hike through the Old Los Angeles Zoo at Griffith Park is like traipsing through a lost episode of The Addams Family. Hikers can ascend to its twisted, metal ruins, dating to 1912, making these remains of lion's dens and monkey cages almost ancient by Los Angeles standards. You begin by parking near the creepy carousel straight out of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Along the way, it may give you a chill to come across the many inhumane little cages old-timey folks thought were nice homes in which to keep the beasties. Sites like ModernHiker.com will help you plot your course so you know exactly where to go and what to bring. The full hike can cover up to three miles and take as long as two hours. For those with a less adventurous spirit, simply visit the old bear habitat off the grassy knoll. Today it's a picnic area. Griffith Park Drive, Griffith Park, 90027. (323) 913-4688, trailhead coordinates: 34.13527, -118.286357. laparks.org/dos/parks/griffithpk. —Erin E. Maxwell

4730 Crystal Springs Dr., Los Angeles, 90027
MAP
323-913-4688
Best Mountain Getaway

One of the greatest things about living in L.A. is how easy it is to get out of L.A. Nearby beach getaways and ski excursions abound, but on the list of easy weekend trips is the often overlooked, but delightfully charming, mountain village of Idyllwild. Nestled among pine trees and home to an abundance of log cabins, it's just a couple hours east of Los Angeles, though you feel as if you're much farther north. Idyllwild is the perfect place for the ambitious outdoorsman, the California sophisticate or the chilled-out hippie. You can hike, rock-climb and mountain-bike, as well as shop the unique boutiques, go wine tasting and enjoy good dining in the town square. But there's also a vibe here, something that tells you you've found the good life. Ask the local folks, and many will tell you how they came to Idyllwild for a visit — and never left. After one weekend, you start to see why. idyllwildtowncrier.com. —Ali Trachta

Best Yoga Party
Hollywood Power Yoga
Photo: Ali Trachta

"Ain't no shame in the block!" shouts yoga instructor Henry McMillan at Hollywood Power Yoga to practitioners making modifications. Serene as students may feel in Downward Dog, McMillan keeps the vibe upbeat. "It's a yoga party," he says. "It's important that people have fun and feel good." What McMillan achieves is an atmosphere that's somehow tranquil and peppy at the same time. In a word: namaste! There are no bogus sounds of the rainforest pumping through the speakers. Instead, artists like Robyn, Empire of the Sun and M83 are the soundtrack here. But lighthearted as the energy may be, the workout is serious. Like any good party, the movement is nonstop, and in no time, the air is thick with sweat. But if you need a break, McMillan says, just kick it in Child's Pose. Party on, yogis. 1310 N. Wilton Place, Hlywd. (323) 871-4088, hollywoodpoweryoga.com. —Ali Trachta

1310 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, 90028
MAP
323-871-4088
Best Dodgeball League
WeHo Dodgeball

What's better than smashing a frenemy in the gut with a hard-hitting power throw during a rip-roaring dodgeball game? Knowing that doing so is helping to better the community in which you play. The recreational (yet fiercely competitive) WeHo Dodgeball league started up a little more than a year ago, and players have flocked to its courts to get their game on. But they've also found themselves part of an organization that's serious about giving back. League founder Jake Mason says, "Our fundamental belief is that WeHo Dodgeball is not only a community itself but a large part of the local community." That's meant collecting a U-Haul van's worth of clothing for the Gay & Lesbian Center, raising money for AIDS Project L.A., spearheading a toy drive for the West Hollywood Sheriff's station and hosting a fundraiser "open gym" for AIDS Walk. All that and a chance to win a trophy? Sign us up. West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vicente Blvd., W. Hlywd. (323) 638-4225, wehododgeball.com. —Ali Trachta

647 San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069
MAP
323-848-6501
Best Aerial and Floor Exercise Classes
Cirque School L.A.
Photo: Diamond Bodine-Fischer

If you're into being fit but looking for something a lot more adventurous, try Cirque School L.A. fitness classes, which work every part of your body combined but offer far more excitement than a spin class ever could. Aerial Fitness gets you in shape while getting upside down. If you're not up for the aerial route, try an AcroFit ground class. There's also a 90-minute stretch class that safely increases your flexibility no matter your current range of motion. The staff at Cirque School L.A. is prepared to train anybody, regardless of current fitness state and goals. Classes are small, and tasks are tailored to each student, so it never becomes routine. If you haven't been able to commit to a fitness plan, or if your current workout regimen is more regimen and less gratification, don't despair. Join the circus, or at least Cirque School L.A. 5640 1/2 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (424) 226-2477, cirqueschoolla.com. —Diamond Bodine-Fischer

5640 1/2 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 90028
MAP
424-226-2477
Best South L.A. Alternative to Huntington Gardens
Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park
Photo: Zachary Pincus-Roth

This year at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design graduation, Dean Jennifer Wolch introduced the commencement speaker, landscape architect Randy Hester, by calling his Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park one of her favorite public parks in L.A. Opened in 2000 in a former pipe-storage yard used for William Mulholland's water empire, the park has a serene, grassy field with picnic tables, and a web of winding paths leading to areas organized by plant type, such as a wetlands, a citrus orchard and a cactus garden. This oasis in a neighborhood of concrete warehouses is named for the first African-American congressman elected west of the Mississippi River, who worked on labor issues and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while representing South Central from 1963 to 1991. 5790 Compton Ave., Central-Alameda. (323) 581-4498, laparks.org/dos/parks/facility/augustushawkinsnaturepk.htm. —Zachary Pincus-Roth

5790 Compton Ave., Los Angeles, 90011
MAP
323-581-4498
Best Free Tennis Courts
Rustic Canyon Park
Photo: Jeff Kirshbaum

Tennis buffs know there's nothing more frustrating than playing on free city courts. Street noise, rowdy players and unkempt surfaces are just some of the problems. Step into leafy and mostly hidden Rustic Canyon Park in Pacific Palisades, just past the Santa Monica city border, to find six dream hard courts recently resurfaced and relined. Sycamores edge the park and the courts are a short walk from the parking lot and street, an advantage, as there are no traffic distractions. Nearby ocean breezes keep the park's microclimate fine and temperate — and ideal for tennis almost year-round. Sporting a private– country club vibe, the city of Los Angeles–owned courts are free, although there may be a wait on weekends. Adult and children's tennis lessons and clinics can be booked through the Rustic Canyon Recreation Center. 601 Latimer Road, Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-5734, laparks.org/dos/parks/facility/rusticCynPk.htm. —Kathy A. McDonald

601 Latimer Rd., Santa Monica, 90402
MAP
310-454-5734
Best Cheap Yoga Classes

With two Santa Monica locations, Bryan Kest's Power Yoga is a Westside yoga consortium offering equal-opportunity health and wellness via its donation-based payment program. Patrons pay what they can for each class (the recommended donation is $15), and donations are collected via honor system, so there's no weird pressure or strange money quandaries messing up the postyoga good vibes. This place's appeal goes far beyond simple economics, however. The studio spaces are cozy and clean, and classes are led by a friendly, well-trained crew of instructors, who focus on the mind and spirit, as well as the body. Power Yoga offers at least six classes a day, ensuring that there's one to fit every schedule and level of ability. The nearby Bhakti Yoga Shala offers a similar sliding fee, and excellent instruction. 1410 Second St., Santa Monica. poweryoga.com. —Katie Bain

1410 2nd St., Santa Monica, 90401
MAP
Best Place to Volunteer If You Love Animals

Since 1989, PAWS/LA has helped seniors and sick and disabled people to keep their much-loved pets when times get tough. Considering that pets often are credited with contributing health and happiness to one's life, the organization is undertaking important, even life-saving work — and it relies on volunteers to carry that out. House-bound clients need pet food delivered to them, and someone to look after their pets in case of a long hospital stay. That's where you come in. You can be a foster parent of sorts for that lovable dog or cat, or walk a client's dog or drive a pet to the vet. PAWS itself needs people to pick up supplies and pet-food donations and to help out with various pet-adoption events. There are tons of volunteer opportunities, so reach out and lend a hand. 1150 S. Hope St., #A, dwntwn. (213) 741-1950, pawsla.org. —Patrick Range McDonald

1150 S. Hope St., Los Angeles, 90015
MAP
213-741-1950
Best Roller Rink Untouched by Time
Moonlight Rollerway
Photo: Erin Maxwell

Almost everything about the Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale is just as you remember, except the patrons: the hot dog stand, the DJ booth, the zigzag pattern on the carpet in the locker area, the faded posters behind the ticket booth, promising hot roller-disco babes inside. Where else can you dance to the hokeypokey or couples-skate with your best friend to Toto's "Africa"? Since 1950, the Moonlight Rollerway has been catering to the four-wheeled masses, and while the kitsch factor is high, don't think for a moment that this is a place where the median age is midlife crisis. The rink's true, die-hard fans were born in the '90s or later and wear neon-colored leg warmers and headbands to pay tribute to the bands that play on the overhead speakers. Moonlight Rollerway has adapted, offering a gay skate night every other Wednesday and Roller Derby classes on Thursday nights. 5110 San Fernando Road, Glendale. (818) 241-3630, moonlightrollerway.com. —Erin E. Maxwell

5110 San Fernando Rd., Glendale, 91204
MAP
818-241-3630
Best Place to Volunteer

Founded in 1989 in response to the AIDS crisis, Project Angel Food's staff and volunteers cook and deliver nutritious meals to people with AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in Los Angeles County. It's important work: Since its founding, Project Angel Food has delivered more than 8 million meals to sick people. Eighty percent of the organization's work is volunteer-driven, which means it needs you. It doesn't matter if you know how to cook — staffers will teach you in the Project Angel Food kitchen. You've been wondering what to do with your weekends, and you've had it with meaningless hours spent shopping. Do something that feels right. You also can deliver meals or help recruit other volunteers through the organization's outreach program. With services offered from the Antelope Valley to Long Beach, there are plenty of places for you to meet people who need a smile, a meal and your help. 922 Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 845-1800, angelfood.org. —Patrick Range McDonald

922 Vine St., Los Angeles, 90038
MAP
323-845-1800
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Best Urban Bike Lane: Metro Orange Line Bike Path

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