Best of L.A.

Best Of 2014

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Place to See Wildflowers
Butte Valley Wildflower Sanctuary
Photo: Suzy Beal

In the high desert of L.A. County, a number of wildlife sanctuaries and open lands let you walk undisturbed, gaze at desert plants and animals, or just enjoy the silence. Butte Valley Wildflower Sanctuary is one of the prettiest of these open spaces. Perched on a plateau above Saddleback Butte State Park, this 350-acre parcel is surrounded by a lush forest of Joshua trees, with trails that lead more or less nowhere. In springtime you can see a wide array of colorful California wildflowers. Travel a little further north, and you'll come to a cliff with views of Edwards Air Force Base; drive along nearby avenues to find two widely used professional movie sets decorated as vintage roadside stopovers, Club Ed (on 150th Street East) and the Four Aces (14999 E. Avenue Q in Lake Los Angeles). —Suzy Beal

Avenue J between 190th and 200th streets East, Lancaster, 93534. (661) 944-6881, parks.lacounty.gov.

Ave. J between 190th & 200th Streets East, Lancaster, 93534
MAP
661-944-6881
Best Beach Yoga
ROGA

The same folks who decided that people should be able to ride a Ferris wheel where they fish have come up with, arguably, an even better combination. The Santa Monica Pier offers ROGA — running plus yoga — workouts on Saturday mornings for free at various times throughout the spring, summer and fall. Come at 8 a.m. to warm up with a two- or five-mile run and stay for yoga at 9 a.m. Yoga is led by a rotating list of Santa Monica's best yoga instructors. Friendly volunteers will hold onto your yoga mat and cheer you on while you run, then offer you refreshments from sponsors such as Clif Bar or Honest Tea when you need a boost of energy. Check the Santa Monica Pier website, sign up for the email list or "like" the Facebook page to make sure you're in the know. It's always nice to wake up to the waves, but having your workout done before brunch is another kind of heaven. —Eve Weston

200 Santa Monica Pier, Suite A, Santa Monica, 90401. (310) 458-8901, santamonicapier.org/roga.

200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, 90401
MAP
310-458-8900
Best Eastside Yoga
People's Yoga
Photo courtesy of People's Yoga

A yoga studio for the real Eastside was embraced almost as the second coming. Finally, yoga for the people. And that's almost what Leah Gallegos and Lauren Quan-Madrid call their new space: People's Yoga. Bringing the chi to Chicanos means "Yoga y Luz" classes in Spanish, prenatal yoga, yoga for "baby 'n' me" and family yoga sessions, Gallegos says. For two years the pair traveled around the Eastside and other underserved neighborhoods to bring the practice to the working-class masses. Then, in June, $10,000 — raised in just 60 days with a crowd-funding campaign — allowed them to open the doors of a dedicated studio. So, uh, do Mexican-Americans do the downward dog? "We're seeing new people every day," Gallegos says. "It's going really good." —Dennis Romero

5161 Pomona Blvd., #209, E. Los Angeles, 90022. (323) 739-4018, peoplesyoga.org.

5161 Pomona Blvd. # 209, Los Angeles, 90022
MAP
323-739-4018
Best Kids Yoga

An entertainment producer and mother of three, Antonia King was startled to realize that L.A. had no yoga studios for children. So in 2012, she launched Zooga Yoga, a studio offering yoga classes to kids of all ages, from babies to teenagers. Naturally, the younger ones are not adept at concentration or mindfulness, so the instructors offer something they call "playful yoga," which involves a lot of motion and activity. Before you know it, your toddler will be showing you how to do tree pose and downward dog. Zooga has been so successful that King plans to expand, with two new storefronts opening soon. —Gene Maddaus

4311 Overland Ave., Culver City, 90230. (310) 839-6642, zoogayoga.com.

4311 Overland Ave., Culver City, 90230
MAP
310-839-6642
Best Spin Class

Joe Wolf, a massage therapist and nursing student by day, fills the Hollywood Wilshire YMCA's spin studio Tuesday through Thursday evenings with a crowd ready for a fast, fun and absolutely grueling workout. When he's not making the rounds to personally pump up participants, he seems to channel Andre the Giant's Dread Pirate Roberts from his bike, tracing his finger around the room and challenging the class to "Add more!" in a deep bellow (more resistance, that is). The workout is simple, no gimmicks and little chatter, just steady climbing or quick pedaling to an eclectic playlist — epic heartland rock, swampy industrial trip-hop, classic soul and funk, Top 40 R&B and electro-pop. Even gritty grunge ballads. Whether it's Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" or Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," the right song always hits the speakers just as the crowd is wilting, and the hour simply speeds by. —Jessica Langlois

1553 Schrader Blvd., Hlywd., 90028. (323) 467-4161, ymcala.org/hollywood.

1553 Schrader Blvd, Los Angeles, 90028
MAP
323-467-4161
Best Bouldering Gym

Located in downtown's Arts District, just off the Sixth Street Bridge, L.A. Boulders has become a top destination for bouldering — otherwise known as rock-climbing without ropes. The gym opened in January in a vast warehouse next door to a shooting range in the up-and-coming neighborhood. Inside are three massive walls — "the Barrel," "the Alcove" and "the Wave Wall" — which together offer more "problems" to solve than any other gym in the city. L.A. Boulders also has weights and exercise machines, a good enough assortment that some customers use it as their primary gym. Business is so brisk that the owners expect to open locations in Culver City, Pasadena and Hollywood next year. —Gene Maddaus

1375 E. Sixth St., #8, dwntwn., 90021. (323) 406-9119, touchstoneclimbing.com/la-boulders

1375 E 6th St #8, Los Angeles, 90021
MAP
323-406-9119
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Best Place to See Wildflowers: Butte Valley Wildflower Sanctuary

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