Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Communing with the animal kingdom can be a welcome break from city life, social media and politics. Apes, in particular, can put us in touch with our primal ancestors and give us a much-needed reality check. The gibbon, native to Asia, is known as nature's greatest acrobat and is particularly fun to watch. The Gibbon Conservation Center was established in a dusty part of Santa Clarita in 1976 to study and conserve these small, endangered apes; it's open to the public on Saturday and Sunday mornings. While watching these social primates swing from branch to branch and do their tricks, visitors may be lucky enough to hear the gibbons sing to one another in a call-and-response manner. Their harmonizations can be heard up to two miles away. The GCC participates in gibbon rescue programs throughout Southeast Asia and has successfully bred seven different species. Public tours are available on weekends with no reservations, while private tours can be scheduled any day of the week.
More than manicured lawns or stunning views, what really distinguishes a good dog park is the community that congregates there, human and canine alike. Nestled alongside a stretch of the Arroyo Seco River in Northeast L.A., Hermon Dog Park is bucolic yet modest. It features two fenced-in sections with ample room for both large and small dogs to run off-leash, as well as an agility course that offers a playful challenge for more athletic pooches. The ground surface is decomposed granite, helping to eliminate both mud and dust, and plentiful parking means you don't have to waste time circling the block. The park's real charm, however, lies in the unpretentious diversity of people who frequent it — old and young, families and solo visitors — and their four-legged companions. Friends of Hermon Dog Park regularly hosts events, such as monthly Yappy Hours, dog photo shoots and an occasional Howl-oween Costume Contest, which add to the overall sense of bi-species camaraderie. Once your pup's gotten her ya-yas out, the Hermon Park proper makes a great spot for a picnic.
Every beach in L.A. has its own culture, its own vibe, its own rules, from the baby boomer thugs who try to keep outsiders away from the beautiful beaches of Rancho Palos Verdes, to the always surprising mass of weirdos and eccentrics populating Venice Beach. Chances are, there's a beach somewhere that suits you. If you're a nighttime beach sort of person, Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey is ideal. As the sun prepares to slink beyond the horizon, hordes of Angelenos descend upon Dockweiler's cement fire pits, building bonfires, cooking s'mores or grilling dinner, depending on how prepared they came (tip: If you want to grill, bring the round metal grill from your Weber at home). Of course, there's plenty of reason to get there earlier, too. Situated right below the LAX runway, Dockweiler offers a gorgeous panoramic view of the ocean and is easily accessible as a break from Westside traffic; you can park your car right off of Vista del Mar street and the end of Imperial Highway.
Angelenos should be proud that one of the first images that comes up when you Google search "Los Angeles" isn't a picture of the Hollywood Sign (although those show up, too) but a majestic, wide-angle shot of downtown's skyscrapers in the foreground, with the majestic, snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains in the background. This picture — and many a similar photo — was taken from the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Center near Baldwin Hills. Often overlooked by people north of the 10, Kenneth Hahn offers much-needed green space in South L.A. With beautiful views of the city, plenty of picnic tables to hang out at, spaces where California woodland oaks grow, a gentle flowing rock stream and the occasional sighting of a rabbit or a fox, the park is lively but rarely crowded, and a wonderful example of the importance of maintaining open green spaces for all — not just affluent white communities. Oh, and if it's your first time, and something about the park seems familiar, parts of the video for Dr. Dre's "Nuthin' But a G Thang" were filmed there.
Nothing kills the momentum of a run like a traffic light every other block. Escape the delays and the car exhaust with a refreshing waterside run. Park on Pacific Coast Highway anywhere just south of Temescal Canyon Road and you'll see the Strand, a cement path that can be taken as far south as Redondo Beach (with a few brief sections just past the Venice Boardwalk where it's necessary to dip into neighborhoods). If you're on a moderate, three- to five-mile run starting from Temescal, the Santa Monica Pier gives you a nice visual to run toward. The Venice Boardwalk is a great halfway-point marker, and also offers the chance to let a street performer briefly distract you from the aching sensation in your quads. This path is a solid option for marathon or half-marathon training runs, as you can get in as much mileage as you need with plenty of places to easily fill up your CamelBak.
At just over three miles, the loop around the Rose Bowl is an ideal length for those looking to pedal their way to a healthy day. Do it once for a quick, brisk ride, or circle around a few times for a more substantial jaunt. Triathletes can even end the day with a trip to the Rose Bowl's elite-level aquatic facilities for a well-rounded session. The loop is about half uphill and half downhill, which is ideal if you're training for a course with mixed elevation levels. The mountains surrounding the path offer a refreshing view, and there is plenty of people- and dog-watching to keep you entertained. (Just don't stop by on the day of a UCLA football game, or you'll spend most of your ride dodging drunk fans.)