Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Rio de Los Angeles State Park is located on what was once an abandoned freight-switching yard on the east bank of the L.A. River. It sits on a spit of flatland across the river from Elysian Valley and below the hillside bungalows of Mount Washington. Part of the city's river revitalization project that aims to reclaim the postindustrial landscape for green space, Rio de Los Angeles has 47 acres of baseball diamonds, batting cages, soccer fields and basketball and tennis courts, plus a nature trail that unwinds through native flora like a backyard path. There is a playground for the kiddos, with sprinkler fountains that offer refreshment on a hot day. The recreation center hosts classes of yoga, zumba and children's ballet.
Navigating Los Angeles often can feel as if you're in a labyrinth of the mind-numbing sort. But the actual labyrinth behind a Beaux Arts palace on West Adams Boulevard's mansion row is the kind that helps to quiet the surrounding chaos. Follow the stone-carved path to the center and out again, and you'll have the rare opportunity to travel quietly into your head — and to reach your destination without the distraction of calculating a left on red or the aggravation of a laggard who won't let you merge. The entire compound, known as Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens and maintained by the nonprofit Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, is a magical and mysterious place to spend the afternoon. Reservations and a brief tour are required, but entry is free — and a blissful, uncrowded setting is guaranteed. The lush, cascading gardens and the home's architecture bring to mind a Tuscan villa, which is fitting: The 100-year-old home was commissioned by an Italian immigrant who built California's largest winery.
Cruising along windy roads in the Santa Monica Mountains, there's a palette of green scrub brush and dusty earth. Then on a stretch of road between Calabasas and Malibu, a gleaming white building seems to emerge from the landscape, flaunting sculptures of fantastical creatures and deities that wouldn't be out of place at the top of Daenerys Targaryen's wedding cake. It's the Malibu Hindu Temple, which is dedicated to Venkateswara, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Built in 1981, the building glows as if it was built yesterday. It's a peaceful oasis away just a short drive from L.A. On a recent visit, a man came over as we removed our shoes, and he walked us around the temple, introducing the various gods and deities ensconced in the walls. He led us to the main hall, where a family was performing a ritual, leaving offerings and money at the foot of a statue. We had been there only 15 minutes, and they invited us into their family, chanting in front of the flower-adorned altar. It's this welcoming nature that makes the temple not just a eye-catching monument but the nexus of ever-welcoming community.
The Automobile Driving Museum is a jewel hidden amid the corporate parks and industrial spaces of El Segundo. Inside this warehouse-like venue, you'll find vintage and classic cars lovingly preserved. The museum's old-school rides go way back — you might find some early Packards here — but also include mid–20th century favorites. The collection has wheels once owned by noteworthy folks such as Howard Hughes and Eleanor Roosevelt. Looking around the showroom is a visual treat, as it's filled with shiny, sparkling vehicles that you rarely see out on the streets: a 1963 Studebaker Avanti, a 1959 Austin Healey, a 1982 DeLorean. But what's more exciting is that you can ride in some of the cars yourself. On Sundays, a rotating selection of wheels is available to hit the streets with you in the passenger seat. You may not know what car you'll get — recent rides included a '39 Oldsmobile and a '61 Corvair — but it's certain to be in the most stylish car cruising the neighborhood.
At first glance, Michael Olajide Jr. — with his silver metal eye patch, superhuman-strong wiry frame, tight red Spandex and sneakers with giant silver-and-black wings — looks more like a cyborg than a fitness coach. His new Aerospace La Brea studio, with sleek all-white walls and high ceilings, feels equally futuristic. But Olajide, who runs boxing-inspired exercise classes, is no man from our (maybe dystopian) future. He has been in the fitness and athlete world for decades — and his get-you-in-killer-shape classes are unstoppable. Olajide is a former champion pro boxer who conceived of Aerospace after he injured his eye in a boxing match and found himself having to shift his career. In the early 2000s, his Aerospace classes took off in New York City, attracting the likes of Sean "Diddy" Combs, 50 Cent, Adriana Lima, Demi Moore and Mark Wahlberg. Now Olajide and his partner, former ballerina Leila Fazel, have brought their ab-defining high cardio, machine-free techniques to West Hollywood with energetic jump-roping, jabbing and bag-punching that's a hit among exercise-loving Angelenos. Whether you are a new boxer, seasoned athlete or supernaturally strong, Aerospace's sophisticated training methods make you feel ready to fight any doom the future may hold.
Wedged in between the 405 and 101 freeways and the L.A. River lies a magical land with castles and dragons and palm trees galore. Welcome to Sherman Oaks Castle Park, the best miniature golf course in the city. OK, so it's the only miniature golf course in the city. Nonetheless, this city-owned course is the perfect place for any number of outings, from a 6-year-old's birthday party to a fun, semi-ironic first date. Castle Park features not one but three very good 18-hole mini-golf courses, intertwined with windmills, pirate ships and disturbingly bright neon blue lagoons. At only $6.50 a ball for adults, it's about a third of the price of a ticket to the ArcLight. Castle Park also offers a batting cage with up to 80 mph fastballs, plus a densely packed arcade with air hockey, skeeball and myriad video games with truly horrible sound effects. And of course, prizes — a few thousand winning tickets gets you a gumball or something. Just don't try the pizza.
Not long after the end of the second World War, a group of 16 model-railroad lovers began laying miniature tracks in a converted building adjacent to a city park in Glendale. The tiny railroad was so extensive and detailed, it prompted USC cinema students to capture it in a film that has since become a visual record of the Glendale Model Railroad Club's early years. Just 15 years after it was founded in 1949, the GMRRC literally went up in flames when a fire destroyed the original layout in 1963, forcing the burgeoning club to start all over again. Today, the GMRRC is the oldest active model-railroad club west of the Mississippi, with about 25 members building, operating and maintaining a reproduction of the Southern Pacific Railroad's Verdugo Valley Lines. Visitors have a standing invitation to the club's monthly open house, where they can watch the club members, dressed in a uniform of buttercream polo shirts, operate up to five trains traveling between a scaled-down Union Station and a replica of the Tehachapi Loop, a California State Historical Landmark.
Past the Hindu deities, past walls painted the color of the seven chakras and adorned with framed images of bearded gurus, is a heated room vibrating with positive energy as Solange plays softly in the background. This classroom is the epicenter of Russell Simmons' 8,000-square-foot yoga fortress, Tantris, where regulars return every Friday for transcendental meditation sessions paired with an end-of-the-work-week moment of reflection that is led by the meditation swag master himself: Simmons. Here, a post-yoga, blissed-out Simmons leads talks about the magic that comes from stilling your mind and how to "light that shit up" and become more present by developing a meditation practice. His enthusiasm, which is peppered with thoughts on how meditation makes you better at work — and in bed — is infectious. At a recent session he ended the evening with the words: "Go out and focus on the infinite." Then he looked at his Friday night guests, many of whom looked as if they'd just stepped off a runway or out of a boardroom meeting, and said with a joking smile: "Now go out and do some cocaine!" Sure, it's a mixed message, but for Simmons, life is a party at its most metaphysical.
Part casino, part Long Beach history museum, Looff's Lite-A-Line is named for the family that made the city into a reveler's shoreline destination way back in the early 1900s. When you walk in, you must get your photo taken for a little card you can refill with money to play the games. Unlike most casinos with blackjack tables, slots and roulette, this one solely carries a pinball-like game of skill, where you must shoot little silver balls into holes, kind of like a Plinko-meets–Connect Four thing, with bingo elements — don't worry, they'll show you how to play. When your butt goes numb, try looking at the glass cases of memorabilia from the early days of Long Beach. There's even an original Cyclone racer car from one of the old boardwalk coasters, along with a carousel horse, though don't expect to ride either of them. Old historical photos show the bustling carnival the Long Beach shoreline once was, which is truly incredible, especially when you know it was all started by one adventurous family. Looff's Lite-A-Line is all that's left to carry on that legacy, and it's a lot of fun.
Fencing will make you work harder than any other sport just to score one point. Using an entirely different set of muscles, the point of your defense is for you to make yourself as difficult to hit as possible, even as you find the opening that drives your blade into the limited allowed space on your opponent's body while he makes himself as difficult to hit as possible. It's brutally elegant and constitutionally calculating; each well-executed thrust a poem in itself, the hand that wields the sword moving like the gentle serving of a teacup filled with napalm. At the Avant Garde Fencers Club, under the masterful tutelage of head coach Daniel Costin, they've guided children, Olympians and Paralympians to reach the apex of their skill as fencers. Concentrating on the saber — rather than the other two blades, the foil and the épée — they also teach underrated virtues such as grace, poise, patience and stoicism in the only athletic activity that also carries with it the possibility of having a blade snap off during a match, pierce the mask and bury itself in your brain. And what's life without a little grace and tension?
Beach Streets0x2029In 2010, Los Angeles launched CicLAvia — the city's now-quarterly open-streets event, which makes miles of car-clogged roads accessible to cyclists and other human-powered transportation for a single day. It took five years but, in 2015, Long Beach obtained a grant to launch its own. Dubbed Beach Streets, the first iteration took over a large chunk of Atlantic Avenue in public space–starved North Long Beach and turned it into the biggest block party the neighborhood had ever seen. In addition to drawing out more than just bicycles (pedestrians, skateboarders and rollerbladers are less common sights at CicLAvia), Beach Streets activated choice intersections along the route with family-friendly hubs, educational seminars, action-sports demos and, to top the afternoon, a headlining performance in the park from hip-hop legends The Pharcyde. Over four more Beach Streets (next up: Oct. 28), Long Beach's winning formula for getting people out of their cars and into the road has not waned. From downtown to Cambodia Town, it remains the only event of its kind, one that not only promotes active transportation but gives participants alternative ways to explore, learn, listen and create new memories along the way.
The striking, 1950s-era Mimoda Studio's floor-to-ceiling windows frame long-necked ballerinas, freewheeling movers and shakers, and bendy improv dancers. Guests enter through the adjacent and ever-happening Paper or Plastik Café, where on the second-story mezzanine they can eye elegant twirls and spins as they brunch. The ballet classes are led by instructor Stefan Wenta, who grew up in communist Poland before becoming a Los Angeles icon of the dance scene known for his rigor and tough-love approach. To watch a few minutes of Wenta's practice is to be reminded of why fashion, art and pop culture — and not-so-sly voyeurs such as yourself — have never lost interest in the graceful art form. But ballet isn't the only offering at Mimoda Studio. Visitors also can spy on free-form dance parties headed by Mimoda Jazzo Gruppa theater company, the occasional laughter-filled tap class, and other gutsy evening performances in the multipurpose space that looks like part airport hangar, part stunning downtown loft. After you exit the studio, don't be surprised if you find yourself pirouetting on Pico Boulevard.