Best of L.A.

Best Of 2010


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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Missing the Point
Los Angeles Nanka Kyudo Kai Zen Archery dojo

Kyudo, or Japanese archery, combines martial arts with the manners of evolved society. This naturally involves an enormous amount of control. In fact, the aim isn’t even always to hit the target. Shishou Rick Beal, a practitioner of the archery art, explains: “Japanese archery, or kyudo, as it is called in Japan, is often called Zen archery. I am a Zen monk. Kyudo for me is a form of Zen. Kyudo has always had a spiritual element, but this is more closely associated with the indigenous beliefs of Japan than with the imported practice of Zen. All that said, the Japanese also think it strange that we make all these distinctions, and usually just tell us to practice.” Inextricably linked with ceremony and ritual, the long bows of the Zen archer can be seen at the Los Angeles Nanka Kyudo Kai Zen Archery dojo, in still contemplation and an economy of movement rather than aggression that is ultimately, fundamentally misdirected. Zen archery strives to attain a certain perfection of form — and of self. The peacefulness of the ritual, the inner calm that radiates outward with the arrow and the reverberation of the bowstring are some of the purest things that exist in man’s nature, and the natural world beyond it. 595 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena. —David Cotner

595 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, 91103
Best Beaux Arts Workout Spot — With a Movie (1912)
Los Angeles Athletic Club

Founded in 1880, when the main mode of transportation was the stagecoach, the Los Angeles Athletic Club, celebrating its 130th anniversary, remains a downtown oasis for fine-tuning your body, inside and out. Relocating in 1912 to a stunning Beaux Arts building, the first private club in L.A. no longer has members with handlebar mustaches flying on trapezes in the gym, and it admits women. You can play squash, handball and racquetball or take classes in tai chi, yoga or Pilates. Improve your mind by attending a lecture about wine or business leadership. If you don’t give a rip about self-improvement, try “Move With a Movie,” themed events inspired by films, starting Oct. 21 with Wall Street Ball Street, which combines squash lessons with scotch tasting, stogie smoking and a screening of the Oliver Stone film. Also on the agenda: a pool-party screening of Jaws and exotic dancing lessons set to the Demi Moore turkey Striptease, followed by “an intimate dinner for two” (plus an hour in a boutique hotel room for an extra $129). The LAAC, which has welcomed William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino, isn’t cheap, but it’s accessible, with monthly fees of $99 for those under 34 and over 64, and $162 for everyone else; $15 for one-time entry with a member. 431 W. Seventh St., dwntwn. (213) 625-2211, —Patrick Range McDonald & Karina Longworth

431 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles, 90014
Best Yoga in a Garden
Liberation Yoga

There’s nothing quite like a soft breeze and a bubbling fountain to take your downward dog to the next level — which is why Liberation Yoga built a covered garden studio, an urban Eden complete with dark wood flooring, ancient Chinese wood carvings and rustling vegetation. The aim was to encourage “an infinite connection with the organic world,” and by all accounts, it succeeded, creating one of those truly special spots that Angelenos love to discover. Try the Candlelight Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Family Yoga (a one-hour, all-levels Hatha yoga class for yogis ages 4 to infinity) or the monthly Chakra Restorative Yoga, a two-hour candlelit class that uses color, aromatherapy and music to “clear, awaken and renew” your seven major chakras. Your first class is free. 124 S. La Brea Ave., Mid-City. (323) 964-5222. —Caroline Ryder

124 S. La Brea Ave., Inglewood, 90301
Best Lift in Venice

Levitating high above the bustling consumptive Abbot Kinney fray, Ascended Living is a tiny, hidden haven for body, mind and spirit (or, as Osho says, bodymindspirit). The happy bamboo studio — a great bright burst of ionized, Ormus-laced air — houses a handful of treatment rooms and a collective of healers and wellness professionals who make magic inside ’em. Among the various progressive treatments available are nanocurrent face-lifts, quantum regenerative facials, oxygen therapies, live blood analysis and bodywork — amazing, blow-your-mind-open-to-the-arms-of-consciousness and trip-your-every-light-fantastic bodywork. (See Ryan Amsel, resident Body Unwinding master.) Ascended Living hosts classes, workshops, lectures and visiting channelers, among many other ascending luminaries, and offers a select assortment of top-tier products, including living herbs, Egyptian healing rods and probiotic skin and dental care. 1418 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 396-3888, —Dani Katz

1418 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 90291
Best Hike to Eagle Rock, But Not the One You Think

For a dose of classic California beauty, endless views and dramatic boulders, hike to Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park, the world’s largest (at 14,000 acres) wildland within the boundaries of a major city. While picnic areas attract crowds of suburban families on the weekends, the trails are usually very open, luring naturalists and runners. Springtime is lovely with meadows in bloom and rare wild flowers sprinkled alongside sycamores and oaks on the 7.5-mile loop trail. Stick to the morning or afternoon for optimal viewing of native flora, and you might see a critter or two. From Topanga Canyon Boulevard, head east for one mile on Entrada Road, then follow signs for Topanga State Park. Park in the lot for $4, or if you’re feeling frugal park down the road. Look for the Eagle Spring Road to take you up to Eagle Rock. The park closes at dusk. (310) 455-2465, default.asp?page_id=25336. —Jacqueline Bolbat

Best Dirigible Passenger Airship

While the Eureka zeppelin technically is berthed in San Francisco, it makes frequent trips south to offer L.A.’s thrill-seekers sky rides aboard the only passenger airship in America. The zeppelin is 60 feet longer than the biggest blimp and 15 feet longer than a 747, with a cabin that holds just 12 passengers. But despite its small size, it already has flown more than 5,000 people for special events, custom charter flights and a variety of public tours, cruising at a steady speed of 35 to 40 miles an hour. The ship’s hull is made from material that comes from the same company that makes NASA’s space suits and is filled with non-flammable helium. On windy days, boarding can be a challenge, but once inside the cabin, it’s quiet and peaceful, with big windows that allow for extended sightseeing; even the bathroom has a view. One of only three zeppelins in the world, Eureka serves as a modern-day example of historic aviation, but with innovative, high-tech components that look to the future. Thirty-minute flights start at $199 per person. But don’t you dare call it a blimp; it’s a zeppelin. tours-los_angeles.php. —Tanja M. Laden

Best Basketball in the Fog
Del Rey Lagoon

Saturday mornings often find prodigious full-court games on this court tucked away in Del Rey Lagoon Park in a little-known part of L.A. But true lovers of the game understand the magic of having a court to yourself. You can do that here most weekday mornings or even on weekends in winter, especially when the coastal fog is so thick you can’t see one basket from the other. Flush the anxiety meds. Go shoot free throws, alone, blanketed in fog, to the sound of crashing surf. Or do it at night under a full moon. The court lies between Del Rey Lagoon (egrets, ducks, herons) and the last remaining beach foredunes in Los Angeles County, immediately adjacent to a lovely Little League park (great french fries). Bring your spouse and kids and let them play on the slides and swings in a new children’s park. FYI: If you’re looking for weekend pick-up, bring your A-game. A certain sandal-clad Laker head coach has been known to walk by heading to lunch at The Shack. 6660 Esplanade Place, Playa del Rey. (310) 396-1615. —Drex Heikes

6660 Esplanade St., Marina del Rey, 90292
Best Giant Pile of Sand

There’s nothing like a giant pile of sand to play in, especially for those who love to indulge their inner child or treat themselves to a killer workout. And for that the Manhattan Beach sand dune is the ticket. Just south of LAX, at Sand Dune Park, sits a 100-foot-high dune perfect for climbing and playing. Fit folks of all ages run up the tall slope, working their quads, calves and feet (it’s better if you do it barefoot). The tip-top of the dune offers views of Santa Monica, the Hollywood Hills and huge jets taking off and landing. The only distraction is the giant power plant in neighboring El Segundo, which mars the view with its industrial structures and plumes of smoke. Because of overuse of the dune by athletes, which led the city of Manhattan Beach to close it for many months, online reservations and a $1 entry fee are required to climb the dune, which is bordered by a small park with a swing set and other playground fare. 33rd Street and Bell Ave., Manhattan Beach. —Christine Pelisek

Best Stairway to Torture

Undoubtedly some of the best workouts in L.A. are free and grueling, and by this we mean the Beachwood stairs on Beachwood Canyon Drive in the Hollywood Hills. The historic 1923 staircase was part of the original design of Hollywoodland, a housing development created by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler. The stonemasons who built the 148 stairs and five other staircases in the same area were hired from Italy and used local granite from the Union Rock Quarry in Bronson Canyon. Chandler’s goal was to make Hollywoodland appealing to potential home owners by making hillside living safer. He couldn’t have dreamed that 87 years later the stairs would be used by cardio buffs who take sick pleasure in pummeling themselves on the steep incline. The stairs draw an eclectic crowd of “athletes,” including folks looking to drop unwanted flesh, Mexican nannies, buff firemen from Fire Station 19 who use it as part of their workout regime and dog walkers. The stairs are a tad unkempt, but the desert flowers that grow along the center divide are well tended by a friendly neighbor. Best of all, you can park nearby for free. Beachwood and Woodshire drives, Hollywood. —Christine Pelisek

Best Glow-in-the-Dark Bowling
All Star Lanes

Forget the newfangled Lucky Strike Lanes; the All Star Lanes bowling alley in Eagle Rock is the real deal. With original midcentury architecture and retro decor, the old-school building features pool tables, karaoke and a video arcade, on top of 22 automatic-scoring bowling lanes that may or not be working. There is plenty of parking, an on-site Chinese restaurant and a classic cocktail lounge that serves up stiff drinks at vintage prices. While the bowling balls don’t have their weights listed, they do come in funky colors, making the glow-in-the-dark bowling sessions all the more enjoyable, not to mention psychedelic. The clientele includes families, hipsters and teens. While it may not be as state-of-the-art as more professional bowling allies, All Star Lanes delivers on that hard-to-find, nostalgia-steeped vibe one expects to find at a local SoCal hangout — and now, with more neon. 4459 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock. (323) 254-2579, —Tanja M. Laden

4459 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, 90041
Cascades, Punchbowls and Pools

There is something about a waterfall: Its hypnotic movement and meditative white noise, its irresistible pull as you draw near, the sound growing from hiss to rumble. L.A. is surrounded by dozens of waterfalls. Some of the best are also the most easily accessed: John Muir described Eaton Canyon Falls as “a charming little thing, with a voice sweet as a songbird’s.” An easy mile-and-a-half ramble up the Eaton Wash leads to this deliciously cool resting spot full of reflected light. 1750 N. Altadena Dr., Pasadena. The spirit of the San Gabriels surely resides in Fish Canyon, with its impressive 80-foot, four-tiered falls and spectacular vistas. Hikers can only access the trailhead seasonally by shuttle through the Azusa Rock Quarry. 3901 Fish Canyon Rd., Duarte. Enchantment lingers all about the cunningly segmented Solstice Canyon Falls; every stone, step and tree seem to have been placed there by elves. The shady 3-mile loop starts at the end of Corral Canyon Road, Malibu. waterfall.htm. An easy 0.8-mile stroll through the emphatically green forests of Monrovia Canyon leads to a charming 30-foot fan of water that splays across smooth granite, to end in a shallow pool at your feet. 1001 N. Canyon Blvd., Monrovia. Visit and for excellent directions. Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles by Jerry Schad (Wilderness Press) and Day Hiker’s Guide to Southern California by John McKinney (Olympus Press) contain useful information for new and experienced hikers alike. —Suzy Beal

Best Skate Park
Venice Skatepark

More than 30 years after Tony Alva defied the laws of gravity and personal property, destroying the rims of snuck-into swimming pools as he jettisoned from the earth to the sky, skateboarding is legal — a development some said would eviscerate skating’s rebellious soul. Yet consider the heart of the Venice Skatepark. Trapped between the final intercession of concrete — call it the boardwalk — and the sea, it is the sport’s last stand against commercialism. An unsponsored mecca of athleticism, innovation and art in an era in which corporations appropriate authenticity faster than taggers claim the ’hood. Instead, it’s all free: the ocean-meets-sky backdrop, the skaters swooping loosely into bowls, the original Dogtown skater who sets a tiny helmeted tot on his feet after a bad tumble, the sound of skaters hitting their decks against concrete — clapping for a good run. No wonder the faithful draw crowds to watch. Welcome to the Church of the Board. 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, beyond the boardwalk where Windward Avenue meets the beach. —Tibby Rothman

1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, 90291

Best Missing the Point: Los Angeles Nanka Kyudo Kai Zen Archery dojo


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