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While going to concerts and crowded bars are definitely out during the pandemic, all is not lost. There are still many ways to have fun in Los Angeles without putting yourself at high risk. While most options are outdoors, where it’s easier to social distance, that’s perfect for this area with a mild climate. Don’t stay cooped inside, try one of these fun activities instead.
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Learn to Surf
If you’ve ever wanted to learn to surf, now is the time. Surfing lessons are available for everyone from beginners to intermediate-level surfers through Aloha Brothers. You’ll be able to master those waves in no time learning from experienced experts who offer lessons to visitors and tourists of all ages. You don’t have to have your own gear either as both surfboards and wetsuits are included in the 90-minute surf lesson, with both group classes and private sessions available.
Hike to the Hollywood Sign
Hike to the Hollywood sign to get some great exercise and a fantastic view. There are three different routes, the Cahuenga Peak, Brush Canyon and Mt Hollywood trails, offering something for all skill levels. Magnificent views of the sign unfold on the routes that wind through the rolling chaparral of the Santa Monica Mountains. The western frontier of Griffith Park provides incredibly close encounters with the sign just below the ridgeline at the summit of Mount Lee. The longest trek ascends above and behind the 45-foot-tall aluminum letters, providing a breathtaking vista of the sign, the downtown Los Angeles skyline, and, on a clear day, the Pacific.
Search Through the Tide Pools at Leo Carrillo Beach
Just north of Malibu along Highway One is Leo Carrillo State Park which features one-and-a-half miles of craggy coastline. While it’s a rocky non-conformist stretch, compared to L.A.’s better known soft sand beaches, it’s a great place to search for sea urchins, starfish and other creatures in the tide pools or climb over rocks to explore sea caves. Time your visit for low tide, your best chance to spot marine life.
Visit the Original Farmers Market
The Original Farmers Market is truly that – it’s been popular among locals and visitors since opening in 1934, although its history dates all the way back to 1880. While you can pick up fresh fruits and veggies here, there is much more to the Farmers Market than fruit stands. It features over 100 gourmet grocers, food vendors, shops and restaurants, with open-air patios to enjoy them while social distancing. A star in its own right, it’s appeared numerous times on various cooking shows, including Gordon Ramsay, as well as “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific
One of the most popular aquariums in California, the Aquarium of the Pacific showcases all sorts of animals from the Pacific Ocean, with over 500 species from the Tropical Pacific, Baja and the Southern California regions. In addition to a wide variety of fish, there are penguins, turtles, sea otters and sea lions as well as an area that displays colorful Lorikeet birds. Visitors can watch seals and sea lions perform, and the kids can touch everything from sea urchins to zebra sharks. During the pandemic, only outdoor exhibits are open, but there’s plenty to see, including the Harbor Terrace with its Moon Jelly Touch Lab and archerfish and mudskipper exhibit, the Shark Lagoon which hosts touch pools, the Lorikeet Forest, the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, Ray Touch Pool and the Seals and Sea Lions Habitat.
Go to the Drive-In
Drive-in theaters have been making a comeback across the country with indoor theaters shuttered due to COVID, and that includes options in and around L.A. with newly created pop-ups and retro spots that have been revitalized and reopened. The Paramount is a good option and just outside the county, Mission Tiki is showing double features nightly on four screens, with a mix of the few existing current releases and recent classics. Look for drive-in film fests too as The Grove has been hosting several of these events.
Try Forest Bathing in the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
Shinrin-yoku, better known in the western world as forest bathing, is a form of nature therapy that originated in Japan. It helps relieve stress while providing a variety of mental and physical health benefits by immersing yourself in nature, something many of us could use about now. It requires no nudity, and every Wednesday evening at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, a socially-distanced walk is led through a forest to help you interact with the land. It’s scientifically proven to enhance your immune system, and even improve cognitive functioning too.
Enjoy the View from Mount Wilson Observatory
One of the best views you’ll find anywhere is from the Mount Wilson Observatory which sits at an elevation of 5,700 feet. Getting to the mountaintop observatory is fun on its own with a winding, scenic drive high into the San Gabriel Mountains. Admission is free, but you’ll need to purchase a Forest Service Adventure Pass to park at the site and the adjoining picnic area as it sits within the Angeles National Forest. During the pandemic, you’ll only be able to admire the views, which is worth the trip, but when things get back to normal there are seasonal docent-led tours of the observatory, the option for a self-guided tour of the grounds, and stargazing events.
Hike Malibu Creek State Park
This 8,000-acre mountainous park is just a short drive from downtown L.A. but you’ll feel like you’re in a whole new world among the lush forest, hidden pools, dramatic gorges and jagged rocky peaks. It’s one of the most beautiful areas in Southern California and it has an interesting film history too. Hiking here will take you to the ruins from the set of the TV series “M*A*S*H” and you can check out a splash pool featured in “Planet of the Apes.” The area was also used in the “Little House of the Prairie” series. It’s 4.75 miles round trip, but it can be extended to 5.7 miles by entering the park from the South Grassland Trail, or shortened to 3.6 miles by hiking the Cistern Trail.
Cycle The Strand
This 22-mile bike path, officially called the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, follows the entire stretch of L.A.’s west-facing coastline making it one of the best ways to explore the sights along the city’s coast, starting from Will Rogers State Park meandering down to Torrance County Beach. Bring ingredients for a picnic in a backpack and stop at one of the beautiful beaches along the way to enjoy it.
Pedal Around Echo Park Lake in a Swan Boat
Wheel Fun Rentals at Echo Park Lake has some new Swan Boats for rent. They make for a fun and unique way to explore the fountain and lotus beds while getting some fresh air, sunshine and a little exercise. Pedaling in a Swan has already been rated one of the top activities in the city and it’s easy to social distance while pedaling. Reservations are necessary during the pandemic, however, with walk-ups not accepted. You’ll be given the required life vests and boating instructions too.
Explore the Venice Canals
A series of small canals running through the Venice beach neighborhood was inspired by the Italian version. While this may not be Italy, they’re still fun to explore, tucked between the Venice Boardwalk and Abbot Kinney, providing a different perspective of this famous beachside community. As you wander around the three canal-lined blocks you’ll encounter an especially picturesque scene with arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach homes, and ducks. Rumor has it, one of the residents occasionally brings his bulldog here to paddleboard – a great photo-op if you happen to see him. While there aren’t any boat rentals here, you can bring a non-motorized vessel of your own.
Fly a Kite in Angels Gate Park at the Korean Bell of Friendship
This is the perfect time to get out and fly a kite, and one of the best places to do it is at the bell and pavilion in Angels Gate Park which was donated by South Korea in 1976. It overlooks the Pacific and has a vast grassy area that’s ideal for flying a kite with the persistent winds that come off the water. Plus the scenery is hard to beat!
Enjoy a Secluded Stretch of Sand at Point Dume State Beach
If you want to enjoy a secluded stretch of beach for peaceful contemplation, Point Dume is one of the most spectacular in the region and it’s also a popular Hollywood filming site thanks to its iconic rock face. A visit here allows you to enjoy soaking up the sun and the sand in a place that’s rarely crowded making it easy to social distance too. Bring a picnic and gaze out at the scenery, including dolphins and seals, and a jaw-dropping sunset.