All the Outdoor Activities Los Angeles People Need to Do This Summer, Pronto
Longing for the wide-open spaces but not interested in making a whole thing out of it? We're bullish on these experiences that you can do in a day. See new vistas, get the kids out of the house, do some exercise and—most importantly—have some fun with one of these awesome outdoor activities that Los Angeles has to offer. We'll have a serving of social distancing with a side of fresh Cali air, thank you very much.
1. Trail Ride in Ojai
Leave for your jaunt with the Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company from Osa Ranch, just next to the Ojai Land Conservancy, and enter the fantastically-named (and fantastically untouched) Enchanted Forest for a trot through the Ventura River Valley. There are two trails to choose from—the more leisurely one-hour excursion for beginners along the Topa Topa mountain range, and a two-hour forest ride for more advanced riders that hauls over ridges and through canyons and valleys. Either one is magical, especially if you time it so that you are astride during Ojai's fabled sunset when the mountains around this laid-back town glow an otherworldly pink. If you're lucky enough to book your ride during the week (rides are available daily), you'll feel you have the great outdoors all to yourself.
2. Bike Ride Through Santa Barbara Wine Country
While state COVID-19 guidelines ping-pong back and forth between opening and closing tasting rooms, the Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours chug onward, not needing an open tasting room to show a visitor a good time. Your bike ride past rows of grape vines in the Santa Ynez Valley, led by a knowledgeable area resident starting at 9 a.m. and extends through your artisanal lunch of farmers' market-sourced salad, charcuterie and cheese. Then you ride until 2:30 p.m. and it's back into the shuttle van with you and your bike for the trip home to Santa Barbara. Cheers to the civilized outdoor sporting life.
3. Stroll the Quaint, Dog-Friendly Town of Solvang
This little village is nicknamed “a little slice of Denmark,” and after visiting we're asking if the Danish have some special insulin capabilities because one shop after another is pastry, sweets, ice cream...not that we're complaining. Also, the place has a Euro vibe of dog friendliness, with shopkeepers offering your pup biscuits and other treats. And there's outdoor dining at spots like Succulent Cafe, where your pet gets her own bowl of water, house-made peanut butter treats and her own menu to order from.
4. Climb the Kelso Dunes
The most fascinating Southern California nature site you've never heard of, the Kelso Dunes are a 45-miles-square region on the edge of the Mojave Desert. At only 650 feet tall, it's an easy climb, and since it's closed to vehicles, it's just you (and your water bottle) hiking in. Strange fact: The sands are famous for their “boom” sound, a low rumbling that happens with every step you take, as hot sand spills over cooler sand below. These “singing sands” are only observed a few places in the world, including the Namib Desert of Africa. Pretty cool, right?
5. Jet Ski Along the Santa Monica Coastline
Are you the type of person who wants maximum adrenaline with minimum exertion? Then a jet ski is just your speed—up to 30 miles per hour on the open water, to be exact. Marina Del Rey Boat Rentals lets you ride two to a craft, and will take you on a guided tour for 90 minutes, which we recommend for newbies. If you've ever piloted one of these water motorcycles before, skip the guide and take the craft out on your own, so you can visit with the sea birds and swimming seals one-on-one. Once you're past the wave break, it's all smooth sailing.
6. Hike a Less-Crowded Trail Such As Franklin Canyon
By now, any Angeleno hiker has had the experience of being on a trail and feeling like you’re smack in the middle of a crowded mall rather than a blissful nature bath. That's why the Mountains, Recreation and Conservation Authority is promoting less-crowded trails to frequent, not least of all Franklin Canyon Park. This 605 acres of unspoiled land right between Beverly Hills and the San Fernando Valley includes five miles of hiking trails, a lake, a duck pond, grasslands and a mini-forest. And most importantly, fewer people. There are breezy picnic areas, so after your hike you can sit back and have a lazy meal.
7. Snorkel in Catalina (via Helicopter)
Catalina Island is the most built-up of the Channel Islands, but it's still enjoyed as a quiet nature spot to get away from the hustle and traffic of the city. Reach it by hour-long ferry, or opt for a 15-minute helicopter ride to make the most of your day trip time and enjoy the panoramic view from up above. Scuba divers and snorkelers love the waters around the island because there's lots of sea life including friendly fish hiding among the kelp forests and coral reefs. Book an IEX Helicopters ride and rent your snorkel gear and wetsuit at Two Harbors Activities and Adventures.
8. Take a Gondola Ride in Venice (aka Long Beach)
That Italian villa vacation has to wait for now, but a fun next-best-thing (well, something in the same universe at least) is the Gondola Getaway experience offered along the canals of the Marina Pacifica just south of Long Beach. You can hire a gondolier to steer your vessel for you and a guest while you drink wine and enjoy the sunset. It's super-corny, but in the best way, because maybe this is going to be the last time for a long time that you have to play-act your own romantic comedy. Or propose marriage in a gondola, whichever works for you.
9. Try Paddleboard Yoga in Marina Del Rey
In the 90-minute YogAQUA yoga class that leaves from Mothers Beach, you spend the first half-hour familiarizing yourself with the eight-foot paddle board and how to pilot it. Then, when your instructor has you positioned in a semi-circle around her, students drop anchor on the back of their paddle board and begin a set of easy stretches and slow sun salutations. the effect of the wobbly board under your feet makes Warrior One pose more challenging than ever before; but the Savasana at the end of class has also never been so relaxing, since you're laying supine, listening to the lightly lapping waves. Oh, and try the head stand, because you may find balance even easier on the water.
10. Drive to Joshua Tree to See Maximum Stars
Joshua Tree is designated an International Dark Sky Park, which means it's the perfect place to spy on NeoWise comet during July. It's visible starting 90 minutes after sunset; but even if you don't catch it then, it's worth your time to gaze upward in the park for whatever else you can make out.
11. Rent a Classic Car and Drive the Angeles Crest Highway
Forget the traffic-clogged PCH on weekends, instead why not rent a cool ride like this classic Volvo and hit the Angeles Crest Highway? The CA-2 goes through the San Gabriel Mountains, and while the springtime floral explosion on its byways has died off by mid-summer, there's still a stark beauty with large boulders and craggy peaks extending up from the sides of this twisting road. It starts in La Canada then goes 66 miles east to the 138, where in winter the Wrightwood ski area gets busy. Be sure to use Waze, however, in case you need to re-route due to falling debris, and two-lane roads such as this one can get backed up quickly.
12. Drive to See Some Desert Art
Visible on the highway leading to and from Las Vegas, Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone's public art installation Seven Magic Mountains is as much of an anomaly on the desert floor as Vegas itself. You can walk amid these 30-to-35-foot tall assemblages of local boulders, painted in bright, happy colors, and feel energized by how art can bloom in a desperate place. And how the super-fakeness of the art underscores how super-natural the surrounding mountains and dry lake bed are, by contrast. But since it's smack in the open desert, we highly recommend visiting just after sunrise or just as the sun sets so you don't get heat stroke.
13. Kayak Through the Channel Islands
The perfect day activity for the whole family that will get the adults invigorated and tire the kids out with all the fresh air. Santa Barbara Adventure Company sets you up with double kayaks, a guide and wetsuits along with a basic guide to kayaking on Haskell's Beach before you set off. You'll stop next to a kelp forest and learn about ocean conservation and hear about some of the 1,500 species of plant and animal life in the area. Guests usually wind up kayaking with dolphins and sea lion during their three-mile trip, so keep your eyes peeled.