Category Archives: Southern California

[Traveling Tales] Take it to the Top: Conquering Gray’s Peak Trail

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“You might not find any wifi in the forest, but I promise you’ll find a better connection”

For the better part of the last decade,  any weekend with time to spare and sun to catch magically evolved into a festival fueled adventure somewhere along the West Coast.  Over the last few years, our festival family reunion and pre-Summer kickoff was Lightning in a Bottle – delightfully and delectably getting us ready for the rest of festival season.  When the time came this year to figure out where we wanted to lounge lavishly and enjoy each others company, we took a long hard look at the growth we’ve elicited from ourselves at Lighting in a Bottle – which comes easily when you’re surrounded by the prismatic love, light and laughter of the event.  Each year, though challenging for individually unique reasons, provided the perfect platform to acknowledge myself in the moment and grow from it.  Paired with sweeping landscapes and myriads of magical music, I almost dare you not to be moved – because I have been, over and over and over again.

Even as I describe what we didn’t experience this year, I feel blessed and gifted with my past experiences.  As I marinate in my own newfound maturity, I amuse myself in what I’ve become – knowing full well that growth is synonymous with growing pains, and I effectively feel like I’ve graduated from a phase of my life, and of myself.   All together, these thoughts synthesized themselves in a way that made me opt for a new journey for Memorial day this time around the sun. So, instead of feverishly packing our apartment to fit inside a tent, we packed an overnight bag and it was off, off and away to Big Bear for a weekend of sun and fun with a few friends that have become a hell of a lot more like family over the last few years.

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Just a hop, skip and a few hour drive into San Bernadino, Big Bear already sits at an elevation of nearly 7,000′ – even before you head out on your hike or snow inspired romp through the woods, and has a little bit of something for everyone – granted that everyone’s a bit of a nature nut.   We might have cut our lodging options short by not planning our trip until literally three days before the weekend, but thanks to AirBnB finding an a beautiful place to stay  – fully equipped with patios and a hot tub on a budget – was super easy.

After to getting into town late Friday night, on Saturday morning the group made a bomb little breakfast and got to packing for our hike.  Several sandwiches, a few mixed drinks and some salacious snackables later and we were off, off and away for what turned out to be an intense but well worth it hike up Gray’s Peak Trail.   All together, the hike up Gray’s Peak is about Seven Miles each way with 1300′ to climb in elevation.  One thing we didn’t know beforehand, but damn well are sure of now: at about 8000′ in elevation is when people start toying with altitude sickness and at approximately 8300′ – at times, you could really tell that we weren’t in Kansas at sea level anymore.

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Even though the few websites we found on the hike claimed that it was great for kids, my friends and I can attest that those kids must be jacked up on Mountain Dew because we all had our collective asses handed to us.  There were a lot of fun ‘turnouts’ – if that’s what they’re even called if you’re not in a car – that got us to jump off the beaten path and forge our own trail, but in a respectful way – of course.  There were a few places with tiny streams, stemming from the base of the mountain and loads of little lizards running amuck every which way.  Near 8k’, you could tell that the trees were starting to be weathered under the altitude but that all changed when you got near the pinnacle, it literally felt like you’d walked through a portal and into Fern Gully.   There’s a couple things that make this a Summer hike in my book – like the incline and the potential weather, but it also turns out that the trailhead is closed for public use between December and April because it’s in the middle of a bald eagle wintering habitat area – how effing neat!

Packing Pro Tips

Make sure everyone has enough water, and a backpack between two people is perfect.  Layers, extra socks, hiking shoes cause you want your ankles.

Things I’ve learned as a novice hiker, but expert adventurer:

  • Cameras are always a must, sure your phone has one – but point and shoots are fun, too! Make sure you take at least one group photo before you head up the trail and into the sweat zone – yeah, now you get it.  Extra points if you remember to bring a collapsible tripod – you’ll really be your groups MVP, most valuable photographer.
  • Your phone has a compass on it, don’t be afraid to use it – but also, put that thing away and enjoy the hike!
  • Hydration is key, super key. Drinking and hiking is fun, but in the Summer it’s not the smartest – make sure you’ve got enough water for the walk up, and the walk back; plus, being more hydrated makes the drunk more fun – if you’re into that type of thing 😉
  • A bag per every two people is appropriate, that way you can also switch off with carrying duty – make sure you toss in some sammies and full bars for meals, and for snackables both nuts and dried fruit have a lot of protein.  Last, but not least if you’re weird like me and don’t really enjoy chewing – throw in a few ensures to top it off.
  • Everybody loves layers – especially for hikes.  Bring an change of socks in case you encounter water, shorts / pants depending on what you start off in and a hoodie.
  • Do a gut check with everyone before the hike starts and make sure everyone’s comfortable with the adventure ahead, you never know who’s in super great shape, or who might have some hesitations about an all day excursion.
  • Leaves of three, let them be. Poison Oak is no joke and usually it’s kept off the trail – if you’re like me and like to forge your own path, know what it looks like…or better yet, just wear pants.

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For more on Big Bear, head to their website or social channels:

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[LA Life] Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Scenic Highway

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Mother’s Day Weekend is a special weekend, a fruitful time for family and a fitting occasion to embrace the divine feminine, and within that – our true Mother – Earth, Nature, Gaia – if you will.  As Danny and I gallivanted away this past weekend to go spend some quality time with his mom in Lancaster, we had (what we considered) a brilliant idea: instead of taking the 14, let’s take a leisurely drive through the Angeles Crest Highway.  And what a magical adventure that became.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway is often referred to as the ‘Highway to the Heavens‘, and in my opinion – rightfully so: just one cruise through it’s winding trails, your car eagerly hugging the curves and you’ll be confused if you’re still in Los Angeles, let alone California – or the United States.  At times, the drive reminded me of Zion, my fiance kept thinking of the Grand Canyon and it’s easy to think that you’ve instantly been transported to the Swiss Alps or somewhere picturesque in the South of France.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Considered one of the most beautiful non-coastal drives in the United States, the Angeles Crest Highway spans the northern most portion of California State Route 2, reaching from the the tip of Los Angeles County in La Cañada-Flintridge to Wrightwood in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Wander along the winding roads and you’ll find picturesque views of every angle of Los Angeles from the ridge-line of the Angeles National Forest.

The area is befit with a rich history that dates back to the turn of the 19th Century, and boasts plenty of turnouts with epic views, and hiking trails for those willing to adventure. And with nature just off of a stunning Superbloom season – or as I’d like to think of it, still marinating in the tail end of it, the hills are currently lush with bright yellow, violet and pink blooms.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest HighwayStopping literally at every turn out we could – because, why not?! – we quite accidentally took a hearty nature break where Mill Creek intersects with the scenic byway.  As Danny found himself enamored by the tunnel born out of the mountain slabs, we were stopped in our literal tracks by the serene sounds of a bubbling brook. Danny eagerly clamored down the hill, reveling in the diamond in the rough that we just discovered – I was busy freezing in my flip flops, overthinking my way down to the water’s edge. After negotiating, and then poorly navigating my way down – spoiler alert: I slipped several times anyways – it was absolutely worth it.

Because we live in the wonderful Mediterranean climate of Southern California, it’s pretty much always a good time to go for a drive on the Angeles Crest Highway, but during the winter months (and some awkward days of June gloom), the snow can shut down parts of the mountain pass and the fog induced poor visibility is actually terrifying – just trust me on that one.  So, before you hop in your car and ride away into the sunset – make sure you check the road conditions to ensure a smooth, beautiful drive.

There’s something absolutely sacred about the way a car hugs a tight turn along a scenic cruise, whipping the soul around to enjoy a palpable, panoramic landscape in a heartbeat; albeit I think the windows should be down and music up to take full advantage of the moment – but who am I to tell another soul how to enjoy a leisurely, weekend drive.

Take a peek at my recent adventures on Flickr!

For more on the Angeles Crest Highway, peruse their website and social media channels – or just take yourself out for a spin; trust me, it’s worth it – and you can thank me later.

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Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

[LA Life] A Lunchtime Romp Along the LA River

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Los Angeles is a stunning landscape where you can cruise from coast to snow capped mountain and back to the desert in less than a day – if you really wanted to.  But did you know you don’t have to leave the city of Los Angeles to get a hearty dose of nature into your system?  Between Exposition Park, the Getty Getty VillaHuntington, Arlington and Descanso Gardens there are rolling acres of unique plants, flowers and trees in echo of habitats around the globe, and the multitudes of parks spread around the city like wildflowers preserve the natural landscape of Los Angeles.  Griffith Park is the second largest urban green space in California and the eleventh largest in the United States. And then there’s the LA River.

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Back in the day, long before I moved to Southern California – my parents told me an old adage about Los Angeles: LA, it’s where the rivers are paved and the streets aren’t.  Now, as a kid this statement made me laugh but for different reasons than it does now, because until I heard that ludicrous statement, it never once occurred to me that Los Angeles had a river that ran through it all.  Now, after almost a decade of living here, I can fully attest to the veracity of both sides of this absurd but accurate statement.

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Sprawling over 50 miles through the heart of Los Angeles, the LA River begins up in the Santa Susana Mountain Range, which stretches between the San Fernando and Simi Valleys. and flows into Long Beach. Over the last two decades, and in conjunction with the Friends of the LA River,  the city has decided to revitalize about 30 miles of the river and both bring back the ecology of the area and promote its biodiversity.  With multiple stops for river trail access, local recreation areas and riverfront parks, delicious restaurants as well as nearby metro stations – you could easily make a whole day out of gallivanting down the banks of the river while exploring true hidden gems of the city.

So far, I’ve only gallivanted along the paths in North East LA, but so far – so beautiful. There are several different bike paths that take you along the river in Frogtown, and if you bring good enough shoes you can even make it down to the banks and enjoy a little picnic in the middle of the city, relaxing as the river ripples along – bubbling up to say a little hello; just do yourself a favor and pack some sunscreen because bugs. There were several lush parks to take a pack lunch to, and with amazing sandwich shops like Wax Paper along the route how could you not? I highly recommend the Steve Julian. Now, I personally don’t know how to ride a bike – but the bike path by the LA River makes me damn well wish I did – plus, now that I know the Spoke Bike Cafe is just a hop, skip and a jump down the trail, I just might finally learn…one day ;).

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For more about the LA River Trail and all the amenities on the way, head to their website or social media pages:

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[LA Life] Frolic Among the Flowers at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

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Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Over the last year, my life has uncovered a bevvy of nuanced ways that it has to re-prioritize what’s important. Call it a quarter life crisis, or simply just growing up – but the things that used to sit on top of my pyramid of needs have reorganized themselves into a quieter, calmer lifestyle.  An avid audiophile through and through, when I pulled away from going to music festivals and concerts it was like I spearheaded an investigation into who I was at my core.  A daughter, a dreamer, a lover, a cat lady, a nature nymph, a very silly girl who cares very deeply about the world she cultivates around her. Two years ago, four years ago, ten years ago – I couldn’t escape the monotony of my home life enough:  living in Los Angeles, there is literally something to do at every second of every day, and I dove in head first, exploring new eats in new cities and musing around music festivals like it was my job, which eventually – it was.  At 23, it was the perfect lifestyle – at 28, still amazing; but as I cruise into the meat of my thirties, that’s just not what I want out of life at this current moment.

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What do I want? I want to be nurtured by nature, I want to analyze my psyche through the scope of the arts and I want to take things just a little more slowly, a little more sweetly.  Over the almost nine years that I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve watched as this self professed ‘City Kitty’ has evolved into more of a ‘Country Cat’.  I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Big Sur and Sequoia, breathing in the the crisp, clean air while I revel in the romanticism of the great outdoors. Though we’ve been in a major drought these last few years, major rains during this past Winter have done their part to change the lay of the land and bring some much needed water to the area – and the Springtime Southern California desert has responded in kind with the Super Bloom.

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Just a hop, skip and a jump up the 14 Freeway from Los Angeles lies the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.  Sitting right on the outskirts of Lancaster, and potentially one of the only valid reasons to go to Lancaster at all, the AV Poppy Reserve is surrounded by rolling hills and a sweeping skyline.  Part of the California National Park system, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve spans 1,781 acres acres and boasts a wide variety of trails to take you from corner to corner of the park. The state natural reserve is located on the states best natural poppy bearing land. But, beyond the orange beauty of the California state flower, the Poppy Reserve and outlying areas are covered with luscious blue lupines, and yellow goldfields and cream cups.

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Though the Poppy Reserve is stunning, and boasts plenty of walkable trails – I found that the best Poppies were right on the side of the road.  With ample turnouts available from Castaic Lake all the way up to the Reserve, you could literally spend the entire afternoon staring into the soul of flowers.  And boy, do those flowers sing back.If you couldn’t get enough of the sprawling desert landscapes of Lancaster, the Arthur B Ripley Desert State Park is only about 8 miles West of the Poppy Reserve, and has plenty of wildflowers and juniper woodland, in addition to the area’s native Joshua trees.

For more of my photos from the Poppy Fields, check out my album here 🙂

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Southern California and plan your trip to the Poppy Reserve now! For more on the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, head to their website and social media channels –

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Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

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Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

[LA Life] Lunchtime Libations at the LACMA

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Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

Moving to a new city after college is equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, it’s a fresh start for a mature mind and a time and place when one truly comes into their own.  The sights, sounds, and even smells surrounding you become synonymous with your new life as you breathe in the sunshine and the nightlife day after day.  From live concerts, music festivals, and food trucks to the museums, art galleries and art walks, Los Angeles offers a little bit of everything for the creative spirit. Here we have me, eight years in and a bit stagnant, for lack of a better word.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy what the city has to offer, but live here – or really anywhere – for long enough and you’ll  begin to take the things that initially made your city so grand for granted.  Unique locations like Hollywood and Highland, Venice, and Santa Monica lose their glittering grandeur and you’ll begin to curse the overcrowded freeway system instead of being enthralled by the distance from the snow to the sand, or the multitudes of live music venues and museums scattered around each and every nook of town. The arts offer us emotional relief and right now with everything going on politically it’s more important than ever that we all support our local galleries and museums.

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

Art and I have slowly but surely been coming to terms with each other. A self professed audiophile and lover of the arts, some specific fine arts like painting, portraiture, sculpting and drawing have been slow but sure to tickle my fancy in recent years.  The more I see that the art world isn’t just full of lackluster landscapes and stuffy old people in silly clothing, but enamored scenes, surreal sculptures and peculiar pieces – the more I’ve come around.  It’s taken a while to figure out which museums I should visit and which I might want to avoid, but the LACMA has a bit of everything for all, and amazing architecture to boot.

Initially part of the menagerie of museums at Exposition Park that were established in 1910, the LACMA broke off from the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in 1961 to give proper focus to the fine arts at a separate location and they opened their doors to the public back in 1965.  Now celebrating over fifty years of the arts, the LACMA currently sits on twenty sprawling acres of land in the Miracle Mile area and has been a staple of artistic culture in Los Angeles ever since. Boasting a collection of over 130,000 works ranging from ancient art and antiquity to the contemporary art of now, the LACMA stands proudly as the West Coast’s largest art museum.

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

Located on a conjoined lot with the Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits, the LACMA complex consists of eight separate buildings and a sprawling green lawn, perfect for picnics.  The Ahmanson Building houses the Art of the Pacific, the Rifkind Gallery for German Expressionists,  Islamic, Asian and European Art, and Art of the Ancient World which is also hosted in the Hammer Building along with Korean and Chinese Art.  The Pavilion for Japanese Art and Art of the Americas buildings need no further introduction while the Broad Contemporary Art Museum boasts paid exhibits, such as the Piacsso and Rivera Exhibition ‘Conversations Through Time’, an oddly immersive exhibit on the first floor and several areas devoted to contemporary collections.

 

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

For the multitudes of art that I find myself enamored by inside the LACMA, there are an equal number of awe inspiring architectural marvels and sculptures scattered around the grounds.  One of the most popular is the ‘Levitated Mass’on the Fairfax side of the park, and the La Brea Tar Pits make for a fun history lesson, irregardless of your age.  Not to mention, the Pavilion for Japanese Art oozes with incredible design that winds and weaves up and into the sky.

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

 

Open during the week from 11 to 5pm and weekends from 10 to 7, the LACMA has some fantastic food options. For lunch, there are always a bevvy of food trucks right across the way from the LACMA as well as some wonderful options within walking distance, including The Grove, and the Beverly + Fairfax Area.  For a grab-and-go lunch on site, head to the LACMA Cafe,  But if you’re down to lounge lavishly on the patio and people watch in comfort, then head on down to Roy’s and the Stark Bar. Yes, it’s a bit on the pricy side – but why not just pop in for a tasty beverage and a few sharable plates?  My recommendation is an Urban Light drink with their Yellowtail Crudo, and then thank me later.

For more on the LACMA, head to their socials – or take a leisurely stroll into Los Angeles’ magical Miracle Mile area and see the museum for yourself.

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Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

Lounge Lavishly at the LACMA

[LA Life] Say Yay to Snow Days!

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Halfway between a creature of habit and victim of circumstance are a multitude of reasons that I’ve barely ever visited the snow.  Growing up as a swimmer in the Bay Area, I loved the sun and water more ways than I could count; while on family vacations we constantly favored beautiful beaches with their sandy waves over the glistening snow-capped mountains.  I barely ever made it to the snow as a child and can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen it in person.  Not to mention, I can be quoted as saying “I’m a Image may contain: tree, snow and outdoor‘Hawaii’ kind of girl” more times than I can count, because bless my parents – they still like to remind me of all those years before I turned into such a nature nymph. To them, it’s any wonder that I’ve turned from a self-professed city kitty into a rough(er) and tumble(r) snow bunny, but here I am – ready for business, and by business I mean nature-inspired personal pleasure.

One of the many, many fantastic things about living in Los Angeles (Southern California…and just California in general),  is that on any given day you can make a trip to the sand or a trip to the snow; if you’re feeling frisky, you can even get a delightful dose of both! Beach days, though beautiful, are proverbially a dime a dozen in the land of palm trees, blue skies and power lines and let’s get real – everyone flocks to the sandy shores: your housemates, your neighbor, your landlord, celebrities and vacationers all come for the beach – which makes hitting those pearly slopes significantly sweeter.  There are near trips and far trips, day trips and trips you should probably make a whole weekend out of. Don’t quote me on exact travel times because, HELLO Los Angeles traffic, but if you’re in the mood for a fantastic day trip – Mt Baldy and the defunct Mt Waterman Ski Lifts make for excellent treks and are just an hour outside of LA proper in the San Gabriel Mountains, while Big Bear in the San Bernadino National Forest is a little over two hours away.  If you’re feeling like an adventure is in the works, Sequoia National Forest is a few hours away and makes for an epic Winter weekend journey.

Pack + Play

For as fun as a snow day is, being fully prepared for your snow day will make things go a hell of a lot smoother (and, warmer!). First things first, make sure you have enough hydration and nutrition to last the day – and then some.  Make some sandwiches, grab some snacks get a good combination of both salty and sugary foods; in case anyone’s body starts going into a bit of shock – it’ll bring them right back! When it comes to water, even though the weather might be a big frightful and frigid, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t working overtime – especially if you head out on a hike.  Make sure you have twice as much as you think you need, and enough for any pups (or, brave cats!) that are along for the ride. Just like in the movie Shrek, when it comes to clothes in the cold – it’s all about layers, so snag a scarf, get a beanie, and a hoodie – or two; if you’ve got fur, this is the perfect time to rock it.  Because of the nature of snow, if you’ve got waterproof pants, socks and or shoes, bring ’em out. Basically, waterproof everything is a plus – GoPro, iPhone 7, you name it – it’s perfect for the snow.  Also, booze…responsible boozing also makes the snow a whole lot more fun.


[LA Life] Lunchtime Relaxation Along Echo Park Lake

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Arguably, one of the best things about Autumn and Winter in Southern California are that they feel like anything but.  Beyond an occasional fresh breath of brisk air around dusk, the sunshine is radiant, flowers are blooming around every corner and the parks around the city are bustling with an effervescent energy.  What I’ve discovered recently, is that no matter what part of Los Angeles you’re in – you’re never more than 10 minutes from a lovely and lush patch of park, if that.  And I would know – recently, I’ve started up (yet another) part time gig and it’s required me to be slightly more mobile than working from my home office, and I’ve found myself getting reacquainted with neighborhoods from Silver Lake to Echo Park, Los Feliz and Highland Park; mostly to do with the fact I’ve gotten lost more times than I’d like to admit.  One of the highlights to these recent roadtrips is roaming open space and breathing in the little treasures our city has to offer.

The great outdoors –  something that more often than not is taken for granted.  Did you know that for basically the entire time you’re working Monday through Friday, the sun is gallivanting through the sky, on a predictable yet beautiful path while it doles out showers of sunlight at every angle – even gracing us with technicolor beginnings and endings when we’re lucky enough to be in the right location?  Yet, for the most part – we’re inside, staring at a computer monitor, behind a desk, wearing a monkey suit and tap-tap-tapping away at our tasks until the sweet sensation of five o’clock rolls around.  Let’s be honest, that’s no way to live – so during lunchtime, do yourself a favor: get out, get moving, lap up some sun and reenergize your day the natural way.

Plants use sunlight do undergo photosynthesis, creating the oxygen that we breathe.  As humans, we don’t necessarily go through the same exact process – but sunlight clearly has it’s own set of health benefits.  Just a few minutes of sunlight has proven to improve mood by boosting levels of serotonin (have you ever visited Oregon in the Winter…?), and stimulating the body to produce Vitamin D, boosting health and the immune system. Plus, getting some exercise in the middle of your day is always a good call – a brisk walk might not be a run, but it’s not sitting on your ass at home, either.

Slowly but surely, I’ve been compiling a list of my favorite public spaces to plop into – and after several visits in the last few months, Echo Park Lake is slowly topping my list. First and foremost, there’s that spectacular view of the downtown skyline – it looks fantastic, especially with some clouds dotting the sky.  Then, there are loads of space on the luscious green grass skirting around the lake, while geese and duck gleefully flock around the park.  If you’re feeling adventurous, or a tad romantic – rent out a paddleboat for a spin on the lake!  Two points for you if you happened to paddle out to the floating library installation earlier this year, you’re the real MVP.  Though there’s no designated parking for Echo Park Lake, the outer rim of the lake offers a plethora of street parking – as do the surrounding neighborhoods.  The park has also accepted that we’re living in the 21st century and has it’s own WiFi for anyone trying to get some work done, or maybe just stream their music a little bit easier.

 

For more on Echo Park Lake, head to their social media channels – or just pay the park a leisurely visit.

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