If you're looking for Los Angeles parks where you can get outdoors and enjoy the weather, you're thinking like a true Angeleno.
But don't go to to the first places you hear about. In those over-hyped spots, you may find yourself too busy to have fun, sidestepping the selfie-snappers and dodging dog walkers wrangling more than enough animals to make a sled team.
Instead, try these places to get some excellent outdoor experiences without the crowds.
LA's largest city park offers more than 1,000 acres filled with everything you might expect for the whole family to enjoy — and some things to surprise you. The shortlist includes the Griffith Observatory with views that eclipse the museum itself and miles of hiking trails. You can also ride a horse or the kids can ride a pony, or you can enjoy any of several train rides. You'll find more surprising things to do in the complete Griffith Park guide.
The best places for a picnic in Griffith Park are Fern Dell and Crystal Springs. Dogs are allowed in the park but on a leash only.
About a 10-minute drive north of Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway, you'll find a state beach park that's almost like a dream. Take the kids to play on the long, sandy shoreline or watch dolphins swimming in the surf. You might even catch a glimpse of a migrating grey whale.
The beach is also a good place for a picnic. Opt for a blanket on the sand or have a meal at one of the picnic tables near the parking lot.
Point Dume is also a perfect place to see the sunset —which will be more spectacular from fall through early spring before June Gloom sets in.
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
It's hard to believe you're still in LA when you visit this unexpected park in Palos Verdes, on the southern Pacific shore. From the parking area, you can walk down to two beaches, one with a black sand beach — or explore a sea cave at low tide. For a good overview of the hikes you can take, use this guide from California Through My Lens.
Take the kids along to explore the tidepools and look for sea creatures that might include colorful starfish, giant slugs, periwinkles, hermit crabs, and anemones.
Don't try to take the trail down to the beach from the parking lot in flip-flops and take sturdy water shoes if you plan to go into the tide pools. Leave your dogs somewhere else (they are not allowed here) and taking a stroller down the path could put you into a dangerous situation, trying to keep it from running away.
Paid parking spots are limited, and there's no street parking in the area, making it essential to visit on a weekday or get there early on weekends.
This small park near downtown LA is irresistible for its swan-shaped pedal boats alone. It's also an excellent place for a picnic. Buy food from Beacon Cafe at the boathouse, munch while you paddle and get a discount on your rental, too. You can also bring a blanket and picnic on the lawn, or use one of the picnic tables.
Echo Park is popular with photographers of all levels for its downtown skyline views and a lotus garden that blooms in June and July.
The park is perfect for families, but keep an eye on toddlers who can easily walk in over their heads. Limited street parking is the only drawback, making ridesharing a good way to get there.
Downtown LA's urban park covers 12 acres, stretching from the Music Center on Grande Avenue to City Hall on Spring Street. During the day, it's the perfect place to go to escape the downtown hustle-bustle. You can enjoy the splashing fountains, let the kids run in the Splash Pad area (or release your inner child and join them), rest on a bench under the trees, or take a lunchtime yoga class.
The park is also the site of public events and festivals that include the Fourth of July, the Winter Glow light installation, and New Year's Eve. It is closed at night, except when an event is going on.
To get a bird's-eye view of Santa Monica Beach, go to Pacific Palisades Park. The skinny greenbelt wedged between Ocean Avenue and the clifftops looks down on Pacific Coast Highway and the beach and offers plenty of opportunities for photographs.
Although the park goes all the way to the pier, avoid that busy area. Take your stroll between Colorado Avenue (near the Fairmont Miramar Hotel) and Adelaide Drive. Along the way, you can stop for a bite to eat at Back to the Beach cafe (located behind the Annenberg Community center) or see Santa Monica like a local by walking a few blocks up Montana Avenue to the shopping area between 6th and 16th Streets.
When it's open, you can also venture a few blocks south of Colorado Avenue to see the Camera Obscura at 1450 Ocean Avenue, a funky optical device that's been around since 1898.
It's more than worth the long drive to LA's southernmost point at Point Fermin in San Pedro. The ocean views from there stretch to the horizon but don't expect to see just water and sky. Instead, you can watch ships traffic from the ports Los Angeles and Long Beach. On a clear day, you can also get a good look at Catalina Island in the distance.
When you're done with the view, enjoy 37 acres of tree-shaded lawns and gardens. Or visit the Point Fermin Lighthouse which looks a bit like a cute cottage with a tower growing out of its roof.
Don't miss a quick trip across the street to Angels Gate Park to see the Korean Friendship Bell and take in even better views. Its uphill location with no tree makes it also a good place to fly a kite.
Both parks are closed at night.
On a clear day (which happens more often then you might expect), you can see almost every part of the Los Angeles metro area from the hiking trails at Kenneth Hahn park. The location, 10 miles from downtown is a bit improbable, in the middle of a producing oil field, but don't let that keep you from going. There's so much else to see that you probably won't notice — and the wells do not produce unpleasant smells.
Besides taking a hike to see the view, you can also stroll beside a babbling brook and visit a Japanese garden with a lotus pond. The park is also set up for serious picnicking with more than 100 picnic tables and 50 grills.
Even if you don't go for a hike in the park, you can get panoramic views from the nearby Baldwin Hills Overlook.
It won't take you long to figure out why one of the best-known celebrities of the 1930s — singing cowboy, movie star, and homespun philosopher Will Rogers — made his home on this 186-acre tract of land in the Santa Monica Mountains. today you can visit his ranch, which is now a California state park that bears his name.
At the park, you can hike to Inspiration Point for some of the best views in all of Los Angeles. Even if you don't go for a hike, you can take a docent-led tour of Rogers' ranch house, tour the grounds on your own, have a picnic, and watch a polo game (weekends from May to mid-October). You can also go horseback riding or take a riding lesson.
The park has no entry fee, but you do have to pay for parking.