While winter, in other cities, means thinking up any number of indoor activities, L.A. is different. Its blessed climate is one of the nation's most inviting for outdoor play, regardless of season. Here are nine ways to get out there.
1. Hike (or bike) the beach. L.A. is famous for its relationship with the Pacific Ocean. To experience it, take all or part of the 10-mile paved path stretches from Will Rogers State Beach to Redondo Beach State Park. The bustling communities and moments of solitude along the way will give you a good sense of what the sea means to the city. For a more manageable excursion, bike or skate that same path.
2. Visit the park. Marvel at the city's size from Griffith Park, America's largest municipal park that includes true wilderness. Miles of trail meander through a mostly unadulterated chaparral environment. Other draws include the Observatory, the Greek Theater, the zoo -- and prime views of L.A. from more than 1,000 feet high. www.laparks.org
3. Get wild. Topanga State Park is the world's largest wild land within the boundaries of a major city. Drive through the rugged, oak-filled landscape and eccentric communities or hike some of its nearly 40 miles of trails, many of which overlook the ocean. The unpaved section of Mulholland Drive, which traverses the park, also makes for a great trek. www.parks.ca.gov
4. Sail away. Set sail on a boat from any point off L.A.'s 75 miles of coastline. Pushing off into Santa Monica Bay (a national estuary) from Marina del Rey is especially popular. From there, head to the nearby Palos Verdes Peninsula or point your hull to Catalina Island, 26 miles away. Marina Sailing can assist travelers who lack the luxury of having their own vessel. www.marinasailing.com
5. Smell the roses. The Huntington Library has been delighting visitors to its nearly 120 acres of magnificently manicured botanical gardens for more than a century. The verdant collections include some 15,000 plants in gardens that represent regions around the world. Tip: Save time to go indoors to see the impressive art collection and library of historical books. www.huntington.org
6. Get some altitude. The San Gabriel Mountains, which form L.A.'s northern and eastern boundaries, rise more than 10,000 feet above the city. Activities here are varied and some (skiing, swimming) change according to season. Approach via the Angeles Crest Highway, which snakes its way through the range. Find popular trails to camps or climbs on the Angeles National Forest's website: www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles
7. Contemplate the river. Few places demonstrate the often-strained relationship between man and wild better than the Los Angeles River. The city's principal waterway is lined with a number of paths along its more than 50 mostly concrete-encased miles. Particularly worth a stroll are the nearly four miles along Griffith Park's eastern edge; that path traces one of the few parts of the river that hasn't been paved from underneath. There, the foliage and waterfowl demonstrate what the river once was. Although this is certainly not the most beautiful of the places listed here, this excursion is among the most worthwhile.
8. Give it the old college try. Wear blue and gold during a visit to the UCLA campus on the hills of Westwood. Whether you want a quiet moment amidst art (the Murphy Sculpture Garden), to see some well-studied plants up close (the Malthias Botanical Garden), a bit of a workout (the Janss Steps), views of impressive architecture (the quad), or to cheer with a raucous crowd (Drake Stadium), the University of California's flagship southern campus is an outdoor playground all its own. Walking tours are available. www.ucla.edu
9. Consort with miniscule marine life. At Leo Carrillo State Park, a beautiful beach reachable by heading north of Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway, tide pools teem with anemones, urchins, abalone, and fish -- all easily viewable from above. (Caution: Do not disturb or remove any part of this delicate ecosystem.) There are also caverns to explore and rocks to climb. www.parks.ca.gov
Additional reporting by Tim Andrews
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