Finding Peace in Parks is Possible in Los Angeles
By Lisa Niver
Los Angeles Local Expert
Whether you choose Los Angeles as your home or vacation destination, we all need some time in the outdoors to revive and feel more alive. This list of peaceful parks includes venues with ocean views like the original muscle beach and Palisades Park as well as Lake views at either Lake Balboa or Self-Realization Fellowship Shrine.
In the search for peace and harmony, there are many choices for green spaces in Los Angeles as well as a chance to learn about history at Will Rogers State Park. You can sit and contemplate, bring a picnic or enjoy many of the areas with special play areas for children.
Los Angeles may often be on the news for our traffic, but we should be better known for our outdoor choices! You can relax and unwind all over our beautiful city in many green spaces that are places to feel free and enjoy the outdoors and allow for peaceful relaxation and contemplation. If you are looking for a romantic spot for a date or proposal, this variety of venues should do the trick all over our unusual city. My friend proposed to his girlfriend at Westwood Recreation Park, but I can see that nearly every venue on this list could be a perfect spot to pop the question in a park! Enjoy your time in Los Angeles! Special Thanks to Joannie Parker, Shirin Yadegar and Amy Gendel Bowen for their help and suggestions!
10 San Vicente Peak
You can drive, bike or hike to this area. They have a bathroom, water dishes for dogs, shade and picnic tables! It is located at the top of Kenter and has a viewing platform with telescopes. It is in the Santa Monica Mountains and has 360 degree views of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Encino Reservoir and San Fernando Valley, and the Los Angeles Basin. Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park, Westridge Canyonback Park, and the 20,000-acre "Big Wild" wilderness area, are all accessible from San Vicente Mountain Park. From 1956-1968, San Vicente Mountain was one of sixteen Los Angeles area Nike-Ajax supersonic anti-aircraft missile launch sites. Established during the Cold War, this site had radar and computer systems to detect attacks by plane and missiles. I love to hike here! ((310) 858-7272)
9 Clover Park
This park has areas where you can walk, run, exercise, relax, picnic, and play soccer or baseball. There is plenty of parking and you can reserve the large barbecue pit. Children can enjoy swings, jungle gym as well as fields for ultimate frisbee, baseball and soccer. Adults can take advantage of work-out equipment through-out the park for more serious exercise on the 15 station par fitness course. The baseball diamond, softball fields, soccer fields and two tennis courts all have lights so this area is not just for daytime use! Wondering where to play sand volleyball but not at the beach? This park might be your top choice! You will find locals here and visitors to Los Angeles will consider this a great find!
8 Lake Balboa
I went rollerblading here once and realized it is a bit more hilly than I first thought! The area around the Lake is beautiful, you can enjoy the cherry blossoms or people watch! Remember if you want to picnic, there are not stores within walking distance of the park, so come prepared. There are many different play areas, plenty of free parking and lots of open space for walking, bicycling and outdoor fun. Lake Balboa is a 27 acre lake filled with water reclaimed from the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. Enjoy many different activities like fishing, boating, remote-control boating or staring at the beautiful scenery. Main access is from Balboa Boulevard. ((818) 756-9743)
7 Holmby Park
This park has it all: a stream, separate sand and play areas for different age children, a track for running or biking and it is just really pretty! And they even organize a fantastic 4th of July party and parade The "pitch and putt" golf course is a perfect place to take beginning golfers and there is lawn bowling for the seniors. At this park: 1 lap is 5/8 mile and 2 laps is 1 1/4 mile. 8 laps around the entire park is equivalent to 5 miles. Famous sites nearby include "The Manor" (the old Spelling mansion) is across the street and the "Playboy Mansion" is a few blocks away. Holmby park is just north of Wilshire Boulevard, at the intersection of Beverly Glen and Comstock. There is convenient free street parking (2 hours) all around the park. ((310) 276-1604)
6 Will Rogers State Historic Park
Parking is $12 but if you arrange it on a day where you can take a tour of Will Rogers' house and see a game of Polo, who can complain! There is limited street parking but you will have about a ten-minute walk. For the hiking, please read the signs and follow the trails. I have heard some issues in the summer with ticks. Be careful and pay attention. Try Inspiration trail but remember that the Chicken Ridge is located on the Backbone Trail. I have heard that Rustic Canyon Trail needs some maintenance. You can also run around the polo field. Docents lead tours of the home but you are not allowed to take photos inside. It is quite of museum of his original possessions! There are horses on the grounds as well as a few original vehicles and machines. (310-454-8212)
5 Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
Children and adults are welcome to enjoy the gardens and lake for meditation, fish feeding, or a quiet place to sit and reflect. This is "LA's best kept secret. A serene place to spend quality time with your children," according to CEO of LA Mom Magazine, Shirin Yadegar who has lived in Los Angeles her entire life. The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine was dedicated by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950. Thousands of people enjoy this serene spiritual sanctuary every year. There are swans, ducks, koi, and trees and flowers from around the world. The grounds include a Court of Religions honoring the five principal religions of the world, the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, a museum with exhibits on Paramahansa Yogananda's work, and a gift shop with arts and crafts from India. The temple is on a hilltop overlooking the lake. (310-454-4114)
4 Westwood Recreation Center
It has a lot of empty space for picnicking, It has multiple play areas for the kids, and a basketball court for the big kids. Where else can you play soccer, tennis, basketball, and picnic, practically next door to a federal building! Westwood Recreations Center is also the second West Coast Boundless playground created by L.A. Recreation and Parks in conjunction with the Boundless Playground Resource Center West. Aidan's Place (located here) opened on December 5, 2001 in memory of Aidan James who was wheelchair bound. It's also special because it's where my friends, Amy and Rolando, got engaged in 2010. Maybe this park will bring you love and romance too! ((310) 473-3610)
3 Greystone Mansion and Park
Not your typical park as you won't find a sandbox, swingset or dog run anywhere. What you will find is a a sprawling mansion, with beautiful gardens and stunning views nestled above Sunset Blvd. From its hilltop location, Greystone offers spectacular views and a quiet retreat from the busy city. Formal gardens, winding paths, and huge redwoods create a rarefied atmosphere that is at once calming and invigorating. Wander the grounds and look in the windows of the 1928 Doheny Mansion (listed on the National Registry of Historic Places). You may have seen the mansion and grounds in your favorite movie or noticed it in films like "Indecent Proposal" and "The Witches of Eastwick." The mansion is only open for special events. The grounds are generally open to the public, and there is free parking. Thank you to Amy Gendel Bowen for introducing me to this special spot! (310-550-4654)
2 Palisades Park
Palisades Park is a gorgeous park in Santa Monica that is right next to the coastline and encompasses over 25 acres. It's beach front location provides visitors to the park with views of the ocean. Watch the sunset, observe some surfers or simply enjoy the rhythmic nature of the waves. Palisades Park is home to walking paths and is dog friendly, making it an ideal place to hang out for awhile if you're traveling with your dog. Yoga is also a common sight to see in the park -- if you're a yogi bring your mat and get centered in the nature-filled wonder of Palisades Park.
1 Original Muscle Beach
A park at the beach? Only in Los Angeles! Wondering what there is to do here? Enjoy the hooping skills of Katie O'Brien Eychis and her circus star friends. You can also see acro-yoga, kick boxing, slack lining and people with incredible skills on the rings. This area is happening day or night. I love the green grass area right next to the gorgeous Santa Monica beach. As it is located next to Santa Monica pier, there are plenty of restaurant choices, bike paths and bike rentals. You can even learn to segway in the area. Famous hotels like Loews Santa Monica, Shutters and Casa Del Mar are nearby if you want to vacation right at the beach. ((310) 458-8901)
About Lisa Niver
Lisa Ellen Niver arrived in Los Angeles at the age of 3 and has never stopped traveling! She is a passionate writer, social media ninja and global citizen who has traveled to over one hundred countries and six continents. She was a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and a 2014 nominee for the Charles Bronfman Prize. Niver writes for Wharton Business Magazine, the Huffington Post, and the Jewish Journal. Find more of her adventures at We Said Go Travel and Science Isn’t Scary.
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