Three Days of Outdoor Adventure on the Westside of Los Angeles

The Marvin Braude Bike Trail at Venice Beach
Venice Beach | Photo by Joshua Johnson

Originally written by RootsRated for Discover Los Angeles.

Extending from the Santa Monica Mountains, north of Sunset Boulevard, all the way south to Marina del Rey, and as far east as Culver City and West Hollywood, the Westside is one of L.A.’s most active outdoor communities. Whether it's the beach or the mountains, this area has more than enough activities to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy. In fact, with all that the Westside has to offer, you could entertain yourself for years. But let’s get real, nobody has that much vacation time, so instead, opt for our three-day collection of the best things to do during your stay. Prepare for some early mornings, and some late nights, and remember that no matter what you choose, you are guaranteed to have a blast.

HOTEL ANGELENO

WEST Restaurant & Lounge at Hotel Angeleno
Photo courtesy of WEST Restaurant & Lounge, Facebook

Your three-day outdoor itinerary begins at the Hotel Angeleno, rising 17 stories above Sunset Boulevard and the I-405. Poised at the crossroads of Westwood, Century City, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, the Hotel Angeleno is conveniently located near the Getty Center, Westwood Village, and the upscale shopping and destinations of Brentwood and Montana Avenue. The boutique hotel boasts panoramic views from the beach to Downtown L.A. and offers the penthouse level WEST Restaurant & Lounge.

6 A.M: SANTA YNEZ FALLS
Hit the ground running - or hiking, to be more accurate. This short, 2.5-mile, out-and-back hike to Santa Ynez Falls is perfect for a pre-breakfast warm-up. Find free street parking for the trailhead along Vereda de la Montura, descend through the small gate, and turn onto the lushly wooded path. No permits or fees are required for this hike; however, dogs are not allowed as the trail passes through Topanga State Park. The trail follows the creek as it winds it’s way up the hill. At the end of the hike you’ll be treated to the short Santa Ynez Falls. Long pants are recommended for this hike as you may encounter some poison oak along the trail.

8 A.M: AMELIA'S ESPRESSO & PANINI 
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head down to Santa Monica’s historic Main Street for some fantastic breakfast options that locals and tourists alike will enjoy. Of special note is the family-owned Amelia's Espresso & Panini. The husband and wife duo, Ralph and Amelia, work with their son Gianni to serve up Italian coffee, pastries, and paninis.

Pro SUP Shop at sunset
Photo courtesy of Pro SUP Shop, Facebook

10 A.M: PRO SUP SHOP
When you're in L.A. it's a must to get to the beach and into the water. Just down Pacific Coast Highway from Main Street sits Marina del Rey, one of the world's largest manmade, small-craft harbors, and a popular recreation area. It's time to hit the waves and experience one of the fastest growing watersports around — stand-up paddling. Swing by Pro SUP Shop for rentals or lessons. From the calm waters of Marina del Rey you can get the basics down before traveling out onto the open ocean.

Gjelina
Photo courtesy of Gjelina

NOON: GJELINA
As lunchtime rolls around, stroll down the one-mile boulevard that encompasses the Abbot Kinney neighborhood. Named for the developer who created the historic Venice Canals, this neighborhood has become a meeting place for Westside locals, and home to some of the best dining and art in the area. Be sure to stop by Gjelina for their unique and creative pizzas. The restaurant also prides themselves on having a selection of local breweries on tap.

Steps at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Steps at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook | Photo by Joshua Lurie

2 p.m: BALDWIN HILLS SCENIC OVERLOOK
Hike to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, which delivers stunning views of the Los Angeles valley and the mountains beyond. You can opt to take the short and steep direct approach to the 500-foot high outlook or, if you are feeling more casual, choose the more gradual one-mile route to the summit. If you are up for a real challenge, do as many of the locals do, and run laps up the steps for a killer workout. From the summit you can see all the way from the ocean to the 10,068-foot Mount San Antonio in the east. There is free parking on Jefferson Boulevard.

5 p.m: BENNY'S TACOS
If Los Angeles had an official food it would be the street taco, and Benny’s Tacos & Chicken Rotisserie would be one of L.A.'s "official" restaurants. Located next to the Loyola Marymount campus, Benny’s isn’t exactly a secret, but unless you’re a local in the know, you’ve probably never heard of it. Order at the window and seat yourself in their small interior or on the cozy patio. Any place with tacos in the name better deliver something divine, and Benny’s does not disappoint. Also of note are their carne asada fries and burritos.

S'mores at Dockweiler State Beach
S'mores at Dockweiler State Beach | Photo courtesy of Clinton Steeds, Flickr

7 p.m: DOCKWEILER STATE BEACH
Wrap up your day in true California style with a bonfire on the beach. Dockweiler is the closest state beach to Los Angeles with public fire pits. If you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to arrive in the early afternoon to secure a spot. However, during the fall and winter months, or during the week, the fire pits are in less demand and you can easily show up around dusk and still find a place to set yourself up. Parking is $6-10 depending on the season, and doesn’t allow for in-and-outs. That means you should be sure to have everything you need before you arrive, including firewood, food, drinks, and blankets to keep warm. There are restrooms on-site that have running water and showers.

Day 2

8 A.M: PHILZ COFFEE
At its name suggests, Philz Coffee is all about the coffee. This California-based shop aims to provide the perfectly brewed cup to every customer. With over 20 unique beans to offer, and a dedicated barista for each customer, Philz ensures that every cup will be brewed specifically to your tastes. This is the perfect way to get fueled up for your day of adventure at the beach.

Go Surf LA
Photo courtesy of Go Surf LA

10 A.M: GO SURF LA
Now that you’re appropriately caffeinated it’s time to get in the water and experience a classic California adventure — surfing. Afternoon on-shore winds can make for choppy surfing, which is why the best time for a lesson is early morning. Stop by Go Surf LA and sign up for a lesson. For $80 you’ll get a 90-minute lesson with a dedicated professional as well as all necessary rentals. Each lesson is tailored to the students' needs, and range from absolute beginner to intermediate.

NOON: MENDOCINO FARMS
Now that you have worked up an appetite, it’s time for a hearty lunch. Mendocino Farms, referred to as Mendo’s, is a local chain that specializes in gourmet sandwiches. With offerings like the spicy lemongrass steak Banh Mi, to a new school take on the classic ham and cheese, Mendocino Farms is so much more than a sandwich shop. There are gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options as well. So fill up, the day is only half over!

Biking Venice Beach at sunset
Venice Beach at sunset | Photo courtesy of Eric Demarcq, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

2 P.M: THE STRAND
Time for a ride. The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (commonly referred to as The Strand) is a paved bike path that runs 22 miles from Will Rogers State Beach in the north, along the ocean, all the way south to Torrance County Beach. Along the way you’ll pass eight unique beach communities, each with their own feel. Rent a bike from one of the dozens of beachside establishments and head south for as long or as short of a ride as you desire. Be sure to check out the Venice staples such as Muscle Beach, the skatepark, and the iconic Venice Public Art Graffiti Walls, which feature an ever changing rotation of local artists.

5 P.M: LIBRARY ALE HOUSE
Southern California is in the midst of a beer revolution. Local breweries are popping up on every corner and offer some truly artisanal creations. Library Ale House prides itself on its veritable library of beers. Paired with classic American cuisine, this spot is perfect for a relaxed dining experience.

Day 3

8 A.M: BRU'S WIFFLE
Does anybody not like waffles? Of course not, they’re fantastic, but maybe, just maybe a little on the boring side. Bru’s Wiffle is taking your childhood favorite and giving it a new life. Everything on the menu is made from scratch using only fresh ingredients. Menu favorites include: fried chicken and waffle, eggs benedict waffle, and the churro waffle. Locals know to make a reservation in order to get a table and avoid the long wait on the weekends.

Franklin Lake
Franklin Lake | Photo courtesy of Ken Shelton, Flickr

10 A.M: FRANKLIN CANYON TRAIL
The Franklin Canyon Loop Hike can be a little hard to find, but if you do, you’ll be treated to a lush green hike right in the heart of L.A., but away from the crowds. The route winds lazily up the canyon and under the shade of trees for the majority of the hike. At the top of the canyon you’ll cross Franklin Canyon Road before dropping down the wooden steps to the reservoir. For television buffs you’ll notice that the area is the same location featured in the opening of the Andy Griffith Show.

NOON: C&M CAFE
After your hike, there is no doubt that food will be back on your mind, so head to C&M Café. Kalissa Krejcik, the owner and founder, infuses her love of the gourmet into her breakfast and lunch items. Grab your lunch to go and head across the street for a picnic in Cheviot Hills Park. This park offers sweeping lawns, facilities for any sport you could imagine, as well as views of mid-town Los Angeles. Once you get your fill, head out to one of your last epic outdoor adventures before your weekend comes to a close.

2 P.M: WILL ROGERS STATE PARK
Head across town to Will Rogers Historic State Park and watch the sunset over the ocean. Stroll the grounds and learn about local history and the life of Will Rogers, once the highest paid actor in Hollywood. If you want a little longer of a hike, take the 2.6-mile loop trail up to Inspiration Point — the path is easy to follow and has minimal elevation gain. From here, you’ll be able to see the ocean to the west, and on a clear day southern views of the cliffs of Palos Verdes are possible. If you’re lucky, you can find parking just outside the park and walk in, or pay $12 to park on the premises.

Venice Canal Historic District
Venice Canal Historic District | Photo courtesy of Kostya Danko, Flickr

5 P.M: VENICE CANALS
Finish off your weekend with a beautiful stroll along the pedestrian-only Venice Canals. More than 100 years ago Abbot Kinney desired to build a Venice canal system right here in the states, and while you won’t see any gondoliers dotting these canals, they do make for an excellent and relaxing area to walk around. Most people enter the canals from the corner of Washington Boulevard and Pacific Avenue. From there you can leisurely stroll over quaint bridges, calm canals replete with rowboats, and admire the unique architecture. This is a great way to relax before you head off to the airport to catch your flight.

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