Outdoor Experiences in Los Angeles

Summer Evening Stroll at the Chinese Garden in The Huntington Library
Summer Evening Stroll at the Chinese Garden | Photo: The Huntington Library, Facebook

With its year-round sunny weather, there's no better city than Los Angeles to safely enjoy outdoor experiences. From strolling botanical gardens to biking around the city, watching rooftop movies, kayaking, and petting sharks, read on for some of LA's best outdoor activities.

NOTE: Hours and opening dates change frequently. Check individual websites for updated information.

Bug Netting in the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum
Bug Netting in the Nature Gardens | Photo: Natural History Museum
Get Dirty Zone at the Natural History Museum
Get Dirty Zone | Photo: Natural History Museum

Explore the Nature Gardens at Natural History Museum

Located in Exposition Park, the Natural History Museum of L.A. County (NHMLA) has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history — more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years.

The museum's urban wildlife wonderland, the Nature Gardens features more than 600 kinds of plants—including California natives and others from around the world—making a home for birds, butterflies, lizards, squirrels, and more. Teeming with wildlife, the Sarah Meeker Jensen Pond is a lively place to watch birds, dragonflies, and other insects flitting around the water and the native plants. On Saturdays and Sundays, drop into the Nature Gardens anytime between 11 am and noon for Bug Netting to catch and release some of the insects that call L.A. home.

There's also the hands-on Get Dirty Zone, which invites visitors to dig in the bins to see creatures that turn plants into compost, build with natural materials, and play Hide & Seek in a giant willow house.

Riding in the Arts District on a Metro Bike Share
Riding in the Arts District | Photo: Metro Bike Share, Facebook

Go Metro with a Bike Share Ride

Whether you're out for a quick jaunt through your neighborhood, or want to ride across the city, Metro Bike Share is available 24/7, 365 days a year in Downtown LA, Central LA, Hollywood, North Hollywood and the Westside. Reduced fares are available:

  • Seniors (62+)
  • Persons with Disabilities
  • College / Vocational Student
  • K-12 Student (must be 16+ to ride Metro Bike Share)

Metro has upped the cleaning of bikes and stations, but recommends that you wash or sanitize your hands before and after you ride, and avoid touching your face while you're on the bike. You can limit contact at stations by using the Metro Bike Share App to purchase passes and unlock Metro Bikes with your smartphone. Be sure to bring your own helmet as well. Find more riding tips at the Metro Bike Share website.

Listen to "The Sky Beneath Our Feet" at Descanso Gardens

Inspired by the coast live oaks at Descanso Gardens (1418 Descanso Dr, La Cañada Flintridge 91011), composer Pete M. Wyer wrote The Sky Beneath Our Feet specifically for the botanical oasis. The work takes the listener on a journey through the life of the trees in ten movements. To coincide with the album's release in April 2020, Myer created a 72-speaker sound installation at Descanso. You can recreate the experience by listening to the album and strolling the Camellia Forest, along with other areas such as the five-acre rosarium and Japanese tea garden. Plants are blooming year-round at Descanso - check the What's In Bloom page for monthly blooms.

Descanso Gardens is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Advance tickets are on sale at the Descanso website, or become a Member for free entry during daytime hours.

Forest Bathing by a pond at The Arboretum
Forest Bathing | Photo: The Arboretum, Facebook

Take a Class at Los Angeles County Arboretum

Founded in 1947, the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden (301 N. Baldwin Ave, Arcadia 91007) is a 127-acre garden located just east of Pasadena. The Arboretum is home to plant collections from all over the world, including a variety of rare and endangered species. The Arboretum also houses several historic structures, including the Queen Anne Cottage - built in 1885 and famous for its appearance in the opening of TV's Fantasy Island.

Walking Tours, Tram Tours and School Tours are currently on hold, but visitors can take Self-Guided Tours that run from one to three hours.

The Arboretum offers year-round Adult Classes, such as Oil Painting, Gardening & Horticulture, and Health & Wellness, which includes Yoga in the Garden, Forest Bathing, Tai Chi, and Sound Bath.

The Peacock Cafe is available for grab-and-go items. During the summer, the Peacock Bar serves Happy Hour drinks on the weekends from 4 to 7 p.m., with cocktails like the Plumeria Passion and Sapphire Peacock.

Timed tickets are on sale at The Arboretum website. Members receive free entry, no tickets or reservations are needed.

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán in Hollywood
Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán | Photo: The Montalbán

Enjoy Dinner and a Movie at The Montalbán

Located near the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Vine, The Montalbán (1615 Vine St, Los Angeles 90028) hosts Rooftop Movies during the summer as well as holiday film series such as Valentine's, Halloween and Christmas. Doors and the bar open at 6pm. The movie starts shortly after sunset - time varies by season. Before the movie, guests can enjoy games like Jenga GIANT, oversized Connect Four, cornhole, or ham it up in the Selfie Zone.

Advance reservations are required, no walk-ups. Pricing is $25 for regular admission and $50 for a loveseat, which includes two boxes of popcorn. There's a full bar and concession stand, but guests can bring their own picnic (including restaurant take-out). Outside drinks are not allowed.

Neutra VDL House II in Silver Lake
Neutra VDL House II | Photo: Neutra VDL

Use FORT: LA Guides to See Historic Homes

Friends of Residential Treasures: LA (FORT: LA) releases monthly trails leading explorers to historic homes across the city. These routes are best traveled by car, as they're organized by theme rather than location. The guides, which you can access online for free, are filled with historic details and auxiliary media to deepen your understanding of homes that you can view without getting out of the car. Recent Trails include "Modernism Revisited," featuring the Neutra VDL House II in Silver Lake; "South LA Garden Apartments"; and "The Case Study Program" with the Eames House (Case Study No. 8) in Pacific Palisades.

Kayaking the rapids with LA River Kayak Safari
Photo: LA River Kayak Safari, Facebook

Discover Los Angeles River Recreation Zones

Located in Elysian Valley and the Sepulveda Basin in Encino, Los Angeles River Recreation Zones are open to the public from Memorial Day through September. Both Recreation Zones are located in parts of the river where there's a soft bottom, natural habitat and abundant wildlife. Activities include kayaking, walking, bird watching, and fishing along the river. Kayak rentals and guided trips are available.

For individual users, there is no need for a permit and use of the river is free. Organized groups need to obtain a permit from the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA) and provide proof of liability insurance.

Paramount Drive-In Screen
Photo: Paramount Drive-In

Watch a Movie at the Drive-In

Catch a Classic Movie at Paramount Drive-In
With a mix of new and classic flicks, Paramount Drive-In offers Angelenos a socially distanced (and budget-friendly) movie experience. Paramount features two 75-foot screens, Barco Digital Laser projection, FM radio sound, and an expanded food menu. General Admission tickets are $11 and $5 for kids ages 5 to 8. Children under 5 years old are free. Online tickets are currently unavailable. Tickets are only sold at the entrance on a first-come, first-served basis. All admission tickets are sold for a single showing only. Guests must depart the drive-in at the conclusion of the movie. For more info, visit the Drive-In Rules page.

Watch the Latest Film Releases at Vineland Drive-In
If binging on TV shows at home is getting old, Vineland Drive-In is open nightly with multiple screens featuring new releases. Tickets are $10 for General Admission (ages 9 and up), $4 for children (ages 5-8) and free for kids under 5. Tickets are only available at the entrance. Credit card payments are recommended - exact change is requested for cash payments, both for tickets and concession stand purchases. All films are broadcast in FM Dolby Stereo. Listen on your car stereo or portable radio. Radios are available for purchase at the snack bar.

Dog Walking Hours at South Coast Botanic Garden
Dog Walking Hours at South Coast Botanic Garden | Photo: @scbgarden, Instagram

Walk Your Dog at South Coast Botanic Garden

One of the South Bay's hidden gems, South Coast Botanic Garden (26300 Crenshaw Blvd, Palos Verdes Peninsula 90274) is the site of a former sanitary landfill that was transformed into a lush and eclectic garden back in 1961.

On select Sundays, the Garden hosts special Dog Walking Hours and welcomes on-leash dogs to explore the 87-acre garden. While a few areas are off limits (including the Bohannon Rose Garden and the Koi Pond), fur babies will be able to enjoy the majority of the grounds.

The Garden is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Timed tickets to Dog Walking Hours must be purchased in advance for General Admission ($15/adult, $11/seniors & students, $5/child) as well as all dogs ($5 each).

Summer Evening Stroll at the Chinese Garden in The Huntington Library
Summer Evening Stroll at the Chinese Garden | Photo: The Huntington Library, Facebook

Go on an Evening Stroll at The Huntington

Founded in 1919, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens(1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino 91108) is world-renowned as a cultural, research and educational center. The Huntington features more than a dozen specialized gardens spanning 120 acres, including the iconic Japanese Garden and the acclaimed Garden of Flowing Fragrance (Liu Fang Yuan), one of the largest Chinese-style gardens outside of China.

Most gardens, select galleries, 1919 Cafe, Jade Court Cafe, Red Car coffee shop, and the Huntington Store are now open. Advance online timed entry reservations are required on weekends and Monday holidays for all visitors, including Members. Visit The Huntington website to purchase tickets and plan your visit.

From June through August (plus Memorial Day and Labor Day), The Huntington hosts Summer Evening Strolls - guests are invited to enjoy the gardens at twilight from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The 1919 Cafe is open until 7 p.m., and the Huntington Store is open till 8 p.m. Special pricing for Evening Strolls - Member reservations are limited to one evening per week per household.

Shark Lagoon at Aquarium of the Pacific
Shark Lagoon at Aquarium of the Pacific | Photo: @aquariumpacific, Instagram
Ray Touch Pool at Aquarium of the Pacific
Ray Touch Pool | Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific

Visit the Shark Lagoon at Aquarium of the Pacific

One of the highlights at the Aquarium of the Pacific (100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach 90802), the 10,000-square-foot Shark Lagoon is an outdoor educational adventure that's home to large sharks and rays, interactive displays, an amphitheater, the Pacific Treasures gift store, and the Bamboo Bistro outdoor café. Gentle bamboo and epaulette sharks glide around three shallow touch pools, where guests can reach in and safely touch them. A giant water-squirting squid playground sculpture welcomes children of all ages to have fun while they learn what it takes for an animal to avoid becoming a shark’s next meal.

Other outdoor exhibits include the Harbor Terrace (featuring the popular Moon Jelly Touch Lab), Ray Touch Pool, Lorikeet Forest, June Keyes Penguin Habitat, and the Seals & Sea Lions Habitat.

Seasonal Boat Adventures include Whale Watching & Dolphin Cruise, Harbor Tour, Blue Whale & Sea Life Cruise, Gray Whale Watch, and The Urban Ocean.

Advanced online reservations are required for Saturday, Sunday, all holidays, and special events. Reservations are strongly recommended for Monday through Friday. Walkups will be allowed on weekdays as space is available.