Where to Play in LA: A Guide to Gearing Up and Getting Outdoors

Vista Hermosa Natural Park | Photo by Making Images | L.A., Flickr

In Los Angeles you can partake in every type of outdoor sport imaginable — disco roller skating, anyone? In fact, it’s not a question of what you’re going to do in LA, but rather how much time you have to fit it all in. The options are endless, but your time isn’t. So plan your LA adventure well and leave knowing you gave it your all.

Southern California beach culture is all about taking your time. And the best way to go is a steady bike cruise on The Strand. This 22-mile paved path runs from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance County Beach. The best section for a beachside ride in flip-flops is from Venice Beach to Hermosa Beach. You’ll pass by street performers, surfers commuting on skateboards and muscle-bound weightlifters before ending up at Hermosa Plaza and Pier — a great place to grab a bite and rest up for the return journey. Bike rentals are available at Perry’s Beach Café and Rentals, which has eight beach locations.

Just a short drive from the city, you can trade in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for the scenic tranquility of state, county and city parks. At Malibu Creek State Park you’ll find more than 15 miles of creekside trails weaving through coastal mountains filled with sycamore woodlands. Camping sites are available by reservation.

Runyon Canyon is a 130-acre urban wilderness located just minutes from Hollywood Boulevard. Hikers can either head up steep hills on well-marked trails or take a gradual approach on the park’s fire roads. Great views come with good-sized crowds and lots of dogs.

Located in the Pacific Palisades, Will Rogers State Historic Park is a 200-acre getaway that used to be Will Rogers’ private ranch. Today, there are several trails that climb up the hills where panoramic views of the city await. You’ll also find a polo field where matches are held regularly.

Setting foot onto the beach volleyball courts on Manhattan Beach is like stepping onto the Lakers’ basketball court at STAPLES Center. This is where the pros practice their bumping and blocking on a daily basis, and it’s the home of beach volleyball’s biggest tournaments. Amateur spikers can play next to the “big dogs” on one of the several public courts scattered along the beach.

Along the shores near Malibu Pier, a paddler’s paradise for ocean kayakers awaits. Calm conditions make this the ideal area for first-time kayakers, and there’s always a good chance of catching sight of a pod of dolphins or migrating whales. Rentals for one- and two-person kayaks are available by the hour at Surf Shack and by the day at Zuma Jays.

If you’re looking to hoist up the sails and catch a good wind, head down to Marina Del Rey. Several charter services offer sailboat rentals, including bareboat and crewed packages. Trips range from quick day jaunts in the Santa Monica Bay to multiple-day excursions to nearby islands such as Catalina Island.

San Pedro’s Ports O’ Call Village is populated with countless slips where deep-sea fishing boats await. Book a trip and head out in search of yellowtail, barracuda and whitefish. Most charters will set you up with all the necessary equipment and take care of fishing licenses; all you need to do is show up in the morning.

Consistently great weather and the best golf courses in LA set among beautiful landscapes. What more could a golfer want? Maybe some suggestions for the best places to tee-off. At Industry Hills Golf Club, you’ll find two championship courses set among 650 acres with long fairways, plenty of bunkers and perfect greens. The club also offers comprehensive practice facilities. Manhattan Beach Marriott Golf Club is a stylish hotel that feels more like a resort with its own executive 9-hole, par 3 golf course located minutes from the beach. LA City Parks operates seven 18-hole championship courses, one 9-hole regulation course, two executive 9-hole courses, two 9-hole pitch and putt courses, and one 18-hole pony course. LA County Parks features 12 courses in convenient locations throughout the county with affordable green fees.

For those who think disco dancing and roller skating died in the ‘70s, think again. The two are alive and well at Venice Beach. Just listen for Donna Summers or the Bee Gees and you’re sure to come across a group of diehards not afraid to do the splits in spandex. If you’re feeling the urge to boogie down, strap on your own pair of skates (not rollerblades) and join them in the electric slide. You’ll find most of the skaters groovin’ their way down the Venice Oceanfront Walk.

Saddle up for a sunset horseback ride, and then sidle up for a round of margaritas. Sunset Ranch Hollywood offers unique trips that start with a 90-minute trail ride through Griffith Park as the sun sets, followed by dinner and drinks at a Mexican cantina. After the bill is paid, jump back on your horse for a return trip under the stars.

Griffith Park is an urban escape tucked between two major highways that also happens to be the largest municipal park in the United States. Visitors can access more than 4,210 acres of wilderness, canyons and landscaped park areas. Among the 53 miles of hiking trails that wind through the Santa Monica Mountains, the Mount Hollywood Loop Trail is one of the most popular with a moderate climb that delivers an up-close view of the infamous Hollywood sign. If you’re bringing the family, there are several designated picnic areas, educational centers and playgrounds for the kids to run wild. Other activities in the park include bike rentals, horseback rides and golf at two different courses.