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10 things to do before El Niño hits LA

Make sure to fit in these 10 activities before the forecasted wet winter arrives

Hollywood on a rainy day
Photograph: InSapphoWeTrest/Wikimedia

By now you've heard plenty of rumblings about the "Godzilla" El Niño expected to peak between December and February. A rise in ocean temperatures in the Pacific suggests the weather system could outpace the famously destructive 1997-'98 storms. In other words, prepare yourself for figuring out what to do on a rainy day in LA. It's not a done deal that this winter will bring drought relief—the Public Policy Institute of California notes that there's no clear pattern of heavy rainfall during El Niño years—but we're playing it safe. Just in case LA ends up looking more like Seattle this winter, here are 10 things you should do before El Niño hits.

10 things to do before El Niño hits

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/John Buie

Camp in the great outdoors

Nobody likes wet socks and sleeping bags. Chilly overnight temperatures make camping in the winter difficult enough to begin with, so if you want to avoid all of the potential rain, start making plans for a fall trip instead.

El Matador State Beach

Swim in the ocean

If you’ve ever seen an overflow pipe during a storm, you know why not to visit the beach. All of that runoff turns the ocean into a polluted mess the day after it rains. If you plan on swimming, go now—water temperatures are just starting to dip down from the late-summertime highs.

Runyon Canyon, hike
Photograph: Benny Haddad

Go for a hike in the hills

We’re not saying the Hollywood Hills will be washed away in Roland Emmerich-like fashion. But mudslides are a real threat, so make your way to all of those canyon trails while they’re still in tip-top shape—dog doo-doo aside.

Mount Wilson Observatory.
Photograph: Courtesy Dave Jurasevich/Mt. Wilson Observatory

Take a joyride up Angeles Crest

This mountainous highway is prone to rock and mudslides—especially in recent burn areas. If you’re planning on traversing Mount Wilson or just going for a joyride along Angeles Crest, the trip can get messy and dangerous in the rain—and nearly unsurpassable in the snow.

Hollywood & Highland Metro station
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Get acquainted with Metro

Speaking of traffic, the best way to beat rainy day gridlock is by not driving at all. Pick up a TAP card and get to know LA’s network of light rail and subway lines. Don’t feel like walking to a station in the rain? Consider checking out which stations have parking to stay extra dry.

Devil's Gate, including the supposed profile of Satan (at center).
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Explore Devil's Gate

Devil’s Gate Dam is one of our favorite supposed portals to hell—the end of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride aside. If enough rain falls, though, you won’t be able to get anywhere near the dam. About half of the reservoir basin is filled with dirt from the 2009 Station Fire, and the project to remove that sediment won’t start until next year. Visit it now, before it looks like this and potentially floods the Arroyo Seco.

Santa Barbara
Photograph: Michael Thesi/flickr

Take a day trip

Driving in the rain isn’t exactly Angelenos’ strong point. You probably don’t want to explore Santa Barbara or Laguna Beach in the rain to begin with, and you certainly don’t want to have to drive there on slick, Thunderdome-like freeways.

Los Angeles River bike path.
Photograph: Courtesy SLO County Bicycle Coalition

Pedal the LA River bike path

LA’s much-maligned pathetic little trickle transforms into a raging river during rain storms. Though the bike path is protected on its perch atop the concrete channel, some stretches don’t have guard rails and, well, safety first.

Photograph: Courtesy Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market

Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies

We can’t say for sure what El Niño will mean for California’s crops: it could bring much-needed relief to the drought, but its torrential rains could also damage fruits and delay planting and harvesting periods. Eating a few extra fruits and veggies never hurts, so stock up on some strawberries and artichokes at one of LA’s best farmers’ markets.

Wattles Farm
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Tend a plot in a community garden

On the other hand, if the conditions aren’t too extreme, El Niño means sweet, sweet rain in the middle of this historic drought. Take advantage of the potentially wet winter and find a community garden nearby to start growing your own food.

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