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Things to do outside in Los Angeles

Bask in the city's year-round sunshine with our list of the top 30 things to do outside in Los Angeles

Angeles National Forest, Mt. Wilson
Photograph: Michael Juliano The view from Mt. Wilson

Sure, L.A. is known for its buzzy cityscape and glitzy Hollywood celeb scene, but peppered within our fair city’s landmark skyscrapers, red carpet soirees, residential hubs and bumper-to-bumper freeways are plenty of alfresco activities and things to do for all you outdoor-loving city dwellers. Whether you’re looking to trek the best hikes in L.A., surf at some of the city’s best beaches, or sip cocktails at top rooftop bars, Los Angeles has enough outdoor activities to keep you entertained (and sun-kissed) all year-round. Check out our list of top attractions for things to do outside in Los Angeles.   

Things to do outside in Los Angeles

Grand Park.
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do

Spend an afternoon in the park

Can't make it to the beach? Roll out a blanket instead at one LA's beautiful parks. Whether you're an art aficionado or a devoted dog owner, there's a slice of nature that fits your lifestyle. So take a stroll through our favorite (and free) parks in Los Angeles.

Eaton Canyon Falls Trail.
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do

Hike to a waterfall and back in less than an hour

Los Angeles is a beautiful place, and it's not afraid to flaunt it. Case in point: Eaton Canyon. The Pasadena area park is one of the most accessible and easygoing trails where you'll truly feel like you've slipped into the wilderness. On weekdays only, you can cut out the most boring part of the hike and park just barely over a mile from a waterfall.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Airwolfhound

Go camping

Everyone needs to escape the city sometimes—even this one—and there's no better place for hiking, camping and exploring than Southern California. We're surrounded by miles of coastline and forested mountains, but maybe save the desert for a cooler season. Pack your bag, grab a map and take your pick of these rustic weekend getaways.

Central Garden at the Getty Center.
Photograph: J. Brew
Things to do

Smell the flowers at a botanical garden

Los Angeles—and California as a whole—is a pretty amazing place, botanically speaking. Stick practically any plant in the ground and it'll grow almost any time of the year. Even though some of us can reach out our windows and pluck an avocado from a tree, a trip to one of LA's many manicured gardens reveals vegetation that simply can't be found on our city streets.

Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do

Take a joyride along Mulholland Drive

This is the road of classic make out points, Hollywood chase scenes and scenic splendor. Roll the windows down and avoid cross-town traffic with a drive along the scenic highway—and make sure to stop at these half dozen or so overlooks, all in less than an hour.

Speed Zone
Photograph: Courtesy Speed Zone
Things to do

Hit the race track

San Gabriel Valley

You've maintained your composure behind the commuting wheel long enough. Now's your chance to accelerate to the fullest at Speed Zone’s four go-kart tracks. Take the lead in the Top Eliminator Dragster, a 300-horsepower NHRA dragster ($15 for three races), and then carhop to the Grand Prix, a track modeled after the Formula 1 and Indy Car racing circuits ($2 per lap). There's also the classic Slick Trax for drift-style racing on finely polished concrete and ultimate Turbo Track—faster than Slick Trax and open to up to twenty drivers ($7 for five-minute session). Happy hour specials include well drinks ($4) and import brews ($4), but you might want to sober up before heading back to the tracks. Better yet, keep the competition going at Speedway Golf’s two 18-hole miniature golf courses, Strike Zone’s mini bowling alley and the Electric Alley’s arcade of over 100 video games.

El Porto, Manhattan Beach
Photograph: Pedro Szekely/Wikimedia
Things to do

Bike the Strand to Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach boasts two miles of sparkly coastline, almost all of it stacked with dreamy hillside homes. Most of the activity is centered around the walkable waterfront slope of Manhattan Beach Boulevard, with additional shops and an increasingly essential dining scene trailing along Manhattan Avenue as well. Head down to the beach via the Strand—the bike and walking path that traces the shoreline—for countless volleyball nets and the Manhattan Beach Pier.

Temescal Gateway Park
Photograph: Matthew Robinson
Things to do

Tour Temescal Canyon

Pacific Palisades

With a variety of terrain, flora and views of the Pacific and city, Pacific Palisades' Temescal Canyon Park is great for trail runners, hikers and dog walkers—while it's technically illegal, dogs roam off-leash here. You'll experience vast, breathtaking views that span from Catalina to Downtown and enough varied terrain to keep you going.

Rosie the Bulldog at Rosie's Dog Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/Justin Rudd
Attractions, Beaches

Take your pup to the county's only off-leash dog beach

Long Beach

For a generally pooch-friendly paradise, Los Angeles is pretty lousy when it comes to dog beaches. In fact, this four-acre waterfront spot is the only legal off-leash dog beach in LA County. The park is named after the area's late local canine celebrity, Rosie the English bulldog. You can easily spot the dog-friendly area by the colorful "Dogs at Play" silhouette.

Photograph: Derek W
Things to do

Spend a surfside afternoon in Santa Monica

Take a walk along the palm and eucalyptus-lined bluffs and it becomes obvious why tourists flock to Santa Monica. With the beach on one side and mountains on another, it's the essence of that postcard picture of Southern California's coastline. You'll find more than just a beach town, though; there are plenty of things to do in Santa Monica without setting foot on the Pier or Third Street Promenade, from fresh dinners prepared straight from the farmers' market to bars with a view.

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Find more open-air activities in L.A.

LA River
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Things to do

The best outdoor adventures in Los Angeles

If you're looking for more than alfresco shopping and rooftop dining to quench your thirst for the outdoors, let this be your guide. From deep-sea fishing in Newport Beach to paragliding above the L.A. coastline, we've compiled a list of the best outdoor adventures in Los Angeles for all you thrill-seeking adventure junkies.