Los Angeles

14 Ways to Expand Your Wonder

Photo courtesy of World of Waterfalls/Facebook

Starting your year with a fresh perspective and a little awe is pretty easy to do in Los Angeles. It’s an idyllic time of year in town—sparkling, green, blooming—and a great opportunity to find new inspiration or a different point of view through the abundance of cultural and outdoor activities that are only available here. In the spirit of celebrating 2020, check out these practical ideas to broaden your sense of wonder—and maybe even some horizons too.

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Escondido Falls
Sometimes it’s about both the journey and the destination. That’s certainly the case with the Escondido Canyon Trail, where one of the best hikes in the LA area leads to a picturesque conclusion at Escondido Falls. After a fairly leisurely time crisscrossing the creek and hiking to the lush Lower Falls, intrepid adventurers can brave the tougher last stretch to the Upper Falls, where your reward is a majestic 150-foot cascade. 27807 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Nourishment Through Foraging Classes from Urban Outdoor Skills
Pascual Baudar is a local gem. Some might call him a forager; he calls himself a naturalist and culinary alchemist who leads passionate, knowledgeable, wonderful treks through the many forests and wild lands of Los Angeles at large. Through several years of preserving, fermenting, infusing, and otherwise experimenting with the natural bounty all around us, he educates curious amateurs and star chefs alike on safe ingredient harvesting, prep, and sustainability practices through his creative, mind-blowing Outdoor Skills workshops. See his website for exact details. Locations vary throughout Los Angeles

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Secret Stairs
Locals love the giant secret staircases—enormous flights of stairs that were intended to transport pedestrians across the hills in the early days of this city’s founding—which have now gone largely defunct. Instead, they’re romantic explorations through hills and sometimes into parks, a way to see LA from a more secluded and curious point of view. The one through Beachwood Canyon covers some great Hollywood history and has incredible views. Locations vary throughout Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of Kapowui Surf Club/Facebook

Kapowui Surf Club
Continually the highest rated surf school for beginners, Kapowui Surf Club is open every day, year-round, to get you up on your feet and on top of a wave. It’s truly an easy way to spend a few hours: You make your rez; show up with a swimsuit, sunscreen, and a smile (the club’s recommendation, sounds legit); and it provides the rest of the equipment. The most fun, perhaps, is meeting your instructor in the parking lot where a vintage VW bug will whisk you away to the beach, giving you the California Endless Summer experience you’ve always wanted. Yes, this is the ultimate Instagram activity. 300 Ocean Front Walk, Venice

Crumbs & Whiskers Kitty Cuddle Sessions
Lattes, cat licks, chilling the heck out. That’s what Crumbs & Whiskers offers, and ideally you’ll go home with a nice caffeine buzz and a kitty it has rescued from a kill shelter. You can hang for 70 minutes in a regular session or drop in—depending on availability—for 15 minutes and 9 bucks. Either way, the goal is to bond with the cats (please don’t bring your own) and save a feline life. Bonus: Every Sunday is cat yoga, so add stretching with your new BFF into your weekend schedule. 7924 Melrose Avenue

Photo by Leticia Sanchez/Courtesy of Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine/Facebook

Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
Founded in 1950 by yogi Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, this ten-acre property of vividly decorated spiritual architecture is just a short jog up from the Malibu shoreline and features a human-made lake, open-air cathedral, hilltop temple, windmill meditation center, and lush, rose-studded gardens that offer meditative strolls to daily visitors, as well as overnight silent retreats. Some of Gandhi’s ashes are here, it’s where Elvis first encountered wisdom of the East, and it was very famously the site of George Harrison’s funeral. 17190 West Sunset Boulevard, Pacific Palisades

All Space Considered at the Griffith Observatory
Visiting the historic Griffith Observatory is a year-round must-do. Especially the first Friday of every month at Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon—find a seat and enjoy the talks on timely hot astronomy topics from the observatory staff. Whether discussing volcanic eruptions on other planets or what to pack when we inevitably move to Mars, it’s a great way to impress a date, a book club, or your own brain. 2800 East Observatory Road 

Photo courtesy of Hipcooks Los Angeles/Facebook

Whether you join a group class or opt for a private one, Hipcooks takes you on a culinary adventure as you sharpen your knife skills. It focuses on geography when preparing the culinary lesson plan, and you get to choose which continent and country you want to visit. With three locations in Los Angeles (Culver City, DTLA, Woodland Hills), you should be able to find a Parisian feast or an Argentine grill with ease.
Culver City: 2833 South Robertson Boulevard
DTLA: 642 Moulton Avenue, Unit E21
Woodland Hills: 5305 Topanga Canyon Boulevard

hiking in los angeles
Photo by Huy T/Yelp

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
Ernest E. Debs Regional Park has miles of hiking trails to immerse yourself in nature in northeast Los Angeles. Take a loop around the secluded Debs Lake or snag a pair of binoculars from the park’s Audubon Center and foster your inner ornithologist as you try to catch a glimpse of the many birds that dot the hiking trails. If you stay right as the sun begins to set, you’ll catch what seem to be all the ravens in the city, which flock here to gossip before nightfall. 4235 Monterey Road

Los Feliz Transcendental Meditation
If you want to go deep into your meditation practice, Transcendental Meditation (TM) claims to be more effective than the other types. Once you’ve learned the technique, they say it’s the easiest way to get zen, quick. Los Feliz TM has been training Angelenos in the mind-calming practice since the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought the specific method to the States. With testimonials from the Mayo Clinic to its most famous patron, David Lynch, TM has been credited with lessening anxiety and depression and opening a pathway to a peaceful mind. 1655 Hillhurst Avenue #102

Photo courtesy of Foodstory

True to its namesake, Foodstory combines appreciation and lessons in Japanese culture with food through culinary adventures, with some classes visiting LA’s wholesale fish market to truly learn the tricks of the trade. Offering more than a dozen different food-tasting events and cooking classes (like the popular Ramen Run Down and Japanese Bento Box), all teach specific knife skills in addition to cooking techniques, so that participants know how to recreate the delicately plated meals at home. 810 South Spring Street

Photo courtesy of Wild Terra/Facebook

Herbal Self-Care at Wild Terra
Come here for bulk organic, biodynamic, wildcrafted herbs, spices, teas, tinctures, salves, and miscellaneous gifts of your witchiest dreams. The purest spot for curatives, potion ingredients, or even just spices and seasonings, Wild Terra also hosts Ayurvedic care and herbal medicine workshops, among others, so that you can incorporate those bulk goodies into your life on the regular. 5858 North Figueroa Street

Immersive Experiences at Wisdome
Wisdome, the immersive art park in DTLA (of course), is one of the spots that keeps this city magical, weird, and full of trends just waiting for the rest of the country to catch a whiff of. Step into the geodesic, 360-degree sensory domes to experience Wisdome’s transformational art/music/media pop-ups, which stay up for only a day to maybe a few weeks but stay in your subconscious long after they’ve packed up. 1147 Palmetto Street