12 Actually Cool Things to Do in Los Angeles Right Now
IRL activities are back—mostly.
Things are looking up, Los Angeles! Over 2.5 million vaccines have been administered in LA County so far, and more are on the way. Someday, in a fantasy world called the future, we can start taking advantage of everything our fine city of Los Angeles has to offer again—like touring one of our world-class museums, loading up our calendar with festivals and concerts, or seeing a show in an actual theater. In the meantime, many outdoor activities—from patio dining to zoo-going are back—and there are still plenty of things you can safely do outdoors or at home virtually. We’ll let you know when this is over. In the meantime, here are a dozen ideas to get you through spring.
Catch a booming bloom of technicolor lilacs, daffodils, tulips, and cherry blossoms at the 150-acre Descanso Gardens, which extends its hours to 7 pm on weeknights starting March 22. If you’re done with buying $6/pound heirloom tomatoes and are ready to DIY a home garden, hit up Descanso the weekend of April 9th, when Tomatomania!, the world’s largest tomato seedling sale (we’ll take their word for it,) takes place in the Rose Garden with 200 tomato and 50 pepper varieties available for purchase. Also look for an Earth Day-inspired wildflower display April 19-25. If you’re not a member, make sure to buy tix online ahead of time.
Pop over to a pop-up
Take advantage of LA’s influx of pandemic pop-ups while you can…though we’re hoping many will stick around after we’ve kicked Covid (mostly) to the curb. Culver City’s Platform recently kicked off its Saturday afternoon LA Pop-Up Food Renaissance series on their back patio, highlighting specialties by local chefs including Yonette Alleyne’s Caribbean Gourmet and Karla Suberro Pitol’s Chainsaw, who serves innovative ice cream flavors and pies. Fans of chef Ray Garcia can find him resurrecting his beloved Broken Spanish at NeueHouse Hollywood through the end of April. And if you haven’t tried Brandon Parker’s proprietary pancakes stuffed with everything from eggs to chicken sausage to honey shrimp, you’ll want to pick up a plate during his twice-monthly Brunch ‘n Juice pop-up in his Slauson Avenue front yard. For fancy Veuve cocktails with killer sunset-over-the-ocean views, check out the new PT at Shutters in Santa Monica with a rotating lineup of chefs on Friday and Saturdays.
We never knew how much we wanted to see blue-eyed black lemurs, western lowland gorillas, Nigerian dwarf goats, and southern hairy nosed wombats until we weren’t allowed to anymore. And lest you think we’re making up any of the above species, we most certainly are not and all of them—along with around 270 other species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians—are currently living their best lives at the LA Zoo, which has begun welcoming visitors again. Since the zoo is operating at limited capacity, you’ll need to buy a timed-entry ticket in advance.
Whether it’s more hours of sunlight or the sight of new budding greenery, there’s just something about spring that makes you want to get back out there. With allergy relief from ZYRTEC®, your allergies don’t have to get in the way of your plans, either. ZYRTEC® starts working at hour one, and works twice as hard when you take it the next day, so whether you’re planning on biking a city park or escaping to a nearby trail, you’ll be ready for wherever the season takes you.
© J&JCI 2021
While the inside of the Natural History Museum of LA remains shuttered, on March 18 the complex will open its seasonal Butterfly Pavilion, where you can stroll the outdoor grounds and see hundreds of the colorful creatures fly in a habitat of native plants stress-free because they never even knew COVID happened. Much of the museum’s wild Nature Gardens are also opening again.
Forest bathing is 1. a thing and 2. apparently really good for you. Every Saturday, the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden leads a socially-distanced walk through a forest to help guests interact with the land. It’s based on a Japanese practice called shinrin yoku and has been scientifically proven to boost immune strength, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functioning. Want nothing to do with forest bathing but still interested in doing something healthful? They’ve got you covered with weekend sound baths, plus morning and evening yoga, too. You can check the calendar here.
After magician Helder Guimarães’ first virtual performance The Present became a sell-out hit (and was ultimately extended) earlier this year, the Geffen Playhouse is back with another magic-and-mystery-infused interactive live show you can Zoom from your couch without anyone with big hair in the row in front of you blocking your view (hopefully). This time, The Future (running through April 4) takes participants inside “the seedy underbelly of the gambling world,” giving them the ability to choose the version of events they want to see. After you buy a ticket, The Geffen will ship you a mystery package to open the night of the show. No pre-show peeking, please.
Tour a fine LA museum in your pajamasFree
You can spend hours inside Target and TJ Maxx, but somehow every museum has been closed for a full year now. We don’t make the rules and we hope that our city’s fantastic houses of culture will be back in business soon, but in the meantime, you can peruse exhibits, see live talks, and learn a little bit about a lot of things virtually. Watch artist conversations and take part in on-demand workshops at The Broad, or go inside (well, kind of) The Getty via Google Arts and Culture, featuring 360-views of many of the permanent collections. You can see California African American Museum’s permanent collection online and The Autry Museum of the American West is offering a virtual tour of its What’s Her Story: Women in the Archives exhibit right now. And while you usually have to pay extra for real-life access to the car-porn hub at The Vault at The Petersen Auto Museum, which is filled with some of the world’s rarest (and ridiculously priced) cars, the museum is still offering its hour-long tour for free.
See art IRL
Many galleries have been allowed to reopen with limited hours and reduced capacity (but no in-person exhibit opening parties with free Chardonnay yet, we’re afraid) 18th Street Arts Center’s Airport Gallery in Santa Monica is launching an exhibition of sculptural folk instruments, video, and works on paper by artist Elana Mann, available to view by appointment. Corey Helford Gallery in the Arts District recently hung new works as part of an exhibit by a trio of artists including Rodolfo Loaiza, who blends animated fairy tale characters with modern-day pop icons. It’s open Thursday to Saturday with occupancy restrictions. In DTLA, you can wander through Hotel Figueroa’s Artist Alley and take in the mesmerizing work by visual artist Shyama Golden, whose art draws on themes of growth, connection, healing, and identity. And to mark the one-year anniversary of this whole pandemic thing and make us pine for all the fun we used to have, curator Karen Bystedt has transformed the Beverly Center’s Level 6 space into a multimedia exhibition of the sights and sounds of LA’s pre-COVID nightlife so you can get a taste of what is (hopefully) on the horizon.
Do some good
Volunteering gets a lot of buzz around the holidays, but nonprofits focused on making the lives of our fellow citizens better need help all the time. So, if you’ve got a free Saturday or want to make volunteering a regular part of your life, now is the time. If you’re not sure where to start, check out helpful sites including VolunteerMatch and LAWorks, where you can find organizations that match your interests, skill sets, and the time you have to commit. Right now, you’ll also find plenty of virtual opps as well if you’re not ready for in-person stuff just yet.
DIY a delicious dish
If you want to have all the excitement of a restaurant-quality meal while convincing yourself you actually made it, DIY kits are calling your name. Pizza perfectionists can start from semi-scratch with kits from Lupa Cotta and L'antica Pizzeria Da Michele, or if you prefer your carbs in pasta form, Milo + Olive has plenty of sauce and pasta kits to choose from, as does Scopa down the street. The Arts District’s Guerrilla Tacos offers an “Emergency Taco Kit,” including a veggie-friendly one (because desperately craving tacos is, indeed, an official emergency), while seafood-centric Holbox, also Downtown, offers kampachi, scallop, and octopus taco kits by the half dozen that you can supplement with some of their stellar ceviches.
Catch a movie in your car$-$$
Yes, those dinosaurs known as drive-in theaters have made a comeback in and around LA, with both newly created pop-ups and retro spots that have been reinvigorated. And since we’re still an undisclosed amount of time away from safely going back to a movie theater, drive-ins are about the only option you have outside of a TV at home. Street Food Cinema recently launched at the Santa Monica Airport on weekends; Electric Dusk Drive-In and Secret Movie Club’s collaboration, Parking Lot Cinema, is still going strong at the Sears parking lot in Glendale, screening new and old faves. And Torrance’s Roadium is ready to fill your Friday date-night needs with weekly screenings of old-school flicks, too. Enjoy the movie... through your windshield.
If you can dream it (and it’s in season) you’ll find it at the farmers market—from the tomatoes and berries of your dreams, to obscure heirloom beans, to every fresh herb known to man. Now that spring is in full swing, LA’s farmers markets are more abundant than ever, providing Angelenos with daily opportunities to stock their fridges with fresh produce, pantry items, desserts, and more. If Downtown Santa Monica’s massive market is too much to take on right away, work your way up with a visit to Culver City’s farmers market on Tuesdays from 2–7 pm, or head to The Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax (open daily) early to beat the rush. If you’re up early on a Saturday, the Crenshaw, East LA, and Noho farmers markets are great, less crowded options. Still not comfortable with open-air grocery shopping? You can support local farmers and get your hands on lots of fab fruits and veggies via farm boxes. Specialty produce farmer County Line Harvest is offering CSA boxes packed with a rotating mix of fresh, seasonal veggies that you can order online and pick up at spots like Felix and Lady & Larder on the Westside, Echo Park’s Eightfold Coffee, or Highly Likely Cafe in West Adams. In addition to a killer variety of groceries (and wine!), Kismet Goods is selling a box heavy on greens and vegetables from a Santa Ynez-based farm (with the option of creating your own) that you can order through their website for curbside pickup.
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