Travel

18 Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in Los Angeles Right Now

Explore the City of Angels while keeping your distance.

LA is a pretty incredible place to live thanks to our deal-with-the-devil weather, endless options for outdoor activities, world-class museums, killer calendar of year-round festivals and concerts, and some of the nation's best restaurants. As you’ve likely noticed, many of our favorite activities have either been put on hold, gone online, or moved outside, but, trust us, there’s still lots to do if you know where to look. From virtual fun to outdoor classes to drive-in movies, here are some ideas to get you through to when things go back to....well whatever they’re going to be, eventually.

Soak in the sunflowers (and everything else that’s in bloom)

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La Canada Flintridge
Catch fields full of those big bold flowers while they’re still in bloom this summer at the 150-acre Descanso Gardens. (Plant nerd tip: Yellow flowers look especially flowery during the golden hour around sunset, so go later if you can.) The gardens are now open until 8pm nightly, with social distancing measures in place. Roses and flowering cherry trees are also popping right now and look for some fine fall foliage come October. You can also catch a cocktail in Descanso’s gloriously tranquil Japanese Gardens on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. Make sure to buy tix online ahead of time if you’re not a member. Not up for making the visit in person? Take a tour via YouTube.

Do your downward dogs in the great outdoors 

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Various 
LA is full of workout fanatics...and most of us have been on a heart-breaking gym-reopening roller coaster for the last five months. With all gyms and fitness studios currently shuttered indoors, some have moved their classes outside, and there’s a good selection of fresh-air yoga to be found all around town. From sunset sessions overlooking the ocean to evening outings at the Arboretum to Sunday afternoon instruction at Griffith Park, we could all use a little more zen in our lives right about now. 

Ceramics and chill 

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Downtown
If you completely forgot to learn a new skill during the pandemic and are riddled with regret, it’s not too late. Still Life Ceramics studio at ROW DTLA has taken its setup – including those cool spinning pottery wheels you’ve always wanted to get your hands on – outside for Pottery in the Park. You can get in on an easy breezy hour-long class (including Bowl in One on Sundays and Clay and Rose on Friday evenings) meant for newbies, where you’ll learn the basics of throwing on the wheel from a pro instructor and make your very own bowl that you can put in your apartment to herald the new ceramics-skilled you. (They’ll fire it for you and you’ll pick it up a few weeks later.) If you’re looking to go even deeper, you can sign on for a four-week series where you’ll get schooled in everything that goes into making pottery and end up with 15 pieces by the end of it. Storage unit not included. 

Street Food Cinema
Courtesy of Street Food Cinema

Catch a movie in your car 

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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. Also look for drive-in film fests (see below) and one-off events, including the Mrs. Maisel binge, A Marvelous Night at the Drive-In, coming up at The Grove. 

Support LGBTQ filmmakers 

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Home and Malibu
Outfest, which showcases LGBTQ stories and filmmakers and also happens to be LA’s oldest film festival, is not about to let COVID-19 take it down. On the contrary, it’s now able to screen its 160+ films to cinephiles both around the city and around the world. The 11-day fest (August 20-30) will offer virtual streaming passes so you can catch every flick, filmmaker talk, Q&A, and live event from home, plus will be holding two three-day Outfest Under the Stars weekends of drive-in screenings at Malibu’s sprawling Calamigos Ranch.  

See Shakespeare (not) in the park 

Free 
Home
2020 would have been the Independent Shakespeare Company’s 10th year putting on the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, but because 2020 sucks, the performances in the park are canceled...but that doesn’t mean the festival is. The event’s “living room edition” will offer four consecutive evenings of live performances of Romeo & Juliet in a row (September 3-7) featuring hybrid stage production blending movie making, animation, social media and the troupe’s home stage in Atwater. Just make sure to register for the link beforehand.

Get an up-close look at ridiculously adorable animals

Free
Home
We promise you won’t miss TikTok once you’ve been turned on to the LA Zoo’s absolutely mesmerizing “Bringing the Zoo to You” program. And as soon as you turn it on and catch a baby gorilla snacking on lettuce, you’ll be hooked. You can also choose from existing clips depending on what you’re in the mood for, like the “calming videos” of a lounging lion licking its paws, a koala bear casually eating a tree branch like it’s an ice cream cone, and two swimming hippos playing around in the water. The best.

Find out what forest bathing is

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Arcadia
Forest bathing is 1. a thing and 2. apparently really good for you and no nudity required. (Sorry, not sorry), Every Wednesday evening, the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden leads a socially-distanced walk through a forest to help you interact with the land. Before you scoff, the crew here says 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. We’re in.

Take in the (extra-clear) view from the top of Mt. Wilson

Free 
Home 
The crystal-clear, less-smoggy views are still pretty stellar these days and a perfect place to take it all in is from the Mount Wilson Observatory with an elevation of 5,700 feet. You can get a live look from the Towercam atop the 150-Foot Solar Tower 24 hours a day. 

Get a taste of LA’s finest farmers markets 

Free
Various
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. While many of the markets -- including Downtown Santa Monica’s majorly massive one -- are still taking place, farmers market-shopping involves a lot more effort and military precision than it used to (also RIP samples), but you can still 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 (the tomatoes are pretty gorgeous right now) 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 The Garden Of... in Santa Ynez that you can order through its website for curbside pickup.

Make your way to the top of a mountain

Free
Malibu
Fantastic hikes abound throughout LA, but Sandstone Peak -- the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,114 feet -- is a slightly more far-flung favorite. The 6-mile loop trail will reward you with both a solid workout and fantastic views at the top, and the ocean-hugging ride up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu is a thing of beauty. Now that LA hiking trails have reopened, you’ve got your pick, but for the sake of social distancing, stay away from any that seem crowded (the parking lot is a clear giveaway) or try a trek on a lesser-known trail.

Laugh it up at a comedy show from the comfort of home 

Free
Home
LA has more comedians per capita than any other city. OK, that’s not actually a real fact but there are a lot, which means we’ve usually got access to every conceivable style of comedy show including real-deal comedy clubs with two-drink minimums and comics with their own sitcoms doing sold-out shows, open mic nights in the back of a dive bars, and improv troupes impressing audiences on the fly. Until any and all of the above comes back online, you can still get your local laughs virtually. The Laugh Factory continues to stream live shows Monday through Friday at 2pm and you can also revisit the sets of dozens of comics including Leslie Jones and Kumail Nanjiani on the club’s YouTube channel. And if you want to get in on an open mic, The Hollywood Comedy on Melrose does them daily on Instagram Live in addition to putting on its own shows with pros.

Make sushi, pizza, and pasta at home with help from your fave restaurants

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Take your pick when it comes to dining – from awesome new outdoor setups (where have these been all our lives?) to tons of takeout options right now – including fancy-schmancy multi-course menus from not-usually-in-the-takeout game big dogs like ProvidenceVespertine, Bavel, and n/naka. But if you want to both take down a restaurant meal at home and take credit for making it, opt for a make-your-own meal-kit from an LA eatery. While slicing sushi takes serious skill, DIY-ing your own hand rolls when everything has been portioned out for you is something you can totally pull off with the hand roll pack from Sushi Roku that comes with five kinds of fish, matching sauces, multiple veggies, and cooked sushi rice along with nori and soy paper. While Venice hot spot Scopa has reopened with a new lush outdoor dining area perfect for taking down maccheroni and Montepulciano under the moonlight, the restaurant is still offering its mix-and-match housemade pastas and sauces from its market to boil and heat up at home. And pizza obsessives who were going to pop those pies in the oven when you got home anyway can start from semi-scratch with pizza kits from Roberta’sMilo & Olive, and Lupa Cotta.

Stock up on weed 

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Various
Since marijuana was legalized here a few years back, we’ve been blessed to live in a place where we can stroll into a shop and peruse cases of flower and shelves of pre-rolls, edibles, and THC-laced everything. Dispensaries are indeed up and running, so you can peruse IRL or stock up via curbside pickup or delivery. In addition to all kinds of independent shops there are now seven gleaming MedMen locations around town to check out (everyone used to call it the Apple store of weed, Med Men is actually open, so ...). You can get a burger or bread pudding with your blunt via pre-order or drive-through at WeHo’s Original Cannabis Cafe, or use a delivery app to get pot brought to your porch. And be sure to check out our guide to the best dispensaries right now. 

Go inside one of LA's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes

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Home
The famous architect designed the 5,000-square-foot Mayan Revival-style Hollyhock House for an oil heiress nearly a century ago. After a complete restoration a few years back, the hilltop property -- most famous for its seamless indoor-outdoor flow, massive hearth, and hollyhock flower details throughout-- used to be open to the public for both self-guided visits and docent tours. Until those get going again, Hollyhock is now offering virtual tours online, complete with 360-degree views outside and in and info and details about the house, its history and funky features. Why no one is currently quarantining in such a sick spread? We don’t know. 

Load up on booze at a drive-thru liquor store 

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If there was ever a time to not feel like a total lazy sloth for not getting out of your car while buying beer, it’s now. And while tons of places are selling booze for curbside pickup and delivery, there’s something special about the experience of doing it drive-through style. You can get in on the old-school experience at Joe’s Ice in Pasadena, Jersey Gold Dairy in Cerritos, and Sunflower Spirit & Tobacco in Simi Valley.

Tour some of the city’s top museums

Free 
Home
Yes, the doors are locked but you can still browse art, see traveling and permanent exhibits, get virtual tours, and even hear from the artists themselves at many of LA’s most impressive museums including The Broad, LACMA, The Getty, The Institute of Contemporary Art, the California African American Museum, The Grammy Museum, and Natural History Museums of LA, among others. If you’re not smarter and more cultured by the time this is over, you have no one to blame but yourself.

See the house where Greg and Marcia Brady slept

Free
North Hollywood
We dare you to find an American human who isn’t wowed by a drive by the iconic ”Brady Bunch” house. While it doesn’t look quite the same as it did in its ‘70s heyday, you’ll recognize that groovy stonework and angular roofline, and someone in your car will inevitably wonder aloud whatever happened to cousin Oliver. The house gained some bizarre media coverage last year when it went up for sale and Lance Bass took to social media to lament losing out to another buyer. In the end, HGTV is the new owner and plans to bring the house back to its ‘70s groovy glory with the help of the Brady “kids” (some of whom are in their 60s) documented on a show called, ”A Very Brady Renovation.” But not to worry, it still looks totally recognizable and totally won’t crush your childhood memories.

See some art shows 

Free
Home
LA’s thriving art scene has been exploding in recent years and while you can’t currently hit the usual show openings to experience in-person art, mingling, and free wine in some cool space you didn’t realize was there all along, you can still take it all in virtually. The Arts District’s Corey Helford Gallery is launching a bunch of new shows this month that’ll run until late September, including the wild Birds of Paradise by Australian pop surrealist Marie Larkin and the twisted animal oil paintings of Bruno Pontiroli’s A Rebrousse-PoilYou’ll be able to view the pieces on the gallery’s website or Facebook page and even attend the opening event with the artists via Instagram Live on August 22nd, when you can practice your best nodding-to-look-like-you-understand-art moves in the privacy of your own home.
 

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Lizbeth Scordo is a food and lifestyle writer. Follow her on Instagram @modlizbeth and Twitter @lalizbeth.