By: Ramona Saviss
Picnic at Echo Park Lake
The historic Echo Park Lake (laparks.org) is a family-friendly spot with plenty of greenery for idyllic lakeside picnics. The eastside hot spot is crowded on the weekends, but arrive early and snag a spot near the lake where water lilies float as ducks and small turtles swim by. The park is slated to reopen on June 15 after an $85 million renovation, with updated playgrounds, restrooms, drinking fountains, and more. When open, the boathouse and its breakfast spot, Beacon, provide picnic food (breakfast and lunch fare includes sandwiches, bowls, and coffee) so you don’t have to pack anything from home. Be sure to stop by the eastern edge of the lake to see the 14-foot-tall statue commonly referred to as “The Lady of the Lake,” by artist Ada Mae Sharpless from 1935. There are even swan pedal boats for rent hourly (pandemic limitations permitting), with romantic night rides available as another way to enjoy the lake.
Kayak and Lunch at Malibu Pier
Make it a beach day and head to the coast for water sports and lunch at Malibu Pier. Located on PCH, across from the pier, Malibu Surf Shack (malibusurfshack.com) is a go-to for kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. The shack sets up beach rentals on the sand next to the pier, making it easy to dive right in. After the water activities, head to Malibu Farm (malibu-farm.com) for a sit-down lunch with sweeping ocean views featuring organic California cuisine and local ingredients, or walk down the pier to its more casual sister restaurant, Malibu Farm Café. There, you can enjoy pancakes, sandwiches, salads, juices, and more on wooden picnic tables while you watch surfers and dolphins ride the waves.
Hike to Eaton Canyon Falls
Head to Eaton Canyon for a 3.5-mile round-trip hike near Pasadena. Suitable for all skill levels, the trail features a waterfall, shade in most parts, and year-round access. Dogs are permitted if kept on a leash. Take the Park Road Trail to the 50-foot waterfall, where some people wade in the shallow end or rest on the surrounding rocks. To mitigate crowds, timed reservations for entry to the Eaton Canyon Natural Area, which includes the trails, are required for entry. Make a reservation online (ecnca.org) before heading to the hike (same-day reservations are not accepted). The scenic Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a 190-acre nature preserve at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. In addition to hiking trails, you can enjoy picnic areas, seasonal streams, equestrian trails, and native plants and animals.
Relax at Just Float Pasadena
Destress and just, well, float inside a sensory deprivation pod at Just Float Pasadena (justfloat.com). With 11 floating chambers, each 8 feet by 5 feet, with 7-foot ceilings, these floatation rooms are designed not to make you feel claustrophobic and are billed as part of the largest floating facility in the world. Each suite comes with its own shower and dressing area, towel, and bathrobe. The floatation unit itself looks like a shallow (11 inches) hot tub that’s filled with 1,300 pounds of Epsom salt and 260 gallons of water, typically at 94.5 degrees. First you take a pre-float shower and then enter the completely private and soundproof floatation unit. After five minutes and once you’re acclimated and starting to relax, the music and lights automatically shut off, leaving you in complete darkness and quiet to relax the mind. Here, the idea is to deprive your senses and give your mind a unique setting to relax for an hour or more.
Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific
At Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific (aquariumofpacific.org) you can learn about coral reefs in the new “Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities” exhibition, on display May 28, 2021, through April 2022. More than a dozen animal species are highlighted throughout the new coral lagoon habitat, including bioluminescent and fluorescent animals that glow, plus clownfish, parrotfish, and a green sea turtle. For a more hands-on experience, book the Animal Encounter program with Magellanic penguins ($150 per person) and have the entire area to yourself—along with a guide. Limited to a single household with up to four people at once, this activity is memorable and fun for all ages. The aquarium’s outdoor exhibitions, most of which also offer direct-contact experiences, are also open and feature habitats of sharks, rays, seals, penguins, jellyfish, and more.