Today: April 14, 2024
Today: April 14, 2024

15 Scenic spots to discover in and around Los Angeles

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LA Post: 15 Scenic spots to discover in and around Los Angeles
Natasha Dixon
February 16, 2024

Tucked away in pockets across Los Angeles, hidden portals transport visitors into fantastical realms brimming with wonder. Behind unassuming facades of strip malls and residential streets, secret dimensions overflow with marvelous imagination unencumbered by reality's constraints. Tire of the concrete jungle? The City of Angels unfurls myriad magical escapes right in its own backyard for those daring to peek behind the curtain. 

Through this looking glass, vibrant mosaic tile forests gleam like Oz's Emerald City while an impossibly precise Egyptian temple replica looms larger than imagination. Spiritual solace emanates from lakefront Buddhist temples to palatial Hindu shrines worthy of their subcontinental ancestors. Even the Happiest Place on Earth works its theme park sorcery just outside town for perennial kids. From a pirate tower along Laguna to a faux time travel mart stocking future goods dreamt up by school kids, Los Angeles overflows with portals to the extraordinary. All it takes is an appetite for adventure and the willingness to rediscover childlike awe.

So allow your inner explorer to chart a staycation away from the ordinary by stepping through these wormholes winding across LA's wonderlands. The world awaits right here for those still believing in magic. Shall we take a leap together? Adventure blazes trails through the most marvelous places to visit in Los Angeles are detailed ahead. Reality need only apply once we resurface back home. But until then, simply imagine.

Nestled throughout Los Angeles and its surrounding environs lies “Bubble World: An Immersive Experience,” a fantastical multi-sensory playground spanning over 10 imaginatively themed spaces, said promoters. This limited-time pop-up invites adventure-seekers to “plunge into the ball pit or partake in the hot air balloon flight simulator for a spectacular date night,” making it “fun for all ages” before it floats away for good, they touted. Secure tickets soon for this “world not to be missed” in Montebello that sweeps you away through rooms of wonder.  

For a tranquil reservoir of peace, head to the breathtaking authentic Japanese garden blending aesthetics and philosophical ideas at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Wander through three distinct gardens, including a meditative Zen rock garden, serene wet strolling garden, and traditional teahouse to soak up the fragrances and sights that feel transported from Japan.

Further enveloping guests in yuletide spirit is the charming alpine-esque Santa's Village nestled in the mountain community of Lake Arrowhead, where St. Nick set up his SoCal home base back in the 1950s, according to locals. Still emanating seasonal magic to this day with its cookie cottages and towering candy canes, this pioneering theme park "is a true holiday adventure throughout the year," say festive fanatics.

Outdoor aficionados flock to Pyramid Lake near Castaic in the Angeles National Forest, an azure reservoir whose name pays homage to the conspicuous pyramid-shaped rock formation carved out to build the original Highway 99. Endless recreational opportunities for hiking, boating, and beach fun exist here, thanks to the scenic lake backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. 

For a slice of Europe without the flight, Los Angeles hides St. Vincent Court alleyway featuring vibrantly-colored facades, brick lanes, and sidewalk cafes. Lined with Mediterranean eateries and boutiques galore, this urban escape channels Old World Italy through its buildings and bites. 

The spirit of Venice also flows through the aquatic corridors of postcard-perfect canals in nearby Long Beach and aptly-named Venice, where picture-perfect waterways lined with charming homes offer cruise options from kayaks to gondolas for an almost impossibly romantic glide. 

On the brilliantly sunny streets of Beverly Hills, a storybook house daubed in bright purple and green hues lives up to its playful nickname of the "Witch House," looking plucked straight from the pages of a fairy tale. This architectural flight of fancy brings free-spirited fantasy to its swanky neighborhood.

Further transporting guests half a world away is the magnificent Hindu temple BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Chino Hills, one of just five traditional Hindu American temples and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, worshippers attest. Its intricately hand-carved sandstone towers, soaring white marble domes, and dazzlingly-colored winged elephants make it marvelously easy to think you've been spirited to ancient India. 

Equally impressive, according to admirers, is the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, which showcases traditional Taiwanese Buddhist architecture on its sprawling grounds. Sweeping tile roofs topped with gracefully upturned eaves and golden guardians at its entrance aside, the magnificent main shrine stuns with intricate carvings and paintings of almost every inch of its wooden interior.  

Stretching along the sands of Laguna Beach, Victoria Beach boasts a fanciful offshore found in its so-called Pirate Tower, a Victorian house perched over the waves on rocky footing. Sunset bathes the coastal castle in amber hues that enhance its fairy tale facade. 

In contrast, the precisely replicated Egyptian temple towering outside Chino Hills, popularly known as Farou Food seems utterly out of place and time amidst fast food joints until you peek behind its Pharaonic facade. The intricate carvings of deities and hieroglyphs inside match those of Ramesses II's majestic Abu Simbel temple, closely enough to mesmerize minds in near Africa momentarily, according to overseers. 

Behind an inconspicuous gate in the Hollywood Hills lies an explosively colorful tribute to Oz dubbed the Garden of Oz. Created by artist Gail Cottman, this unexpected wonderland mosaic garden keeps the location of Dorothy’s fabled guide strictly secret. But for those lucky enough to gain backyard access to the Emerald City-evoking artworks, it instantly transports the imagination over the rainbow, say gleeful guests. 

Further creative inspiration flows freely at Echo Park’s Time Travel Mart, depicting a convenience store stocked with imaginary products from the future, all dreamt up by local students. Their boundless creativity births quirky books and gadgets in this “haven of creativity and imagination” that seems to spoof space-time continuity with cheeky charm, according to fans. 

Eccentric history envelops Lummis House, an audacious stone castle built by Great Southwest adventurer Charles Fletcher Lummis as his dream home and depot for indigenous artifacts collected from his travels in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Walking the crenelated perimeter, zig-zagging steps, and winding staircases of this architectural anomaly nestled by the Arroyo Seco feels far-fetched today.

Finally, the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine temple, waterfall and spring-fed lake in Pacific Palisades permeate peaceful vibes with its 10 acres of meticulously manicured meditation gardens pointedly planned to uplift spirits, say blissed-out guests. Moreover, a portion of activist Mahatma Gandhi’s cremated remains buried on site bolsters the ashram’s hallowed aura for history buffs.

So for staycationers seeking surreal escapes beyond worldly worlds where imagination overrides reality, Los Angeles conjures myriad magic kingdoms to uncover right in our own backyard without boarding a flight. All it takes is a willingness to open our eyes and minds to the wondrous worlds winking at us from just around the corner. 

For pop culture buffs, a self-guided tour of L.A. hotspots featured in movies and shows lets imagination embellish what we watch on screens. Locales lend new dimensions when visualized firsthand, from downtown's Bradbury Building of Blade Runner fame to Hollywood Boulevard’s TCL Chinese Theatre imprinted by generations of celebrities. Sites seen through screens suddenly overflow with possibility when beheld before our eyes.  

But beyond the well-trodden tourist track lies lesser-known locales revealing L.A.'s oddball outlooks. The 105-year-old Watts Towers rank high as world-class whimsy, hand-sculpted from steel and cement into soaring spires strong enough to withstand earthquakes. Echo Park's quirky Time Travel Mart also stretches imagination through student-dreamt products lining its faux shelves. 

For those seeking soothing serenity, unexpected nature nooks further rejuvenate world-weary minds. Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park's idyllic lake in South L.A. proffers pretty respite surrounded by flower beds. And north of downtown unfolds the Los Angeles State Historic Park, whose wild expanse disguises its location amidst urbanity with rolling hills golden in spring. Its wide fields seem to breathe possibility into the city air.  

Mostly, though, Los Angeles surprises with global glimpses from our own backyard due to the incredible diversity of cultures calling Southern California home. Strolling historic Little Tokyo with its scarlet torii gate entrance gives way to shops selling Japanese knick-knacks and sweet treats. Nearby Koreatown Karaoke bars croon late into the night. And West Hollywood's Plummer Park hosts free Persian dance and music during its vibrant Nowruz Festivities celebrating Persian New Year each spring, say fans. 

No matter your interests or background, L.A. contains hidden dimensions awaiting discovery down almost every avenue and alley if you peer closely enough at its possibilities. This city built on dreams dares us daily to glimpse its magic, much like catching sight of the Hollywood sign winking over the horizon. All it takes is a willingness to wander off the worn path and see where your steps lead across Los Angeles' landscape of the surreal.


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