Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
At the right moment—like, say, after a chocolate chip cookie from nearby Diddy Riese—the embrace of UCLA’s Mathias is like no other. It packs a lot into seven acres. You can shade yourself under enormous gum trees, gawk at the Hawaiian greenery, plant yourself in a stamp-size meadow, and walk from the desert into a fern-filled jungle in minutes. All the more soothing for being under-utilized, the thrumming refuge clings to the campus edge like an orchid on a mangrove. » 777 Tiverton Dr., Westwood, 310-825-1260.
Time to Eat:
Wolfgang Puck changed much of his Beverly Hills institution, Spago, this year, but no amount of redecorating could silence the clamor for his signature smoked salmon pizza, spicy tuna cones, and wienerschnitzel—the kitchen will still make ’em if you ask.
Happy Hour is Here:
Cocktail Crafting at The Greystone
In the belly of the 1928 Greystone Mansion, you and a dozen others file into a small room just off the bowling alley that was featured in There Will Be Blood. Then the retracting wood-paneled wall is given the heave-ho to reveal drink master Aaron Stepka of L.A.’s 1933 Group at the original speakeasy wet bar. The Institute of Domestic Technology’s two-hour “Cocktail Crafting” class is nothing but fun, and the $95 fee offers a peek at other parts of the home that belonged to Edward Doheny’s son. » Various venues.
NEXT: Malibu/West Valley
Start Your Day:
The Malibu Café at Calamigos Ranch
Weave along Mulholland to the Calamigos Ranch turnoff. Go past the grapevines and the Biggest Loser Resort. That’s when you’ll see it: a slim opening to a wood walkway that leads to an almost impossibly bucolic restaurant. Chandeliers hang from the trees, and cabanas stand sentry on the meadowlike lawn that surrounds a picturesque pond. The menu ranges from sweet corn-lobster ravioli to burgers, but a meal isn’t complete here without strolling the grounds. » 327 S. Latigo Canyon Rd., Malibu, 818-540-2400.
Jim Morrison hung out here. You can, too. From the dirt parking lot at the end of Malibu’s Corral Canyon Road, walk a quarter mile down the asphalt to the fire road. After a ten-minute walk, look for a giant wave-shaped boulder. A set of tracks leads to the cave’s narrow entry. Inside, groove on the psychedelic graffiti and the view of the Agoura hills.
A Peaceful Ending:
Malibu Hindu Temple
Seen from Las Virgenes Road, the ornate steeples are out of someplace far beyond. To peek inside, doff your shoes and wash your feet outside the upper temple, dedicated to Lord Venkateswara. You can also visit the lower complex, where Lord Shiva presides. Admire the banana and coconut offerings that grace the altars. » 1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Rd.
NEXT: Arroyo Seco/Pasadena
Start With A Stroll:
Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
Vast groves of California black walnut survive in this 282-acre oasis. Kids can climb boulders, sit in a cave, and chase butterflies in the Children’s Woodland at the park’s Audubon Center. Or for wide lawns flush with trees and picnic tables, enter off Monterey. Follow the trail as it meanders west to the Native American Garden and, in spring, a matilija poppy display. A ten-minute ascent on the road east passes the pond, where mosquito fish dart along the edges and dragonflies skim the surface. » Park: 4235 Monterey Rd., Montecito Heights, 213-847-3989. Audubon Center: 4700 N. Griffin Ave., 323-221-2255.
Perfect Pit Stop:
Chronicle Wine Cellar
It’s Sideways meets Hoarders at the Chronicle, a wineshop that has been stuffed into a storage space behind (and belonging to the guy who owns) Pasadena’s Pie ’N Burger. Signage—along with streetside visibility—is nonexistent. Gus Martin, who manages the place, has an encyclopedic knowledge and focuses on deals ($17 is the average for a very nice bottle), and while the stock is heavy on pinot noirs, there are good French whites from the Languedoc region for as cheap as $8. » 919 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, 626-577-2549.
One More Thing:
Bauer Pottery Warehouse
From March through August, on the first weekend of the month, the ceramics company known for its color-saturated beehive dishes opens its storeroom doors to the public, offering 30 percent discounts on slightly irregular pieces and one-off collections. But if you’re jonesing for a glazed teapot right now, make an appointment. » 3051 Rosslyn St., Glassell Park, 909-425-5700.
A mini waterfall burbles while a stand of trees plays chorus, their leaves riffling in the breeze. The name of this verdant patch at the DoubleTree by Hilton may be aspirational, but three stories above the downtown streets of Little Tokyo, Kyoto Gardens is pure urban fantasy. Especially when you’re strolling the path with a mojito in hand (as the sign says, the space is intended for guests and patrons only). » 120 S. Los Angeles St., downtown, 213-629-1200.
Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop
Longevity has hardly propelled the Japanese confectioner into the glare of L.A.’s culinary radar, even though it’s been selling its soft, chewy mochi (rice cakes) and manju (bean cakes) for 109 years. Only internment during World War II interrupted the Kito family’s operation of the Little Tokyo storefront, where a glass case presents you with delicate creations that range from pink to yellow to glistening brown. As time collapses, you’ll ask yourself what took you so long to come here. » 315 E. 1st St., Little Tokyo, 213-625-8595.
Warner Bros. Theatre
The movie marquee-style sign outside is your first clue this wasn’t always a jewelry bazaar. Bijoux vendors hawk their wares in a room adorned with gilt scrollwork and oval ceiling coffers left over from the site’s days as a Pantages theater. Debuting in 1920, the venue became the Warner Bros. Downtown Theatre during the Depression. Mosey past display cases and you’ll find another kind of bling: a grand proscenium framing the void where Gold Diggers of Broadway once played. » 401 W. 7th St., downtown.
Photographs courtesy (1) newsroom.ucla.edu, (2) malibuhindutemple.org, (3) bauerpottery.com, (4) you-are-here.com.