52 Great Saturdays in L.A.

Your weekends just got significantly less boring
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First comes Friday. Sunday brings up the rear. But the weekend’s middle child (that’s a fancy way of saying Saturday) is prime for exploration—and we don’t mean of your Netflix queue. Behold, 52 reasons to get off the couch and get out into the city we call home:

1. Forage for Dinner

Our parks are dotted with plants that could land on your dinner plate as easily as they could put you in the hospital. Learn the difference in a two- to three-hour foraging workshop ($20-$30) with writer and survivalist Christopher Nyerges. His School of Self Reliance, now in its 42nd year, examines the edible weeds, seeds, and—if the weather is right—mushrooms found in the Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena. Pro tip: Pack your own salad bowl. After filling your satchel with wild fennel, bring the outdoors in for a home-cooked meal with one of Nyerges’s recipes from his cookbook Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America. 

2. Date Night: What to Do if You’re on Coffee Meets Bagel

Apply Coffee Meets Bagel’s quality-over-quantity ethos to real life by putting in some solid effort. Make a reservation (yes, really) at Perch downtown. The only thing that overshadows the pan-roasted salmon is the rooftop cocktail bar strung with twinkle lights.

3. Indulge Your Pop Culture Nostalgia

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Nostalgia one-ups convention at Gallery 1988’s two Melrose locations, which display works inspired by film, TV, video games, comic books, and more. The exhibition Console Wars pitted Sega- and Nintendo-themed pieces against one another; In Service of Monsters paid tribute to the beasts of Guillermo del Toro’s imagination.

4. Make English Muffins at Gourmandise School

Learn the basics at this Santa Monica institution, where three- to five-hour sessions (starting at $85) tackle fundamentals like knife skills as well as specialty interests such as the ins and outs of diner fare (house-made English muffins, poached eggs). You’ll be auditioning for Chopped before you know it.

5. Have a Brush with Fame 

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Take celeb-struck friends to West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, where six bucks buys a cup of joe at the outdoor restaurant and (possibly) a glimpse of A-listers like Dustin Hoffman eating an omelette or Emma Stone sashaying to the valet. Hit the historic hotel early to avoid the ultimate killjoy query: “Do you have a reservation?”


6. Start From Scratch at the Institute of Domestic Technology

This is not your mama’s cooking class—unless your mother knows a lot about nondairy milk crafting, home coffee roasting, or creating the perfect gin and tonic. (To be fair, we don’t know your mother.) Workshops ($95-$195) meet in various locations around the city and run between two and six hours.

7. Introduce Kids to the Classics

Children might balk at listening to classical music in a building that shares a name (but little else) with the Happiest Place on Earth. Forge on. The shiny swoops of Disney Hall can be persuasive, even for 5- to 11-year-olds—the targeted demographic of the near-monthly Toyota Symphonies for Youth series. Complete with actors and the L.A. Phil, each performance is a manageable hour. Arrive by 10 a.m. for the “petting zoo,” where children can fiddle with a variety of instruments

8. Perfect the Butterfly Stroke

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Sixty-five world records have been set in the Expo Center’s swim stadium since it hosted the 1932 Olympics. With practice, maybe you can bring the tally to 66. No need to hawk a gold medal for entry—swimming in the 42-meter family pool costs only a dollar for those under 17 or over 65; anyone in between pays $3.50. Grown-ups also have access to the 50-meter, eight-lane competition pool from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

 

9. Indulge the Gear Head in Your Life

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The Nethercutt Museum and its sister Collection (the latter by reservation only) in Sylmar feature more than 130 mint-condition vehicles ranging from antique to ’90s era. As at a strip club, touching is a no-no, but you can still drool over historically accurate interiors. Not into cars? Not a problem. Glimpse priceless player pianos in the Collection’s Music Room.

 

10. Taste the Best of Santa Monica

Avoid feeding into L.A.’s brunch insanity. Instead travel west for an all-day food crawl. at 10:30 a.m. start with a slice of blueberry cornmeal cake from Huckleberry; ordering at the to-go counter is a sneaky way to skip the weekend lines. Then at noon, hoof it to Blue Plate Oysterette for a dozen Hama Hamas and an ocean view. Then hang a left on Santa Monica for a meatball stop at Bay Cities on the way to Tacos Punta Cabras (home of the city’s best seafood tostada). At 3:45 cut back north to Wilshire for mussel pozole at Rustic Canyon. And end the day with an old-fashioned at Chestnut Club.

 

11. Learn to be a Super Hero

Many Angelenos would rather risk a trip to the DMV than visit Universal CityWalk. Take one for the team—aka your children—by crafting an itinerary that’s fun for the whole brood. Wonder Women and Supermen in training can let their imaginations soar at iFly, where a ticket ($60) buys two minutes of indoor skydiving. Pay an additional $10 for the instructor-aided “high flight,” which allows fliers to climb to the top of the wind tunnel.

 

12. Date Night: What to Do if You’re on Tinder

Tinder promotes a casual hook-up culture, but you needn’t add fuel to the fire. Keep it low-key (but classy) by taking a potential partner out for a round at The Corner Door in Culver City. Cocktail names (Miner Incident, Jesse Pink Gin) are as inventive as the ingredients.

 

13. Enrich Yourself for Free

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Feast on all of the art you can handle at Westwood’s Hammer Museum, which went “free for good” thanks to donors Erika J. Glazer and Brenda R. Potter. Drop in on Saturdays at 1 p.m. for tours of special exhibitions.

 

14. Spin Tracks like David Guetta

L.A. is overflowing with trendy millennials who dig Swedish House Mafia and minimalist graphic tees. Those interested in joining their ranks should sign up for Scratch DJ Academy in West L.A. The six-week beginner’s course ($425) is broken into Saturday classes that focus on basics such as mixing and blending. If the ultimate goal is a residency in Vegas, expedite your education with private lessons ($125-$175 per hour).

 

15. Escape to a Private Cabana on Catalina 

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Roll high at one of Descanso Beach Club’s “presidential cabanas,” available every day between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. ($250-$750). Drink complimentary smoothies while sunning on a teak chaise, or live life like it’s five o’clock somewhere with an extensive bottle service menu ($36-$400). Reach another level of Zen with an 80-minute seaside massage that uses a multitude of techniques ($145). Need anything else? A “personalized beach butler” will have you made in the shade. Try the filet mignon at Avalon Grille before going to Luau Larry’s for Buffalo Milk cocktails and a pint of island kitsch. The comfy digs at the Pavilion Hotel are just a stumble away.

 

16. Jump on the Do Good Bus

Jump on the Do Good Bus, which organizes mystery-laden community-service adventures. Participants are whisked away to a secret location, where they take on activities like guerrilla gardening and home building. Forty-five dollars reserves a seat, and a portion of the cost goes directly to the day’s cause.

 

17. Catch a Polo Match

No need to stamp your passport to see a game of polo. Beginning in May, Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades holds weekly matches. The price to watch the sport of kings is downright plebeian: free. Don’t forget a blanket (you’ll be sitting on the grass) and champers.

 

18. Hunt for Houses From Your Fave TV Show

Satisfy entertainment buffs by going on a DIY hunt for houses that have appeared on TV. iamnotastalker.com provides addresses for abodes like American Horror Story’s Rosenhem Mansion (1120 Westchester Pl.) and Jay and Gloria’s home on Modern Family (121 S. Cliffwood Ave.).

 

19. Dodge Enemy Fire in a Fighter Plane 

Palos Verdes looks different when you’re looping high above in the cockpit of an SIAI Marchetti airplane as some schmo fires “bullets” at your tail. The six-round dogfight is a staple of Air Combat USA, which equips each plane with cameras, smoke (to simulate a hit), and, yeah, an actual pilot to keep you safe. Between the intro and 60-minute outing, a basic package ($1,395) lasts about three hours, with Fullerton Municipal Airport as your base. It’s a straight shot past the Citadel Outlets—ideal for picking up a pair of aviator glasses en route.

 

20. Support an Arts Collective

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The Last Bookstore downtown is known for its expansive stock of books and records, but it’s also home to the Spring Arts Collective. Peruse the five small independent gallery shops, which sell sculpture, mixed media, paintings, and more. Leave time to look through the bookstore’s labyrinthine stacks.

 

21. Sample the City’s Best Brews

Not all crafting requires the help of Pinterest. L.A. Beer Hop coordinates tours of the city’s craft beer scene, carting thirsty Angelenos to a selection of three local breweries over five hours in the South Bay, East and Central L.A., or Long Beach. The $65 buy-in pays for an expert guide, transportation, a beer flight at each stop (generally a quartet of five-ounce pours), and a peek into the brewing process. Itineraries vary, but with destinations that include Three Weavers, Golden Road Brewing, and Monkish, it’s hard to go wrong.

 

22. Donate Time to the Charity of Your Choice 

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Want to make a difference but don’t know where to start? There’s an app for that. The L.A.-based company Golden sources local opportunities (refurbishing wheelchairs for UCP Wheels of Humanity, caring for rescue rabbits with PetSave) tailored to users’ interests based on a personal profile and past volunteer experiences. 

 

23. See the Park Güell of Venice

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If you don’t have the cash to see Gaudi’s tiled creations in Spain, go to the Mosaic Tile House, home of artists Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran. The two have spent more than 21 years covering their abode with thousands of handmade ceramic pieces. Start with a 45-minute tour of the house and its enormous workshop ($12), during which Pann will point out all of the camouflaged components. Next, drive over to Rose Café, the domain of former Superba Snack Bar chef Jason Neroni, for a late brunch of baked eggs with mushroom marmalade. then walk to Abbot Kinney and spend the afternoon shopping for selvage denim at The Stronghold or cool housewares at Tortoise General Store. Finally, don’t leave without picking up a dozen road doughnuts at Blue Star.

 

24. Find a New Favorite Artist

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Every second Saturday, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the shops, restaurants, and artist studios along York Boulevard in Highland Park open their doors to diners and looky-loos for NELA Art Gallery Night. Browse antique and custom-wood furnishings at Matters of Space, or scope out quirky pieces from up-and-coming local artists at Co-Lab Gallery. All that walking is sure to work up an appetite. Thankfully there’s no shortage of craft beers (the Escondite), cocktails (Sonny’s Hideaway), and good grub (the York, Maximilliano) on the route. For a taste of vintage HP, grab a sizzling pork-topped masa disk at El Huarache Azteca.

 

25. See Where the Celebrities Live

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When your friends come to town—and inevitably they will—veer textbook with a safari through L.A.’s jungle of celebrity homes. Orchestrate a day’s worth of drive-bys with the help of starmap.com, where a free sign-up with any active Facebook account unlocks the current and former addresses of A-to-ZsaZsa Hollywood royalty.

 

26. Enjoy a Seasonal Treat

At Maude, Curtis Stone’s acclaimed Beverly Hills restaurant, prix fixe menus change each month and focus on a single variety of produce—maybe truffles, maybe rhubarb, maybe peas. Are we really recommending nine-plus courses of peas served on antique china? You bet.

 

27. Hike to the Wisdom Tree

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The trek to Griffith Park’s Wisdom Tree, a lone pine on the way to Cahuenga Peak, is only three miles round-trip—long enough to challenge your stamina without losing too many daylight hours. The path is steep and rocky, but the juice is worth the squeeze: There are no better views of the Hollywood sign or the city skyline. Visitors will find an ammo box filled with notebooks at the base of the tree. Take a few moments to jot down some thoughts of your own, then finish the journey at the Trails café on Fern Dell with an avocado sandwich and a side of reflection.

 

28. Ponder the Galaxy

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For stellar stargazing beginning in May, cruise up to Mount Pinos next to Kern County’s Frazier Park, where light pollution is next to nil.  It’s going to be a late night, so savor a midmorning start at 11:00 a.m. to the nearly two-hour drive. At around 12:15 p.m. stop for lunch in downtown Frazier Park. The pizza joint Caveman Cavey’s is a local favorite. Pick up a $5 recreation pass for your vehicle (required for parking at the stargazing site) from Don’s Liquor Mart. By 2:45, head to the Chula Vista Campground and begin the nearly five-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Mount Pinos—the highest point in Ventura County. Then at 5:45 the galactic action goes down in the campground parking lot. Be back at your ride before sunset to set up a telescope—or score some prime real estate in a nearby meadow. Once the sun sets, enjoy the show. When you’re ready to leave, keep your headlights off until you exit the lot as a courtesy to fellow stargazers.

 

29. Zip Line in the Forest

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Exchange downtown’s concrete for treetop thrills in Wrightwood, where you can whiz through the San Gabriel Mountains at 55 mph from 306 feet in the air. Big Pines Ziplines’ Canopy Tour ($129) offers eight zips, two rappels, three bridges, and a set of sky stairs rain or shine. Arrive around 9 a.m. to avoid chasing the light on the three-and-a-half-hour tours. Once safely back on the ground, head to Inspiration Point (about 20 minutes west on Angeles Crest Highway), where Catalina Island is visible in the distance.

 

30. Swig Wine in a Stable 

Spending hours tipsy on a horse could be the plot of a bad Adam Sandler movie. Vino Vaqueros, the equine-and-wine experience in Santa Ynez, gets it right. Leave in the morning to avoid traffic on the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Estelle Vineyards. Snacking is encouraged. Stop at the Montecito Country Mart for sandwiches from Panino’s. Once you arrive, take an hour-and-a-half trail ride through rows of grape vines. Afterward enjoy a glass of estate wine. Then, drive to nearby Los Olivos, where tasting rooms (Longoria, Carhartt) keep the vino flowing. Don’t miss the wine-and-cupcake flight at Sarloos + Sons. And wrapping up the day with dinner at Brothers Restaurant makes for a quality finish.

 

31. Race a Ferrari

Sometimes you just need to floor it. Fast and Furious fantasies come to life at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, where aspiring Dale Earnhardts can get behind the wheel of a Ferrari F430 after taking an Exotics Racing School safety class ($299). Navigate five laps around the 1.2-mile track with an instructor at your side, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph. Add four more cars to the mix—a Lam-borghini Gallardo LP 550-2, an Audi R8, a Porsche Cayman S, and a Nissan GT-R—for a full day of pedal to the metal ($1,099).

 

32. Ogle a Music Giant

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Between its baroque decor, a weekend lineup of old-timey movies, and a cash-only edict, the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo is already an amusing oddity—and we haven’t even mentioned the organ. Seventy-six-year-old Bill Field plays the massive Mighty Wurlitzer (originally installed in a theater ten times larger) before every show. The instrument seems like a Dr. Seuss invention, with orange, green, and blue vibes, crashing cymbals, and 2,600 pipes.

 

33. Uncover the City’s Lost Past

Explore the glam and seedy L.A. of yore alongside historians Kim Cooper and Richard Schave of Esotouric, whose four-hour motor coach expeditions (starting at $58) elevate liquor stores and anonymous bungalows to landmark status. The company inspects L.A. on a granular level, with trips to the iconic venues of the Sunset Strip or sites you might read about in a Raymond Chandler novel. If the gruesome details of Making a Murderer left you queasy, choose an itinerary carefully: Rare photographs and well-researched commentary on the pair’s true-crime tours take sordid cases—the Black Dahlia, the Night Stalker—from macabre to grisly. Most tours depart at noon from the Arts District’s Daily Dose Café; arrive early for a hearty three-egg scramble, then order an Americano for the road.

 

34. Savor Some “Secret Beef” 

Knowing the right person can open many a door in this town. One of those doors leads to Totoraku, the “secret beef” restaurant near Cheviot Hills. Raw and cooked meat dishes conceived by Kaz Oyama draw hordes of carnivores—often toting magnums of world-class wine—to a handful of tables.

 

35. Watch a Movie at a Drive-In

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Take advantage of our temperate climes at Pacific Theatres Vineland Drive-In, one of the last theaters of its kind in L.A. County. A pair of movies costs $9.50 for adults and $3.25 for kids, and the twofers are pleasantly diverse (think 13 Hoursplus Sisters). Drive through the nearby Baldwin Park In-N-Out on the way and double-double down for your double feature.

 

36. Charter a Train Car


Travel back in time—sort of—on a tricked-out vintage train coach that even Ozzy Osbourne would deem crazy. For $4,000 or more, you and about 50 pals can hop aboard one of L.A. Rail’s five rentable cars, which have been restored to their ’40s and ’50s glory. A crew of porters and bartenders on, say, the Overland Trail ensures that day trips to San Diego or Santa Barbara are comfortable. Make a weekend of it with the Pacific Sands Pullman sleeper, available for overnight trips to Portland.

 

37. Hire a Personal Shopper

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Skip the dreaded dressing room shuffle and apply for a membership at Stylehaüs, an appointment-only showroom and boutique on Melrose. For an annual $1,000 fee, a personal stylist will select tailor-made looks for you before you arrive. Bonus: There’s free champagne.

 

38. Sit Pretty High for Tea


Langham Hotels claims to have served the first afternoon tea service at its London outpost more than 140 years ago. The tradition lives on at the Langham Pasadena, where channeling British royalty is encouraged between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays ($46). Sip a cup of Ceylon Cinnamon, and nibble on treats that include finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream, and macarons. Imagine you’re in the English countryside at the nearby Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, which is open until 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays ($25). Explore more than 15,000 plant varieties or check out British painter Thomas Gainsborough’s famous The Blue Boy in one of the five galleries.

 

39. Date Night: What to Do if You’re on Hinge


Hinge matches members with friends of friends, so don’t let too many mojitos ruin a first impression. Try a late breakfast at The Misfit in Santa Monica, where conversation will flow over bubbly skillets of shakshouka. If all goes well, hit the Strand for a delightfully clichéd “long walk on the beach.”

 

40. Enjoy a Killer View

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You could pop for Nobu’s $100 oma-kase menu—or you could linger over a $5 cappuccino while watching a California sunset. Malibu’s flashiest restaurant is always busy, so show up midafternoon for a shot at finding a seat in the comfy (and heated) outdoor lounge.

 

41. Thai One On


On weekends the courtyard of North Hollywood’s Wat Thai temple becomes a top American destination for authentic Thai street food. The recently reopened market is an outlet for Buddhist worshippers—and food fanatics—to gorge on mango sticky rice, pork belly boat noodles, and sweet red chestnuts in coconut milk.

 

42. See a Masterpiece at Ace Gallery 


LACMA may be the crown jewel of Museum Row, but don’t overlook Ace Gallery on the second floor of the art deco Wilshire Tower building. The space’s offerings skew blue-chip—it has exhibited works by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg—although it’s shown pieces from emerging and midcareer artists like painter Natalie Arnoldi and mixed-media wonder Phil Frost as well. If you need even more me, myself, and I time with L.A.’s vast art scene, amble over to LAB ART on La Brea to mull the largest street art gallery collective in the nation.

 

43. Shop on Any Budget

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The sartorial diversity of Melrose is matchless. Head west from La Brea to find thrift store meccas (American Vintage, Wasteland), hipper chains (Urban Outfitters, American Apparel), and high-end boutiques (Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga). Stop into Alfred Coffee & Kitchen on tree-lined Melrose Place for a midspree pick-me-up.

 

44. Peace Out with Peak Ingredients


Niki Nakayama trained at a traditional Japanese ryokan to learn the art of kaiseki—a ritualistic, multicourse meal that highlights ingredients at their peak. At n/naka the procession of dishes is a ceremony in itself, and there’s a sanctified air to the West L.A. dining room. One bite of Nakayama’s signature pasta preparation had us invoking a higher power.

 

45. Hang Glide at the Beach


WindSports provides a stress-free introduction to hang gliding on its 30-foot-high bunny hill at Dockweiler State Beach. Each three-and-a-half-hour lesson ($160) includes an explanation of the equipment and a rundown of proper techniques before a flier is strapped into a glider. Full sessions include seven 100-yard flights. Those worried about time constraints may opt for the four-flight mini lesson ($99). Daredevils can bypass the beginners and start with a more extreme 3,500-foot launch at Sylmar’s Kagel Mountain (alongside a certified instructor, of course).

 

46. Have a Dog Day Afternoon


Pups live for the weekend, too. Unleash the on-leash possibilities with a human- and pet-friendly agenda in Los Feliz, starting with an early-morning hike up Mount Hollywood Trail in Griffith Park. Afterward have breakfast at Fred 62, where furry buddies can cool off under an outdoor table as their owners indulge in huevos rancheros. A 25-minute walk will land you at the Urban Pet on Santa Monica Boulevard, a swank one-stop shop for everything from premium foods to plush chew toys.

 

47. Explore Sunken Wrecks


Scuba fiends can check out the lost ships of Santa Monica Bay with Malibu Divers, where packages range from $135 (diving) to $389 (specialty training). Trips are weather dependent, but try to book the three-site wreck-diving expedition that highlights gargantuan ships such as Palawan, Star of Scotland, and Avalon. Each is a barnacle-covered amuse-bouche to enjoy before moving on to the more penetrable vessels in San Diego’s historic Wreck Alley—a separate excursion that requires a one-night hotel stay. For all Malibu Divers outings, prior open-water certification is a must.

 

48. Wake Up With the Sun on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

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It takes 90 minutes to reach California Dreamin’, Gail and David Bradley’s mom-and-pop hot-air balloon operation, which has carried visitors 2,500 feet over Temecula in seven-story dirigibles for 39 years. Set your alarm to make the 6 a.m. Sunrise Flight ($168 per person), which offers groups of 4 to 14 vistas of vast vineyards, horse ranches, and citrus groves. Don’t worry about scarfing down toast ahead of time: The ride concludes with a breakfast of Cinnamon Burst bread, Brie, fresh fruit, and mimosas at the Bradleys’ Vindemia Winery. What’s that? You wanted a balloon for two? That guac is extra, but it’s possible—cozy up on the same early-morning trip ($790), or float over Del Mar as the sun dips below the horizon ($1,275).

 

49. Brighten Your Day at the Museum of Neon Art


The Brown Derby may be gone, but its neon sign crackles bright at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale. The trove includes a 1970s Pep Boys sign and an Iwata Camera sign from the ’40s, and MONA even offers a “Neon Cruise” bus tour of contemporary installations in Hollywood and downtown L.A. on certain Saturday nights.

 

50. Date Night: What to Do if You’re on Bumble

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Women on Bumble, the Sadie Hawkins dance of dating apps, may be down to plan dates, too. Have lunch at DTLA’s Horse Thief BBQ, then walk to the Arts District bar arcade EightyTwo for a few friendly rounds of Mortal Kombat. When the quarters run out, wander over to The Pie Hole for a shareable slice of Mom’s Apple Crumble.

 

51. Take an Oceanfront Hike 


Arrive nice and early at Terranea Resort on the Palos Verdes Peninsula to fit in a 90-minute hike before 2 p.m.—when the hotel’s Saturdays-only breakfast buffet closes ($38). The Point Vicente trail is an easy-ish beach excursion that leads to a functioning cliffside lighthouse and tide pools. More avid hikers might opt for the Discovery Trails along the verdant shoreline, which reward persistent trekkers with sea caves to explore. Stack the Deck: Swap hiking boots for rentable golf shoes and play nine holes at the resort’s public course ($55 for nonguests). Before driving home, stop at the Lloyd Wright-designed Wayfarers Chapel just up the road.

 

52. Soak in a Hot Spring

One of the few natural hot springs in California, Deep Creek Hot Springs requires a two hour drive out into the Mojave. But once you’ve paid for parking ($5 per person), made the two mile hike in, and settled in a 105 degree pool in the shadow of a towering rock formation, you’ll realize it’s more than worth the trek. Pack sunscreen and plenty of drinking water, and do note: Clothing is definitely optional. Directions and information here.

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