Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Located at the base of a slope on San Pedro’s Cabrillo Beach, the complex is the unsung alternative to Long Beach’s commercial aquarium. Frank Gehry designed the central building during his chain-link phase. The main building leads visitors on a snaking course past tanks of briny weirdness. A newish aquatic nursery and exploration center have made a good thing better. //3720 Stephen M. White Dr., San Pedro, 310-548-7562.
Goals Soccer Center
Soccer meets racquetball in South Gate. The field is shorter than a tennis court and surrounded by walls to keep the ball in constant play. The game is called 5-a-side soccer (teams are limited to five), a fast, kid-friendly experience, and no other spot in the United States offers it. Goals opened last May with 11 fields and a spiffy clubhouse geared to soccer parties. //9599 Pinehurst Ave., South Gate, 877-484-6257.
Rising and falling like a shrunken mountain range, the near-mile of whoop-de-dos that constitute Kenter Coaster are manna for mountain bikers and BMX riders who like to jump. But cyclists with basic trail skills can get their kicks, too, just rolling (nice and slow, our lawyers point out) over them. The terrain park hides in the hills of Brentwood, past a gate at the end of Kenter Avenue.
Hahamongna Disc Golf Course
The Frisbee golf revolution may yet happen. Until then the 24-hole course at Pasadena’s Hahamongna Watershed Park is in no danger of being overrun by anyone but the kids who come here for summer camp. The oak canopy demands finesse to negotiate, but the relative seclusion of the place provides cover for duffers. After the game, tread a couple hundred yards past Devil’s Gate Dam to the rocky Arroyo. //Oak Grove Dr. and Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-744-7275.
Long Beach Casting Club
You could live nearby for years and not notice the shallow pool shimmering on the margin of Long Beach’s busy Recreation Park. Then one day you happen upon anglers arcing their woolly buggers and dragonflies beside a simple clapboard clubhouse, and time collapses: Exotic as the scene can be to nonanglers, the organization has been here 85 years. //5201 E. 7th St., Long Beach, 562-433-9408.
Fewer than 40 miles from downtown, the San Gabriel Mountains ski area has been a secret hooky zone since it opened in 1939. Three antiquated chairlifts scale the 8,000-foot peak, which receives about 150 inches of snow a year (there are plans to eventually install snowmaking equipment). The terrain favors beginners and experts; when the snow’s gone in late spring, hikers and mountain bikers can take to the slopes. //Angeles National Forest, Angeles Crest Hwy., 818-790-2002.
Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
Two ponds. A Japanese garden. Miles of hiking trails. A small forest. Cinematic views. The hilltop park should be crowded, but it’s not. This is where the 1932 Olympic Village was built and where the Baldwin Hills Reservoir failed in 1963, sending a muddy torrent onto the homes below. The park came into being in the 1980s, owing to the efforts of legendary county supe Kenneth Hahn. //4100 S. La Cienega Blvd., Baldwin Hills, 323-298-3660.
Franklin Canyon Park
It’s understandable: Sitting by the duck pond, a breeze playing through the branches of the deodar cedar, anyone would be tempted to forget they’re in the center of the nation’s second-largest city. To the people who meet by the Sooky Goldman Nature Center for treks, the Beverly Hills-adjacent park is no secret, yet by the time you’ve dealt with the circuitous driving directions and minimal signage and finally landed in the diminutive canyon, you have the unmistakable sense that the city has melted away behind you. //2600 Franklin Canyon Dr., L.A., 310-858-7272.