The Full Spectrum: Grading L.A. Summer Oases By Radiance

Some like it hot. Some like it not. There’s a local oasis for everyone


  • Beach Scene
  • Hill Country
  • Culture Features
  • Child’s Play
  • Terrace Treasures
  • Pet Sanctuaries

Total Sun

  • Carbon Beach East
    This coastal stretch has picturesque homes and pillowy sand with none of the NIMBY attitude evident elsewhere in Malibu. Even the water is unsullied. The hardest part is spotting the public access along Pacific Coast Highway. Celebrities, not so hard.

  • Backbone Trail
    This epic walkway along the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains is best enjoyed on the ten-plus miles between Will Rogers Historic State Park in Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon. Hydrate well, and all the drama will be over the views.

  • Santa Monica Pier
    Pacific Park might pale in comparison to Magic Mountain, but think of chilling on the landmark Ferris wheel to the accompaniment of ocean waves. Even the wildest child will be mesmerized by the fishermen.

  • Zuma Canyon
    This is federal land, so unlike at the canine-averse state and county parks, dogs are welcome. You’ll have the run of the scenic trails that crisscross the Malibu canyon, and the adventurous can seek out the secret swimming hole.

  • Getty Center
    As the coast shivers in the fog, you’ll be in the bright reflective white of this travertine temple. Buy a refreshment from one of the carts and find a secluded corner; that way the museumgoers won’t hear you gasp at the visual expanse before you.

  • Grand Park
    The new you-can-splash-in-it water feature at the downtown space is alluring enough. You’re also steps from the genius of Frank Gehry (Disney Hall) and Rafael Moneo (the cathedral), not to mention a host of theatrical delights (Music Center).

  • Annenberg Community Beach House
    Should the Santa Monica sands’ glare prove too fierce, you can duck into the sleek modernist building that replaced Marion Davies’ mansion and take refuge in the air-conditioned recreation room.

  • Escondido Falls
    TOnce you’ve trudged up Malibu’s Winding Way to the trailhead, you’re in for a treat. Oak and wild walnut trees filter the sun on the path to the waterfall, now a favorite with courting couples who found it on Google.

  • Dodger Stadium
    You can opt for keeping the sun out of your eyes on the loge level, natch. But don’t forget the overhang up in the cheap seats, where the club has put in new plazas, spiffy expanded restrooms, and children’s play areas.

In The Shade

  • Norton Simon Sculpture Garden
    The trees installed by Nancy Goslee Power for the 1999 redo have grown up. Nowadays you can wander around the pond to view the Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, and Auguste Rodin creations under splendid cover.

  • Cheviot Hills Recreation Center
    You and your friend can pause under the jacarandas to watch the agility dogs toil, then saunter through the meadow to the stone pines, where you can take in the action on the basketball courts.

  • Hotel Bel-Air

    Hotel Bel-Air
    We’re mourning the loss of the Moorish fantasia, replaced by a New York boutique vibe, but the swans are still charming and this spot remains—whether you’re dining or cocktailing—one of the consummate patios in town.

  • Dockweiler Beach

    Dockweiler Beach
    Most beaches go dead after dark. Not this one. Forty-eight fire rings line this section of Playa del Rey, so the party that began in the a.m. can go deep into the night. Bring a Mad Max mentality and marshmallows.

Total Eclipse

  • Sullivan Canyon

    Sullivan Canyon
    The tree canopy in this Brentwood basin is so thick in most places, it’s the closest you’ll come to a tropical jungle in L.A. On the hottest days the ginormous sycamores work their magic, keeping bikers and walkers even-tempered.

  • The Sky Zone

    The Sky Zone
    No more tumbling onto the dirt. The trampoline has migrated indoors, and the padding goes up the walls—the better to bounce off of. The Gardena venue also boasts a foam pit for those who want to practice flipping out.

  • ArcLight Hollywood

    ArcLight Hollywood
    No more tumbling onto the dirt. The trampoline has migrated indoors, and the padding goes up the walls—the better to bounce off of. The Gardena venue also boasts a foam pit for those who want to practice flipping out.

  • Santa Monica Beach Bike Path

    Santa Monica Beach Bike Path
    The sand is off-limits to pets but not so the pedestrian part of the concrete path that bisects it. Nighttime means you won’t be vying with cycling packs or fretting about the balancing skills of humans on wheels.

  • Perch

    The view from the 15th-floor downtown restaurant and bar has few peers; you’ll feel even more transcendent on the 16th floor rooftop, surveying the city lights as you wait for someone to give up their seat. Order a drink to pass the time.

This feature originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Los Angeles magazine