Happiness: Don't Forget To…

…drink, play and escape

Drink Up
drinkup_bWhat could be happier than a great happy hour? Here are some top spots for imbibing on a budget:

Copa D’Oro
Superfresh cocktails by one of the country’s top mixologists in a swank Santa Monica lounge—for five bucks? Yes, please. From 5:30 to 8 most nights, that Abraham Lincoln will get you a Moscow mule with house-made ginger beer or a frothy Clover Club with fresh raspberry syrup and gin. » 217 Broadway, Santa Monica, 310-576-3030.

The Hungry Cat
No need to wait till sundown to swill. Starting at noon, specialty cocktails are 50 percent off here, and they’re priced that low until 6. Nurse a smoky mezcal margarita or try the Sazerac with rye, absinthe, lemon, and bitters. » 1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood, 323-462-2155.

Drago Centro
At Drago Centro, downtown’s shrine to upscale Italian food, enjoy small bites like Kobe sliders and pizzetti for $3 to $9 any old time, along with select wines by the glass for $5 to $6. Cocktails are $5. » 525 S. Flower St., downtown, 213-228-8998.

Monsieur Marcel
Now that happy hour has been extended until 7 on weeknights, we’ll be visiting this bistro even more often. Colorful Provençal tablecloths, candlelight, and a Francophile waitstaff set a romantic scene. » Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St., L.A., 323-939-7792.

El Chavo’s next-door neighbor has become something of a hipster hang offering $3 Tecates, $4 margaritas, and $2 tacos nightly from 5 to 9. On Wednesdays the deals continue through last call. » 4441 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-664-0871.

Play Hard

playhard_bWe seek out sports that are high on adrenaline but good for the soul. Here’s where to get hooked:

Beach Volleyball
Kerri Walsh and Misty May make it look easy, a simple formula of pass, set, hit. Even the playing field is a pillow—and falling down a pleasure. A sun-kissed pastime, it can accommodate a scrambling duo, a fearsome foursome, or a laconic six. All you need is a net, a ball, and lines drawn in the sand. » Sorrento Beach, Lot 8 on Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica. For lesson information, go to nbvo.org.

Rock Climbing
Waves flatten and fields grow fallow, but rocks are always there. The climber—Popeye meets yoga master—summons strength and calm in equal bursts. There are no rules except those of nature, and when she’s on a tear, head to the indoor climbing walls. » Grotto at Malibu Creek State Park, 1925 Las Virgenes Rd., Calabasas. For lesson information, go to rockreation.com.

Escape into the Zen of 16 arms in perfect sync. The sport of East Coast Brahmins, rowing is the classic team endeavor; each has the other’s back. Every body part is in play, the muscles sculpted like the work of Michelangelo. Faster than a speeding stingray, the rower pays no heed to the scenery, until it’s home to the boathouse. » Mother’s Beach, Marina del Rey. For lesson information, go to larowing.com.

Ultimate Frisbee
A little bit basketball, a little bit football, the sport that evolved from this toy maker’s creation is the antidote to attitude. As few as 8 and as many as 14 can make a pickup game. Some true diehards convene at 12:15 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Culver City Park. No wonder the whippet is the sport’s poster dog; when you never stop moving, you’re strong of heart and lean of frame. » 9800 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. For other pickup games, go to laout.org.

Do ‘Lunch’

dolunch_bTreat yourself regularly to a midday break that’s truly a break. It’s not as difficult as it seems, and it’ll do you a world of good. Here are some ways to escape the daily grind:

Ogle a Landmark
The Bradbury Building, designed by George H. Wyman in 1893, is the oldest commercial building downtown, and while it looked decrepit in Blade Runner, now it’s fully restored and stunning. Visit for a minute, or blow off the rest of the day and take a self-guided walking tour of the area. » 304 S. Broadway, downtown. For tour information, go to laconservancy.org/tours.

Play in the Dirt
The La Brea Tar Pits in Mid Wilshire remind us of a simpler time, 40,000 years ago, when saber-toothed cats and woolly mammoths faced down the Ice Age—and lost. Feel your worries melt away as you consider a life-size replica of a long-tusked mammal trapped in tar. You thought you had problems. » 5801 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. 

Mingle with Matisse
At the Norton Simon Museum, you can lose yourself every day except Tuesday gazing at the most significant collection of impressionist and postimpressionist art in Southern California. Or you can contemplate the bronze Buddha Shakyamuni (circa 550 A.D.), whose broken right hand displays the gesture of reassurance. Happiness is a choice, you know. » 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626-449-6840.

Go Two-Wheeling
Find yourself near the shore without a lunch date? You could take a stroll by the ocean, but wouldn’t biking it be more fun? The wind in your hair. The salt air in your lungs. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and no matter how long it’s been, you never forget how. » Sea Mist Rentals, 1619 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, 310-395-7076.

Images courtesy (in order): (1) Flickr/houseofsims, (2) Flickr/d.neuman, (3) Flickr/donielle 

Inner Life

justdoit_innerlifeHobbies are fun. Period 

Remember when you were a kid and your favorite camp counselor (she was irreverent and cool, and you wanted to be her) showed you how to twist four strands of colored plastic into a lanyard? Remember how oddly exhilarated you felt? Feel that way again—and with more practical results (what were those lanyards for, exactly?) by mastering some hobbies. On the vine: You’ve logged hours in the aisles of your local wine store, only to emerge with another safe choice. You’re in a rut. The Westside institution Wally’s Wine & Spirits offers courses that enlighten on various regions (Spain to Sonoma), so that you’ll be able to tell your zin from your syrah. Speak easy: It’s sexy to converse in another language, not to mention useful. The one-on-one instruction provided at Strommen Tutoring in Los Feliz can help you do it. French, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin—Strommen teaches them all. By the book: We love good-quality paper, the way it soaks up the ink and keeps its form. At the International Printing Museum in Carson, you can learn bookbinding and letterpress printing. Come prepared to get your hands dirty. String theory: There’s something to be said about making your own jewelry. The materials are beautiful, the design is intricate, and you get to wear the results. Accents Jewelry in Santa Monica and Bead Boutique on West 3rd hold classes on wire wrapping, silk knotting, and basic beadwork. Harmonic convergence: Don’t know what you’re itching to play? There are lots of options at the Silverlake Conservatory, the music school cofounded by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. If you already have an instrument and just need to find an instructor, visit the Web site of the Music Teachers’ Association of California.

Just Do It!

justdoit_justdoitLet’s not beat around the, um, bush. Sex—consensual, of course, and safely conducted—makes us purr. Endorphins are released. Stress? Out the window! How did William Shakespeare put it in Othello? Making the beast with two backs? We say, Go forth and be beastly.



Spoil Yourself

justdoit_spoilyourselfWhen more is…more

You’re bone tired, shopped out, overstuffed with latkes and turkey. Your to-do list is perpetually undone. You used to love the holidays, but right now they’re dragging you down. Here are a few pick-me-ups. Free: Most Yogaworks studios offer a 90-minute “Orientation to Yoga” workshop. At the Larchmont Center for Yoga location, it takes place three Sundays in January (and once a month the rest of the year). Yogaworks focuses on a mix of techniques: Iyengar (alignment), Ashtanga (heat/flow), and Vini (breath). Relax—there’s no postworkshop pressure to pony up for paid sessions. Under $100: Go to Gilli Stuppel for an acupuncture treatment to relieve pain, firm up facial muscles, or ease menstrual cramps. The Israeli-born healer has worked in emergency rooms and army field camps; her treatments last a good hour and cost $75. Under $350: Get a hair makeover from Robert Ramos (323-936-6775), who has worked on celebs like Eva Mendes, Leighton Meester, and Jessica Alba. Between divas, Ramos sees clients in his Mid City salon, charging $200 for a cut and $105 for single-process color. Under $750: Spend a day in Southern California’s best wilderness spa. Nestled in the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest, Spa Ojai is a mission-style haven with outdoor pools and an indoor gym. Put in a little time in both, but only after you’ve indulged in the $600 “Shangri-la” package. It includes babying your hands and feet, lunch, and a trifecta of 50-minute services: massage, body treatment, and facial.

Images courtesy (in order): (1) Flickr/jujuly, (2) Flickr/sjdunphy, (3) Flickr/lulumonathletica