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LA's Green Spaces

 LA's skyline in the morning fog. Photo by Michael Rybak.

This month’s issue of Sky is dedicated to Los Angeles, my hometown. In the magazine you’ll find tons of information on fabulous places to stay, eat and shop. What I’d like to share with you is another big reason why the city is such a fantastic place to live: the green spaces. Sure, there are the beautiful beaches—lots of them, but what many people forget is the amazing array of wilderness that’s available within city boundaries.

That was brought home to me during the month I spent in Los Angeles over the holidays. My husband and I were staying with friends in the house-packed hills above Encino, in the San Fernando Valley. One morning our friend invited us to go along on his morning dog walk. Five minutes away from his home was one of the entry points into the Santa Monica Mountains which run 40 miles from the Hollywood Hills to the Ventura County border. Most of the 150,000 acres is preserved in a series of parks and recreation areas. From our vantage point we could see downtown LA looming like Oz in the morning fog, miles of mountains to the north and the ocean to our west. It was magical, and even more so knowing how close civilization lurked. We had our walk (the dog his run) and were down on Ventura Boulevard having coffee and bagels at Jerry’s Famous Deli 10 minutes later.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse's album cover for "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" was shot in the Topanga Canyon. We didn't exactly rock our picture like he did, but it was fun! Photo by Michael Rybak.
 

That wasn’t our only outdoor expedition. When friends came in from New York, we hit the road (the 101 freeway to be specific) around 10 a.m. one weekday (neatly avoiding rush hour) and headed out to Topanga Canyon Road, for a scenic drive through the unspoiled canyon and a quick visit to Topanga Canyon State Park, billed as the largest state park within a city limit in the United States. Not five minutes into our hike, we encountered several deer and a prairie dog compound. We also swore that the scenery reminded us of numerous album cover shots we’d seen over the years (not surprising, given that Topanga Canyon is a musician’s enclave), so we figured we’d pose for some of our own.

Topanga Canyon road ends at the ocean in Malibu, which gave us the perfect opportunity to stop at Moonshadows restaurant. The Malibu institution sits right on the water, and seals and dolphins entertained us as we waited for our lunch. “Find those on the Hudson River,” we taunted our New York pals.

You don’t have to put on hiking boots to get a taste of the Southern California outdoors. We always stay at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena precisely for its 23-acre parklike setting. Taking a walk in the neighborhood surrounding the luxury hotel won’t bring you into the mountains, but you’ll probably find a television crew or two shooting in the area, which is full of spacious mansions and looks more like the East Coast than the northeast side of Los Angeles.

The Santa Anita racetrack with the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop. Photo by Michael Rybak.

This is the time of year to take advantage of another institution in the Pasadena area: Santa Anita Park in nearby Arcadia. Its reputation as one of the most beautiful racetracks in the country is fully on display on the new HBO series, Luck, and the horses will be running there through April. Located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the views are spectacular and the stargazing’s not bad either if you’re sitting in the Turf Club, where notables like Mel Brooks are often gathered.

Winter is a great time of year in LA. Get out and enjoy the weather that the rest of the country is only dreaming about!

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About Sarah Elbert

Sarah Elbert

As executive editor of Delta Sky, Sarah Elbert lassos the best writers she can find to cover the world—as well as contributing some prose of her own. Before coming to Sky, Sarah was editorial director of magazines including Northwest WorldTraveler and Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Postcards. She has been a newspaper editor, a freelance writer and an Associated Press reporter, riding with the White House travel pool (back in the Clinton days) and covering everything from natural disasters to a cat kidney transplant. Sarah has written for The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun—but not the NY Daily News. She now lives in Minneapolis, which she finds lovely and underrated, but does occasionally miss Manhattan and the Staten Island Ferry. Sarah would like to think she could again go backpacking across Europe, and she still loves to travel, but she knows that train has left the station. It's just so much quicker to fly.

About Deborah Caulfield Rybak

Deborah Caulfield Rybak

Senior editor Deborah Caulfield Rybak interviewed the Who’s Who of Hollywood during her years as an entertainment industry reporter at the Los Angeles Times. She still prefers writing about the arts to almost any other journalistic activity, so it’s a good thing we’ve got her on that beat at Sky. She’s pocketed numerous journalism awards and co-written three books.

But that’s just her journalistic cred: she’s also worked as an FM deejay in Aspen, a speechwriter in Washington and an environmental film festival director in Colorado. She considers herself happiest when she’s out of town—and out of cellphone range. She’s hitchhiked across Kenya, spent the night atop a pyramid in Central America, hovered face-to-mandible with giant manta rays during a night dive in Hawaii and hiked the High Atlas mountains in Morocco. Still left on her to do list: Bhutan and marlin fishing.

About Liz Doyle

Liz Doyle

After a few years navigating the trenches of New York's fashion scene as a stylist assistant at Harpers Bazaar, fashion editor Liz Doyle is excited to be back in her childhood hometown of Minneapolis. When she isn't scouting the latest trends in fashion and travel, she moonlights at a local Parisian brasserie where she says "welcome" and "enjoy" a lot and occasionally tries to improve her French. Though her foray to the editorial side of the magazine industry is a new one, she welcomes the challenge and can't wait to see what this new adventure holds.

About Amanda Welshons

Amanda Hoffstrom

Associate online editor Amanda Welshons maintains the web and social media presence of Delta Sky. She enjoys using new media and exploring how different platforms enhance the reader experience. Based in Minneapolis, Amanda has several destinations on her bucket list including London, Paris and Sydney. She just spent a blissful week in St. Lucia for her honeymoon, and can't wait for upcoming trips to Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver and New York. When she’s not in the office, she's a pop culture junkie, soaking up as many movies, television shows and magazines as possible.