8 Parks to Visit in Los Angeles

When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, pay a visit to these parks.

By Emily Manthei, ContributorNov. 19, 2016
By Emily Manthei, ContributorNov. 19, 2016, at 9:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

8 Parks to Visit in Los Angeles

Santa Monica Boulevard and the Palisades Park in Los Angeles, California.

From the mountains to the beach, these are some of Los Angeles' must-see destinations.(Getty Images)

Los Angeles may be one of the largest cities in the country, but travelers looking for an escape from urban life can lose themselves in the hills, too. The Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains ripple through the city, separating it from the San Fernando Valley, offering a variety of day hikes. In the city proper, you'll find plenty of green spaces as well.

U.S. News spoke with local experts to identify some of the top places in Los Angeles to go when you need a breath of fresh air. Here's what they recommend.

Griffith Park

Griffith Park.(Juan Carlos Chan-Los Angeles Deptartment of Recreation and Parks)

Locals and tourism experts agree that Griffith Park is one of Los Angeles' must-see destinations. More than 4,000 acres of wild space above the Los Feliz neighborhood put it among the U.S.' largest urban parks. Visitors can go hiking or horseback riding on the trails, play up to 18 holes at one of four golf courses or head over to nearby organized sports facilities for soccer, swimming and tennis.

"It's stunningly beautiful, the views of the city are incredible, and it's also very close to the Hollywood sign so it's a great place to get a photograph," says Jeanne Mills, chief concierge at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills.

Before hiking up to the Hollywood sign, stop at Griffith Observatory to look through a telescope or learn about space. On the north side of the park, visitors can also spend time at Autry Museum of the American West, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Travel Town Train Museum.

Runyon Canyon Park

Runyon Canyon Park.(Courtesy of Juan Carlos Chan - Los Angeles Deptartment of Recreation and Parks)

Within just a few blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, find yourself in the east Santa Monica Mountains hiking the 130-acre Runyon Canyon. The grassy hills are filled with dirt trails leading to a vista with views of Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign to the east and Malibu to the west.

Wattles Garden Park

Wattles Garden Park.(Courtesy of Juan Carlos Chan - Los Angeles Deptartment of Recreation and Parks)

Adjacent to Runyon Canyon is the more domesticated local sanctuary, Wattles Garden Park. "I get shy talking about it because it's a hidden gem. It's one of those few places where you can go and lay in the grass in a park that's pretty off the beaten path," says Sarah Dandashy, AskAConcierge.tv host and concierge at The London West Hollywood of Beverly Hills.

The site is home to a Mediterranean/Mission Revival mansion built in 1907. It's surrounded by a sprawling public lawn, Japanese gardens, formal flower gardens and a members-only community produce garden.

Grand Park

Grand Park.(Courtesy of The Music Center Grand Park)

It's not so easy to find open spaces in downtown Los Angeles, but that's changing. The three city blocks from the Music Center on Grand Avenue to City Hall now make up Grand Park. The park has a lawn for relaxing, fountains for splashing through, a garden of drought-tolerant shrubs and foliage from around the world and tables for eating lunch from popular food trucks.

The highlight, however, might be the performance lawn and stage, where Grand Park hosts a summer concert series, local festivals and holiday events for the Fourth of July and New Year's.

Palisades Park

Because of its proximity to the beach, Palisades Park might be overlooked by tourists. It's a narrow strip of walking paths, grass and palm trees between Ocean Avenue and the bluff in Santa Monica that stretches more than 26 acres from Colorado Avenue to Adelaide Drive. It's a favorite of bikers and walkers who want a little distance and a view of the water.

"Palisades Park is so cool – I love it," says Ryan Fisher, concierge of the historic Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, located across the street from the park. "It's got ocean views, a canopy of trees, picnic areas. They host a lot of lucky kids' birthday parties."

Franklin Canyon

Franklin Canyon.(Courtesy of National Park Service)

This 605-acre park spreads north between Beverly Hills and the Valley, and features a nature center and amphitheater in addition to the miles of hiking trails and, of course, the lake. "I like it as an alternative to Runyon Canyon. They have a lake, so you feel like you're out in nature, but it's also pretty much in Beverly Hills' backyard," says Jessica Berger, concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills.

Echo Park

For great views of downtown Los Angeles, head to Echo Park. Located in a neighborhood that shares its name, Echo Park surrounds the tranquil Echo Park Lake, where visitors can rent pedal boats and make circles around the grand fountain in the middle. Walking paths, playgrounds and picnic areas around the lake all make for a relaxing afternoon. Find a little patch of grass and enjoy the people-watching.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library.(Courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens)

Thanks to early 20th-century mogul Henry Huntington, a small neighborhood just outside Pasadena is home to the Huntington Library, which has rare books, historic manuscripts and pieces of art. This is also where you'll find 120 acres of some of the most beautiful outdoor space in all of Los Angeles. "The house collection is stunning, but the grounds are like a medicinal retreat," says Casey Duggan, chief concierge at the Viceroy Santa Monica. "You can go there to enjoy the sprawling gardens without being bothered at all."

Various plants and habitats have their own garden oases: Lilies, roses, Japanese vegetation, herbs and desert succulents are just a few.

To experience more of what Los Angeles has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

Emily Manthei, Contributor

Emily Manthei is a freelance travel and real estate writer for U.S. News and an international ...  Read more

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