LA: where to soak up the sun

By Mark Ellwood

Photography by fotoVoyager/Getty Images

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August 2016

Glorious weather is one of LA’s most reliable assets – it is one of the US’s sunniest cities, after all, with temperatures balmy enough for year-round jaunts to the beach. But there are other ways to enjoy the al fresco Angeleno lifestyle beyond California’s golden coast. Here are six insider ideas.

Hiking in Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon

LA’s two most famous trails snake through distinctly different parks – and are perfect for making the most of the weather in Los Angeles. The West Griffith Observatory trail is a gently sloping ramble that provides gawp-worthy views across LA: the best way to tackle it is to take a taxi to the Griffith Observatory at the top of the trail, then mosey downhill, pausing to snap a selfie or two from one of the best views of the Hollywood sign.

Take a taxi to the Griffith Observatory, then mosey downhill, pausing to snap a selfie or two from one of the best views of the Hollywood sign

Runyon Canyon is a sprightlier hike, a dog-friendly loop around a steep gulley that will leave you breathless – not just from the exercise but the celeb-heavy crowd you’re likely to encounter – among them Justin Timberlake and Jake Gyllenhaal.

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  • Head up to the roof of the hip Standard Downtown LA hotel for watermelon margaritas with the city’s after-work crowd

    Beat the queues

    The Standard Downtown LA’s buzzing rooftop bar has 360-degree cityscape views – so it’s no surprise it gets busy. Luckily, hotel guests get priority access, so you can skip right to the front of the queue.

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Standard Downtown Rooftop Bar

Downtown’s grooviest hotel remains this ultra-mod office conversion from hotelier André Balazs, the mastermind of Chateau Marmont. Head for the red astroturf-covered roof by escalator past rooms full of ping pong tables, before perching on one of the 1960s-inspired, low-slung sofas or even a waterbed or two. For drinks, there’s both a cocktail bar a boutique beer garden. Make sure to skip the weekend day parties, as the crowds make queues (and waits) too long. Instead opt for an after work drink (the watermelon margarita is a standout) amid the locals from nearby offices who flock here for the last rays of the day’s sunshine – and yes, the Citigroup Center is the building where the L.A. Law firm was once headquartered.

Where? 550 South Flower Street (+1 213 892 8080)

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Annenberg Community Beach House

Hearst Castle magnate William Randolph built a 110-room oceanfront mansion in Santa Monica for his on-off mistress Marion Davies in the late 1920s. That sprawling pile was demolished decades ago, but what remains of the sumptuous estate was co-opted into a public beach club in 2009 thanks to generous funding from a local foundation. When the LA temperature rises, come here for a dip in Davies’ original pool, a spectacular sunbathing spot that’s marble-decked and mosaic-tiled; pause to pose like a Golden Age starlet lolling against the freestanding colonnade that rims one edge. There’s also a café, tennis courts and some appealing gardens to wander around.

Where? 15 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica (+1 310 458 4904;

  • Cool off in the pool at Santa Monica’s Annenberg Community Beach House

    Top tip…

    The beach house gets particularly busy during the summer months, so make sure you arrive early – it opens daily at 08:30 – to secure a parking and pool pass, which are available on a first come, first served basis.

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  • Jason Ostro’s Alley Project in Filipinotown has transformed four abandoned alleys with over 100 bright street art murals © Jeffrey Sklan

    Ain’t no alley low enough

    The Alley Project hasn’t ended at four. Ostro aims to give every alley in LA’s District 13 a colourful makeover – so watch this space.

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  • Free wheeling: take the heat off pedalling and explore Venice Beach’s waterways on an electric bike tour © flatbox/Shutterstock

    Did you know… ?

    Venice was an independent city until 1926, when it merged with Los Angeles. Nowadays, it’s known for its canals, beaches and quirky boardwalk, which is filled with performers, artists and T-shirt stalls – explore it for yourself on an electric bike tour.

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The Alley Project

Gallerist Jason Ostro describes this, his passion project in the onetime wasteland of Filipinotown, as ‘turning blight to bright’. It’s an apt description, with four alleys (and counting) festooned with a dayglo mishmash of more than 100 street art murals, whether Peter Greco’s signature ‘caligraffiti’ to the multicoloured eagle by Swiss artist Raphael Grischa, the first work commissioned after the 10-year LA ordinance banning street art was lifted in 2013. To explore, start at Ostro’s Gabba Gallery, and like Dorothy in an arty Oz, follow the painted sidewalks and signs to find the next al fresco artwork.

Where? Start at the Gabba Gallery, 3126 Beverly Boulevard (+1 310 498 2697;

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An electric bike tour of Santa Monica and Venice Beach

Developer Abbot Kinney quilted his new oceanfront LA neighbourhood with canals as a marketing gimmick more than 100 years ago. Many were converted to roads when cars became popular but the backstreets of what he dubbed Venice Beach still retain some of these quirky waterways: the best option to explore them is on a group cycling tour. It also takes in some other noteworthy nearby sites, such as the double-jointed Santa Monica Pier, a constant movie backdrop (Titanic, Iron Man among others) that’s capped the Pacific Park funfair and its solar panelled Ferris Wheel. Even better, if the Los Angeles weather at noon makes pedalling along the beach too sweaty, switch the bike to electric and cruise effortlessly at up to 20mph.

Book the bike tour >

Cinespia screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

As soon as movie buff John Wyatt started his screenings in 2002, an outdoor movie night-cum-picnic on Hollywood Forever’s Fairbanks Lawn became an Angeleno rite of passage almost overnight. Now Wyatt runs a sell-out summer season here, as well as one-off screenings at other unusual outdoor venues across the city (a portion of the fees paid are earmarked for upkeep of the graveyard which counts Rudolph Valentino and John Huston as eternal guests). Come for an early evening picnic under the warm end of a sunny day, then settle in for a screening of a modern classic with a pop culture punch and fanboyish appeal – think Fight Club, The Virgin Suicides or Cruel Intentions. Just remember to bring your own blanket.

Where? 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard (+1 877 435 9849;