When most think of Los Angeles, the words “quiet” and “serenity” don’t typically come to mind. But having lived here for 16 years, I can attest to the fact that there are plenty of beautiful hideaways in which to escape the madness of traffic, tourism, and Trader Joe’s checkout lines. From Santa Monica to Pasadena and beyond, I’ve curated a little collection of LA’s best kept hiding places for those of us who seek meditation, solitude, and zero crowds.
Most of the world is well aware of LA’s beach scene, but what about our gardens and trails? Los Angeles houses three of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world and one of the largest urban parks (Griffith) in North America. We are also home to some of the greatest movie theaters and libraries in all the land.
After 16 years seeking out the best of the best, here are nine of my favorite places to escape the cacophony of LA.
Arguably the quietest place in Los Angeles (if not the most breathtaking), the Huntington boasts 12 exotic gardens, including one designed just for children, as well as a library and a museum with both permanent and traveling exhibitions.
Even on “crowded” weekends, the Huntington is relatively empty, and the property is so massive, it is totally possible to spend the day there without crossing paths with other humans. You will see many birds. And possibly rabbits. And koi.
Tucked away in historic West Adams, The Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Garden is one of LA’s most beloved meditation spots—a divine mecca in which to reclaim your zen. Built especially for quiet amidst the noise, this Labyrinth and Garden is the perfect size for an afternoon break from the madness and monotony. Bring a book to read or a pose to do yoga and take a breather. You certainly deserve one.
Most people think “couples” when they think of romantic B&B’s in the woods, and although I tend to agree, I also believe in the importance of romantic retreats for parties of one. I spent a weekend at the Chianti Retreat last summer because I had to finish a project and needed peace with no distractions. I was able to not only finish my project at the retreat but to do so in the middle of the woods, at a table outside my bedroom, with a full cup of coffee to my left and homemade scones to my right. (The included breakfast is THE MOST epic breakfast I have ever eaten in my life—not even kidding.)
I have decided to make this a sporadic pilgrimage and cannot WAIT to return. Alone.
LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is the home of LA’s greatest permanent collection of art including work by Matisse, Picasso, Calder, Hockney, Rivera, and more. Enjoy a quiet lunch at one of the two cafes, and sprawl out under a tree between gallery visits. On the weekdays, the permanent collection is always empty, providing an ideal place to wander, think, and marvel at brilliance.
The Observatory is jam-packed on the weekends, but if you arrive early enough on, say, a Tuesday, chances are you will find a quiet spot in which to sit and observe the astronomical views of downtown LA, Santa Monica, and beyond. Griffith Park also boasts hiking trails and enough exploring (4,300 acres) for a lifetime.
One of LA’s finest beaches, Point Dume/Wayward Beach is LA’s most beautiful beach with a bathroom. It is also LA’s most beautiful beach with a parking lot. (These are two very important elements, I think.) Be sure to check the tides before visiting. Low tide = visible tide pools, which make for wonderful exploring. (Oh, and P.S. EVERYTHING has been filmed at Wayward Beach, which is fun for those who are into that kind of thing.)
Of LA’s Botanical Gardens, Descanso is the most family friendly. From fairy led garden tours for the children to live music in the evenings, Descanso is LA’s biggest Secret Garden—an expansive paradise with plenty of trails to wander and trellises to duck behind.
Blocks from the Pacific Ocean, Lake Shrine Temple is part of the Self-Realization Fellowship, which is open to the public and offers tours. Its lush gardens include a lake and many paths to explore, ideal for meditation, painting, and being at one with nature’s Namaste.
Yes, it’s a movie theater, but it’s also a REALLY good movie theatre. The Cinerama Dome hosts all sorts of incredible events. Bonus: you can reserve your seats ahead of time so you never have to deal with trying to find a seat. Also? Nobody talks during movies in Hollywood. (I have seen it happen ONCE in 16 years living here, and that person was literally carried out of the theater by another patron. We are SERIOUS movie-watchers here.) Silence is golden, after all.