At Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, You’ll quickly forget you’re atop a giant parking lot. // (c) 2013 Prayitno / Flickr.com
At Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, You’ll quickly forget you’re atop a giant parking lot. // (c) 2013 Prayitno / Flickr.com

If you mention the word “park” in a city like LA, many folks are off on a tizzy about parking their beloved vehicles before they realize you’re talking about the other kind of park – the leafy kind designed for rest, relaxation and renewal.  Yep, urban parks in Los Angeles do exist.

Everyone knows about the granddaddy of them all, beautiful Griffith Park.  It’s the city’s largest and it has made appearances in countless Hollywood movies.  And yes, sports fans might even remember to mention Elysian Park, since it’s home to their beloved Dodgers.

…point to a renewed interest in beautiful outdoor spaces

But today we celebrate some of the newest additions to LA’s urban park scene – the ones most residents don’t even know about. They’re creative, even surprising in their design, [think water-wise plantings] — and they point to a renewed interest in beautiful outdoor spaces.  They’re for today’s LA resident and visitor, and a joy to “discover” for the first time.

So grab your sunglasses, pack a lunch, or simply bring a book.  There’s a new breed of park out there, and there may just be a bench or patch of grass with your name on it.

Grand Park

It used to be a wasteland of concrete, but no more.  Dubbed “the park for everyone,” the first thing you notice are the pink tables and chairs throughout. Yes, pink. Admire the majestic views from the four distinct terraced areas connecting City Hall to the Music Center.  Wow, city planning at its best. You’ll quickly forget you’re atop a giant parking lot as you stretch out on the grand event lawn.

At Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, You’ll quickly forget you’re atop a giant parking lot. // (c) 2013 Prayitno / Flickr.com
At Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, You’ll quickly forget you’re atop a giant parking lot. // (c) 2013 Prayitno / Flickr.com

The stunning restored fountain – one of the largest in LA – is a glorious site to behold during the day, and at night it boasts a vibrant light show. Join the kids and dip your toes in the inviting wade pool, or grab a coffee in the well-placed Starbucks. Find your own quiet corner or join the crowd for ever-changing art exhibits, community dance events or live musical concerts. Reminiscent of Washington D.C., Grand Park will make you proudly announce, “Downtown LA is back.”

Between 200 N Grand Avenue and 227 N Spring Street, Downtown Los Angeles

Vista Hermosa Natural Park

This oasis can be your little secret. Just blocks from the 110 freeway, you’ll be mesmerized by the skyline views that are so close that you feel you can reach out and touch them. Did we mention the stunning views?

Just blocks from the 110 freeway, you’ll be mesmerized by the skyline views at Vista Hermosa Natural Park in Downtown Los Angeles // (c) 2013 Corona / Flickr.com
Just blocks from the 110 freeway, you’ll be mesmerized by the skyline views at Vista Hermosa Natural Park in Downtown Los Angeles // (c) 2013 Corona / Flickr.com

Deceptive in size, the grounds feature terraced trails and flowing streams.  Green grass welcomes from every direction, and there are even two small parking lots and clean bathrooms. Hike or picnic by the waterfall, or watch a soccer game on the giant field below. Enjoy this quiet sanctuary and thank the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the LA Unified School District for collaborating – for they gave us a truly unique space that makes you say, “Wow, LA is beautiful.”

100 N. Toluca Street, Downtown Los Angeles

Grand Hope Park

This little gem has been cleaned up and caters to that new breed of LA resident, the one who resides downtown, as it’s within blocks of LA Live and the Staples Center. Walk through the gates of the mosaic clock tower and join the new loft-dwellers as their kids frolic in one of downtown’s only gated playgrounds.

Grand Hope Park caters to that new breed of LA resident, the one who resides downtown. // (c) 2010 Ricardo Diaz / Flickr.com
Grand Hope Park caters to that new breed of LA resident, the one who resides downtown. // (c) 2010 Ricardo Diaz / Flickr.com

No dogs are allowed, so it’s safe to lounge on the huge grassy space and make friends with the Fashion Institute students who spill out of the campus buildings nearby. People-watching can be your new sport of choice here. Get your yoga on with one of the gathering classes, or simply watch from your own shaded corner under the arbor and the bougainvillea trees. This is city living at its best.

W. 9th Street & Hope, Downtown Los Angeles

Disney Hall Blue Ribbon Garden

Though technically not a park, this garden on the rooftop of the gleaming Walt Disney Concert Hall has to be mentioned, as it’s one of LA’s unique spaces open to the public.

The Disney Hall Blue Ribbon Garden, on the rooftop of the gleaming Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of LA’s unique public spaces. // (c) 2013 Daniel Djang / Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board
The Disney Hall Blue Ribbon Garden, on the rooftop of the gleaming Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of LA’s unique public spaces. // (c) 2013 Daniel Djang / Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

Channel your Manhattan vibe as you take in the city views and bask in the creative aura of the concert hall and nearby children’s amphitheater. Staircases from 1st Street or Grand Avenue take you to this shaded sanctuary featuring lush vegetation, organic herbs and plenty of seating. Check out the mosaic fountain and make your wish.

135 N. Grand Avenue, Downtown Los Angeles

Silver Lake Meadow

For years, residents could jog around the Silverlake Reservoir and visit the nearby dog park, but no green space existed to simply hang out. Enter the newish Silverlake Meadow. Cue rejoicing locals.

Enjoy views of the Los Angeles Reservoir at the Silver Lake Meadow // (c) 2013 Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy
Enjoy views of the Los Angeles Reservoir at the Silver Lake Meadow // (c) 2013 Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy

Though technically more a lawn than a meadow, this small dog-free space is perfect for frisbee tossing or a light picnic. There’s not much shade, so bring an umbrella, or simply come and enjoy the changing colors on the hillside and reservoir at sunset. Mingle with the hipster families and see for yourself why Silverlake feels a world away from stereotypical La La Land.

2300 Silver Lake Blvd., Silverlake/Los Angeles

 

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Joe Guay is an actor, writer and voiceover artist who revels in exploring the ever-changing neighborhoods and villages of Los Angeles - often by bike or by foot. A former resident of Pittsburgh, PA and Cleveland, OH, he's now most at home west of the Rockies. Passions include good books, live theatre, road trips and cycling through Southern California. Dream excursions for the future: island-hopping in French Polynesia, crossing Canada by train, biking through Italy & Spain, nature-loving in Costa Rica, and exploring all of America's National Parks.

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