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An illustration of a person sitting on a promontory looking out toward a mountainous landscape.
(Jovana Mugo?a / For The Times)

18 relaxing things to do in L.A. when you just can’t with the world

You’re on the phone with your boss, looking at a shared Google Doc on your computer screen, when your boyfriend calls on the other line. He wants to know if you’ve seen his text, with the Yelp reviews of the restaurant you’re headed to that night. The establishment also has texted — you need to confirm your reservation.

Meanwhile, new emails are flooding your inbox and the Slack app on your laptop is pinging. Breaking news alerts are popping up on your phone screen, which also shows someone has Venmo’d you $22 (you can’t remember what for) and your social media apps are lighted up with notifications — 54 likes on the goat hiking pic so far. That’s prompted messages on your social accounts from people wanting to know where they can hike with goats too.

Then your mom calls — you never returned her voicemail. Is your heart racing yet?

We live out our lives on screens, meeting partners on dating apps, networking on social media, shopping online and doomscrolling to unwind. As a consequence, we’re in a near-constant split-focus state of mind.

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“There’s some — not surprising — research that suggests a real decrease in attention span due to overuse of technology,” says clinical psychologist Karen North, a professor of digital social media at USC. What’s more, she adds, the digital world is worsening problems people already have: “It can exacerbate an array of emotional problems, including anxiety and depression, in part because it deprives people from the very things that could help with or solve their problems, like human interaction or the richness of the in person world.”

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Beyond negative mental effects, being on a device all day is bad for your body. Chronic screen time can lead to eye strain, headaches, “tech neck,” carpal tunnel syndrome and other body pains. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt our circadian rhythms and lead to worse sleep, says Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at UC San Francisco.

“And then there’s the consequence that the complete absorption in our devices is removing you from being outside and in nature, being physical,” says Gazzaley. “It’s about the cost of what’s missing.”

It may be familiar advice, but it’s worth repeating: Unplugging — staying off our devices, even keeping them out of reach or sight for periods of time — is vital for our physical and mental health, right up there with diet and exercise.

But it’s often hard to know exactly how to do that in our screen-saturated world. We journeyed around Los Angeles to unearth some of the most immersive and creative ways to unplug. They include unique spa experiences, hands-on crafting and a remote waterfall hike with, yes, goats.

Taking time away from our devices is admittedly a privilege that’s schedule-dependent, and leisure activities can be costly. For that reason, this list includes activities with varied time commitments and price points — from free to donation-based to somewhat indulgent.

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Sept. 26, 2022

Whether you’re hoping to sneak away from the grind for an hour or a whole day, there should be something here for almost everyone. Choose one. Leave the phone behind. Breathe. Allow yourself to truly experience the analog world — the sound of crunching gravel beneath your feet on a hike, the view of late-day shadows across a soaring mountain range, the commingling scents of springtime foliage.

That unfamiliar feeling? It might just be peace and calm — if only for a little while.

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A woman with a goat on her back on a hike.
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times)

Take a waterfall hike with goats in a canyon with no cell service

Hiking Trail
“Why goats?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” said Michelle Tritten of Hello Critter.

Tritten leads groups of up to 10 people — and four Nigerian dwarf goats — on a hike to a magnificent waterfall in a canyon with no cell service.

Goats, as it turns out, are excellent hiking companions. They’re smart and friendly, like dogs; adventurous, like horses; and curious, with distinct personalities, like cats.

On a recent outing, our goats — Felix, Lil’ Bit, Hansel and Gretel — frolicked and skipped and bucked along the moderate, creek-adjacent path, adding an especially uplifting mood to the hike. The journey was only about one mile, but it took more than two hours to complete considering we repeatedly stopped for selfies with passing hikers.

Tritten won’t publicly disclose the hike’s location, less that destroy the solace (it’s given upon RSVP). But it’s a low-elevation hike in Altadena, about 20 minutes from downtown L.A.. With the rushing creek flanked by boulders and trees, the bleating goats and a magical waterfall at the end of the trail, however, you might as well be a million miles away.

Why goats? Because everything is just more fun with goats, not least of all hiking.

Price: Weekdays: $400 total for up to 10 people; weekends, $600 for up to 10 people.
Miles in and out: 1.2
Difficulty: Moderate (if crossing the creek)
Elevation gain: 246 feet
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A woman in a kimono kneels outsidea house, the Pacific Ocean visible in the distance
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times)

Enjoy a Japanese tea ceremony on a seaside cliff in Malibu

Workshop
Yusuian may be one of the most serene locations I’ve visited in two decades of writing about Los Angeles.

The traditional Japanese tea room is in a private home in Malibu on a cliff overlooking the ocean (the address is given upon RSVP). Rice paper shoji screens open onto a lushly landscaped Japanese-style garden. Inside, the minimalist space, with straw tatami mats on the floor, hosts chado tea ceremonies. Chado — or the “way of tea” — is the ritualistic preparation of green tea, meant to provide guests a soothing break from the bustle of everyday life.

Founder Yuko Uyesugi, a certified chado instructor for the last 23 years, opened the Malibu space in 2009 to spread the word about the centuries-old practice of tea ceremony. She hosts classes there and, twice a year, opens the tea room for one-time visits. Guests don slippers and sit on the floor around a subterranean iron kettle in a lacquer-rimmed box as a kimono-clad Uyesugi (or a student of hers) prepares ceremonial matcha alongside delicate sweets — tiny sugar flowers and yuzu jelly candies the day I visited.

Afterward, guests enjoy plum tea in the living room while Uyesugi gives a short talk on the history of chado. That’s followed by a walk in a Japanese garden with a tiny bridge, stone lanterns and a waterfall. Short workshops cap off the two-hour visit — on either ikebana flower arranging or calligraphy — and there’s always a workshop on how to mix green tea with a bamboo whisk.

Price: $85 for a single visit.
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A blue-lighted room under a purple glowing ceiling
( Florian Holzherr )

Study the sky at a James Turrell Skyspace

Claremont Arts
Lie beneath one of artist James Turrell’s ethereal, immersive light installations and time becomes fluid and malleable, slowing and expanding at once. The so-called architectural Skyspaces contain hidden LED lights that shift in color and intensity with the movement of the sun at both dawn and dusk so that a swath of the sky — as seen through a cutout in the canopy of the structure — appears to change color by contrast.

Watch it turn green, pink and lavender, then fade to aquamarine, deep cobalt and black. Wait as it slowly lightens to luminescent gold. The effect is sublime.

There are only a handful of publicly accessible Turrell Skyspaces worldwide. And one of them — the only one open to the public in Southern California — is on the Pomona College campus in Claremont. Turrell graduated from Pomona College in 1965, and the architectural installation, “Dividing the Light,” opened there in 2007. The work is part of the Benton Museum of Art’s collection, but it’s situated in the college’s Draper Courtyard at 6th Street and College Way and reservations are not required.

The lights go on daily 100 minutes before sunrise and 25 minutes before sunset, and they stay on for about an hour afterward.

The evening I visited, the open-air pavilion was populated by a professor giving a talk about color theory and about 20 college students, who lay sprawled out on the ground by a shallow pool of water mirroring the sky.

It’s an awe-inspiring setting. And the experience, which is season-, time- and weather-dependent, is never exactly the same.

But then again, neither are you.

Price: Free.
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A float tank bathed in purple light with stars in the ceiling.
(Alexander Norton)

Float in a saltwater tank under twinkling stars

Santa Monica Wellness Center
IntoMeSea calls itself a quantum wellness center. Upon entering, guests relax in the prefloat lounge with ice water or tea. Virtual reality headsets are on hand for a VR-guided meditation that will lead participants to the bottom of the sea so as to relax them prior to floating. But if that’s not your thing, there’s also a room with soaring ceilings, multiple skylights and a hand-painted labyrinth on the floor in which to meditate.

Float tanks a.k.a. sensory deprivation tanks — are often small, dark and claustrophobic-feeling, which can defeat the purpose if you’re there to relax. At IntoMeSea, each of its three tanks is in its own private suite. One includes a eucalyptus aromatherapy steam room; the other two, a “fire and ice” setup for cold plunging and infrared sauna-going. They all include showers and dressing areas.

The tanks themselves are almost blindingly clean and roomy, with 7-foot-high ceilings. They contain 22 bags — about 1,200 pounds — of Epson salt each (more salt per gallon of water than the Dead Sea). Buttons inside the tank allow you to adjust the lighting (I chose pitch black), the sound (I chose meditative music) and the intensity of the twinkling stars on the ceiling (I chose full, because why not?). The spa also provides earplugs and tubes of petroleum jelly, the latter to keep salt out of the eyes.

Lying there in the dark, with the water at 98 degrees, roughly body temperature, felt more like floating in space than on the water’s surface. I thought it impossible to be any more relaxed, but then came the postfloat lounge, with chilled fruit water and herbal tea, a salt chamber and a two-person infrared sauna.

Just beware of the bean bag-like moon pod chairs, as IntoMeSea calls them. I fell asleep in mine while listening to music, and there went a chunk of the afternoon.

Price: $88 for a one-hour float with 30 additional minutes for steam room and suite time.
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A woman reads next to a waterfall.
(Alisha Jucevic / For The Times)

Listen to a harp concert in a tranquil forest

Arts
Floating is a collective of mostly L.A.-based artists, meditation practitioners and nature guides that stages immersive soundscapes in natural environments. The collective’s goal is to blend the calming effects of live music and outdoor time to help its audience, well, float away from stress. Events may feature a sound bath, an experimental jazz ensemble, a solo harp player or a sound frequency meditation — all in tranquil, little-known outdoor spaces.

One recent event was held by a koi pond in a historic Japanese garden in Pasadena; another, in a Hollywood canyon at sunset; another, amid towering majestic rock formations about 45 minutes north of L.A. There are multiple events per week; participants can attend as a one-off or via a three-month or annual membership, which offers discounts and freebies.

No matter where they pop up, however, Floating events are always meant to be in wholesome spaces where participants can unfurl and “have the freedom to just be,” says co-founder Brian M. Schopfel.

“The idea is to put thought into what’s happening not on your screen,” he adds. “Every day you’re there, you’re just being — and it’s different every time. Your perspective changes. That’s the magic of this.”

Price: $22 to $33 per event. Reduced pricing with membership.
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A line of pottery students learning to throw clay at a rooftop studio.
(Dana Green)

Throw pottery on a rooftop at sunset

Fairfax Arts
Atop a nondescript building on Beverly Boulevard, there are a dozen or so potters’ wheels at which you can throw pottery and look out over the Hollywood Hills during golden hour. The “Baroque” studio — one of three of Bitter Root Pottery’s locations — is in Liberace’s former penthouse apartment, which he inhabited from the late ’70s until his death in 1987. The space offers a touch of the drama the pianist was famous for, with a serene koi pond and sweeping views of both the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory. Other thoughtful details include a rooftop swing and a patio-turned-greenhouse.

Bitter Root offers plenty of classes for beginners, which include a demonstration followed by a hands-on tutorial. The combination of the pond’s rushing waterfall, the amber-hued clouds dotting the horizon and the whirring of the wheel head make it easy to slip into a meditative state.

Don an apron, grab a lump of cream-colored clay and sponge water onto your workspace. Let the slippery clay ooze through your fingertips. And ignore all those ceramist influencers filming themselves nearby. Your iPhone is … well, what iPhone?

Price: $95 for a two-hour class.
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Buckets of flowers at a vendor's stall in the Los Angeles Flower Market.
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times)

Connect with your senses in a warehouse full of flowers

Downtown L.A. Flower shop
Visiting the spring superbloom might be the ultimate floral adventure. But for those who can’t make it to Antelope Valley, there’s the year-round Los Angeles Flower District downtown. The bustling network of wholesalers — tucked between 7th and 8th streets on Wall Street — consists of two warehouses on either side of the street, the Original Los Angeles Flower Market and the Southern California Flower Market, with a few small floral stores between them. There are two dedicated parking structures as well.

The markets are a feast for all five of the senses.

Slow down and scan the kaleidoscope of color on display at the largest wholesale flower district in the U.S. Take in the buckets upon buckets of poppies, shelves upon shelves of peonies and rows upon rows of towering sunflowers. Inhale the scents of freshly cut roses, freesias and hyacinths tempered by locally grown eucalyptus.

Run your fingers through the velvety strands of dried amaranthus, hanging from suspended rods, or fondle the fresh ones, which are soft and spongy. In the background, you’ll hear the sounds of rumbling carts passing by, a squealing child, reggaeton on a distant speaker.

And once you’ve seen, smelled and touched everything possible, grab a freshly squeezed orange juice from a sidewalk vendor or stop into nearby Poppy + Rose, which is known for its brunch.

The Flower District is open Monday through Saturday, but we recommend getting there at dawn, when the trucks are unloading their fragrant wares and the vibe is still relaxed.

By the time you leave, you will be too.

Hours: 8 a.m. to noon Monday and Wednesday, 6 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Price: $2 Monday through Friday, $1 Saturday.
Parking: Western side of San Julian Street or eastern side of Maple Avenue, both between 7th and 8th streets.
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Valley Salt Cave's community room with a zero-gravity chair.
(Kari Shulman )

Burrow in Himalayan salt in a glowing cave

Woodland Hills Salt Cave Spa
Don’t let Valley Salt Cave’s shopping mall location fool you. Its interior is transcendent.

The caves here are man-made. But with walls of luminescent Himalayan salt bricks, a hand-sculptured ceiling mimicking that of a natural cave and pink salt crystals on the floor, along with a gurgling waterfall, the 14-person community room feels otherworldy. Certainly soothing.

The Woodland Hills spa pumps microparticles of pharmaceutical-grade salt into the air through a vent. Owners Warren and Kari Shulman believe that dry salt therapy — halotherapy — aids with chronic respiratory and skin conditions, among other things. “It’s like a toothbrush for the lungs,” Warren Shulman says. Research suggests there may be some truth to that, to varying degrees.

Whether or not that’s true, I can say that snuggling in one of Valley Salt Cave’s cool, amber-hued caverns, wrapped in a blanket on a zero-gravity chair under a ceiling of twinkling blue lights, is an excellent way to unwind.

Bonus, there’s a 10-minute recorded guided meditation at the start of every 45-minute session. Followed by time to sit there, breath deeply and just be.

Price: Community room, $35, person; private room, $45 per person for up to four people.
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A cat on top of a bookshelf in a store where a man stands looking at the shelf's contents.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Play boardgames in a dwarven-themed tavern

Burbank Games
Geeky Teas & Games is a female-owned, LGBTQ-friendly business with tables and rooms that transport you into a fantasy gaming world. There’s a dwarven-themed tavern and a spaceship-themed room, along with a vast library of more than 400 tabletop games to play. The shop, which can draw more than 40 patrons on any given night, requires all guests to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Geeky offers some dry snacks and water but does not allow additional food. Reserve a table online, especially on the busiest days, which are Saturdays and Tuesdays. Geeky Teas & Games also includes a cat rescue where well-trained cats wander the space. If you want to come alone, the best way to make new friends at Geeky is through its Discord server. Simply post your interests, and staff members or patrons will help you get involved. The store is well-staffed, so you can usually find someone to explain new games. Geeky Teas & Games also hosts an LGBTQ board gamers group. Donna Ricci, Geeky’s founder and co-owner, focuses heavily on creating a light-hearted, fun and accepting community. Ricci says she is “building a place where geeks feel like they are being honored.”

Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Pricing: Table $5 per person; private room $10 per person. Snacks start at $1.50, souvenir tea $10.
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A picnic table at Dante's Peak in Griffith Park.
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times )

Squirrel yourself away at a secret hilltop picnic spot

Public park
Psst. Over here. In the annals of unplugging, picnicking in private is a classic. And for those who prefer a proper picnic table with benches — as opposed to a blanket on the ground — this spot is for you. The solo table is on a lush hillside at Dante’s View in Griffith Park near Mt. Hollywood. It directly overlooks the Griffith Observatory and Greek Theatre, and it has stunning views of the ocean on a clear day.

You can get to Dante’s View and Mt. Hollywood via multiple hiking routes, including from either the observatory or Hogback Trail, the latter a three-mile, moderate stretch that heads up from the Greek Theatre. At Dante’s View — which is clearly marked with a sign — follow the somewhat hidden stairs to the left, which lead to a pathway (stay to the right) and multiple small enclaves with more visible picnic tables or solo benches. Follow the path around to the left, up the wooden stairs and again farther around to the left. You’ll have to search for the secret picnic table at this point, but that’s part of the fun.

The table is hidden in a small clearing surrounded by palms, pine trees and giant flowering jade plants. It’s blue and scribbled with a little graffiti. You’re close enough to civilization so as to feel safe here — you may even hear voices from passing hikers nearby — but there likely won’t be anyone in plain sight.

Bonus: On evenings when a show at the Greek Theatre is in full swing, you may hear the concert below from your hidden perch.

Price: Free
Miles in and out (from Griffith Observatory): 3
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 587 feet
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A telescope at a star party at Griffith Observatory.
(Spencer SooHoo)

Travel the Milky Way in a night of stargazing

Griffith Park Public park
Attend a star party where the biggest celebrities — in the night sky — have names like Vega, Sirius and Albireo.

Every month, on the Saturday closest to the first quarter moon, several astronomy clubs haul their telescopes up to the Griffith Observatory for a free stargazing party on the lawn. Among them: the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Planetary Society and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers. The Los Angeles Astronomical Society alone brings about 25 to 30 telescopes, its biggest being a 16-inch diameter instrument that offers an especially detailed view of the stars.

The free party, hosted by the Griffith Observatory, runs from 2 to 9:45 p.m., with special telescopes on hand to view the sun safely by day and others meant to view stars and planets at night. The astronomers will not only let members of the public use their telescopesbut they’ll also offer instruction and fun factoids about, say, the moons of Jupiter or the Sea of Tranquility, where Apollo 11 landed in 1969. The Griffith Observatory’s nearly 90-year-old Zeiss refracting telescope, in its rooftop dome, is open to the public as well.

Star parties draw big crowds — with guests often sharing picnic dinners on the lawn — but the vibe is almost always quiet and calm.

“A lot of people are just wowed when they look through a telescope,” says Spencer SooHoo, the Astronomical Society’s membership secretary. “It puts things into perspective and shows you your place in the universe.”

Price: Free
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A pool of greenish water surrounded by rock walls and a brick deck
(Beverly Hot Springs)

Soak in 'Wonder Water' at Los Angeles’ only natural hot spring

East Hollywood Day Spa
Soaking in hot water, followed by a massage and a scrub, at any one of Los Angeles’ Korean spas is a solid way to unwind. They’re all different: Wi Spa is open 24 hours and is especially family-oriented; Grand spa has abundant skin care options; the ladies-only Crystal Spa is particularly intimate.

But Beverly Hot Springs is L.A.’s only natural mineral hot spring. It opened in 1984, making it one of L.A.’s original Korean spas. The well below the establishment feeds about 250,000 gallons of hot mineral water into the spa daily. In 1915, when the city put in water mains, the well’s chlorine-free, alkaline water was bottled and sold as “Wonder Water,” said to revive the skin, leaving it feeling silky and soft.

The spa is open to both genders and the women’s bathing side features a tropical waterfall and a faux grotto whirlpool. Try one of the body care treatments afterward. The Sugar Polish exfoliation is a classic. We’re partial to the Body Scrub / Body Care Combo, which includes a scrub with seaweed soap and a skin-conditioning massage with milk, oil, fresh cucumber and yogurt.

Price: Entry is $45 on weekdays, $50 on the weekends and holidays. Treatments start at $105.
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Four people on massage tables wearing headphones in a room bathed in purple light
(The Reality Center)

Take a drug-free trip at the Reality Center

Santa Monica Wellness Center
Sometimes the only way out of a forest is through it, and sometimes the only way to successfully unplug is to go all in — especially if you’ve got the kind of overactive mind that makes mastering traditional meditation practices a challenge. (I speak from experience; every time I close my eyes and try to focus on my breathing, my brain dumps out a junk drawer of thoughts ranging from to-do lists to wondering what kind of socks clowns wear.) That’s where a visit to the Reality Center might come in handy.

Using a combination of pulsing light, sound, moving images and vibration, a reality manager (part tour guide, part coach, part techno guru) at the center jump-starts the mind and body, in the words of co-founder Tarun Raj, and moves it toward a near-meditative state. The result is a kind of tripping-without-drugs experience. Although the company’s aim isn’t necessarily to help you detox digitally or unplug (it’s positioned in the sensory wellness space and does a lot of work helping veterans combat PTSD), I left an hourlong session with the kind of centered, clean-windshield feeling that comes with a good therapy session (here’s a more in-depth description of my technodelic adventure). Maybe it was just me, but the next time I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, it took a while before thoughts of clown hosiery crept back in to crowd out everything else.

Price: Sessions range from $59 (30 minutes for one person) to $499 (one hour for four people) with some discounts for first-timers and veterans.
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A meeting room in a store with a bright orange tablecloth and six green upholstered chairs, surrounded by plants.
(Zay Monae / For The Times)

Get dirty at a therapeutic horticultural center

Redondo Beach Wellness Center
At first glance, Meet Me in the Dirt appears to be a small if charming plant shop in Redondo Beach’s South Bay Galleria. But step into the soothing space, with its hanging plants, crystals and candelabras, and entire emotional worlds will open up — the most fertile of them inside of you.

Meet Me in the Dirt is a therapeutic horticultural space for growth founded by certified grief counselor Barbara Lawson. She opened the space to blend the healing effects of gardening with community, creativity and counseling services. The idea grew out of her own profound grief after her mother died; she took to gardening for solace and hope.

The shop is filled with plants, candles, journals and scented oils. But Lawson also offers private grief counseling sessions and group expressive arts workshops in the space. The latter are open to anyone looking to slow down, connect with the Earth and process feelings — grief or otherwise.

Sit down at a beautifully set dining table for the Meet Me in the Dirt plant meditation. Instead of food, there will be a bowl of dirt in front of you. Roll up your sleeves and thrust your hands into it, tossing and sifting the soil; finger the small sticks and stones. Now slowly and intentionally repot a plant. All the while, Lawson will guide you in an intuitive release of sorts, making connections between the needs of the plants — which might be thirsty or fragile or sun-scorched — and your own.

There may be tears; there will likely be laughter; and the nourishment will flow, bountifully.

Price: $40 to $225, depending on the experience. $75 for the Meet Me in the Dirt plant meditation.
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A woman in an orange-red top closes her eyes under a tree.
(Yuri Hasegawa / For The Times)

Close your eyes and breathe in nature

San Marino Botanic Garden
Debra Wilbur’s forest therapy sessions — a.k.a. forest bathing — at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens combine meditation, talk therapy in groups and a series of walking invitationals, as she calls them, meant to help participants slow down, get out of their heads and feel grounded.

What, exactly, is she inviting you to do as you wander at a snail’s pace through the gardens?

To open your mouth and taste the air on your tongue; fondle the plants, grazing their silky smooth leaves; close your eyes and tune into the sound of the wind and the trilling of wild parrots; or observe the ecosystem of the lily ponds filled with koi, ducks and turtles. To stretch. To laugh. To rest.

It’s all in service of connecting, as wholeheartedly as possible, with your natural environment, the moment and, ultimately, yourself.

Price: $60 for members, $80 otherwise, for a two-part class.
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A little boy stands in a stone labyrinth.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Get lost in a stony labyrinth in Pasadena

Pasadena Labyrinths
The winding paths that take you into and around Pasadena’s Arlington Garden make the 3-acre property feel like one big, glorious labyrinth, but follow the trails to the back half of the site and you’ll find a proper labyrinth perfectly shaded by an old, gnarled tree. The pattern is laid out in pale colored stones, and if you walk on a warm day you might find yourself accompanied by bees, hummingbirds and a handful of lizards. When you reach the center, you’ll gaze out over one of the most beautiful low-water landscapes around.

Price: Free
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White pots holding colorful flowers are lined up on a rack inside a plant shop.
(Kendra Frankle / For The Times)

Get crafty on a flower shop's patio

San Pedro Flower shop
Take a charming, sunlit plant shop, add some delicious food, then sprinkle in some arts and crafts and you’ve got Flower Tortillas, which opened in late 2023 in downtown San Pedro. The business, run by husband-husband team Jeff Lavia-Garcia and Robert Lavia-Garcia, is primarily a plant and flower shop but it also caters events both on- and off-site.

You can enjoy the calming and creatively fulfilling benefits of crafting here too. Flower Tortillas opens its lush back patio or shop floor on certain Friday evenings for “an enchanting world of DIY magic,” as Jeff describes it. The 1?- to two-hour workshops include terrarium making, floral arranging, plantings and wreath making. This summer, the shop plans to offer gardening classes as well as live music and community dinners.

Those would be catered by, who else but Flower Tortillas? We’re talking about DIY magic, after all.

Price: $40 to $80, including materials, food and nonalcoholic drinks.
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A largely empty room with a large carpet, a picture window, speakers and a ceiling fan
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times )

Meditate at a serene retreat in the hills??

Beverly Crest Meditation Center
Gardener Pepe Rodriguez offered me a bright smile and a brown paper bag bursting with freshly picked lemons. He may not be there to greet every visitor, but the welcoming energy sums up the vibe at Insight L.A., a nonprofit meditation center that offers a robust, especially accessible lineup of both in-person and online meditation classes as well as daylong and overnight retreats. Most classes are donation-based, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Insight L.A. has a Santa Monica location and also holds overnight retreats through a partnership with Big Bear Retreat Center. Its Benedict Canyon location near Beverly Hills is a remote and serene hillside escape within the heart of the city.

Rodriguez, who’s been meditating since he started working at Insight L.A. more than 10 years ago, led me around the property. We walked past the lemon, apple, grapefruit, mandarin and nectarine trees he tends to; towering pines and fragrant lavender bushes; through a redwood-beamed, more-than-60-year-old home where classes are held. The living room turned meditation hall offers views of the outdoors through an enormous picture window.

Rodriguez pointed out the rising chorus of crows, sparrows and wild parrots, and the wildlife that wanders around the property.

“It puts you in another state,” he said. “You’re peaceful.”

Price: Donation-based; no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
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