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Looking for good vibes in L.A.? 22 readers share their ‘happy place’

photo illustration of many yellow smiley faces hovering over an aerial photo of Los Angeles
(Los Angeles Times photo illustration; photo by Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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The Times asked readers to share their happy place in L.A., spots they find themselves returning to again and again to find joy, escape from the grind or simply revel in comfortable nostalgia. The only parameter? They must be public places that others can visit and delight in. For weeks, opening our inbox felt like we were reading a love letter to the city. Here are some of the happy places you shared.

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The Original Farmers Market

“It’s one of the few places that still retains an old L.A. flavor and ambience. I spent so many happy times there with my grandparents and parents. A ‘prize’ was always involved, maybe stationery embossed with my name or a blown glass animal (there is still one sitting on my dresser). Then with my own kids making their own memories, watching the peanut butter being made, choosing moccasins from the now-gone moccasin shop at the Dell. And always a visit to Kip’s Toys. Now, I share it all with my grandchildren when the opportunity arises. That’s five generations of good times.”
Cynthia Schein, Newbury Park

A lunch crowd at Phil's Deli & Grill, inside the Original Farmers Market.
A lunch crowd at the Original Farmers Market.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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3

Los Angeles City Hall Observatory Deck

“What I love most is how this place embodies the spirit of Los Angeles: In a city where we can often feel disconnected, City Hall stands as a beacon of unity. It’s not just a government building, it’s our shared home, open to all of us. When I’m here I feel like I’m at the heart of L.A., connected to every Angeleno past and present. I have a specific spot where I like to stand, where I can see from downtown to the ocean. I put on my headphones, play Tupac’s ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ and let the city’s expanse wash over me. Sometimes I count the neighborhoods I can see, other times I just close my eyes and [enjoy] the breeze. It’s my moment of zen in the urban chaos.”
— Amir Ebtehadj, West L.A.

4

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

“My son (9 or 10 years old at the time) had a day off from school so we had a father-son day. His grandparents had taken him to the wonders of Hollywood — the Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Afterwards I told him there was a museum near our house that I had heard of but never visited: the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Everything in it is implausible yet strangely true. We were blown away. He asked [his mom and me] for a membership for his birthday. The three of us went for tea on their rooftop terrace. He’s a rising junior in college now, but if we met up in Culver City, we’d spend an afternoon at the museum.”
— Benjamin Thompson, Culver City

5

The garden at the Getty Center

Mary Daily and son Jake in the Getty Garden.
(Mary Daily)

“I was a part of the team that opened the Getty Center in 1997, so I feel like the place is part mine. I watched the garden being developed by artist Bob Irwin. I love how he took advantage of the natural terrain with the stream running down the hill. You can almost envision how the site must have looked when Native Americans inhabited the area. The walk down to the garden tells the story of the site’s history, and when you look out you see the great city of L.A. as it is today. You can sit in the garden and forget the stress of the city around you. You can feel part of the centuries that led to today.”
— Mary Daily, Culver City

6

El Coyote Mexican restaurant

A smiling man and woman, both wearing sunglasses, outside El Coyote.
Charlie Craig, left, with his wife at El Coyote.
(Charlie Craig)

“My now-wife suggested we go there on our first date in 1983. Since then, we return to make all of our most important decisions over green corn tamales and margaritas. The decision to get married, to have kids, to buy a house — all have been made at El Coyote. We know most of the waiters and they know us. They remember what we like to order and always take the time to chat with us about what’s going on in our lives.”
— Charlie Craig, Pasadena

“I worked there in the 1980s just out of college. The over-the-top waitress uniforms and [year-round] Christmas decor was mesmerizing to me. Forty years later, whether it’s the Great Recession or a pandemic, if I can settle into a red booth in the back with sunlight shimmering through the stained glass and chat with an old friend, I’m happy at least for a moment.”
— Jennifer Lewi, Mid-Wilshire

We tallied a list with scores of classic Mexican restaurants across the region. Here are our top picks.

Sept. 15, 2022

7

La Loma Bridge in Pasadena

“I grew up within walking distance of both this bridge and the Colorado Street Bridge. Whenever I visit now, I stand facing north to gaze at the iconic Colorado Street Bridge and the majestic San Gabriel Mountains that rise behind it. I look down into the Arroyo Seco Canyon to the natural vegetation that inhabits it and marvel at how a place so sylvan can exist within the hustle and bustle of a modern city. Standing in this spot provides a sense of rootedness — who I am and where I came from. As well it is a beautiful vista, filled with grandeur and natural wilderness. It became my beloved view once I was tall enough to see out of the car window while my mother drove across it. As a child, it was ‘just the way to school,’ but my first visit [back] on foot as an adult brought home to me the true magnificence of this vista. Now when I visit, the bridge remains unaltered and utterly beautiful.”
— Kathleen Clary Miller, Fallbrook

8

Will Rogers State Historic Park

A man seated in a camp chair holding a dog on his lap, with another at his feet
Geoff Shawcross and dogs at Will Rogers State Historic Park.
(From Geoff Shawcross)

“We’ve been visiting the park since the late ’80s. Beside Will’s original residence, there is a large, peaceful lawn area for picnics and frolicking kids and dogs. There is polo to watch casually on Sundays. And after your relaxing picnic, you can walk/hike the two-mile loop to and from Inspiration Point, which has spectacular views of the Santa Monica Bay from Malibu to Palos Verdes. The sheer peacefulness of the park amidst the bustle of the city makes it an oasis. It is far enough out of the way that it feels like another world, but it’s only a 30-minute drive.”
— Geoff Shawcross, Hawthorne

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The Marvin Braude Bike Trail from Santa Monica

“What makes me so happy skating here is the combination of the beach views, a smooth path and a plethora of other happy people enjoying their preferred mode of wheeled exercise. It’s especially a magical time at sunset. I learned to skate during the pandemic around the time my mother died of cancer. I constantly came to the beach to grieve and decided to skate on the path one day. It really helped me deal with the stress so I just kept coming back.

“I love to ride my skateboard the length of the bike path. I’ll skate as fast as I can to get a cardio workout in. If I have time, I’ll skate all the way to the Venice skate park and take a break to stretch. Then I’ll skate back to the pier to ride the swings. I’ll swing as high as I can, as fast as possible, until I’m out of breath. Then I’ll hop on my skateboard and skate back to my car. This is the only activity where I can’t help but smile the whole time.”
Sophia White, Westwood Village

Pink sunset clouds over the Santa Monica bike path.
Santa Monica bike path.
(Sophia White)

Whether you’re a native Angeleno or new to the city, one of the best ways to get to know Los Angeles is on two wheels.

Sept. 26, 2022

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Rose Bowl Loop

“I started running there when I was in college and loved it. I would run for hours around the same loop, 10 to 15 miles around that thing. Being from the East Coast, I found it pretty cool that the Rose Bowl was in my recreational backyard. It was something I could brag about to friends who lived back east. Now I take my kids there. We even have a commemorative brick at the front on the entrance. I’ve been running this loop for 20 years and it never gets old. I enjoy the people, the activities, the feeling of being off the beaten path and of course the stadium itself.”
— Drew Schuster, Pasadena

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11

Vista Hermosa Park

“Just before visiting Los Angeles in summer 2008, I read a story in the Los Angeles Times about the opening of the first public park in downtown L.A. in more than 100 years. I was intrigued by the description of the park created at a former oil field in a low-income area where residents are less likely to have access to a free public park. I remember being amazed during the first visit at how well the area formerly described as a weed-infested, dusty lot had been transformed into an urban oasis with wonderful views of downtown Los Angeles.

A woman stands on a dirt path among trees and shrubs
Kristy Serratos in Vista Hermosa Park in April 2022, photographed by her husband, John Sowell.
(John Sowell)

“I love that Vista Hermosa Park provides free access to anyone who can walk, ride a bike or drive to it. I get great pleasure watching children of different ethnicities climb the rocks, play in the pond and the short waterfalls and on the soft toy snakes and turtles. I like to walk along the paths looking at the flowers and different trees that grow in the park. It’s a little harder to view downtown as some of the trees have grown a lot since Vista Hermosa opened.

“I got married two years ago and introduced my wife, Kristy, to the park on our last visit in 2022. It was fun to match up the scene from the 2013 music video ‘The Walker’ from Fitz and the Tantrums, where the character walks across the grass toward the city skyscrapers in the background. It was unmistakable the first time I saw the video that’s where that scene took place.”
— John Sowell, Boise, Idaho

12

Union Station

“Sensorily it’s a delight: The squeaking brakes of the approaching train cars, the acoustic resonance of the cathedral-like East Portal as rolling luggage lumbers along the linoleum and the aura of the past as we look up upon Richard Wyatt’s monumental 80-foot-long mural overhead. I enjoy sitting by the aquarium (yes, aquarium) that nests within this alcove populated with indigenous coastal fish. The very picture of tranquility to observe the kaleidoscope of garibaldi and undulating fauna contained therein. It’s a Shangri-la and veritable Atlantis on land to behold.

“In the hurly-burly chaos of the morning commute, I take a moment of respite to stop and enjoy the whimsical and walleyed public artwork on offer. And it eventually became a much-needed daily dose of serenity to keep the widening gyre of anxiety at bay. It’s a salve for the soul, public artwork. And it still retains the same magic as the first time I visited that whimsical Art Deco transportation hub. Every time I step off the platform and onto those hallowed hallways of the concourse, it’s heart shapes and moons and stars in my eyes all over again.”
— Tommy Bui, Los Angeles

Passengers walk through the main lobby of the historic Los Angeles Union Station.
Passengers walk through the main lobby of the historic Los Angeles Union Station West.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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We’ll take the ease of ticket purchasing, relaxed atmosphere in the stations and breathtaking scenery of train travel over the angst of driving any day.

April 29, 2024

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BMO Stadium for LAFC games

A woman and a man dressed casually, standing outdoors with a bright blue LAFC display behind them
Karen Peacock and a friend at an LAFC game at BMO Stadium.
(From Karen Peacock)

“LAFC games are my happy place. I love that the crowd looks like my adopted home, Los Angeles. Supporters chant, sing, drum and jump for the entire game, generating a game-time atmosphere that I think is the best in L.A. sports and in all of Major League Soccer. Excitement, drama, frequent winning, a feeling of community and, yes, occasional frustration make for the place where I spend no time thinking about my problems, where I just talk about and yell, clap and sing for my favorite team. I like to arrive early, meet up with friends and wander through the tailgating on Christmas Tree Lane outside the stadium. Or splurge at Holbox in nearby Mercado La Paloma. I’ve also attended several volunteer and other team-related events at the stadium, and it’s lovely to see the whole place quiet and peaceful.”
Karen Peacock, San Pedro

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USC Pacific Asia Museum

“I have been a docent for a year and a half but I’ve been going to the museum ever since I took a shibori workshop there. I love giving tours to students from all over L.A. But I also love it when I’m the first person in the galleries on school tour days and I have the whole museum to myself.”
— Lisa Koizumi, Canoga Park

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Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (a.k.a. the Culver City Stairs)

“It’s got a very L.A. vibe: An oasis of nature open to everyone in the middle of a very urban space. It’s an outdoor gym with so many fun characters, people who work out by covering their chest with chains or walking backward up the hill listening to hip-hop music, dragging a huge tire with their kid sitting on it. Most of all it’s got Angelenos from all walks of life, all colors and cultures, all working out on the Culver steps together. It’s an outdoor gym, nature reserve, picnic spot and has a fiesta atmosphere on weekends.”
— Thamar Linnemayr, Los Angeles

Hikers on the Culver City Stairs at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.
Deneen Vaughn accompanied by her youngest son, Cameron, hiking the Culver City Stairs.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
16

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel

 A view of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites' cylindrical glass towers from a car.
The futuristic Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites is a cluster of shimmering bronze-windowed towers evoking a rocket ship set to launch.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s a place that simultaneously takes you back in time at the same time it takes you forward. It gives you a vision of a time past when anything was possible, thanks to humankind’s ingenuity, while also peering into a technofuture where everything is still possible. It’s the stuff of dreams ... and probably a few nightmares too. Like if David Lynch built a building to reflect L.A., this would be it. And wherever you are — in the lobby, on one of the midlevels or in the revolving restaurant — you have views on top of views.”
— Arun Ponnusamy, Arts District

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Barnsdall Art Park

“Walking up the hill to the park’s west-facing lawn has you feeling as though you’re ascending above the rest of the city, as if you’re on Mt. Olympus. Everything becomes quiet and peaceful. There’s often a decent amount of people sitting up there as well, but everyone usually has a similar sense of chillness and tranquility in the setting that it is never too distracting. Sitting on the West lawn, I like to go a bit to the corner at the bottom to be by myself — it offers the perfect sunset view in the evening. I started going there to film segments of my YouTube vlog, as I find that I’m able to get peace of mind up there and my head feels more clear when speaking candidly. It also gives me a chance to not think about filming and take time to just appreciate the city all around and below me, up on that hill.”
— Parker Green, Hollywood

Kimberly Hamilton hula hoops at Barnsdall Art Park, silhouetted by the late-afternoon sun.
Kimberly Hamilton hula hoops at Barnsdall Art Park among groups lounging in the late-afternoon sun.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

With the reopening of Hollyhock House, more Angelenos are discovering the hidden park featuring a pine grove, historic buildings and stunning views.

Sept. 29, 2022

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Angels Point Road in Elysian Park

A road lined with very tall palm trees leading toward the sunset
Angels Point Road in Elysian Park.
(Adam Taylor)

“During the pandemic, I started riding my bike through Elysian Park. The views at sunset are the reward for climbing the hills. There is a quarter-mile stretch of Angels Point Road between the water tower and Angels Point lookout that is lined with palm trees. At sunset, it might be the best view of L.A., with Dodger Stadium and DTLA on one side and the rolling hills of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Griffith [Park] and Hollywood (plus the Hollywood sign) on the other. I rode my bike there almost every evening in the pandemic and it was a sanity saver.”
— Adam Taylor, Playa del Rey

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Stronghold Climbing Gym

A selfie of Yanira Fuentes at Stronghold Climbing Gym with climbing walls behind her and rope over her shoulder
Yanira Fuentes at Stronghold Climbing Gym
(Yanira Fuentes)

“Stronghold was the first gym I went to when I started climbing two years ago. I became a member the same day. My first visit was so spooky since I’ve had a fear of heights in the past. Once I surpassed that, it was game on. It’s my happy place because I get to play, get strong, learn so many new techniques when it comes to climbing and, most important, be with the community there. It’s more than just a gym. It’s a happy place for many of us.”
— Yanira Fuentes, Lincoln Heights

With offerings like bouldering competitions. rappelling classes and phone app-activated routes, these gyms around Los Angeles and Orange County, well, rock.

Aug. 30, 2023

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Gloria Molina Grand Park

“Grand Avenue overlooking Grand Park in downtown L.A. is the visual reminder of the various phases of my adult life: Behind me is the Music Center, which brings back many memories of my college years at USC in film school and dabbling in show business. In front of me is the majestic L.A. City Hall, which looks just like the badge I wore as a police officer at age 22 in my first official career. And lastly is the huge Mosk Courthouse, where I have been appearing as an attorney and temporary judge for 48 years now. I pause on my way to court each morning and reflect on the path I have followed, the people I have met and the family we have raised. Then, off to work!”
— Robert Holmes, Glendale

21

Zuma Beach

“I grew up in the Valley and spent a lot of time going to the beach. There’s nothing like driving through Kanan and seeing the ocean. Zuma is a little slice of heaven. Sitting on the sand, feeling the warm sun on your skin and looking out at the ocean is the most peaceful feeling. And if you’re lucky, you can usually catch a few dolphins swimming by. Nothing else like it. I now take my kids there and it has become their happy place too.”
— Behnaz VanRoosendaal, Woodland Hills

A mother and son lie on the sand at a beach
Behnaz VanRoosendaal and son at Zuma Beach.
(From Behnaz VanRoosendaal)
22

Angelino Heights

A blue city neighborhood sign spells out "Angeleno Hgts." The historic marker, however, spells it "Angelino Heights."
Signs for Angelino Heights near the intersection of Edgeware Road and Bellevue Avenue.
(Matthew Ballinger / Los Angeles Times)

“When I moved back to Southern California after finishing graduate school in St. Louis, I was on a mission to find the best neighborhoods for good architecture. Angelino Heights popped up. I remember being absolutely floored by the homes, the wall of bougainvillea cascading down a duplex, multiple cats walking around and the cute little neighborhood market. I love driving around to look at all the beautiful homes. I also take a stroll down Carroll Avenue to admire the Victorian-era architecture. No visit is complete without stopping past the intersection of Douglas and Kellam, which is where I got engaged nearly six years ago (yes, I got engaged in my happy place!)”
Michelle L’Hommedieu, Koreatown

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