Things to do in Los Angeles

23 Best Parks in Los Angeles

Whether you're looking to have a picnic, take Fido for a stroll, or just enjoy Mother Nature, the parks in Los Angeles, California, have everything you want.

There are a lot of things to do in Los Angeles, including all of the outdoor spaces and beautiful parks. Here are 23 Los Angeles parks that just might steal the spotlight.

Parks with Beautiful Views:

1. Griffith Park

This is where Griffith Park was built, far above what was once a blanket of impenetrable smog. All around it are the indigenous plants of California, including walnut and mahogany, sage scrub, oak trees, and elusive pockets of endangered manzanita and Berberis.

Trails crisscross this terrain, making an easy walk from 384 feet at the entrance to 1,625 at the observatory peak, which is open for visitors seeking the awe of the universe on a dark, starry night.

You can also experience horseback riding with the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (or go on a fake horse ride with the Griffith Park merry-go-round!).

Photographer: Venti Views

2. Lake Hollywood Park

This is a park with one of the most famous views in the world. However, tucked away in a small scenic spot, you’d never guess what was there unless you stumbled across it.

Up in Hollywood Estates and just a stone’s toss from Canyon Lake Drive, a sudden promontory erupts over the Hollywood Reservoir. Turn a bit to face northeast, and there, past The Last House on Mulholland, rises the world-famous Hollywood sign. Lake Hollywood Park is located beneath the sign.

3. Gloria Molina Grand Park

Gloria Molina Grand Park is just 12 acres of civic green space with a stage and a nice bit of shade all around. Conceived in 2012, the park was named after Gloria Molina, a champion of recreational spaces for communities. The dream was of a central spot where all the people of Los Angeles could come together for free shows and musical performances.

This little hideaway stretches from Music Center to City Hall, and it’s open year-round for all who pass by looking for a show.

4. Vista Hermosa Natural Park

If you had visited the site of Vista Hermosa Natural Park 200 years ago, you’d have been greeted with a vision of burbling streams cascading over grassy meadows and oak savannah.

Visit 100 years ago, and the entire site would have been an unrecognizable cataclysm of oil derricks and pumping stations, brown dirt with stony outcrops, and smoke hanging low in the air while the men in overalls worked their rigs.

Visit today, and you’ll see a healed nature. This nearly 11-acre park has been lovingly tended until the natural world could return. Foreign and invasive plants have been weeded out, leaving only the native vegetation to thrive. It's now a microcosm of Los Angeles from before the city even existed.

5. Chavez Ravine Arboretum in Elysian Park

To stand near the helipad at Chavez Ravine Arboretum in the 600-acre Elysian Park — in Echo Park — grants you a fantastic view right down into Dodger Stadium, plus so much more. Just right of the stadium is the LA skyline, and to the left is Chinatown and St. Peter’s. Above you is nothing but a clear, beautiful sky, and all around are the native plants of Southern California.

This is the Arboretum, and here the city has done its best to preserve the native flora of the basin. More than 100 varieties of trees are preserved here, including the largest and oldest Cape Chestnut, Kauri, and Tipu trees in the United States.

Admission to both the park and the arboretum is free, as are the memories of an enchanted night overlooking the city with someone you love.

Photographer: Edgar Torabyan

6. Grand Hope Park

Grand Hope Park is not a large place at just 2.5 acres. Much of this small footprint is taken up by the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, but what’s interesting is the spaces between structures.

All over the park, decorative sidewalks wend between functional art pieces, known to the artists who made them as “outdoor rooms,” which are a cheeky inside-out rendition of traditional indoor spaces. There’s a hodgepodge of greenery, deliberately not organized in any particular way, and a few kooky structures, such as the pergola, clock tower, and a couple of fountains.

7. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Park

Up in the heights of Baldwin Hills on a hilltop south of Downtown, there exists a 308-acre park littered with Japanese tea gardens and playing fields for the kids. This is the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, a carefully preserved overlook with a stunning view of LAX to the south and Downtown to the north.

Here you can rest and enjoy the view of the oil fields that gave pre-Hollywood Los Angeles its first economic boost, as well as the cityscape beyond.

8. Jerome C. Daniel Overlook Above the Hollywood Bowl

Climb into your vintage Packard and take a ride up the storied Mulholland Drive. As you ascend, don’t look back. You want the view from the top to be the first you see of the wonders this place can offer.

Take in what you see. You're at the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook above the Hollywood Bowl, and below you is the famous amphitheater in its glory. Behind you is the Hollywood sign, and in front is the Downtown area. If it’s a clear day, look west. You might see a thin crescent in the sea that’s the shore of Catalina Island.

Photographer: Abrahan Echeverria

9. Franklin Canyon Park

Franklin Canyon Park is positioned in the middle of a grand triangle with angles at the Griffith Observatory, the Museum of Art, and the Getty. Here, you’re gifted with a stunning view of Beverly Hills, surrounded by chaparral and spotty oak woodland.

There’s a duck pond, picnic grounds, and lots of hiking trails that are just wild enough to create a sense of adventure, but close enough to civilization that you’ll still get a cell signal for most of them.

Dog-Friendly Parks:

10. Hancock Park (La Brea Tar Pits)

Ages ago, a pit of bubbling tar opened up in what would become Los Angeles. This was a deadly trap for the exotic wildlife that used to roam these lands, including mastodons and saber-toothed cats. Today, the research center built on top of their remains is surrounded by a broad grassy patch that’s fantastic for running the dogs.

Admission to Hancock Park is free, and you can stay as long as you like. There’s still an admission fee to the museum proper, but the park and the outdoor exhibits are open to everybody who makes the trip.

11. Polliwog Park

Have you ever been to Manhattan Beach? It’s everything Los Angeles is famous for. There’s surfing and a pier, endless sunshine and lots of places to play. The delightfully named Polliwog Park shares space with a middle school, a botanical garden, and a disc golf course.

Over by the pool is the leash-free dog run, where you and your pooch can caper and gambol, or just run from side to side until they're panting and you’re pleasantly exhausted.

12. Point Fermin Park

The easiest way to find Point Fermin is through Long Beach, past most of Torrance. Stop when you hear crashing waves, and stunning vistas are yours if you stand at the edge of the cliff overlook. Back in the park, the trees are often tilted at surprising angles to the ground — perfect for shady sit-downs in the close-cropped grass.

13. Silver Lake Reservoir

Silver Lake Reservoir is a surprise hidden gem in Los Angeles positioned conveniently near Downtown, not too far from the Paramour Estate and the local indie rock scene. At the southern tip of the park, dogs can be let off their leashes for a run with the other doggos.

You can visit the water for yourself, at least for as long as the show lasts, with our performers at "O", a celebration of what the stuff of life means to us all in a world connected by living water.

14. Sepulveda Basin Off-Leash Dog Park

Remember that concrete channel where the Terminator chased John Connor in T2? That’s the LA River, and it runs through the Valley near Encino Village. That’s where dog moms and dads take their pooches to the Sepulveda Basin Off-Leash Dog Park.

This is a large dirt field that’s dotted here and there with chestnut, elm, and fir trees that are perfect for sniffing and chewing on sticks. You can sit and rest or even bring a lunch for the afternoon, at the benches and picnic tables set apart from the main dog run.

Cultural and Historical Parks:

15. Los Angeles State Historic Park

Los Angeles State Historic Park was birthed as part of a dream to bring a park to the people in LA. A 32-acre park for the people is deep in the spirit of Los Angeles, as is the world’s largest art installation, the Endless Orchard by David Burns and Austin Young. This installation is all fruit trees that produce year-round, and you can eat all you pick for free.

16. Exposition Park

Theme parks in Los Angeles don't hold a candle to Exposition Park. You don’t even know you’re in a park when you visit it. On the contrary, the first-time visitor just sees the dinosaur exhibits of the Natural History Museum, the ball games at Memorial Coliseum, and the Science Center, which has a delta-wing Lockheed A-12 parked in front of it.

Only when you get to the Rose Garden do you really feel like you’re in a park setting. Here are roses of every variety, all lovingly tended in neat rows that are open to outdoor weddings. Christmas Tree Lane Park is here, next to the Historic Palm Tree made famous in a million pictures of the city.

The African American History Museum anchors the east side of this park, and make sure you stop at the nearby statue to Wish Upon a Star.

Photographer: Lewis Teale

17. Palisades Park

Santa Monica Bay is one of the great scenic jackpots of Southern California. Far from the congestion of the city, Santa Monica is a refuge from the inland heat and traffic jams that make Los Angeles legendary. The panoramic view from Palisades Park is equally legendary.

You’re on the coast, and forested mountains rise to your right as you look out at the Pacific Ocean. If you’re very lucky and it’s the right time of year, you might catch dolphins leaping in the distance.

18. Barnsdall Art Park

Here, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the iconic Hollyhock House, which resembles nothing so much as an ancient Egyptian temple devoted to the modern art scene. There’s also a theater company in this park, as Aline Barnsdall intended when she endowed Barnsdall Art Park in the early 1900s, but there’s also much, much more.

Visit the park to find beginners’ art classes, study the installations, or just to lounge on the close-cropped lawn.

19. Will Rogers State Historic Park

Will Rogers was America’s Cowboy Philosopher, a populist public intellectual, and a Western actor in the 1930s. He’s as famous for his wisdom as for his movies, and his 31-room ranch house is now the center of a public park with historic tours and a view down from the cliffside into Pacific Palisades.

Recreational Parks:

20. Runyon Canyon Park

One of the best places for hiking in Los Angeles, Runyon Canyon Park is home to a set of trails in the urban wilderness. Just a stone’s throw from the TCL Chinese Theatre, only a mile or so from the Walk of Fame, there’s a hilltop where you can see deer, coyotes, and the occasional mountain lion.

Stay close to the trails, watch out for mountain bikers, and enjoy the splendid vistas of the Trebek Over Space.

Photographer: Rika Ichinose

21. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park

A steep hill rises from the valley floor over Montecito Heights. This is a high chaparral with several trails and a low scrub wilderness where you can ride, skate, jog, or walk the dog and be back in time for work in the morning.

The Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is an ideally situated natural wilderness park for busy people who can’t find time to leave town for a scenic hike in the beautiful SoCal wildland.

Natural and Wilderness Parks:

22. Fern Dell Nature Center

The Fern Dell Nature Center pokes like a finger up from Los Feliz, starting at the Leif Erickson statue and ending in the hills close to the Griffith Observatory. This green belt is long and thin, and it’s a natural highway for some of Los Angeles’ cutest wildlife, including red and gray squirrels, shady-looking raccoons, and even fawns.

23. MacArthur Park

When Jimmy Webb wrote the lyrics to MacArthur Park in 1967, recounting the end of a love affair, he was actually sitting in one of the nicest water parks in Los Angeles and describing the things he was looking at.

Indeed, park visitors can still be seen playing checkers next to the trees. Someone may have left a cake out in the rain near the circular lake next to the Aetna building, but the birds may have gotten to it by now.

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