Southern California Close-Ups | A vacation guide to the Southland
It's no easy job, being the lungs of Los Angeles.

But Griffith Park, the foremost green space in a city notorious for meager parkland and abundant smog, endures bravely, maybe even heroically.

The more time you spend in these occasionally gritty, mostly gentrified neighborhoods around the park — Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Echo Park — the more you realize that they're incubators of American pop culture. Yes, Hollywood is glitzier and Beverly Hills is richer. But who's cooler? These 10 micro-itineraries, the third in a series that concentrate on Los Angeles and Orange counties, might help you decide. Read more...

--Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times staff writer
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Griffith Park: From the ferns to the stars. In 1896, mining magnate Griffith J. Griffith donated 3,015 hilly acres that became L.A's biggest park. Later he put up the money for Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theatre. And in between donations, the hard-drinking Griffith shot his wife in the face (it wasn't fatal) and served two years in prison. But you're here to hike, not judge. Click for more...
Silver Lake: Modernism, murder and "Snow White." Silver Lake, a series of hills surrounding a scenic pair of reservoirs five miles northwest of downtown L.A., is where many of America's leading Modernist architects first made their marks from the 1930s to the '60s, working on sloping lots because they were cheaper. Click for more...
Elysian Park: Cops and Dodgers. Elysian Park, near downtown, is home to Dodger Stadium. But first, take Stadium Way or Echo Park Avenue to Academy Road. And pretty soon — boom! — you're at the Los Angeles Police Academy, where you're likely to hear shots from the nearby firing range. Click for more...
Griffith Park: To the top of Hollywood. Rise before dawn. Get to the Griffith Observatory parking lot (which is free but fills fast). Start at the Charlie Turner Trailhead, just north of the lot, and hike uphill. You're climbing Mt. Hollywood, whose peak (1,625 feet) offers staggering views. Click for more...
The village of Los Feliz. Do happy people live in Los Feliz? Well, some. But the area got its name from José Vicente Feliz, an 18th century settler who received this real estate through a Spanish land grant. Click for more...
Griffith Park: Cowboys, Indians, gorillas and elephants. The Los Angeles Zoo can't match San Diego's, but it's cheaper ($14 an adult), and it's right in Griffith Park. A new Asian elephant area opened in December, but the best entertainment is still the Campo Gorilla Reserve, where your kids might get within inches of a gorilla's nose (with a thick viewing window in between). Click for more...
Los Feliz: Tchotchkes and tiki. You owe somebody a gift, right? Perhaps a grown-up pop-culture sort of gift, not necessarily in good taste? Step into the vast and semi-subversive retail wonderland known as Soap Plant / Wacko and the Luz de Jesus Gallery (all at 4633 Hollywood Blvd.) in Los Feliz. Click for more...
Silver Lake: Sunset Junction. Remember that weird spark Melrose Avenue had in the 1980s? Something like that is happening now at Sunset Junction, the stretch of Sunset Boulevard storefronts near Sanborn Avenue in Silver Lake. Click for more...
Echo Park: The lake, the ladies, Taix and time itself. Echo Park, a blue-collar Latino neighborhood for decades, keeps getting trendier and more affluent. Start with a stroll around the Echo Park Lake — if there's water in it. (City officials plan to drain it for repairs, perhaps as soon next month.) Click for more...
Griffith Park: By hoof and rail. Got kids? Proceed to the ponies near the southeast entrance of Griffith Park at Los Feliz Boulevard and Riverside Drive. There, Tuesdays through Sundays, your child (age 1 or older) can sit on a tethered pony (which will make eight circles for $3) or ride two laps, untethered, on a larger oval track (also $3). Click for more...

Video: A look at Los Angeles' park neighborhoods
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Silver Lake

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Griffith Park

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Los Feliz

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Echo Park

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