Travel

Beat L.A.'s heat by going to these cool places

The place: Moaning Cavern, Vallecito, Calif.

Why there? Why now? In the hot summer months, everyone goes to the beach or the mountains. Few people think to go underground. Far, far underground. This is one of California's largest caves and drops visitors 272 feet below the earth's surface.

Chill factor: No matter the temperature outside, the cave's interior remains 61 degrees. Plus, the cave walls drip with moisture. In fact, the dripping creates the moaning sound that gives the cave its name.

Freeze-frame moment: You are in a climbing harness, dangling from a rope, above a 165-foot cavern, cursing yourself for not taking the staircase instead.

Getting there, getting in: From Los Angeles, drive north on Interstate 5 about 47 miles to Stockton, then take California 4 east for about 45 miles. Turn right on California 49, travel 1.5 miles, then turn left on Route 4. Drive about 10 minutes, then turn right on Parrotts Ferry Road. Go one mile, then turn right on Moaning Cave Road to Moaning Cavern. For info, go to www.caverntours.com.-- Hugo Martín

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The place: AT&T Park, San Francisco

Why there? Why now? There's just something appealing about getting chilblains while watching baseball in August. Or, said another way, if you swore you'd never root for the Giants until hell froze over, you can do so now without guilt.

Chill factor: The park, which opened in 2000, faces the water. It's said to be warmer than the old Candlestick. You couldn't prove it by me. Dress warmly -- very warmly. And if the weather at a nighttime game doesn't make you shiver, the bigger-than-life-size statue of Willie Mays at the entrance should. Forget Barry Bonds. Mays is the man.

Freeze-frame moment: At Dodger Stadium, the vendors in the stands sell ice-cold drinks. At AT&T Park, the vendors in the stands sell . . . coffee.

Getting there, getting in: The ballpark is bounded by 2nd and 3rd streets and China Basin. For tickets and info, go to sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com. -- Catharine Hamm

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The place: Icehotel, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Why there? Why now? This is a mental chill. Just thinking about staying in a room made of ice, on an ice bed, with an ice lamp, in the winter 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle ought to lower your body temperature.

Chill factor: Every winter since about 1990, sculptors have built a hotel and bar made of ice blocks from the nearby Torne River. When the spring thaw arrives, the facilities melt. New ones are created the next winter, usually opening in early December.

Sleeping in an ice room is an unforgettable -- though not entirely comfortable -- experience. After all, it's apt to be minus 20 or 30 degrees.

For summertime visitors, there's a lodge with chalets and lots of authentic Lapland adventure. The sun never sets for 100 days, and the temperature rarely rises above 75.

Freeze-frame moment: Hanging out in the Icebar, drinking a Bear's Eye, made with Absolut Citron and blueberry liqueur, no rocks needed.

Getting there, getting in: SAS flies from Stockholm to Kiruna, where guests transfer to a bus for the trip to Jukkasjarvi, 10 miles east. For reservations and info: www.icehotel.com. -- Susan Spano

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The place: Finnish Sauna Society, Helsinki, Finland

Why there? Why now? It's hot in the society's authentic, wood-fired saunas. Really hot. But then you jump into the North Sea and instantly forget everything.

Chill factor: The society, dedicated to preserving and disseminating Finnish bathing culture, is west of Helsinki in the green woods of Lauttasaari Island. It has a lounge, porch, cafe and five saunas. A washing woman can scrub you down, massages are available, and the society sells birch-leaf switches, known as vihtas, for thrashing yourself to improve circulation.

Women and men use the facilities at different times, minus clothing.

Freeze-frame moment: Running out of the sauna and jumping into the sea. You enter a new realm of consciousness at the moment of contact with the frigid water.

Getting there, getting in: From central Helsinki, take a public bus to the Finnish Sauna Society. Nonmembers must contact the society by phone or e-mail to arrange admission. For more info: www.sauna.fi/inenglish.html. -- Susan Spano

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The place: Gelateria del Teatro, Rome

Why there? Why now? Rome is hotter than Hades in the summer and there's no relief, except for top-quality gelato.

Chill factor: It isn't just that gelato is cold, it's that the good stuff is so intensely flavored that temperature becomes secondary when you're eating it.

Of course, there are hundreds of gelaterie in Rome, but this place, with tables in a little alleyway near the Piazza Navona, is worth going out of your way for, like from L.A. to Rome. The gelato is homemade, with all-natural ingredients, and comes in inspired flavors such as caramel with pear and sesame.

Freeze-frame moment: Being presented with a cup of cioccolato puro, which is 80% cacao, topped with two dabs of unsweetened whipped cream.

Getting there, getting in: Walk west (toward the Tiber River) from Rome's Piazza Navona on Via dei Coronari; it's on the left at 70 Via di San Simone. -- Susan Spano

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The place: Grey Glacier, Patagonia, Chile

Why there? Grey Glacier is part of Torres del Paine National Park, which also is home to those jagged peaks you see on the Patagonia clothing logo. The whole area is South America's answer to Alaska -- vast spaces, dramatic seasons, looming mountains, exotic creatures, enormous quantities of ice and water.

Chill factor: If you stay at the spectacularly expensive Hotel Salto Chico, the package includes a day trip to Grey Glacier. (Otherwise, you book through a local outfit.) If you visit during the South American summer, around January, the highs are in the 60s, the lows about 40. When I did the trip, about a decade ago, we approached the ice zone by boat, avoiding the blue icebergs as we went, and scrambled up a moraine. Our guide reached out to chip off a little bit of ice -- the leading edge of the glacier, it seemed -- then served it to us in a tumbler with sparkling wine. I hope they don't do that anymore.

Freeze-frame moment: On that same trip, we stopped for a hike along the shore of Lake Grey, next to the glacier. But soon after we started, the wind kicked up and up and up. The gusts, having raked across ice and snow, were so cold it was astonishing and so strong I could barely move forward. The rippling water, the jagged mountains, the listing condominium-sized ice chunks -- the smile nearly froze on my face, and this was a summer day.

Getting there, getting in: Fly to Santiago (the Chilean capital), then continue south by air to Punta Arenas. From there, you double back by land; it's a drive of about 250 miles to the north through the town of Puerto Natales and into the park. For a list of half a dozen lodgings in the area, along with day trips and other info, go to www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/index.asp. -- Christopher Reynolds

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The place: Sturtevant Falls, Angeles National Forest, Calif.

Why there? Why now? What better way to cool down than take a brisk hike through the forest during the dead of the summer? No, really. You'll find Sturtevant Falls, a 50-or-so-foot cascading waterfall at the end of a trek into Big Santa Anita Canyon.

Chill factor: Even if it's 90 degrees, the pool at the foot of the falls is 50 to 60 degrees. The water is deep enough for a dip if you're looking to cool down in a hurry. Even standing on the rocks near the waterfall, you'll feel a refreshing mist. The hike itself isn't as toasty as you might imagine. Though the first leg along the paved road can get a little warm, you're shaded by trees and joined by a stream for the rest of the way.

Freeze-frame moment: Dipping your sweaty toes into the water the minute you reach the falls.

Getting there, getting in: From the 210 Freeway, exit Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia and head north. You'll eventually reach a winding road that will take you up the mountain. Park at one of the lots in the Chantry Flat Picnic Area and head down Gabrielino Trail into the canyon. Follow the signs if you're not sure about where you're going. For more information, go to: www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles/maps/brochures/waterfall_hikes.pdf. -- Jason La

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The place: A pocket park in Singapore, which calls itself the Garden City.

Why there? Why now? Pocket parks are refreshing oases, part of the greening of this Asian republic by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and provide respite from a climate so steamy that British author Rudyard Kipling once entreated his local hosts, "Leave me alone and let me drip."

Chill factor: Shade, shade, shade.

Freeze-frame moment: Dashing under the lush foliage any time after 11 a.m., when the heat can be unbearable.

Getting there, getting in: Once in Singapore, you'll find these tiny parks nearly everywhere. Are you listening, Los Angeles city planners? -- Jane Engle

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The place: The upper Kern River, Kernville, Calif.

Why there? Why now? This relentlessly chilly ribbon of water in California's parched center is as refreshing as a float trip can be. This time of year, the river slows, making it an ideal inner-tube run. Bring your own tube, and for $5, raft companies such as Sierra South will shuttle you to a drop-in point. Take an hour -- or several. The trips run at your own pace; (800) 457-2082.

Chill factor: The water, snowmelt that has warmed in dams to the north, is 63 degrees, about 10 degrees cooler than the Southern California surf in August.

Freeze-frame moment: When the temperature hits 105, which it often does at this dusty inland spot, just roll off the tube and into the chilly river.

Getting there, getting in: From Los Angeles, take Interstate 5 north to Bakersfield, then the 178 east to Kernville. It's about a three-hour drive. -- Chris Erskine

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