Parks & Trails

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Illustration for a POI story about getting high in LA.
(Illustration by Lively Scout)

The top 10 brain-bending, soul-satisfying experiences for when you’re high in L.A.

Do you remember how, when you first arrived in Los Angeles, every single experience was brand new and achingly exciting? Whether it was spotting celebrities, visiting the beach or something as mundane as pulling onto the freeway for the first time, everything felt like a full-color adventure.

Then, after a few years, something happens. Maybe it’s the routine exposure to so much fun stuff to do or the distractions of everyday life. Whatever the reason, our senses dull, our appetite for adventure dampens, and we end up gliding through L.A. on autopilot, looking at the city every single day but somehow no longer seeing it.

One way to see SoCal through new eyes — and appreciate it anew — would be to move away for a length of time (one full winter anywhere else ought to do the trick) and then move back. But if you’re looking for a quicker (and, let’s face it, far less expensive) option, consider visiting some of the places that make the Southland so special after you’ve consumed a little bit of cannabis. I recently did just that, popping by some of the places I’ve been dozens of times before (and some new ones that came highly recommended) in a slightly enhanced frame of mind. Some of the most memorable of them are included here.

Partaking in pot without becoming a human yule log is possible — even for novice cannabis consumers.

Dec. 7, 2021

As far as what kind of cannabis is best suited to these eye-opening adventures, that’s a personal choice (since the main psychoactive ingredient, THC, can affect different people differently), but because it’s not legal to consume in public, this would be the perfect time to explore the world of cannabis-infused edibles or potables, both of which have the benefit of a slower onset and longer-lasting effect.


Before you head out there to see — and feel — L.A. in a whole new way, there are two important things to remember. First, recreational cannabis is legal in California only for those 21 or older. Second, do not, under any circumstances, get behind the wheel of a car — or attempt to operate anything more complicated than a TV remote, really — under the influence of cannabis. Therefore, these adventures should only be embarked on with the aid of a designated driver or a rideshare service.

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A colorful collection of characters from "Toy Story" arranged in a circle.
(Joshua White; J.W. Pictures / Academy Museum Foundation)

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Miracle Mile Museum
If you’re headed here high, there are two highlights you’ll find particularly enjoyable. The first is the “Toy Story” 3D Zoetrope, an octagonal display case that uses flashing strobe lights, a rapidly spinning disk and a series of small sculptures (called maquettes) to create the illusion of movement.

When the disk first begins to spin, the lights aren’t flashing and the beloved “Toy Story” characters appear static as if displayed on a giant turntable. But something mind-bending happens when the strobes begin to flash. Woody bounces up and down animatedly on a bucking bronco. Buzz Lightyear runs around while balancing on a ball. Jessie twirls her lasso from top to bottom. A squadron of green army men parachute from a popcorn bucket, and green three-eyed aliens take turns jumping off seesaws and disappearing into the surface of the spinning disk. The magic of the zoetrope runs about a minute and a half before the loop begins again, but you’ll watch, mesmerized for much longer than that.

The other must-visit exhibit also happens on a loop, albeit a much longer one. Sound designer Ben Burtt’s “Behold” is a 26-minute, site-specific, immersive experience that uses three curved screens to present a century’s worth of cinematic space travel to viewers seated on an ottoman-like bench in the center.

It’s visually powerful (think spaceships of every decade zooming through the depths of star-freckled space) and revealing thanks to the cleverly thematic way the scenes are stitched together. Scenes of alien encounters from early films are grouped with ones from more contemporary ones, for example, and a pastiche of robot representations juxtaposes, in short order, C-3PO, the Maschinenmensch robot from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” Disney’s WALL-E, HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and a T-800 from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”)

The Academy of Motion Pictures is open daily except Christmas Day. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Timed tickets are required. Admission is $25 for adults ($19 for seniors and $15 for college students), and museum members get in free.
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Jellyfish swimming in an aquarium tank
(Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)

Aquarium of the Pacific

Long Beach Aquarium
Although it teems with all manner of marine life, the undisputed star attraction here are the many and varied species of sea jellies that float about like living lava lamps. There are tanks full of pale-blue blubber jellies swirling about like animated mushrooms, smacks (yes, that’s the word for a group of them) of bell-shaped warty comb jellies twinkling like Christmas lights, majestic-looking, tentacle-trailing Pacific sea nettles and fringed-Frisbee-like moon jellies fluttering like gelatinous pie tins.

Although the aquarium is open every day of the year (except for Christmas Day), it’s worth paying a visit on a weekend between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. so you can pop by the Moon Jelly Touch Lab on the Harbor Terrace and hand feed some of the aurelia labiata yourself. Buy a condiment cup or two of brine shrimp (one for $3, two for $5; I highly recommend the latter), pour it into the water next to a jelly and watch tiny pink blobs appear inside its translucent bell, indicating its stomachs are filling with lunch. At this point you should take the opportunity to reach out and lightly touch the moon jelly’s bell (you won’t get stung — its venom is too weak for humans to feel) so you can tell all your friends about that time you got high and petted a jellyfish. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Advanced reservations required, and adult tickets cost $36.95.
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A neon sign that reads Tesla coil and sparks of electricity radiating from a cone.
(Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)

Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles County Attraction
There’s no better way to contemplate one’s dust-speck presence in this vast universe than by walking through and around this 86-year-old sprawling, wide-staircased Art Deco set piece that, in the right frame of mind, feels like a grand train-station-turned-departure point for the outer reaches of the cosmos. While you could take the easy route and shell out $7 for one of the out-there planetarium shows, there are plenty of mind-bending, awareness-expanding things to experience that won’t cost you any more than the gas money or DASH bus fare (or shoe leather if you’re a smoke-and-go-hiking kind of person) because the admission to the observatory and grounds is free. (Note that the parking closest to the building is not.)

Chief among these is an undulating ribbon of celestial-themed jewelry (bejeweled star pins, glittery crescent moon earrings and the like) stretching down one corridor to create a visual timeline that starts with the Big Bang (“The universe blossoms like a skyrocket in an incredibly hot explosion,” starts the first card, noting that “after 10 billionths of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, all of the universe we see today is no larger than the size of a small car”) and ends 13.7 billion years and some 2,200 baubles later with something right out of Kubrick: “... an upright hominid steps onto the surface of the moon. He leaves behind a footprint. It’s one small step across time and space.” (Not far away, if you know where to look, there’s a bit of laugh-out-loud astronomer in-joke signage. You’ll find a flight of stairs labeled “the wormhole stairway.”)

There’s also the super-cool Foucault Pendulum in the central rotunda entrance lobby, a 240-pound bronze ball swinging on a 40-foot cable that plainly demonstrates what can’t otherwise be seen or felt by us Earth-bound mortals — the rotation of the Earth. There’s also a transfixing Tesla coil demonstration (which unspools hourly) complete with arcing sparks and crackling sounds worthy of Dr. Frankenstein. It’s just enough old-school science-lab theatrics to bring your inner space traveler down to Earth as you wind out your visit.

Griffith Observatory is open noon to 10 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
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A masked couple hugs in front of the Walt Disney statue at Disneyland.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)


Anaheim Amusement park
Obviously just about everything at the Happiest Place on Earth is going to feel happier — not to mention a whole lot trippier — if you’re slightly altered. Take the Enchanted Tiki Room’s talking woodwork for starters.

But the absolute best use of all those edibles you took out in the parking lot (because you did not, under any circumstances, bring a controlled substance into the house that Walt built)? That would be Tomorrowland’s Space Mountain attraction, a three-minute-long, roughly 35-mph plunging, twisting, jerking roller-coaster ride in near-total darkness. We’re apparently not alone on this assessment; in a 2017 interview, actor Andrew Garfield told W magazine that a pot-brownie-enhanced visit to the park included riding “Space Mountain three times in a row.” (In the same interview, he describes a freakout while on the “It’s a Small World” ride, so consider yourself warned.)

Since your thrill ride on the inside will almost certainly last longer than your interest in Space Mountain, maximize seeing the park through new eyes by trying some of the rides you might otherwise have walked right by like the twirling teacups of the Mad Tea Party or the chaotic careening road trip (through the interior of a manor, apparently) of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. When you feel yourself starting to come back down to Earth, beat a path to the aforementioned Enchanted Tiki Room and suck down a Pineapple Dole Whip on the patio before sitting in a cool, dark room where you’ll be entertained by a quartet of animatronic macaws. (Speaking of food, there’s hardly a better place to take the edge off your munchies thanks to carts loaded with everything from fresh fruit or churros to forearm-sized smoked turkey legs.)

Disneyland Park is open 8 a.m. to midnight daily.
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A white marble building next to a pond in a cemetery.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Los Angeles County Attraction
I heartily endorse visiting any cemetery — anytime, anywhere — in a heightened state of consciousness simply because the ornate obelisks, massive monuments and engraved pillars of afterlife architecture are a potent reminder that we’re all just temporary houseguests on this big blue marble.

But I highly recommend this last stop to the great beyond for a couple of reasons. The first is the sheer star power of the interred residents, who include gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (his crypt is covered in lipstick kisses), Judy Garland (who has a dedicated pavilion complete with a guestbook and four chairs), Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and King Kong’s original girl crush, Fay Wray, to name several.

The other reason is that there’s no shortage of humor to be had amid the headstones, from voice actor Mel Blanc’s “That’s All Folks!” epitaph and the dog-statue-topped cenotaph honoring Toto from “The Wizard of Oz” (the pup’s final resting place is actually elsewhere) to a plastic “in futurum” placeholder for (still alive) “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Fred Armisen. (Pro tip: Pop into the flower shop near the main gate and shell out $5 for a comprehensive map listing the final resting places of assorted notables.) As you amble, keep your eyes peeled for the showy pride of peafowl that have called the cemetery grounds home for so long that they’re immortalized in the stained-glass windows of the flower shop.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery grounds are open dawn to dusk daily.
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A wax figure of a mustachioed man in wrestling attire and a red cape
(Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)

Hollywood Wax Museum

Hollywood Museum
Hollywood Boulevard is definitely worth an altered exploration on its own thanks to the stars immortalized in terrazzo on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (you can find The Times’ guide to each and every one of the more than 2,900 honorees online), the costumed day players posing for tips (on a recent visit, I was screamed at by a clown, which was a total buzzkill), and a bizarre pastiche of tourist attractions that includes not one but two wax museums barely a block apart.

While Madame Tussauds (just west of the TCL Chinese Theatre) might sound like the smarter bet, what with its 186-year history and global cachet, there’s hardly a better bang for your baked buck ($29.99) than taking a weed-enhanced wander through the Hollywood Wax Museum, where you can pose for selfies with the wax likenesses of famous folks, sometimes brandishing a nearby prop (cowboy hats and woven blankets hang next to the Clint Eastwood figure, and tiaras and pearls near Audrey Hepburn’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” tableau).

What really takes this place to the next level entertainment-wise isn’t the celebrity likenesses that are done well (Seth Rogen and Snoop Dogg among them, coincidentally). It’s the ones for which a fair amount of artistic license (shall we say?) seems to have been taken. That includes a representation of country singer Johnny Cash that more closely resembles Aaron Eckhart, and an Emma Stone that skews decidedly more Marg Helgenberger.

Hollywood Wax Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to midnight.
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A mammoth statue in water next to another mammoth statue on the shore
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

La Brea Tar Pits

Mid-Wilshire Museum
What makes a weed-fueled wander through this grass- and tree-filled park fronting Wilshire Boulevard more fun than popping by some of L.A.’s other bountiful green spaces? The two nearby museums (Los Angeles County Museum of Art and George C. Page Museum) are definitely part of it, as is the forever-frozen dramatic tableau of a mammoth family battling the pull of the methane-bubbling Lake Pit and the giant sloth statues chilling over by the Pleistocene Garden.

But the clincher is the tar itself that can be seen bubbling up and oozing out of the ground, thick and gooey and smelling like a freshly resurfaced roadway. (According to the signs, it’s technically asphalt — the lowest grade of crude oil — left over after the lighter elements like kerosene evaporate.) Once above ground, the stuff of patched roofs and construction zones becomes a weirdly organic and primal part of the parkscape. Lime green, tar-splattered plastic traffic cones stenciled with all-caps warnings like “sticky” or “look out” mark inky holes in the grass, and the trunks of trees throughout the park are covered in tarry graffiti and hieroglyphic professions of young love scrawled in 50,000-year-old plankton-turned-petroleum.

Park grounds are open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
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A peacock standing on a rock next to some plants.
(Mary McNamara / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Arcadia Public garden
I’ll admit it. I wasn’t looking forward to tromping around this 127-acre patchwork of woods and gardens squinting at name-tagged flora like vaguely familiar co-workers at a cocktail party. But because it came highly recommended by two peripatetic pot people, Alice and Clark Campbell (a.k.a. That High Couple), I trekked out to Arcadia.

It turned out to be one of the most serene and surreal afternoons I’ve ever spent closing my move ring. That’s because in addition to the mind-boggling assortment of plant life one might expect in a sprawling collection of biogeographically organized trees, flowers, shrubs and grasses that takes you from the spiny forests of Madagascar to genteel English-style rose gardens, there are lots of deliciously unexpected things you’re likely to encounter. These include an ostentation of peacocks (descendants of peafowl imported from India in 1880 by the property’s then-owner Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin), a paddling of ducks on Baldwin Lake (both hooded mergansers and wood ducks), a beehive taking up residence in a path-side tree trunk, and the occasional coyote. (For a hot second, I locked eyeballs with one watching passersby from a shaded stand of trees before making like a roadrunner.)

Once you’ve had your fill (if that’s possible) of the swaths of prickly cactuses, aloe-lined trails, humid greenhouses full of tropical orchids and stands of (comparatively) pint-sized sequoias and you’ve wandered past the (currently closed for renovation) Queen Anne Cottage — if the exterior looks slightly familiar that’s because it was featured regularly on the series “Fantasy Island” — pop a squat on one of the wooden benches at the foot of the lush, multitiered, foliage-lined Meyberg Waterfall, close your eyes, listen to the sound of cascading water and be at one with nature before diving back into the constant hubbub of city life.

Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanical Garden is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily except Christmas. Timed online tickets required in advance. Admission is $15 for adults and $11 for seniors and students.
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A backlit photo of the cover of Pink Floyd's 1969 album Ummagumma
(Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains

Hollywood Museum
Was there a time in your life when you and your buddies would sit around, stoned to the gills, cranking Pink Floyd tunes and trying mostly in vain to figure out what was going on with the English prog rock band’s trippy album covers? If not, then don’t bother darkening the doorstep of “Their Mortal Remains,” which has been on display in Hollywood since September. If so, smoke a bowl, saddle up the inflatable pig and set your controls for the heart of the sun — well, the Vogue Multicultural Museum anyway — where you’ll experience something very much like that.

Arranged chronologically, the exhibition, which first opened at London’s V&A Museum in 2017, starts with a Floydian family tree (the Abdabs begat Leonard’s Lodgers begat the Tea Set begat nine different Pink Floyd permutations) and ends with a pair of looping music videos that bookend the band’s arc (1967’s “Arnold Layne” followed by the 2005 Live 8 performance of “Comfortably Numb,” which marked the final performance of the Waters-Gilmour-Mason-Wright lineup).

In between you’ll find a deep dive on every aspect of the band from the meaning and creative processes behind its iconic album covers (the flaming businessman on the cover of “Wish You Here,” for example, was a visual pun on the ’70s slang “I’ve been burned,” as in ripped off), to the nickname of the famous porcine balloon from the “Animals” cover (it’s Algie) as well as props (the gong with the crossed-hammer motif from “The Wall” and a pair of massive steel head sculptures from “The Division Bell” album cover to name just two), sketches, handbills, personal notes and doodles and musical instruments.

Adding a cool immersive element to the whole affair is an exhibition headset that pipes snippets of interviews with band members, commentary and lots and lots of Pink Floyd tunes into your ears as you wander through the artifacts of one of the trippiest bands of all time. While its music may endure forever, your chance to see the exhibition locally won’t. It’s slated to close Jan. 30 to make way for what promises to be an equally mind-expanding exhibition that explores the works of H.R. Giger.

“The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” has timed-entrance tickets available every half-hour from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Single tickets are $46 with discounts for multiple-ticket purchases.
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Two men walking past a woman with long green fingernails who is holding a large boa constrictor
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Venice Beach Boardwalk

Venice Boardwalk
The roughly two-mile-long Venice Beach Boardwalk is already one of SoCal’s premier people-watching spots. That’s thanks to the quirky combination of street vendors and performers lining the seaward side (painted skateboard decks, handmade jewelry, dreamcatchers), the hodgepodge of restaurants and shops on the landward side (sneaker boutiques, souvenir shops selling slogan-emblazoned panties, deep-fried everything) and the tens of thousands of just-gotta-be-me folks, tourists and locals alike, sluiced down the paved pathway on a daily basis.

Under the influence of the herb, it becomes near Oscar-worthy entertainment, a midway full of pigeon-training, python-handling carnies who can write your name on a grain of rice, balance your chakras or sell you a painting depicting E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Michael Jackson in a hand-on-shoulder family portrait pose. (On a recent visit, I spent the better part of a half-hour doing nothing but watching a guy dressed like an escapee from a “Where’s Waldo?” book — bold red and white striped shirt, black knit cap, skinny-leg jeans — popping in and out of shops.)

An added bonus of heading here high is the boardwalk’s distinct 420-friendly vibe thanks to both the myriad marijuana-themed merch (think T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “Sorry, we’re stoned” or “This cough ain’t COVID!”) and the pervasive smell of freshly smoked weed. (Pro tip: Watch out for fake dispensaries trying to pass off high-CBD hemp as high-THC cannabis.) You’ll find most of the fantastical fun stuff bounded by Dudley Avenue to the north and North Venice Boulevard to the south.

The boardwalk itself is closed from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily, the adjacent park is closed daily from midnight to 5 a.m. Unfortunately, the famed Muscle Beach Venice outdoor gym, a traditionally gawk-worthy spot, is currently closed for renovations.
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