January in Los Angeles is a special time: The air feels a little crisper, there’s snow coating the mountains in the distance, and many Angelenos are just easing back into their regular schedules while trying to be mindful of their New Year’s resolution. Whether your resolution has you experimenting with veganism, meditating or spending more time in nature — or some impressive combination of the three — Pacific Palisades provides an ideal place to take a breath and recharge before diving into 2020.
Before hitting the road, be sure to throw a beach blanket and a few extra layers in your bag — when you make a trip to this picturesque seaside neighborhood, it’s a shame to miss a visit to the beach, no matter the season.
1 p.m. Ease into a day of relaxation with a stop for lunch at Matthew’s Garden Cafe at 859½ Swarthmore Ave. off the Palisades’ main shopping district. Walking into Matthew’s is like discovering a treasure hidden in plain sight; from the street, diners walk through a narrow passage onto a lush patio with tables. If you’re tired of the rich meats and sweets of the holiday season, the restaurant’s wholesome salads and sandwiches are a surefire way to transition back to the simpler pleasures of everyday dining. The jasmine salad and chicken pesto panini make for a particularly satisfying lunch, especially coupled with a tea or coffee. After you finish lunch, don’t leave in a hurry; Matthew’s is one of those places diners can feel comfortable lingering and soaking in the surroundings.
2:10 p.m. Even if your New Year’s resolution has you avoiding animal products or gluten, you won’t have trouble finding plenty of places for dessert in the Palisades. A short walk across Antioch Street and Sunset Boulevard is Sweet Laurel Bakery at 15279 Sunset Blvd., an overwhelmingly pink and predictably expensive bake shop nestled in the Palisades’ posh shopping district. Despite the $10 price tag on slices of cake, anyone searching for a new grain-free or dairy-free dessert option, or just curious about how the 1% consumes its calories, should stop in for a slice of vanilla coconut jam cake or a few snickerdoodle cookies.
2:30 p.m. Time to hit the road. Drive 2.5 miles west along Sunset Boulevard to the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine at 17190 Sunset Blvd.; you might spot the Golden Lotus Archway or windmill chapel from the road. The shrine is a regular contender on internet lists of the best places in L.A. to relax, meditate and, my personal favorite, “harvest your inner calm.” Amateur bloggers and the New York Times alike are right to call attention to the shrine — and there’s a lot more to understand about the shrine than its undeniable feeling of peacefulness.
Once you arrive, take a moment to pick up a brochure and read about the shrine’s history before taking a walk through the Meditation Garden. I recommend keeping an eye out for all of the different religious influences found within the gardens, from the Mary and baby Jesus on display to the statue of Krishna playing his flute. In some ways, the variety of religious iconography at the shrine can be seen as a testament to the fusion of cultures that makes Los Angeles unique.
4 p.m. After finishing at the shrine, continue oceanward on Sunset Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway and turn left, heading back toward L.A. After about a mile and a half, you’ll reach Will Rogers State Beach at 17000 Pacific Coast Highway, a clean, relatively crowd-free stretch of coast ideal for watching sunsets.
If the beach looks familiar, you might recognize it from one of the many movies and TV shows shot there — including “Baywatch.” The best part? There’s ample parking, either in the lot or along Temescal Canyon Road.
Grab a blanket and a few extra layers from the trunk (it gets chilly on the beach at twilight) and find a spot to watch the sunset. Once you’re settled in and layered up, keep an eye on the horizon. You might just see some dolphins jumping through the waves.