Angelenos are trying to beat the heat. Here’s where they’re going

Beach-goers taking a scenic stand-up paddleboard cruise through Avalon Harbor on Santa Catalina Island.
An aerial view of beach-goers taking a scenic stand-up paddleboard cruise through the turquoise waters of Avalon Harbor on Santa Catalina Island.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, travelers!

As August winds down, Southern Californians are turning to their backyards, beaches and beyond for last-minute summer fun despite the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak. Twelve Times photographers recently scattered across Los Angeles to document how we spent one of the last weekends of the summer. Their mission took them to barbecues, drive-in movies and street vendors. Tour boats and swan boats. A Dodgers game and basketball courts.

This week, I’d like to highlight three destinations featured in this project. Santa Catalina Island, Marina del Rey and Lytle Creek each offer a way to cool off during a heat wave. Beware of crowds, though: You should aim to visit these locations during weekdays or off-hours to maximize your ability to social distance.

🏝️ Santa Catalina Island

Fancy a date with California’s state marine fish, the garibaldi?

You can snorkel with these orange reef-dwellers at Casino Point Dive Park on Catalina. Getting to the island takes roughly an hour on the Catalina Express, which departs from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point. Catalina began reopening in May, and if you make the trip, you’ll find plenty of things to do besides kicking back and enjoying the natural scenery. The island also is the site of a noteworthy episode in contemporary California history. During the summer of 1972 Catalina was occupied by Chicano activists, an event that Brittny Mejia recently wrote about in The Times.

If you’re committed to staying away from others (as we all should be), consider hiking on Catalina’s vast hiking trails. Once you fall in love with the island’s back country, it’s possible you’ll be inspired to hike the 38-mile Trans-Catalina Trail on your next visit, recently profiled by Mary Forgione.

Beach-goers snorkel with a view of a garibaldi on a summer day off Catalina Island.
Beach-goers snorkel with a view of garibaldi, California’s state marine fish, off Santa Catalina Island.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

🏄 Marina del Rey

Many of us are trying to get out on the water one last time before summer ends — and in Marina del Rey, it’s easy to accomplish. Pro SUP Shop and Paddle Method are just two of the outfits offering paddleboard rentals for those interested in getting their feet wet. The best part of paddleboarding during the coronavirus outbreak? When you’re on the board, you’re almost certain to be more than six feet from others.

Once you’re paddling through the marina, you’ll likely spy some sea creatures. Rays often hang out in the warm waters off Mother’s Beach, and sea lions always seem to be lounging in the sun. Just steer clear of the boats, who may not see you coming.

Summer activities in Marina del Rey.
A bird’s-eye view of summer activities in Marina del Rey.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

🏞️ Lytle Creek

If you find yourself in San Bernardino County, you can cool off with a trip to Lytle Creek, just past the L.A. County line. The destination, nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains, is a particular favorite of people trying to escape the heat.

With that in mind, it’s important to bring a mask even though you’ll be outdoors. This, of course, applies for any adventure you attempt in the next few months, but it’s extra-critical to take precautions if you’re heading someplace that others might be enjoying at the same time.

Alina Rendon, 3, front, Adriel Rendon, 10, Mia Rose, 2, and Venessa Gaona, 17, walk along stream.
Alina Rendon, 3, front, Adriel Rendon, 10, Mia Rose, 2, and Venessa Gaona, 17, walk along the stream in Lytle Creek.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

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⚾ Looking for a unique experience?

You can still watch a Dodgers game live — sort of. As shown in The Times’ summer weekend photo project, some fans have set up chairs on a hillside in Elysian Park that overlooks the stadium. It’s a little hard to follow the action, so bring a radio if you go. Here’s the season schedule if you want to give it a whirl.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, Elysian Park is well worth a visit; it’s often less crowded than Griffith Park, notes Christopher Reynolds.

Fans watch the Dodgers play the San Francisco Giants from an overlook in Elysian Park.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

Seismic blasts threaten the sounds and songs of humpback whales in the Caribbean Sea.
Seismic blasts threaten the sounds and songs of humpback whales in the Caribbean Sea.
(Ed Lyman / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🗼 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons

Do you miss sightseeing around the world? It’s not quite the same as a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, but 360 Stories offers free virtual sightseeing experiences in destinations that include Kyoto, Japan, and Verona, Italy. With this technology, you can learn the history of Prague’s Charles Bridge and admire the view from Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, without braving any crowds. Hat tip to the Chicago Tribune, where I learned about 360 Stories.

A scene from Rome's Colosseum on 360 Stories.
360 Stories can help you take a grand (and insightful) tour of landmarks across the world — no waiting in line required.
(Screenshot from 360 Stories; illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Reader photo

Californians’ attempts at socially distanced vacations are taking a variety of forms, from an isolated road trip up California 1 to trekking across Zion National Park in Utah. My boss, Samantha Melbourneweaver, recently went on a “traincation” with family members. “We were dead serious about wearing masks and asking others around us to wear masks ... it seems to have paid off because we got negative COVID tests after we got back. So wear a mask, you people!” she said on Instagram.

🎸 Road song

“Why see the world, when you got the beach?” Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling abroad and miss the opportunity to do so safely. But the chorus of Frank Ocean’s “Sweet Life” has been a calming, gratitude-inducing mantra of mine during the pandemic. As Southern Californians, we can’t jet off to Spain right now — but we can go to Santa Monica State Beach. And for that, I’m thankful.

Frank Ocean's "Sweet Life" can remind you just how close a sweet beach escape can be.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times; illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)