These outdoor adventures will help you ring in 2021

Hikers walk the Spring-to-Spring Trail at Pismo Preserve.
Hikers walk along the Spring-to-Spring Trail past the Lone Oak at Pismo Preserve.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow travelers, and Happy New Year’s Eve. Most of us aren’t wistful about bidding adieu to 2020 — and with vaccines on their way, I hope 2021 will bring you health, happiness and a return to travel near and far.

But for now, with the regional stay-at-home order extended, we must continue to stay put.


This week, I recommend a few outdoor adventures that it may be possible to enjoy, depending on where you live. Nature has sustained many of us throughout the pandemic — and I have no doubt it will continue to do so well into 2021 and beyond.

🌊 Hike at Pismo Beach’s newest preserve

There’s a lot more than water and sand dunes for outdoorsy travelers heading to Pismo Beach. The 880-acre Pismo Preserve, which opened in January, includes nearly a dozen miles of trails for hikers, equestrians, runners and mountain bikers.

Times contributor Brian E. Clark recently made a trip to the preserve to learn what it has to offer — and how it came to be. I was surprised to learn that the preserve might not have become reality without the Great Recession of 2008-09. As Clark reported, the land was slated for commercial and luxury home development. Now, it’s become “an important part of the community, sort of its heart and soul,” one nearby resident said.

A hiker on the Spring-to-Spring trail overlooking the Pismo Beach pier.
A hiker makes her way up the Spring-to-Spring Trail as fog lingers over Pismo Beach and the Pismo Preserve.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

🚢 Take a spin along San Diego’s waterfront

Are you a history buff? Do you love the ocean? And, most important, are you in the mood for a drive?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’ll want to make a trip to San Diego’s waterfront for a driving tourput together by Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds. He sends travelers to places such as Liberty Station — which, beginning in 1923, was the Naval Training Center — and the Star of India, an iron-sided 1863 windjammer built on the Isle of Man.

Before or after your driving tour, stop at Mitch’s Seafood in Point Loma for takeout. A friend, knowing I’m a sucker for fresh seafood, introduced me to this harborside spot— and I’ve been eager to return.

Liberty Station was once the Naval Training Center, San Diego.
Liberty Station was once the Naval Training Center, San Diego. It now houses restaurants, shops and art groups.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

🌳 View the Picture Bridge at the Langham Huntington

If you find yourself in Pasadena, the Langham Huntington’s gardens are worth a stop. The historic hotel’s lush grounds are open and free to the public.

You’ll especially want to spend time admiring the hotel’s Picture Bridge, which tells the “story of California’s early days” with facsimiles of 41 Depression-era oil paintings.

Assistant travel editor Mary Forgione included the restored bridge in last week’s edition of The Wild, our outdoors newsletter. She also passed along this helpful guide to the hotel’s grounds.

The Picture Bridge above the gardens at the Langham Huntington Pasadena.
The famed Picture Bridge at the Langham Huntington Pasadena tells the story of the early days of California.
(Kevin Edge / Langham Huntington)

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🌱 Visit South Los Angeles’ only enduring plant nursery

Speaking of greenery, do you want to add some plants to your home in the new year? Consider paying a visit to Avalon Nursery & Ceramics, a 33-year-old nursery in South Los Angeles.

It’s more than just a place to pick up some succulents — it’s also a lovely place to get lost for a while. “In the lush leafy labyrinth that is Avalon Nursery & Ceramics, it’s easy to forget where you are,” wrote Times staffer Jeanette Marantos. “[The nursery] feels more like a botanic garden or your grandparents’ beautifully overgrown backyard than a thriving business on a busy corner in South Los Angeles.”

Cenaido Hernandez amid greenery at Avalon Nursery & Ceramics.
Cenaido Hernandez, 79, has worked for many years at Avalon Nursery & Ceramics in South Los Angeles.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • What do we wish for in 2021? Thousands of people have left their answers to this question on the Wishing Tree at Descanso Gardens, reports assistant travel editor Mary Forgione.
Wishes handwritten on pink cards hang on a tree.
Wishes written on cards hang on the Wishing Tree at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge.
(Elaine Woo / For The Times ; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)
  • Could the COVID-19 vaccine figure into the future of flying? Times contributor and former travel editor Catharine Hamm examines whether airlines could require passengers to be vaccinated.
  • An ancient town named Kannauj is the perfume capital of India. Rachna Sachasinh, writing in National Geographic, explains how perfumers in this community created “liquid gold” for hundreds of years.
  • The road trip recaptured our imagination this year, Amanda Fortini writes in Conde Nast Traveler. She looks back at the joys of driving during the pandemic.
  • Who knew sweaters from around the world could be a salve for wanderlust? Like all of us, Washington Post contributor Karen Gardiner was unable to travel during the pandemic. Her solution? Wearing the sweaters she has collected from far-flung places such as Lerwick, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands.

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

If you’re like me, you have probably taken more than a few drives down Sunset Boulevard and up the Malibu coast since the pandemic changed travel in Southern California. I doubt I’ll ever tire of enjoying drives through a traffic-light L.A., but a site called Drive & Listen offers a way to switch things up.

With Drive & Listen, users can experience what it’s like to drive through the streets of Barcelona, Seoul, Tel Aviv and many other cities around the world while listening to local radio stations.

Hat-tip to Ann Friedman: I came across this incredibly entertaining site in her weekly newsletter.

Screengrabs of different streets from around the world.
Wanna take a drive? Drive & Listen offers an authentic way to roam streets around the world and even in the L.A. area.
(Screengrabs from Drive & Listen; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

The Wishing Tree at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge.
Wishes written on cards hang on a tree in Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. The tree was formed using a native oak tree that fell down last summer.
(Elaine Woo)

🎸 Road song

The night before Y2K is the first New Year’s Eve I can remember clearly. My cousins and I, all in elementary school, weren’t sure what would happen when the clock struck midnight. Would the world end, or would Jan. 1, 2000, be just another day?

Flashing forward a few decades: No one is sure what 2021 will bring either. That’s why I’m traveling back in time with “1999” by Prince as our last road song of 2020. Until next year. 👋

Ring in the new year with a familiar song. Prince’s “1999” has the positive vibes we yearn for.
(Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)