Avoiding long trips? Here are nearby adventures to enjoy before summer ends

Grilled cheese sandwich in a takeout container, with the skyline of L.A. in the background.
Try Clark Street’s grilled cheese sandwich at Vista Hermosa Park.
(Julissa James / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow Escapists. With COVID-19 case rates on the rise, some travelers are sticking close to home. Need a bit of destination inspiration? You’re in luck: In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find the best picnic spots in the city, as well as a way to volunteer while exploring wetlands.

You’ll also learn about a wine-tasting experience in a castle and see-through paddle boards you can rent at Lake Tahoe. Have a travel recommendation you’d like to share? Send me an email and I’ll feature it in an edition of Escapes.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands with oil rigs and refineries in the background.
The Los Cerritos Wetlands needs volunteers to help remove nonnative plants.
(Eileen Delrosario)

🌱 Explore the Los Cerritos Wetlands while giving back

Want to get outside and give back? The Los Cerritos Wetlands Stewardship Program has partnered with the Aquarium of the Pacific to organize a monthly habitat restoration activity — and you’re invited.

Volunteers can learn about the wetlands from trained naturalists while helping to remove nonnative plants and collect seeds from rare plants.

The restoration sessions take place the first Saturday of the month through Dec. 4, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Closed-toe shoes are a must; sunscreen and hats are recommended. No registration required.

Love plants? Check out Times staffer Jeanette Marantos’ list of 13 green-thumb events this month.

A piece of sweet potato pecan pie at Burton Chace Park and an  Ethiopian dish at La Brea tar pits
Sweet potato pecan pie from Killer Shrimp shown in Burton Chace Park and an Ethiopian dish from Lalibela in front of a La Brea tar pit sloth.
(Rachel Schnalzer / Los Angeles Times; Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)

🌯 Choose a mellow park hang — with delicious takeout

If you’ve been on the go this summer, now is the time to take it easy and spend the day at one of L.A.’s best parks. Fortunately, Times staffers have park recommendations for you, as well as nearby takeout spots.

Here are a few of our favorite park and takeout combinations:

Burton Chace Park + sweet potato pecan pie from Killer Shrimp

For $1, you can hitch a ride on the Marina del Rey water bus to visit Burton Chace Park. This 10-acre green space is bordered on three sides by the marina, making it an ideal waterside picnic destination. After lunch, hop back on the water bus and cruise to Fisherman’s Village, Mother’s Beach and other waterfront destinations.

Killer Shrimp (4211 Admiralty Way) is about a mile and a half away, on the opposite side of the marina.

Vista Hermosa Natural Park + grilled cheese from Clark Street Bread

Vista Hermosa Park is one of those places in L.A. that invokes the phrase, ‘If you know, you know,’” writes Times staffer Julissa James. “Although it’s not exactly a secret — tons of Angelenos have flocked to this shady enclave since it opened in 2008 for its views of downtown, open spaces and ample dog-watching opportunities — it feels like a hidden gem.”

Clark Street Bread (331 Glendale Blvd.) is less than a half-mile away in Echo Park.

Hancock Park + “veggie utopia” from Lalibela

“What’s not to love about a grass- and tree-filled park that surrounds two museums (Los Angeles County Museum of Art and George C. Page Museum), includes observation pits for live excavation of sites, giant statues of sloths, a heart-rending scene of a mammoth family battling a tar pit and gooey tar bubbling out of the ground?” asks Times senior features writer Adam Tschorn.

Lalibela (1025 S Fairfax Ave,) is a short 5-minute drive away in Carthay Square.

🏰 Go wine-tasting in a castle

Get your inner “Game of Thrones” character on — within reason, of course — the next time you’re wine tasting in Paso Robles.

At Tooth & Nail Winery, you can sip wine like Cersei Lannister in a castle surrounded by a moat less than three miles from the 101. Tastings begin at $30 per person and can be booked online on Tooth & Nail’s site.

Tours of the castle, barrel room and vineyards are available for visitors who want to spend more time exploring Tooth & Nail. The two-hour experience costs $80 per person.

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Lake Tahoe is framed by pine trees.
See into deep blue Lake Tahoe from atop a clear paddleboard.
(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

💧 Cruise Lake Tahoe on a see-through paddleboard

What’s better than paddle-boarding on Lake Tahoe? Cruising on a clear paddleboard, allowing you to look down into the lake’s vivid blue waters.

Wild Society offers paddleboard rentals on the north side of Lake Tahoe at Kings Beach, with wireless speakers and other fun add-ons available upon request. Guests can explore Tahoe’s coves and boulder outcroppings, with a unique glimpse into the lake’s depths.

Stand-up paddle board rentals begin at $65 for one hour. Wild Society also offers clear kayaks, from $60 per hour. Reservations can be made on Wild Society’s site.

Park visitors in front of the Walt Disney statue at Disneyland.
Park visitors take a selfie in front of the Walt Disney statue at Disneyland.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Traveling with someone who has dementia? Times features writer Jeanette Marantos offers five pieces of advice.
  • Disneyland has a new annual pass program. Times business reporter Hugo Martín explains everything you need to know.
  • This family traded in their $4,200-a-month mortgage for a $14,000 RV — and they’re never going back, writes Alicia Adamczyk in CNBC.
  • Love traveling but have a poor sense of direction? You’ll enjoy this essay by Rachel May in Outside Online.
  • As a teenager, writer Patrice Gopocouldn’t wait to escape her Alaska hometown. Now, as an adult, she shares what it means to return in Afar.

📸 Photo of the week

A man climbs a Sequoia tree with a rope.
Anthony Ambrose climbs a Sequoia tree after rigging it with a rope to conduct drought research in Sequoia National Park.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road song

Song: “Phoenix” by Big Red Machine (featuring Fleet Foxes & Anais Mitchell)
Favorite lyric: “How does the long way feel, kneading your hand too tight against the wheel?”
Best place to listen: California 1 in Big Sur, taking the long way from L.A. to San Francisco

Cars on California 1 in Big Sur
Cruise the coast on California 1.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)