The mask mandate has been lifted in California and vaccines are pumping through the veins of its citizens. But I wouldn’t get so comfortable yet. The new Delta variant is making its way through the city, prompting talk of a renewal of the social distancing order. This could mean another stay-at-home order if people aren’t careful. The safest thing we can do is continue to socially distance, wear our masks and sanitize. However, if like many other University of California, Los Angeles students, you cannot fathom staying home or cooped up in your dorm room…
Read on for 10 Covid-friendly activities around Westwood to break free of boredom.
10. Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park
Graveyards and cemeteries don’t necessarily rank high on the places one would like to visit, but this small, peaceful park is a great spot to spend a quiet afternoon soaking in the fresh air. The final resting place of famed stars like Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin, this secluded park offers a respite from the usual hubbub of Los Angeles.
Monroe’s earthly remains are interred in crypt number 24 in the Corridor of Memories, a complex of above-ground crypts on the west side of the cemetery. For 20 years after her death, Joe DiMaggio—Monroe’s ex-husband—ensured the delivery of red roses to her grave three times a week. Today, visitors regularly adorn the crypt with flowers, cards, letters and other mementos left by visitors. Memorial services occur annually on June 1 (her birthday) and August 5 (the date of her death). Monroe’s crypt is easily distinguishable from the others in the wall thanks to the discoloration caused by lipstick marks frequently left by fans.
A small stone walking path meanders through the grounds, carrying visitors to the end of the park. If you plan to visit, remember to remain respectful of the cemetery and help maintain the park’s serenity.
9. Hammer Museum
One of LA’s best art museums, The Hammer offers a variety of exhibits, films and talks—something for every art lover out there. The majority of the featured artwork is modern, but you can also find pieces from Monet and Degas in their well-curated permanent collection.
“The Museum has some really thought-provoking exhibitions, from artists like Brandon D. Landers whose work draws on reality while also subverting it. Even if you aren’t a big art history nerd, the museum has tons of exhibitions of all mediums that visitors can enjoy,” UCLA senior Ella Flaherty said.
Admission to the museum remains free to the public; the mission of the curators is to allow visitors of varying interests to truly engage with the art in a safe and enjoyable manner. Enjoy a film or sit through a lecture and enrich your love for art through its various mediums.
8. Fowler Museum
If you prefer not to make a trip off campus, found in the heart of UCLA, this internationally recognized museum primarily features works of art from Africa, Asia and the Americas in unique exhibitions such as Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. This exhibit explores the role of art in creating meaning and defining purpose for people across the globe. The objects on display in this particular exhibit have all intervened in the lives of those who made or used them—whether to educate, solve problems, assert leadership, assist in remembering or provision loved ones in the afterlife.
The museum also contains a lecture hall plus spaces for art workshops and musical performances. The Fowler is the perfect spot for those who love the global arts or for those interested in the intersection of art and culture.
7. Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden
While most UCLA students appreciate Murphy Sculpture Garden for its rolling hills and great study spots, it’s also home to one of the finest outdoor sculpture installations, with over 70 sculptures on display. Featured artists include Auguste Rodin, a more traditionalist sculptor whose work displays truly brilliant representations of the human body, and Hans Arp, an abstract artist working during the period of Dadaism. The diversity of styles present lend to the garden’s distinctive beauty. The Hammer Museum offers tours of the sculpture garden for groups, or you may choose to explore this serene space on your own.
6. Farmers’ Market
If you happen to find yourself in Westwood on a Thursday, stop by the Farmers’ Market on Broxton. This outdoor market is a fun—and affordable—option for students itching to go outside but who still want to avoid the crowds normally found in and around regular grocery stores. Whether you are interested in picking up some local produce or simply browsing the handmade products like artisanal soap bars and unique jewelry pieces, there’s tons to find at the Farmers’ Market. Also worth stopping by, several food stands serving delicious food can be found throughout the market. Some of the goodies include Elote (Mexican street corn) and Afghan Bolani. Visit this lively market and get a taste of the local flair of Westwood Village.
5. Botanical Gardens
Also found on the UCLA campus, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens are, quite literally, an oasis in Westwood. Built around a creek bed, the gardens provide a home to thousands of plant species. If you’re in need of a quick getaway from the stuffy summer air that clouds the dorms and classrooms or have an affinity for biodiversity, you’ll enjoy the variety of exotic plants throughout the gardens.
“The gardens are such a peaceful spot to study and get some fresh air. I highly recommend this spot, especially because social distancing is so much easier this way,” UCLA junior Edwin Sanchez said.
In order to enjoy the full experience and truly learn about the variety of plants, make sure you pick up a handy garden map, which describes the various sectors that divide the garden. Also, a labyrinth within the Medicinal Garden and a tree house right at the center are two fun spots to hang out with friends.
4. The Getty Center
A relic of modern Los Angeles, the Getty boasts an impressive collection of artworks by such masters as Van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne. The surrounding gardens and the building itself appear part of an exhibition, allowing visitors to spend the afternoon with art whether they choose to remain indoors or outside along the maze-like pond.
“The Getty should be a staple for any visitor or resident. It’s crazy to think we almost lost it in the fires last year and I’m so thankful we didn’t. I love going there on the weekends just to have a picnic in the gardens or visit one of my favorite pieces, The Fountain of Love, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard,” UCLA graduate Mariana Juarez said.
The setting makes this museum, however. High in the hills overlooking Los Angeles out to the Pacific Ocean, the iconic stone buildings’ intricate and futuristic designs draw you in. Staff are very helpful and informative, educating guests about displays. The overall experience of the museum definitely makes the $20 parking fee worth the cost.
3. Runyon Canyon
Though trail access is currently limited only to the West Trail loop, a steeper and more difficult route, Runyon Canyon Park’s well-paved roads are still a beginner-friendly hiking spot. The real challenge and the real views, begin on the steep dirt paths that take you all the way up the canyon. Stretching for miles, the view from the top gazes at the hazy LA skyline and the surrounding urban areas.
“I love hiking here with my friends on the weekends, especially because it gives you the chance to hang out somewhere without a mask—if you’re vaccinated, of course!—and really enjoy the fresh air. It tends to get pretty hot during the afternoon, so early in the morning or around sunset is a better time to visit,” UCLA senior Laura Carter said.
A 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, this canyon is a perfect spot to hike, enjoy the urban wilderness and bask in the summer sunshine. Looking for a bite to eat after your long day? Check out The Griddle Café for some delicious food like their famous “Selfie on Sunset” pancakes.
2. Malibu Pier
Live out your Hannah Montana fantasy and visit this Southern California icon. The historic landmark is at the heart of California’s surf culture. Along with the waves, watch surfers from around the world crash onto the shores of Surfrider Beach, adjacent to Malibu Pier, a beach known for its three-point break that offers rides of 300 yards or more.
The festive seaside atmosphere of good food and fun returns to the famous pier as Covid mandates are lifted across the city. Restaurants offering classic seaside dishes complement the pier’s rich history, the cloudless blue sky and the shimmering waters. Famous for its iconic dual white towers, roughhewn planks and sweeping views of the coast, the Malibu Pier is a favorite destination and the city’s most recognizable landmark.
1. The Hollywood Sign
Just outside of Griffith Observatory, the three hiking trails, ranked from easy to difficult, will take you to the back of the Hollywood Sign where you can watch the city come alive under this famous landmark. The Mt Hollywood Trail, the Brush Canyon Trail and the Cahuenga Peak Trail (currently closed), offer choices for intrepid seekers, stragglers, dreamers, beginners, children and the moderately well-conditioned.
“When I first moved to California, this was one of the first things I did. It was one of the best, most LA-esque experience anyone can have. Sure, it feels touristy, but it’s such a great view and at the top you really feel like, ‘Wow, I’m in LA. I made it,’” UCLA junior Priya Gopal said.
The western frontier of Griffith Park offers hikers amazingly close encounters with the Sign, which sadly remains off-limits to human hands. On the longest hike, however, you can ascend above and behind the sign’s 45-foot-tall aluminum letters, where you look out over a windswept vista encompassing the DOOWYLLOH sign, the iconic skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles and, on a clear day, the ageless blue Pacific.