100 N. Toluca St., Los Angeles (Westlake)
Many people wouldn't believe that one of the most serene places in Los Angeles could be found nestled between a bunch of apartment buildings, homes, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center just a few minutes northwest of Downtown. Opened in 2008 by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), Vista Hermosa, which translates to 'beautiful view' in Spanish, provides exactly what its name promises and more.
|Part of Vista Hermosa's walking trail
As the first new public park built in the area since 1895, it was designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates with sustainability and conservation in mind. All 10.5 acres of the park act as a self-contained watershed: Every drop of rain is filtered by its meadows and bioswales for collection in the city's underground aquifer or for irrigating the park. The ranger station and restroom buildings have "green" roofs with plants that capture rainwater and provide insulation. There are no lighting fixtures in the restrooms because they're lit by the sun's rays, and the park isn't open after dark.
There are plenty of tables to enjoy a picnic and a waterfall that provides the perfect setting for sitting down to read a book. While you won't find a traditional playground area with a swing set or monkey bars, children can climb and slide down replicas of a giant turtle and snake that were constructed with the help of film studio prop artists.
There is also a grotto amphitheater with rock benches jutting from patches of grass, which is often used for MRCA's educational community programs. Vista Hermosa is the gateway for the Santa Monica Mountains' Transit to Trails program that offers free transit to places like Charmlee Wilderness Park on Oct. 12 or Temescal Gateway Park on Nov. 2. There are also fun events such as Oct. 23's Howl-een at the Moon with campfire songs, roasting marshmallows and stories about local critters like snakes, owls and bats and Nov. 13's Fall Campfire.