March activities: Visiting San Francisco, LA hiking, art

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Happy Thursday, fellow adventurers. In this edition of the Escapes newsletter, we’re traveling back in time across L.A. County.

A rugged mountain with a surprisingly posh history. A college town teeming with architectural treasures. And scores of powerful, startling and delightfully kitschy public art installations that tell the story of Los Angeles — you’ll find all this and more below.

But first, let’s head north to San Francisco, where attractions across the city are reopening for travelers.

🌉 Hoping to visit San Francisco this year?

Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds recently visited San Francisco to learn what you can expect next time you visit. The city moved into the orange tier of pandemic recovery on March 23, which means restaurants can open up half of their indoor seating.

Don’t expect to ride cable cars or climb Coit Tower in the near future, Reynolds says, but he did find many other attractions are reopening quickly. This includes SkyStar Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “We like to say that we’re one of the safest indoor experiences you can have. You and I can move through this building without touching anything,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Chief Administrative Officer Noah Bartlett told Reynolds.

However, state officials still ask travelers not to venture more than 120 miles from home. Though this is not a mandate, it’s wise to respect this recommendation.

A masked person stands by the Roy Lichtenstein painting "Reflections: Whaam!" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Reflections: Whaam!” on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🏛️ Spot architectural gems in Claremont

Calling all architecture buffs: You’ll love this driving tour of Claremont, created by Times contributor Sharon Boorstin.

As Boorstin reports, visitors can spot Victorian, Spanish Colonial Revival and Craftsman buildings, as well as examples of folk architecture, while traveling through the college community. The tour will take you past gems such as the Claremont Packing House (a citrus packing co-op turned community gathering space) and the impressive Carnegie Library.

What’s your favorite architectural destination in the West? Let me know, and I’ll feature it in a future edition.

The Renwick House in Claremont, Calif.

The Renwick House was built by a widow from Iowa, Helen Renwick, who moved to Claremont to raise her son and send him to Pomona College.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

⛰️ Take a trip back in time on Echo Mountain

“Come for Echo Mountain’s tough terrain. Stay for the rich L.A. history,” writes assistant travel editor Mary Forgione in The Times’ ultimate guide to hiking in L.A.

Forgione explains how the wealthy once used Echo Mountain as an outdoor playground and resort. Now, hikers can see the ruins of the mountain’s posh past on a five-mile round-trip trek beginning at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena. They will be rewarded with opportunities to see remnants of the hotel, incline railway and Echo Phone — a metal megaphone — in addition to sweeping views of Angeles National Forest.

You can buy a print copy of our guide to hiking in L.A. here.

Hikers take in the sunset from the steps of an old hotel atop Echo Mountain.

Hikers take in the sunset from the steps of an old hotel atop Echo Mountain on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Altadena, Calif.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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👩‍🎨 Visit L.A.’s public art installations

Last week, columnist Patt Morrison celebrated L.A.’s public art installations: Watts Towers, the “House of Davids” and even the Triforium.

If you’re in town this weekend, I recommend visiting one or more of the landmarks mentioned in the column. Going to the beach? Stop by Frank Gehry’s “binoculars building” in Venice. Frustrated with work? Find comfort — or at least commiseration — from downtown’s “Corporate Head,” a statue of a businessman with his head stuck into the wall of a skyscraper.

If you need more inspiration, browse through for ideas.

Photos rotate among the Triforium, Watts Towers and statues of David in front of artist Norwood Young’s home.

The Triforium, Watts Towers and statues of David in front of artist Norwood Young’s home.

(Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Many California museums are welcoming visitors again. Take a look at Times arts and culture writer Deborah Vankin’s list of reopenings.
  • Off-road vehicles will be banned at Oceano Dunes within three years, Times staffer Louis Sahagún reports. He explains the California Coastal Commission’s order is part of an effort to restore the fragile coastline.
  • When COVID-19 dried up tourism dollars and supply chains, the Galápagos Islands turned to bartering to get through the pandemic, Jamie Lafferty explains in Outside Online.
  • “The West may have bigger mountains, but the East has my heart,” Maggie Slepian writes in Backpacker. She penned a love letter to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where she grew up hiking.
  • “Restorative tourism” is on the rise in post-wildfire Australia. Elizabeth Heath reports in the Washington Post that visitors will be able to replant eucalyptus trees, survey coral growth and more amid efforts to help the country recover.
  • No one has died from COVID-19 in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories. Peter Kujawinski in the New York Times describes how a strict shutdown enabled residents of this burgeoning tourist destination to stay safe.
Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” installation at LACMA

Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” installation at LACMA will reopen April 1.

(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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

Turns out, tiny insects have a not-so-tiny impact on the wines we drink.

This Saturday, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is hosting a conversation with Doug Margerum, owner of Margerum Wine Co. in the Santa Ynez Valley, and entomology expert Matthew Gimmel about the influence of insects on wine.

The virtual program is part of the museum’s speaker series on the natural history of wine, beer and spirits. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased online.

Photo illustration of vineyard grapes.

You can join the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History online to learn about tiny insects and their big effect on vineyards.

(Max Delsid / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Photo of the week

Wizard Island, on the edge of famously blue Crater Lake in Oregon

Wizard Island sits close to the shore of famously blue Crater Lake in Oregon.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road song

Vibe your way into the weekend with the serotonin-boosting song Traffic! by Katy Kirby.

illustrations of cars in traffic jam

The song Traffic! by Katy Kirby will put pep in your step.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)