By: Clare Sayas

The sun is out and so are the best baskets of prime, gleaming California produce — along with hundreds of specialty foods unique to each market. Take the kids along to look at the organic, exotic and local treasures in your local neighborhood.

It’s not just produce that can be found at these markets. Some feature fresh flowers, local artists, honey and even exquisite ethnic foods. Involve the whole family and come prepared with a list with ingredients for favorite family recipes, or even make a whole day adventure by creating a scavenger hunt for little ones.

Planning a backyard barbecue? Good deals on wholesale food can be found in local markets as well, which usually take cash only. Eco-minded eaters can feel good about their locally found steals as well. A trip to the market can also be a romantic, refreshing (and cheap!) date.

For a map of Los Angeles County markets, click here.

Free parking in Los Angeles does exist and it’s at the Los Angeles Zoo. The local family favorite, tucked away near another LA gem, Griffith Park, boasts a large collection of diverse animals and plants from all over the world.

Walk through the grounds and observe gorillas in the Campo Gorilla Reserve, or have younger family members get up close and personal with adorably fuzzy goats and sheep on Muriel’s Ranch, the petting area of the Winnick Family Children’s zoo. There are more activities for the little ones, including shows that allow them to interact with animals.

The hilly park may be a challenge for the elderly, but guests can ride on the Safari Shuttle for an additional fee. Children under two are free, while children’s tickets cost $7. Seniors tickets cost $9 and adults over 13 cost $12. Groups of 15 or more can save with bulk admission.

Beat the outdoor heat and head for the hills — on top of the Los Angeles Basin, that is. The renovated Los Angeles Observatory’s grounds are free to the public, though special shows and programs do have a fee. The brand new Samuel Oschin Planetarium offers a state-of-the-art digital view of the night sky, free from the glare of Hollywood’s bright lights.

Parking, however, can be a hassle because of the limited spaces around the Observatory, and an uphill walk should be expected. There is a public LADOT bus that runs from the Sunset/Vermont Redline station; it operates Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 10pm every 35 minutes.

Take a break from the television, computer and video game console and get outside. There may be no Wi-Fi Internet up in the mountains, but there’s certainly a special connection that can be made between friends, family, even the dogs up above that city smog. Tucked in the foothills east of Pasadena, the Bailey Falls Trail in Sierra Madre offers peaceful mountain trails, spectacular views and a stunning waterfall. More trails in the Los Angeles area can be found here.

Get a great tan, burn some calories and enjoy the rare luxury of going at your own pace. Hiking is a free, fun activity for everyone. Take a camera and plenty of sunscreen.


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