There are many great beaches to visit along the California coastline from Marina Del Rey to Long Beach, and even more so in Los Angeles, where the sun is almost always shining. Granted that it is nearing winter, however, a beach visit may not be the first outdoor outing on your to-do list. Before you completely scratch off the beach from your itinerary this weekend though, remember that the winter months provide more than just Christmas carols—it is the migration period (December to April) for the Pacific gray whale!

By far the best beach in Los Angeles to spot the Pacific gray whale annual migration from the Bering Sea in Alaska to Baja California Sur, Mexico is at Point Dume. A beautiful, vast beach at the northern tip of the Santa Monica Bay, Point Dume has an ascending trail that leads you right up to the top of an ancient sand dune where you can span the entire breathtaking vista of the Santa Monica Bay.  This is a great place to spot migrating whales, along with dolphins and sometimes seals. Below the coastal summit is a boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform where you can catch starfish-filled tide-pools, and travel to a more isolated beach area.

Point Dume is a California State Preserve located 18 miles west of Pacific Coast Highway, along Cliffside Drive. Operated by Los Angeles County, it is overseen by the lifeguard branch of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and was named after Padre Francisco Dumetz of Mission San Buenaventura by George Vancouver in 1793. The beach was officially named “Dume” after the misspelling of Dumetz’s name on an 18th century map was never corrected!

A gorgeous backdrop to films like Iron Man and Planet of the Apes, Point Dume is a hot spot for surfers, fishers, rock climbers, hikers, and scuba divers alike, looking to make the most of their winter weekends.  Since most people steer clear of the beach during the winter, you will have ample opportunity to beat the crowd. Do not forget to bring your binoculars and snacks!

Address:

7103 Westward Road

Malibu, CA 90265Road, Malibu

References:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=623

Your week is over, and now it is time to scoop up the kids and have a little fun. While it is often hard to find venues that are both inexpensive and adventurous, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is a perfect place to visit, filled with nature and discovery that the whole family can enjoy!

Including nineteen major habitats and thirty-two exhibits, the Aquarium takes you on a journey through the floor of the Pacific Ocean with close-ups of some of its most feared aquatic predators. The Tropical Reef Habitat in particular features great close-ups of colorful fish, sea turtles, zebra sharks, and best of all, my favorite- the weedy sea dragons and seahorses. Other exhibits include the sea otter habitat, the shark lagoon, and an outdoor aviary, where you can touch and even feed some of the animals.

Teeming with over ten thousand species of marine life from scattered regions of the Pacific Ocean, the Aquarium of the Pacific is the fourth largest in the nation. A non-profit organization founded in 1998, the Aquarium is highly educational, offering hands-on activities, programs, and lectures by leading scientists for people of all ages regarding the sustainability of our oceans and our planet as a whole. As one of the first aquariums to initiate greenhouse gases and practices, the Aquarium is more than just a zoological location. It is dedicated to celebrating the interactions between people, animals, and nature. Adjacent to the beautiful shores of Long Beach, take the whole family and make a day of it!

References:

http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/

While the chances of a pond in Santa Monica freezing over this time of year are slim, the buzzing beach city has opened up its annual ice skating rink on the corner of 5th and Arizona near the Third Street Promenade. What a great way to ring in the holiday season!

The annual return of Santa Monica’s ICE by the sea opened Friday, November 1st, and will be open to ice skaters until February 15th.  That means Valentine’s Day on ice! This year the 8000 square foot rink will also have flowers embellished underneath the ice by artist Ed Massey, who similarly adorned the lifeguard towers on West Side beaches earlier this summer. A 400 square foot rink will also be provided for beginners and little ones.

Festivities at the rink include an opening ceremony on November 10th with California Gold synchronized skaters and a guest appearance by the LA Kings hockey team, who will share the ice with guests.

Entrance to the rink is $10 with skates included. Additionally, the rink provides private cabanas for parties of anywhere from 15-300 people, and stays open from 10am-10pm during the week, and from 10am-12am on the weekends. They’re even open on Thanksgiving and Christmas!

So far, the weather this weekend is predicted to be in the mid 70’s. Where else but in Santa Monica can you wear beach clothes to an ice skating rink?

Address:

1324 5th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(Corner of 5th St. & Arizona Ave.)

References:

http://www.surfsantamonica.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2010/October-2010/10_26_2010_Winterlit_Returns_to_Downtown_Santa_Monica.html

http://www.downtownsm.com/about/icerink.html

About 4 miles off the coast of La Paz, Mexico sits a beautiful island in the Sea of Cortez called Espiritu Santo, or “holy spirit”. Espiritu Santo Island is a great trip to escape from the everyday routine. Not only is it the perfect place to clear your head and be in the moment, it’s one of my favorite islands because of all the outdoor activity!

For starters, you can rent out a little boat called the panga for a reasonable price. The island is only about an hour boat ride from La Paz, and from the moment you arrive, you won’t be able to wait to get your feet wet. The clear blue water in Espiritu is teeming with marine life. Swim with the sea lions at Los Islotes, a long distention of gnarled rocks off the tip of the island, or take one of their guided tours to different parts of the island where you can snorkel, hike, camp, or kayak near rocky terrain and breathtaking mountains.

My last trip to Espiritu Island was absolutely majestic. I’ve been there more times than I can count, and I’d certainly recommend it if you’re looking to take a weekend excursion to an adventurous new place. Be sure to pack some sturdy hiking shoes, a camera, and more importantly, don’t forget your snorkel gear!

Halloween HealthFor many of us who have children, Halloween is the big kick-off for fall festivities and happy holidays. I have been looking for a pumpkin patch with organic and sustainable pumpkins and found a great one called Mr. Bones!. Located on N. Doheny Drive just north of Melrose in West Hollywood, Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch is dedicated to preserving the environment and sustainability. Their lot is carbon neutral, solar-powered and portion of their proceeds go to local environmental organizations. After carving a spooky squash, try this recipe I found for Toasted Pumpkin seeds: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/toasted_pumpkin_seeds

Fact: Pumpkins are the most alkaline seed of all seeds nuts and sprouts.

702 North Doheny Drive
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 276-9827
http://www.mrbonespumpkinpatch.com/