The coronavirus crisis has transformed LA into a city filled with walkers, an endless stream of face-masked residents navigating narrow sidewalks and spilling out into the empty streets.
But with least a month left under stay-at-home orders, options for getting outdoors are dwindling. Trails and beaches remain closed, ruling out more ambitious itineraries, and parks can be packed, overcrowding paths during peak hours. Plus, public health officials recommend staying in our own neighborhoods to prevent viral spread, making local streets the best bet for a safe stroll.
How to make the best of your socially distant time outside, while sufficiently distracting yourself from the news? Here are some ways to make your walks more interesting, educational, and productive—while staying close to home.
Seek out notable structures. Who knew there was a well-preserved Victorian mansion right around the corner? Use LA’s historic resources map to find buildings deemed architecturally or culturally significant near you. More local gems can be found in the recently updated bible of LA architecture, An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles. Also check out Eric Brightwell’s neighborhood maps—he’s explored over 100 LA neighborhoods on foot.
Fix your neighborhood as you walk. Use the city’s 311 app to report the piles of palm fronds or wayward couches you encounter on your strolls. (Just don’t use it to report homeless camps, go to la-hop.org if you see someone who needs help.) You can even pick up trash yourself as long as you take precautions. Use a grabber tool and proper hand and face protection—and be sure to get all those plastic gloves now littering curbs.
Get outside at night. Sidewalks are less crowded after dark, neighborhoods are even quieter, and clear skies mean you can see more stars. Here’s a guide to stargazing from home, including a few apps that will identify the planets and constellations you’re seeing. Or check in with JPL’s Nightly Sky Network to find out about celestial events like meteor showers.
Advocate for better sidewalks. If you’re walking more, chances are you’ve already discovered that LA is seriously lacking when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure. Use a walk audit toolkit to take note of insufficient crosswalks, a lack of shade trees, or accessibility issues for people with disabilities. Join a group like Los Angeles Walks or Investing in Place where you can advocate for bigger fixes citywide.
Use a vintage map. The neighborhood loop becomes much more exciting when you’re navigating using a map made 100 years ago. Here’s a remarkable site that overlays old maps of LA on current-day maps, so you can explore the city before freeways were built, perhaps noting where staircase streets align with former streetcar lines.
Discover urban nature. Downloading a plant-identifying or birdsong-identifying app is like having the key to the city. Now you know that alien-looking blossom is a passionflower, the ubiquitous orange fruits are loquats (and they’re delicious), and those chatty green birds are indeed feral parakeets. Through April 27, the Natural History Museum’s City Nature Challenge is encouraging city-dwellers to document nature as part of a global effort to study biodiversity in cities—citizen scientists in LA previously discovered 30 new species of fly.
Make a takeout expedition. To shake up your walking routine and support local businesses at the same time, place an order with a restaurant in your neighborhood that’s open for takeout. Pass along what you might have paid for delivery directly to the restaurant’s workers (and don’t forget to tip well on top of that, too).
Map your quarantine routine. If you’re staying home more, the most mundane urban details transform into temporary landmarks. CityLab asked readers to map life under lockdown, resulting in some truly delightful representations of neighborhoods. This activity would be especially fun for kids, who can plot what new places they’ve noticed on their street.
Walk and cheer for health care workers. If you time your stroll for 8 p.m.—sunset is around 7:30 p.m. this time of year—you might be treated to the evening cheers that have become a nightly occurrence in neighborhoods throughout the city. Add your voice to the growing chorus celebrating the essential employees and frontline workers who may not have the luxury of walking—because they’re busy keeping LA healthy and safe.