LA River Walk with Atlas Obscura


I LOVE adventures. I really love adventures in Los Angeles because I am sick of my own neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my neighborhood but there isn’t much left for me to explore.

This time I took an adventure to go see The Los Angeles River!

What river, you ask?

That’s the sad part.  There is a river running right through the middle of LA but it’s hidden in a “concrete corset” as the local activists call it.  It hasn’t been called a river since probably the 40’s but it actually is! It use to be a really pretty river that had all kinds of wildlife living in it but it flooded the local neighborhoods (a lot) so engineers came in and controlled it.  You might know it as the “flood control channel” or that giant ugly concrete drainage canal that they sometimes film movies in.

I bought tickets to go see it on a walk with Atlas Obscura. I’ve done a tour with them before to see The Triforium. It’s a great way to get out and see new things. Even if you have to drive all the way to LA to do it. (Traffic: ugh)


We took a short hike along the Glendale Narrows section of the LA River and this lady told us all about bugs and kayaking and how she took her English family down to the river for a crumpets and tea picnic. Pretty cool, right?

What’s interesting about the LA river is that it isn’t as polluted as you might think because most of the water draining into it comes from water treatment plants. Who knew?!  So basically it’s just a touch dirtier than drinking water. Not that anyone wants to test that theory out. And you definitely don’t want to test that theory out right after a rain storm. Ew!


It was a nice little outing. A little exercise walking up the steep concrete inclines, crossing a bridge or two and basically learning all about the river.


A dog named Enzo came with us. He was really cute.


What a peaceful little oasis in the middle of a big city, right? Minus some graffiti and a few homeless people peeing into the river you could almost pretend you were out in nature.

I guess homeless people pee in nature too…but you get what I mean. I actually was disappointed that there wasn’t more graffiti. I had read about the famous LA River Cats and I was super disappointed to see them all painted over. I was really there for the fun photos I could take and not so much about nature and politics so I was not their ideal audience. But I do love nature too and it was really cool to see nature taking back the river in bits and parts.LA-River-Walk-6

The reason there is so much plant life in this particular section of the river is because the ground was too soft for the cement to really take back in the 40’s when the US Army Corps converted it all to concrete.


The Friends of the LA River have started a movement to reclaim the beauty of the river. There are new pocket parks being built along it as well as trails and even some sections that have been opened during the summer for recreation. You can kayak down it but you can’t swim. Not quite safe enough for that yet.


I really loved the art. I wish there was more.


Nature, nature, nature…politics, politics, politics…


Where is the Tequila shack? All that walking in the sun made us thirsty!  Just kidding.

But actually there have been a few restaurants opening up along the river taking advantage of the newfound interest. It’s kind of controversial subject because many of the neighborhoods are poor and gentrification is pushing the locals out to make room for trendy cafes and bars so rich white people can enjoy the river. You know the story.


Of course I had to try out one of those trendy cafes because they are good and I am a privileged white person (groan). At Waxpaper (the cutest LITTLE sandwich shop ever!) you can order a sandwich named after a NPR newscaster. Liberal much? Yes, yes, I might as well cop to it.

The sandwich I had was called the “Ira Glass” and it had avocado, cheese, cucumber, spicy mustard and a TON of sprouts on some super nutty, seedy bread. It was delicious.

Then we got in our car and sat in two hours of traffic (Thank you Payam!) to go back to our boring little town, which by the way already has a river/bird sanctuary in it that is not encased in cement and it’s pretty too. So there’s that.

The Last Bookstore!


I heard about The Last Bookstore from a friend a while back but never ventured all the way to LA to visit it until Lubna and I went to The Happy Place. (You know how we are about LA traffic…) Since The Happy Place was a little lack-luster we wanted to maximize our day in LA and this was just the thing. I punched it into my google maps and away we went!

Parking was about $10 in a lot down the block and around the corner but I think it was totally worth it. What a wonderland we discovered!


Wandering the downtown streets of Los Angeles to find the bookstore was an adventure in itself. Side story: my phone was dying and I could swear we picked up a few colorful characters just following us around. It kind of gave me the heebie-jeebies.


But we made it to the bookstore and we were so amazed! Look at that book arch hallway? What the what?!! Lubna and I weren’t really there for the books so we sort of continued our photographer-model date and took pictures of each other.


It was a blast.


So naturally a week later when we took to the kids to the King Tut exhibition for Payam’s mom’s mother’s day gift, we HAD to visit it again!

But hold up. Let’s look at some pictures from our trip to the museums:


Awwww…. Happy Family Bonding time! Payam’s brother, Ramin, is visiting from out-of-town so he came too. As you can see, Bug got quite a kick out of being taller than him with the help of a curb. They are doing this now. This morning Bug says, Mom, I think you are getting smaller. To which I say, No daughter, you are getting bigger etc etc etc…


Here’s Bug being moody in the garden outside of the Natural History Museum. You know how it is… Tweenagers, hormones, moods bla bla bla. She cheered up eventually.


They LOVED The Last Bookstore! It was like exploring Hogwarts Library. Long corridors going every which way, secret rooms, weird art installations, stacks and stacks and stacks of books piled every way you can imagine: color order, vertical, horizontal, in an arc… you get the picture.

Payam actually really enjoyed the books and found quite a few to take home. I’ve been on a no-spending spree so I didn’t find any but I could have and as soon as I start spending again it is definitely on my list of places to stop. They had a whole room just full of art books and coffee table books that I could seriously get lost in.


We wandered and wandered. There are art galleries upstairs. The girls bought a few artsy pencils with the words “nope,” “not a people person,” “I can’t even” on the side. That was a fun laugh.


We perused the vinyl section, admired the vintage clocks and radios turned succulent planters and went on our merry way feeling very cultured and amused. Then we sat in traffic for fifty-two hours to get home. The end.