So you hate Los Angeles. The congestion, the unreasonably long Frappuccino line at Starbucks, and the mid-July heat are more than you can bear. Instead of coming up with an excuse to schlep yourself through the desert to Las Vegas and claim that it‚s a „rehabilitating‰ vacation, might we suggest something less debaucherous that doesn‚t include the phrase „mechanical bull‰ or „free drinks.‰

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is a cozy, 282-acre expanse just outside of downtown L.A. One of the last natural arroyo woodlands still existent in Southern California, Debs Park is full of lush pine and eucalyptus trees, hilltop lakes and open picnic areas (also known as fields). Hiking trails wind up all the hills and lead to serene lakes that overlook the L.A. basin.

On a clear day, hikers should be able to see Glendale‚s parks and the San Gabriel Mountains. Adventurous visitors can wander off the trails and explore the not-so-frequented portions of the park. Fishing is allowed in the park‚s reservoir, and for all you closet ornithologists, there is also a bird sanctuary.

Debs Park, in addition to offering a serene escape from the Los Angeles pressure cooker, is home to the new Audubon Nature and Science Center. Located between Dodger Stadium and Pasadena right on the Montecito Heights border, the Audubon Center at Debs Park is a „cutting edge environmental education center and ecological monitoring program.‰ Translation: it‚s an awesome resource for students and they keep the park habitat at its best.

In fact, when Audubon began coordinating with the City of Los Angeles to build the Center back in 1998, one of the primary objectives was to provide a opportunity for the over 25,000 kids in the immediate area to have a fun, outdoor educational experience. Given the urban community, most of the kids are missing out on environmental education opportunities (like going to the Audubon Center) that others take for granted.

Some of the kids have never even left the city or seen the beach. Audubon strongly felt the need for an urban nature center and Debs Park offered the perfect location, especially with so many children living within two miles of the Center.

The point is this: Los Angeles is sweaty and smoggy, Debs Park is not. It has views that overlook not-so-disgusting parts of the world that lie outside of fair L.A. If part of your posse is made up of inquisitive elementary students, take them to the Audubon Center. They can check out some vibrant birds and other wildlife while you bask in hundreds of acres of sunlit walnut-oak woodland.

The Audubon Center is open Wed-Sat, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call (323) 221-2255 or visit