By Laura Janelle Downey (former Managing Editor at Forbes Travel Guide)
Taking your favorite weekly workout class at an indoor studio could eventually get old. Why not switch things up a bit and try burning calories outdoors under the Southern California sun?
Thanks to about 12,000 acres of open space, off-grid getaways like Conejo Valley can be the perfect place to go for outdoor recreation and 80-degree temps. Located about 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles, this hidden gem—population of nearly 160,000—should be on your radar. It has 140 miles of public multipurpose trails and offers visitors a variety of activities to keep the heart pumping all while being surrounded by the valley’s gorgeous mountain views.
Pack your bags for the weekend and stay at Hyatt Westlake Plaza. The luxury property, which comes complete with 263 rooms, has Harvest Kitchen & Bar, a farm fresh to table restaurant that’s worth dining at if only for its buckwheat pancakes with smoked salmon and dill cream cheese or its crepes topped with caramelized bananas and Nutella. Be sure to fill up on fare here before you head out for the day to workout. And after exercising, return to this retreat for its outdoor heated pool (80-degree temps) and alfresco patio with fire pits. Pick up a s’mores kit (suitable for four people) from the hotel’s Grab and Go Station (it comes with nine marshmallows, four graham crackers, and one Hershey’s chocolate bar) and indulge in some gooey fun with friends.
Say goodbye to studio workouts for the next 48 hours. Instead, turn to Conejo Valley for electric bike riding, horseback riding and a 5K mud run (or walk). You’re not only going to love the change of scenery, but you’re going to love the adventure.
You Can Ride It, It’s Electric!
Head to the Pedego 101 store in Village Glen (about five minutes from the hotel) where you and the crew can rent electric bikes for an hour or two. Depending on what your specific needs are, Linda Coburn, owner of the cycle shop (and independent dealer for Pedego Electric Bikes), can help you pick out a suitable bike for your ride. “Every Pedego electric bike is appropriate for someone 50 and over,” Coburn says. In order to get people on the best bike for them, the Pedego team asks potential riders if they have any physical challenges. “Maybe they have bad knees. We’ve found that the cruiser-style bikes (the Comfort Cruiser or the Interceptor) are great for bad knees,” she says. Adding, “People with problems lifting their legs often go with the Boomerang, our ultra-low step-thru bike.”
Once you’ve gotten the basics down, then you’ll need to figure out what type of terrain you’ll want to ride on for the next couple of hours. “Are they looking to use a bike for short trips or do they want to go on long rides? These things factor into the amount of power they want to have—we have two levels of batteries to give more or less power,” Coburn says. After all of this has been squared away, Coburn will explain how to use the bike (think throttle or pedal assist) and then you’ll be on your way. At first, you might feel a little hesitant to use the pedal assist because it can propel the bike up to 20 miles per hour and if you’ve never been on an electric bike before, that jolt ahead can seem a little fast. But once you get pedaling uphill and are in need of a break, you’ll find that you’ll become fast friends with the throttle and pedal assist.
Choose your own route or sign up for the Cinematastic Electric Bike Movie Location Tour with local historian Brian Rooney. The 24-mile ride takes you to Malibu Creek State Park and Paramount Ranch where FOX’s Bones is shot and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was once taped.
Go For A Gallop At Park Place Stables
Whether you’d like to learn how to ride a horse or are interested in taking a group of friends out for a trot in the Santa Monica Mountains, leave it up to Joy Lazarus and her team at Park Place Stable to show you the reins. On the 50-acre property, you’ll find horses Laurin, Cornelius, Darby, Charlie, Argos and Chance. There’s an arena for beginners to familiarize themselves with basics from how to direct the animal to stop-and-go along with other tips like why your posture on the horse matters. And for those who aren’t strangers to the equine, they can saddle up and hit the trails with Robero (Lazarus’ assistant) for a three-mile ride. As of late, Lazarus has been focused on her new nonprofit, Soul 2 Soul Equine Healing. The recently launched Equine Assistance Psychotherapy program allows her certified EAP horses to help people with addiction and disabilities.
When you’re finished riding for the day, head to the charming Malibu Cafe for lunch. We recommend noshing on everything truffle from the restaurant’s poutine fries (bacon, chives, cheddar, Parmesan) to its truffle mac and cheese balls. These tasty starters are sure to fill you up. But there is one clear winner in this section and that is the corn on the cobb, which comes piping hot and is drenched in poached buttermilk, queso fresco and chipotle ranch. Savor these items with the sweet Barbados Punch (rum, passion fruit, citrus) while keeping your eyes peeled for celebrity sightings. A-listers such as Julia Roberts, Adam Sandler, and Pink have all enjoyed a meal here at this treasure under the stars.
On your way out, stop by Otte Calamigos, a new store made out of recycled containers. We love its chic Calamigos Malibu tote bags and other popular items from designers such as Elizabeth & James, J Brand and Rag & Bone.
Participate In A 5K Mud Crazy Run
A little mud never hurt anybody. Sign up for next year’s Mud Crazy Run and challenge yourself to compete in an obstacle course where jumping in a pit of mud or climbing over a never-ending pack of haystacks is only the beginning. As you run dripping in mud from station to station, you’ll push yourself and your teammates to finish. But if you’d prefer to steer clear of the mud, walking the route works too. Then you can avoid jumping over the “green wall” and crawling underneath the crisscrossed pink tape. After you’ve crossed the finish line, check out the expo filled with vendors such as Renovation Wellness and Juice It Up. For fun in the sun and if you’re looking for something to do with your friends or significant other, this race takes team building and comradery to another level. Bonus? Your participation is for a good cause. Proceeds go to benefit places like Thousand Oaks Teen Center ($5,000 was raised earlier this month). Sign up for next year’s race at Mission Oaks Park in Camarillo on May 7. (The date for the Dos Vientos Park race has not been announced yet.