The highest 10 Los Angeles Occasions lists of 2022

The Wawona Swinging Bridge in Yosemite Valley looks over a swimming hole that offers a great spot to cool off. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

As the COVID-19 pandemic ebbed and flowed over the last few years, it has been important to find ways to maintain mental health. Food, the outdoors and plants emerged as crucial tools for the maintenance of our collective sanity. The lockdown also revealed how vital it is to connect to the community through new experiences and to support local businesses.

To balance out the typical doom-and-gloom coverage, the LA Times has compiled a number of lists to help readers improve their lives. During the intense heat of summer, we provided readers with the best swimming holes to cool off in and the top sun-loving houseplants. For food lovers, we gave a rundown of the best spots to grab a slice and some of the oldest diners in Los Angeles. We also tried to settle the great hamburger debate. For you adventurers, we put together a travel list for the fall and the best shops to visit in Joshua Tree.

Over the last year, we hope that readers made new memories and found refuge in the recommendations we provided in our lists.

Below are the top 10 lists we put together in 2022. Readers spent a total of about 1,189,879 minutes, the equivalent of more than 826 days, reading these.

9 magical swimming holes in California to escape the heat

Visitors swim in a spot near the Wawona Swinging Bridge in Yosemite Valley.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Our most viewed list of the year provided a rundown of old-fashioned swimming holes to cool off on hot days. California’s coastline and beaches typically get all the attention, but these spots in Santa Barbara, Yosemite National Park and Calaveras County provided much-needed refuge during an extremely hot summer.

The official fast-food burger power rankings

The Official Fast Food Burger Power Rankings image

(Henry Hargreaves)

Few things are more controversial than the age-old best burger debate. In his Fast-Food Burger Power Rankings, food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson tries to settle it for good.

Kwan Peterson evaluated burgers from large, national chains in this ranking, making a couple of notable exceptions for California-based chains. Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Sonic and of course McDonald’s made the list. Check it out to see where they ended up.

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The 101 best California experiences

Burney Falls, Calif.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The guide to the best California experiences includes a hike through Sequoia National Park’s biggest trees, the wordless grace of Bob Baker’s marionettes and a bowl of ice cream in Strathmore. Readers will find unique experiences on this list, there are no theme parks or made-for-Instagram “pop-up experiences.”

12 drought-tolerant plants to add to your garden if you’re tired of succulents

Rosemary and Lion's Tail

(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images )

California and the rest of the West are deep in drought, with no end in sight, so there’s no better time than now to reshape your landscaping — or balcony-scaping — with drought-tolerant plants.

Less rain means less water for drinking and farming and certainly irritating our yards, so it makes good sense to seek out drought-tolerant plants adapted to thrive on limited water — and we’re looking beyond succulents and cactus in this story. We deliberately went looking for fragrant plants with beautiful foliage and/or flowers, and found a few edible plants to boot!

The 25 best classic diners in Los Angeles

Eggs, bacon and toast from Brite Spot.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

In Southern California, diners come in all shapes and serve some of our favorite meals: pancakes and waffles, chile relleno omelets, country-fried steak and banana cream pie. But vintage diners have been disappearing for decades. This list is a reminder to treasure the space-age shrines that do remain — including Foxy’s in Glendale, Bob’s Big Boy Broiler in Downey, Norms in West Hollywood and Pann’s in Westchester.

43 best California experiences to add to your fall bucket list

Clouds surround the super flower moon rising above rocks and Joshua trees.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

As the summers get longer and hotter, we can all appreciate the cool embrace of fall. This list of fall travel favorites includes art museums to visit, gardens to roam, hot springs to soak in and farmers markets to stroll through. If you do it right, California travel in the fall is not just cooler but cheaper and less crowded than in summer.

The 65 best bookstores in LA

Spot illustrations for 4/14/2022 Lit City package (Credit: Asia Pietrzyk / For The Times)

(Asia Pietrzyk / For The Times)

It shouldn’t be too surprising that a vast city of unique neighborhoods should abound in utterly distinctive local bookstores. These 65 shops include sleek temples of art books, dusty treasure chests of arcana, massive comics emporia, proudly black-owned storefronts, bilingual learning centers, mom-and-pop laboratories of love, one soaring central library, a skylit Barnes & Noble and the beloved Skylight Books.

Each listing gives a sense of the store’s vibe, its customers, its selection and testimonies from both customers and authors. You may not find your husband at Book Soup, as the children’s author Pseudonymous Bosch did, but you’ll never know unless you close your Amazon app and leave the house.

10 great new pizza restaurants in LA, ranked by our critic

Freshly baked pepperoni pizzas

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

This is an excellent time to be hungry for pizza in Los Angeles. More top-notch pizzerias flourish across our region than ever before, in practically every style conceived across America in the last century — and some still in evolution. Thick and plush or thin and crisp; minimalist or maximalist with sauce and cheese; plain and pepperoni, or creations that are basically salads with crusts: Los Angeles has become a clearinghouse for all manner of pizza.

27 of the coolest shops to bookmark for your next Joshua Tree trip

The World Famous Crochet Museum at Joshua Tree

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The austere beauty of Joshua Tree National Park may draw crowds to the high desert, but the retail shops along Twentynine Palms Highway (California 62) are where visitors spend their non-hiking, non-rock-climbing time, much to the joy and consternation of residents who live here year-round.

Prompted by an influx of city dwellers who escaped to the desert during the COVID-19 pandemic, the strip has experienced an influx of new retail establishments over the last few years — everything from hip bodegas to high-end fashion brands.

39 fantastic independent nurseries that SoCal plant lovers will adore

An illustration of lush, tropical leaves set behind a peach and some native flowers.

(Illustration by Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

For plant lovers, browsing a new nursery is as thrilling as going on a first date with a crush.

If only there were a Tinder for garden centers …

While you can’t swipe right on potential nursery matches, you can scroll through our compendium of excellent independently owned nurseries in Southern California.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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