Saturday, October 31, 2009

#52: Olvera Street

Photo from wikipedia

"Isn't it technically just a small alley, not a street?"

That's the first thing I thought as I wandered down Olvera Street in Chinatown. If, like me, you visited Olvera Street ignorant of its history, you could have easily thought, "What's the big deal? There's a bunch of toys for sale, some tacos, a churro cart, sombreros..."

I should have done my research...

If you've never been to Olvera street, it's worth a visit. Its uniquely festive atmosphere and historical significance sets it apart from any other place in L.A.. Oh, and when your tummy starts grumbling, stroll on over to the heart of Chinatown for some dim sum.

Olvera Street

Friday, October 30, 2009

#51: Exposition Park Rose Garden

Photo from wikipedia

Nothing is more empowering than standing up to 20,000 rose bushes without the slightest sniffle. The Exposition Park Rose Garden in South L.A. is a horticulturist's dream. Pack a picnic, pop a Claritin, and head over to this gorgeous park.

And for those of you who think it's "just a rose garden," you should know that this park has actually got some history to it. In its earlier life, it used to be a
race track, a bar, even a brothel. Check it out during your visit to the California Science Center (it's right behind the center).

Exposition Park Rose Garden

Thursday, October 29, 2009

#50: Spaceland (now called the Satellite)

Photo from wikipedia

Arcade Fire, Secret Machines, The Shins, Bloc Party, The Killers, The Decemberists, and Arctic Monkeys are just a handful of the bands that Spaceland in Silver Lake was the first to book before most Angelenos ever heard of them.

I can thank Spaceland for turning me onto many a "no name" band, which--lo and behold--later became famous. For less than $10 (and free on Monday nights), you can catch some of the best local indie bands here live and get close to them while you're at it (mmm, smell that beer breath). I would recommend going on Mondays, even if you don't know who the band is. After the show, you and the cute boy you met there can take a stroll along the reservoir. ;)

The Happy Hollows holds the Monday residency in November. They're a great band--check them out.

Also on my radar for this week, Warpaint.

** Update: Spaceland is now called the Satellite. Don't worry--same indie bands, same beer breath ;) **

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#49: Will Rogers Park

Photo from wedding mapper

I've bragged a little on this blog about my specialty: walking (see Huntington Gardens and Venice Canals). I'm pretty confident that I can out-walk the lot of you, and yes, you can take that as a challenge (It's a walk-off!). Put a big mountain in front of me, however, and that's a whole other story.

Luckily, Will Rogers Park in the Pacific Palisades is a perfect hike for a hiking rookie like me; I didn't break too much of a sweat but I still had a sense of accomplishment when I reached Inspiration Point.

The trails are easy to follow, the Ranger gives you a map when you get there, and there are not very many people (we saw about 10-15 people on our entire hike). There are also horse stables and some historic buildings in the area.

Instead of paying the $8 parking fee, park on one of the side streets a few blocks away. Hey, you get to start your hike a little early.

Will Rogers Park

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#48: Pantages Theater

Like Michelle Pfeiffer, Pantages Theater is a part of Hollywood that has aged gracefully. This art deco theater may be unassuming on the outside, but its interior (check out the ceiling!) is breathtaking.

If you are seeing a show here, I would suggest springing for the middle seats. The theater is pretty wide, and we were seated on the far left, so the actors (we saw Wicked) were not singing towards us or even making much eye contact with our side of the audience. It was still a good show, but I feel that you need to sit in the middle to get the full impact.

Upcoming shows include How the Grinch Stole Christmas the Musical, Riverdance, and Stomp.

Pantages Theater

Monday, October 26, 2009

#47: Rancho Park Archery Range

Who would ever guess that there's a free archery range in the back of Cheviot Hills Park? And when I say "back", I mean it's waaaay in the back of the park behind the baseball diamonds... Yeah, keep walking...

So to use the range, you must attend the "safety orientation" class on
Saturdays at 11 am (or on the second Sunday of the month). Here's a tip: Go EARLY. As in 15 minutes early. The class fills up quickly and I've seen people turned away. Heck, I've been turned away.

The instructors are very professional and serious about safety. We got to shoot about 4 rounds overall, and the class lasted for about
2 hours.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

#46: Point Dume Tide Pools

photo from flickr

Pronounced "Point DOOM" (I always hear DUM DUM DUMMMMM whenever someone says the name), Point Dume is really not as scary as its name sounds...Unless you consider starfish and sea anenomes scary (actually, sea anenomes are kinda scary with their creepy tentacles that make your fingers numb).

photo from travel

Even with sea anenomes, it's worth a trip out to Malibu to see the tidepools at Point Dume. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear. You'll be walking on sharp rocks and descending a steep flight of stairs to get to the pools. The parking lot only has a handful of spaces, but neighborhood parking is available--just be sure to read the signs. Click here to find out when the low tide is for the day, pack a picnic, and have fun searching for sea critters!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

#45: Fright Fair At Pierce College

The demon guarding the Creatures Of the Corn Trail

Halloween is coming and I'm sure you've considered going to Knotts Scary Farm or Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. If you're looking for something a little under the radar, however, check out the Fright Fair at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. It's put on by the students at Pierce College, and it's so scary, it will turn your hair grey!

I couldn't believe the production that these kids put on. For $25, you can get access to the regular corn maze, the Creatures of the Corn Maze, and the Haunted House. Due to time restrictions, we opted for the $20 package, which allows you access to just the Creatures of the Corn Maze and the Haunted House.

We went on a weeknight, and the place was not crowded at all. It kind of lent a "deserted carnival" type of feel to the place, making it even more eery.

The Creatures of the Corn is a haunted trail through the corn fields. There are lots of creatures hiding in the corn waiting to jump out and scare you. They aren't allowed to touch you, but they still manage to frighten you quite a bit. At one point, a guy jumped out with a chain saw and I screamed and ran. Brad, however, kept walking at his normal slow pace and I soon found myself all by myself in the corn. In the dark. It was quite frightening, and I cried for Brad. Haha. The whole trail takes about 5 minutes.

The Haunted House, believe it or not, was even scarier. You will be having nightmares of evil clowns, zombies and demons after leaving this crazy house of horrors. Btw, the Haunted House is not a place for epileptics--there's a lot of flashing lights everywhere that are meant to disorient you.

Does all of this sound too scary for you? Well during the day there's a regular (unhaunted) corn maze, games, bouncy castles, kettle corn (so good!) and much more.

You have just one more week left to catch this great fair. Go on a weekday to beat the crowds.

Friday, October 23, 2009

#44: Norton Simon Museum

Sure, the Getty and LACMA make The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena seem like an ant in their Herculean shadows. However, don't underestimate the Norton Simon Museum; it has beautiful art amid a tranquil setting.

Perhaps my favorite part of the museum is the garden and lake in the back. The lake is a great place to sip some coffee and meditate. Afterwards, you can walk around the lake to view the sculptures. When you're finished, you'll find plenty of shopping and restaurants are just down the street on Colorado Blvd.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

#43: The Original GastroPub Burger

$12 for a burger?? It's the antithesis of a Big Mac, but the gastropub burger is worth every cent. There are many places around L.A. that have worthy contenders... 25 Degrees in Hollywood, Bouzy in Redondo Beach... but the winner goes to the granddaddy of them all, Father's Office.

Father's Office has two locations--Santa Monica and Culver City. In my experience, it's best ordered take out from the Santa Monica location, due to the limited seating.

So what makes this burger so great? The meat itself is quality stuff--smoky, grill-marked, and juicy. Over the meat are thin layers of Blue maytag and Gruyere cheese. The flavors of the cheese and the arugala covering it are subtle, so what takes over most of the flavor is the caramelized onions tomato and bacon compote. The onions are cooked soft, caramelized until syrupy and sweet with a touch of spiciness. And all of this is sandwiched between a flaky and light French roll that crumbles effortlessly between your teeth with each bite. Delicious.

Don't fall for the imitators. Get the original and see what started all of this L.A. burger frenzy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

#42: Ride the Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica Pier

Photo from wellsphere

On a sticky hot Friday evening, I needed to be outside rather than inside the oven that is my house. With sweaty brows, Brad and I went out to the Santa Monica Pier.

We decided to try the
ferris wheel, which is five bucks for a ride that will last about 8 minutes. Once we were at the top, nothing could beat the view, the romance, and the breeze.

The wheel runs till 12:30 am. It only goes around twice non stop, and then it makes stops to let people off. Nevertheless, it was a romantic and cool (literally) ride.

One of the best things about the wheel is that it's solar powered!

Monday, October 19, 2009

#41: Also, I Like to Rock

I've been to the Hammer Museum in Westwood twice for their Also, I Like To Rock series. Imagine tons of displaced westside indie hipsters converging on a museum for an evening of free art, music and drinks. The first time I went, I caught the band Low vs Diamond (love them!) and the second time I saw the band Eskimo Hunter. While the sound quality was lacking, it's a great venue to get up close to the bands and see some art while you're at it.

Concerts are every Thursday in July. Check it out!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

#40: Basketball Game at Staples Center

Basketball season's starting up again. Now I know most people would check out the Lakers, but L.A. has another team that needs your support. Yes, I'm talking about the Clippers. Why should you see them? Well, the tickets are cheaper. That's a pretty compelling reason. Hehe.

Ok, here's the price breakdown:

Two discount tickets on the lower level: $39
1 CPK Pepperoni Pizza: $8.75
1 Bottle of water: $3.75
1 Wetzel Dog: $5.50
1 Jumbo hot dog: $5.50
1 Super Nachos: $6.00

Sitting in the same section as Clipper Darrell: PRICELESS.

Sure, they will probably lose, but isn't it fun to root for the underdogs? ;)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

#39: L.A.'s Best and Biggest Salad Bar

They had me at dandelion greens. And whole endive leaves. And avocado prepared 4 ways.

Salads are the lunch of choice for most health conscious Los Angeles west-siders. I'd been on a Whole Foods salad bar kick that had been eating a hole in my wallet for months--that is, until I finally tried
Mrs Winston's salad bar. This is the ULTIMATE salad bar experience.

Mrs. Winston definitely wears the "Best Salad Bar in L.A." crown securely on her alfalfa/clover/onion/broccoli/fenugreek sprouted head. With a plethora of options to choose from , this is the perfect salad bar for someone looking for a healthy yet delicious lunch. The staff are friendly, and if you can guess the correct price on Fridays, you get your salad free! Also, they are now open on Sundays till 5 pm. Limited seating outside. Go now! You'll never be bored of eating salad again.

Brad's crazy salad

Thursday, October 15, 2009

#38: Pehrspace

A night at Pehrspace in Echo Park is what I would imagine an art school dorm party to be like: BYOB, small room, and edgy music. There's no sign outside of this nondescript art / music house, so just look for a crowd milling around outside and you're probably at the right place.

If you are a hipster into the L.A. indie music scene, I can safely vouch that Perhspace wins the "Indie-st of the East Side Indie Music Venues" Award.

The first night I went, a guy was performing who can best be described as a one-man-band/rapper/performance artist. By the end of his set, he was on the floor spinning in circles while the crowd (50 people or so) clapped, chanted, jumped in unison, and passed around a stuffed unicorn. Anyone who stepped into the room would have thought we were in a cult. Awesome night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

#37: Machine Project

Photo from makezine

When I lived in Echo Park, Machine Project was right down the street from my apartment. The first time my friend and I went, we weren't even sure we were at the right place; the space is very unassuming. We hesitated at the door for a second, but the laughter inside lured us in.

For the next hour or so, we caught some delightful
free musical performances, poetry readings, and an artsy film that made you say either "Wow!" or "Huh?". We were also entertained by a cool vacuum machine that sucks up your donations and whirls your bill around the room through a series of maze like tubes.

Machine Project is East Side intellectual indie culture at its finest, and I would recommend this place to anyone who is in need of intellectual stimulation. Past classes and workshops included
"Make Your Own Pizza Dough," "Beginning Tabla," "Programming Your iPhone 101," "Introduction to Crochet," and "Instrument Invention Workshop". Go with an open mind; you won't be disappointed!

#36: A+D Museum

I went to the A+D Museum on museum row, only to find out that they were closed and moving to a new location a block away the following week (6032 Wilshire, to be exact). No problem; LACMA and the tar pits across the street were plenty to keep me busy.

Fast forward a week, and find me scratching my head at the new location wondering where this so called "museum" was.. All I saw was a small room. "A+D Gallery" would have been a more appropriate title. Once I got over the initial surprise, however, I was actually quite thrilled by what I found in this tiny space.

The exhibit that was running at the time was called "Upcycling". It was
art work made out of recycled material. The pieces on display included a Spock made out of spools of thread, a chair made out of stuffed pandas, and a paper cut-out hanging that was just breathtaking.

The best part is that this "museum" is free. I'd advise to come on a Sunday (it's open 1-5 pm), check this place out, and then walk down Wilshire to the Craft and Folk Art museum, which is also free on Sundays. Museum row is a great place to get your weekly culture fix all condensed in one block!

Monday, October 12, 2009

#35: School of Rock

Janis Joplin's Cry Baby

This past Saturday I caught the hottest music act in L.A., yet I bet you've never even heard of them. They're all under the age of 18 and they rock.

Los Angeles has a couple of Schools Of Rock in Santa Monica and Hollywood (and for the over 18 crowd, yes, they have adult classes too!). This past weekend they had their end of season show in which they played selections from Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Metallica, and "Women Who Rock". The show was at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood and was $15.

The conviction and passion that these kids exuded on stage was absolutely mesmerizing. They were unabashed, unapologetic, and extremely talented.

The Stevie Wonder/Jimi Hendrix montage below is from my own camera. It's not great sound quality, but I think it captures the energy on stage well. The other clips above and below I found on YouTube. They're from other School Of Rock Hollywood shows and are better sound quality.

School Of Rock End Of Season Show
Stevie Wonder's Superstition, Jimi Hendrix's Ezy Rider and All Along the Watchtower