The following are activities or attractions that perhaps you normally wouldn’t initially consider visiting in Los Angeles or Orange County (especially for first time visitors). Often are secret locations or off the beaten path.
Alpine Village – is located at 833 W. Torrance Blvd in Torrance – just south of LAX near where the 110 and the 405 freeways intersect. This “Bavarian” village is open 7 days a week. There are a number of shops in the complex, even a traffic school! A highlight of a visit is the Alpine Market with their large selection of imported items including chocolate, wine, beer, pickled items and a deli with Bratwurst, sausage and lots more. A highlight of a visit on Friday-Sunday evenings during most weekends in September and October is the big Oktoberfest celebration. German beer, German Bands and German food for everyone!
For those swap meet fanatics – a year round swap meet is held every day in the large parking lot next door to Alpine Village. They are usually open 5 days per week – call 213-770-1961 for more details. Also be sure to duck into the welcoming Alpine Cosmetics store – the owner might even share a bit of candy with you! Visit: www.alpinevillagecenter.com
California Polo Club is an ideal place to learn the art of polo nestled into the hills next to the community of Sylmar. The club was originally established in 1876 and was re-established in 1995. The arena has also hosted the U.S. Arena Polo Open on several occasions.
The club is open for lessons and/or games six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday. Visitors can be students or guests of members. For more information visit: www.californiapoloclub.com
Graffiti/Street Art – There is a never ending battle between law enforcement and those who “tag” various urban locations within Los Angeles including freeway overpasses, parks, bridges, along the LA River and any number of buildings.
It is always interesting to see Graffiti tags high up on overpasses in locations that are extremely difficult to reach. Graffiti is a major problem within certain communities in the Los Angeles area.
For graffiti enthusiasts, the Pico Union Graff Lab is a must visit: www.thegrafflab.com. This is a series of walls legally set aside for graffiti artists. Wall after wall of colorful graffiti has been tagged by some very talented street artists. Location: 1038 Venice Blvd at the intersection of Union and Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles River – When you stand solitary on North Main Street next to the railroad tracks above the Los Angeles River all you feel is a deep sadness as you look down on a river that has been dramatically altered in a relatively short amount of time. You look down on a dirty river that now flows dark, a concrete river juxtaposed with brightly colored graffiti where those entrapped by the city, drugs, gangs and poverty territorially cry out with their markings.
Electrical lines, bridges, rubble and old fences all decorate the banks of what was originally the lifeblood of Los Angeles. If you do not happen to be on North Main Street, any of a number of bridges in this area will afford one the same views. Close your eyes and think back 100 years to a time when this actually was a natural river, with trees and grass growing along its banks. Or, if your imagination has been corrupted beyond hope by the scene that lies in front of you, simply click here to see a picture of the LA River taken in 1900. For more information visit the Friends of the Los Angeles River: www.folar.org or view this very informative film here: www.plasmatic-concepts.com/lariver/movie.html and for restoration projects visit: www.lariver.org
The photos below of the Los Angeles River were taking immediately north of downtown
Looking to seasonally kayak the LA River? View our writeup here on LA River Kayak Safari
Magic Castle is located at 7001 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. A members only club, attendees are either members or guests of members. Additionally non members may book group visits and guests of the Magic Castle Hotel next door also are allowed to attend shows. Dress code is strictly enforced – suits for men and formal attire for women. When you roll up to the entrance, in Hollywood style, a red carpet will be eagerly awaiting your steps along with a Magic Castle backdrop waiting for your glamorous photos. Speaking of photos, no photos are allowed inside the castle (other then in the main lobby) along with no cell phone usage.
The castle was built between 1909 and 1910; today along with hosting world famous magicians it serves as the clubhouse for The Academy of Magical Arts. The castle features a number of small rooms where magicians perform to an intimate audience, plus the main stage for larger acts.
Guests who enter from the lobby will be given a secret code which they need to speak to the door. If the code is said correctly admission will be granted and the door will open. Once inside, guests may notice a piano playing by itself. This is the ghost of Irma, a guest of the original owners of the mansion – after her death in 1923 she returned to the castle as a piano player (she loved playing in real life).
And guests can enjoy a dinner and drinks in between performances. For more information visit: www.magiccastle.com
Today there are numerous buildings that line this part of Wilshire. Several museums are located here including the LA County Museum of Art, the famed La Brea Tarpits and the Petersen Automotive Museum. In addition the Screen Actor’s Guild has its headquarters here as well as other business connected to the entertainment and film industry.
As you drive Wilshire towards downtown next to and just past Miracle Mile, you can drive through a very nice old neighborhood and sometimes avoid some of the Wilshire traffic. This parallel road (West 8th Street) runs next to Wilshire for a few miles.
Oakley Headquarters – for something a little bit different and probably out of the way, make a trip up the “bunker” or Oakley Headquarters located at 1 Icon Parkway in Foothill Ranch (Orange County, South East of Irvine). Visitor parking is available across from the entrance – lots of other parking is available below headquarters (below the hill). The main building and entrance looks like one giant machine! Did you know Oakley was founded in Orange County with their first product being rubber type bicycle grips for BMX bikes. Innovative sunglasses soon followed and the innovations have continued not only with sunglasses but with watches, shoes, backpacks and other apparel.
Several stores are available here including one for women. Looking to design part of your own sunglasses – use the computer aided design tool to create your own colors and designs for the frames. Once you are satisfied with the design a machine nearby (under the supervision of Oakley employees) prints your design. You can even have this machine print out your name or other words on the lower part of one of the lenses.
This looks like a “fun” company to work for – with a focus on innovation and excellence. Hey, there is even a dirt narrow and windy BMX track in the back of the building. Kids come up here to have some fun – well maybe some grownups too!
For more information about Oakley, visit www.oakley.com/about
Shepherd’s Grove (formerly the Crystal Cathedral) is located off of the 22 freeway in the heart of Orange County at 12141 Lewis St. You can also easily see it driving by on the 5 freeway and it can also be accessed via the 5 freeway. This is not your usual “cathedral” as you can guess from its name. A tall shining spire greets you as you enter the parking lot (free parking). In the same grain as a drive in fast food restaurant the Crystal Cathedral offers drive in prayer, or as it is titled on a sign, the “In Car Worship Center”. How many cathedrals have a box office. You can find one here, available to sell tickets to a wide variety of events including ministries, annual celebrations, seminars and conferences. The cathedral is also famous for its nationally televised “Hour of Power”.
You can either take a self guided tour of the cathedral and grounds or reserve a free guided tour ahead of time. If you decide to explore on your own, allow at least 30-45 minutes to walk the grounds. Unique religious statues of significance are scattered around the property.
Click our thumbnail photos below and visit: www.shepherdsgrove.org
Skeletons in the Closet is located at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office at 1104 N. Mission Road east of downtown right next to the 5 freeway. Visitor parking is to the side of the main building – be sure to get a free visitors permit pass from the secretary located in the main building to put on your dash.
Skeletons in the Closet is a fairly hidden gift shop located behind room 208 in the main building. Only the small words “gift shop” are written on the smoky non see through small window. The small shop carries a variety of morbid type souvenirs ranging from the very popular floor mats that contain an outline of a body (these are crazily popular around Halloween), to clothing, mugs and much more! As they say at this shop, “we’re dying for your business”.
This is certainly not a gift shop your going to find in the tourist brochures – its well hidden away and you have to know about it to find it. Can’t make it to the Coroner’s office? They sell their products online as well and you can request their mail order catalog. For more information visit: http://lacstores.co.la.ca.us Proceeds from sales benefit the Youthful Drunk Driver Visitation Program
Spadena House is located at 516 Walden Drive in Beverly Hills. Otherwise known as the “Witch House” it was built in 1921 to be used for offices and dressing rooms for Willat Studios, local silent film studio. This home was not built in this current location – it was later moved here. Today it is privately owned and visitors can stand on the sidewalk to take some photographs… just don’t pick the berries “the witches instructions”.
Wayfarer’s Chapel combines three inspirational components of life – the mesmerizing beauty of a scenic overlook on cliffs above the shimmering Pacific Ocean, a tribute to God’s grace and brilliant human creativity. Architect Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) created this masterpiece. Open to the natural world yet it creates a space of spirituality, this cathedral should be on everyone’s must visit list when in Los Angeles.
Wafarer – a person who travels on foot. Not the case these days for most visitors to the chapel but it continues to provide a place of beauty for both locals and for those traveling through the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The chapel was completed in 1951 – the redwood trees that now surround the edifice are in tribute to spiritual feeling one has when walking among Redwood Groves in other parts of California (for those seeking more of a combined spiritual presence among redwoods, look up St. Colman’s Outdoor Church, in Cazadero California.
The church is also a well-known site for hosting intimate weddings. It has also made appearances in a number of television shows and also at the end of the movie, Endless Love. For more information, visit: www.wayfarerschapel.org