Keeping your guests happy and busy So Cal style
by HCTG Staff Writer Cory Jane Birkett
You’re all set, right? You’ve taken care of every detail in preparation for your big day, and you’ve even learned the arcane secrets of wedding gown and bridal bouquet preservation. But there is one small matter that may not have made it onto your to-do list: entertaining out-of-town guests. Friends and relatives who’ve come from afar often stay for a few days, and they won’t want to sit around twiddling their thumbs before and after the wedding. Since you’re not going to have the time or energy to play Tour Guide, why not have a list of fun activities prepared in advance? You can always include familiar options like Disneyland and Universal Studios, but Southern California offers so much more. Here’s a selection of out-of-the-ordinary attractions that will entertain visitors and locals alike.
L.A. Bike Tours & Cyclery, Los Angeles, 323/466-5890 or 888/775-BIKE
Since the freeways are almost always jam-packed in the City of Angels, bike tours offer a sense of free-roaming adventure while taking in L.A.’s landmarks and hidden treasures. L.A. Bike Tours docents lead sightseers of all ages on routes to many local landmarks.
Essential/ Hip Hollywood: This cycling tour hits most of the major hot spots of Hollywood, including Paramount Studios, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Chaplin Studios, the Egyptian Theatre, La Brea Tar Pits and more.
Beverly Hills Urban Assault: Cyclists tour the prestigious neighborhood of 90210 on this 30-mile jaunt. The scenic ride takes tourists to Rodeo Drive, the Beverly Hills Hotel, Greystone Manor and many stunning celebrity homes.
Getty Center Art Extravaganza: For art and culture buffs, this 35-mile bike adventure departing from Hollywood and ending up at the remarkable Getty Center is the perfect choice. Enjoy the breathtaking architecture and views from this magnificent museum.
Venice Beach Canal Tour: Even the locals aren’t familiar with all the stops along the Venice canal tour. This replica of Italy’s more famous watery city was the turn-of-the-century brainchild of tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney, who envisioned and ultimately succeeded in creating a Venetian Renaissance environment complete with imported gondolas. In addition to visiting the canals, the tour includes the world-renowned Venice Beach Boardwalk, Santa Monica Pier and more.
Just ten years ago, Hollywood rife with bums and graffiti was not considered the most savory of Southern California areas. But that’s all changed. Now you can stroll along Hollywood Boulevard and view the stars’ names under your feet, see the revamped Mann’s Chinese Theater, and saunter around the lobby of the famous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, once frequented by legends like Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift. And if you’re into Hollywood memorabilia, the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Hollywood Entertainment Museum are definite must-sees. Another site worth a visit is the newly constructed Hollywood & Highland complex, the expansive shopping/dining/entertainment project that transformed the neighborhood and really put Hollywood back on the map. The Kodak Theatre, the new home of the Academy Awards, happens to be here and offers tours, so you Oscar devotees can step behind the velvet rope and get an insider’s view. And if you’re more intrigued by cars than little gold statuettes, drive over to the nearby Peterson Automotive Museum where you can explore the evolution of the automobile through an amazing array of classic cars. Past exhibits have featured rare displays of Rolls Royces, “Million Dollar” cars from the early 1900s and custom American cars from the forties and fifties.
Mann’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood, 323/464-8111 or 323/461-3331
Hollywood & Highland, Hollywood, http://www.hollywoodandhighland.com
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood, 323/466-7000, http://www.hollywoodroosevelt.com
Hollywood Wax Museum, Hollywood, 323/462-8860, http://www.hollywoodwax.com
Hollywood Entertainment Museum, Hollywood, 323/465-7900, http://www.hollywoodmuseum.com
An entertainment lover’s dream, this museum contains some intriguing interactive exhibits: you can walk through “Hollywood in Miniature,” a scale model of Tinseltown in the 1940s; experience firsthand how special effects are created with green-screen technology; and visit the original sets of Star Trek, The X-Files and Cheers.
Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, 323/930-CARS, http://www.petersen.org
While Los Angeles can be a celebrity stalker’s paradise, you still need to know where the stars hang out. Stop by these eateries and increase your chances of running into somebody famous.
Newsroom Café, 20 N Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, 310/652-4444
This media cafe flaunts a healthy menu and some health-conscious celebrities.
Canter’s, 419 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323/651-2030
Star-watching is particularly good in the wee hours at this 24-hour kosher delicatessen. Don’t expect great service thoughcranky old waitresses are a part of this landmark’s particular charm.
Musso and Frank’s Grill, 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323/467-5123
After more than 80 years, this legendary restaurant still draws tourists and Tinseltown vets with its old-fashioned leather booths and American cuisine.
Schatzi on Main, 3110 Main St., Santa Monica, 310/399-4800
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s trendy restaurant attracts hopeful stargazing visitors and locals at the bar.
There’s no denying that people-watching is one of life’s guilty little pleasures. From Hollywood wannabes to homeless street performers, Los Angeles is THE place for viewing the wackiest and most offbeat characters while soaking up the local flavor.
Farmer’s Market, Hollywood,
6333 West Third Street, Los Angeles, 323/933-9211, http://www.farmersmarketla.com
While it’s been described by the L. A. Times as “the number one place in L.A. to spot stars,” the Market is mostly a great place to see non-celebs who are every bit as interesting. Located in the historic Fairfax district, the legendary Farmer’s Market began in 1934 when 18 farmers gathered to sell produce to locals. Over the years, it has evolved into a food lover’s extravaganza, housing over 60 food booths serving everything from traditional deli nosh to ethnic cuisine. The Market attracts young hipsters, families, locals on their lunch breaks, groups of grammas sipping their morning coffee and a lot of other folks worth watching.
Yes, it’s still referred to as “Muscle Beach,” and brawny bods are certainly plentiful as you amble along this ocean walk and view the extraordinary stream of beachgoers. Expect to see a plethora of artists and street performers, including dancers, comedians, musicians, jugglers, weightlifters, skaters and preachers. If you’re lucky you may even witness a performance by Venice’s own chainsaw juggler, Robert Gruenberg, or famous guitarist on roller skates, Harry Perry.
Third Street Promenade, 3rd Street (between Broadway & Wilshire), Santa Monica. 310/393-8355 or 310/393-9825
This outdoor shopping paradise is also a great place to check out a slew of locals, from genuinely talented street performers to the largest array of hip Hollywood hopefuls and facelifts you’ll ever find.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or winetasting neophyte, the tranquil Southern California town of Temeculajust 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles and 60 miles north of San Diegois a great spot to sample some homegrown fruit of the vine. Ocean breezes wafting through a gap in the coastal mountains create a unique micro-climate, which produces some of the finest wines in the region. Local wineries offer familiar varietals like Chardonnay and Cabernet, as well as some innovative choices such as Sangiovese, Rosato and the robust red Tuscan Cello.
Callaway Coastal Winery, tastings and tours, Temecula, 800/472-2377, http://www.callawaycoastal.com
Falkner Winery, tastings and tours, Temecula, 909/676-8231, http://www.falknerwinery.com
Miramonte Winery, tastings only, Temecula, 909/506-5500, http://www.miramontewinery.com
Thornton Winery, tastings and tours, Temecula, 909/699-0099, http://www.thorntonwine.com
Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards, tastings and informal tours, Temecula, 909/699-9463, http://www.wilsoncreekwinery.com
Southern California has an amazing assortment of gardens ranging from the lush, ambrosial setting of the Huntington in Pasadena to the more offbeat cactus lover’s Living Desert in Palm Desert. Whether you’re inhaling the fragrance of blooming flowers, bird watching or discovering some rare native California plants along a trail, you’ll be entranced by the beauty and serenity of these natural havens.
The Japanese Garden, Van Nuys, 818/756-8166, http://www.thejapanesegarden.com
The Living Desert Wildlife and Botanical Park, Palm Desert, 760/346-5694, http://www.livingdesert.org
Sherman Library and Gardens, Corona Del Mar, 949/673-2261, http://www.slgardens.org/
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara, 805/682-4726, http://www.sbbg.org/
Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Garden, San Marino, 626/405-2100, http://www.huntington.org
Much more than your average garden, the Huntington also houses a main gallery with masterpieces of 18th-century British portraiture, including Gainsborough’s famous “Blue Boy.” But most visitors come for the lovely thematic rose gardens, where you can take high tea in the afternoon and turn a simple visit into a special occasion.
If that daredevil spirit lurks within, hang gliding or parasailing may satisfy your need for an adrenaline rush. Soar with the birds over mountains, valleys and ocean, experiencing Southern California’s natural majesty in a totally unique and exhilarating way. If you’re a novice, have no fear: many companies offer all the instruction you need as well as certification, tandem flights and tours.
Torrey Pines Gliderport, La Jolla, 858/452-9858, http://www.flytorrey.com
Located on the scenic bluffs of San Diego’s Black’s Beach, the Gliderport offers fun for hang gliding and paragliding enthusiasts.
Eagle Paragliding, Santa Barbara, 805/968-0980
ACME Flying Machines, Los Angeles, 213/309-5592
For those who want to fly but prefer a tamer ride, a hot-air balloon excursion may be just the ticket. Float effortlessly across the sky, becoming the envy of landgoing spectators as you follow the contour of the countryside or magnificent coastline, sail over valleys and vineyards, and catch a glimpse of undisturbed wildlife.
D&D Ballooning Hot Air Adventures, 800/510-9000 or 909/303-0448, (Offers flights in Temecula)
Great American Balloon Company, 909/927-2593, (Offers daily flights from Temecula, Perris, Palm Springs and Hemet)
Panorama Balloon Tours, 800/455-3592, (Offers rides in San Diego, Del Mar, Palm Springs)
Sunrise Balloons, 800/548-9912, (Offers rides in Palm Springs)
Could there be a better way to spend a sunny Southern California day than checking out a fun-filled coastal hangout? Feel those refreshing ocean breezes as you stroll along these historic Southern California beach walks.
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, 310/458-8900, http://www.santamonicapier.org
This famous pier has had a recent facelift and now hosts a two-acre fun zone with many rides, including a 1,300-foot steel roller coaster, a 9-story ferris wheel and the Ocean Discovery Center sponsored by UCLA.
Redondo Beach Pier/International Boardwalk, Pacific Coast Highway and Torrance Blvd., 310/318-0631 #2, http://www.redondopier.com
Watch the boats in King Harbor, have a relaxing lunch on the Pier or treat your kids to the Redondo Fun Factory with its video arcade and carnival games and rides.
Fisherman’s Village, Marina del Rey
Overlooking the Marina del Rey harbor, the New England-style buildings of this village boast shops and restaurants. Water sports are popular here, too, especially sailing and kayaking.
Seaport Village, San Diego, 619/235-4014, Events Hotline 619/235-4013
Walk down cobblestone paths and take in the unsurpassed views of San Diego Bay as you meander through this village of shops and eateries.
For the truly romantic spirit, dinner cruises offer a relaxing and often luxurious way to take in the beauty of Southern California’s amazing coastline. Imagine gliding slowly around Marina del Rey harbor as night falls and the city lights begin to sparkle, or sailing beneath the Coronado Bridge with the San Diego skyline silhouetted against a pastel sunset. From brunch and dinner cruises to music and murder mysteries, we’ve scoped out the best cruising options up and down the Southern California coast.
Hornblower Dinner Cruises, 800/ON-THE-BAY, http://www.hornblower.com
Nightly dining, weekend brunch, and other specialty cruises throughout California. Ports in Marina del Rey, Newport Beach and San Diego
Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre Cruise, Long Beach, Grand Romance, 949/509-9889, http://www.grandromance.com
Reggae/Blues Star Party Cruises, Long Beach, 562/799-7000
Adventures at Sea, Newport Beach, 888-4-GONDOLA, 949/645-BOAT Catered private events and romantic gondola rides.