Across from a row of modest homes soar Watts Towers, rising from the residential neighborhood as a symbol of hope that contrasts with the working class area of Watts.
The 99.5 foot high towers, consisting of 17 connected statues, were handmade by one man, Simon Rodia. The statues and towers are made of cement and chicken wire covered in shards of colorful broken bottles, pottery, seashells and tiles. Tours, usually given every half hour, allow visitors to walk through the structures; however, because of recent damage caused by a windstorm and two earthquakes, visitors cannot walk in and underneath the towers this summer. Visitors can still walk around the towers, and visit the adjacent art gallery until the repairs are over.
â Faire Davidson
Pacific Coast Highway
There is nothing better than taking a drive down Pacific Coast Highwayâwindows down, Beach Boys blasting, the sounds and smell of the ocean. The scenic drive epitomizes laid back summers in Malibu.
The beaches are far from deserted even on a Wednesday afternoon in May. Almost every existing parking spot is occupied by cars harboring surfboards.
Besides the impossible-to-find free street parking, there are lots next to some beaches and one at the pier, next to the Malibu Inn.
There are restrooms at the public beaches and next to some parking lots.
On the sidewalk, surfers carry their boards, and families in bathing suits find a place.
PCH is surrounded by restaurants ranging from diners and fast food drive-thrus to beachside cafes and upscale restaurants.
There are also restaurants and stores, and a very small movie theater at the Country Mart.
Also on PCH is the Getty Villa, with over 28 exhibits devoted to Mediterranean antiquities and four scenic gardens adorned with fountains, benches and bronze sculptures, the Villa strongly resembles the ancient Roman country homes that grace the pages of our art history books.
Visitors can grab lunch at the CafÃ©, which serves casual Mediterranean fare and tickets are free, but you must reserve a timed ticket online.
â Candace Ravan and Nicki Resnikoff
On a Thursday morning, with the temperatures already in the high â70s, you might notice University of Southern California students sprawled on the lawns in a pre-summer picnic, a Hispanic street vendor selling tacos and burritos from his heat-emitting truck, and a homeless man lying on his back under the shade of a tree. Welcome to Exposition Park.
Situated right next to the USC campus, the park takes up several square blocks. The California Science Center may be its most popular attraction.
Donât be fooled by its young attendees: the exhibits are engaging. The museum takes up a whole three-story building. The space is well-lit and modern. Highlights include the Bodyworld exhibit, the Hurricane simulator and, of course, the “High-Wire Bicycle.”
The best part? Admission is free.
Unless there is a major event happening, like the L.A. Marathon last Sunday, chances are, the park is pretty empty. As you trek through, with the summer heat beating on your back, enjoy the stillness and the quiet; relax. This is summer.
â Jamie Kim
The cobblestone is lined with restaurants and stores filled with bright colors and traditional Hispanic goods. Break dancers show off their moves in the Mexican style plaza. The street is buzzing with people eating taquitos and other Hispanic foods.
Olvera Street, also known as “El Pueblo Historic Monument,” is a cultural hub in downtown Los Angeles. It was Los Angelesâ first official street and there are 27 historic buildings, a restored fire station and stables. There are free docent tours available to learn about the street.
People gather at Olvera Street to enjoy the variety of shops and restaurants. Women stop to look at Mexican dresses in vivid reds and yellows. Vendors explain the importance of good luck charms like cowsâ feet and the importance of sombreros for the upcoming summer while Spanish music plays.
The pedestrian street is located off North Alameda Street across the street from Union Station. It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is free to the public.
â Neha Nimmagadda
Little Tokyo is a bustling crossroads of cultures on the outskirts of Downtown Los Angeles. Itâs easy to get caught up in the mysterious aromas and vibrant colors that characterize the walk through the four large city blocks worth of authentic Japanese cuisine and culture. After parking at 1st Street and Alameda and paying a flat fee of $6, Little Tokyo is across the street.
The walkways are alive with the sights, sounds and smells of both traditional and modern Japan. Shops sell ethnic trinkets, like decorative Japanese umbrellas, to pop culture icons, such as Hello Kitty. A mini-mall nestled behind the center has shops such as a Japanese video store and a store that sells Japanese anime action figures.
As the afternoon rolls on, an army of sushi chefs works swiftly to assemble rolls for the large crowd of customers that has amassed inside a traditional sushi restaurant. The line to get a seat at the Shabu-Shabu House, which serves thinly sliced meat and vegetables cooked in boiling water, goes out the restaurantâs door and hugs the side of the building. Families, friends and couples lean against the refrigerated display cases of a Japanese pastry shop, pointing to the mochi ice cream flavor of their choice.
â Candice Navi and Michelle Nosratian
The heart of the fashion district is a crowded maze, brimming with the hubbub, hustle and bustle of Downtown Los Angeles. They sell $40 prom dresses, $1 jewelry packs, $20 Converse shoes, $12 packs of six bras and $9.99 sandals (shown below). Vendors stand in the doorways, yelling their cheap prices and “Barato!” to get your attention. Some of them literally meow.
In one five by 10 foot store, without any visible name, a man sells Forever 21 clothing for a cheaper deal than retail prices. He has a friend who manufactures the clothing, he says. Thereâs no interior light source, and the back half of the store is pitch black. A radio propped onto a cardboard box on the ground plays soft folksy Korean music. Donât ask too many questions about his friend in manufacturing though. Heâll kick you out.
Beyond wholesale fashion though, youâll find basically everything in the Fashion District. For $15, you can buy a rabbit or a turtle to take home at the corner of Maple Street and 11th Ave. Bootleg DVDs are everywhere but be careful when you buy them because the prices change by the minute. One vendor on the corner of Wall Street and 7th was selling “Sex and the City for $2! Very cheap” but a few minutes later changed his sales tactic: “Sex and the City for $3!” And $1 matters a lot here in the fashion district. With it, you could buy five pairs of earrings (three gold hoops of varying sizes and two small studs).The maze of the fashion district is endless, its eccentric range of products, dizzying and its cheap prices, gratifying.
â Cathi Choi
The time to explore the Griffith Observatory in Los Feliz is at night. You drive up a twisting Vermont Ave to the Observatory and catch glimpses of the shimmering cityscape of Los Angeles. Before you know it, the magnificently lit Observatory stands before you.
The celestial ceiling of faint starlight continues into the interior of the Observatory where there are thousands of soft lights reflecting off of every marble surface. Toddlers are sliding across the floors, screeching with delight. One runs from the interactive seismograph and points to the rotating earth modelshouts excitedly, “Thereâs something more bigger than that, Jeremy!”
You donât even notice that youâve never left the building as you step outside onto the expansive balcony. All of Los Angeles is a fiery glow. And as you stroll away from the Observatory, into the darkness of the parking lot, the overwhelming sense of wonder lingers.
Admission is free.
â Cathi Choi
Last Saturday, a thousand or so cinema lovers clutching picnic baskets, blankets, and folded armchairs trickled into Hollywood Forever Cemetery, an oasis in the heart of an industrial portion of Santa Monica Boulevard. The crowd of 30 and 40-something parents (without their kids), 20-something hipsters and an assortment of teenagers spread out on a grass field a few dozen yards away from the graves of Douglas Fairbanks and Cecil B. Demille (a fair distance, to the relief of the easily spooked).
The eclectic group poured their (mostly alcoholic) beverages into plastic cups, sliced cheese, spread tapenade onto crackers and listened to Motown classics spun by DJ Carlos NiÃ±o as they waited for the latest selection of the Cinespia screening series to be projected onto a wall of Rudolph Valentinoâs massive marble mausoleum at the far end of the lawn. “To Catch a Thief,” Alfred Hitchcockâs 1955 caper starred Cary Grant and Grace Kelly as a reformed jewel thief and his love interest, respectively.
Every Saturday and on the occasional Sunday all summer long, a film, usually a midcentury classic or cult favorite, is screened in the cemetery as the sun goes down. If the entire affair sounds pretentious, it is. But that doesnât mean itâs not fun (and way cheaper than a seat at the Arclight: parking is $5 inside the cemetery gates and free on Santa Monica, and the “donation” requested at the end of the long, winding line to enter is $10). Itâs tough to catch every plot detail and every line of dialogue in an open-air theater despite the expert sound system, but who cares when youâre gazing at the stars (both on the screen and in the skyâ¦and in their graves)?
â Derek Schlom and Lucy Jackson
Itâs easy to get lost driving to Bergamot Station galleries. Or to never find them. The galleries, a shanty collection of corrugated iron buildings and a parking lot, are tucked in an alley behind Olympic and Cloverfield in Santa Monica. For a quick shot of culture, though, itâs well worth the drive to poke around the eclectic collections of photography, contemporary installations (which can mean anything from video to painting to sculpture or a mish mash of all of the above) and quaint doodles by big names.
Inside the gallery, Blue McRightâs exhibit, entitled, “No one you know,” will be on display through June 27. Surrounding a life-sized replica of an RV (shown at left), the white walls are covered in tiny surreal scenes executed on torn notebook pages. The back room is devoted to a sculpture compilation of hanging birds entwined by black thread.
You can get star struck in front of names like Warhol, Matisse and Hockney drawings and prints for sale in the Santa Monica Auction. The gallery is more like a more sophisticated consignment store, plastered from top to bottom with artwork of every kind â woven rugs, antique brochures, prints, etchings, watercolors and oils that are just cheap enough to pretend you could buy them.
The tiny Bergamot CafÃ©, a gallery in its own right, makes a nice finish. The patio, populated by bougainvillea, metal tables and yellow chairs, looks like it was made for a sunny Thursday afternoon like this one, which really can be said about all of Bergamot station.
â Dana Glaser