Let’s Celebrate the New Years, Los Angeles, and Say Semper-Fi!
New Years Day will soon be here and that is when one of the world’s most spectacular events happens right here in our back yard-the fine city of Pasadena: The Tournament of Roses Parade- viewed by approximately 70 million people around the globe.
It happens to be one of my favorite days. I raise a cup of green tea every New Years morning and give thanks to my favorite god, the sunshine god, for being here on this marvelous planet call Los Angeles. (You see, once upon a time I was trapped, frozen in a block of ice called Iowa. But, that’s another story.)
Since The Tournament of Roses parade is just over in Pasadena, how would you like to start this year with a show of true grit? On New Years Eve, in the afternoon or early evening, head out Pasadena. The parade route is about five miles long and Colorado Boulevard the main route is closed to traffic at midnight. All you need are a few feet of curbside staked out, sleeping bags, maybe a hibachi and swell eats, whatever party favors you have, and you can party with the best of them until morning. You just have to give camping out on the parade route on Colorado Boulevard a try. Sure, tickets for the grandstands might still be available. But, where’s the challenge in that?
I did it for many years with my sweetie. Believe me, we loved staying up all night partying and sashaying up and down the boulevard with a million other revelers. In the morning you’ll know you’ve started the year right. Go on, try it- at least once.
And before I let you go, I want you to know that year after year the most popular band was, and still is…the U.S. Marine Band. When the crowds along the boulevard see the band members in their snappy Dress Blues the yelling and whistling starts. When the bugles snap up to lips and the drums go boom ready to play, the crowd stands and cheers and applauds and roared in appreciation. They cheer for the marching music, the uniform, and for the sheer patriotic appreciation for the Marines. When you see and hear them you can’t help but stand tall. Give them a big cheer for me.
Holidays in LA! Ring In the Solstice! Ring In the Season!
A really fun place to celebrate holidays in LA, especially during December, is the Griffith Observatory. I love the observatory because there I can cheer on the winter solstice (along with all the winter holidays, of course) and not feel like some kind of nerdy-science-guy. I like to point out (to anyone who’ll listen) that it all started because the earth is tilted. The tilted earth made the equinoxes and solstices happen. Ancestral cavemen, once they became aware of the coming and going of solstices, started to stare at the night sky, and began to wonder, and made up fanciful stories as some sort of explanation for it all. Well, you know how those stories go on from there.
I mention this because recently my wife and I were at the observatory looking at the night sky and looking forward to the holidays- that coincidentally come about the same time as the winter solstice. So, if you think I am a little cuckoo and a nerdy-science-guy, just remember I’m in good company. The observatory gets crowded with visitors every night during December.
There’s always camaraderie at the observatory. My wife and I loved rubbing elbows with the crowd milling outside the planetary domes. We especially loved the night view of downtown LA. It was stunning! The beauty of the sight made us catch our breath: The black sky with a scattering of stars overhead, in the distance we could see the lights of a huge cluster of skyscrapers glitter in the middle of parallel lines that look like a grid made up of diamonds, twinkling rubies, and emeralds. The lines eventually converged on the blackness at the far-away horizon and over at the black void ocean to the west.
Soon some of the crowd drifted away to the café probably for a coffee or tea, maybe lineup at the dome to peek into the telescope, go inside to cruise up and down the science halls, or queue up for the nightly planetary show. Excited kids darted here and there and smiling couples strolled by. My wife and I roamed around and enjoyed the festive mood.
So, if you’d like to join the festive mood, then start ringing in the season with a visit to the observatory. Be sure to take the kids. It’s a unique LA experience.
Speaking of festive holiday moods in LA, check out the Reindeer Romp at the LA Zoo.Farmer’s Almanac Real reindeer will be on exhibit daily until January 2nd. There will also be holiday crafts activity for the kids and special enrichment events for a lot of the animals. You’ll want to be there to see and experience it all. These activities are included with the price of admission. Call 1-323-644-4210 for more information.
Another of my favorite holiday traditions, and a favorite tradition among many Angelenos: the free Holiday Celebration at the Music Center on Christmas Eve (December 24th). This is the 54th year the Los Angeles County Arts Commission has sponsored this free program. The program presents live performances ranging from young school children, to bands, and performing troupes. The constant variety of songs and dances you’ll see on stage will give you an appreciation of the diverse cultures that make up the complex community we call Los Angeles. Don’t miss this. Admission and parking is free on a first come, first in basis. The hours are from 3pm to 6pm. The performances will be televised live on KCET-TV and the rebroadcast at 8pm. There will be pauses while the TV host and hostess discuss the next group about to perform. Cameras will move back and forth across the stage while performers are performing. It’s all part of the ambiance. This is great fun. So, for a special holiday in LA go to www.lacountyarts.org, for more information.
Enjoy your holiday!
Welcome to La-La-Land
Every so often a friend visiting from back east will tell me that I live in “la-la-land”. They can’t help themselves; there’s something catchy about the alliteration. Like all Angelenos I’ve heard this before so I smile and maybe nod a little. I’ll play along. You know, kind of laid-back.
What do you mean, la-la-land? The answers I get seem to center on our loosy-goosy approach to cultural issues. They wonder why we don’t care that we wear those “stretchy” Lululemons while we hold the Upavista Konasana position at the feet of our spiritual leader and yogi, Bruce. Instead of a juicy double cheese burger we snack on dried kelp and dine on roasted kohlrabi with gluten-free bran rolls. We skip perfectly healthy diet sodas and drink vapor-filtered electrolyte-enhanced quince flavored water. (Besides, what is that stuff?) Oh, yeah, and another thing: we drive our children to school in all-electric maxi-size SUVs and then while going home hop from coffee shop to coffee shop indulging in iced venti double soy latte extra-decafe cappuccino while the battery recharges.
Fair enough. I can see that. Besides, I know they’re just jealous about the sunshine.
I bring this up because it is November and the weather here is still warm even though it is getting close to Thanksgiving. Typically back east, this time of the year, the weather is all grey clouds and cold. The holiday conjures up images of wearing plaid-flannel shirts while attending turkey diner at grandma and grandpa’s farm a la Norman Rockwell. Sunshine in La-la-land doesn’t fit anywhere in that image.
And speaking of farms, and I don’t mean to digress too much, the other day I found the 2014, Farmer’s Almanac, on sale at my local supermarket. Now I haven’t seen a Farmer’s Almanac in years. It was the one of three must have reading items back in Iowa, when it was too cold to go to the drug store and read the comic books. The first was the monthly Reader’s Digest, and then came the Sears Catalogue, and lastly, the Farmer’s Almanac- in black and white newsprint.
It was always packed with such yawn inducing information such as what kind of weather we’ll have throughout the year. And more: When’s the best time to plant certain crops? (okay, that is important-but not to a ten-year-old). There’s more: how to take care of wild birds in the winter, or tending small farm animals, astrology, astronomy, baking bread, fishing, and hunting.
Flipping pages was like flipping back through the years. The ads feature gardening items, and hearing aids, books, Bibles, and psychic readings- wait a minute.
Psychic readings? My eyes start to bulge because it got even better. Many of the ads at the back of the almanac boldly offered services to “reunite long lost lovers once again”. Oh, my goodness- grandma, grandpa, what’s going on? Being stuck on a remote farm in the middle of an Iowa winter must be more “difficult” than I remember. Plaid shirts or not, that doesn’t seem very Norman Rockwell to me.
Whatever. Like I said, we’re dealing with a cultural issue here, right? So, live and let live. Naturally, here in LA we too have many reasons to be thankful and we too celebrate Thanksgiving- usually in our cargo shorts and T-shirts. So with that in mind I’m heading to the organic-only farmer’s market to get some fresh rutabaga, kale, and brussels sprouts salad, maybe grab some smoke-n’ hot-chili sauce to splash on our tofu-turkey for the holiday. It’s almost time to fire up the barbie. Who knows, maybe we’ll wash it down with a zippy dandelion wine from a local winery.
But first, I think I’ll ditch that Farmer’s Almanac in the garage somewhere. I don’t know about grandma and grandpa, I sure don’t want the wife to come across any of those psychic ads with all that “reuniting” business.
By the way, I don’t need an almanac to tell me what the weather will be like.
Sunshine. After-all, this is la-la land.
Magicians are a lot of fun. The other day I had lunch with a bunch of old magicians that go way back with the Magic Castle. They chatter boxed their way through lunch discussing the finer points of blending the art of being a trickster with the finer points of being a huckster in with a huge dose of carnival-barker. Of course they easily confounded me with card tricks and gave each other knowing chuckles whenever I exclaimed, “How’d you do that?”
Well, eventually the talk drifted around to the-good-old-days of LA. Joe, a retired gentleman and magician, mentioned how he can remember watching the LA Bulldogs, a professional football team, play at Gilmore Stadium. He also went on about the Hollywood Stars, an LA baseball team that played at the Gilmore Field next to the stadium. Well, he definitely had our attention. Where’s that? We asked.
Earl Gilmore the son of Arthur Gilmore, an oil tycoon and owner of Gilmore Oil, a California petroleum company built the stadium in 1934. It was the home of the Bulldogs, the local professional football team. The Bulldogs distinguished themselves by winning the 1937 championship with an 8-0-0 record. They were the first professional team to ever win its championship, undefeated. The stadium was demolished and in 1952 CBS Television City opened at the corner of Fairfax Ave and Beverly Blvd, in the Fairfax district.
Welcome back to Let’s Enjoy LA. I just felt like passing on that interesting bit of LA history because, for us, local history disappears quickly. By the way, thanks to the many of you who sent complements and encouragement about this blog. There are many thousands of you who live in and love the Los Angeles area. Many, like my buddy Joe, have interesting stories to share as well as favorite fun places or events. So don’t be shy.
And speaking of loving LA, how well do you really know the Los Angeles area? I’ve started posting pictures at, Where in LA are We? Take a look and see if you know where these pictures were taken. There’s nothing tricky. If you love to prowl around LA it should be easy. Look at the pictures and give it a guess. However, go out and check the location to make sure you’re correct, before you respond.
I’ve added a new category: Performing Arts. It is a part of the Los Angeles cultural fabric that is always overlooked. The time is right because autumn is when theaters that feature live stage productions and musical concerts announce their winter 2013 and spring 2014 programs. Don’t miss out. Take a break from the movies sometime soon. Treat yourself and someone special to a dinner and afterwards, go see a play or take in a concert. Look at the list of theaters on our pages and check out the performance schedules.
While we’re on the subject of autumn, let’s check and see what’s coming up? Well, the kids are all back in school. There will be lots of school activities. Of course, many churches and temples will have fundraising events such as fairs that feature rides and games and silent auctions. They’re a good cause and a lot of fun. We don’t want to miss those.
And finally, Halloween will be here soon. Really fun activities for the kids, which happen all around LA, are the local community Halloween Festivals. So far I’ve visited a pumpkin patch at Lombardy Ranch, in Santa Clarita, and the Calabasas Halloween Festival. The grandkids loved it.
Kids love to get in costumes and go trick-or-treating but I’ve noticed that this is a holiday that’s being taken over by moms and dads. It seems more and more grown-ups want to join the fun; there’s a certain giddiness dressing up in some outrageous costume. And once you’ve gone that far- well, you just have to let your inner child fly and join in the parade.
However, if you are truly ready to be creative and throw caution to the wind with other adults, the best place to flaunt your fantasy has to be the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival. It’s touted by some to be the biggest Halloween Carnival in the world! It’s definitely a place to see and to be seen.
You know where West Hollywood is at, and you know when Halloween comes around. You’ve watched the revelers in the streets on TV news. This time, no excuses, you’re going to go. No holding back. You’ve got to do it-double dog dare! I’ll meet you there.
Have fun, everyone. Rah! Go Bulldogs!
Welcome to “Let’s Enjoy L.A!”
Here’s an interesting fact about Los Angeles’ geography. Somehow in our city’s history it managed to engulf a mountain range. So L.A. sprawls like no other city. It sprawls over an area so large we don’t speak of how many miles to travel from one place to another. Instead, we talk about how much time it takes to get there. Even then we pause and factor in the time of the day.
If you’re new to LA our suggestion is to explore what’s happening in your immediate neighborhood first. Every part of L.A. has interesting and exciting places where you can hike, bike, stroll, or meander and poke about. There are always events nearby that will give you and the kids plenty to thrill over, and usually not cost a bundle. Once you get comfortable driving around you’ll have fun exploring all the unique and wonderful activities in our city.
With that in mind, we present you with many not-too-expensive, easy-to-do adventures that make this city unique. Come on and use this site to search the far corners of Los Angeles. Use the menu above and browse for places and activities that will catch your interest.
Hello, my name is Gene Riley.
I’m a retired school teacher. I have a passion for all things L.A.- the art, history, places, events, and laid-back life style. L.A. is a city renown for sunny beaches, mountains surrounded by suburbs, a diverse population drawn from all over the world, and the entertainment studios that captivate and delight the whole planet. Because of this unique blend Los Angeles bubbles with creativity and futuristic thinking. I love it.
I ignore the large theme parks and other glitzy commercial enterprises. Everyone knows what and where they are. Here I seek unique and inexpensive (free if possible) activities. I scour the neighborhoods from the ocean to the mountains, and all the hills and valleys in between for the really fun and interesting things in and around Los Angeles.
This site is for everyone who wants to get out and enjoy easy-to-do adventures and explore the real Los Angeles. This is for the tourist exhausted from the theme parks. It’s for the L.A. newcomers wondering what fun activities are available in their neck-of-the-woods. It’s for the moms and dads who want to get the kids out of the house and have fun for everyone without spending lots of dough. It’s even for couples looking for a unique event or outing.
This is also for all us who love Los Angeles. We have special places and events we want to share. Use these pages to share and comment on what you love be it a walk around town, kid-friendly events, a short hike, a bike trail, some quirky place or happening, unique neighborhoods, or some special up-coming event.
As you can see, if you are looking for a real Los Angeles adventure you’ll find it here. Even if you’re a long time Angeleno, come-on and meander through these pages. You’ll find a lot of great new ideas. You’ll also fine a long forgotten place or happening, certainly something worth doing again. After your experience, share your unique knowledge of what’s going on around town. Let everyone know when and where as well as how much. Also mention how and who to contact for more information. Let’s enjoy L.A.!
Since this site is for people of all ages readers I would appreciate family friendly comments.