By Eileen Ogintz
SPOTLIGHT: Los Angeles: It's got beaches and theme parks, museums, great eats and shopping galore. Did we mention you might even see a movie star? Welcome to Los Angeles, where you are guaranteed not to get bored whether you like to surf, sun, scream your head off on roller coasters, indulge in a good meal go on or a shopping spree. Visit www.discoverlosangeles.com to find out what's new in and around the city.
FOR DINNER, if you've got kids along:
- New restaurants will open next month at L.A. LIVE, the new sports and entertainment district (800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, 90015; 213.763.5441, (www.lalive.com)
- Look for ESPN Zone restaurant and sports bar (www.espnzone.com), and a New Zealand Natural Ice Cream shop (www.newzealandnatural.com)
- Grab a burger and a shake at California institution -- one of the In-N-Out-Burger (www.in-n-out.com) locations.
- At Angeli Caffe (www.angelicaffe.com) a casual Melrose Avenue spot, children receive a ball of pizza dough to shape and stretch and poke. Then the chefs bake it up and return it to the creator (7274 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 90046; 323.936.9086).
- Typhoon (www.typhoon.biz) is a lively pan-Asian eatery at the Santa Monica airport. Youngsters like the view of small planes taking off and landing while they eat. This is also one of the few spots in Los Angeles with a section on the menu titled "Insects," perfect for children who delight in the gross -- though we hear the Taiwanese crickets stir fried with garlic are actually quite tasty. (3221 Donald Douglas Loop S., Santa Monica, 90405; 310.390.6565).
- At Empress Pavilion (www.empresspavilion.com) you can watch dozens of dim sum carts zip around the room. There's always sticky rice, pork buns and for dessert, sweet and chewy sesame balls. (988 N. Hill St., Los Angeles, 90012; 213.617.9898)
Without the kids:
- Visit www.dinela.com for the latest on the LA dining scene- including celebrity hotspots.
- Ciudad (www.ciudad-la.com) is a lively place to experience two hot tamales. The unique Latin cuisine, created by chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, is an unexpected take on Mexican food influenced by the bold and seductive flavors of the Latin world. The menu gives a taste of where the chefs have traveled, including dishes such as Honduran ceviche, Argentine empanadas and Brazilian moqueca. (445 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, 90071; 213.486.5171)
- MAX Restaurant (www.maxrestaurant.com), one of the top fusion restaurants in the Valley, is a Sherman Oaks institution where dishes speak to ownership's dedication to food from around the globe. Down-home meets Asian with the tamarind-guava glazed baby back ribs, served with spicy corn fritters and Asian slaw. And with the Moroccan pan-roasted boneless half chicken, you get tastes from several regions as the dish is served with mango chutney, couscous and ratatouille. (13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 91423, 818.784.2915)
- For Italian, head to Valentino (www.valentinosm.com), where you can slurp on spaghetti Lady and the Tramp style in an impossibly romantic alcove. (3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, 90405, 310.829.4313)
- Dine in the secret garden at The Little Door (www.thelittledoor.com), where subtle overhead lighting provides a starlit cast over your sweetheart—and your food. (8164 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, 90048, 323.951.1210)
- Stay indoors and sit elbow-to-elbow at a communal table at Ortolan, (www.ortolanrestaurant.com) then head to the sofa by the fireplace for an aprés-meal cuddle. (8338 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, 90048, 323.653.3300)
- L.A. LIVE will still be the place to go (800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, 90015; 213.763.5441) for everything from steaks at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar; Katsuya, the ultra-hip sushi and robata bar; the Yard House restaurant and brew pub, and New York-based Rosa Mexicano fine dining. Link to all of the restaurants from (www.lalive.com)
- The Grammy Museum (www.grammymuseum.org), soon to open at L.A. LIVE, a 27-acre, $2.5 billion sports and entertainment district, located adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center and STAPLES Center in downtown Los Angeles. A sound-sensory experience will lead visitors to an 18-foot table where they can explore 130 forms of music and how their histories connect. Exhibits will also feature a behind-the-scenes look at the art and technology of the recording process as well as the Grammy legacy. The museum will also feature interactive exhibits and an intimate 200-seat theater that will screen films, host lectures and present live performances and interviews. Club NOKIA, the legendary Conga Room and Lucky Strike Bowling Center will also be part of L.A. LIVE in December 2008. (L.A. LIVE and the Grammy Museum: 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, 90015; 213.763.5441, www.lalive.com; www.grammymuseum.org)
- The Los Angeles Zoo's gorillas—that are back in a new habitat built for them at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (www.lazoo.org). Campo Gorilla Reserve, as the new exhibit is known, features innovative behavioral-enrichment devices and extensive use of indigenous trees, plants and other native species, immersing visitors in the misty, tropical environment of a West Central African rain forest. (Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, 90027; 323.644.4200)
- Visit Hollywood, where they've been making movies for nearly 100 years. Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Snow White has a star!) Stop in front of Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to see the footprints and handprints stars have made in cement. (www.hollywoodchamber.net) (Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; 7018 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028; 323- 469-8311)
MUST TAKE THE KIDS:
- Universal Studios Hollywood, where The Simpsons are the latest stars to get their own ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. (www.universalstudioshollywood.com). Join Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and Homer for a thrilling ride through a fictional amusement park dreamed up by Krusty the Clown. (Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 91608; 800.UNIVERSAL)
- Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, two parks where you can do everything from get Goofy's autograph to "soar" over California as if you were hand gliding to the latest 4-D attraction Toy Story Mania! (www.Disneyland.com). Go on your birthday in 2009 and get in free. (Disneyland, 1313 S. Disneyland Dr. Anaheim, CA 92802; 714-781-4565 and for moneysaving tips, check www.mousesavers.com)
- La Brea Tar Pits -- watch archaeologists dig up fascinating fossils (www.tarpits.org) (Pit 91 is the museum's active archaeological dig, and starting in July each year, Pit 91 opens its observation area so visitors can see fossil hunters in action as they search for the bones of saber-tooth cats, dire wolves and a variety of other plants and animals. (5801 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036Phone: 323.934.7243)
- The Skirball Cultural Center (www.skirball.org), where the hands-on gallery and outdoor experience beckons visitors to set sail together on the giant wooden Noah's Ark, inspired by the ancient biblical story. Visitors mingle with pairs of life-size animal puppets from the five continents, all crafted from recycled materials. Visitors can also help construct a floor-to-ceiling ark, load animals two by two, unpack shipping crates and feed the animals. The experience culminates in a post-flood zone, where a special light feature creates a rainbow. The opening of Noah's Ark now makes the Skirball Cultural Center the largest Jewish cultural institution in North America, with 500,000 square feet of building space on 15 acres. (Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 90049; 310.440.4500)
- Griffith Observatory (www.griffithobs.org), which reopened in 2006 after extensive renovations and expansion, now is one of LA's hottest attractions with the restored Samuel Oschin Planetarium, all-new exhibits and a state-of-the-art star projector. Visitors thrill to "The Big Picture," a mural depicting the world's largest astronomical image of the night sky; a dramatic display of the planets – including Pluto; and arguably the most stunning views of LA seen from the Observatory's hilltop plazas. (Griffith Observatory, 2800E. Observatory Rd., Los Angeles, 90027; 213.473.0800)
- The STAPLES Center (www.staplescenter.com) in downtown Los Angeles is home to the Los Angeles Lakers (www.nba.com), Los Angeles Clippers (www.nba.com/clippers) , Los Angeles Kings (www.kings.nhl.com) and the Los Angeles Sparks (www.wnba.com) (STAPLES Center, 1111 S. Figueroa Street., Los Angeles, 90015; 213.742.7100; www.staplescenter.com)
- LA's Major League Soccer team, the Galaxy (http://la.galaxy.mlsnet.com/t106/index.jsp), with David Beckham, play at The Home Depot Center located in Carson, just minutes from downtown LA. (Home Depot Center, 18400 Avalon Blvd., Carson, 90746; 310.630.2000; www.homedepotcenter.com)
- The Los Angeles Dodgers (www.dodgers.com) play at Dodger Stadium (Dodger Stadium, 100 Elysian Park Avenue, LA, CA 90012 323-224-1507
DON'T GO HOME WITHOUT:
Visiting Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro or one of the other famous Southern California beach towns like Venice (www.venicebeach.com), Santa Monica (www.santamonica.com) or Huntington Beach (www.surfcityusa.com). Cabrillo Beach (www.sanpedro.com) is the ideal setting for a family outing. Located on a thin peninsula near Point Fermin Park, the beach actually has two sides – one outside the breakwater that is open to the surf, and one that is open to the harbor. Depending on the activity, you can select either side and enjoy some adventure or some relaxation. The beach also has restrooms, showers and picnic areas for your convenience. After the beach, head to the nearby Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (www.cabrilloaq.org) and enjoy the interactive exhibits, tide pool touch tanks and other unforgettable attractions. (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Dr., San Pedro, 90731; 310.548.7562)
INSIDER TIP: The website www.discoverlosangeles.com is a great resource for everything from planning a wedding to checking which museums are free which days and where to go for some fun in the never-ending California sun.
To See a TV taping:
AUDIENCES UNLIMITED, INC. : www.audiencesunlimited.com. Audiences Unlimited, Inc. offers viewers and fans a unique opportunity to join the fun in a live studio audience! Free tickets. (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, Phone: 818.753.3470 or Toll Free: 800.339.7469)
CBS Television City offers free tickets to tapings of television shows (http://www.seeing-stars.com/tapings/CBStapings.shtml) (7800 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036 Phone: 323.575.2448.
MORE PLACES FOR FUN-AND LEARNING:
- Six Flags Magic Mountain
With the thriller roller coaster X²: Xtreme to the Second Power, is now open with 14 coasters and a variety of other rides to suit every theme park lover in the gang—even the little ones. (Six Flags Magic Mountain, 6101 Magic Mountain Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355 661-255-4100; www.sixflags.com)
- Madame Tussauds Hollywood (www.madametussauds.com/hollywood) is scheduled to open next summer as the first Madame Tussauds to be built from the ground up in the 200-year history of the company. More than 80 figures will be on display. It is located in the heart of Hollywood adjacent to Grauman's Chinese Theatre
- California Science Center
The West Coast's largest hands-on science center (www.californiasciencecenter.org) complete with IMAX Theater, aerospace artifacts and the chance to ride on a high wire bike. The new World of Ecology is scheduled to open next year and will nearly double the museum's size. (California Science Center, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037323-724-3623)
- The Museum of Natural History (www.nhm.org) is the largest natural history museum in the Western United States. Explore ancient replicas of landscapes and exotic animals. Exhibits include the Butterfly Pavilion, full-sized dinosaurs and a walk-through a re-creation of the historical American West. (900 Exposition Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90007 Phone: 213.763.3466)
- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (www.lacma.org) has more than 120,000 works in its permanent collection; LACMA is the premier visual art museum in the western United States. With the recent addition of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, LACMA becomes the first encyclopedic museum with a dedicated facility for contemporary art which is uniquely appropriate to Los Angeles. (5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036 Phone: 323.857.6000)
- The Aquarium of the Pacific (www.aquariumofpacific.org) in nearby Long Beach is one of the largest in the country. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the aquarium is known for its creatures from throughout the Pacific (the Metro Blue Line runs direct into Long Beach). Walk "under water" as fish swim overhead and hammerhead sharks cruise in and out of view. (100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802 562) 590-3100)
- The Getty Villa (www.getty.edu) recently underwent a$275 million renovation. The Getty Villa in Malibu is s educational center pays tribute to the arts and cultures of Greece, Rome and Etruria. You'll want to see the ancient Greek and Roman antiquities on display (as well as the beautiful Roman-inspired gardens). The galleries at The Getty Center offer an outstanding permanent collection of Western art, while rotating exhibitions shed light on art ranging from medieval treasures to ancient choir books of the Middle Ages.
The Getty Villa 7985 Pacific Coast Hwy. Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 Phone: 310.440.7300. The Getty Center1200 Getty Center Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90049 Phone: 310.440.7300
- Anyone who knows anything about contemporary art will tell you the Museum of Contemporary Art (www.moca.org) is the place to go in LA. Probably one of the best known art museums in LA, MOCA represents the most cutting edge exhibitions and forward-thinking styles in everything art related. (250 S. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012 Phone: 213.626.6222)
- Universal CityWalk Hollywood takes extreme to new heights with the opening of iFLY Hollywood (www.iflyhollywood.com), LA's first ever indoor skydiving wind tunnel. Housed in the world's tallest and most technologically advanced indoor wind tunnel, thrill-seekers enjoy a close approximation of a true skydiving experience as they are suspended in mid-air at heights of up to 30 feet and wind speeds of more than 125 mph.
(Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 91608; 800.UNIVERSAL)
- Museum of Neon Art (www.neonmona.org) was founded to exhibit fine art in electric and kinetic media; to document, preserve, restore and collect outstanding examples of neon signs; and to educate the public about the cultural, historical, aesthetic and technical aspects of electric art. (Between Spring and Main Streets at 136 West 4th Street in Downtown Los Angeles)
- The $400 million Americana at Brand (www.americanaatbrand.com) features a vibrant blend of shopping, dining and entertainment, a park. Promenades, meandering walkways and open-air plazas invite guests to shop, stroll, and dine outdoors.
- Shop -- or at least window-shop -- until you drop along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (www.beverlyhillsbehere.com) or along Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood where teens especially love the trendy shops and you might spy young celebrities buying new jeans and tees. (www.visitwesthollywood.com)
- California African American Museum (www.caamuseum.org) offers exhibitions displaying rare images from "black Woodstock," juxtaposed against the African American contribution to the settlement of the West, the California African American Museum presents visitors with an assortment of thought-provoking mediums. (600 State Drive, LA, CA 90037 213-744-7432)
- At the Museum of the American West (www.autrynationalcenter.org) you can suit up, cowboys! You can see Gene Autry's collection of Western paraphernalia, including a Colt firearms collection from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Also on display are paintings from the same era, a collection of Wild West show posters (obviously wild), and a whole lot more. (4700 Western Heritage Way Los Angeles, CA, 90027-1462 T. 323.667.2000)