San Pedro / Wilmington Field Trip

A day trip to San Pedro and Wilmington takes in a number of slower-paced pleasures and historic sites, all in the same area: The Cabrillo Beach tide pools and marine aquarium, Angel's Gate Park, Fort MacArthur Museum, Drum Barracks, the Banning Residence and more. Visit the L.A. Resident Tourist Facebook album to read more.

Touring SoCal, Car-Free

Great news for car-less (or car-weary) Southern California explorers: Metrolink now offers a weekend pass for only $10 good anytime, anywhere from 7 p.m. Friday through midnight Sunday. The pass even includes free bus transfers! Check the system map for all the great destinations available.

Self-Guided Tour of Union Station is an excellent resource if you're looking for a variety of self-guided tours of Los Angeles. We like the Union Station tour, which contains lots of historic detail and easy-to-follow directions. Includes bonus side trips to Olvera Street and Chinatown. Just print the page and go.

Flying Over California

Take a little ride over California - at about 50 miles up and 50,000 miles per hour! Click here.

Chino Hills State Park: Solitude and Sun

At over 14,000 acres, Chino Hills State Park is a lovely rolling expanse full of wildflowers, birds and historic ranch buildings. There are miles of trails and wonderful views from the surrounding ridges; it's like time-traveling back to pastoral California. 

Suiho En Japanese Garden

Suiho En, or the Garden of Water and Fragrance, is a stunning, traditional Japanese garden at the center of the San Fernando Valley’s vast watershed that reminds us of the beauty of water and nature, in poetic contrast to the adjacent reclamation plant that removes tons of sludge from our water system daily. Visitors are urged to walk, sit, “emulate Lord Buddha ... in silent contemplation of the human condition” (and to also view the wastewater filtering process up close). The cost of pursuing spiritual enlightenment at the garden is $3; call in advance for docent-led tours. 6100 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys. (818) 756-8166.

McGroarty Arts Center Ceramics Show

The former home of John McGroarty (journalist, playwright, poet laureate and congressman) has been for some years now the McGroarty Arts Center, providing classes in music, dance, theater, painting, drawing, ceramics, photography and writing. Program levels range from preschoolers to seniors, and all at a very low cost. Check the center’s calendar for art sales and concerts. Upcoming Saturday 6/11 is their annual ceramics exhibit, one of L.A.'s best-kept secrets. People come from all over to see the work and enjoy the view from the balcony.
This historic Tujunga “rock house” is also just a neat place to visit. The surrounding park is dotted with ancient oak trees, a perfect spot for picnicking and creative reverie. 7570 McGroarty Terrace, Tujunga. (818) 352-5285.

Non-Wine Tasting at Graber Olive House

This charming Spanish hacienda estate and olive-processing plant, open to hungry visitors since 1894, offers free tours and gobs of mouthwatering Graber olives for sampling and sale. The best time to go is late fall or early winter, when the packing process is in full swing. Unlike other brands, Graber's olives are pitted only when they're completely ripe, and some of their varieties are only available on-site. A recommended day trip for couples and food lovers who want to change up their winery routine. 315 E. 4th St., Ontario. (909) 983-1761.

MOCA Free Mondays

The Museum of Contemporary Art has announced that British artist Banksy will sponsor free admission at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA every Monday for the duration of Art in the Streets. The offer runs from June 13 through August 8. For those who haven't seen this controversial exhibit, here is your chance to view it with the hoi polloi. (This is in addition to the usual free Thursday nights from 5-8 pm.)

Summer Sizzles in SoCal with Free Concerts

Summer in Southern California means lots of outdoor activities, but the fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down. These seven concert series have something to appeal to everyone - and best of all, they’re free.
Twilight Dance and Music at the Santa Monica Pier
The hugely popular Thursday night concerts feature music from Hawaii, Jamaica, England, Argentina and Africa in rock, pop, jazz, blues and dance genres.

When: Late July through late August on Thursdays, 7 pm

Where: Santa Monica Pier, Colorado and Ocean Avenues, Santa Monica
Info: (310) 458-8900

Grand Performances Summer Festival
Over 40 free performing arts events, including music, dance and theater, converge on downtown's historic Bunker Hill.
When: Mid-June through mid-October, 8 pm Where: California Plaza, 350 S. Grand Ave., Downtown Los Angeles
Info: (213) 687-2159

Pershing Square Summer Concert Series
Five weeks of entertainment on the grass at Pershing Square. See national touring acts, local bands, DJs and outdoor movies, four nights a week.

When: Late June through late August; Wed, Thu, Sat concerts 8-10; Friday movies at dusk.
Where: Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., Downtown Los Angeles.
Info: (213) 847-4970

Live Music at Hollywood & Highland
Enjoy performances by top jazz artists in the heart of Hollywood. Wine tastings benefit Project Angel Food.

When: June through August, Tuesdays 7-9 pm
Where: Babylon Courtyard at Hollywood & Highland Center, at Hollywood and Highland, Hollywood
Info: (323) 817-0200

Summer Sunset Music Festival in Culver City
Bringing artists from around the world, this 13-week concert series features jazz, samba, swing, bluegrass and classic rock.
When: July 10 to August 28, Thursdays at 7 pm
Where: City Hall Courtyard, 9770 Culver Blvd., Culver City
Info: (310) 2535762

Saturdays Off the 405 at the Getty Center
Check out indie-rock stars at the museum's courtyard while taking in amazing nighttime views of L.A. Top it off with a gallery tour and cocktails under the stars.

When: May to September, 6 pm
Where: Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
Info: (310) 440-7300

Levitt Pavilion Pasadena
Pick from 50 free concerts throughout the summer at this classic band shell in the heart of Old Pasadena. Picnic on the grass while enjoying Latin, Americana, jazz, classic rock and pop.
When: June 22 through August 28, 7 pm
Where: Levitt Pavilion at Memorial Park, 85 East Holly St., Pasadena
Info: (626) 683-3230

Mt. Wilson Accessible Again After Fires

Mt. Wilson not only has the museum closest to the heavens, it gives you a closer look. Built in 1936, the Astronomical Museum contains a lot of old photographs of how the galaxy looked in the ‘30s and ‘40s, plus equipment used to haul pieces of the observatory’s famous telescopes up the mountain. This is a swell place to walk around and gawk at the facility’s buildings, not to mention the staggering view of the Los Angeles basin. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy under the trees. Located off Angeles Crest Highway on Red Box Road, 626-440-9016, Open daily from April through November, weather permitting. Free.

Eaton Canyon Falls

There is something about a waterfall: Its hypnotic movement and meditative white noise, its irresistible pull as you draw near, the sound growing from hiss to rumble. L.A. is surrounded by dozens of waterfalls. Some of the best are also the most easily accessed: John Muir described Eaton Canyon Falls as "a charming little thing, with a voice sweet as a songbird's." An easy mile-and-a-half ramble up the Eaton Wash leads to this deliciously cool resting spot full of reflected light. Read more at the Eaton Canyon website.

Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area

The Devil's Punchbowl is another gem of the L.A. County park system that feels more like a national monument.

This is a pretty fun trek to the edge of the high desert, right against the north side of our San Gabriel Mountains; while there are longer hikes mentioned elsewhere here, the main attraction is the 1+ mile loop that drops into the dramatic rock "punchbowl" formed by the San Andreas fault, passes by a gurgling stream, then ascends back up to the parking lot.

As you walk down the switchbacks you get one great view after another of the rock uplifts, as well as up-close views of sandstone boulders, pinon pines, Spanish bayonet and (in season) lots of colorful wildflowers. Most of the times we go, plenty of snow is visible along the San Gabriels that looks close enough to touch.

For the very small or disabled, there is a nice 1/3 mile nature loop right at the parking lot level which nevertheless boasts wonderful views as well as unique plant and tree species to enjoy.

They have a great visitors center with friendly, well-informed young rangers who will explain anything you'd like to know about the live snakes, scorpions, lizards and ants they have on display. There's an interesting working beehive built right into the wall that you can view and hear; stepping outside you can see the bees traveling in and out of the building through a pipe high up on the wall.

If you are fortunate you will be there when they have Ruth the barn owl out of her pen and perched inside the visitors center - you may be able to pet her (she's soft!) or at least admire her up close. Ruth is so popular she has her own Facebook page, and does a lot of 'community outreach' visiting local schools. If you add the Punchbowl to your Facebook "likes" you'll get alerts about the star parties they have on moonless nights.

Local Field Trip Facebook Albums

A typical weekend traverse along the urban highways - through Vernon, Compton, Cudahy, Bell and so forth.


From Philippe's downtown to the Farmer's Market, the county art museum and finally the Eaton Canyon Nature Center.


The Old Road, Old Sierra Highway and Highway 126.


Lovely, historic Placerita Canyon has hikes for every fitness level.
Another odd spot in the high desert: Llano, the abandoned utopian community.
The Exotic Feline Breeding Compound in Rosamond. Hard-boiled peacock eggs provided by on-site peahens.

1916 Tour of Silver Lake, Echo Park & More

Courtesy of the USC Digital Collections comes this 1916 Auto Club map of a driving tour of Griffith and Elysian Parks. It includes Silver Lake and Echo Park, and still looks like a rather pleasant loop of our scenic near-east side. The caveat here is the road traversing Griffith Park to the north is no longer passable by car (you can certainly go on foot or by bicycle, affording great views of the city and the Hollywood sign) or you can go the long way around via Highland / Barham / Forest Lawn Drive back to Griffith Park.
A larger version can be downloaded here:

Historic Curiosities

The Gordon R. Howard Museum has an interesting, if eccentric, collection from Burbank's history - displays on the early aviation industry, the movie business (with an emphasis on Disney and Warner Bros)., dioramas with late 19th century clothing, a room full of old fire trucks, plus a little Victorian house (1887) you can wander through. Open 1-4 on Sat & Sun only. Located just off Victory and Olive. Free.

Older Amusements

The California Alligator Farm 1907-1953

Part of the fun of exploring L.A. is digging for old resources that help you visualize what was there, or to help you find more information on what's still there. While looking at various So Cal amusement parts, old and new, I started making notes on places like the Los Angeles Alligator Farm, 1907-1953. This was located across from Lincoln Park and later relocated to Buena Park and renamed the California Alligator Farm until it was dismantled in the '70s. There's an interesting site on the subject at

The Los Angeles Ostrich farm 1906-1953

Adjacent to the alligator farm was the ostrich farm where you could visit, feed and ride behind the strange birds. There are pictures of brochures and souvenirs from this attraction posted by a Lincoln Heights historian here: