Total Pageviews

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Experiencing L.A. at the Hollywood Bowl - with Kids

How can anyone say they're experienced Los Angeles without spending an evening at the Hollywood Bowl?

With the summer concert season just starting, why not make plans to attend?

Back in 2003, almost exactly nine years ago, my wife and I decided to take the plunge. Along with my in-laws, we brought our three "bigger" kids (at the time, ages 3, 4, and 5) to a family-friendly Sesame Street themed concert at the Hollywood Bowl. 

We were way up in the nose-bleed section. I think our tickets were something like $7 each. Cheaper than a movie. 

I don't remember much about the concert except that Big Bird made an appearance and there was a lot of music our kids were familiar with. It was fun, I'm glad we did it. 

And fireworks. There were fireworks at the end. That was fun. It was a couple days before the 4th of July, so very appropriate. Our kids liked it. 

The grand finale - or something like that. Great way to kick off the 4th of July, L.A. style. 

Apparently this year, Barry Manilow, rather than the Sesame Street gang, will be there July 2nd-4th. Hmmm, maybe not quite as kid friendly. 

However, July 6-7, the Hollywood Bowl will be hositng a live version of the BBC/Discovery Channel's "Frozen Planet "on the big screen with live orchestra accompaniment by the L.A. Philharmonic. (Here's a link - thanks to Andy at the Hollywood Bowl for this information.)

Our five years actually living in Los Angeles, aside from a very meaningful Easter Sunday service we attended there, we only made it back to the Hollywood Bowl once - for the Sound of Music sing-a-long (the links are to previous posts on this blog, with more information). 

I kept thinking, "we should go back" - but we didn't, and then we moved. Our loss. 

View Hollywood Bowl in a larger map

It's an amazing venue, definitely part of experiencing L.A. 

Here's a link to the Hollywood Bowl's website. 

© 2012


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Top Ten Things To Do With Kids in Los Angeles

Four years ago I came up with a "Top Ten" list of things our family enjoyed doing in Los Angeles. Now that my kids are older, I decided to update that list - asking them what they'd put on it.

Whether you've lived in L.A. all your life, or are just visiting for a few days, hopefully this list of things we've done as a family will give you some ideas as well. We tried to steer clear of things that cost a lot of money - most everything here is free, or fairly inexpensive. 

Each of these ten things is linked to a previous post to provide more information. I also tried to mention additional places close by. 

This is by no way an exaustive list: if we missed anything, feel free to leave a comment. 

10 - THE BEACH There's really no bad time to visit. Parking can be tricky if you show up after 12:00 noon on a summer weekend. Best beaches with kids are either Manhattan Beach (south of LAX) or - pictured above - Ocean Park beach, south of the Santa Monica Pier. 

9 - THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS The Santa Monicas are a large mountain range that literally cut through the heart of the city of Los Angeles, dividing the city from the San Fernando Valley. Good places to go with kids include Malibu Creek State Park, or Topanga State Park. Above are my kids playing along the creek in Santa Ynez Canyon, in Topanga State Park. 

8 - CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTER The California Science Center, located next to USC, just south of downtown Los Angels is totally free. Above, my neice in the fantastic new eco systems section. Next door is the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History

7 - THE GETTY CENTER The Getty actually has two locations: the larger Getty Center, located in Brentwood just off the 405, and the original Getty Villa, located about 10 miles beyond that in Pacific Palisades. Both are amazing, have special areas of kids, and worth a visit. 

6 - THE SANTA MONICA PIER While a visit to the pier is free, there small Pacific Park amusement zone does cost. But if you purchase an unlimited ride wrist band on-line, it's a good value. My daughter celebrated her 9th birthday with family and friends here - great time. 

5 - NOAH'S ARK AT THE SKIRBALL CENTER Reservations are highly recommended at the ever popular Noah's Ark exhibit at the Skirball Jewish Cultural Center, located just north of the Getty Center off the the 405. Every Thursday is free - which is great. This is a MUST SEE for anyone with kids 10 and under. 

4 - TIDE POOLS If the conditions are right, you can see a bit of God's handiwork normally hidden from sight. There are tidepools in San Pedro, Palos Verdes, Pacific Palisades, and Malibu. The saying, "take only photographs, leave only memories" is a good one. 

3 - THE AUTRY CENTER The Gene Autry Western Heritage Center is fantastic. Our kids and their cousins love it, especially Chinese restaurant kids section downstairs. The Autry Center is located across the street from the Los Angeles Zoo. Nearby you'll also find Travel Town, the Los Angeles Live Steamers, and the Griffith Observatory

2 - ICE SKATING DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES Our favorite time to go downtown is for the annual "Downtown on Ice" around Christmastime. During the rest of the year, we've taken our kids to the downtown library, in and around the Bonaventure Hotel (amazing elevators), Olvera Street, and Philippe's in Chinatown. 

1 - TOURNAMENT OF ROSES You'll have to wait until January 1st (or 2nd if it's a Sunday) but it's worth it. The Rose Parade is one of best things to see and so in Southern California. I've you've never been, by all means GO. And you don't need to get there at the crack of dawn. We found a great place to watch just north of the 210 Freeway underpass. 

© 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rediscovering the Fox Carthay Theater - at the Fox Village, Westwood

The Fox Carthay Circle Theater was one of the most famous and successful movie palaces during Hollywood's Golden Age. The theater opened in 1926 and was the site of numerous Hollywood premiers, including Walt Disney's Snow White in 1937. Changing demographics and economic challenges forced the theater to close in 1969. It was, unfortunately, torn down soon afterwards. 

While the Fox Carthay Circle Theater is no longer around, it's "younger cousin" - the Fox Westwood Village - is. And, according to a wikipedia article, it's considered one of - if not the -  best movie premiere venues in the world.

The Fox Village Theater (now owned by Regency, so it's also called the "Regency Village Theater") is located in Westwood Village, just a block away from UCLA. 

Back in March 2009, I took my kids to see the kid film "Monsters vs Aliens" at the Fox Theater in Westwod (here's a link to my thoughts on the film). We were there around 11am and because it was still Spring Break, it was really quiet.

The Fox was built in 1930 and opened in 1931, just five years after the Fox Carthay Circle. 
When I was a student at UCLA I really wanted to find a way to climb to the top of that tower. 

As an aside, here's a YouTube video of actor Robert Redford doing just that, circa 1965. 

No climbing when we went. Just excited to see the show. This was 2009: my kids were 9 1/2 and 7 at the time.

I took the rest of these photos after we saw the movie (and the small mid-day audience left). It's really a unique and amazing theater!

The lobby - like everything is with this theater is massive - with some beautiful detail.

The drinking fountain. Beautiful tile work.

An amazing bass relief in the lobby. The gold-miner theme is again similar in many ways to the old Fox Carthy Circle Theater. I can't imagine this being green-lighted in a theater built today. But then again, The Fox Village is now over 80 years old.

The steps leading up to the balcony ... and bathrooms.

Artwork: check.

Along the walls upstairs: old photos of the theater from over the years.

Back when it opened. Look at the car to the right.

The Fox is still used for major Hollywood premiers by the Studios. Films that have had their world premier have included: James Bond, JFK, Mission Impossible, Batman, Harry Potter, Independence Day, Terminator - and hundreds of others. 

I was working at UCLA in November 2009, when I literally walked by the Fox Village before the world premiere for "Twilight New Moon" (no, I didn't stick around). Here's a link to what that was like. 

The auditorium is just massive, seating close to 1400 people. It has to be one of the largest single screen theaters in Los Angeles. And, thanks to renovations in 1999, it's in fantastic shape. I would definitely recommend seeing a movie here.

Even the ceiling is impressive!

The Fox Village was built just two years after sound was introduced to motion pictures. Really incredible. Yet movies are based on one thing: stories.

Stories capture our imaginations, they move our heads and our hearts. They're incredibly influential. What do my kids want to hear when I tuck them in at night? A story.

As a campus minister, I'm reminded that Jesus did much of His teaching in parables, stories. They were immediately remembered by His audience, and His opponents. To this day, the stories and parables Jesus told continue to transform the lives of millions of men and women, in countries and cultures the world over.

A couple days after I was inside the Fox Village Theater, I had the privilege of meeting over coffee with a young film maker whose upcoming film will be showing in the Cannes Film Festival. He's a Christian, committed to bringing his faith and his world-view into what he does. Fantastic, really. I wish him all the best.

The Fox was built when, aside from radio and print medium, movies were the only way of conveying story. Yet, despite advances in technology, that's what it all comes back to. Or, at least it should. 

photo credit:

Meanwhile, if you still want to see the Fox Carthay Circle Theater, the folks from Burbank have just put the finishing touches on what looks like a spectacular replica down in Anaheim - the centerpiece of the new "Buena Vista Street" in the Disney California Adventure park, opening this weekend. Looks like they've done a great job. 

photo credit:

Their Carthay Circle Theater is actually a high-end restaurant, in the spirit of the old Brown Derby. Nice, but bring your wallet.

If you want to experience the real deal - that is, see a film in one of the most significant movie theaters in the world, head on over the the Fox Village Theater in Westwood. Call ahead: if you time it right, you might even be able to get a glimpse of a Hollywood premiere. 

View Fox Village Theater, Westwood in a larger map

© 2012 - originally posted 3/29/2009


Experiencing L.A. at the Fox Village Westwood Theater

A few more photos of the Fox Village Theater, located one block south of UCLA in Westwood Village (here's a link to Part I).  I was in town for a few days and was speaking at a Korean campus ministry on a Thursday night. I took these photos with my phone on the way back to my car. 

The Fox Theater is considered one of - if not THE - best venue for movie premieres in the world. It's a beautiful, classic building - in many ways very similar to the old Fox Carthay Theater. It's also centraly located on the westside of Los Angeles, just a couple miles from Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Brentwood - where most of members of the entertainment community actually live. 

Located on the corners of Broxton and Weyburn in Westwood Village, the theater is able to get an entire city block closed off for movie premieres - with minimal distuption to traffic. That's not the case at, say, Graman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Here's a link to the premiere of Twilight New Moon that I stumbled upon a few years back, and a previous post on what the inside of the theater looks like. 

Thursday night in Westwood Village. Back in the 1980's, people drove in from the Inland Empire and up from Orange County to "experience" the atmosphere of Westwood on a Friday or Saturday night. While in many ways a shadow of it's former self, thanks to it's proximity to UCLA, it can still be an enjoyable to  walk around, grab something to eat, see a movie, and experience a bit of Hollywood history - and Los Angeles. 

© 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Disney California Adventure re-launch

The Disney California Adventure park, located next to Disneyland, re-launched today after a five year, a one billion dollar "extreme makeover." 

A very talented friend of mine works as an imagineer for Walt Disney Productions, designing and bulding the actual rides (how fun would that be?).  He put the above image up on his facebook site. Like it. 

He also posted this photo of  "Day One" of the re-launch, featuring the opening of the new Cars Land. I don't see any cars. Just people. Lots and lots of people. I'll leave reporting on the Disney parks to the many fan sites out there, including the well done

© 2012