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The Official "Explore Southern California!" Thread

Discussion in 'Disneyland Resort' started by Cosmic Commando, Sep 2, 2013.

  1. Cosmic Commando

    Cosmic Commando Well-Known Member

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    Since I'm wide awake and it's the middle of the night, I decided to actually do one of those things that we've always talked about doing in the Disneyland forum... make a thread just for the tons of cool non-Disneyland stuff, and I need your help! That's right, I said YOU!

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    Here's my vision statement: my idea is to make a thread that is easy for someone to scan when they're trip planning. I'd like to have a mini trip report in each post, only one place in each post to keep everything neat and tidy; one post from each person for Sea World, one for Legoland, etc. It could be a mall, a museum, a restaurant, a park... anything. Obviously, you can combine places into one post if you think it makes sense (like a cool restaurant and the beach right next to it). Feel free to offer up your thoughts or your own trip report even if someone else has already posted the spot you want to recommend... we're going to try and cram all of Southern California into this thread!

    Everyone confused? :confused: Perfect! Let's start!
     
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  2. Cosmic Commando

    Cosmic Commando Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Where? The Getty Villa in Malibu

    What is it? An oil baron's house-museum inspired by a Roman villa in Herculaneum. It houses a collection of antiquities from the Classical world.

    How far from Disneyland? About an hour.

    How much? $20 to park a car; free admission.

    It is an absolutely beautiful mansion with picturesque gardens, fountains and a reflecting pool for wandering outside... just touring the house could possibly be worth $20 for a family without even mentioning the artifacts on display! It was a pretty gloomy, rainy day when we visited, but it was still breathtaking. And a plus, they offered free umbrellas for us to carry around.

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    There are frescoes and marble everywhere. Even some of the handrails on the stairs to the second floor are carved into a marble wall! Many of the statues are out in the open, close enough to touch. Of course, there are many friendly (not sarcastic; they actually were nice) security guards to make sure nothing funny happens, but you can get inches away from these ancient things with no glass and no ropes in the way... very cool.

    What's more beautiful here? The statues, or the room they're displayed in?
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    My kids were 5 and 3 at the time, and they can be slightly crazy sometimes... I was worried if this place would be too snooty for us, but I was really surprised at how not stuffy it was even though everything around us was so haute. The museum staff was very friendly. There was a scavenger hunt game/kids pamphlet that explained things for them and told them to look for certain things and stuff like that. There was also a "kid room" that was like something you might see at a nice children's museum.

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  3. raven24

    raven24 Well-Known Member

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    Jon, are we actually doing this??? I mean, I know we were talking about doing something like this, months ago... Is this really happening? If it is, I'm glad you started it! You, myself, TP and GiveMeTheMusic will be the head contributors to this glorious thread.

    In saying that, I will contribute "tomorrow" (technically, tomorrow is today).:D
     
  4. Cosmic Commando

    Cosmic Commando Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    What? The Pines-to-Palms Scenic Byway

    Where?
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    I took the road (243) that comes off of I-10 right where it says "Banning" on this map, then took 74 east into Palm Desert.

    How far from Disneyland? The scenic part begins about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Disneyland. If you took the quickest route back to Disneyland from Palm Desert, it's about two hours. It's a long drive to do just for the drive unless you really like scenic drives, but if you're going to Palm Springs or the desert, this is a great way to get out there.

    How much? No tolls, just gas money. Slight tangent: the cheapest gas that I saw anywhere during three weeks in California was in the middle of nowhere up in the mountains on this drive.

    Want to feel like you're in a car commercial? You've come to the right place. Just a couple minutes off of I-10, and you are on a twisty, mountain-climbing road lined by boulders. It was in the mid 70's around sea level where we began on a clear November day, but you top out on your "climb" somewhere above 6,000 feet (there are markers every 1,000 ft above sea level). It was pretty chilly near the top, and we could see snow-covered forest in the distance, although there was no snow on our route at the time. There are many beautiful views and lookout points to take advantage of them.
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    As the name suggests, you start out in an evergreen forest on the windward side of the mountains, and it quickly turns to desert on the leeward side. Before you know it, your view turns into this:
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    At one of the lookouts, this is what the view of the road ahead of us looked like:
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    The quality of the physical roads was very good, and the speed limits are actually pretty high most of the way, so you can really open it up if you want. :cool: Google Maps says it should take 1.5 hours to make the drive, but between the curviness of the roads that keeps you below the high speed limits that Google sees and the lookout stops you'll want to make, I'd say to give yourself about three hours to make this part of your trek out to the desert. I drive for a living, so it has lost a lot of its "fun" for me, but this drive was actually fun to be behind the wheel for.
     
  5. Cosmic Commando

    Cosmic Commando Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Please refer all questions to my public relations consultant:

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  6. raven24

    raven24 Well-Known Member

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    Yes sir!
     
  7. englanddg

    englanddg One Little Spark... Premium Member

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    You shouldn't leave out a drive up Highway 1 to go see sights and end up in San Fran (passing through Monterey)

    I've recommended this to plenty of people...but, no one seems to listen. One day I'll take that trip with the kiddo I think!
     
  8. Cosmic Commando

    Cosmic Commando Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    What is it? Joshua Tree National Park

    Where is it? North and East of the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area

    How far from Disneyland? About two hours on the direct highway route, about five hours on the scenic route I detailed above.

    How much? $15 buys a 7-day permit for all the passengers of a non-commercial vehicle. Various deals are available for seniors, military members, etc. Everyone entered for free when we went, because it was Veterans Day Weekend.

    What's a Joshua tree?
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    We rented a house on FlipKey for one night that was just outside of the park. There were a few acres of land for the kids to explore; it was very nice and secluded. We saw the stars... like all of them. There's very little light pollution. This is my best attempt to capture the stars with a P&S camera at very high ISO; you'll just have to believe me! You could even see what looked like nebulas or cloudy clusters of stars with the naked eye. I've been camping out in the middle-of-nowhere back home, but I had never seen a sky like this! This was remote, so being inside the park is even more so.
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    Morning beginning:
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    The park itself was stunning, as well. Even when you're just on the road on the way to the "things to see", there's still wonderful desert scenery.
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    The highlight for me was definitely Keys View. On a clear day, you can see to Mexico (about 100 miles away!)
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    That's the Salton Sea in the midground, and that mountain you can see rising above the horizon is in Mexico!

    There's camping available, and a nice range of trail difficulty. We definitely did not do anything strenuous, so don't let that scare you away. On the other hand, there are some scrambling trails and rock climbing if you want something more difficult. There are also companies that offer horseback excursions into the park.

    P.S. - Check the weather before you go! The desert is not always 110 degrees!
    P.P.S - I know us Disney fans are used to ignoring the official website when looking for information, but I actually found the National Park Service site to be the best source of info.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
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  9. englanddg

    englanddg One Little Spark... Premium Member

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    Keep going! California is a beautiful state!
     
  10. Cosmic Commando

    Cosmic Commando Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    I've heard great things, too, but I don't want to post it because I haven't actually done it myself. Hurry up and get it done so you can tell us about it!
     
  11. englanddg

    englanddg One Little Spark... Premium Member

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    I would love to, but it won't be this year or next.

    I can just say (having done it), it's amazing.
     
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  12. coachwnh

    coachwnh Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree that there is so much to see in CA. We have made the drive from Flagstaff on I 40 and Phoenix on I 10 to DL and the mountains and desert views are amazing. Its incredible to see the changing landscape as you drop in elevation from the mountains in Northern AZ to the coastal cities in CA. Pictures are great, but its something to see it with your own eyes. The other thing I found cool was how everything was still green as we left the elevations of CA on our mid June trip last summer from Phoenix. This past August, those same hills were brown. Can't wait to head out your way again next summer and do more exploring!!!!!
     
  13. Figments Friend

    Figments Friend Well-Known Member

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    ( raises hand )
    I have done this trip twice...and loved it.
    Started at DL, drove with friends all the way up to San Fran.
    Some AMAZING views on the PCH...and scary moments. You literally felt like you were about to drive off the cliffs when along the shore.
    The improptu surfing community that was along one stretch of road once you drove through the cliffs was quite entertaining to see.
    Folks living in giant campers...parked right along the seashore road...living the CA dream.

    The scenic elements were stunning in themselves during the journey.
    In some areas, i felt like i was driving in Ireland when you looked out of the windsheild and saw these large green mountains rising up from what seemed the midde of the road in front of you. That was a surreal effect...you immediately felt like you were driving in some remote part of Europe!

    Other memorable views were the huge cliffs you ride around on the Pacific coast, and some of the hilly terrain you hit in spots further along.


    Monterey is a great spot to stop for a break and stretch the legs, grab a snack, and just see the ocean views. Seals and otters were close to the shore the first time i visited in 2007, but when i returned last yeah after the recent construction down on Cannery Row i was dissapointed to see that the once nice little public spot is now a giant dock for the Bubba Gump resturant. Bummer.

    San Fran of course was epic. Never saw such a colorful downtown ( with all the rainbow flags ).
    Lots of shops and pubs to poke around in, plus the stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge can take your breath away. The famous high hills are fun to drive in a car ...or on one of the famous trolleys.

    Let*s not forget that San Fran is also home to the Walt Disney Family Museum...another spot well worth checking out if you make the trek !

    I love CA.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  14. teacherlady19

    teacherlady19 Active Member

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    San Diego is 90 to 120 minutes south of DL, and you could spend two weeks here and not see everything that there is to offer. If you want to "theme park", we have the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Safari Park (related to the Zoo but 30 minutes away), Sea World, and Legoland. If you want a water park, we have Aquatica (owned by Sea World) in Chula Vista. If you're trying to get away from theme parks for just a little bit, to refresh yourself, we have museums, beautiful drives, state parks, city parks, beaches, and much more. You can go up into the mountains, and the deserts aren't a far drive either.

    Normally, we travel out of state during the summer. However, this summer, we had family come to visit, so we took a "stay-cation". We live here in San Diego, so we decided to see it again! Among places we visited: San Diego County Fair, OId Town State Historical Park, Birch Aquarium, the beach, the Museum of Making Music, San Diego Mission, the beach, DL/DCA, Ocean Beach Pier, and Cabrillo National Monument. A trip report on this stay-cation can be found here: http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?34269-The-Stay-Cation-(Our-close-to-home-vacation)&highlight=

    There was so much we missed, too, such as Julian (antiques and gold mining), Mt Laguna and Cleveland National Forest, Cuyamaca State Park, the county parks down near the Mexican border, Lake Jennings and Lake Morena, and so much more than those! We did take a 3-day jaunt over to Phoenix, and a little later in the summer, we went into Balboa Park for some nice walks and a few great museums.

    Shopping? We have outlet center malls. None of them can rival The Citadel, but my two favorites are Viejas in Alpine, and the Lake Elsinore Outlet Center. (The latter is not in San Diego County. Technically, it's in Riverside County, but is easily accessible to north inland SD county residents. Besides, it's the nearest outlet center with a Corning-Revere Ware outlet in it.) We also have regular malls like you have anywhere.

    Here's a link to a description of all the things to see/do in San Diego, plus things about eating and sleeping in the County: http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?27882-Around-San-Diego-County&highlight=


    Donna
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
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  15. raven24

    raven24 Well-Known Member

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    I've got Los Angeles totally covered in this thread...
     
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  16. GiveMeTheMusic

    GiveMeTheMusic Well-Known Member

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    How about some things for my fellow foodies out there?

    SO CAL MUST EATS
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    What is it? In-N-Out Burger

    Where is it? Dozens of locations; closest to Disneyland is at 600 S. Brookhurst, Anaheim, CA

    How far from Disneyland? 5 - 10 minutes

    How much? The famous Double Double is $3.20, fries are $1.65, shakes are $1.99

    This magical family owned chain makes EVERYTHING fresh and sticks to only the basics: burgers, fries, drinks and shakes. Nothing else. Prices are low, ingredients are all fresh/never frozen, employees are cheerful and the food is to die for. Google the secret menu to find out about even more ways to get your In-N-Out fix.

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    What is it? Bruxie

    Where is it? 6 SoCal locations, closest to Disneyland is at 292 North Glassell St, Orange, CA

    How far from Disneyland? 15-20 minutes

    How much? Bruxies are around $7-$9, plus drinks, shakes and sides

    Bruxie has made waffles hip again with a delightful array of sandwiches (both entree and dessert) that make use of gourmet ingredients. The extremely popular Fried Chicken and Waffle is a great choice for a first-timer; I like the turkey avocado club myself. Recent specials included a lobster Bruxie - be still my heart! For dessert, the creme brulee Bruxie is hard to beat. Come hungry!

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    What is it? Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

    Where is it? 6 SoCal locations, closest to Disneyland is at 730 E. Broadway, Long Beach, CA; an Anaheim location is under construction!

    How far from Disneyland? 30 - 40 minutes

    How much? Entrees range from $7 - $15

    Bruxie wasn't enough for you? Hit up Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles for an authentic LA take on the classic artery-clogging meal. The classic, pictured above, hits you with some finger-lickin' fried chicken (move over Colonel - this ish just got real) and tasty waffles. Mix 'em up, load up the butter and syrup, and promptly schedule your next physical.

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    What is it? The Donut Man

    Where is it? 915 E Rte 66 Glendora, CA

    How far from Disneyland? 30 - 40 minutes

    How much? Fresh strawberry or peach donuts (pictured above) $3.50/each

    Depending on the season, Food Network-featured Donut Man serves up its famous fresh strawberry or fresh peach donuts. They will change your life; that's all you need to know.

    More to come!
     
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  17. raven24

    raven24 Well-Known Member

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    Okay, my turn. I will be covering a few places in Los Angeles.

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    What is it?: The Grove (Los Angeles)

    Where is it?: Los Angeles, CA (Hancock Park area, not too far away from Beverly Hills)

    How far from Disneyland?: About 35 miles away and a 45-60 minute drive

    The Grove is a shopping center with various shops and eateries, such as Apple, Barnes and Noble, Nordstroms, The Cheesecake Factory, etc. There is also a movie theater, with a vintage opera theater-style going on with it.

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    The Grove also hosts various entertainers. The Grove is amazing and one of my favorite places to visit.

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    What is it?: L.A. Live

    Where is it?: Downtown Los Angeles

    How far from Disneyland?: About 28 miles and a 30-45 minute drive.

    L.A. Live is an entertainment venue of sorts. There are more eateries than anything, but there is a bowling alley, a club(s), the Grammy Museum and other things. L.A. Live also has a movie theater. Nearby is the Staples Center (where the LA LAkers and LA Clippers play) and the Nokia Theater, which hosts entertainment events. L.A. Live is definitely more for adults, but the theater is great.

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    What is it?: Universal Studios Hollywood

    Where is it?: Hollywood, CA

    How far from Disneyland?: About 35 miles and 40-60 mins away.

    Universal Studios Hollywood is a studio theme park in Los Angeles/Hollywood, CA, set in the backdrops of beautiful mountains. The theme park aspect of Universal was attached in 1964, but Universal Studios itself has been around for ninety-nine years (it went by a different name over one-hundred years ago (1912) in New Jersey, before relocating to Hollywood in 1914. While the attractions at Universal are great, the studio tour is the best part about the park. Way back in the early nineteen hundreds, Universal charged guests fifteen cents to tour the studio; that tradition has been kept up. The studio tour takes you behind the scenes of soundstages, sets and other things. Check out the VIP Tour for an even better studio experience! Next year, USH will be debuting Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, which will be vastly different from Orlando's (same ride, of course) and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is also making its way to Hollywood.

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    This is all I have time for, right now. More places, later.
     
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  18. TP2000

    TP2000 Well-Known Member

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    @Cosmic Commando what a BRILLIANT idea for a thread! I've got to finish up some work (on Labor Day?!?), but I can't wait to contribute a few ideas to this thread later!

    Congrats on coming up with such a helpful and fun idea for a thread here! True proof that Disneyland is just one sparkling gem in the Southern California Crown. Anyone who goes to California and only sees Disneyland for a few days is missing out on a heckuva whole lot of amazing stuff. It's like going to Washington DC and only visiting the Lincoln Memorial and then claiming they've "seen Washington DC".
     
  19. TP2000

    TP2000 Well-Known Member

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    Cosmic Commando had a great way to get to Palm Springs via the scenic highways. Although you can get to Palm Springs in about 90 minutes from Disneyland by taking the freeways, especially if you use the Highway 60 shortcut over the mountains that offers better scenery than I-10 through the far eastern suburbs. http://www.pstramway.com/

    But once you get to Palm Springs, a fun family activity is taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up the mountains. The Tramway opened in 1963 and offers some great examples of Mid Century Modern architecture at both its station complexes, but Mother Nature also puts on an amazing show of her own.

    The round tram cars rotate, so that everyone can stand by the windows and get the same view both ascending and descending.


    You can't miss the Tramway thanks to the big sign right along the highway leading into town, but there's also the famous Frey designed gas station from 1965 on that same corner. The Tramway Gas Station has been turned into the Palm Springs Visitors Center, and it's best to stop in and get some maps and info from the typically friendly and chatty Visitors Center staff inside. You can't miss it as you drive into town.

    Tramway Gas Station 1965 - Palm Springs Visitors Center 2013
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    From there it's a short 5 minute drive up into the foothills where you'll find the mod Valley Station of the tramway. Buy a ticket and board the next tram car for the 20 minute ride up into the mountains. It's stunning and exciting, but obviously not for those afraid of heights. And even in summer when it's 105 down in Palm Springs, the temperature will be 40 degrees cooler up at the top of the mountain.

    Departing the Valley Station down below. Onward and upward!
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    Soon the scenery begins to change from desert scrub to ponderosa pine forest. About five months of the year the snowpack remains visible around you as you near the top.
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    Ever higher, ever onward, your ears pop and the chilly mountain air invades the revolving cabin. The sizzling desert floor is far below you now.
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    Once you get to the top of and disembark the Tramway, you are now officially at Mount San Jacinto State Park, run by the California State Parks. At the top is the Mountain Station, which is equally mod and stylish as the Valley Station. There's a cocktail lounge, the fancy Peaks Restaurant, and a more casual coffee shop, with big decks that look out to the lights and sights of Palm Springs 10,000 feet below you.
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    While some folks may only go up for dinner and cocktails, others are more adventurous and use the Mountain Station as a jumping off point for hiking and camping in the State Park. There is a Ranger Station there in the Tramway Mountain Station, and park Rangers can provide you with maps and advice on doing some of the mile or two mile hikes on the easy and well marked trails, or backpacking further into the park where lakes and ever more rugged mountains and wilderness can be found. In winter there is cross country skiing, show shoeing, and sledding available around the Mountain Station area.

    Top O' The Tramway - Brrrr!
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    It's a great day trip from the Disneyland area. There are many fabulous restaurants in Palm Springs, plus the shopping and uniquely American Mid Century Modern architecture that made Palm Springs famous. Those with a Don Draper sensibility about life might want to spend the night in one of Palm Springs swanky boutique hotels. But the Tramway alone is also just a fun full day in the great outdoors, and a perfect day trip from Disneyland. http://www.pstramway.com/
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
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  20. TP2000

    TP2000 Well-Known Member

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    This is fun! Let's do another one!

    Closer to Disneyland, but still up on a mountaintop, is another old-fashioned gem. The fabulous Griffith Observatory. Built in 1935, and fully remodeled and expanded underground in 2006, it was a mandatory stop on any SoCal vacation itinerary decades before Disneyland existed. After its extensive refurbishment in '06 it's back on SoCal travel itineraries in the 21st century. And the best part is that it's absolutely FREE, as a gift to all knowledge-loving people from the City of Los Angeles.

    Griffith Observatory was also featured as an important plot point in the 1991 Disney film "The Rocketeer" set in 1940 Los Angeles.

    It sits on a hilltop in the Hollywood Hills, in stunning Art-Deco style clad in white sandstone and marble with heavy metal accents.
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    But what makes Griffith Observatory famous is the view you get looking south off the Observatory's various balconies and observation promenades built into the side of the great dome. You look directly south into the Los Angeles basin, with downtown LA to the left, downtown Hollywood below, the skyscrapers of Century City and the blue Pacific Ocean to your right.
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    It's picturesque and impressive in the daytime. But at night it becomes jaw-droppingly stunning as you look out over the great Los Angeles basin and a megalopolis of 10 Million people twinkling and moving below.
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    The real reason for the Observatory to exist isn't the views of LA below, but rather of the stars above. Inside the building, and built underground under the lawn in front, are theaters and telescopes and science exhibits all open to the public. There are two great telescopes, each in the smaller domes flanking the left and right of the building, one trained on Mars and one trained on the Sun or Moon. Docents will help you climb up into the dome and peer through the powerful 1930's telescopes so that you can see Mars or the Sun/Moon yourself.

    Under the giant dome is a wonderful planetarium, one of the best such planetariums in the world and showing fantastic shows on our solar system and universe. Here's a cutaway model of the observatory, showing the telescopes and planetarium in the main 1935 building, and the various exhibit halls and theaters built underground beneath the lawn in front in 2006.
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    The interior and exhibit halls of the main building is restored 1930's Art Deco elegance.
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    The displays themselves in the exhibit halls in both the main building and the new expansion under the front lawn are thoroughly updated though, to reflect the contemporary understanding of our Solar System and space science.

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    Visiting Griffith Observatory is easy if you have a rental car, and Grey Line tours make stops there as well. Weekends and peak vacation times can be busy and parking can be tough. But on weekdays or in winter it's a very easy stop to make. There's a nice café restaurant added in '06 onto the hillside below the main building, and a museum shop offers books and educational toys. And again, it's FREE to locals or tourists alike. Check for hours and planetarium show schedules before you visit. http://www.griffithobservatory.org/
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
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