Arts and Entertainment

LA SkylineSouthern California (SoCal) it a cultural center full of entertainment, arts and sport venues. Unlike places like New York, where many of the venues are found close together, entertainment venues in SoCal are spread out and harder to find.

In this section I will be publishing articles highlighting main entertainment complexes, museums, fun centers and shopping centers in the area.
A good source of information about fun in SoCal is http://www.socalfunplaces.com/. Venues are divided into categories like “Amphitheaters and Stadiums”, “Drive-in Theaters” and “Family Entertainment”.

As usual, you are invited to add your own articles about places you visited or comment about existing articles.

Some of my favorite places: The Getty center and the Getty Villa; Griffith Observatory and Planetarium; Hollywood Bowl; Honda Center; Spreckels Organ Outdoor Pavilion; Garden Walk; Balboa Park; Bowers Museum; Hollywood and Highland; and California Science Center – to name a few.

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Bodies and Titanic Exhibits

Bodies and Titanic ExhibitThe Bodies and Titanic exhibits reside in the former Wax Museum building on Beach Boulevard and offer two totally different journeys for visitors. One takes you to the past to relive the grandeur and tragedy of the Titanic and the other takes you deep into a scientific exploration of the human body. 

Important Note: The Buena Park exhibits closed recently to make room for a new attraction, but you can still see the same exhibits at the Luxor, Las Vegas. A new theme park called Butterfly Pavilion is being built on this location. Stay tuned for the review. 

Although the exhibits can qualify as museums, they are definitely not your typical museums. It is important to make this distinction because some people – especially teens – are allergic to the word museum. 

Since those 2 exhibits are separate, you can buy tickets for one or both. Each exhibit will take around one and half hours to complete – so plan your time accordingly. If you have an inquisitive young one in your party, plan on staying longer. The docents are very helpful and informative. 

Bodies and Titanic ExhibitOnce you buy your tickets, you can pose for some photos with Titanic props. The backgrounds in those photos are blue so they can be exchanged with more elaborate backgrounds. For example, we took a picture in front of the grand staircase. When we viewed the finished photo it looked like we were on the Titanic in front of the staircase. 

At the Bodies exhibits, you will see many exhibits of the human body in full color and to scale. Each room highlights a different part or system like Muscular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive, endocrine, and circulatory. 

The specimens are created from real human bodies and using an innovative preservation method called Polymer Preservation which uses a special liquid rubber. Using this method the specimens can last for a very long time without any decay.

All exhibits were informative and entertaining but my family and I especially enjoyed the exhibit showing the human fetus during different weeks of development. It is mind boggling how tiny the fetus is at 3 weeks and how fast it grows after that.

Another eye-opening exhibit was the stark difference between healthy lungs and damaged lungs due to smoking. If anyone is still smoking in spite of all the warnings then this exhibit might just make them quit.

The Bodies exhibit is mostly independent at your own pace experience. The Titanic artifacts exhibit, on the other hand, is more choreographed and guided.

Bodies and Titanic ExhibitAt the entrance to the Titanic, the docents let small groups in every 15 minutes where they are greeted by a large room with a big screen. The first part of the journey is a short video about the construction, launch, and tragedy of the Titanic. 

The Titanic was built to rival any other cruise liner in size and luxury and was billed as unsinkable. During its maiden voyage in 1912, the unthinkable happened. It struck a large Iceberg and sank to the bottom of the ocean, sending around 1,500 passengers to their doom. The biggest tragedy in this story is that many more lives could have been saved if the ship carried adequate lifeboats. Read more about the Titanic at Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic.

Throughout the ensuing years, many salvagers and researchers recovered a treasure trove of artifacts from the doomed ship. 

This exhibit showcases those artifacts and the opulent life aboard ship. In some of the exhibits, you will see the life-sized Grand Staircase, the first class staterooms and expensive china that survived the drowning. In contrast, you will pass by the cramped crew quarters, with 4 crew members in each cabin. 

Bodies and Titanic ExhibitThe Titanic’s maiden voyage attracted many of the rich and famous who also brought with them their luxury items like jewelry and perfumes. You will see some of those on display too.

In other exhibits, you will see the huge propellers and the engine room where the crew toiled to keep the ship running. Another display plays a looping 3D film showing the sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean. 

In most rooms, there were docents - dressed as crew members – providing information about the exhibits and answering questions. 

One of the rooms shows a huge Iceberg made out of real ice. You can touch the ice to feel how cold it was on that fateful night. 

Around the middle of your journey, you will be seated in a simulated lifeboat while a crew member tells the story of the Titanic passenger’s escape and rescue. 

As you are exiting the exhibit you will walk through a memorial for the people who perished and who survived along with their photos - A very touching experience that makes the whole story more real and personal.  

Our favorite parts of the exhibit were the 3D film, the Iceberg and the engine room.

 

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California Science Center

California Science Center LAThe science museum is a great place to spend the day learning and having fun with the whole family. 

The museum has great fixed exhibits like Creative World and Ecosystems and special temporary exhibits like Journey to Space. Special exhibits usually require a ticket you can purchase at the ticket booth.

Along with the exhibits, the museum has a large format Imax theater that showcases films with scientific themes. Some are shown in amazing vivid 3D.

California Science Center LAThe best attraction at the museum now a-days is the Endeavour final resting place. You have to go through Ecosystems to get the Endeavour display. The first time I entered this hall I was surprised at the spaceship’s huge size. It dwarfs the throngs of people gazing up at it. 

On the walls surrounding Endeavour you can experience a space station module, a space shuttle engine and many photos and videos of the shuttle missions. 

California Science Center LABefore you get to Endeavour you have to pass through Ecosystems. It is worth lingering here for a while so you can experience Earth’s Forest, River, Island and Extreme zones.  You can also zoom in onto the L.A. zone for more intimate details about our own environment. 

California Science Center LA And don’t forget to visit Creative World. This is a place for the whole family to interact and create. You build structure and see the effect of earthquakes on your creation. Or you can see how the wind lift the wings on an airplane in wind tunnel. How about making some model car move with the power of solar energy or finding the perfect angel for a sailboat in the wind?

California Science Center LAA great area of younger kids is the Discovery Room where they can play with hands-on toys and experiments or use preloaded iPads with educational games. They can also visit the Air and Space area and pretend to be astronauts piloting the Endeavour. 

During my visit I watched the Journey to Space Imax 3D movie. It felt to me like I was in the space shuttle and then visiting the space station. The view of our Earth from above is breathtaking. 

California Science Center LAOn your way out visit the ExploraStore where you can find the perfect souvenir for inquiring minds. You can find kits, model spaceships, rock collections and much more.

Plan your visit and learn more about the center at the official website here: www.californiasciencecenter.org.

The Science Center is located next to the University of Southern California (USC) at Exposition Park. Admission is free unless you want to watch an Imax movie or visit one of the special Exhibits. 

Imax movies tickets are $8.50 and the Journey to Space exhibit is $6.50.

You can avoid traffic and parking fees by riding the metrolink expo line which takes you directly to exposition park – a few step away from the museum.

California Science Center

700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037

www.californiasciencecenter.org

Encounters: UFO Experience

Encounters: UFO Experience

I was always fascinated with the idea that aliens from far away planets visited Earth throughout history – or that they are still visiting us today. 

I read many books and watched many TV shows that make such claims. I really would like to believe, but the evidence is still not there. 

Encounters: UFO Experience

I have no doubt that there are millions of earth-like planets in the universe and some of them may harbor life but I am waiting for absolute proof of their existence.

Until then, it is always interesting to browse through any possible such evidence.

Recently I paid a visit to the new “Encounters: UFO Experience” museum at the Garden Walk, Anaheim, California. 

The curators tried to collect sightings, replicas of artifices, Alien models and evidence of encounters and abductions all in one place. The museum is divided into 7 galleries -each focusing on a different topic. In the background you can hear audio and visual recounting of sightings and events.

Encounters: UFO Experience

The exhibit is intriguing and entertaining, but it doesn’t break any new ground. My problem is that I already saw and heard most of the evidence and theories about the subject. For example, most of the material was covered in episodes of Ancient Aliens TV series.

My favorite exhibit was the alien autopsy display. The little grey alien corps was very realistic. 

Other interesting exhibits are: The Easter Island statues; Area 51; Roswell and the Nazca Lines.

The tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for kids. You can purchase a pack of 2 tickets for $14 (with audio tour) from Groupon. 

We spent about 40 minutes going through the whole exhibit – I already knew a lot of the information. To be fair, if this is new to you, you probably can spend up to 2 hours going through each and every display. 

Encounters: UFO Experience

If you decide to go, make sue to make use of the audio tour. Each display has a number you can enter in the device – which will give a recorded description if the item. 

The museum is located inside the Garden Walk center in Anaheim. The Garden Walk is home to dining places like PF Chang and Cheesecake Factory and entertainment places like Bowlmor Lanes (Bowling) and Billy Beez fun center. More about the Garden Walk in a separate article.

400 West Disney Way
Anaheim, CA 92802 

 

Out Of This World Circus

Out Of This World CircusThe circus is in town!

Circus performers and animals have been entertaining audiences for decades. Every circus has acrobats, high wire walkers, aerialists, lion trainers and clowns – and this show has them all and much more.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey took all those acts and wove them together with a storyline that ignites the audience imagination and makes every performance much more interesting.

Out Of This World CircusThe arena is set up with floating globes and bright LED projections. Images of stars and galaxies flash all around and on the big screens. The ice floor is illuminated with astronomical designs. The whole setup prepares the audience for a trip to outer space.

The ice flooring is a new innovation for circus shows. Many of the acts were performed while skating on the ice. 

Out Of This World CircusAs you wait for the show to start, you will be tantalized with appearances by some of the performers and animals. 

The show opens with a countdown, and on lift-off, you see three astronauts balancing on high-wire. With the lighting and special effects, it looks like a moon walk.

Out Of This World CircusThe story is a typical struggle between good and evil. The good ringmaster is on a quest to find the best circus performers in the galaxy and bring them to earth for the greatest show in the universe.  While the evil queen wants the performers for her own show. 

The show featured some returning acts like the Torres family from Paraguay who raced motorcycles in a small (6-foot) globe with speeds up to 60 mph. Up to 6 bikes were cramped in this tiny space while spinning fast. With the stage lights dimmed and the cycle’s lights blasting, it looked like a tornado of light. 

Out Of This World CircusAnother popular returning act was big cat trainer Alexander Lacey who brought his well-behaved lions and tigers.

There were also new acts like the Chinese aerobatics team who were tumbling on the ice and the Simet family who presented their new Space Walk at the beginning of the show. 

One of my favorite performances was by the cute domesticated animals. The stage was invaded by every kind of pet you can imagine. There were cats and dogs, donkeys, goats, Lamas, Alpacas and pigs. 

Out Of This World CircusNotably absent this year were the Asian Elephants. Thankfully they were all retired to a conservation center in Florida. The decision to retire the Elephants was largely driven by new legislation regulating travel and accommodation conditions for the huge animals. 

In general, my family and I loved the show, especially the new innovations and the space theme. I also noticed that the children around us were enthralled by all the acts.   

The Getty Center

Getty at dusk

The Getty Center is located in Los Angeles and houses the main Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the administrative offices.

The Museum has 5 Pavilions. The Exhibition Pavilion houses traveling collections of art while the other 4 Pavilions house the permanent collections. You can find the oldest art collections at the North Pavilion while the newest collections are located at the West Pavilion.

The art collections are extensive and diverse.  It includes paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, decorative arts and photographs. Some of the artists represented are Monet, van Gogh, Renoir and Munch.

Tip: before your start your exploration of the center, watch the video tour. You can also watch the same video at: http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/videoDetails?cat=4&segid=10.

Getty fountainsThe center’s architecture itself is a piece of art nestled on top of a hill with great vistas. The courtyards between the buildings are filled with ponds and fountains. The Pavilions are connected by glass enclosed bridges and open terraces.

Tip: Grab an audio tour device at the reception desk. They have audio tracks in several languages. Most pieces of art have a number next to them. When you punch the number on the device you will be rewarded with a brief description and highlights about the object.

From the main plaza you can walk down a tree lined walkway to the central garden. A stream criss-crosses the walkway and goes over a waterfall into the center pond.
For families with kids, don’t forget to visit the activity center where you can create art with your children. All materials are provided free of charge for your enjoyment.

Getty central garden Dining choice at the center:

You can try the Café style dining with a menu that includes sandwiches, soups, salads, pizzas and pastas, tacos and burritos, and grilled items. Wine and beer are also available.

For a full service dining experience, with a view of the Santa Monica Mountains, go to the restaurant. The menu is a fusion of Mediterranean and California cuisine.

If you prefer, you can have a picnic on the lawn adjacent to the Central Garden or at any of the Getty Center's public seating areas.  You can also pre-order a picnic lunch from the Café at the Getty’s website.

Getty Center Museum Courtyard - from WikipediOther dining options include a Café on a terrace overlooking the gardens and a coffee cart on the main plaza.

Admission and Parking:

A large parking structure is located at the bottom of the hill and costs $15. Entry to the center is free. No reservations are needed.

Once you park, you will ride a tram to the top of the hill where all the center buildings are. The tram ride itself is part of the fun for families with children.

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The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

The Getty Villa

Getty Villa main courtyardThe Getty Villa is located in Pacific Palisades near Malibu. The building is a replica of the Villa Dei Papiri which is a Roman country house that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The buildings and surrounding Roman style gardens transports you through time and lets you experience life as a rich merchant in ancient Rome. The architecture of the Villa was designed to resemble an archeological dig.

Tip: before you start your tour through the Villa, catch a 12 minutes video about the history of the museum and its collections. You can also catch it at www.getty.edu before your visit.

Getty Villa inner courtyardThe Villa houses a great collection of sculptures, pottery and jewelry from antiquities. The main cultures represented are Etruscan, Greek and Roman – with artifacts arranged by themes. For example you will see Gods and Goddesses in one room and the Trojan War in another.

The family activity center is a must for visitors with kids. It offers quick arts projects and a chance to decorate a Vase from the Greek or Roman times with your own decorations. The vases are replicas and the markers are erasable – so don’t worry about spoiling an expensive piece of art.

Getty Villa GalleryOutside the Villa exhibits, you can enjoy a small Greek theater, courtyads, ponds and fountains.

Tip: After parking in the parking structure, many visitors make the mistake of climbing the stairs all the way to the top, missing the gardens and the main courtyard. After the first flight of stairs turn right into a balcony with a clear view of the ocean then climb the small ramp to the main garden with a very long pond and fountains surrounded by statues. If you miss that entrance to the Villa, make sure to exit into that direction to enjoy the views.

Dining choice at the Villa:

You can dine at the Café which serves casual Mediterranean cuisine with comfortable seating indoors or outdoors.  We decided to eat on the outdoors patio to enjoy great food and take in the views and architecture. Umbrellas provided protection from the sun for those who need it.

You can also grab coffee and a snack from the coffee shop next doors.
If you prefer to be closer to nature, you can bring your own food or pre-order a picnic lunch at the Getty website and enjoy at one of the picnic areas.

Getty Villa Admission and Parking:

Although entrance to the Villa is free, your still have to pay $15 for parking. You will also need to make reservations online at www.mtn.museumtix.com. The booking process may look like you are buying tickets for a show, but don’t worry, the tickets are free and you will not be asked for a credit card. You have to have the tickets to enter the Villa - one for each member of your group.

Entering the Villa grounds might be a little tricky. The only way to enter is to go north on PCH, watch out for the tiny gate right of off PCH. If you miss it, you have to go further down PCH and find a safe way to double-back to before the gate. The best bet is to reprogram your GPS navigation and find the best way back.

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The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, California 90272