Go outside and collect leaves. Then flatten the most interesting ones in a few hefty books, and stash away for future discovery.
Pick a genre of music you don’t ordinarily listen to but enjoy, maybe jazz, classical or African, and do an all-day immersion. Pick/download a record and play it throughout the day–at home, on a walk, in the car, at mealtimes, before bed.
Visit your local record store and pick up an album based on the clerk’s recommendation
Write a Haiku.
Start a notebook. Call it what you want — a journal, diary, sketchbook, captain’s log, whatever. Use it for to-do lists, scribbles, overheard snippets of conversation, ticket stubs, dreams, book recommendations. Moleskins are nice, but look for something you’ll be happy lugging around in your pocket or purse.
Learn to play a song on any instrument.
Introduce yourself to a neighbor on your street. Invite them for lunch.
Destroy something – smash a bucket of burned-out light bulbs, beat an old appliance. Or best yet, flog a fax machine, a la the film “Office Space.”
Create a personal manifesto for the year ahead.
Bring a hot meal to someone who needs one.
Pick something you would normally hire someone to do/clean/repair/install/build and attempt to do it yourself.
This may seem positively monastic, paired with a day of unplugging, but it just might lead to something great: Don’t speak. At all. For a whole day. People who take a weekly vow of silence swear (silently) by the practice – it sharpens awareness and encourages deep thinking.
Pick a newspaper or a (non-gossip) magazine and read it cover to cover.
Make a handmade card for someone and send it.
Try a new ethnic cuisine, one you’ve never eaten before.
Write your own horoscope for the day.
Ask someone – a friend, a parent, a stranger – to tell you their life story, from beginning to end. Record it.
Everyone is an expert at something. Write a “How To” article for your area of expertise.
Attend services for a religion other than your own.
Re-watch one of your favorite movies from your childhood. Does it still hold up?
Photograph a scar, yours or someone else’s, and write a paragraph about it. (Creative assignment thanks to: Learning to Love You More, the now-completed participatory art project conceived by Miranda July).
Visit a new merchant in your neighborhood. Browse. Introduce yourself.
Write yourself a letter to open in 10 years.
Interview someone who has experienced war.
Lay out a map of the world, close your eyes, and put down a finger. Locate the closest country. Now find a restaurant within one-hour driving distance of your home that specializes in this country’s cuisine. Go there and ask the server to bring you their favorite items on the menu.
Make a list of 5 things you want to say to someone but haven’t. Consider the pros and cons of saying them.
Go for a bike ride.
Eavesdrop. Pick up a new piece of slang and use it in conversation at some point during the day.
Take a walk through a cemetery. Bring a respectful token to leave at one of the graves.
Have a late lunch (or early dinner) with friends and sit and eat and drink wine until it’s dark.
Play a board game. Dig an old one out of the closet – Clue holds up, as does Risk – or, better yet, seek out an indie, family-run toy store and pick up something like The Settlers of Catan (warning: highly addictive) or 10 Days in Asia (great with kids).
Choose three of your favorite songs. Queue the iPod, CD player or the turntable. Turn up the volume and dance in your living room. Repeat as desired.
Go to a tourist attraction in your hometown that you’ve never visited. Buy a postcard. Send it to someone you haven’t seen for over a year.
Get out an old photo album or yearbook and flip through the pages.
Maybe it’s Instagram. Or Bejeweled. Or Pinterest. Or even Facebook. You know what it is. It’s that one app-slash-social network-slash-time suck that is, when you really stop to consider it, lessening your quality of life. So here’s a crazy idea: quit. Unsubscribe. Get off. Maybe this is all you’ve needed – a little nudge. Take this day apart to make a change that will improve your whole week, and beyond.
Fix something around your house/apartment.
Plant something–tree, flower, vegetable or herb. In a pot, or in the ground.
Trade something with someone. Anything, with anyone.
Consult the Oblique Strategies card deck. Co-created by mastermind Brian Eno, Oblique Strategies is a collection of beguiling, insightful aphorisms to help creative people work through problems (sample items: “try faking it,” “honor thy error as a hidden intention.”) Ideally, get your hands on an actual, physical card deck; If not, you might bend your unplugging practice a little to check the online version.
Write a letter or send a package to someone you know deployed or stationed overseas. Don’t know anyone? Use one of these websites to select a pen pal or write to an anonymous soldier: www.anysoldier.com or www.amillionthanks.org.
Choose a word from the dictionary that’s new to you and use it in conversation.
Write the first line of your autobiography. Continue, if inclined.
Attempt to go through an entire day without spending a single penny.
Try Flipwalking – go outside your house, set a timer, flip a coin at each intersection; heads, turn right, tails turn left. Take a picture wherever you end up after one hour. Where’d you end up?
Photograph yourself in front of a body of water. Or climb a tree and take a picture of the view.
Give someone a gift, for no reason at all.
Initiate a real conversation with someone who helps you – waiter, gardener, housekeeper, mail carrier, etc.
Introduce yourself to at least one neighbor you don’t know very well, or rarely see. Bring over a plate of cookies, flowers from your garden, or just say hello and let them know how to reach you if they ever need anything.
If you’re at a social gathering, introduce yourself to a stranger and tell them you’re trying something new…ask if they’d be comfortable answering one of following questions: What’s your earliest memory? Who are you closer to and why: your mom or dad? What’s the worst date you ever had?
Make a meal using fresh local produce, incorporating at least one ingredient, spice, or vegetable you’ve never tasted before.
Re-read an entry in one of your old journals. Note something that was all-consuming at the time that appears trivial now.
Put $5 or larger in an envelope, write on the envelope, “You’ve been reverse pick-pocketed,” and slip it undetected into a stranger’s bag.
Write a letter to your parents, children, spouse, or business partner that you don’t intend to send.
Take a long walk (at least 5 miles) along a route you regularly drive or ride. Take 3 photos of things you’ve never noticed.
Ask someone you know who knows a lot about something to explain it. Maybe you’ve got a friend with a job you never really understood. Or maybe you’re related to someone with a crazy hobby. Today’s the day to sit them down and learn all about it.
Draw an animal. If you “can’t draw,” doodle wildly. Use a lot of paper and as many kinds of pen, pencil and paint as you’ve got. Best if you’ve got an actual animal to pose for you. Sleeping cats and dogs make great subjects. Draw the fur. Don’t worry if it looks wrong or weird or nothing like your actual pet — try to enjoy the process…
Convert a Facebook friend into an actual friend with a phone call or visit.
Locate/download the first record/tape/CD you ever bought with your own money and listen to it straight through, ideally with headphones. How does it sound now? Different? Better? Any long-forgotten memories?
Do you think the world will be better or worse off 100 years from now?
What does maturity mean to you? Are your parents mature? Your friends? Are you?
What would you say to the teenage versions of your parents?
Think about something you’ve done that others have been against – how did you handle it?
Imagine you are able to live to the age of 100 and you have the choice to retain either the body OR the mind of a 30-year old, which one would you choose?
Have you ever changed your mind about something you believed in very deeply? Why?
What do you hope will be exactly the same 20 years from now?
What would you say is your biggest flaw? How has it affected your life? Do you wish you could change it or have you accepted it as part of your basic makeup?
What cause or project would you like to work on this year?
If you could eradicate anything in the world, what would it be?
What would you change if you knew you would live forever?
If you knew you were going to die at midnight, what would you be doing at 11:45?
Is there any cause or purpose that you would die for?
What does ‘giving back” mean to you? Do you give of your time, money, energy?
What is the best trait and the worst trait you inherited from your parents?
What is your current obsession and why?
If you could play any musical instrument perfectly, which one would you choose?
What was one of your most character-defining moments?
Is there anything you’d be willing to die for?
If you had a $10 billion budget, what project would you undertake?
Which public figure, living or dead, would you most want to have dinner with? Hit over the head with a hammer? Have sex with?
Which are your most prized possessions and why? What would happen if they disappeared from your life?
If you could take a pill to stop aging, would you? Where would you stop?
To know or not to know, would you want your genome mapped?
If you could pick one law to change/abolish/advance, what would it be?
If you could gain immediate proficiency in a new language, which one would you choose and why?
What animal would you most like to be reincarnated as?
What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
How’s your pace? Over the past year, have you acted too fast or too slowly?
If you could be a champion at any sport, what sport would you choose?
What has been the scariest moment of your life? Were there any lasting effects?
If all jobs paid the same, what would you do for a living?
What do you want for your last meal on earth? Jimi Hendrix had a tuna fish sandwich, Timothy McVeigh went with mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, Julia Child ate, fittingly, a bowl of French onion soup. So: what are you having?
Is your body glad you’re in charge of it? What is it trying to tell you right now?
Can you recall the names of all your teachers from grade school? What teacher do you remember most? Why?
If you could have one moment or decision in your life to do over, what would it be and what would you change?
Excluding photos, money and practical items, what keepsakes would you rescue from your home if it was on fire?
What has been the biggest turning point in your life to date?
Who from your past, living or dead, would you have appear in front of you right now, for 20 minutes? What would you do together? What would you say?
If you could be made immortal, would you do it?
If you could clone yourself, what would you do while your clone took care of your life?
If you were given a free trip with three people you haven’t seen in over five years, who would you take and where would you go?
What’s something you should throw away, but can’t? What’s holding you back?
How much, if any, of their income should people donate to charity? Do you?
How unconditional is your love for your partner? Your children? Your parents?
What do you want done with your body when you die? What sort of service do you want? What music, what reading, who should speak?
How would you define your ‘comfort zone’? What’s one thing you could do to get out of it? Write that one thing down on a piece of paper, and attempt to do it in the coming week.
Is there something your parents used to do or say when you were growing up that you promised yourself you’d never do? Do you catch yourself doing this very thing now, and how do you feel about it?
If you could know the precise time and place of your death, would you want to know? How would your life change?
Think for a moment about what motivates you to eat the food you eat. What role does nutrition, taste, or convenience play? Do ethics play a part at all? If you had to articulate your own rules for ethical eating, what would they be?
What has been the most humiliating moment of your life to date? Are you able to laugh about it today, or do you still try to forget about it?
What one law would you enact today if you were king or queen?
What’s the most serious injustice or social wrong that you think will be recognized as such in the future – but which is mostly taken for granted today?
What will our kids or grandkids look back on and think, how could they (i.e. you, us) have been OK with that?
What one day in your life would you want to experience again? What one day would you want to erase and do-over?
We’re headed up to Spanish Harlem today for some delicious food and wondrous sightseeing. We’ll start at La Fonda Boricua, a former lunch counter with no printed menu famous for it’s delicious roasted meats. Nearby we’ll check out some of the many gorgeous murals, including the mosaic at Lexington Avenue and 106th that pictures the poet Julia de Burgos. Down on 104th you’ll find a mammoth mural of locals along with a four-story-high Puerto Rican flag. A few storefronts down, at 134th East 104th, is Justo Botanica, a muy autentica shop offering all manner of tzochkes for the spiritually inclined. Magical indeed.
We’ve walked through Bryant Park on our way somewhere a million times, but today we’re making it our destination. First we’re devoting an hour or two to exploring the library inside the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building located at 40th and 5th, right across the street. We’ll look for the first Gutenberg Bible to cross the Atlantic and the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals. Back outside, we’re heading over to the park to try a game of ping pong, catch a magic show and sit down on a bench with a Tastee Freeze. Because sometimes the places you pass by are worth stopping for.
Take an old carousel, refurbish it, place it in a modern architectural pavilion and magically set it on the East River between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and you have an utterly beautiful gem called Jane’s Carousel. Meticulously restored to its original glory by an artist – yes, her name is Jane – this 1922 carousel is the first of its kind to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. We can’t wait to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and go for a ride.
You think you know bingo, but you don’t. And even if you do, you don’t know Le Bingo. Saturdays at Le Poisson Rouge with outrageous host Linda Simpson, Le Bingo is not your grandma’s 25-cent gambling habit. Happy hour drinks and wacky prizes make this an experience to have at least (and perhaps at most) once.
The city has no shortage of great museums, but sometimes the little ones make the biggest impression. Today try visiting the headquarters of the Society of Illustrators on the Upper East Side. Also check out the permanent collection, which includes commercial works, choice images from children’s books and original art from everyone from Norman Rockwell to R. Crumb. For details and hours, click here.
Located on a 40,000-square-foot schoolyard at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, enjoy the wares and treats from 150 different vendors at the Fort Greene Flea. It’s a little bit vintage, a little bit hipster, and a whole lot of delicious food.
Ever been to Storm King? The crazy-beautiful sculpture park an hour north of the city? The park is 500 acres of lush woodland and hillsides dotted with works by Calder, Serra, Lichtenstein, all the biggies. Come wander. Kids love it. Great place to picnic. There’s even a bus from Grand Central.
According to Monet, it is possible that the flowers in his own garden were the reason he became a painter. The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has recreated that famous and recognizable garden in a seasonally changing tribute to the painter, and this Saturday we’ll venture to see what effect such a place might have on our own creativity.
High-tail it to the High Line. This public park–originally an elevated railroad built in the 30’s–is one of the coolest city parks around. Bring the kids for Second Saturdays, a monthly drop-in art workshop with teaching artists from the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Or take a walking tour with a High Line Gardener to check out the park’s unique horticultural treasures, like native twisted leaf garlic.
Take the train to Beacon, NY and enjoy contemporary art (1960s to present) at the Dia: Beacon, Riggio Galleries. The museum is housed in a former Nabisco printing factory, and features installations of works by some of the most significant artists of the last half century. After you take in the art, don’t leave Beacon just yet. Take a shuttle from the museum and visit the town’s historic Main Street to peruse the artisanal shops and galleries, or get a bite to eat. For visitor information: http://www.diacenter.org/sites/main/beacon. For train information: http://www.mta.info/mnr/html/getaways/outbound_diabeacon.htm
Have you forgotten, or maybe you never knew? Either way, this is a find we’re really excited about. Forgotten New York is a non-profit dedicated to chronicling the unnoticed and hidden treasures of the city, and hosting curated tours around these discoveries. Sign us up.
We’re getting old school. Take your favorite novel or publication (paper copies today, people) to the main reading room of the New York Public Library on 42nd street and 5th avenue and just… read. Feels so good.
Commune with the Ultimately Undone at Green-Wood Cemetery, between Park Slope and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. One of New York’s oldest and largest resting places, it’s not only filled with the memorials and tombs of both Civil War heroes and artistic giants, such as Leonard Bernstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, but also has an abundance of trees begging for a long, quiet stroll on a Saturday. The groundskeepers will chastise visitors talking loudly, using their phones, or jogging…basically enforced unplugging.
Before hipsters settled these parts, Brooklyn–specifically Flatbush–was the location of an 18th century farming village founded by Dutch immigrants. Say the words Vlacke Bos (meaning “wooded plain”) five times fast and you’ll understand how the name became Flatbush. Located in Prospect Park on 58 acres of land, Lefferts Historic House is now a museum interpreting the history of Brooklyn using a working garden, historic artifacts and period rooms. When was the last time you churned butter, cooked on an open hearth, or watched (or participated in) a potato sack race? Admission is free for kids with a suggested donation for adults.
Aha! Been needing a place like this and it’s here. Brooklyn’s new Dekalb Market looks to be a proper outdoor event/music/food/art/retail/film space with an eye toward architecture, art, and sustainability.
If you’re going to sit around all day you may as well be sweating. Head to the Royal Palace, a giant Russian bathhouse where Coney Island meets Brighton Beach, where shvitzing is an art form. Melt on marble slabs in the Turkish steam, dry out in the Finnish sauna, and then roast yourself into a state of oblivion in the Russian banya. You’ll enjoy the sleep of the dead. 614 Sheepshead Bay Road, Brooklyn. 877-819-2284.
In real life, no joke, seriously, there exists a 9,335 square foot architectural model of New York City including every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs! Hallelujah for free time. We’ll be marveling at this labyrinthine, over-sized diorama and scouring it for our own apartment this week at The Panorama at the Queens Museum of Art. Admission is by suggested donation. Adults: $5, Senior and Children: $2.50, Members and Children under five: Free!
Spend an afternoon browsing the stalls and sampling the eats at Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, today operating in the Williamsburg Savings Bank, worth a visit just to see the gorgeous stone interior. More than 100 vendors line the former teller windows on the ground floor, secret rooms on the upstairs mezzanine and the original bank vault on the lower level.
Go to Grant’s Tomb. Too few New Yorkers have ever bothered checking out this mammoth architectural wonder. A giant black sarcophagi and 8,000 tons of Italian marble along with a set of allegorical statues that depict Grant’s childhood, service to the military, presidency and death. Open seven days a week, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, free admission. Northern section of Riverside Park.
Find the hidden labyrinth in McLaren Park and walk the path. Tucked up a steep hill in a ridge-top grove, the labyrinth is composed of rocks, trash, toys and other detritus and is surrounded by blue gum eucalyptus, cypress and pine. Bring something to add to the maze. It’s the highest point of the park – start your walk at the dog run north of Mansell Avenue and head uphill.
On the third Saturday of every month, Cypress Lawn in Colma is open for historical tours. Take a scenic stroll through the expansive gardens of one of the only cemeteries left in San Francisco, or pay your respects to some notable deceased. You’ll leave with a new appreciation for the city’s motto, “It’s good to be alive in Colma.”
The good people of the Peralta Junction Project have done something wonderful for us in West Oakland. Transforming a vacant lot into a creative community space filled with carnival-style oddities, interactive art projects, local food trucks, movies, even the Mousetrap – a 25-ton Rube Goldberg machine. A spectacle to witness, an honor to be a part of, and a show of gratitude to the folks creating such a space compels us there this weekend.
Brave the tourists and head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a visit to the Musee de Mechanique, the mysterious and fascinating collection of mechanical instruments, dancing thingamabobs and antique arcade machines. It’s not quite a musuem, not quite a store — it’s really just a warehouse filled with weird old robotic things that crank and whir and perform all sorts of unexpected feats, from the German monkey who claps his cymbals while singing Herb Albert to the saucer eyed giant who rocks back and forth and laughs maniacally when you feed him a quarter. Avoid the dismal food around here and walk the three or four blocks to Albona Ristorante – we’re told it’s delicious.
Another great outing for you and the little wiggleworms. Pack a picnic, strap on your hiking shoes and head up into the Oakland Hills and take a ride on the Tilden Park steam locomotive, then wander over to the carousel and farm. All three are a short drive away and each offers its own particular brand of fun. Be sure to feed the cows. We love giving them stalks of celery and watching them chomp ‘em down.
Ah, the stairways of San Francisco. You’ve driven them, you’ve taken out-of-town visitors to see them, but have you ever walked them? Probably not. Neither have we, but we’re inspired. The Stairways of San Francisco offers a myriad of options for your stair walking pleasure. Take your picks: Filbert, Vallejo, Coit Tower and more. Details here.
Take a trip to Treasure Island Flea – an open air flea market that takes place on the Great Lawn on the west side of the island with beautiful views of downtown San Francisco. In addition to the market, you’ll find gourmet food trucks, indie designers, and even a scavenger hunt. Parking is free and the event is dog friendly!
Twenty minutes north of Berkeley, along a drab and unremarkable commercial stretch, you’ll find a peculiar and wholly wonderful place – Playland-not-at-the-Beach, a shrine to the obsessions of one Richard Tuck, amusement park fanatic and lover of circuses, toys and all things childlike. Playland-not-at-the-Beach is primarily focused on memorializing the long-shuttered Bay Area attraction Playland, but it also hosts special events. Along with a few salvaged ride parts, games and costumes, the museum has a full room of (free play!) pinball machines and working carnival games.
Lindy in the Park? It’s been going for 16 years! It all happens in Golden Gate Park on Sundays. Leaders and followers are rotated throughout the lesson so no partner is required. DJ’s Ken and Naomi spin swing tunes from 11 am – 2 pm. Lessons begin at noon and all ages/levels encouraged. Let the swinging begin.
OK, this isn’t exactly meditative or thought-provoking — unless your idea of mindful meditation is racing a gang of hopped-up teenagers around hairpin turns in a souped-up GoKart. In any case, drive your everyday car out to Burlingame, then get suited up for a spin in one of their little electric speed demons at GoKart Racer. We’ve done it with kids and without — either way, it’s ridiculously fun.
The landing of the Mars Rover has renewed our own curiosity for things far, far away. Hence, a visit to the Morrison Planetarium is a must. Get out of the heat and step into the dark recesses of the largest all-digital dome in the world with a 75-foot diameter projection screen tilted at a 30 degree angle. Thanks to some crazy thing called “immersive video technology,” the dome seems to disappear when imagery is projected onto it, so you feel like you are flying rather than watching a movie. Tickets give you access not only to the planetarium but also to the aquarium, natural history museum & rain forest with 40,000 live animals and exhibits all housed beneath a living roof. So when it’s time to come back to earth, you can do it all in one place.
Take a cheese class. There’s this amazing place over on Powell Street near North Beach called the Cheese School of San Francisco. For the price of a fancy dinner ($130) you’ll spend three hours sipping very nice wine, nibbling on almonds and apricots and tasting and then making incredible cheese with people who know their sheep from their buffalo from their cow. These people are serious. Saturday’s class is all about camembert – that gooey French cheese that sets the standard for any serious cheesemonger. You’ll inoculate fresh milk, layer off the curd once it’s set and then take your little cheese home and watch it grow fluffy and white as you care for it.
You’ve been to Golden Gate Park more times than you can count, but have you ever taken a ride on Stow Lake? Take your pick from their American-made fleet of boats including row, pedal or electric which you can rent by the hour. For the full experience, why not try all three. Stop by the Boathouse Cafe for vintage snacks including Stow Lake’s classic pink popcorn.
Who needs Napa when you have Treasure Island? Over the last few years, TI has been earning its reputation for pouring great wine. Although the grapes are grown elsewhere, the wine is produced, bottled and consumed in large, open warehouses on the island. Leave your car behind and get there by way of the Muni 108. Make your way from The Winery SF, to Treasure Island Wines, to Eristavi Winery, and finish the day at Fat Grape Winery. Sip safely. For more details and transportation tips: http://www.weekendsherpa.com/stories/treasure-island-wine-tasting/
Take your unplugging to the lanes. It’s been awhile since we’ve laced up a pair of goofy shoes, but we’re excited to give it a go. The Mission Bowling Club mashes up old-fashioned fun with a fine dining twist on comfort food….plus classic cocktails. Family Bowling is noon-7 pm Saturdays and Sundays. Strike, spare, gutterball? All are welcome.
Reach new heights and visit the House of Air — an indoor trampoline park located in the historic airplane hangar at West Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco. The facility allows for open trampoline jump time, aerial and physical training on trampolines, trampoline dodgeball, and fitness classes. Programs available for younger kids as well. NOTE: Reservations must be made in advance and fill up quickly on weekends. For reservation and ticket information: http://www.houseofair.com
If you are looking to get back to nature in a big, tall, and majestic way, Muir Woods is the place. There’s nothing quite like walking through a cathedral of redwood trees that stand 250 feet high, with ages ranging from 400 to 800 years. Walk the flat trails that loop through the groves filled with red elders, California big leaf maples, Douglas fir and more. Bring your binoculars to engage in some serious bird and wildlife watching. Park residents include owls, deer, and river otter–to name just a few. Admission is $7 for visitors 16 and older.
Pay your respects to man’s best friend. In San Francisco’s Presidio, just above Crissy Field, is a pet cemetery serving as the final resting place for dogs, hamsters, and even iguanas. Surrounded by a white picket fence and shaded by Monterey pines, the tombstones largely pay tribute to pets of nomadic military families, dating back to the 1950s, when the Presidio was home to over 2,000 military families. Many markers include the family names and owners’ ranks, which include majors, colonels and generals. One epitaph for a dog named Trouble reads, “He was my trouble.” What would your pet’s marker read? For directions and details click here
Explore the Exploratorium for what we find to be a most mind-bending look at science, art, and human perception. UNDO day is just the right time to examine our concepts of truth and illusion and push the boundaries of our understanding of the world.
Whether or not you’ve got minors to accompany you, check out Adventure Playground on the Berkeley Marina. Visitors are given hammers and nails and turned loose in a crazy-amazing Oscar the Grouchesque junkpile of salvaged lumber, ropes, tires, building scraps and whathaveyou. You can build a fort or boat or sculpture or add on to stuff people have already built. There’s also an incredible zip line that ends in a big sand pit. It’s right next to the bay so if you get weary of the manual labor you can sit back and watch the windsurfers. Just remember: sturdy shoes.
Go to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. It’s like a dream sequence: you go down a steep hill, through a dark tunnel around a corner and then onto a narrow path. From there, you walk single file on a narrow bridge over the Pacific which finally leads you to an old lighthouse set atop cliffs complete with crashing waves. It’s a mind-blowing experience, one that simultaneously feels familiar and new. Open Saturday from 12:00 pm to 3:30 pm. Point Bointa Trailhead Field Road, Sausalito 94965.
Head to Oakland for a wander around the lovely, enchanted amusement park Fairyland. A far cry from the roller coaster mills of Six Flags or the high-intensity Disney parks, Fairyland is decidedly low rent and humble, filled with creepy concrete statues of classic kid lit creatures. There’s a puppet theater and a mini Ferris Wheel and an astonishingly slow train called the Jolly Trolley. Revel in the pre-safety code hazards, the sweet outsider-art depiction of classic children’s icons and the shabby, nostalgic glory.
It ‘aint the High Line, but Downtown’s newish Grand Park is the nicest new public space that’s opened in these parts in a long time. The green space between City Hall and the Music Center is having a big book festival today. Organizers promise readings, DJs, food trucks, book-making demos, historical tours of the park and an array of stalls and pop-up bookstores from the likes of 826LA, Libros Schmibros, Siglio Press and Writ Large Press. 11 am- 6 pm. Free
See Downtown LA like never before. From natives to newbies, Esotouric gives patrons unexpected, intelligent, and narrowly focused tours of LA’s varied neighborhoods. Their Downtown tour covers topics like “urban development, public policy, protest, and police” going beyond architecture to teach you about DTLA’s past, its recent transformation to a vibrant center for both work and play–and its future.
You know those people who invite you over for a dinner party and somehow they know how to cook a bunch of delicious things like it’s just a normal part of their lives? Who are these people? How do they know how to do that? It’s so annoying. Well we just so happen to be interested in becoming those people, and Hipcooks can help. A freeform cooking class where measuring cups are banned and taste rules the day, Hipcooks leads you through the preparation of a full dinner and dessert – which you then sit down and eat with the other 10 or so people in the class (wine included, of course). They email you the recipe later so you can replicate the process at home and convince your friends that you’re some kind of amateur chef. No big deal
Downtown may be getting more gentrified by the day, but Santee Alley is still as rowdy, wild and enchanting as ever. Put on your comfiest shoes and head down to this chaotic retail free-for-all, the place for perfect knock-off handbags, pirated DVDs, bizarre toys, tiny tuxedos, fabulous hats and anything and everything else. If that all sounds a little hectic and you’d like some guidance to the surrounding fashion district, give Urban Shopping Adventures a call – they do three-hour expeditions tailored to your interests and with an insider’s eye for the best spots.
Check out this gem of a museum in Pasadena that just so happens to be an early Frank Gehry design. The Norton Simon boasts one the of the best small art collections around from a plethora of stunning paintings and sculptures by Degas, to pre-impressionist masters Pissarro and Manet, to modernist impresarios Matisse and Picasso. Give in to the temptation to enjoy lunch outside by the lily pond.
One of these days the news will come and it will be tragic – the Bob Baker Marionette Theater will finally shut its doors for good. But today is not that day. Bob and his crew of bug-eyed, brightly-clothed, otherworldly stringed friends have been doing deeply odd, deeply magical performances like this since 1963. Expect much mod-era merriment, enchanting-disturbing dance numbers and many stuffed mice. After the show, drive a few blocks downtown and take a stroll through the new Grand Park, just beside the Music Center and in the shadow of City Hall. By now you’ll be getting hungry, so head down Broadway and duck into Yang Chow for some crave-able junky Chinese. All in all, a most wondrous downtown jaunt.
This outing is best done with kids, but even without, it’s a winner. Get in the car, drive east on the 10 into the glorious wilds of the San Gabriel Valley. While on the road, phone in a take-out order to 101 Noodle Express. Get the beef roll and at least one order of the pumpkin dumplings. Trust us. Look for the bowling alley on Valley Boulevard – 101 is right next door. Skip the line outside, pick up your food and drive a few blocks away to the altogether enchanting Vincent Lugo Park. Designed and built in the 1960s by artist Benjamin Dominguez, this is the Watts Towers of playgrounds, where the slides and rides are built into concrete creatures. Careen down the neck to the purple serpent. Marvel at the octopus. Gobble down that beef roll. All is well.
There may be no more quintessentially LA experience than spending an afternoon at the Lake Shrine Temple operated by the Self Realization Fellowship. Tucked into a small ravine near where Sunset Boulevard meets PCH sits this oasis of groovy, mindful tranquility. The ten-acres of lillypads, windmills, shrines and meditation spots are a perfect place for some unplugged goodness.
You’ve probably been to the Getty Center, but have you checked out the Getty Villa lately? This is a replica of an actual Roman Villa complete with gardens, fountains, reflecting pools and an amphitheatre. And that doesn’t even include the museum. Once a “country house” for Mr.Getty, now a peaceful refuge for Angelenos. Tickets are free but you have to reserve them in advance.
Indulge in a little adventure – parasailing in Marina Del Rey. Experience breathtaking panoramic views of the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach Boardwalk from high in the sky….specifically, 500 or 800 feet up, your choice. Bring a friend. Cost: $65-75. Details here.
In 1984, we built archery ranges in Los Angeles for the Olympic Games. They still stand, and every Saturday at Rancho Park we non-Olympians (for the most part) can use them! See you at 11am, Robin Hood, as we take our free lesson.
Need a new vantage point? Try zip lining in Catalina Island. Take in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and the island’s terrain while hurtling through the air at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. You’ll be careening as much as 300 feet above the canyon floor from the top of Descanso Canyon to just above the shores of charming Descanso Beach. Don’t worry – you’ve got two guides per group to ensure safety. Let the exhilaration begin. For details, click here.
Take a deep breath, leave your car behind, and explore the Los Angeles public transit system today. We know, but just do it. Find your nearest station and plan a full round trip from Culver City to Downtown on the Expo Line. To ease your anxiety, let Tasting Table’s Willy Blackmore’s “Eating the Expo Line” tutorial turn your adventure into a culinary tour of LA’s less familiar hoods. If you survive, consider riding again in the workweek.
Visit the oldest commercial building remaining in downtown LA, built in 1893 – the Bradbury Building – which many consider to be the first truly modern structure in Los Angeles. While it may not look like much from the outside, step inside and explore the light-filled Victorian Court and open cage elevators. Complete your trip downtown by stopping for sushi at Sushi Gen.
A new perspective. Let’s be honest, to get a view of Los Angeles we’re usually looking down from the Santa Monica Mountains. This week we’re climbing the 300 stairs to the scenic Baldwin Hills Overlook in Culver City and looking back the other direction. Bring a lunch…and a camera of course.
Bring a picnic and enjoy an easy stroll in Solstice Canyon in Malibu alongside a flowing creek, past the Keller House Ruins, the Ruins of Roberts Ranch House, and “Tropical Terrace” to a waterfall. Good for the whole family. For a trail map and details: http://www.caopenspace.org/solstice.html
You’ve been running around all week. Don’t you want to lie on a patch of grass and look at clouds? We do. Check out a delicious five acre swath of such grass in Silver Lake, adjacent to the the Silver Lake Reservoir. You get two for one–a water view and a perfect path of lawn that’s calling out for a picnic or an afternoon dedicated to rediscovering a favorite novel. The Meadow is meant for “passive” activities like walking, napping, kite-flying, kid chasing, jogging and people-watching, and is open from dawn until dusk. It’s a quiet zone so unplugging should be a cinch.
As Noah Allison reminds us, “the Eastside is not and never shall be Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and no, not even Echo Park.” Yea, we get it, so this week we’re venturing across the LA River guided by Noah’s 5 culinary signposts for a walking food tour of Boyle Heights featuring history, culture, and food, glorious food! We’re stealing this one from KCRW, and are mouth-wateringly excited to visit the distant center of the city we call home.
OK, this is a little pricey ($50) and it involves a schlep. But come on people – it’s a THREE HOUR WALK WITH PERUVIAN LLAMAS. No joke. Head south past the Orange curtain into Yorba Linda (it’s near Disneyland, official slogan: “Land of Gracious Living”), where you’ll find ShangriLlama, a llama farm and visitor center that offers a crash course in the care and feeding of “these curious camelids” and leads walks through the hillsides. You’ll learn “fascinating llama trivia,” as well as practical guidance on how to hold your llama’s lead and how to communicate with your own llama companion. You, friend, are in for some serious llama drama. You’re welcome. Reservations are required: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve all heard of them, but how many have actually made it to see these wondrous spires? Take a tour of the Watts Towers. We’d recommend not reading up on it too much beforehand so you get the whole fascinating story straight from one of the lively tour guides. Suffice it to say, visiting the largest piece of folk art ever created by one man – right in the heart of inner-city Los Angeles – should be good for an eye-opening experience in more ways than one.
Get thee to the SGV (San Gabriel Valley) for a dumplings and a hike. We’ve done this same itinerary a few times and it’s a total winner – you get world-class eats and a gorgeous outing, the lot of it unlike anything you normally associate with LA. Hit the 210 east to Santa Anita exit, then go south a few miles to Din Tai Fung, the Taiwan-based dumpling emporium widely regarded as the best maker of steamed buns and soup dumplings in the entire universe. Get the juicy pork. Maybe two. The line outside can be killer, so call in a take-out order on the drive out, grab your bag from the counter and leave the crowd behind. Then head back up Santa Anita into the San Gabriel mountains. At the end of the road you’ll hit a parking lot with picnic tables. Enjoy those dumplings. Then follow the posted signs toward Hermit Falls. Along the way there are abandoned stone cottages and patches of thick leafy forest. After about a mile and a half, you’ll reach a rocky canyon of natural waterslides (for real!) and three of four big jumping-off points for the adventurous/crazy.
Spend at least an hour at the Museum of Jurassic Technology. You’ve always wanted to go; today’s the day. Deeply puzzling, weirdly pleasing collection of oddities posing as a natural history museum. Open Saturday from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Metered street parking or parking in nearby residential neighborhoods. $5 admission. 9341 Venice Blvd, 90032. (310) 836-6131.