The Colburn School
I’ve spent many a weekend at the Colburn School, a music school downtown. It’s an oasis of beautiful studios with incredible teachers. It feels like a mini-Lincoln Center. Added treat: they have monthly free “rush hour” concerts Thursday nights at 6 p.m. for one hour, plus free wine and snacks.
It’s not the best Japanese food you’ll eat, but it’s very comforting—especially comforting to know you can always get a table when the wait for Daikokuya is north of 40 minutes. I like the cold soba noodles. And I love all the drawings on paper napkins by customers on the walls—kids’ and professional artists’ napkins side-by-side.
This is my go-to museum. There’s always something great to see. James Turrell’s “Perception Cell” blew my mind. Also up now: a mesmerizing video by David Hockney of the English countryside. And LACMA owns a copy of Christian Marclay’s “The Clock,” which I wish they’d show publicly ‘round the clock as L.A.’s Big Ben. Even if my family and I don’t make it to an exhibition, we can check in on Chris Burden’s “Metropolis” or Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” and then get a laugh from the fancy water menu at the outdoor café.
It’s roller-skating, old school style: lace-up skates, a wooden floor, and soggy pizza. For less than $12 dollars, you can spend a happy afternoon re-living the ’80s.
Tacos Villa Corona
The best breakfast burritos. Eggs, cilantro, spinach, homemade hot sauce. Not too fat, not too thin. And just right at $3.
The Donut Man
I could eat doughnuts all day, every day, but I restrain myself until I can drive out to Glendora to eat the Donut Man’s sublimely fluffy glazed doughnuts with fresh strawberries and/or peaches. As my mom would say, they are very “more-ish.”
Wisdom Arts Laboratory
In Pasadena, this small arts school for children run by Abira Ali is another art oasis. She has a knack for teaching kids in a way that makes them feel like they’re not being taught. They learn to build wooden toys and make tapestries and put on fashion shows out of unusual materials. Every time I go there, I never want to leave her magical courtyard of possibilities.
Speaking of magical courtyards, this Italian restaurant has one of the best outdoor seating atmospheres. It is my neighborhood restaurant for a simple yet deeply satisfying meal. The squid ink pasta is ridiculously rich, with the added bonus of turning your mouth black.
The coffee made from Central American beans and roasted in L.A. is delicious, not too bitter or jangly. And I like their specially made “cafecito,” a short latte with liquid cane sugar and whole milk. It would go great with a Donut Man doughnut.
The Central Library
Who says no one reads in L.A.? Every neighborhood has a library that’s filled with people. In mine, I can choose from three libraries within a 5-minute drive. The Downtown Central is just plain gorgeous. And there’s ALOUD, where you can hear interesting speakers on a range of subjects—”Music, Feminism and Punk”!—for free.
El Matador State Beach
I know it’s everyone’s favorite out-of-the-way beach, but that’s for a reason. It’s worth the 100-hour trek up the PCH and the schlep up and down the stairs.
Someone (Amir?) turned a spot in Griffith Park into a sub-tropical paradise full of greenery and flowers that have no right to be in chaparral. But who cares? Once you’ve trekked up the hill, it’s a welcome respite. On summer nights, we meet friends for picnics at the tables someone (Amir?) helpfully set up under the boughs.
Photograph (5) by Jessica Sample, photograph (8) courtesy flickr.com/sadjeans, photograph (11) courtesy flickr.com/jameschang. All other photographs courtesy facebook.com.