This is an awesome hidden gem for kids. It’s a railroad museum where they actually let you go inside the trains. Kids can crawl all over them all they want. It was fascinating to get inside the trains and it’s small enough to be manageable.
La Brea Tar Pits
What I love is that it’s a working archaeological site and you get to look inside and see the scientists working. That’s where my son first learned about death. This little boy said, “Where are all the wooly mammoths?” and I said they all died. It dispels the myth that Los Angeles is an artificial place with nothing natural and nothing historical.
Now that I have a son I do an awful lot of hiking. What’s good about L.A. is that you’re right up against nature. It’s a good way to teach kids about conservation and you learn a healthy respect for nature. We have a fragile ecosystem here so I teach my son about forest fires and drought and overbuilding.
Natural History Museum
We love this amazing museum. It’s great how the Science Center is right next door and you can spend the whole day there. We’re very much into ice age life and that’s where L.A. trumps any other city in the entire world. Every museum has dinosaur bones, but if you’re looking for Pleistocene life this is the place to be.
California Science Center
I love their ecosystem displays. The desert environment is hot and dry and in the arctic room they have a block of ice you can put your hand on. There’s a reverse periscope where you can look down into the aquarium. They had an exhibition on fear and phobias. I got strapped you into a chair that fell backwards, but my son’s favorite was when I stuck my finger into an electrical socket and got a shock.
I love the precision of Japanese tools. Tools from Home Depot are meant to wear out, but Japanese tools are made so beautifully and with such attention to detail, they’re like samurai swords. Japanese gardening is a quest for perfection as much as calligraphy or origami.
Chado Tea Room
They are located in the same building as the Japanese American National Museum. We had a whole tea tasting afternoon there, just free samples all day. They have walls and walls of every kind of tea, they have everything. I like Genghis Khan, it’s a black tea with little flowers in it.
Hi De Ho Comics
I’ve been going to my neighborhood comic book shop since the ’80s. They have amazing stuff, everything from the old fables in comic book form to obscure board games. For me, it’s nerd-vana.
Wharo Korean Charcoal BBQ
The barbecue is built into the table and you cook your own Bulgogi. They give you a piece of raw beef and you barbecue it yourself. In college I dated a Korean-American girl and she said you know it’s a good Korean place when Korean people are eating there. You put a little piece of Bulgogi on some kimchi and rice and grab it with your chopsticks and there’s nothing like it.
There is a great barbecue place next to a car wash in Culver City, oh my gosh it’s so good. It’s literally a tiny little shack where they’re barbecuing outside. The ribs are out of this world.
Star Eco Station
This is a miniature zoo and rescue for abused animals. Every one of them has a story. They have amazing classes for kids teaching them about conservation. They let you touch the animals and teach you about them. Every animal there was seized by the cops. There was a bobcat that was stuffed in a suitcase when the cops came to search the guys place.
The Venice Canals
My family has a house on the canals so we paddle our canoe around. You’re not allowed to have motorized transport, but all these nice little funky homes have little docks. Most of the canals were filled in a long time ago, but the remaining ones have tiny fish and crabs and seabirds. It’s wonderful.
Coldwater Canyon Park
I spent my first years in Beverly Hills and it’s very interesting to see how that’s all changed. When I was a kid it was all about giant hedges and privacy and now it’s all about cutting the hedges down and showing off. We used to have picnics in this park when I was a kid and do our big walk.
Photographs courtesy (in order): (3) flickr.com/Tommi Virtanen (6) flickr.com/John Thompson, (7) chadotea.com (9) wharo.com (11) ecostation.org, (12) flickr.com/Emily Stanchfield, (13) beverlyhills.patch.com; All other photographs courtesy facebook.com