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  • Pamela Froman

Funky Finds

Despite the restrictions we are facing these days, there are still many unusual spots to visit and things to do here in Los Angeles that will light up your summer. We cannot wait to be able to get out there again and take advantage of every single thing this city has to offer. But, in the meantime, here are some unique ideas to power you through!

There is a species of plankton that only makes its presence known in Los Angeles every few years. Our beaches light up with bioluminescence – a stunning blue glow moving up the Pacific. The movements of boats and waves contribute to this gorgeous display after dark. LA beaches are officially open with social distancing guidelines. Check out the show in Malibu and Ventura beaches – it's worth seeing.

Take a gander at the LA County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. There are amazing nature exhibits featuring waterfalls, turtle ponds, and rose gardens. There are even areas that mimic the flora and fauna of Africa and Australia. And don't forget to greet the Arboretum's most famous residents – the colorful peacocks. Just be sure to wear a mask and keep your distance from other visitors. www.arboretum.org

The iconic "Brady Bunch" house is located in Studio City and it features that groovy architecture (thank you, Mike Brady). HGTV is the owner of the property and brought the house back to its '70s glory in 2019's "A Very Brady Renovation." You can relive your childhood memories with a nostalgic drive-by! 11222 Dilling St., Studio City.

If you've ever wanted to keep your precious books in a bank vault instead of a bookshelf, you have to stop at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. This iconic shop with that super symbolic name is housed in what was once a bank. Visit and explore the vast collection of reasonably priced used and vintage books. After all, who doesn't love a good story? www.lastbookstorela.com


An electrically memorable exhibit at the fabulous Griffith Park Observatory is the Tesla Coil. The Coil offers up lightning discharges that thrill every hour on the hour as well as a wonderful zapping noise. It does this by converting low-voltage alternating current electricity to very high voltage and increasing the frequency. When in use, the Coil lights up a neon sign. It's truly a sight to behold! www.griffithobservatory.org

Are you interested in strange stuff? Necromance is the spot for you. It features medical and zoological oddities and curiosities. There are preserved insects, skeleton animal remains, glass eyes, bone saws, vintage catgut sutures, medical antiques, macabre books, skull emblazoned items, and even freeze-dried bats. Want to freak out a friend? There is a collection of strange and unusual postcards to send in the mail. www.necromance.com

An Echo Park home bears the affectional moniker of Randyland. It features a rainbow of colors that are refracted through the bottles and glass. The hanging sculpture web is named Phantasma Gloria and it is created in the front yard of artist Randlett Lawrence. The towering icon is created out of colorful glass bottles, wire, and colored water. When viewed in the morning light, the bottles refract the sunshine, creating a glow of color and light. As well, within the bottles, Randy has created patterns that echo dolphins, and even a Virgin de Guadalupe – an homage to the multicultural community of Echo Park. Visits are by appointment only, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, when the light hits the glass just so. www.randylandia.com

A throwback to the '50s, Galco's Soda Pop Stop hearkens to the time when every town had a small soda manufacturer and beer brewery. This sudsy shop carries a huge range of soda brands from all over the U.S. – even as far away as Romania. There are obscure, even forgotten, brands and imports that you can only find in a few exclusive spots in the world. There are flavors as weird as rose water and cucumber. Galco's Soda Pop Stop also offers online purchases. www.sodapopstop.com

The California Institute of Abnormalarts in North Hollywood makes its home for funky sideshow displays. The circus has come to town at this strange attraction – the body of a mummified clown, Achile Chatouilleu, is on display in a sealed glass coffin. He is still dressed in his clown costume and makeup. Dispersed throughout the site are body parts, such as skulls, bones, and petrified limbs. Other oddities include circus signage, man-eating monsters (uh-oh), and clips from sci-fi and horror films. www.facebook.com/CIAbnormalarts

Walking into Clifton's Cafeteria is like entering into full speed, Redwood-themed paradise that loves the idea of kitsch and takes it full-speed ahead. There is an array of animatronic raccoons, waterfalls, wooden bears, and moose heads. As well, the 80-year old spot is one of the biggest public cafeteria-style eateries on the planet. The food is also quite yummy. Clifton's serves bowls of Jell-O, candied prunes, and a delicious banana cream pie. www.theneverlands.com

Valley Relics Museum offers up a masterful collection of salvaged signage and other super cool stuff, which is an homage to commercial archaeology. The museum embraces pop ephemera – vintage BMX bikes, menus from restaurants that were closed long ago, vintage clothing, and yearbooks from locals, as well as rare photographs and documents from the San Fernando Valley. There are also building-size neon signs, one-of-a-kind classic cars, a pair of pistols, and even cartoon statues of the Chipmunks, Pep Boys, and a Big Boy tower. www.valleyrelicsmuseum.org

Marilyn Monroe's final resting place in Westwood Village Memorial Park was meant to be a modest and private tribute to the star. However, the power of her popularity continues to attract fans and fellow celebrities alike, even long after her demise. Marilyn's gravesite is marked on the side of a concrete wall, simply as "Marilyn Monroe 1926-1962". www.dignitymemorial.com

If Titanic had hit the iceberg in Los Angeles's Koreatown rather than the depths of the Atlantic, Café Jack would be the result. Jack Shin, the cafe's owner, admits to watching James Cameron's iconic love tragedy millions of times and was so enamored by the blockbuster movie's Jack Dawson that he changed his name to Jack. The cafe features boating materials, fixtures, and fittings that are just like those featured on the big screen. There is even a captain's wheel, engine order telegraph, piano, photo stills, and posters. Café Jack also has a maze of private rooms, karaoke, patios, snugs, and communal tables. The décor is also very heavy-handed with hearts, twinkling lights, and artificial plants. There are also tarot card readings for those so inclined. 508 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles.

The Petersen Automotive Museum is known for its sleek and gorgeous curated exhibitions and street-view showcases. However, on the lower level is a hidden chamber of automotive wonders. Called "The Vault," this underground parking site was off-limits to the public from 1994 to late 2012, when the museum began to offer regular tours. (Before, only VIPs could see it.) The display contains vehicles which have been rotated out of the museum exhibitions, or that have never even been on display. The Vault is like the world's most selective and expensive parking garage. There are 150 vehicles, including a Mercedes-Benz that belonged to Saddam Hussein, President Clinton's golf cart, a 1925 Round Door Rolls-Royce that once made its home in a New Jersey junkyard, a working mobile barbershop designed by car customizer Joe Bailon, and a stunning 1957 Jaguar previously owned by Steven McQueen. www.petersen.org

The Great Wall of Los Angeles is a mind-boggling effort of community awareness and cultural diversity. The half-mile-long mural, which decorates the inside of the Tujunga Flood Control Channel, shows the intercultural history of Los Angeles and the entire state of California. The tremendous work took over five years to complete with more than 600 gallons of paint used and 400 youth volunteers that worked alongside historians, ethnologists, and anthropologists. www.sparcinla.org

Go-Kart World in Carson is an outdoor driving skills space with six tracks. It is perfect for all ages and driving skill levels. Following the CDC restrictions, the arcade is closed, however, the Go-Kart Track is open for fun. Hand-sanitizer and gloves are provided for visitors, and face masks and social distancing are required. Go-Karts are disinfecting after every race. www.gokartworld.com

Irvine Park Railroad and Wheel Fun Rentals – including bike and paddleboat rentals – are open! Irvine Park Railroad is a 1/3 scale train that takes both children and adults on a ride through beautiful and historic Irvine Regional Park. Visitors must social distance and wear face masks in line and for the train ride. Restrooms are open as well with hand sanitizer stations. Horse rentals will be available from Country Trails & Riding School, and you can also go on both walking and trotting ponies for kids to ride! www.irvineparkrailroad.com

California's marine mammals are majestic, and seeing them up close in their natural habitat is an amazing experience. Channel Islands Dolphin Adventures specializes in safely leading small groups on dolphin and whale watching excursions out of the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Take a tour aboard a state-of-the-art 30ft commercial tour boat. This area is well known for having some of the best dolphin and whale watching in the country! It's perfect for getting on the ocean and home to a vast variety of dolphins and those mighty winter behemoths – whales. Taking a trip with Channel Islands Dolphin Adventures is an event that is certain to make your day, if not your entire vacation! www.channelislandsdolphinadventures.com

Located in Agoura Hills, Whizin Market Square is an eclectic mix of shops, eateries, services, and entertainment. Restaurants and entertainment at the Square include The Canyon Club, Wood Ranch BBQ, Tifa Chocolate, Plata Taqueria, Carrara Pastries, Numero Uno, and Blue Table. You will find a variety of very unique stores, including antiques, The Flying Owl Paper Boutique, beauty stores, and more. www.whizinmarketsquare.com

Alabama Antiques in Canoga Park is considered a hidden gem. It's filled to the brim with eclectic items that beckon and cater to a diverse clientele. There are valuable antiques, vintage clothes, and semi-precious stones. 7209 Alabama Ave., Canoga Park.

It's time to enjoy your summer. Explore Los Angeles with all of these funky finds!


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