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  • Pamela Froman

SoCal Secrets


Love exploring new sides of SoCal you’ve never seen before? California is chock full of fun and exciting places to investigate. There are some destinations that define California. Here are our favorite hidden gems.


Have you ever wanted to see a majestic redwood? You don't have to go as far as you think. There is an amazing assortment of these regal trees at the Redwood Grove in Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea. This park is unique as it is the only grove of redwoods in Orange County. There are also several hiking and biking trails. And that's not all there is to this lovely space. A four-acre lake sits at the center of this expansive park where you can fish and swim. There is even a gorgeous butterfly garden!


Upcoming events in Brea include: Brea Bonaza Days 2019 – A funfilled weekend celebrating all things Western. May 1 - Sun, May 19. www.breadowntown.com; 2019 Taste of Brea – The annual family-friendly festival showcases the best of local restaurants and breweries. www.breachamber.com/events/details/2019-taste-of-brea-presented-by-nationwide-insurance-12560


It would be awesome to relax by a lake, while checking out stunning views of Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena, right? Well you can. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Los Angeles boasts this gorgeous hidden space. Take a trek and enjoy the ducks, turtles and fish.


Opened in 1974, the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach is an 18-acre fenced natural area. This gorgeous preserve features 50,000 California native plants. There are also 4,000 feet of well-maintained trails that meander through several habitats, including oak woodlands, Torrey pines, meadows, and Blackbird Pond, a natural freshwater wetland with mature willows and sycamores. Love our feathered friends? You can check out the nearly 200 species of birds on the trails at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. There are also five miles of walkways where you can savor nature.


Upcoming events in Huntington Beach include: Back To The Beach Festival 2019. Two days in the sand next to the beautiful Pacific Ocean in the heart of Huntington Beach! April 27, 28. https://backtothebeachfest.com


The Orcutt Ranch in West Hills was built in the 1920s by William Warren Orcutt, the geologist who first discovered fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits. It has oak and citrus trees, gardens, ranch structures, and an adobe residence on site.


Upcoming events in the San Fernando Valley include: San Fernando Valley Festival Of Colors in Van Nuys. Celebrating ancient Indian tradition, this festival breathes an atmosphere of social merriment. Apr. 20. www.fairsandfestivals.net/events/details/2019-san-fernando-valley-festival-of-colors; 20th Annual Taste of the Valley Food, Wine Spirits and Microbrew Fest in Canoga Park. Over 1,000 connoisseurs from all over the Valley will gather to experience the ultimate in dining indulgence from local restaurants, wineries, and microbreweries. www.localwineevents.com


Hiding inside the city of Anaheim, you'll find a stunning outdoor oasis. Oak Canyon Nature Center is a 58-acre park that makes its home in the Anaheim Hills. A lovely year-round stream meanders through the park.  There are three adjoining canyons, four miles of hiking trails and oak woodlands. Also located on site is the John J. Collier Interpretive Center, a museum featuring live animal and regional natural history exhibits. 


Upcoming Events in Orange County include: The Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach features wonderful art. Local artists offer up ceramics, clothing, glass blown items, jewelry, paintings, photography, sculptures and woodworks just to name a few. Open during July and August. www.sawdustartfestival.org; The Inflatable Run & Festival - Orange County – Your 2019 New Year’s resolution doesn’t need to mean boring gym visits and grueling diets! This is a one-of-a-kid event! Apr. 6. www.showclix.com/event/orange-county-tir-2019


In 1941, former tracker John Ehn opened a motel in Burbank and called it “The Old Trapper’s Lodge”. For the next 30 years, Ehn filled the property with statues of cowboys, Indians, miners, saloon girls and an entire cemetery scene. The statues now make their home at Pierce College as a landmarked collection of weird Old West art surrounded by trees and trails.


The LAB or the “Antimall” is a secluded shopping space in Orange County. To get access to the “mall” you walk through a small, shaded pathway which opens up into the marketplace. There are boutique shops, restaurants, live music, art galleries, poetry readings, and seasonal festivals. An eye catching feature of the LAB is the art gallery ARTery.  ARTery displays artists’ works in an eight-foot wide shipping container. Be sure to check it out.


If you’ve never been, you have to check out Calamigos Ranch in the Malibu Hills. Calamigos Ranch offers picturesque scenery. There's a pond where you can take a free pedal boat tour or you can just kick back and relax. The onsite restaurant, Malibu Cafe is a beautiful way to enjoy a meal, Southern California style! Romantic chandeliers hang from the trees and cozy couches dot the landscape. It's the perfect place to watch the sun set.


Overlooking the ocean in Malibu is the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine  – a true hidden gem. This incredible space features a temple and majestic gardens along with a stunning lake. You can enjoy the lush greenery, relax and meditate quietly in an old Dutch windmill or just chill with the vibe on the cute, beautifully painted benches throughout the property.


Upcoming events in Malibu include: Malibu Festival is a creative event that draws families and friends together to celebrate our children and unify our school community. Live performances by local musicians and youth, enjoy a taste of Malibu cuisine, and play fun games, crafts, and attractions for kids of all ages! May 6. www.malibu.org/events/details/malibu-festival-2018-05-06-2019-3347


Beautiful waterfalls impact us on a very deep level. And no two waterfalls are the same. For an exquisite hidden waterfall you can't pass up the Millard Canyon Falls Trail. Located inside the Angeles National Forest, it's a short and easy hike that's under three miles. And the best part? The falls are a lovely and peaceful place to linger.


Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks offers an amazingly diverse landscape into its 1,765 acres. There are sweeping grasslands, prominent ridges and peaks like Lizard Rock, the beautiful year-round Paradise Falls and its oak and sycamore-lined riparian canyon, and even some unusual eroded rock formations like Indian Cave. The park is home to seven different plant communities and more than 250 species of plants, 60 species of birds, 37 species of mammals, and 22 species of amphibians and reptiles.

Upcoming events in Thousand Oaks include: The 2019 OakHeart Country Music Festival.


Rock out to country music and chow down on country food. June 1. www.oakheartcmf.com; 2019 Conejo Valley Days. Features live entertainment, carnival rides, local vendors, arts and crafts, games, food and much more. May 9 – 12. www.conejovalleydays.us


Lake Balboa is an attractive spot for boating and fishing. Located within the Anthony C. Beilenson Park, there are barbecue pits, picnic tables and miles of trails.

The Japanese Gardens in Van Nuys are a delightful reprieve. The gardens have been used as a backdrop for many films and television shows. They offer a Zen meditation garden, Three Buddhas arrangement of stones, chisen, Shoin Building, Crane Island and a weeping willow tree. 


Craving a pina colada on the sly? False Idol is San Diego's hidden, immersive tiki bar. It's tucked away behind a stainless steel secret door inside Craft & Commerce, a popular restaurant. You'll enter into a walk-in cooler where there are crates of pineapple and citrus fruit as well as a shelf holding glass jars with artificial skulls and human heads. There is also an expansive menu with 36 exotic, tropical drinks. Beneath the glass of the bar top, there’s a case filled to the brim with postcards, swizzle sticks, mugs, menus, salt and pepper shakers, and matchbooks that celebrate San Diego’s colorful tiki past.


Located in back of the legendary Vitello’s in Studio City is an exclusive members-only club called The Rendition Room. However you can get in – if there’s room in the 35-seat spot. Wingback chairs and intimate booths decorate this intimate area, along with a 1929 Wurlitzer jukebox, cocktails and small plates.


Some of the most awesome – and privileged – cocktails in Long Beach can be found through a 1940s-era phone booth in the back of Roxanne’s Lounge. Simply say the correct password and you’ll be granted entry into a 40-seat bar which features an eclectic atmosphere. There are church pews, a cocktail museum, and an impressive liquor menu. They also feature live music and entertainment.


The 94th Aero Squadron restaurant at Van Nuys Airport is one of the West Coast’s hidden-est gems. Hang at the bar and then put on a headset to hear live action from the air traffic control tower that regulates one of the country’s busiest general aviation airports. There’s also a replica of a World War I-era French farmhouse.


Upcoming events in Van Nuys include:Historic Walking Tour of VanNuys. Come explore original 1911 buildings hidden beneath modern facades, first churches, a civic center with many special revelations, one of the main hubs of social and official activity and more. Apr. 28. www.eventbrite.com/e/historic-walking-tour-of-van-nuys-2019-tickets-58403446280?aff=ebdssbdestsearch


Ever wanted to soar like a bird? Great Park Balloon in Irvine is a hot air balloon ride that holds 25-30 people. The ride itself is 25 minutes, and you get an unparalleled view. The balloon lifts to a height of 400 feet giving you a 360 degree of the world around you.  On clear days you can see all the way to Downtown Los Angeles. And don't worry about floating away. This massive balloon ride is attached to rope that is locked to the ground.  


Experience DIY oyster shucking by the beach at The Jolly Oyster Shuck Shack at San Buenaventura State Beach Park in Ventura. Featuring fresh, raw, sustainably-farmed oysters, the shuck shack is a relaxed atmosphere where you can learn to shuck oysters like a pro. Bring your own picnic and drinks to complete your meal.


Upcoming events in Ventura include: The Skull & Roses Festival. A festival celebrating unique interpretations of Grateful Dead Music. Apr. 5 – 7. www.eventbrite.com/e/skull-roses-iii-tickets-49816663983


There's plenty of secret spots to enjoy in Los Angeles. Have fun checking our our hidden gems!

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