For this week’s post, instead of pontificating about life and death, here’s some immediately useful information. Here is a great San Fernando Valley weekend, great for kids and adults alike, and especially fun for people visiting from out town. You’ll feel like you’re indulging; yet it’s easy on the pocketbook. Most of the costs are for eating out at restaurants. And you don’t have to go into Los Angeles for any of it!
Start at Pit Fire Pizza in North Hollywood -- it’s at the corner of Magnolia and Lankershim Boulevards. It has great pizza, good beer and wine, and you can eat around the outdoor dining pit. They have an outdoor DJ spinning on Friday evenings, and since this is in the heart of the NoHo arts district-----you’ll see dancers, actors and musicians strolling to their different classes or rehearsals.
Afterwards, cross the street and head to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences theater building, just a bit further up on Lankershim Blvd. You’ll see the giant Emmy fountain and life-size statues of different TV greats, from Johnny Carson to Sid Caesar.
This only takes ten minutes, and it’s surreal. Have someone snap a photo of you talking to a bronze version of Lucille Ball.
If you want dessert and coffee accompanied by music, head East on Magnolia and you’ll find Republic of Pie. It’s crowded and noisy on a weekend night, but the pie and coffee are great and they have live music on Fridays. Their pecan pie is the best.
However, if the evening is warm, go instead to the Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant in Toluca Lake, on Riverside Boulevard. On Friday nights they have a classic car show, and you will see cars from the 30’s through the 70’s, old classics, Caddies, muscle cars, kit cars, and homage Rat Fink roadsters. It’s a great people mix of old surfers in Hawaiian print shirts, young rockabilly types and low riders. This is classic Americana, and people from out of town always love it. If you want to eat there, don’t wait for a table, just grab a seat at the counter. Their vanilla milkshakes are great.
Wake up early. If you like old style diners, eat breakfast at Du-par’s in Studio City. They’ve been around since 1938, although the built they one in the Valley in the 1960’s. They are famous for their fluffy pancakes and their pies. Gooseberry is the best.
Now the weekend is really beginning, and it’s only 9 a.m.
Put on your hiking boots, sunscreen, glasses and hat, fill a water bottle and a day back, and then hop in the car and drive West on the 101 Freeway. Be on the road by 9 a.m.; take the Las Virgenes exit and head towards Malibu. You are entering Malibu Canyon, which is one of the most picturesque roads in all of Southern California.
Roll down the windows, drive through the canyon and enjoy the rolling hills. Look right and you’ll see Malibu State Park, which is worth exploring, but on a different weekend. The rolling California hills end as you reach the Malibu mountains, where you’ll see cliffs as dramatic as anywhere in Italy. Far below you is Malibu Creek. There are several turn out spots, but check those out on the way back.
Once you reach the Pacific Coast Highway, make a right, head north and enjoy the Pacific Ocean views until you reach Corral Canyon Road. Make a right. Most people stop and hike in Solstice Canyon, which is at the bottom. Instead, keep driving up Corral Canyon to the very top of the mountain. It’s a steep road, and it will take ten minutes to get to the top and you’ll pass a few dozen homes. Just when you think you’ve made a wrong turn, the paved road will end. Keep going for another 200 yards and you’ll find a parking lot. You have found a spur of the Backbone Trail, which runs along the top of the entire Malibu Mountain Range, from Will Rogers State Park at one end to Point Mugu at the other, 68 miles total.
Each section of the trail, from trailhead to trailhead, is 3 to 5 miles, making your overall hike 6 to 10 miles.
The Corral Canyon section is one of the best. If you head north of the trail you drop down into a lush finger valley with thick trees, a gurgling stream and even a small waterfall. Or, from the parking lot you can head South and hike out in the open. This section of the Backbone Trail brings you past huge sandstone rocks, with amazing views down into Malibu Canyon, and then further along you reach a wide open trail surrounded by tall grass and California Oak trees and you’ll get a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean below you. I’ve hiked there many times and rarely see anyone. It’s quiet and you are so high up the ocean looks tilted.
NOTE: The hike in this direction is a long one, and leads all the way back to Malibu Canyon, so you might not want to do the whole hike unless you have all day.
Once you are done, head into Malibu and eat at The Malibu Country Store. They serve great meatloaf sandwiches. Now head back to the Valley.
Next, you need to relax. Check out Luck Puppy on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, where they let you play with the rescued dogs that are waiting to be adopted. Most of them just want a lap to sit on, and it’s great stress relief for anyone. You can also take a dog for a walk! If it does its business and you clean up, they’ll give you a free volunteer t-shirt. You have to sign a waiver before you play with the dogs, and it’s nice to give a donation. I consider it cheap babysitting, which is why I donate.
Or, if you’re feeling more artistic, make your way to Kit Kraft in Studio City, on Ventura Place.
It’s more expensive than larger art stores, like Michaels, but they do have everything in a much smaller space. You can buy model airplanes, spools of lanyard strips, modeling clay, glue guns, temporary tattoos and rock tumblers. There is always a cheap deal on display at the counter that’s worth checking out. Last week I bought a wooden pinwheel that we are painting and shellacking for our front garden.
Its dinnertime! Head over to LA LA’s Argentine Grill on Ventura Blvd. They have a multitude of steaks, but I suggest the grilled chicken. Or, if you are feeling bold, the blood sausage is great and so are the sweetbreads. If you are going to eat animals, eat the whole animal. They have great Argentinean beer, red wine and fantastic French fries.
On Sunday, Ventura Place in Studio City is blocked off for the Farmer’s Market. Park a few blocks away and walk, or just ride your bike or scooter. They have great fresh tamales and fresh juices, which is a perfect breakfast. You can buy fresh produce to cook for lunch or dinner, and you can get your groceries for the week. There’s a good French bakery stand, a mushroom stand that’s amazing, and Secret Squirrel Cold Pressed Coffee. They also have good florists. Look for the special plants called “Chinese Lanterns.”
If it’s after 12 noon, warm and sunny, grab a swimsuit and a towel and head to the Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks Swimming Pool. It costs $2.00 if you have a Los Angeles Library card.
This is one of the only 50-meter pools in Los Angeles. They have a five-meter tower, two three-meter and two one-meter diving boards. Jump off the five -meter platform once, and you’ll be hooked. Want a diving lesson? In spring and summer, there’s often an instructor giving tips to kids and adults as they line up for the one-meter board.
LA84 is an endowment from the profitable Los Angeles Olympics that still pays for sports instruction for youth 30 years later, and they’re still paying for diving and swimming instructors. I learned a front 1 ½ dive from an LA84 instructor.
Now it’s about 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Go home. Read the paper, or a good book. Do your Kit Kraft Art Project. Ride a Bike Have friends over and cook the food you bought.
All this can be done for less that $200 for the weekend, for a family of three. Eliminate the restaurants (my favorite indulgence) and it drops to well under $100.
Pit Fire $50.00
Classic Car Show Free
Gas to the hike $10
Malibu Store $20.00
Lucky Puppy $10 donation
Kit Kraft $10 (for lanyards or current deal)
LA LAs $50 (buy organs)
Fresh Produce (this is variable, counts as groceries, so not included)
Pool Fee $6
Growing up in San Francisco, I learned buy osmosis to have disdain for Los Angeles. When I moved to Los Angeles, I learned to have disdain for the San Fernando Valley. I hope the disdain continues, so I can continue to have my quiet blissful weekends, far from the madding crowds.
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