Sunday, November 14, 2010

Free in LA – The Nethercutt Museum and Collection

One of the hidden gems of Los Angeles is the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar. This is a large collection of cars and musical equipment that was collected by the founder of Merle Norman. When he opened the collection to the public, he funded it with a trust ensuring that the public could view the entire collection at no charge. The tours of the Nethercutt Collection are by reservation only.

The first part of the tour goes into a room that is designed to look like a car showroom from the 1930’s. All of the cars here, and throughout the museum, are well maintained and functioning.

Later in the tour, they had a room full of orchestrians. These are basically large mechanical musical instruments that are a combination of many different instruments meant to sound like an orchestra. The picture above is of me standing beside one 🙂

This is one of the smaller orchestrians opened so that you can see the mechanical gears inside.

Across the road from the Nethercutt Collection is the Nethercutt Museum. This is a large room with row upon row of old cars. The cars were so well polished it was impossible to take a picture without getting myself in it!

One final attraction is behind the museum. They have a 1937 Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson Locomotive. The train is also pulling a private car that you can tour.

We only lived a couple miles from here but if you are in the LA area, it is definitely worth the drive into The Valley to see the Nethercutt Collection and Museum! More info at

posted by admin at 11:16 pm  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Free in LA – Grunion Run

Friday, April 30, 2010, Joy and I went to Last Friday’s in Santa Monica. This is where the businesses on Santa Monica’s Main Street stay open late and give specials, deals, and discounts on the last Friday of each month. After this, we made our way to Venice Beach to the Venice Oceanarium Grunion Party.

You may be wondering what a grunion is and why it would be partying. A grunion is a small fish that can only be found off the coast of southern California and Baja, Mexico. The grunion is partying because it is mating season. They have an unusual mating ritual where the female buries herself in the sand, the male wraps himself around the female, and then they both swim off.

We were given some illumination by the moon, but we were glad we brought our flashlight with us.

Soon, we started catching glimmers of the fish as they swam off.

I gave the flashlight to Joy. She was a lot better at spotting grunions than me.

This guy was trying to catch one but failed to notice the one swimming by his foot.

“Hey, have you seen any cute cold-blooded guys around here?”

“Nevermind, I found one.”

“Bye, come back soon for another Free in La. Thanks @365cheapdates for the idea.”

posted by admin at 9:26 pm  

Monday, April 5, 2010

Free in LA – International Pillow Fight Day

On April 3rd at 3:00 p.m., I was at Pershing Square. A picture speaks 1000 words. Here are 83,000 words.

posted by admin at 2:10 pm  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Free in LA – Olvera Street “Blessing of the Animals”

Each year, on the Saturday before Easter, just outside of Union Station on Olvera Street, a tradition takes place. It is the “Blessing of the Animals.” Hundreds bring their pets and livestock to be blessed by the priest.

There is also live singing and dancing, both traditional Latino and Aztecan.

This dog is super excited about have a priest spray him with water,

as is this Alpaca,

and this dog and rabbit sharing a baby carriage.

As cows have given us the most, they are first in the parade.

Since llamas look cool, they go in the middle.

Snakes are scary so they go last. This one goes very last, far far away from me.

There are also a ton of vendors selling various items. Joy wanted a sombrero, but with our small budget we couldn’t get her a full size one 😀

posted by admin at 10:58 pm  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Free in LA – Mount Hollywood

An awesome way to get out and meet people as well as have some fun is by joining a meetup group. They have them all over the US in hundreds of different areas of interest. We are a member of the local hiking meetup group. On March 26, 2010, we had a TGIF hike to the peak of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. Mount Hollywood is a very interesting hike. You are in on an undeveloped mountain top. You can here coyotes and other wildlife yet you are completely and total surrounded by a city that stretches for as far as the eye can see. I didn’t bring my tripod so the pictures aren’t as sharp as I’d like. These pictures are representative of the view in every direction from the top of Mount Hollywood at night.

This is from the top of Mount Hollywood looking south. You can see downtown on the left side of the image.

This is the Hollywood sign with Hollywood in the background.

This is looking down at the Griffith Observatory with Los Feliz behind it.

posted by admin at 7:47 pm  

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Free in LA – Super Bowl at Downtown Independent

So, you went to your coworkers friends uncle’s house to watch the big game on his 42″ TV because your 19″ just wouldn’t cut it? I, personally, don’t have satellite, rabbit ears, or cable so you at least have me beat there, but while you were crowded on the hard cold floor (or rough scratchy carpet) of some strangers’ house watching Super Bowl 44, I was sitting in a comfy, newly renovated, movie theater watching the game on a massive movie theater screen . . .  for free.

Just off the Pershing Square subway exit, there is a single screen theater called “The Downtown Independent.” This theater shows many independent films and has special events such as today’s Super Bowl viewing. If you have never seen a football game on a really really big screen, I strongly advise it. It was awesome. The standard popcorn and coke was being sold and a table had been set up with “Game day snacks” including nachos and hot dogs that you could purchase a $15 bracelet for all you can eat. There is supposed to also be a cool roof area, but we didn’t check it out. If you happen to be in the LA area during a Super Bowl definitely check out The Downtown Independent.

The front of The Downtown Independent

Joy standing in front of the Downtown Independent

Joy and I watching Super Bowl 44.

Our view 😀

posted by admin at 11:28 pm  

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free in LA – Aquarium of the Pacific and Long Beach

The next edition of Free in LA was on October 2, 2009. The Aquarium of the Pacific is a massive (12,500 animals, 650 species, covering 5 acres) aquarium situated in Long Beach. It is a non-profit aquarium but unfortunately the tickets are anything but free . . . . except on Friday nights. On (almost) every Friday night they open up the shark exhibit for free in their “Shark Lagoon Nights.” These events consist of live music, a playground for the kids, and shark & manta ray petting! The shark caretakers are also on hand to answer any questions. Petting sharks was awesome and gave a good sneak preview of what the aquarium has to offer. As always, pics are below:

Here is a water display at the entrance of the aquarium.

Well, I got a little creative with this pic 😀 You can see how the waves in the water alter the pic.

Joy is really not sure if it is safe to touch a shark . . .

. . . . so I was instructed to touch one first.

This one would follow you around trying to get petted . . .

. . . .  and slap water at you if you didn’t pet him . . .

. . .  so I petted him to stay dry . . . .

. . .  as did Joy (safer than petting a shark).

After leaving the aquarium, Joy and I walked around Long Beach for a while. The view from the pier is beautiful and there are many shops and places to look at and eat along just a short walk from the aquarium.

This is a long exposure shot taken from the pier looking back towards Long Beach.

The aquarium and Long Beach are a great place for a cheap and fun Friday night date and easily accessed from anywhere in LA via the Metro Blue Line light rail.

When we arrived home, the cats where extremely hungry and had kidnapped a pink shoe and had worked on their puppy dog eyes 😀

posted by admin at 8:25 pm  

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Free in LA – Griffith Observatory

Griffith Park is a massive (over 4200 acre) municipal park in Los Angeles. One part of this park, the part we visited on September 26, 2009, was the Griffith Observatory. This Observatory is in Hollywood, directly below the Hollywood letters in the Santa Montica Mountains. Joy and I were intending to visit the Observatory earlier but put it off so that we could be there for the “Public Star Party” (more on that later).

Inside the top floor of the observatory, there are a ton of exhibits describing many different aspects of astronomy, other fields of science, and even has a live telescope looking at the sun that you can look through. Above is Joy standing in front of an exhibit of the periodic table with an example of each element in as many of the places as possible. The noble gases are visible under a microscope and prism so that you can see the color spectrum of each gas.

From the balcony in the rear of the building you get a good view of downtown Los Angeles. I’ve got this same view at night later in this blog.

Directly over Joy’s and my shoulder you can see the famous Hollywood letters.

From the roof of the building you can see the courtyard of the observatory.

On the bottom floor there is a cafe, a gift store and more displays. Here is me sitting with a bronze sculpture of Albert Einstein.

This is dusk as seen from the Griffith Observatory looking over the Santa Montica Mountains.

Every month, on a Saturday night, Griffth Observatory hosts the “Public Star Party.” This is where amateur astrologist set up their telescopes on the front lawn of the Observatory and the public can come and look through the telescopes and talk to the astrologists. The picture above is while they are setting up. While there, we got a really good look at Jupiter, three of its moons, and our moon. As an extra treat, the International Space Station flew by while we were talking to one of the astrologist there and we got to see it.

Here is the picture from above, taken at night.

I think Joy is ready for my to put my camera up and go home.

This final shot is a long exposure shot shot overlooking Hollywood and Beverly Hills with downtown LA visible to the left of the shot.

Even without the Public Star Party, the Observatory is a cool place to visit in LA. Parking is free but expect to walk a while if it is crowded. There is also a LADOT shuttle that will bring you up from Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station for only 25 cents. The exhibits are interesting but there aren’t that many overall so don’t expect to be able to spend a long time here and many exhibits are interactive which is sure to entertain the kids. Overall, its a cool place to stop in if you happen to be in the area.

P.S. While there Joy found a couple CREEPpl. Check them out at

posted by admin at 11:49 pm  

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Free in LA – Franklin Canyon Park

Growing up, my family and I often took weekend trips to various states parks in Georgia. Here, you can relax, take a walk on a scenic trail, enjoy being in nature, and take a break from the normal hustle and bustle that life so often entangles us in. Taking a break has become even more important now that I am living in LA and Joy is attending law school. In Georgia, the only state park within 25 miles was Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park in Reidsville. Here, in Lake View Terrace, we have 118 within a 25 radius including Hanson Dam State Park across the road from us. So, how do you pick where to go on the weekend with 118 so nearby? The choice was easy for me. When Hollywood wants to film a movie that is based in “The South” they go to Franklin Canyon State Park. Many shows, including “The Andy Griffith Show,” use this location for their outdoor scenes. On September 19, Joy and I decided to go. This is a beautiful park nestled in the heart of Beverly Hills and expensive houses can be seen in the distance but for the most part it is peaceful (more on the “for the most part in a bit”).

We arrived early so the Welcome Center wasn’t open yet. We grabbed a trail map complete with warnings about Western Diamondbacks and Poison Oak.

We set off on what we thought was a trail. It was well-marked and maintained but ended up going nowhere. This is Joy before she figured this out 😀

Even though the trail dead ended it had a nice view 😛

Here is a rare glimpse behind the camera. This is me right after I took the previous picture. As you can see, my shades are still off and my hat is still backwards.

Even though most of the park resembles the North Carolina mountains the Redwoods don’t quit fit that image. The area behind that tree is where the opening scene of the Andy Griffith Show was shot. It is really grown up now and hard to recognize.

Here is a shot of the Upper Franklin Reserve Reservoir a.k.a Myers Lake from the Andy Griffith Show 😀

A couple more shots of the lake.

These pics are from another edge of the reservoir.

Joy is taking a break while walking around the reservoir.

While leaving the trail around the lake we saw an old pine stump. True to my childhood roots, I climbed it 😀

After walking around the reservoir we decided to go to the lower reserve and walk the 2.6 mile loop consisting of the Hastain and Discovery trails. These trails give you some good views  of the really massive houses located in Beverly Hills. While walking, we started hearing music. We finally figured out it was coming from the private tennis court of one of houses in the distance.

Near the end of the Hastain trail, it splits. The part of the trail that is not on the trail map dead ends at the peak of one of the mountains with this view. You can see the trail we have already walked on and, in the distance, shrouded in fog, downtown Los Angeles.

In between the Hastain and Discovery trails is a grass area with picnic tables where we ate lunch. After lunch, I decided to take a rest before finishing the walk.

After finishing the walk we rested at the duck pond. This is also a common filming area.

We had a great time and if you are in the LA area and want a breath of fresh air I would strongly recommend Franklin Canyon Park. Unfortunately, you can’t get to the northern part of the canyon via public transit but the lower part of the park (where the walking trails are) can be accessed by a 1 mile hike from the Metro 2 Sunset/Alpine stop. Look for other state park reviews coming in the future on Free in LA.

posted by admin at 9:51 pm  

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Free in LA – La Brea Tar Pits

Week two (September 12, 2009) of Free in LA is at the La Brea Tar Pits. The La Brea tar pits are located in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles and is pretty much a series of ponds and puddles with tar in them instead of water.

Methane is bubbling to the surface of the pits causing massive tar bubbles and making the air smell of freshly paved roads.

In the largest pond, they have set up a display of a mother Mammoth stuck in the tar pits with her child and mate looking on.

There were about 6 fenced off tar pits total with tar bubbling up at other random places they haven’t fenced off yet.. At one of the pits, archeologists are actively digging for fossils. They were not there when we were but here is a picture of the pit they are working in.

Also, at the La Brea Tar Pits, there are picnic tables, and a museum that you can pay to go into that has many of the fossils that have been taken from the tar pits. We didn’t visit the museum but may go back in the future.

Directly beside the La Brea tar pits is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). While there is a charge for entering the museum, there are a couple of exhibits outside that are free. There is a sculpture garden and examples of “Urban Art.” One of the examples of Urban Art was an interactive display of tentacles formed by dollar store plastic products including cups, colanders, spatulas, etc.

Another example was a similar structure except it was made out of street lamps.

Behind the tar pits is a large field used for special events. When we were there the Brazilian Consulate was hosting a Brazilian Day with Brazilian food, music and events.

Overall, we enjoyed our visit to the tar pits. It is really strange to see tar bubbling up in the middle of Hollywood and it is easily accessible from the Metro line 16 😀

posted by admin at 9:59 pm  
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