Best Of Arts & Entertainment
Best Weird Museum
The Bunny Museum
The Bunny Museum, located in a private residence in Pasadena, is filled to the brim with 29,000 bunny replicas and counting. Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski, the married couple who opened the museum in 1998, have pledged to give each other a bunny a day for eternity and are proud...
Best Woodworking Class
For a creative city, L.A. certainly doesn't do much woodworking. A lot of people don't have garages here, which may be the main barrier, and we also don't have any idea what we're doing. Here's a chance to fix that. Community Woodshop opened last year in an industrial building in...
Best Super 8 and 16mm Filmmaking Class
Echo Park Film Center
While plenty of massive film schools in Hollywood can teach you how to show off with the latest film technology, there's only one nonprofit school that offers affordable classes (generally $100, or less) in the tactile art of Super 8 filmmaking and hand-processing; 16mm filmmaking and hand-processing, tinting and toning;
Best Local Music Legend
The son of R&B royalty Johnny Otis, singer-songwriter Shuggie Otis made a name for himself in the hippie era through works like his psychedelic hit "Strawberry Letter 23." He even was invited to join The Rolling Stones at one point, though he turned down the offer. Then he proceeded to...
Best Live Band
In a city like Los Angeles, home to musical stars in nearly every known genre, handing out the Best Live Band title is not easy. But the free-thinking local collective Dustbowl Revival's upbeat, old-school, All-American sonic safaris exemplify everything shows should be: hot, spontaneous, engaging and, best of all, a...
Best Large-Scale Music Venue
San Manuel Amphitheater
Located an hour northeast of Los Angeles by way of Interstates 10 and 15, the San Manuel Amphitheater is the largest outdoor amphitheater in the United States, holding some 65,000 attendees in its reserved seats and grassy general-admission areas. Built in 1982, the venue was partially funded by Apple co-founder...
Best Native American Time Machine
Antelope Valley Indian Museum
A fantastic 1930s home and Indian artifact collection located in the high desert near the far northern border of L.A. County, the Antelope Valley Indian Museum is hands down our strangest state park. From the outside, it looks like sort of a desert chateau, while the interior is partly carved...
Best Place to Get Freaky
California Institute of Abnormal Arts
The California Institute of Abnormal Arts is a 21st-century revival of the old-timey sideshow experience, serving up stage acts with modern-day freaks like a Guinness World Record holder who once balanced a refrigerator on his teeth for 10 seconds. This "other" CIA continues to bring bigger and better acts into...
Best Public Radio Station You're Not Already Listening to
Based out of the Cal State Northridge campus, public radio station KCSN (88.5) gives other local FM stations a run for their pledge-drive money with inventive era- and genre-spanning music programming. The station digs up deep cuts from well-known classic acts and features niche-y shows in the categories of roots,...
Best Nomadic Art Experience
Remember that grade-school exercise of learning to use prepositions in relation to a box? Substitute the MobileMuralLab and the same pedagogy applies, as this constantly-in-motion art studio creates an interactive art experience in the streets, through the streets, on the streets, with the streets. Artists Roberto Del Hoyo and David...
Best Alternative Zoo/Sanctuary
Wildlife Learning Center
If petting a downy-soft fennec fox with towering ears isn't on your bucket list, it should be. You can satisfy this and other fauna-related desires at the Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar, a bucolic alternative to the lines, crowds and steep entry fees of big zoos. Tucked behind a rustic...
Best Place to Hear Future Rock Stars (and a Few Current Ones)
ABC Rehearsal Studios
Though from the outside it meets common rehearsal-complex criteria — numb with anonymity and occupying an obscure urban armpit near railway tracks — ABC Rehearsal Studios in Glassell Park is, in fact, a rarity. Unlike most such facilities, this former business park is family-run and actually owns its land and buildings,...
Best Under-the-Radar Jazz Festival
Central Avenue Jazz Festival
Los Angeles used to be a major jazz hub. From the 1920s until the 1950s a small strip of Central Avenue, around Vernon Avenue, played host to every major jazz figure passing through town, including Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. These days almost every building from...
Best Theater in the Woods
Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum
Ever seen Molière performed in an oak grove? Or caught The Taming of the Shrew under a canopy of twinkling stars? You can, simply by making the drive out to Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon. The long-running professional theater is hidden away in the hillsides, with a wide,...
Best Theater Company
Critical Mass Performance Group
We could count on three hands the number of theater companies deserving to be called "the best" — for any number of reasons. But if longevity, clarity of purpose and excellence in technique are to be considered priorities, Critical Mass Performance Group fits the bill. Writer-director-choreographer Nancy Keystone's gypsy troupe...
Best Jazz Room That's Also a Frame Shop
Curve Line Space
Curve Line Space hosts one of the best jazz series in Los Angeles, and it isn't even a club. Run by Tim Yalda, the venue is actually an art gallery and frame shop on a hip strip of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock; it also happens to host an intimate...
Best Museum in the Sky
Mount Wilson Astronomical Museum
Mount Wilson provides a look at the heavens via the museum that's situated closer to them than any other in L.A. Built in 1936, the Mount Wilson Astronomical Museum contains old photographs of how the galaxy looked in the 1930s and '40s, plus equipment used to haul pieces of the...
Best Abandoned Jail Turned Hollywood Landmark
Lincoln Heights Jail
The Lincoln Heights Jail (nicknamed the Gray Bar Motel by LAPD) housed murderer William Edward Hickman in the 1920s, drunken movie star Lucile Watson in the '40s, zoot suit rioters in the '50s and Watts rioters in 1965, shortly before the jail closed that same year. Though it's still owned...
Best Gallery Lighting Design
Kayne Griffin Corcoran
Wouldn't it be great if you could have daylight on demand? Artist James Turrell, famous for his ambitious, pristine work with light, thought so. This past year, when he designed the lighting for the new space of Kayne Griffin Corcoran, a gallery that shows his work, he tried to make...
Best Place for a Bachelorette Party
Artworks Studios' Drawing Parties
Did Magic Mike ruin the allure of a trip to a strip club, ladies? Is a dance club too ordinary, expensive or crowded? A day at the spa too tame? Then how about donning those pink boas and glowing penis hats for a bachelorette party where you might actually learn...
Best Date-Night Movie Theater
Sundance Sunset 5 Cinema
Ever been to one of those movies that would have been significantly better if it had been paired with a stiff drink? This is why we love the Sundance Sunset 5 Cinema, although the movies screened here tend to be of a much higher quality than the standard mega-plex fare...
Best Place to See Art in a Remnant of Old Hollywood
Museum of Latin American Art
On the edge of Long Beach's arts district is the only museum in the United States devoted to modern and contemporary art from Central and South America. The Museum of Latin American Art is housed in what remains of the Balboa Amusement Producing Co. studios (later a skating rink), built...
Best Day Trip
Take back highways 23, 126 and 150 through orange groves, a sandstone canyon and historic Santa Paula to Ojai, whose circa-1917 Spanish Colonial downtown of boutiques, restaurants and galleries thrives amidst a ban on chain stores. The world-class Ojai Music Festival and a 1970s wave of hippies put a modern...
Best Site-Specific Dance Company
Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre
Choreographer Heidi Duckler long ago cemented her bona fides as L.A.'s mistress of site-specific dance theater, using movement to guide audiences to a deeper understanding of this city's geographic infrastructure, from Laundromats and the underground Red Car lines to historic jails and the cement walls of the L.A. River. First...
Best Place for Dinner and a Movie
AMC Marina 6
Luxury moviegoing is all the rage these days, with more theater chains opting to include new amenities — reserved seating, expansive food and drink menus, actual ambience — that justify ever-rising ticket prices. AMC Marina 6, the latest hat in the ring, is also the most exciting for one special...
Best Movie Theater for a $5 Matinee
Far removed from the glitzy, historic theaters along Hollywood Boulevard, the Highland Theatre is a year older than the El Capitan, but tickets to a big-budget movie on one of its three screens will cost you half as much as just about anywhere else in town. Opened in 1925 with...
Best Day Trip for a Doctor
Southern California Medical Museum
Located inside a complex run by the Riverside County Medical Association, the Southern California Medical Museum is so tucked away that its neighbors probably don't even know it exists. Prepare to be simultaneously amused and panic-stricken by some of the gadgets early doctors used. There are barbaric-looking tools used on...
Best Blacksmithing Class
Some hobbies are just more badass than others, and blacksmithing is about as badass as they come. Adam's Forge is a nonprofit group that encourages students from beginner to pro to express themselves through metal. Their weekly Discovery Days are $20 and feature projects simple enough for anyone. The volunteer
Best Urban Exploration Society
Los Angeles Obscura Society
AtlasObscura.com is a crowdsourced compendium of the world's most curious places, with content so compelling that Google's Field Trip app and Slate.com regularly aggregate its stuff. During the past few years, the website's success has spawned a series of local, offline Obscura Societies. As head of the Los Angeles Obscura...
Best Band Name
Puig Destroyer Grindcore + The Dodgers' rookie phenom = Band name nirvana. puigdestroyer.bandcamp.com. —Ben Westhoff...
Best Rock Band
The Entrance Band
Yes, the heart of rock & roll still beats in Los Angeles. For proof, no need to venture farther than whatever tiny local club The Entrance Band happens to be playing. The trio, which formed in Chicago, is blessed proof that psych rock is alive and well; with a trippy...
Best Smartphone Class
Discover Your iPhone Workshop
You trundle into the Apple Store at Westfield Topanga Mall at 10 a.m., when nobody is around. Teens, old folks and refugees from Android who haven't figured out their iPhones all grin sheepishly at one another around a big table set up for the Discover Your iPhone Workshop. The wonderful...
Best Live Stand-up Comedy Podcast
Put Your Hands Together at UCB
Named one of our 12 L.A. Comedy Acts to Watch in 2013, Chicago transplant Cameron Esposito was already making waves as the new girl in town. Now that she's combined forces with both Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and distributor ASpecialThing Records, she's become damn near unstoppable. Her weekly Tuesday-night stand-up...
Best Historic, Controversial Mural
Even a $10 million restoration couldn't bring America Tropical back to life — not completely. The 80-foot-long mural painted at Olvera Street by legendary Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siquieros is smeary and pale, a ghost of the past in burnt browns and moss greens. But we are lucky to have...
Best Comedy Chat Show
By the Way at Largo
Jeff Garlin's monthly chat show at Largo, titled By the Way, is a roller coaster. Depending upon the guest, depending upon the night, depending upon the moment, you can find yourself crying from laughter or tearing up from hearing about a personal tragedy. Garlin's self-effacing brand of comedy is on...
Best Gypsy Theater Company
Chalk Repertory Theatre
Sure, you can watch Oscar Wilde on a stuffy indoor stage, but isn't it more fun to traipse through the verdant grounds of UCLA's William Andrews Clark Memorial Library for a theatrical, plein air garden party? The 5-year-old Chalk Repertory Theatre selects an exciting, relevant locale for each of its...
Best Metal Band
Plenty of metal bands play heavy riffs, but the four men comprising Intronaut layer those riffs with a stunning musical dexterity. Albums like 2013's Habitual Levitations show a group walking a delicate balance between stoner-doom and polyrhythmic jazz-fusion structures. They're able to pull it off because guitarists/vocalists Sacha Dunable and...
Best Sewing Class for Men
Owner Shaerie, a onetime corset maker from Boston, could teach a monkey to sew a prom dress. Maybe that's why her beginner's classes fill up fast with women whose moms didn't have a clue and, yes, plenty of men. At Sew L.A. in Atwater Village, students learn to thread a...
Best Violin/Piano Tutor
Hollywood Violin & Piano Academy
Armand Melnbardis of Hollywood Violin & Piano Academy works out of Musonia School of Music in North Hollywood, a space well known to studio musicians and those trying to break into the industry. The quadrilingual, personable Melnbardis, originally from Latvia, is a noted heavy-metal violinist who toured extensively in Europe...
Best Special Effects Classes
Gnomon School of Visual Effects
Set up in the old Hollywood Technicolor building, Gnomon School of Visual Effects is a jumble of squeaky, metal staircases and industrial structures, which hides a posh, post-industrial fantasy within: a maze of dim rooms filled with young people busy at state-of-the-art workstations, lounging in fancifully imagined snack rooms, taking
Best Secret Art Library
Inner City Avant Garde
Artist Noah Davis told his neighbors in his stretch of Washington Boulevard — dominated by kitchen-supply stores, upholstery shops and barred-up storefronts — that he was going to open a library. And he did, building ceiling-high shelves and installing a chair or two on top of a cowhide and a...
Best Hole-in-the-Wall Art Gallery for Celeb Spotting
Dodger Stadium isn't the only Elysian Park Avenue attraction that draws a massive, star-studded crowd. Subliminal Projects, housed in Shepard Fairey's unassuming Studio Number One creative firm at the corner of Sunset Boulevard, is a contemporary exhibition space Fairey opened in 2003 with his wife, Amanda. A decade later, Subliminal...
Best Art Gallery for Partying
Merry Karnowsky Gallery
Any gallery that’s known for a signature cocktail (vodka with lemonade and rosemary) and rarely has an opening-night reception not hosted by a famous rocker or movie star deserves the top spot in this category. Things may have settled down from the days of fans literally crawling over alley fences...
Best Wednesday-Night Movie Bargain
For some people, dinner and a movie in the 21st century can cost more than a day's pay. But for the frugal seducer, Pasadena's Academy 6 can treat a couple to a second-run film for $3 ($2 if the sun is still shining). It doesn't have any leather couches or...
Best Place to Press Vinyl
Have you and your bandmates been working on your album for months? Then you definitely don't want it to end up a sad, compressed blip in someone's cloud-based music library. If you think your fans would like something to have and to hold, visit Capsule Labs, the only vinyl plant...
Best Club for Burlesque Parody
Café Club Fais Do-Do
Drive down this shabby and otherwise forgettable stretch of West Adams Boulevard on a Friday night and you might find a mob of boisterous fans wearing sexy wizard costumes in a line that stretches halfway down the block. The occasion? Harry Potter–themed burlesque, just one of the dozens of pop...
Best Hip-Hop Reinvention
Just about everyone made fun of Snoop Dogg when he embraced a new moniker, Snoop Lion, but following the name change and a trip to Jamaica came one of his best albums in years, Reincarnated. The journey, it turns out, was a spiritual one as much as a physical one:...
Best Craft Classes
Stepping into the Riverside Drive cottage that houses French General is like walking into a rural notions store somewhere outside Aix-en-Provence. Filled with fabric, ribbon, lace, beads and buttons, as well as genuine French antique oddities, it's all about crafting with a country French aesthetic. Learn to make an adorable...
Round 1 is a large entertainment complex at the Puente Hills Mall, complete with a bowling alley, karaoke rooms, pingpong tables and the glitziest arcade we've seen in recent years. When you walk into the arcade, the first thing you'll see are the claw machines, which are filled with large...
Best Indie Band
The first thing to know: Haim rhymes with "time" and not "name." These three sisters from the Valley — Este, 27, Danielle, 24, and Alana, 21 — craft songs so fresh and compelling that they're poised to take over the indie-pop world. The comparisons they've garnered to Fleetwood Mac aren't...
Best Fashion Lesson
Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
If you covet those elegant Edwardian togs on Downton Abbey, or wish you could see Game of Thrones' furs and armor up close, the galleries at downtown's Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising are the place for you. FIDM's free exhibits bring actual costumes from your favorite films and TV...
Best Tour of L.A.'s Murals
Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles
Ever wonder about the meaning of that surreal mural near the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 61 in Highland Park — the one with the Aztec calendar stone, Quetzalcoatl's acid-green plumage and an infant in a blue orb? Isabel Rojas-Williams, executive director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, would...
Best Screenwriting Class
You can always apply to UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television and hope to take a very cool screenwriting class with Oscar-winning writer Dustin Lance Black. But few will be accepted for such an amazing opportunity. Instead, head over to the highly respected UCLA Extension, which offers a top-notch
Best Punk Band
The Briggs are the biggest local punk band you've probably never heard of. They've shared stages with heavyweights like Bad Religion, Anti-Flag and The Dropkick Murphys, and have played Warped tour. Formed by Jason LaRocca and his brother Joey — both of whom play guitar and sing vocals — The...
Best Lecture Series
Skeptics Society's Distinguished Science Lecture Series
For more than 20 years, the Skeptics Society's Distinguished Science Lecture Series has featured thought-provoking, even trailblazing ideas at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, where such big guns as Jared Diamond, Leonard Mlodinow and Sam Harris discuss everything from how modern society can learn from pre-industrial traditional societies
Best Way to Experience Space Travel
Centered in the Universe at Griffith Observatory's Samuel Oschin Planetarium
The "Centered in the Universe" show has been blowing people's minds at the Griffith Observatory's Samuel Oschin Planetarium for the past seven years. In the span of 33 minutes, you'll travel through time and space from ancient Alexandria, Egypt, to Galileo's 17th-century workshop, to Hubble's deco-era Mount Wilson Observatory, to...
Best Hollywood Star's Shrine to Himself
Al Jolson, who revolutionized American pop music in the 1920s with his supercharged belting — and who famously performed in blackface — was both an intensely dynamic, self-possessed artist and an over-the-top megalomaniac with a gargantuan ego, and he planned accordingly, creating an absolutely staggering grave-site monument. Featuring a statue of...
Best R&B Singer
The teenager born Christian Jones, a native of South Central, starred in David LaChapelle's documentary about krumping, Rize. Nine years later and now called TeeFlii, he's known for his sensual, playful R&B tracks and he's set to pop as a singer. Los Angeles is filled with R&B superstars — everyone...
Best Food and Art Hybrid
Thank You for Coming
This ambitious, all-volunteer experimental space at the edge of Atwater Village's trendy Glendale Boulevard walking district merges the worlds of food and art. Essentially Thank You for Coming is a restaurant, but the menu is shaped by whatever artist or collective is in residence at the time. For one residency,...
Best Open Jamming
The jam sessions at Petie's Place in Tarzana are noncompetitive, so don't be scared. Held on Wednesdays, they're hosted by Amy Licence and Rob Sisino, with house drummer Jim Xavier providing assistance. The venue provides drums, amps and PA; all you need bring is your instrument or drumsticks. (And, of...
Best PBR Factory Turned Art Space
Brewery Artist Lofts
Straddling the 5 freeway, the L.A. River and a maze of industrial rail yards, the Brewery Artist Lofts boasts its own creative ecosystem, which thrives on 18 acres of brick lofts, cement towers and ivy-covered warehouses where artists live, work, eat, drink, sleep and party. With its own late-night bar...
Hanni El Khatib
Sure, looking hot and maintaining a throwback swagger help when you're starting a recording career, but how does that translate into actual music? For Hanni El Khatib, it's done through a raw blitzkrieg of garage-rock guitars, combined with cool, composed crooning that holds back as much as it lets loose...
Best Comedy Club
The back room of Meltdown Comics has long been the coolest place in town to catch live comedy, but the Nerdmelt Showroom has increasingly become the most revolutionary as well. In addition to programming stand-up, sketch, improv, panels, screenings, readings and every experimental format in between, the space is home...
Best Kiss & Tell Music Tour
Pamela Des Barres' Rock-n-Roll Tour
Miss Pamela Des Barres, groupie extraordinaire and author of the 1987 tell-all I'm With the Band, leads fascinating van tours of 1960s Laurel Canyon and Hollywood music hot spots. Live vicariously on Pamela Des Barres' Rock-n-Roll Tour as she retraces the steps where her rock & roll adventures took place...
Best Ska Band
Having launched in 1999 while they were still in high school, East Los Angeles ska band Viernes 13 (that's Friday the 13th to you, gringo) gained popularity over the years playing backyard shows but never put out an official full-length album. That will change later this year, when the group's...
Best Massive, Nearby Festival Venue
L.A. State Historic Park
We've got nothing against the far-flung Southern California locations where music festivals are being held with increasing regularity. Except for the fact that they're often deep in the desert and, when you take into account the traffic, often require a half day of traveling to and fro. Why bother going...
Best Art Project Meets Social Media at the Airport
Art is alive and well at LAX. Among the 11 large-scale installations and travel-themed artworks from 45 Los Angeles artists, Jorge Oswaldo created a site-specific social media experiment using a backdrop of eight playful and colorful canvases inspired by California poppies. The installation, which encourages audience participation, is a play...
Best Hidden Trove of Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia
Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum
The eternal nature of Marilyn Monroe's spectral allure is one of Tinseltown's most tragic and pervasive phenomena, and to suddenly find yourself in a chamber stocked with her intimate personal effects is, simply put, a thrill. Believe or not, you'll find one at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum...
Best Theater Lobby Exhibits
Kirk Douglas Theatre
Of Center Theatre Group's three performing arts spaces, the Kirk Douglas Theatre has the most welcoming lobby — your instinct says to hang around. And CTG takes advantage of that by creating exhibits to accompany its shows. For instance, for The Nether, a play about an online, virtual fantasy world,...
Best Movie Night for People With Bad Taste
Grindhouse Film Festival
All around the city, people call it "the industry" in hushed tones. This convenient cliché leaves out the other industry: The industry of men like Roger Corman, David Friedman and Russ Meyer, the one churning out a movie a week for five grand apiece. This cottage industry is the American...
Best Touristy Thing in Hollywood
The Hollywood Museum
The Hollywood Museum is billed as having the most extensive collection of show business memorabilia in the world, and after spending hours wandering four floors containing more than 10,000 artifacts, the exhausted visitor would have to agree (at least until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences opens its...
Best Film Noir Location
Speedway and Windward Avenue
Orson Welles' 1958 film, Touch of Evil, is revered by film geeks for its three-minute, single-take opening sequence, which follows Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston as they traverse a seedy Mexican border town. It's fun to retrace Welles' camera movements on the spot where it was filmed by walking from...
Best Burlesque Show
When it comes to the biggest bang/bump/grind/headlock for your buck, Lucha VaVoom at the Mayan is the winner and still champion. It's the biggest burlesque-themed spectacle that takes place in Los Angeles on a regular basis (usually on holidays such as Valentine's Day, Halloween and, of course, Cinco de Mayo)...
Best Electronic Collective
L.A.-based electronic DJ/producer crew WeDidIt was founded in 2008 by Nick Meledandri and Henry Laufer, the latter also known as venerated beat-scene producer Shlohmo. In the past five years, the guys have gone from DJing house parties to releasing records from a top-notch roster, including RL GRIME, Groundislava, D33J, Nick...
Best Venue Where the Music (and the Booze) Is Free
Located smack in the middle of the city, the year-old Sonos Studio is not a big room, and its shows, listening parties and interview sessions — featuring folks like Beck, The Lonely Island and Solange — often have lines around the block. But they're worth queuing up for, as the...
Best Latin Alternative Band
Seven-piece East L.A. ensemble Las Cafeteras met while taking classes to learn a traditional type of Mexican music, Son Jarocho, at the Eastside Cafe in El Sereno. Borrowed from Veracruz, Son Jarocho is a mix of danceable, indigenous, Spanish and African music, and Las Cafeteras mix it with folk and...
Best Throwback Movie Theater
Old Town Music Hall
If you're an old-time film fan and all you want to do is sit on your couch and bliss out, then you have Turner Classic Movies every night and plenty of vintage DVDs from your local library. But for true cineastes, there's nothing as authentic as seeing old films —...
Best Underground Westside Comedy Club
To attend monthly comedy event Crave, go to the website, RSVP to get the location, show up to the (secret) address and enter via the back alley, through a small opening in a fence. An outdoor patio leads to the venue, a crude, loud, hangarlike space, with Alice in Wonderland...
Best Art With an Ocean View
Long Beach Museum of Art
The Long Beach Museum of Art isn't big, but that's great. Unlike some L.A. museums that daze visitors, this one doesn't overwhelm with quantity, and it rarely disappoints. Concise solo and group shows by contemporary American and European artists are paired with exhibitions drawn from the museum's collections of 20th-century...
Best Reuse of a Military Stronghold
Armory Center for the Arts
When artist Richard Jackson crashed a 15-foot-wide model war plane filled with paint into a 20-foot wall outside of the Rose Bowl, the brightly splattered remains were relocated to Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts. But that's about as militaristic as things get in the former National Guard housing in...
Best Place to Spot a Celebrity
So you want to see celebrities? Forget clubs, bars or even trendy restaurants. The stars are just like us, and that means they need groceries — which makes the Gelson's on Franklin Boulevard (formerly Mayfair Market) just the place. It's celebrity central, which can make for a fun game while...
Best School of the Senses
Institute for Art and Olfaction
A trained artist, Saskia Wilson-Brown is the mastermind behind the Institute for Art and Olfaction, where she promotes the use of aroma molecules to make art you can smell. As with any medium, there are purists who advocate natural over synthetic materials, but when it comes to perfumery, Wilson-Brown embraces
Best Sexy Storytelling Show
Feeling the need to overshare? Dixie De La Tour has just the thing for you: Bawdy Storytelling, a hypersexual riff on more traditional storytelling shows like the Moth. It has been going on in San Francisco for about five years and still holds regular shows up north but extended here...
Best Gay Men's Discussion Group
Need to talk about issues, such as dealing with a homophobic boss or navigating the dating scene, which only another gay man can understand? Want to connect with your gay brothers outside of the loud, sometimes intimidating bar scene? Feeling as if you're all alone in what you're going through
Best Hotel Room for Doors Fans
Room 32 at the Alta Cienega Motel
You will find signs of Jim Morrison scattered all about Los Angeles, but it's in room 32 at the Alta Cienega Motel that the Venice native is best remembered. One of the last places Morrison stayed in America, the room was the Lizard King's home while he recorded "L.A. Woman."...
Best Oddball Castle Tour
A childhood fascination with fort building spurred charismatic dreamer and ne'er-do-well Michael Rubel to begin constructing Rubel Castle from the ground up starting in 1968 and continuing for 18 years. Rubel's gregarious nature lured the whole town of Glendora into participating in the building of this bit of folk architecture...
Best Music Class for Toddlers
Let's face it, baby music can be a nightmare. Less Wiggles, more rock, right, parents? If only kids could develop the same taste in classic jams that we have. Well, in fact, they can, especially if they're students in Julie Ingram's Scruffin Rock class. Classically trained, with a master's degree
Best Tarot Card Reader
Red Rose Tarot
Tarot card reading is not fortunetelling. Serious readers don't claim to predict the future or give out definitive answers to difficult life questions. The value of this mode of spiritual divination comes from gaining fresh perspectives on various aspects of your life through creative, intentional focus. Working with a number...
Best Place to Channel Houdini
Sorcerer's Apprentice Class at the Magic Castle
Anyone can learn simple card tricks, sleight-of-hand and magical wizardry from the best, by taking the four-week Sorcerer's Apprentice Class at the Magic Castle taught by history's first TV magician, Mark Wilson, and his wife and assistant, Nani. They teach magic basics while bestowing upon students a monthlong temporary membership
Best Music Venue
Though it's a beautiful 1936 art deco theater with luxurious staircases and preserved details, the El Rey isn't the most ornate venue in Los Angeles. It isn't our city's hippest spot, either. But the El Rey offers a concert experience second to none, thanks to a combination of pleasing aesthetics,...
Best Live Conversation Podcast
"Let's get ready to babble-the-fuck-on" is the opening battle cry of Hollywood Babble-On, a weekly podcast featuring filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks, Red State) and Ralph Garman (L.A. radio celebrity, Family Guy). Recorded live (usually) at the Hollywood Improv, they discuss the idiosyncrasies of Hollywood and all its silly celebrity players...
Best Independent Movie Theater
Can a theater have multiple personality disorder? In one three-day stretch in an ordinary week, Cinefamily will play a Louise Brooks silent, an all-but-guaranteed 2013 Oscar front-runner, James Cameron's The Abyss with the "alien movement designer" in person, a Unicornucopia double feature of Legend and The Last Unicorn, a $6,000...
Best Camouflage Storefront
Redling Fine Art
The pawnshop that prohibits sunglasses, the shady taco stand and the well-trafficked apothecary in the strip mall just east of Santa Monica and Highland are, weirdly, less mysterious than one of their neighbors. That neighbor with barred, blackened windows is Redling Fine Art, a gallery that has been holding its...
Best Photo Booth
Playland Arcade recalls unironic times when photo booths attracted kids waiting their turn at Pac-Man, instead of mustachioed men waiting for their third tallboy of PBR. Two dip-and-dunk photo booths sit in the dense, dank phalanx of buzzing and pinging arcade games. When the booths work, which is far from...
Best Underground Improv Space
Has improv become too corporate? If your answer is "no" or "what?", then this place is probably not for you. But if your answer is a thundering, resounding, middle-finger-to-the-man "yes!", then the Clubhouse, located off an alley in Hollywood, is where you need to be. (Just keep it down. The...
Best Reading Series
Junot Diaz and Karen Russell are just the beginning. The calendar for the Hammer Readings regularly reads like a catalog of literary prizewinners from the last decade. Of special note is Mona Simpson's "Some Favorite Writers" series, which has featured titans like Michael Chabon, Denis Johnson, A.M. Homes, Jonathan Lethem...
Best Guitar Factory Tour
Fender Factory Tour
Leo Fender released the first mass-produced electric guitar back in 1950, in Fullerton. Today, at the Fender Factory Tour, learn how these guitars make the journey from simple blocks of wood to instruments that can stir the human soul. Located in Corona since 1998, this manufacturing facility is responsible for...
L.A. has no shortage of globe-trotting spinners, from Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia to the American superstar du jour, Skrillex. Locals from Trent Cantrelle to Steve Prior, DJ Ruff to Droog can play a damn solid set, too. But, frankly, Kazell — the Brit-born Kevin Bazell — is L.A.'s...
Best Mission Museum
San Fernando Rey de España
Among our local missions, San Fernando Rey de España has the largest and creepiest collection of relics, statues, weapons, paintings, flags, clothing and tools, which take up several rooms on the property. While the mission has been largely rebuilt twice due to earthquake damage, it still contains ornately carved altars...
Best Pre-Curtain Snack
24th Street Theatre
Forget those dainty cheese-and-cracker platters. The 24th Street Theatre, in the University Park enclave a mile from USC, welcomes audiences with hundreds of fresh, free, homemade tamales each year. The practice started 10 years ago as a way to entice Latino audiences to the bilingual playhouse's Spanish-language productions, and the...
Best Cemetery to Visit Jazz Legends
Inglewood Park Cemetery
You may have missed seeing them play in real life, but you can visit several jazz and blues greats in their final resting places, at the Inglewood Park Cemetery, including Ray Charles, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Big Mama Thornton, T-Bone Walker, Billy Preston and Richard Berry. The friendly...
Best Mausoleum for a Photo Op
Constructed in 1922, the somewhat obscure Sunnyside Mausoleum (now overseen by Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery) is a stunning architectural fantasyland of Spanish Renaissance art glass, sculpted marble and historic tilework — and it features a rare Foucault pendulum. Sunnyside was inspired in part by the Royal Pantheon beneath the...
Best Avant-Garde Rock Musical Theater Company
Tilted Field Productions
The Greeks invented theater around 2,500 years ago. Rock music is somewhat younger. So the itinerant L.A. stage experimentalists at Tilted Field Productions can be forgiven for the 2,440-year lag in successfully merging the two into a live-performance hybrid that, for the lack of better words, truly rocks. You'll get...
Upon the release last year of his major-label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, critics agreed that Compton-bred rapper Kendrick Lamar's work belonged in the pantheon of classic hip-hop albums. A year later, after he'd become internationally popular and released one of the best verses in recent memory on "Control,"...
Best Place to Go Brazilian
Brasil Brasil Cultural Center
Ask the average American to describe the culture of Brazil and he or she may cite the bikinis of Ipanema and Copacabana, the gang violence of the favelas, the popular beauty-salon waxing trend or the off-Strip Vegas casino called Rio. Brasil Brasil Cultural Center is here to spread the rich,
Best Neighborhood Music Venue
Even before the Central Social Aid & Pleasure Club closed earlier this year, Trip was shaping up to be the best venue in Santa Monica. While there are other worthy contenders on the Westside — such as the intimate blues bastion Harvelle's, rockin' martini lounge Liquid Kitty, venerable R&B landmark...
Best Place to Watch Nitrate Film
James Bridges Theater
Not just the best, the James Bridges Theater in UCLA's Melnitz Hall is the only place you should watch nitrate film in Los Angeles. Although there are other theaters in L.A. that screen nitrate, only the Bridges has undergone the extensive modifications required to meet the safety codes for nitrate...
Best Do-It-Yourself Crafts
Need an activity that will entertain everyone from your mom to your 8-year-old cousin? Just love being crafty? If you answered yes, then Duff's Cakemix is your place. Located on Melrose Avenue at Sweetzer, it's not far from some of the most popular designer shops in Los Angeles. At Duff's
Best Art Gallery
Blum & Poe
The walls in the downstairs exhibition space at Blum & Poe keep changing. A whole room will disappear, or a new room will pop up inside another. Sometimes the space features the blatantly spectacular, as in its show of Japanese super-artist Takeshi Murakami, and sometimes it's far more humble, like...
Best Place to Take Your Republican Parents
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
It's hard to remember that California used to be a hotbed of Republicanism, that Tricky Dick got his start here and Ronald Reagan followed not far behind — and even served two terms as governor of this now deeply blue state. But if Los Angeles today seems hopelessly removed from...
Best Offbeat Art Auction
Clark Cierlak Fine Arts
Clark Cierlak of Clark Cierlak Fine Arts got started in 1976, when an acquaintance asked Cierlak to help out at an auction. Now he specializes in finding and selling fine art for less than $20,000, though his greatest discovery was a $350,000 Zao Wou-Ki, whose unaware owner had it stuffed...
Best Free Big-Band Show
Glen Roberts Big Band
Led by Stan Kenton alumnus Glen Roberts and made up largely of WWII-era veteran musicians (their trombonist played on Bing Crosby's original recording of "White Christmas"), the 17-piece swing troupe Glen Roberts Big Band always offer an astonishing earful. Performing a free show Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at Viva Cantina,...
Best Free Downtown Performance Series
Tuesday Night Café
Little Tokyo's Tuesday Night Café performance series can be counted on to deliver eclectic entertainment — from spoken word to hip-hop dance, improv comedy to folk singing — and admission is free. But there is another reason that downtowners and L.A. art lovers of all stripes have been devoted to...
Best Place to See Celebrities Doing Improv
Snowpants at UCB
Anyone who has seen Ben Schwartz's turns as Jean-Ralphio on Parks & Recreation or Clyde on House of Lies knows the man can act. He can improvise, too, having studied the comedy technique for years at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Lately, he's been pulling in other celebrities (most of...
Best Pool Parties
The Standard Downtown L.A.
While the original Standard Hotel on the Sunset Strip boasts a serene, ground-level pool, the swimming facility atop its sister hotel, the Standard Downtown L.A. — a 1950s-era high-rise listed on the National Register of Historic Places — is reserved for serious partiers only. And by reserved, we mean you...
Zócalo Public Square
Founded by writer Gregory Rodriguez in 2003, Zócalo Public Square is a series of public events at which big ideas are pursued, examined and cherished. The locations change, but the topics always draw top experts to explore how humans' attempt to control nature affects L.A.'s wildlife and open spaces, the
Best Comedy Club for Those Who Will Miss Jay Leno
Comedy & Magic Club
Jay Leno is leaving The Tonight Show next spring, but L.A.-area fans will always have the Comedy & Magic Club for those nights when they just have to have a jolt of Jay. Leno has been a Sunday-night fixture there for the last 25 years, trying out material he plans...
Best Show to See Future Comedy Acting Stars
Sunday Company show at the Groundlings
Tomorrow's television and film stars are today's unpaid sketch and improv comedians, a formula that's tough on them but great for the rest of us. Especially when it comes to the Sunday Company show at the Groundlings on Melrose, where your $15 nets you a night full of budding comedians...
Best Music Festival
Now in its 10th year, L.A.'s indie-centric music event FYF Fest features a well-selected lineup of international favorites alongside about-to-break local talent. Held in late August in Chinatown's lovely and convenient Los Angeles State Historic Park (see our "Best Massive Festival Venue That Isn't an Hour or More Away"), FYF...
Best Place to Pretend You're a Celebrity for a Day
At the Villa Sophia guesthouse in Los Feliz, it's possible to live like a celebrity with none of the hassle. The poolside retreat is part of a larger, private compound at the base of Griffith Park, and which was once owned by James Whale (director of the original Frankenstein movie),...