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If someone had told you 10 years ago that the brightest and funniest minds of our generation soon would be offering up free radio shows every week — which you could hear on your phone whenever you wanted — would you have believed him? In our opinion, the best podcast...
Best New Comedy Club
Echoes Under Sunset
In just two years, Christian Chavez has created an oasis of chill under the Sunset Boulevard bridge in Echo Park. Echoes Under Sunset is nothing like the Laugh Factory or the Comedy Store. No comic's friends laughing too much at his lame jokes, no two-drink minimum, no limits on obscenity...
Best All-in-One Art-Making Warehouse
Keystone Art Space
Located in an industrial area of Glassell Park, this unassuming-looking building originally housed a liquor distributor in the 1950s and '60s. It also functioned as a haberdashery, a fine-furniture distribution hub and a rental facility for production companies before becoming Keystone Art Space, which has been around for about two...
Best Art Gallery in Someone's Back Alley
Five Car Garage
On a tree-lined hillside west of Santa Monica Airport, one resident has been dealing out of her garage — dealing art, that is. Emma Gray is a curator, editor and impresario who adores unconventional spaces, most recently Five Car Garage, an accurately named, surprisingly well-appointed structure in her alleyway. Previously...
Best Experience Involving Velvet
We didn't know we needed one until it came here. Velveteria is a velvet-painting museum curated by Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin, who relocated from Portland, Oregon, to open their new space in Chinatown late last year. This storefront gallery displays about 500 paintings — Baldwin likes to say "about...
Best Indie Movie Theater
Sundance Sunset Cinema
There's always something good playing at the Sundance Sunset Cinema, at least if you're a grown-up. Bucking the PG-13 trend that's dominating most multiplexes, the theater has a strict 21-and-older policy, with movies to match. Why the age limit? So you can bring a glass of beer or wine into...
Best Board Game Cafe
Game Häus Café
Playing Scrabble or Jenga at your local coffee shop is nothing new, but Game Häus Café is a real game changer. For a $5 cover charge (good for all day), grab a spot at one of the cozy leather couches or sit at one of the extra-long, extra-wide tables built...
Best Bet for Ballsy Original Plays
Echo Theater Company
If you're looking for a sure-fire retread of a recent New York–anointed stage hit or a comforting reboot of a canonical classic, do not drive out to Atwater Village and lay your money down at Echo Theater Company. Producing artistic director Chris Fields and managing artistic director Drew Dalzell didn't...
Best Up-and-Coming Dance Company
L.A. is filled with dance companies, especially contemporary dance companies, but few gain a public profile beyond the local dance community. Jacques Heim's Diavolo and Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project are two that emerged from the pack. BODYTRAFFIC is the latest contemporary dance troupe to make the move toward the...
Best Comedy in a Cemetery
Comedy Is Dead
Held in Hollywood Forever's gothic-gorgeous Masonic Lodge, the 16th incarnation of the on-again-off-again-since-2008 Comedy Is Dead rejoined the land of the living June 6 after a two-year hiatus. Linchpin producer/booker Samantha Varela welcomed sketch group WOMEN as regular hosts, plus a lineup featuring Maria Bamford, Matt Besser, Steve Agee and...
Best Music Venue
John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
When it comes to outdoor amphitheaters around L.A., the Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Theatre get all the love. But the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre also has great music and natural beauty, with only a fraction of the hassle. It's shocking just how friendly the staff is, how easy the...
Best New Public Art
When you visit the OOMO Cube towering above the plaza in front of the Japanese American National Museum, push its steel-and-aluminum pieces as if you were spinning the sides of a giant Rubik's Cube. You'll see the faces of some 30 Angelenos twist through the air and fall into new...
Best Place to See Murals
If you virtually cruise down Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima on Google Maps, you'll see a few hand-painted storefronts but mostly blank façades. That was Pacoima back in 2011. Since then, the town's main drag has flowered with new fine-art murals, earning the moniker "Mural Mile" and attracting throngs of...
Best Radio Station Art Project
Founded by a loose collection of CalArts grads in 2011, KCHUNG Radio mixes talk, experimental performance and music in an anarchic format (no rigorous schedules, no rules). For example, under his alias Guru Rugu, artist Adam Overton once aired an eight-hour show in which he and a handful of guests...
Best Punk-Rock Press
Punk Hostage Press
With its luridly pulpy name and a roster of punk luminaries, it's easy to dismiss Punk Hostage Press as a publisher of shamelessly tawdry tales of unrepentant rock hedonism and inevitably morbid self-destruction. While some of those themes do pop up in their books, co-founder Iris Berry thinks of the...
Mausoleum at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
These are not the damp, dark catacombs of "The Cask of Amontillado." There is no sense of menace as you stroll the clean, brightly lit hallways of the Mausoleum at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Yet death is never far away, even in this welcoming, attractive space...
Best Art Studio to Spend the Night
Nomad — a 6,000-square-foot art compound housing a printmaking studio, an indie book shop, a photo studio, a rehearsal space and a barber shop — has so many amenities that you may never want to leave. With its new Airbnb offerings, you may never have to. At $99 a night...
Best New Artist-Run Gallery
Celebrated painter Laura Owens says her goal with 356 Mission, a space she runs with Ooga Booga store proprietor Wendy Yao, is simply to "try to do the best shows in L.A." Judging by the eclectic and often high-caliber programs seen there this year, Owens and Yao are meeting that...
Best Art Gallery Inside an Architecture School
SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture) is one of the most progressive design schools in the nation. It occupies the eastern edge of the downtown Arts District, in a quarter-mile-long former train depot the length of Santa Fe Avenue between Third and Fourth streets, and is known for its wildly...
Best Hidden Indie Movie Theater
Right next door to one of Hollywood's oldest cinematic institutions is its newest and scrappiest. Opening a stone's throw from the Egyptian Theatre and just down the block from the Chinese may seem an odd strategy for a fledgling art-house theater, but Arena Cinema feels like it's here to stay...
Best Factory Tour
We use them all the time, but do you actually know how a zipper is made? Or where they come from? They haven't all been outsourced to China. At UCan Zippers, the last zipper factory in L.A. and one of the last in the United States, they'll happily show you...
Best Historic Theater You Didn't Know Was Open
Los Angeles Theatre
When the lights dimmed and the 1941 Preston Sturges comedy classic The Lady Eve got under way in June, 2,000 filmgoers had to tear their eyes away from the sumptuous French Baroque interior of the Los Angeles Theatre, the most glamorous of the glitzy movie palaces built downtown on Broadway...
Best Art-House Screenings in an Art-House Desert
South Bay Film Society
South Bay cinephiles, rejoice: It's now possible to see independent movies without driving to the Westside. Bringing world cinema to Torrance's AMC Rolling Hills for more than two years now, the South Bay Film Society is a case study in art-house/multiplex convergence. Nearly every one of its one-off screenings sells...
Best Party Gamers
Wise Guys Events
Wise Guys Events creates quirky games suited to everything from corporate holiday parties to bachelorette pub crawls. Founders Myles Nye and Greg Snyder bring their knack for comedy and interactive storytelling to events such as Mindshare and IndieCade. At the latter, they turned players into pirates ready to share, or...
Best Scrappy Opera Company
Pacific Opera Project
According to some critics, opera in the United States is on life support. But if you want proof of the art form's vitality, check out Pacific Opera Project, whose last three productions sold out. Alternating classics such as Carmen with rarities — Cavalli's La Calisto, anyone? — POP is the...
Best Hidden Desert
There's a desert downtown, and it's not because the citizens of our drought-ravaged state have been keeping the sprinklers spraying and the cars sparkling. This desert, hidden at the side of the 801 Tower, is one of the more Southern California–inspired spaces decreed by the 1 percent development mandate, which...
Best Place to See Outsider Art
Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village
Simi Valley gets a bad rap. Between the Manson family using Spahn Ranch as a clubhouse in 1968 and '69, and the town acting as a host for the 1991 trial that would eventually acquit the policemen who beat Rodney King, Simi V. is known for her claws and daggers...
Best Museum to Channel Bruce Lee
Martial Arts History Museum
If you've ever practiced any form of martial arts, or merely had an infatuation with overdubbed '60s kung fu movies, the Martial Arts History Museum surely will make an impression. Opened in Burbank in 2011, it is the first museum in the world to focus on the history of martial...
Best Magical Date Night
Magic and Wine
Perhaps you're looking to cast just the right spell for a night of romance, an enchanting date-night experience that will conjure up a warm yet elegant feeling. Look no further than the intoxicating Magic and Wine show at the fashionably historic Bardot, part of the gorgeous, Old Hollywood Avalon Theatre,...
Best Monthly Cult Film
To be fair, The Room isn't just the best monthly cult film in Los Angeles — it's the best cult film anywhere it's screened on a monthly basis. With throngs of 20-somethings dressed as their favorite characters, fans who tell Denny to "sit the fuck down" in unison, footballs tossed...
Best Gallery Off the Beaten Path
While most new contemporary art galleries in L.A. have been opening near other galleries in Culver City, Hollywood or downtown, Michelle Papillion opened hers on a block of Leimert Park with no galleries on it. She believes in the neighborhood and the artists working nearby. There's a "vibe," she says,...
Best Public Television Station You Haven't Heard of
KLCS is best known for broadcasting interminable board meetings of L.A. Unified School District, which operates it. But the public broadcasting station has three additional, lesser-known channels — KLCS-2 with children's shows; KLCS-3 with lifestyle and cooking shows; and the crown jewel, KLCS-4, which broadcasts MHZ, a national, noncommercial aggregator...
Best Drive-In Movie Theater
Drive-in movie theaters are something of a relic these days, but Pacific Theatres' Vineland Drive-In in the City of Industry soldiers on. Since it opened its gates in April 1955, audiences have been watching flicks (and teens have been making out) from the comfort of their cars. Even manager Juan...
Best Offbeat Crime Tour
Crimebo the Clown
"L.A. is very famous for its legends," says Crimebo the Clown. Crimebo (aka Michael Perrick) is a deranged, Emmett Kelly–type character clown with a passion for urban legends and crime oddities, which he has managed to translate into a successful one-man act. In addition to blind-date chaperone services, bachelorette-party tag-alongs...
Best Social Justice Library
Southern California Library
Communist Party member Emil Freed founded the Southern California Library more than 50 years ago in a desperate move to save fiery leftist writings from McCarthyism. The library's mission, to collect records of the struggles for social justice in Los Angeles, now lives on in a vast former appliance warehouse...
Best Offbeat Design and Architecture Experiences
Design East of La Brea (deLab)
Design East of La Brea (deLab) has done hundreds of micro-tours investigating the most fascinating places on the L.A. design and architecture map, offering both special access to legends and the joy of discovering the new. In addition to its popular bicycle-tour series Design and Dim Sum, locations have included...
Best Celebrity Meet & Greet
The Hollywood Show
The Hollywood Show will put you face-to-face with TV, movie and pop music celebrities dating back as far as your grandparents era. Ever fancy meeting I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden, or Apollonia from the 1980s Prince-created girl band? How about '70s flashes in the pan Kristy McNichol or...
Best Contemporary Art Patron
Wilshire Boulevard Temple
Of all the hot new places to see contemporary art these days, a 150-year-old Reform Jewish synagogue in Koreatown is a surprising choice. Over at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Rabbi Steven Leder is spearheading an effort to include major contemporary art commissions and purchases in the temple's massive 10-year renovation...
Best Monthly Short Film Festival
NewFilmmakers Los Angeles
Depressed about the impossible odds of making it in Hollywood? Meet NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, the well-oiled machine fighting against the studios by providing indie filmmakers with a platform and PR. Each month NewFilmmakers hosts a monthly film festival at the AT&T Center downtown, which screens eight to 12 top-notch independent...
Best Hotel Art Gallery
Morrison Hotel Gallery
Rock & roll belongs on the Sunset Strip like a groupie belongs backstage, so what better place to find some of music's most iconic photographs than at the Sunset Marquis? Housed inside the tony hotel, and opened in 2013, the Morrison Hotel Gallery exhibits works by Jim Marshall, Bob Gruen,...
Best San Fernando Valley Arts Organization
11:11 A Creative Collective
Arts organizer Addy Gonzalez and photographer Erin Stone started 11:11 A Creative Collective in 2009 after looking around a Hollywood gallery opening and realizing everyone there — attendees, artists, musicians — was from the Valley. Since then, the collective has been the nexus of an artistic groundswell in the San...
Best Revitalized Theater
Theatre at the Ace Hotel
The Theatre at the Ace Hotel opened earlier this year, extending Broadway's gentrification wave as far south as Olympic Boulevard. Located in the historic United Artists movie palace, the theater most recently was the spiritual home of televangelist Gene Scott. The Spanish Gothic structure has been restored, though some religious...
Best Car Show
Rodeo Drive Concours d'Elegance
Southern California is the land of car shows, from lowrider showcases to Cars and Coffee, from Hot Import Nights to car-club bro-downs. But few have the nitpicking fans and million-dollar rides to be considered brethren to the globe's most elite car showcases, such as the granddaddy of them all, the...
Best Local Letterpress Mecca
International Printing Museum
Letterpress printing is enjoying a revival, and the International Printing Museum is Mecca for this retro art, boasting the Ernest A. Lindner Collection of Antique Printing Machinery, considered by authorities to be one of the largest, most comprehensive collections of historic graphic arts equipment in the world. Linder regularly rented...
Best Drum Circle
Leimert Park Drum Circle
Every Sunday since 1997, Afrobeat musician Najite Agindotan has summoned his drummer friends — and anyone else who wants to show up and make some noise — to the Leimert Park Drum Circle for collective grooving. Founded in remembrance of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, the drum circle (or "drum church,"...
Best Experimental Kunsthalle
The Mistake Room
One man's mistake can be another's masterpiece — and when it comes to contemporary art, not only is beauty in the eye of the subjective beholder but not everyone even agrees that beauty is the point. Operating in a European-style model of large-scale, nonprofit public art spaces, the Mistake Room...
Best Drive-In Movie Theater Snacks
Mission Tiki Drive-In
Of course you can devour all the normal movie treats at the palm-fronded Mission Tiki Drive-In, which is just far enough from the city to feel like an adventure. There's crunchy popcorn, decent nachos, spinning pretzels, Icees, giant sour pickles and bricks of candy — no shock there. But Mission...
Best Shakespeare Flash Mob
Launched by actress Nancy Linehan Charles, Salty Shakespeare is a stage-less, brick-and-mortar–less theater group made of about 20 very brave actors who perform various scenes and sonnets in large, unsuspecting crowds. Don't expect to spot them at your local Jamba Juice in flamboyant Elizabethan threads. The actors are disguised as...
Best Classic Comedy Remodel
Local comics mourned the late-2012 loss of the Improv's experimental black box the Lab ... until the spacious, welcoming lounge that took its place opened last summer. While the old bar area features a new kitchen and ever-evolving menu courtesy of chef Kyle Schutte, the sleek new side entryway provides...
Best Mid-City Picnic Spot
If you're a Westsider, a beach picnic is an easy thing to whip together. If you hail from further east, Griffith Park gives you all the green space you need. But what if you're between perfect picnic spots? There are a handful of parks that dot our city, but really,...
Best Place to Hobnob With Comedy Elite
You can lurk around improv clubs all year in the hope of seeing your favorite comedic actors, or you can hang out with pretty much all of them at the same time while filling your belly full of meat. Which would you prefer? Hosted by chef Neal Fraser, Tim &...
Best Antique Oil Boom Town
An underappreciated historic site just off the Golden State Freeway in Newhall, Mentryville is a gorgeous place to hike that also offers some pretty cool old stuff to look at. Located at the entrance of scenic Pico Canyon, Mentryville was a 19th-century oil boom town built around its famous oil...
Best Radical Literary Bureau
Poetic Research Bureau
Wedged between commercial art galleries and kitschy Chinatown gift shops, the Poetic Research Bureau is a clandestine classroom with 50 seats and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and chalkboards. "It's not immediately clear if it is a bookstore, a lending library, a reliquary or a community workshop," says Andrew Maxwell, who co-edited the...
Best Place to Get Dressed Up
Los Angeles Opera
We have nothing against the trend of high-cultural institutions trying to engage with audiences in informal, edgy ways. Opera at a train station? Love it. Theater in a cave, or dance in a laundromat? Bring it on. But sometimes we seek out culture specifically because we crave formality, because the...
Best Art Collective
If one of the goals of art is to make us look at our lives and our surroundings in new, unusual ways, then Lauren Bon's Metabolic Studio has already succeeded wildly. If you were up early and out on the streets of Burbank and Glendale last year, you might have...
Best Stop on the Downtown Art Walk
The Hive Gallery
The Hive Gallery is like a microcosm of Art Walk. Curated by Nathan Cartwright, this heterogeneous honeycomb showcases a diverse array of local talent ranging from the politically conscious to pop obsession. In the primary gallery space during a recent Art Walk, machine gun/bullhorn amalgamations are juxtaposed with myriad Teenage...
Best Place to Accidentally Get a Lesson in Creationism
Prowling the north side of the 10 on the way into Los Angeles, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are a delight of roadside America. Pee-wee's Big Adventure wouldn't have been nearly as big without those oversized apatosaurus and tyrannosaurus rex models. But once you step inside and start reading the placards, it...
Best New Live-Music Venue
Despite its name, Café Nela isn't really a cafe so much as it is a beer bar for those 21 and older. However, the "Nela" part is accurate, as the spot is located in northeast L.A. Since Carnage Asada cellist Dave Travis opened the Cypress Park bar in October last...
Best Architecture Exploration
The architecture of Hayden Tract looks like a mix between communist-bloc buildings in East Berlin and the set of Blade Runner. The strange forest of striking postmodern, neo-industrial buildings in Culver City is the brainchild of experimental architect Eric Owen Moss, commissioned through a city rehab project called Conjunctive Points...
Best Mural in Progress
Franklin Mural Project
In 2005, Reies Flores and Arturo Romo-Santillano were substitute teachers at Franklin High School in Highland Park. Romo, an artist, and Flores, who shepherded student garden projects, grew up in Northeast L.A. Seeking to engage students with their place in the city, they created the Franklin Mural Project. This neighborhood...
Best Historical Photo Collection
The Photo Friends
In a world where too many people think their every moment is essential to share online, it's worth stepping back in time to when photographs weren't instant and told more important, mysterious stories than Instagram ever will. The Photo Friends is a volunteer nonprofit organization that preserves and promotes the...
Best Startup Fine Art Print Studio
Valley Print Studio
Housed in a trellis-lined converted garage at the end of a residential cul-de-sac in Woodland Hills, Valley Print Studio is introducing a new culture of printing workshops to the San Fernando Valley. Recent Cal State Northridge graduate Miles Lewis, son of chamber musician Paula Hochhalter and actor Geoffrey Lewis, founded...
Best Freeway Interchange
Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange
Architecture critic Reyner Banham once wrote, "The language of design, architecture and urbanism in Los Angeles is the language of movement. Mobility outweighs monumentality there to a unique degree." If you buy that argument, it would follow that our freeways and freeway interchanges should be considered among our greatest landmarks...
In the far West Valley, where suburbia revels in itself and the schools are all great, hidden at the back of an open-air mall you'll find the most uncrowded, service-oriented multiplex in town, AMC Fallbrook 7 in West Hills. Sold to AMC by the Laemmle family last year, the most...
Best Panel Discussions
Writers Guild Foundation
Many venues in L.A. feature film and television writers speaking about their work, including the Paley Center and the Nerdist Writers Panel. But events hosted by the Writers Guild Foundation — which are open to the ticket-buying public — get our nod for their wonkiness and A-list talent factor. In...
Best Cabaret Night
A Little New Music
If you’re jealous of your New York friends for getting all the good new musical theater, you’ll feel at home at A Little New Music. The quarterly series is a cabaret show of new musical theater songs by everyone from up-and-comers to the Broadway songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin...