Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The City of Morro Bay, California is mostly known for the huge Morro Rock rising up from the ocean. It's a working fishing village and I had a great fish sandwich there on the way to Hearst Castle. I also visited their funky little Aquarium.
This family owned attraction is dedicated to rehabilitating sea creatures since 1984 and the sea lions greet you right at the entrance. Boy, are they loud. The inside room is dark and small with murky tanks filled with a variety of animals. A huge octopus was very popular along with a good local shark exhibit. The rest of the waterfront is filled with fun shops and restaurants. It's a great place to hang out and at the end of the road you can see the fishing fleet come in with their daily catches. A nice slice of local California north of Los Angeles. Totally.
Monday, July 23, 2007
That's a big part of the appeal at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Reading the inscriptions and seeing the size of the celebrities hands and feet. Really. Of course, the interior is Hollywood glamorous but the action is outside where the crowds gather and with the crowds all manner of street entertainers. It's like a circus. Freddy vs Jason. Superman and Wonder Woman. Charlie Chaplin and Captain Jack Sparrow. What a hoot-a-nanny.
But Sid Grauman would be pleased I think. The Showman who invented Hollywood would appreciate the hubbub outside his theater where movie premiers and special events still pack'em in. As John Wayne said, "Sid, there are not enough words."
Thursday, July 19, 2007
When you need to escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, California then hop on board the Catalina Island Express shuttle and head for Avalon. In less than an hour on this high speed boat, you will be a world away on Catalina Island in the Pacific Ocean. The ship is very comfortable, serves food and makes trips throughout the day. Hotels are available on the Island, too. So are tons of activities. Tour, fish, scuba, snorkel, glass bottom boat, kayak, camp, hike; the list goes on and on.
If activity doesn't suit you then stroll the shops and restaurants right on the beautiful harbor, visit the spa or sit and people watch.
This is a great escape with a small town feel in an Island setting. Don't miss it.
But this attraction is so much more than a ship's tour. You can do a guided or self-guided tour of the ship filled with old photos and artifacts from days gone by when royalty and celebrity stood on these decks but the cool thing is how parts of the ship have been converted. You can even spend the night.
A hotel with 365 original staterooms is available complete with spa, five restaurants, shops and banquet facilities. Events are constant from music and concerts to dinner with Psychic Peter James and The Rocky Horror Picture Show featuring a live local cast.
One of my favorite activities is the Ghosts and Legends Haunted tour. Our group explored deep into the bowels of the ship in areas not open to the public where historic tales were spun and special effects brought the many reported hauntings to life. Good stuff.
You can spend a lot of time at the Queen Mary exploring the many options. But don't get lost...some of the long-term residents aboard the ship you don't want to meet.
Monday, July 16, 2007
I saw him move. No really...he moved while a stood there. Just a little bit. It was creepy.
The Hollywood Wax Museum in Hollywood, California has very realistic figures. They do an excellent job on the set designs and lighting too. As you might imagine, this wax museum is dedicated to show business figures from Ron Burgundy to the Beverly Hillbillies. It's a nice mix of old and new celebrities and with good use of lighting they often look real. Because they have movie studio access, they can create authentic reproductions and in some cases use the actual prop from a movie or show including clothing. Jay Leno's suit or Hugh Hefner's pajamas and smoking jacket, for example. This is a great showcase of TV and Movie personalities to visit. Hannibal's waiting for you.
If you love movies and happen to be a fan of The Academy Awards then a tour of the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California should be on your list. The hours are limited so plan ahead.
The interior of the building is plush and the tour shows you where events take place during the Awards shows and offers some insider stories about dressing room controversy and who sits where in the Theater. We had a chance to walk up on stage in this beautiful theater and it was exciting! We also learned how they coordinate the arrival of the stars for the Red Carpet entrance. They stage all the limos from the Hotel behind the complex and simply drive around the block to the front of the building.
Oh, Hollywood magic.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is longer than I expected. It stretches to over 2300 stars. Well, they're not all "stars" it seems. The criteria for getting a star turns out to be a bit loose and includes entertainers that aren't even human! Yes, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are here. So is Olive Borden. Dan Akroyd doesn't have a star yet but Judge Judy does. Go figure.
It's fun to walk the Walk and stroll down memory lane but the best part is the colorful characters who hang out here dressed in costume for the tourists. Superman, Batman, Darth Vader, Freddy; they're all here. For a couple of bucks you can have a photo with them. Hooray for Hollywood.
I saw my first magician at a friend's birthday party when I was ten. He was funny and silly and made a dove appear in a small wire cage.
I was hooked. The Art of Illusion fascinates me to this day so when I had a chance to visit the private Magic Castle Club in Los Angeles, California, I jumped at it.
The mystery begins when you are told that in order to enter this private club, you must be invited by a member or staying at the Hotel on site. I took a room and made my reservations. The formal dress code is strictly enforced with jacket and tie for men. With my Johnston & Murphy's shined to a gleam, I entered the Magic Club lobby and approached the front desk. This is where the fun began. "Just walk over to the owl on the bookcase and say Open Sesame," she instructed. The owls eyes blinked when I uttered those magical words and the bookcase slid back to allow my entry. Very cool.
The building itself dates back to 1908 and is a labyrinth of hallways, nooks and parlours. Take the time to explore the space and enjoy the historical photos and charicatures. The evening consists of five different magic shows in three seperate rooms with special guest appearances. They range from close up magic to stage shows. Five bars are spread around the large complex and a highlight was the player piano where Irma the ghost will play any tune you call out. It was eerie to watch as the group tried to stump her and couldn't. Dinner was excellent and no sooner had I sat down when who should walk in but Magic Legends Eugene Burger and Max Maven to dine at the table across from me. Most of the people there were magicians.
I soon found out why so much buzz was in the air. That night I was lucky enough to see a farewell performance by the amazing Paul Potassy. Turns out the Who's Who of magic was in attendance for this performance. I'll just say that when Siegfried (of Siegfried and Roy) sat down in front of me at the show, I was impressed.
Mr. Potassy mesmerized us all with his amazing patter and flawless illusions. At one point he cleaned out the pockets of the volunteer on stage, without his knowledge, and began producing his watch, cell phone, comb, wallet, hankerchief and pen, much to the delight of the audience.
What a special evening this is for anyone who enjoys Magic. It is a classic setting with World Class entertainment. I will remember this for the rest of my life.
Monday, July 09, 2007
The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California is cool. Since their remodeling, a timed ticket system is in place and reservations are required. No parking on site so the reservation is for the bus transportation to get there.
The Observatory is perched above the valley with a great view of the Hollywood Sign. Exhibits explore space and our place in it. I loved the swinging pendulum and the Tesla coil that produces lightning! A Zeiss 12-inch refracting telescope is available if you go in the evening and during clear days Solar Telescopes are found in the Rotunda. One of the highlights is the state-of-the-art Samuel Oschin Planetarium that creates multi-media star shows. Also, the new Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon features a short film by the actor himself. Make sure to save room to eat at The Cafe with outdoor seating overlooking the valley. Some effort and planning is required to visit here but it's well worth the effort.
With all due respect, I just didn't get The Hollywood Guinness World of Records in Hollywood, California.
When I was a kid, I used to love reading about the Guinness World Records and this attraction takes many of those records and displays them. That's it. Maybe I missed something but I didn't find giant plastic vegetables and a statue of the world's tallest man that entertaining. The place was very dark and hard to navigate, too. I was just expecting something more lively I guess. Oh well.
Wow. The traffic is everything they said it would be and more in Los Angeles, California. I'm staying in Hollywood, on the northern edge of Los Angeles and going anywhere is tough. The tradeoff in transportation is big. Convenience vs. Price. Public transport is cheap but takes longer. Private is more convenient but very expensive. However you decide to travel just make sure to give yourself extra time since the traffic is congested and the sites are spread out here. Sure wish I had wings!