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Fork In The Road

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South Pasadena’s Fork In The Road is one of the most interesting spots in the city. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, it’s the perfect place for a photo op, and symbolizes that, no matter what road you take, the city has a lot to offer. If you’ve never seen it yourself, it’s quite straightforward: it–quite literally-is a fork in the road. It’s constructed of wood (though its silvery paint job gives it the appearance of metal) and sits at the intersection of Pasadena and St. John Avenues.

The Fork has been standing since Halloween 2009, and it has quite the history. Artist Ken Marshall and a friend of his created the Fork as a 75th birthday gift to his friend, Bob Stane. Marshall and Stane co-own the Altadena coffee gallery and showroom, and had talked about the idea a while back. One night, dressed in CalTrans uniforms (CalTrans owned the land plot), the pair snuck over late and night, dug the hole, illegally stuck in the art, and poured in 400 pounds of concrete. According to many sources, they waved at policemen who drove by during the installation.

Residents were thrilled to see the fork, and believed it added a bit of humor to the city. “People just became unglued about it,” Bob Stane told NBC News. “They just thought it was fantastic. They were so happy to have a bit of humor on the street.”

After the Fork was firmly planted, a party was thrown, and the mastermind behind the project considered the artwork not just a gift to Stane, but to the city of South Pasadena. At the party/groundbreaking of the Fork, t-shirts were handed out with the sentence, “The World’s Largest Fork In The Road.” Later research eventually found that this was not, in fact, the largest fork in the road. There is also a 31-foot fork in the road in New York. Despite this fact, it did not thwart the enthusiasm of the residents and artists themselves.

Although most people were happy to have it, the California Department of Transportation was less enthused. On June 10th, 2010, the Fork was taken down by the city, who cited safety issues as a primary concern, and noted that Marshall did not have permission to put in on the property in the first place.

“They think it’s dangerous, that it might fall over, and they’re afraid people will run across the street to be photographed with the fork and be run over,” Stane told the Los Angeles Times.

However, the removal of the fork didn’t last too long. After proper permits were granted, and residents voiced their desire for it to stay, it was re-planted in October 2011. Today, the Fork is anchored to a 2.5 foot concrete plate. Originally just a simple intersection, it’s now called “Fork Plaza.”

Since then, the Fork has had its share of fun at its permanent residence. In 2012, the Idaho Potato Commission celebrated their 75th anniversary by traveling around the country with a six-ton, 28-foot long potato. The potato visited the Fork and made for a fun, eventful, interesting day.

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It’s also a site to many local events and fundraisers, such as “Put the Fork In Hunger,” a charity event that helps feed underprivileged families in the area.

Now that the Fork is here to stay, everyone’s happy, but most especially guerilla artist Ken Marshall, who says, ““When I am not here, my kids will go by and say, my dad did that. Which is kind of cool.”

Cawston Ostrich Farm

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South Pasadena is steeped in history, and one of the greatest examples of that is the Cawston Ostrich Farm. If you’re a South Pasadena native, you’ve likely heard of it, and if not, it won’t be long before you do.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm was a nine-acre farm where visitors could ride ostriches via a carriage that was attached to their neck and body (much like a horse). This was the first ostrich farm in America, as well as the first tourist destination in California, and it provided a fully immersive experience. Not only could guests ride the ostriches, but they could also purchase ostrich-themed memorabilia, such as ostrich feathered hats, fans, and capes.

As you can imagine, starting an ostrich farm is no easy feat. Edward Cawston brought 50 ostriches from South Africa to California via Texas in 1886. However, the journey to Pasadena was extremely strenuous on the birds, and only 18 of them arrived in tact. Originally, Cawston’s primary plan was to cash out on the popularity of ostrich feathers. He had accessories and fashion items in mind, and wanted to cut out the middleman and raise the ostriches on his own farm.

After over half of the birds failed to survive the harsh trip, Cawston decided to breed his own birds with the remaining 18. Through breeding, he was able to balloon his total to over 100 ostriches total. From here, the farm, located in Arroyo Seco Valley, began to boom. Back then, it was a modern day theme park, full to the brim with roaming, able-bodies ostriches and decorated with pyramid-style structures to represent the birds native Africa.

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There was such a keen interest in ostriches and their feathers that it drew tourism for years to come. Some visitors rode the ostriches with carriages, others rode it bareback, but mostly, one of the most captivating facets of the ostrich farm was observing during feeding time. Because ostriches swallow food whole, it became quite the spectacle to see the birds swallow oranges whole.

The farm was located next to the Pacific Electric Railway, and its popularity eventually led to the creation of the Red Car trolley, which took visitors from the railway directly to the ostrich farm.

Cawston’s ostriches weren’t just a moneymaker in Pasadena. The farm was also attached to a factory, where he shipped genuine ostrich feathers and products all around the country, and other parts of the world. Visitors could also watch the animals as they are plucked to gain a better understanding of the feather-gathering process, as well as to witness firsthand the authenticity of its products in the making.

Around 1910, the market for ostrich tourism started to plummet. Around this time, real theme parks with motorized rides and entertainment began to take precedence. The factory closed down in 1935. Today, the original brick structure of the factory remains, and is an official cultural landmark (#18). The South Pasadena Public Library spent many years digitizing photos from the Ostrich Farm, which are available for viewing at Online Archive California. Today, although the farm has long since been shut down, it attracts tourists around the world.

Top Outdoor Activities In South Pasadena

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Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you South Pasadena is a city that’s full of charm.The city works hard to preserve its original culture and history, and retains a small-town feel that makes it desirable to people around the world. Because what’s better than being able to reside in a town that’s far enough to exude community spirit in a small-town scene, but close enough to head over to Hollywood in just a short car ride?

Whether you want to stay indoors or catch some air, the area is versatile enough to appeal to all types of activities. And when it comes to South Pasadena, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to keep you busy during the nicer days (which is pretty much year-round). Here are a few to keep in mind:

Visit The South Pasadena Farmers’ Market

The South Pasadena Farmers’ Market is the place to go for all your local California cuisine needs. Live music enhances the ambiance, and locals and visitors alike scour the dozens of vendors for some of the best food trucks and take-home options. The market takes local shopping to another level, and has a strong community presence that resonates throughout the space. Options are endless here. Head over to Nicole’s for fresh goat cheese, Nana’s nachos for drizzling cheese and tortilla, Apple Sherrill Orchards for freshly squeezed natural juices, and Mama Musubi for gourmet rice balls.

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Visit The Fork In The Road

South Pasadena’s infamous Fork in the Road is one of the city’s best photo-ops, and it never goes out of style. Whether you’re new to the area or have seen the Fork dozens of times, it’s always a welcome reminder of all that South Pasadena has to offer, no matter which way you go.

This 18-foot wooden fork sits at the intersection of Pasadena and St. John Avenues. It was installed by local businessmen Bob Stane and Ken Marshall, who originally placed it without permission from local city officials. Since then, it has become a popular site for city events, such as fundraisers and food drives.

Go Horseback Riding

The San Pascual Stables have been offering horseback riding to South Pasadena since 1978. This is an ideal outdoor activity for all ages and riding education levels. There are all types of lessons available, too, including a summer camp program for kids and regular riding lessons for adults. San Pascual Stables is also known for hosting family-friendly events, such as the San Pascual Holiday Horse Show during the Christmas Holiday.

Go On A Park Crawl

South Pasadena has no shortage of parks, and there’s a hundred different ways to explore them. One of the best and most popular parks in the area is Garfield Park. It sits on seven acres and is beautifully landscaped throughout. It has tennis courts, fire pits, picnic tables, playgrounds, and more. Every year, the Summer Concert in the Park series takes place here. A massive easter egg hunt called Eggstravaganza also takes place here. Check the South Pasadena Events page for an updated list of current happenings.

Arroyo Park is another popular South Pasadena staple. It sits on nearly 20 acres of land, and has athletic fields, playgrounds, picnic tables, a barbecue, and a small amphitheater. This is the go-to spot for local sports and ideal for watching a game of soccer or baseball. Other parks include Orange Grove Park (which also has a 9,500 square foot recreation center), Library Park (home to the library and Senior Center, with plenty of meandering walkways), and Legion Park (which has a landscaped memorial garden).

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Taste of South Pasadena

South Pasadena is prime real estate for food, and it might get difficult to narrow down your top choices—especially as a newcomer. That’s where Taste of South Pasadena comes in, an walking tour event that takes you to some of the best eateries in town. One Yelp reviewer said, “Taste of South Pasadena is a great way to explore the city, stroll, and sample yummy treats, food, and wine.” The next Taste of South Pasadena event takes place on April 17th, 2018. Last year, the event had 22 participating restaurants and 12 wineries, and had a whopping 850 attendees. There will also be live music and an optional wine tasting. Children under 7 are free.

Rose Bowl Stadium

Just a hop, skip, and away from South Pasadena is the Rose Bowl stadium—a must for locals and visitors alike. The stadium is home to a slew of events, from some of the most renowned football tournaments, to concerts, and even a monthly flea market held every second Saturday of the month. And of course, it’s home to UCLA’s Bruins team. No matter what month of the year, there’s always something going on here.

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Take Golf Lessons

The Arroyo Seco Golf Course is the perfect place to take a golf lesson–or simply play golf if you’ve already mastered the art of the swing. According to the official City of South Pasadena website, the golf course has an 18-hole, Par 3 course, full driving range, 9-hole miniature golf course, and putting and chipping practice areas. Anything a golfer could need is readily available here.

The range was recently renovated, and now features a spacious practice area and  state-of-the-art hitting mats. It’s also an illuminated course, which means it stays open late until 10pm. There are five professional teachers that take up residence at the Arroyo Seco Golf Course.

There’s also a full-service restaurant and bar on site for before or after your game. And lastly, the site plays hosts to weekly events, such as Wine & Song, the Arroyo Seco Men’s Golf Club, and the Arroyo Ladies Golf Club.

Best Places To Eat In South Pasadena

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There’s a certain charm about South Pasadena, which the Los Angeles Times referred to as a “hip little enclave.” The area is steeped in city landmarks with its range of historic buildings, but that doesn’t mean the city has fallen behind the times. In this neighborhood, you’ll find inventine cuisine along the Gold Line tracks, Indie stores, restaurants steeped in history, and galleries galore. And when it comes to food, there’s little left to be desired. Here are some of the best places to eat in South Pasadena.

Cos&Pi

Cos&Pi focuses on seasonal breakfast and lunch menus. Their philosophy is to let the food speak for itself, and this has worked for the restaurant since it opened. This neighborhood eatery is small in size, so visitors are expected to arrive early to secure a seat. After all, this is one of the highest-rated restaurants in South Pasadena. Check out the breakfast menu here, and the lunch menu here.

What to try: Avocado toast, Breakfast burger, Potato hash au gratin, Egg tostada, Salmon toast

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Fiore Market Cafe

Owners Anne and Bill Disselhorst had a modest beginning. After visiting Italy in 2003, they were so inspired by the aura and cuisine there––particularly the slow pace and locally-grown food––that they decided to bring their own version back to South Pasadena. In a blog post that Bob wrote when the cafe first opened, he said: “It’s our vision and our dream to create a European style cafe with the charm and character of something you would find along the Seine in Paris.”

The market is not just about consuming or purchasing food, but making it, too–– their bread baking classes are a classic, and almost always fill up quickly. You can purchase everything here, from fresh salads and sandwiches to grains to local ingredients. There’s even a live jazz band that performs weekly. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Spicy udon noodles, Cold rare roast beef sandwich, Roasted chicken sandwich with basil walnut pesto, Walnut chocolate cookie

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Nicole’s

Nicole’s is part-gourmet store, part-gourmet dining. It has wide selection of over 200 cheeses from around the world. They also sell high-end French ingredients, imported wines, and fresh breads and croissants. The market and cafe are family-owned by a mother-daughter duo, and just steps away from the local farmer’s market. Check out the breakfast and lunch menus here.

What to try: Cheese plate, Melted brie and tomato, Prosciutto & Pecorino sandwich, Ham, Egg and Cheese on Croissant

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Gus’s Barbecue

Gus’ Barbecue began with a culinary mission of transplanting Southern cuisine and hospitality to Southern California. And it achieves this with its South Pasadena location. The restaurant’s meats are seasoned overnight and cooked old-fashioned style over pecan logs. Rubs and sauces are made daily in-house.

The original owners–-three siblings from Cleveland––left their family-owned bar and headed West on Route 66 sampling a plethora of flavors along the way. Today, Gus’s BBQ is the oldest barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles. Founded in 1946, it has stood the test of time and continues to thrive as a city must-have.

When its newest owners, brothers Chris and John Bicos, took over the restaurant in 2006, they decided to keep the family appeal, bring the design of the space up to modern standards (some have said its interior looks more like an upscale steakhouse), and go back in time to more traditional, pan-regional BBQ cuisine. Since then, the restaurant’s remained a Los Angeles landmark. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Beef brisket, BBQ sampler, St. Louis ribs, Carolina pulled pork, mashed potatoes

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Briganti

Briganti is the go-to spot for traditional Italian fare. This is a sleek, upscale spot with an outdoor patio perfect for sipping wine. The owner also runs La Buca, another well-regarded Italian spot in Los Angeles, though, according to LA Weekly, Briganti is the better of the two. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Fettuccine bolognese, Gnocchi, Crab ravioli, Spaghetti pescatora, Branzino

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Aro Latin

Aro Latin is a contemporary restaurant serving up Pan-Latin cuisine in a rustic, cozy setting (designed by Akar Studios in Santa Monica). The founders are a couple who met in Los Angeles––the husband, Karan comes from India, and the wife, Candy, hails from El Salvador. Together, they wanted to bring savory Latin taste to Southern California. To do so, they traveled extensively throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America looking for ways to reinvent classic Latin flavors without compromising authenticity. Check out their lunch and brunch menu here, and the Aro Latin dinner menu here.

What to try: Chaufa de pollo (Peruvian-style chicken fried rice), Costillitas (baby back ribs cooked in coconut milk with mango relish), Cordero aro (roasted lamb shank slow cooked with honey mustard glaze)

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Canoe House

Island culture and hospitality are in full force at this tropical-inspired Hawaiian restaurant. The interior is reminiscent of a Hawaiian plantation house, and in addition to the cocktails and cuisine, Canoe House provides the perfect backdrop for a fun evening of dining and drinking. Take a look at their list of menus here.

What to try: Hawaiian strip steak, Spicy tuna on crispy rice, Seared ahi sandwich, Hawaiian fried rice, Pineapple upside down cake

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Shiro

Creative French-inspired Japanese cuisine makes Shiro a uniquely fit place for experimental dining. For thirty years, it’s been one of the top restaurants in Los Angeles, and was even listed as the number one restaurant by Zagat. The menu is revolving depending on the season and availability, but you can check out their most current menu by visiting their homepage. Alternatively, you can view a gallery of food images from its most recent offerings.

What to try: Whole sizzling deep-fried catfish, Roasted New Zealand lamb chops, Sonoma breast of duck, Sea scallops and lobster, Broiled Chilean seabass with soy-ginger-mirin marinade & potato puree

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Crossings

Crossings was founded in 2011 by Patrick & Stephanie Kirchen, who aimed to create a dining space where people could feel at home, be a part of a community, and create memories centered around delicious American cuisine. Located in the historic Edwards & Faw building, it features two floors of dining space and a patio that’s partially shaded by a 100-year-old oak tree. The menu features locally-grown ingredients and food includes steaks, seafood, and a hearty selection of chops. Check out the Crossings menu here.

What to try: Uni carbonara, Filet mignon, Oysters on the half shell, Salmon with Yogurt, beet, blackberry, smoked roe, and fresh herbs

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Image source: LA Dreams

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What You Need To Know About The Bob Baker Marionette Theater In Echo Park

The Bob Baker Marionette Theatre in Echo Park is, without a doubt, a Los Angeles staple. The theatre hosts shows and events featuring the most talented puppeteers and the most uniquely decorated handmade marionettes.

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Though the theatre caters primarily to young audiences, adults have consistently raved about the performances, and some even consider it a “psychedelic” experience, thanks largely in part to the off-beat soundtracks, wacky themes, and dizzying light show, and sounds.

The puppeteers are ultra-interactive and use the entire theatre as their playground, moving through the throngs of people and gliding across the theatre floor. After a while, most people even forget the puppeteers are there. If you’re interested in checking out a show, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a few other things you need to know about the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre in Echo Park:

The Theatre Is Steeped In History

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater has been a part of the Angelino community since 1963. Since then, it has been indicted as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark. Every year, it utilizes over 2,000 puppets and puts on around 200 performances. Today, the theatre is a nonprofit organization, and its goal is to “provide unique theatrical experiences; to educate, celebrate and rejuvenate puppetry and the allied arts.”

They Host An Annual Festival

Since Bob Baker passed away of natural causes at 90 years old in 2014, the theatre has hosted a FREE annual “Bob Baker Day!” festival on his birthday. On February 24th, the fun and carnival-spirit energy spills out onto the street in front of the theatre. Here’s what you can expect during Bob Baker day this year:

  • Puppet shows
  • Pop-up puppet museum in the theatre
  • Arts and crafts booths
  • Food trucks
  • Exhibition booths from the local community
  • Live entertainment
  • Family-friendly games

Bob Baker Is A Marionette Legend

Bob Baker (1924-2014) started experimenting with puppeteering when he was just eight years old, and went on to become one of the world’s most renowned puppeteers. Over the course of his career, he served as the animation advisor for several studios, including Disney, and his puppetry work has been featured in several shows and films, including Bewitched, Star Trek, Land of the Giants, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bob Baker’s marionettes have also performed live around the world––even on submarines and Navy ships.

The Theatre Will Expand In 2018

In a long-term plan to preserve the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre for at least another 50 years, the theatre transitioned into a non-profit organization. The company is currently rebuilding and expanding its theatre to accommodate this new mission. The 2018 construction will rejuvenate the current space, allowing the theatre to remain where it’s always been.

The new space will be based on Bob Baker’s original design sketches for the space, allowing the company to live up to its reputation and founder by fulfilling some of his lifelong dreams for the theatre.

In addition to the renovations, they’ll also be adding a workshop, museum, and educational space to engage with the community. These new facilities will also help foster partnerships with other cultural and educational groups. While the new space is under construction, the organization will be a traveling theatre and continue to host shows and events around Los Angeles. Construction is expected to end late 2018, or early 2019.

Birthday Parties Are Welcome

For a one-of-kind birthday party, the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is the way to go. The Birthday Party package includes a personalized sheet cake from Hansen’s bakery, drinks, a fully decorated birthday area, balloon festival, and meet-and-greet with the marionettes at the end of the show. The party packages are customizable, and families can add additional party favors for a fee. Though there’s no kitchen access, guests are welcome to purchase and serve their own food.

Best Spots to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Echo Park

Valentine’s Day is a day of love and laughter, and there’s plenty to go around. With a romantic lake at your doorstep, Echo Park is the perfect backdrop for a romantic Valentine’s Day date.

Every year, there are some amazing, eclectic experiences to be had in Echo Park and the surrounding area.

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If you’re looking for date ideas for the perfect February 14th, look no further. We’ve summed up the perfect events and dinner spots to help you and your loved one have an ideal Cupid’s date.

Start With Drinks

Right before you head over to your evening dinner plans, consider stopping at Bar Bandini. It’s dark, sultry, relaxed, and makes for the perfect introduction to a nice glass of wine. The grapes are processed organically with little intervention, and made using native yeast. There are some small fare plates and wine friendly appetizers to hold you over until dinner. A highly knowledgeable staff that will help you choose the perfect taste if you’re overwhelmed by the large list of wine choices. .

Alternatively, El Prado is an Echo Park wine bar that’s fairly mellow during the week. This is a no-gimmick spot with plenty of wine and beer offerings and appetizing bar bites (think: pita and hummus). It has a cozy bohemian feel, impressive vinyl collection, and outdoor patio.

If beer is more your style, there’s no better place than the Sunset Beer Company. There are 500 varieties of beers here, and several selections of wines. There’s everything from California microbrews to rare Belgian ales. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable for couples who want a relaxing start to the rest of their evening.

Lastly, at restaurant Mohawk Bend (considered a “beer wonderland” by LA Weekly) there’s no shortage of options. California craft beers are paired with American fare at this highly-rated, brick-walled eatery. Almost the entire menu is vegan, but you wouldn’t recognize it from its offerings: expect vegan-friendly pastas, pizzas, and salads.

Take A Cooking Class

Take your date to a cooking class, where you can both learn something new and feast on your own cuisine. There are plenty of amazing cooking classes in Echo Park and the greater Los Angeles area. For example, the Donable cooking class teaches guests how to make traditional Japanese fare while in a small, intimate setting. At the end of the class, you can purchase any of the Donabe ingredients and products to take home with you and try your hand at home.

Over at Eataly’s La Scuola, you can learn to master Italian dishes with renowned Chef Lidia Bastianich, where handmade pastas are the specialty. La Scuola also offers experimental walking tours and paired wine dinners.

For dessert, why not try decorating a cake together? Duff’s Cakemix is hosting a Valentine’s Day cake decorating class where couples can learn the art of professional dessert decorating while having fun. You’ll be able to pipe, airbrush, roll, and execute other techniques alongside pastry chefs. There will be snacks and drinks available, as well as raffles to win some of the bakery’s delicious baked goods. The price is just $60 per couple.

Take A Dance Class

If you enjoy a unique cultural experience and dancing, why not swing to the beat with your partner at a dance class in a train station? That’s exactly what will be happening this Valentine’s day at Union Station. Afro-Cuban dancer Chris Kizomba will be teaching visitors how to dance in the style of kizomba. Expect this to be a high-energy event, followed by a full-on dance party with live music from Ricardo Lemvo y Makina Loca.

Go See A Movie

There’s nothing like cozying up to a romantic film. This year, there will be a Cinespia screening of Roman Holiday (Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck). Tickets for this event are just $33 for General Admission and come with complimentary sparkling wine from Freixenet Cava.

If that’s not your style, head over to the El Capitan Theatre to catch an animated viewing of the classic tale, The Lady and the Tramp. This film will be showing between Feb. 9th – 14th. Before each screening, there will be a live accordion performance by Ed Vodika. If you don’t get a chance to see it, keep El Capitan in mind for next year — they usually show Valentine’s themed movies during this time of the year.

Make It An Experience

Lucha Vavoom is great for couples who want to combine fun and adventurous with your classic V-day date night. Here, you’ll find fun masked Mexican wrestling matches with and knee-slapping comedy, and it’s sure to deliver a great time. The entire event will be Valentine’s Day themed, and there will be plenty of V-day gifts and surprises.

And if you love high-tech and gear, there’s no better (or more unique) way to spend your Valentine’s Day than the Virtual Room. The Virtual Room is where you and your partner work together to solve a mystery via a full-fledged virtual reality experience. The agency’s current “adventure” scheme is as follows:

“The year is 2217.These are dangerous times. Your mission… Choose your Omega team (two to four people) from your most loyal companions and set off through the corridors of time to find the Alpha team and repair the damage caused by the temporal rift – and save the future of the world!”

Each member of your team will have a dedicated room that’s equipped with the latest virtual reality gear. As you maneuver the game, you’ll be able to be to move around the room and collaborate with your other team members virtually.

Classic Dinner Dates

You can’t go wrong with your classic dinner date, and Echo Park has some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Among them are Ostrich Farm, Elf Cafe, and Winsome. At Ostrich Farm, the food is made fresh daily and brunch is especially popular. Recommended dishes include the varied and delicious cheese plate, Pork “ossobuco”, and spicy chickpeas.

The Elf Cafe serves Mediterranean food and the menu boasts an all-natural wine list. Many good things have been said about its cuisine and interior. LA Eater considers it one of the most underrated restaurants in Los Angeles, while LA Weekly stated, “Every dinner here feels like a special occasion.” Try the Moroccan vegetable tagine, California risotto, and buffalo oyster mushrooms.

Lastly, Winsome offers a little bit of everything with classic American food with a twist, served in a laidback, lush California setting. Some of its more popular menu items include the Lamb ribs, bone-in pork chop, and potato rosti with eggs.

Hot Spots Near Dodger Stadium

Whether you’re a die-hard Dodgers fan or just enjoying the baseball game experience, more often than not you want a balanced meal or itinerary of activities on game day. Chances are, you don’t live across the street from the Dodger Stadium, like many of the locations listed here. And furthermore, several hours of hot dogs and overpriced, average beers can be overkill for the most seasoned baseball fans. We’ve put together a list of eight hot spots near the Dodger Stadium to give you a range of game day options to choose from:

Dodger

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Button Mash

If you’re going to the Dodgers game as a family, Button Mash is the place to go before or after the game––maybe even twice in one day. With a full arsenal of amazing arcade games and an equally appealing Pan-Asian menu, there’s something for everyone at this restaurant. According to Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, the small wine lines is “shockingly good” and the food is “light years ahead” of other food-serving arcades in the country.

Sunset Beer Company

After the game (or before), head over to Sunset Beers for a drink. The tasting bar has 12 rotating taps and 800 types of bottled beers. The bar also frequently hosts Dodgers specials during game days, where there are steep deals on beers and specialty drinks.

The walls are decked in beer decor and there are even plenty of board games to keep your crowd busy until it’s time to go. According to Yelp reviews, this is the perfect pregame spot, and while no food is served, the bar does permit patrons to bring food of their own.

Ostrich Farm

This beautiful sit-down eatery has been touted as one of the best in Los Angeles by publications  like the Infatuation and the Los Angeles Times. It’s a little fancier than your casual pre or post-game stop, but not in a pretentious way. The staff is welcoming, the food delicious and well-thought, and the plates and interior just as beautiful as the cuisine is tasty. The kitchen––which is too small to hold an exuberant amount of food––keeps only enough product stocked for the day, ensuring you get the freshest food possible.

Subliminal Projects

If you’re creatively minded, consider visiting Subliminal Projects, a local art gallery that features contemporary and street art. Artist Shephard Fairey is the owner of the gallery (where many of his own works are features) and is the founder of the popular OBEY clothing line (the space also doubles as OBEY headquarters).

The gallery is spacious, and different exhibitions mean there’s a little something for everyone among the gallery’s revolving themes. The space also hosts lecture series and workshops. If you’ve got tickets to a game, try and coordinate attendance to an event, or just to check out the exhibition space.

Sage Vegan Bistro & Brewery

The Sage Vegan Bistro is a vegan, farm-to-table restaurant with a solid reputation. Locally sustained and produced food is the passion behind the menu, ensuring you get something healthy in your stomach before a long day of eating baseball stadium goodies.

Last year, the vegan restaurant was complemented with an all-vegan brewery, too. A reformed cement taproom gives the space an industrial feel, but it’s the drinks that keep the guests coming. Currently, the brewery is stocked with over 40 taps.

Guisados

Angelenos love their tacos, and Guisados is one of the best Mexican eateries in not just Echo Park, but the entire city of Los Angeles. Tortillas are handmade and the menu is both equally simple and powerful. There are over a dozen types of tacos, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the $2.95 tacos or the $8 sampler of six mini tacos. This place is an Echo Park staple, and you’ll quickly discover why.

Tierra Mia Coffee

Sometimes, all you need prior to the game is a nice cup of coffee and a simple breakfast sandwich. And Tierra Mia Coffee certainly delivers. This spot serves Latin-inspired coffee drinks made with house-roasted beans, and an assortment of hot pastries worth trying. Try the horchata latte or the cubano con leche.

Winsome

This high-rated restaurant has great Downtown views and is just around the corner from the Dodgers stadium. The interior embodies the carefree California lifestyle and the food, like other restaurants on this list, comes highly rated by Los Angeles food critics and locals alike. Lush greenery and comfortable banquettes make for the perfect atmosphere for dining. Winsome also serves great cocktails and wines. Try the whole roasted branzino, pork short ribs, or the Buckwheat and semolina pancake.

Best Shops In Echo Park

Echo Park is a growing community in Los Angeles, and every year, adds something new to the roster for locals and visitors to love. Whether you’re an Echo Park transplant or someone considering moving to Echo Park, it’s nice to know there are some great places in store for you. And as far as shopping goes, there’s no shortage of options available. Here are some of the best shops in Echo Park:

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Photo Source: Goophttps://goop.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ShoutAndAbout1Resize.jpg

Time Travel Mart

The Echo Park Time Travel Mart––no matter how many times you visited––never seems to go out of style. Each product is reminiscent of a time period: go back in time with a nice can of Mammoth Chunks, or head to the future and purchase a glass bottle of Robot Milk. And if you get sick from all the time warps, don’t fret: there’s always the Time Travel Sickness Pills to keep your system in check.

When you purchase any item from this store, 100% of the proceeds go towards teaching children creative writing, where classes are held in the back of the store. That’s not the only cool thing about Travel Mart, either. If your perusal through the shop inspires you with an awesome product idea, you can talk to the staff, who will assist with design to help get your product on shelves. Furthermore, many of the products were created by students themselves.

Shout and About

Shout & About is a gift lover’s fantasy, filled to the pretty with beautiful stationary and curated design goods. From throw pillows to photo frames to greeting cards to notebooks, there’s a little something for everyone. But where the shop really shines is its extensive greeting card collection. Forget about the cheesy, one in a million cards you can find at your local convenience store. These cards are all about delivering a unique experience to the people you love.

Spacedust

Spacedust boasts an impressive collection of novelty items and specialty clothes. The boutique proudly showcases artwork and fashion from local artists, making it an ideal destination for visitors and locals alike who want a piece of Echo Park to take home.

Situated on Sunset Boulevard, everything here is original and handmade. According to its website, “As long as it’s locally-made, independently-made, or handmade, it doesn’t matter – all subcultures are represented, and all folks are welcome.” From a line of prayer parody candles to a large assortment of pop culture-inspired patches and stickers, Spacedust is worth a visit if nothing else.

 Kaleidoscope Kollective

A “kaleidoscope” of vintage and handmade items fill the racks at this kitschy spot. People from all over the world come to Kaleidoscope Kollective to purchase handmade goods. Founded by five diverse women, tts mission statement is a testament to its offerings: “We are a collective of creative women who transform various materials into works of beauty.” There’s a perfect mix of past and present fashion trends, and with such a wide array of artisan crafts, nearly everything here constitutes as the perfect gift.

The Ampal Creative

The Ampal Creative Shop is a menswear store chock full of creative snapbacks. Here, well-crafted hats are the centerpiece of the store. Each hat tells a story of its own, with unique prints, versatile fabrics, handmade logos, and diverse shapes and styles. This headwear company aims to defy odds by creating a perfect hat for everywhere; each with the perfect style, fit, and fabric. Each hat is premium, and made custom with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Hot Cactus

What’s a home without a plant? Greenery is all the rage in interior design, and not just for its aesthetic: plants and nature are proven to boost productivity, creativity, and happiness. And in today’s design world, succulents, air plants, and various other trendy green species are finding in a place in every Los Angeles home.

Hot Cactus is a hip cactus emporium that focuses on a variety of types of cactus. From budget-priced basics to rare breeds ranging in the thousands, it’s definitely worth a visit. And you’d be surprised to know just how many species of cacti there are. The currently sold-out Pachypodium horombense rings in at $275, while Haageocereus tenuis costs a whopping $250,000 (it’ll be extinct by 2024). At Hot Cactus, you can also purchase tools and supplies, clothing and music, and pots and stands.

Luxe de Ville

There’s simply no better place to go for vintage than Echo Park’s Luxe de Ville. The boutique offers “unique one of a kind vintage garments.” From Middle Eastern threads to 60s skirts and accessories, every piece of clothing here feels like it’s the only one in existence. The store also displays local, handmade jewelry.

The majority of items––even vintage designer finds––are modestly priced. No matter what your style is, you’re bound to find something you like. The owner, Oskar, is very knowledgeable in fashion, and happy to help navigate the stories many racks and shelves in search of something that fits your personality.

 The Dog Show USA

Quirky and full of spirit, the Dog Show USA is filled to the brim with merchandise––and that’s exactly what makes it so unique. Doused in pink, the shop exudes girl power. Everything about this place––profile here in Paper Magazine––is eccentric and eclectic. You’ll notice this as soon as you walk by the oversized unicorn that greets you at the entrance, or hear the pink telephone meow instead of ring. Hair accessories are organized on a giant wall of hair, and items include fun leather tights, multicolored and themed, onesies, wire jewelry, and 90s-inspired graphic design shirts.

3 Financial Steps to Take Before Investing in Real Estate

This guest post was contributed by Dream Home Property Solutions, LLC, your source for expert advice on Ventura County Real Estate.

Real estate has yet again become one of the most popular forms of investing.  With the recovery of the real estate market in many locations, the popularity of the house flipping shows, and all of the real estate gurus teaching their “secrets,” it’s created the perfect storm for people to consider investing in real estate.  Although we love real estate investing and what it can do for people financially, there are several steps you might want to consider before taking the leap.

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Photo Credit: FreeImages.com

Build Your Savings Account

Whether you are investing in real estate or not, most experts agree that everyone should have money saved up in their savings account for emergencies.  The idea behind this is that you want to have money immediately available for you to live on if you were to lose your job for whatever reason and/or are not bringing in any source of income. Even if you have a fairly stable job, this money could be used to pay for any large unexpected expenses, such as medical bills, home repairs, etc.

This money does not necessarily need to be in a bank savings account, but it should be fairly liquid, such as a Certificate of Deposit (CD). We have seen recommendations anywhere from 3 months of savings to 12 months of savings.  The amount you choose will ultimately be up to you and your risk tolerance.  If you have a stable job and not many expenses, you may choose the lower end of that spectrum.  If you are self-employed, or have an older home or car, you may want more savings in anticipation of costly repairs.

Pay Down Debt

As you are building up your savings, you’re also going to want to start paying down any debt you may have.  The most common approaches we have seen for this are either paying off your lowest balance debts first or paying off your highest interest rates.  The idea behind paying off your lowest balance is that once it’s paid off, you can then use the amount of money you were paying per month and apply that additional amount to the next lowest balance.  There are pros and cons to each approach, so do whichever one you feel most comfortable with.

Although some financial planners view all debt as bad, you will find a lot of seasoned real estate investors tell you that leverage used properly is a good thing.  If you have debt with a low interest rate, and can get a higher expected return by investing in real estate, it may make sense to invest in real estate as opposed to paying off the debt faster.  For example, those with good credit can find auto loans for 0% interest.  Instead of paying off the auto loan, you might be better off financially by investing that money in real estate.

Take Advantage Of Your Company’s Retirement Matching

Some companies will match your retirement contributions (401k, TSP, etc.) up to a certain amount.  If your company has this perk, you should strongly consider at least investing the amount up to which your company will match.  This is basically free money for you to take advantage of.  We have heard one financial planner state that you can get higher returns in other vehicles, even when you take into account company matching, but contributing to your retirement account is an easy method to start saving up money for retirement.

At Dream Home Property Solutions, we are here to help you with all of your Ventura County real estate needs. Visit us online at www.DreamHomePS.com

Soap Plant Wacko in Los Feliz

The Los Feliz neighborhood in Los Angeles has become a popular hotspot for local artists, many of whom have opened up innovative gallery spaces and boutiques to capitalize on walk-in traffic from younger residents looking to purchase quirky artwork. Today, we’ll give you an insider look at one of the most unique of these fashion-forward neighborhood fixtures: La Luz de Jesus Gallery, known to neighborhood residents as, simply, “Wacko.”

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Photo Credit: Weekendtrips.com

Looking for a place to grab a bite nearby? Check out our post on the best restaurants in Los Feliz!

Wacko is what you could call a Kitsch Convenience Store – or maybe Pee Wee Herman’s Roadside Souvenir Stand – a cornucopia of obscure toys, inventive and colorful housewares, eclectic books, vibrant prints, personable figurines, and innumerable other random doodads that you don’t really need but absolutely must have.

Every shelf and wall is densely stocked with myriad odds and ends (but mostly odds), enough to fascinate any visitor for hours. Kewpie dolls in pink pinafores, desktop gumball machines, robot cookie jars, taxidermy moths and beetles, rare art and print books, unicorn statuettes, Star Trek figurines: Wacko aims to have a tchotchke for every taste.

Whether you’re looking for a wind-up Godzilla, a watermelon-scented eraser, a sock monkey shoe tree, or a pair of pineapple-print suspenders, you can probably find it at Wacko. Wacko is also the best place in Los Angeles to shop for a truly unique gift – loyal trekkies, comic-book nerds, kitsch enthusiasts, and lovers of innovative design will all treasure presents purchased at Wacko. Most of the merchandise embodies a singular sense of humor, such as the solar-powered Queen Elizabeth II figurine, who executes a smooth royal wave when installed on a sunny windowsill – the stately statuette has a companion piece, a head-bobbing Corgi that’s solar-powered as well.

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Photo Credit: Laweekly.com

Owner Billy Shire has taken a hands-on role in managing the merchandising and marketing since taking over the family business back in the early 1980s. The store’s full name is Soap Plant Wacko, and it began as a handmade soap shop in Los Feliz, followed by a stint on Melrose Avenue before moving to its current digs on Hollywood Boulevard in 1995. Since then, Soap Plant Wacko has become a Los Angeles landmark, adorned with vibrant murals that can be spotted blocks away.

Staying in the neighborhood for the evening? Stop by the Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz!

In addition to its curio collection, Soap Plant Wacko’s La Luz de Jesus art gallery has been displaying the works of underground artists, showcasing California’s “lowbrow” art movement. Fine arts aficionados know this humble knick-knack emporium as one of the most important, ground-breaking galleries in the Los Angeles area, which quickly gained renown with collectors, galleries, and artists around the world.

La Luz de Jesus Gallery was established several years after the Soap Plant first opened, founded by Billy Shire as a space to showcase innovative art and foster creative expression by unconventional local artists. The original gallery was located in the venture’s bright pink building on Melrose Avenue, upstairs from Shire’s retail outlet, the Soap Plant artisanal soap store and the Wacko literally everything else you could imagine (and many things you probably can’t) store. When Wacko moved back to its original Los Feliz stomping grounds, the gallery went along with it, re-opening in its current gallery space on Hollywood Boulevard near Vermont Avenue. In April 2005, Shire opened a sister gallery in nearby Culver City, California, Billy Shire Fine Arts.

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Photo Credit: Voyagela.com

La Luz de Jesus Gallery provides both an exhibition space and a support structure to the Lowbrow arts movement and associated pop surrealist artists – the movement and the gallery share a sensibility with Wacko’s affectionate enthusiasm for all things pop, and most of the artists producing Lowbrow art use pop culture tropes, palettes, and graphic design features as the springboard for their own original artistic creations.

In a 1988 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Shire summed up the gallery’s philosophy as, “Art should be by the people and for the people. It should be something that speaks to you, that entertains and challenges and changes your outlook.” In keeping with this popularizing, community-oriented approach, the gallery offers an impressive lineup of original art exhibitions, showcasing a fresh exhibit every month that kicks off with an opening reception on the first Friday of each month.

The gallery showcases primarily figurative and narrative painting and unusual sculpture, with a focus on themes and styles including folk art, outsider art, religious-themed art. The gallery has launched the careers of a number of famous artists who were working in near-total obscurity when their work took center stage at the gallery, including Manuel Ocampo, Joe Coleman, and Robert Williams. Notable established artists who have exhibited new work at La Luz de Jesus include Marco Almera and Joe Sorren.

On top of regular solo and two-person shows, and in keeping with its collaborative, pop-culture-oriented brand, the gallery also hosts a variety of group shows throughout the year, including a much-anticipated annual group exhibition called “Everything But the Kitschen Sink,” which is dedicated to promoting the work of relatively unknown and emerging artists still at the beginning of their careers.

So if you’re in the market for a solar-powered monarch, a Chewbacca Pez dispenser, or a Steven Universe-style beanie, stop by Soap Plant Wacko in Los Feliz. Even if you have no idea what you’re looking for, you’ll find something to love.

Real Estate Unlimited is a real-estate company dedicated to representing clients in Los Feliz and other historic neighborhoods throughout the Los Angeles area. We pride ourselves on our in-depth knowledge of the Los Angeles area, and we’re glad to give our clients the benefit of our local expertise. Call us to schedule a consultation today!