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L.A.’s Battleship: USS Iowa

What makes a visit to the battleship USS Iowa so special is the opportunity to talk with war veterans and others who are passionate about this floating piece of American history. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

What makes a visit to the battleship USS Iowa so special is the opportunity to talk with war veterans and others who are passionate about this floating piece of American history. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

If you have ever wondered what life on a battleship is like, you don’t need to look any further than the Port of Los Angeles. That’s where you’ll find the USS Iowa, one of Southern California’s newest tourist attractions.

The Iowa is the namesake of the fastest class of battleships ever built. Nicknamed the “Big Stick,” the USS Iowa has been active in every major deployment of the U.S. armed services since World War II.

You can explore this piece of floating history inside and out at your own pace on a self-guided tour. Along the way, you’ll come across veterans who served on the Iowa at wartime and are happy to share a story or two.  There are also knowledgeable docents to answer your questions.

WWII Navy veteran Ernie Thompson entertains visitors with stories of the time he spent on the USS Iowa (Photo/Traffic411)

WWII Navy veteran Ernie Thompson entertains visitors with stories of the time he spent on the USS Iowa (Photo/Traffic411)

The Iowa has one feature that you will not find on any other battleship: A bath tub.

The USS Iowa is the only battleship with a bath tub for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who traveled on the Iowa during World War II. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The USS Iowa is the only battleship with a bath tub for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who traveled on the Iowa during World War II. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled on the Iowa during World War II, so his room was modified to accommodate his wheelchair. It’s interesting to see the different levels of sleeping quarters, from presidential, to officers and crew. I was surprised at just how huge the Iowa is, and how much of the warship is open for visitors to explore.

If you visit, wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot of walking and going up and down narrow ladder-like steps, as detailed in these Yelp reviews.  The USS Iowa is open everyday except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Click here for information on visiting the ship and tours.

Traffic411 Insider Tip: While you’re at the Port of LA, visit the nearby Point Fermin Lighthouse. Even if you don’t go inside the lighthouse, the surrounding park is beautiful, perched along a breathtaking rocky cliff with waves crashing below.

Distance from LAX: 22 miles

LA's Battleship: USS Iowa

Visit this floating piece of U.S. history at the Port of Los Angeles.

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The USS Iowa offers breathtaking views of the Port of Los Angeles, a cruise ship is docked in the distance next to the Vincent Thomas Bridge (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The Conning tower of the battleship USS Iowa (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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A statue of the iconic kiss photo between a sailor and a nurse is on display outside the USS Iowa (photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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A freighter heading into the Los Angeles Harbor passes by the USS Iowa (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The view from the bridge of the USS Iowa, Port of Los Angeles (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The big guns on the Battleship Iowa, Los Angeles Harbor (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The poop deck of the USS Iowa (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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A US President slept here. President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled on the Iowa during World War II (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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President Franklin D. Roosevelt's quarters, FDR traveled on the Iowa during World War II (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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WWII Navy veteran Ernie Thompson entertains visitors with stories of the time he spent on the USS Iowa (Photo/Traffic411)
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KPCC FM news anchor Suzanne Whatley speaks at a memorial for radio colleague Andrea "Andi" Marshall on the stern of the USS Iowa (Photo Traffic411).


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The memorial service for my KFWB radio colleague, Andrea 'Andi' Marshall was held on the USS Iowa. (Photo Traffic411)

The memorial service for my KFWB radio colleague, Andrea ‘Andi’ Marshall was held on the USS Iowa. (Photo Traffic411)

This post is dedicated to Andrea “Andi” Marshall, my friend and colleague from KFWB radio. Andi’s memorial service was held on a sunny Sunday on the stern of the USS Iowa. It was an honorable setting to celebrate a life well-lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free L.A.: Griffith Observatory

The copper dome roof at the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

The copper dome roof at the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

 

Did you know that California’s atmosphere is perfect for star watching? That’s just one of the fascinating facts you’ll learn when you visit Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

Before blast off, Apollo Astronauts came to this L.A. landmark to learn about the stars and space. Griffith Observatory is a fun place to spend a few hours, or the day. Bring a blanket and lounge on the front lawn.

The iconic Hollywood Sign can be seen in the distance through the arch at Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The iconic Hollywood Sign can be seen in the distance through the arch at Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Admission to the exhibits is free and, for a few bucks, you can see a show at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Public star parties are held each month, so check the calendar. You’ll learn a lot about the Observatory and it’s history by viewing the (free) movie in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater.

Parking is limited at Griffith Observatory. It was a beautiful clear day in Los Angeles when I visited, so we literally parked one mile away! It’s a nice walk if you’re up for it, just wear comfortable shoes.  If you don’t want to walk, visit on a weekday, or take a bus – click this link – and scroll down to ‘other transportation’ for details. It’s closed Mondays.

Griffith Observatory, which opened in 1935, underwent a massive renovation in 2002. It reopened in 2006 and is truly one of LA’s most spectacular landmarks. If you grew up in So Cal, you probably visited the Observatory on a school field trip, but it’s well worth the trip to see it today.  Visit on a clear day and enjoy views of Los Angeles from Mount Wilson to the Pacific Ocean.

Traffic411 Insider Tip: Griffith Observatory is located in Griffith Park, which is massive. Bring the address so you can find the observatory, if you enter the park off of the Ventura (134) freeway, it’s not easy to find.

Distance from LAX: 27 miles

Free Los Angeles: Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is among the most recognizable Los Angeles landmarks. With free admission, it's a great way to learn about the planets,our solar system and beyond. Bring a picnic and enjoy an afternoon or sunset on the front lawn. The public is invited to free 'star parties,' held each month for stargazing through telescopes.

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The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, gorgeous architecture - and, because of it's sturdy construction, it's one of the safest places to be during an earthquake! (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The iconic Hollywood Sign can be seen in the distance through the arch at Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The Astronomers Monument pays homage to six of the greatest astronomers, at Griffith Observatory Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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"Rebel Without a Cause" starring James Dean is one of many movies filmed at Griffith Observatory Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Griffith Observatory is a fun place to learn about the moon, planets, our solar system and beyond! (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The Foucault amazes visitors to Griffith Observatory Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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There are many new exhibits to see since the Griffith Observatory was remodeled in 2002. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The roof at Griffith Observatory offers a great photo op for you and the iconic Hollywood Sign (photo of Lisa Osborne by Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Visit Griffith Observatory on a clear day to enjoy stunning views of Downtown Los Angeles and (looking in another direction) the Pacific Ocean. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/free-los-angeles-griffith-observatory/thumbs/thumbs_traffic411_web_griffith-observatory-dome.jpg]70The copper dome roof at the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
The copper dome roof at the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)


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Spontaneous L.A: Hollywood Bowl

You don't need to have the best seat in the house to enjoy an evening at the Hollywood Bowl. For under $40 a friend and I enjoyed an L.A. Phil concert, which was being filmed for television.

There’s still time this summer to enjoy a concert under the stars at The Hollywood Bowl, and experiencing the beauty of this iconic venue doesn’t have to require a lot of planning  or burst your budget. A friend and I recently enjoyed a spontaneous evening at the Hollywood Bowl for under $20 each.

On a whim, my friend Judy called  in the late afternoon saying she’d read good reviews in the L.A. Times about Verdi’s Requiem with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and it’s new music director. She called the Bowl and there were plenty of tickets still available, starting at $16.50.  She picked me up and we headed to the Bowl intending to buy the least expensive seats.  Despite being rush hour, getting there was a breeze. We enjoyed the evening of music under the stars for about the same price as popcorn & a movie.

You should try this, too. Regardless of what you see, it will be a memorable experience. And, with just a little more planning, pack a picnic meal (bringin in food, drinks and even bottles of wine are often allowed, check ahead of time), or purchase gourmet snacks and beverages on-site. Arrive early, so you can get a spot on a comfy bench with small table top to enjoy your nosh.

Traffic411 Tip:  Save time and money on parking (Hollywood Bowl lots have stacked parking, you can’t leave early) Take the Bowl Parking Shuttle, or public transit.

Distance from LAX: 25 miles


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Carnival by the Sea: Pacific Park, Santa Monica

Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier offers free admission, just pay for the rides. It's a fun way to spend a few hours at the beach.

Admission is free at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, just pay for the rides.

If you’re looking for an amusement park adventure you can enjoy in just a few hours on a summer afternoon or evening, check out Pacific Park in Santa Monica.  Located on the Santa Monica pier, there is no admission fee. You only pay for the rides you wish to enjoy, or purchase a wrist band for unlimited thrills.

The Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel and West Coaster roller coaster are located along the edge of the pier, so you can look down right into the Pacific ocean, and maybe even catch a glimpse of dolphins.  So Cal locals who have ever been stuck in a traffic jam will appreciate the Sig Alert EV Bumper Cars (or at least the attraction’s catchy name!). There are a dozen rides in all, along with a Kid’s Cove and midway games.  If you’re daring, you might want to test your aerobatic skills in a trapeze class.

Also Read: Malibu Drive Pacific Coast Highway

The Sig Alert EV bumper cars at Pacific Park. The term "Sig Alert" is So Cal traffic jargon for a major traffic jam!

There are a few restaurants on the pier, including Mariasol and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co..  There are plenty more restaurant choices steps away, along Ocean Boulevard, at the nearby Third Street Promenade, and on Main Street south of the pier.

Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier bills itself as the 'west coast's only amusement park on a pier.' It's a cool place to spend a few hours!

Parking for your trip to Pacific Park can be a pain. Free parking in Santa Monica is limited, many neighborhoods require residential parking permits, so be sure to read all of the posted signs. There’s parking at the pier, but if you’re looking for a more economical alternative check out the lots just north of the pier on 2nd and 4th Streets, near the 3rd Street Promenade & adjacent Santa Monica Place mall.

Related: Parking in Santa Monica

There are also several reasonably priced lots south of the pier between Ocean or Main Street and Neilson way.  If you’re up for a walk, park in one of the paid lots on Neilson Way near  Hill or Kinney. Cross Neilson to the beach and walk the boardwalk to the pier.  It’s an easy walk, but you’ll be sharing the sidewalk with skaters and cyclists, so pay attention.

If you purchase time in a paid lot or meter be sure to keep an eye on the time! The meter maids in Santa Monica are very good at their jobs, so you want to be sure that your parking time does not expire, a parking ticket will set you back at least $63.

Related: Santa Monica Daycations

Pacific Park bills itself as ‘the West Coast’s only amusement park located on a pier.’ It’s a fun scene for people of all ages, even if you don’t get on the rides. It’s also a fun outing if you have an hours long layover at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It’s about a 20 minute taxi ride from LAX, just give yourself plenty of time to get back to the airport (it could take 40 minutes  during rush hour)  so you don’t miss your flight.

Traffic411 Insider Tip:  There’s some fun people-watching ops along the boardwalk just south of Pacific Park at International Chess Park.  Or, test your strength and coordination at the grown up jungle gym, Swings, Rings and Ropes.

Distance from LAX: 14 miles


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Pedal Power: Cyclists converge on Wilshire Boulevard

LA's Wilshire Boulevard is often crowded with cars, but not during CicLAvia: Iconic Wilshire Boulevard, Sunday June 23, 2013. (Photo Traffic411)

It’s a dream come true for cyclists who ride on busy city streets: No cars allowed.

Thousands of people had the chance to bike, skate or walk along one of L.A.’s most famous streets. A 6.3 mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard was off limits to motor vehicles during today’s  “CicLAvia — Iconic Wilshire Boulevard.”

Having this often-busy stretch of Wilshire Boulevard all to themselves had riders in a good mood! (Photo Traffic411)

Tens of thousands of pedal pushers and walkers ruled the road, streaming up and down Wilshire Boulevard between Downtown Los Angeles (Grand) and the Miracle Mile (Fairfax).

CicLAvia takes over portions of Los Angeles every few months.  It’s a fun way for friends and families to enjoy the city streets with less traffic and pollution. Want to try it, too? Mark your calendar. The next CicLAvia is scheduled for Oct. 6.

All wheels welcome, as long as there's no motor attached, at CicLAvia's Iconic Wilshire Boulevard event. (Photo Traffic411)

Participants in CicLAvia: Iconic Wilshire Boulevard pedal past Museum Square on Wilshire Boulevard. (Photo Traffic411)

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Dad’s Choice: Laguna Beach

The view from Las Brisas restaurant, above Main Beach in Laguna (photo Las Brisas)

The view from Las Brisas restaurant, above Main Beach in Laguna (photo Las Brisas)

What dad would not want to spend Father’s Day in Laguna Beach? This quaint seaside town one hour south of Los Angeles offers breathtaking views of some of Southern California’s most beautiful coastline. Breathe-in fresh air from a bench in the park at the Main Beach Park Playground, or take a walk and enjoy the view.

If you enjoy having your toes in the sand, stroll along the waterline south of Main Beach during low tide. If the tide starts to come in, you can always take stairs up to a sidewalk on Pacific Coast Highway.

My dad loved the beach, and we’d often head to Laguna for a meal and a walk. The Cottage (now apparently closed) was one of dad’s favorite spots. The large shady/sunny outdoor patio was a great place to enjoy breakfast or lunch, right across the street from the ocean.

Visit The Greeter’s Corner, a coffee shop with a large outside deck facing the ocean. The food is good, prices are decent and the view and fresh air are amazing.

Hungry for seafood and a view? Stop by the Beach House.  A steep driveway takes you to this classic dining spot that hugs the side of a cliff, offering an up-close ocean view.  For a fun menu of upscale delights in a kitschy setting, Dizz’s As Is is a local favorite.

Nearby: Balboa Island, CA USA

My dad’s favorite breakfast spot of all time was just north of downtown Laguna at the border of Newport Coast. The Beachcomber Café in Crystal Cove offers open air dining  on the sand in the historic district of Crystal Cove State Park. There is a parking lot on the inland side of Pacific Coast Highway with a shuttle that will take you to the restaurant.  An added bonus, you’re just steps away from a beautiful stretch of beach for an after breakfast/lunch/dinner walk.

Laguna Beach and Balboa Island (pictured here) were two of my Pop's favorite OC getaways.

Las Brisas is an upscale Mexican restaurant perched on the cliff adjacent to Main Beach. This Laguna Beach institution features a large outdoor bar patio surrounded by colorful rose bushes. Las Brisas is a great choice to celebrate a special occasion, or a comfortable spot to sip an icy beverage, enjoy the view or enjoy a So Cal sunset.

Related: So Cal Burgers

Montage Laguna Beach is a world-class resort offering panoramic views of The Pacific Ocean. You don’t need to stay at the hotel to enjoy the scenery. Walk the grounds or have a drink on the deck of the cocktail lounge. The Montage sits on the land that was the filming location of several classic movies, from “Treasure Island” to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz comedy “The Long Long Trailer.”

Along with being home to several great restaurants, Laguna beach is an artist’s enclave, there are plenty of art galleries to browse in the quaint downtown shopping area.  And, festivals, from The Pageant of the Masters to the Sawdust Festival, there’s often something special going on in Laguna Beach.

Distance from LAX: 52 miles

Traffic411 Tip:  Make Laguna Beach a scenic side trip when you’re traveling between OrangeCounty and San Diego. Driving North on the 5 (Santa Ana Freeway), exit “Beach Cities’ in Dana Point, take Pacific Coast Highway north through Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar and Newport Beach and rejoin the 405 from Mac Arthur Blvd. Reverse course if you’re driving South on the 405, exit Mac Arthur Boulevard.

See what it’s like in Laguna Beach right now: Check out the live Laguna Beach Earthcam


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Lake Balboa, a secret Valley oasis

Lake Balboa in Van Nuys is a way to beat the heat of the sizzling San Fernando Valley summers.

The San Fernando Valley sizzles with triple digit heat during the summer months, but Lake Balboa can offer valley-dwellers some respite from the swelter.  The lake is located inside the park formerly known as Balboa (now it’s called Anthony C. Beilenson Park) and is part of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, which also features parks, golf courses, and other recreation activities.

Located in Van Nuys near the busy 405/101 freeway interchange, Lake Balboa is surrounded by a large grassy park.  There’s a walking path with benches (some shady) around the perimeter of the lake. Bring a picnic or a blanket to relax on the grass. Ducks, swans and other birds flock to the lake and would be more than happy to share any of your snacks, although there are warnings against feeding the wildlife.

During the summer months, Balboa Lake has pedal boats for rent and there’s kayaking (although you first need to complete the Kayak Fitness Orientation). There are also hundreds of cherry blossom trees, with festive pink blooms when in season.

If you find yourself in the valley with a little time to kill (perhaps you want to wait out rush hour traffic), or just want to meet a friend for some exercise, Lake Balboa is a terrific place to visit.

Distance from LAX: 23 miles

Traffic411 Insider Tip:  Golfers, bring your clubs. Balboa Lake is adjacent to two golf courses with putting greens and driving ranges.

 


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Los Angeles Filming Locations

The Hollywood sign has been featured in countless movies and TV shows.

The Hollywood sign has been featured in countless movies and TV shows.

Sites around the greater Los Angeles area have been the backdrop for countless movies and TV shows. From the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu, to the rolling hills of the West San Fernando and Conejo Valleys, location scouts in years past didn’t have to go far to find the ideal place for filming.

Malibu’s Paradise Cove beach was almost as  big a star as Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in Beach Blanket Bingo and other ’60s surf movies.  Harry Medved, author of  several books on Hollywood history, says these same beaches were also used to portray Polynesian and Mexican shores.

About 20 miles inland from Malibu, over the rolling hills of Kanan Road, Medved says The Agoura Ranch in Oak Park was the site of several westerns and other films.

Pacific Park in Santa Monica is one of the few pier-based amusement parks. It's also a location of TV shows and movies.

Pacific Park in Santa Monica is one of the few pier-based amusement parks. It's also a location of TV shows and movies.

A lot of actors called the West San Fernando Valley area home, according to Medved.  The sprawling hills and blue skies were a peaceful alternative to living in the city, yet not to far away from the Hollywood studios.  As I child growing up in the Conejo Valley, it wasn’t unusual to see celebrities from time to time.  I recall my mother pointing out the actor who portrayed Marcus Welby M.D (Robert Young) reading a book on the grass at a Westlake Village strip mall.

The original Bat Cave from the Batman TV series is located in the hills near LA's Griffith Park.

The original Bat Cave from the Batman TV series is located in the hills near LA's Griffith Park.

Click here to listen as Harry Medved shares stories of location filming in the West San Fernando Valley and Oak Park area with my colleague and buddy Pete Demetriou of KNX Radio, for KNX On Your Corner.

 

For more on the history on filming in the greater Los Angeles area, check out Harry Medved’s books Location Filming in Los Angeles and Oak Park.

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Bunny Museum: Hop on Over!

Candace Frazee of The Bunny Museum holds her most popular bunny, Elvis Parsley. The museum is home to thousands of bunny-themed items and open to visitors 365 days a year.

Candace Frazee holds her most popular bunny, Elvis Parsley. The Bunny Museum, home to thousands of bunny-themed items, is open 365 days a year. (Photo/CBS)

Celebrate Easter week at the place that celebrates the Easter Bunny and all of his kin all year long. The Bunny Museum in Pasadena the home of all things bunny, thousands of them! From stuffed animal bunnies of all sizes, to bunny art, bunny memorabilia, bunny remnants from Rose Parades past and even an ‘Elvis Parsley’ bunny.

The Bunny Museum is housed inside the home of Candace Frazee & Steve Lubanski. The couple’s devotion of all things bunny blossomed early in their romance, when Candace referred to Steve as ‘her honey bunny.’

The Bunny Museum is open on  Easter and every other holiday, and most other days of the year by reservation. A $5 donation is suggested, a bag or bunch of veggies for the living bunnies is also appreciated. (get the FAQs)

Visiting The Bunny Museum is a one of a kind experience, which has drawn bunny aficionados from all over the world.  Here it is in our own back yard, why not Hop on Over?

I covered The Bunny Museum for CBS Radio – click here to listen to my story.

Distance from LAX: 34 miles

Traffic411 Insider Tip: Bring your camera, plan to stay from 20 minutes to an hour, depending upon your level of interest in bunnies


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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

The McGrath Irish farming family is grand marshal of the 2013 Ventura St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The McGrath Irish farming family is grand marshal of the 2013 Ventura St. Patrick's Day Parade.

You can enjoy plenty of fresh air, sunshine and pretty green  hillsides when you hit the road across So Cal this St. Patrick’s Day weekend. There are plenty of things to see and do as you celebrate all things Irish.

The Ventura St. Patrick’s Day Parade rolls down Main Street Saturday morning at 10 AM. Afterwards, you won’t have to go far to enjoy an Irish Coffee or corned beef & cabbage feast, Dargan’s Irish pub is right on Main Street. (from L.A. take the 101 North to California Street).

South Bay Los Angeles is also hosting a parade: Saturday at 11AM the Hermosa Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade  goes from City Hall and down Pier Avenue.  There will be three stages with entertainment to enjoy all things Irish by the Sea. Hennessey’s Tavern on The Strand is at the epicenter of the festivities.

Feel the Luck of the Irish all weekend in Santa Monica with live music at  O’Brien’s Irish pub on Main Street.  A few miles away, Brennan’s in Marina del Rey you can toast to their famous turtle races.
Sunday night, the L.A. Philharmonic is hosting the traditional Irish group The Chieftans at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
San Francisco may be the birthplace of Irish Coffee. But, the best Irish Coffee in Southern California may just be at Tom Bergin’s Tavern on Fairfax in mid city L.A.

In Orange County, check out Durty Nelly’s, Haven Gastropub, or Muldoon’s in Fashion Island. All popular spots to wear your Green.

If you’ll be celebrating with some green beer or Irish Whiskey, be sure to bring your designated driver!

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