Surprises in and around Los Angeles

Article excerpt

The Olympic Games will be the hottest show in town this summer, but this report is not about them. What it is about is discovering the dozens of ways to enrich a visit to Los Angeles: where, for example, to ride canal-cruising gondolas or see a world-class art museum in a warehouse. No urban center in the West holds more surprises--or conceals them so well--as Los Angeles County.

Whether you're coming to see the Olympics, or plan to visit later this year--or even if you're a resident Angeleno--our guide will send you in the right directions. Some places--Hollywood, Beverly Hills, beaches--are no surprise, but you can still make discoveries there, and we tell how. The big map on the next two pages can help you size up L.A. County. (For an update on Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm in neighboring Orange County, see page 64.) Follow the numbered dots to 145 L.A. surprises

All those circles on our Los Angeles County map are color-coded by activity, and number-keyed to the text and captions. Here are four examples to get you started.

Vaudeville at the beach

Spotlit by sunshine so much of the time, some Southern California sidewalks have become open-air stages. Along Venice's beachside Ocean Front Walk (35), you'll see--and hear--the best. Reggae combos and jazz pianists vie for attention. Bongo troupes compete with steel-drum groups. Some of the comedy borders on bawdy. Come before 11 to park ($3 or $4) at the ocean end of Rose or Windward Avenue, then stroll the 3/4 mile between.

Canal-cruising by gondola

Venetian gondolas in Naples? Six replicas of the Italian craft ply the salt-water canals near Long Beach. The oak-and-mahogany boats (see cover) each carry from 2 to 10 passengers on 1-hour cruises. Gondola Getaways (125), based at Seaport Village on Alamitos Bay, offers cruises any day at any hour; call (213) 430-6860. The price--$40 per couple, $10 for each additional person--includes bread, cheese, meat, fruit, and glasses; you provide your own wine.

The last of the citrus

Better known for discovering the La Brea Tar Pits, W.W. Orcutt also planted one of the San Fernando Valley's biggest citrus groves. Today the remainder is Orcutt Ranch Horticulture Center (4), the last commercial citrus grove in the city of Los Angeles.

On two summer weekends (June 30 and July 1, July 7 and 8), you are invited to pick from 1,500 'Valencia' orange trees and hundreds of grapefruit trees. Bring your own self-standing ladder and grocery bag or field box. You'll pay $1 per bag, $2 per box. Picking hours are 8 to 4.

Come anytime for streamside picnicking and a nature trail with 500-year-old oaks. Summer hours are 7 to 7 daily; free. The ranch is at 23600 Roscoe Boulevard, Canoga Park; (818) 883-6641.

Where to jog botanically

For joggers with a horticultural bent, here are two garden paths with enough fascinating flora to slow you down to a stroll. Beverly Gardens Park (52), laid out in the 1930s, spans Beverly Hills from border to border. A 2-mile, crushed-granite path takes you past a 300-bush rose garden, exemplary cactus and succulents such as Opuntia and elephant trees, flowering jacaranda and monkey hand trees, and Chinese elms. The park borders Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards; there's parking on cross streets.

Century-old Palisades Park (14) is hemmed between Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue and its steep bluffs. The 1-1/2-mile-long park boasts the area's best stand of Mexican fan palms (see above), hundreds of feathery-fronded Canary Island date palms, a dozen kinds of eucalyptus. You can jog on grass. There's parking on Ocean Avenue and side streets. In our City of Wheels, showcases for yesterday's classics

Ever since they hit L.A. streets in 1900, automobiles have shaped the city and the lives of Angelenos. Here are places to se the classic cars of yesteryear. …