Sure, it’s great to spend your weekends watching Marvel movies and DVRing Vanderpump Rules on the DL. But sometimes, you want to do something a little more refined. A little more elegant. Perhaps, you’d like to partake in an activity with a little... culture.
If the last “art” exhibit you liked was a beauty influencer's Instagram, it might be time to break out of your routine and tour some of the cultural highlights of Southern California. Luckily, Los Angeles is surrounded by lovely locales that offer the chance to experience fine art, dance, film, and history, all while taking a break from the city. So, plan a weekend day away and visit one of these cultural gems just outside of LA.
Montclair Sure, it’s nothing fancy, but drive-ins are a dying breed and the Mission Tiki Drive-In is happily keeping the tradition alive. The tiki theme only applies to the ticket booths and snack stand (with a few tiki torches strewn about for good measure), and the theater provides a surprisingly good movie-watching experience. Its concession stand offers truly tasty Mexican food, the projection is bright and clear, and you can get huge buckets of salty, salty popcorn. Watch two movies for $9. Plus, if the double feature sucks, you can make out with whoever you came with!
If you want to make a day of it, check out the huge flea market that takes over the drive-in during daylight hours. With 300 vendors, you’re sure to find a hidden gem. Admission ranges from free to 75 cents per person -- so you might need to dig into your change purse (or cupholders) to get in.
El Segundo Pipe organ music might make you think of minor league baseball games and low-rent skating rinks, but when you see the The Old Town Hall’s Mighty Wurlitzer play, it’s truly amazing. The venue plays an array of classic, short, and silent films; and all non-talkies feature live accompaniment on the 2,600-pipe organ.
The $10 ticket gets you a live ragtime piano performance, a number from the Mighty Wurlitzer, a sing-a-long to 70-year-old hits like "Mairzy Doats," and a full-length feature. Or you can visit the Music Hall to hear concerts of the best jazz and ragtime piano around.
The community atmosphere of the Old Town Music Hall and commitment to keeping an old artform alive is surprisingly touching. When’s the last time you could say that about the newest blockbuster?
Los Angeles Disappear into another time without leaving the city limits. Tucked into a corner of Los Angeles proper, there lives a tiny neighborhood of Victorian homes. The Heritage Square Museum offers tours of these old homes, giving you a glimpse into the late 19th-century version of LA. Spoiler alert: There was a lot less bleached hair and a lot more cows.
Check out their rotating exhibits like Victorian Valentine’s Day Fashion & Ephemera or a collection of antique stereoscopes, aka the 1890s’ 3D technology. Yes, even in Victorian times people loved wasting their money on 3D entertainment.
Orange The critically-acclaimed Backhausdance company performs contemporary dance for a modern audience, with its diverse company giving life to a mix of new and revived works. Each summer, the theater offers a pre-professional dance program to train future dancers, and gives full scholarships to over half the students in an effort to bring dance to a wider community.
And the repertory is inclusive, too: This year alone, Backhausdance is hosting the US and World premiere performances of pieces by acclaimed Italian and Israeli choreographers.Theirs is a season that appeals to contemporary dance aficionados and “Whoa, he kicked his leg real high” audiences alike.
Glendale Sure, a trip to the library might sound like some kind of punishment. But most libraries aren’t the Brand Library. Looking like some kind of beautiful Spanish castle, this branch of the Glendale Public Library is worth a visit for the architecture alone.
Plus, these beautiful grounds hold more than just books. Enjoy performances from concert musicians, professional dance troupes, and even the California Philharmonic as part of their music and dance series. Hear authors discuss their latest works, chat about all the hot opera goss in their Opera Talk series, and even join a crafty book club where you create a piece of art based on the book of the month. It’s all free and a much more cultured way to spend a Saturday morning than accidentally sleeping ’til noon.
Pasadena What’s classier than listening to classical music? Nothing. Classy is right there in the name. You have to spell classical wrong, but... you get the point. Pasadena is home to an incredible symphony that plays all the hits -- Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven. They’ve yet to cover “Gucci Gang,” but we're sure it’s in their repertoire.
All performances take place in the Ambassador Auditorium, a beautiful building that looks like a prettier version of the Metropolitan Opera House (suck on that, New York!). Take in the gorgeous grounds and experience the standards as played by one of the greatest symphonies in America. Season tickets start as low as $99 and single tickets usually only cost around $35. That’s the price of an IMAX Transformers movie and a small soda, so a trip to the symphony might be a better choice.
Long Beach Los Angeles is full of museums, but you’ve got to head out to Long Beach to find a real one-of-a-kind collection: The Museum of Latin American Art is the only museum in the US to exclusively feature works by people of Latin American decent.
With exhibitions like “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago,” this museum delves deep into the historical and political context of its works. For only $10, you get to see beautiful modern art from a severely underrepresented group. Plus, your support helps the museum grow and maybe, one day, we could have two whole museums of Latin American Art in the country.
Ventura As the Rubicon entered its 20th season, the Thomas Fire threatened to wipe it out. Thankfully, the flames spared the former-church-turned-theater and the town of Ventura has helped keep this institution alive.
Though it’s about an hour north of Los Angeles, the Rubicon routinely brings Broadway-level talent to this beachside town. The theater’s adventurous mix of classic musicals, concerts, and world-premiere productions gives the citizens of Ventura some of the best theater in all of Southern California.
Plus, there’s an amazing tiki bar, VenTiki Lounge & Lanai, right down the street, and it’s a 10-minute walk to the beach. So, there’s really no good reason not to visit the Rubicon.