Our editors’ inside scoop on LA’s best hangouts

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Between paper deadlines, club meetings and job applications, a semester flies by faster than Marine Biology classes fill up — before you know it, your idyllic LA weekend outings have fallen victim to another semester. To jump-start your spring semester plans, The Occidental’s editorial board shares some of their favorite sites and activities in Los Angeles.

Moonlight Rollerway

If you follow Colorado Boulevard westbound until it dead-ends in Glendale, you’ll find a scatter of unassuming industrial buildings. Nestled among them is Moonlight Rollerway, a retro roller skating rink housed in what used to be a World War II airplane foundry. Moonlight was founded in 1956, but I first went in 2017 when Daryl Barker ’18, my then co-editor, invited me to join him on his weekly trip. Corny as it may be, Moonlight’s technicolor neon lights, cheap jalapeño nachos and eclectic playlist (featuring quick transitions from Jim Croce’s “Roller Derby Queen” to Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade”) enthralled me, and our Wednesday night escapes soon became the highlight of my week. I wouldn’t call it one of LA’s best-kept secrets — in the two years since I first went with Daryl, the crowds of wobbly first-timers have only grown denser. But Moonlight’s ability to pull you, just for a moment, out of the complexities of everyday life makes it one of my favorite places in the world. —Emily Jo Wharry, Community News Editor

Little Tokyo

Take a brief Metro ride southwest and you’ll find yourself in Little Tokyo, where within its maze of markets and merchandise one can discover a wealth of well-kept secrets. Mere feet from the Gold Line station are the Japanese American National Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, two institutions whose work continues to reflect the complex character of the city. Wander further and you will discover the many markets and restaurants of the Japanese Village Plaza, whose innumerable tastes and smells I cannot adequately squeeze into this blurb (just go). It is a joyful place, where for a moment I can escape the bustle of academia. In my experience there is little better in life than seeing good art with good people and enjoying fresh tamagoyaki as a golden LA sunset descends upon the city. I have lived in LA for 22 years, yet trips to Little Tokyo never cease to surprise me. —Pablo Nukaya-Petralia, Features Editor

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

My dad likes to take people to the Museum of Jurassic Technology as a test.

I found this out a few years ago when my family came to LA for a visit. My dad packed us into the rental car and drove us all the way out to Culver City, refusing to tell us anything about our destination besides its name. I was picturing some kind of archaeological exhibit. It was not that.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a surreal callback to the concept of the “cabinet of curiosities.” The exhibits within its maze-like wooden halls include microscopic artworks sculpted from butterfly scales, blatantly incorrect animal facts taken from old superstitions and an entire room dedicated to dogs who went to space. The building itself has a quiet, ominous atmosphere, but an open-air garden in a courtyard upstairs features beautiful plants and gently cooing doves — plus complimentary tea and cookies. The first time I went, a man was playing a lyre in the corner.

To appreciate the museum, you have to have a sense of humor and a taste for the bizarre. That’s why my dad uses it as a test.

“When I worked in LA, I used to bring my coworkers here,” he told me afterward. “Some of them loved it, and some of them were like, ‘What the f*ck was that?’ The ones who liked it were the ones I knew I’d get along with.” —Natalie Ray, Editor-in-Chief

Center Theatre Group — Mark Taper Forum, Kirk Douglas Theatre and the Ahmanson Theatre

As a theater student, if I’m going off campus, it’s usually to see a show. The Center Theatre Group has a program called FreePlay where they offer free tickets to the opening nights of most of their shows to people under the age of 25 — which is us! I still remember seeing the opening performance of the musical “Bright Star” at the Ahmanson back when I was a sophomore. They rolled out a red carpet and out walked the cast of “Modern Family” and a few other popular TV shows. I don’t get starstruck easily, but this was one of my first “Wow, I live in Los Angeles!” moments. Once the lights go down, celebrities and normal plebeians such as myself are sitting in the same room, watching the same magical show. After a long week of classes, watching theatre is the perfect emotional release (it’s one of the only places where people won’t look at you weird if you cry in public).

My favorite moments come after the show ends, when I exit the theater. The Los Angeles City Hall building rises in the distance. Compared to the roar and chaos of the theatre, the downtown streets are almost quiet and still. If I have time, I’ll wait by the stage door to greet the actors and thank them for the wonderful distraction from the drudgery of college life. —Kristine White, Opinions Editor

Ridge Motorway Overlook in the San Rafael Hills

I’m used to feeling driven to escape into the wilderness. Ever since moving to LA, though, I find myself enticed to explore hillside neighborhoods with pristine sidewalks and luxury cars when I need the world to slow down. Discovered by happy accident, the overlooks in the initially unsuspecting neighborhood of Rancho San Rafael — a 15 minute jaunt north of campus, or quicker if you’re trying to beat the sunset — have become a frequented refuge.

With the skylines of downtown LA and Glendale in view and the calls of coyotes and Cooper’s hawks in earshot, the overlook is the perfect nexus of LA past and future, wild and tamed. You can watch the cars blaze by at dizzying speeds on the 134, only to then turn your attention toward the lazy nosedive of the sun on its journey west. Equipped with blankets and to-go containers from the Marketplace, it remains my favorite place to sit and watch the world spin. —Kayla Heinze, Culture Editor

The Best Sandwich You’ll Ever Eat

As a born and bred New Yorker, deli sandwiches are a longtime hometown tradition. Down the block from my apartment, my local bodega serves the best and biggest sandwiches I have ever eaten. With fresh honey-glazed turkey cut to order and plenty of mayo and mustard, just thinking about these sandwiches makes me homesick.

Nestled in the back of a Highland Park deli — La Tropicana Market — Monte 52 is the closest I’ve come to finding a proper New York City-style deli sandwich in LA. Located towards the back of the market, Monte 52 brings back memories of navigating my way through crowded bodega aisles to the sandwich counter and awaiting my perfectly succulent turkey sandwich. Personally, my favorite sandwich is the Cuban, freshly made to order just like in New York. The best part is, none of the sandwiches are over $10.

So when the Marketplace lines are too long, or when you’re trying to avoid the CSP rush, drive five minutes down the road and satiate yourself with one of the best sandwiches in LA. —Elizabeth Brewer, Culture Editor

The Rose Bowl Flea Market

There are few accomplishments as satisfying as buying an old neglected piece of clothing, book or poster at a good price. Los Angeles’ endless supply of “boutique” thrift stores that charge $65 for the same ripped Joy Division t-shirt make it seem impossible to find a good deal without scraping the bottom of the Goodwill outlet bins. This is what makes the Rose Bowl Flea Market such a gem.

On the second Sunday of every month, the massive parking lot of the 90,888-seat stadium is converted into the largest flea market on the West Coast with over 2,500 vendors and 20,000 attendees, as well as a solid selection of food and drinks. An endless supply of furniture, rugs, houseplants, clothing, records and books span the massive plot of asphalt, crossing the LA River and encircling the stadium itself. The massive range of vendors, from high-end handmade shops to serious bargains, makes it necessary to spend some time digging, but the Rose Bowl Flea Market never disappoints as a great way to spend your Sunday. Make sure to bring some cash and water and keep an eye out for celebrity sightings. —Charlie Finnerty, Sports Editor

Grand Central Market

If you find yourself salivating as you flip through cookbooks at the Last Bookstore, but want nothing more than to avoid cooking yourself a meal, look no further than Grand Central Market. Hidden away underneath two old buildings in downtown Los Angeles, Grand Central Market offers a plethora of unique food options. From classic LA tacos to more modern choices such as Eggslut and my personal favorite, Berlin Currywurst, Grand Central Market has everything you’re looking for and more. I highly recommend Sticky Rice, which serves delicious Thai food — and sticky rice, of course — with bar-style seating overlooking the cooks in the middle of the market. Simply try some of what Grand Central Market has to offer, and you’ll find yourself taking the Gold Line there every weekend. (Don’t Uber. Once you’re there, you’ll want all the money you have). —Julian Willnow, News Editor

Forest Lawn Park and Cemetery in Glendale

Forest Lawn’s private road weaves up through lush green grass-covered hills. There are tombstones, but pairs of joggers too. It is quiet and peaceful, but not too somber, and on a nice clear day, when everything is drenched in sun, LA unfolds from the top of that impossibly green hill. But even better than the trip up the hill is Forest Lawn’s museum and sculpture collection, which houses several Michelangelo copies.

“Day and Night,” “Dawn and Dusk,” “Moses” and the “Vatican Pietà” are located inside the Memorial Court of Honor. They may not be polished like the originals, but they are not stuck behind glass either, and you don’t have to compete with thousands of tourists who just want to take one photo and walk away. You can walk up close to the sculptures, and around them.

Outside, there is a life-size “David” copy that looks small against a cloudless blue sky. Sun and shadow move across David’s body throughout the day, as Michelangelo intended. This is actually the museum’s second “David” copy. Its first stood here until 1971, when an earthquake snapped his ankles and tossed his marble torso to the ground facedown. What is left of him is displayed in its disassembled state inside the museum, a large white head here and a large white foot there. —River Lisius, Layout Editor

The Cliffs of Rancho Palos Verdes

The Palos Verdes cliffs, located in the South Bay, provide a serene escape from the trials and tribulations of daily life, making the decent trek from our NELA campus worth your while. The winding roads leading to the top of the cliffs carry you away from the hyperactive cities below, coming to rest while overlooking the crashing blue waves. The sun glistens off the shimmering water, later setting on a mural of pink and orange hues and eventually giving way to a starry night.

Pack a picnic, grab your friends (or just yourself) and take the day off. I can’t recommend it enough. —Zoobia Jilani, Community News Editor

Pasadena Humane Society

As the weather warms in Eagle Rock at the beginning of spring semester, local dogs and their owners hit the quad to take a sunny stroll and visit students on campus. If you’re anything like me, watching dogs blissfully chase down the wily Oxy squirrels makes me long for days of winter break past with my own dogs at home. To remedy this canine angst, take a short, 15-minute drive to the Pasadena Humane Society on the outskirts of Old Town. Meander the outdoor kennels and you will be greeted by exuberant dogs of all ages, sizes and temperaments poking their snouts through the gates, as eager to meet a new friend as you are. Lounge in the sun with the pooches for awhile — or if cats are more your speed, make your way inside the building to visit the quieter, equally cuddly creatures. The Pasadena Humane Society never fails to cure my spells of homesickness, but be warned — the temptation to snatch up every adoption form in sight may be an inescapable eventuality for some visitors. —Emily Leonard, Sports Editor

Sqirl

Sqirl is one of the rare hipster brunch havens that live up to their hype. This Silverlake staple has likely graced your Instagram feed with pictures of colorful jams, perfectly poached eggs and the aptly named “famed ricotta toast.” As you stand in line, 30-somethings with microbangs and culottes talk about the challenging personalities on their screenwriting team or say things like, “I live in LA, so I’m obsessed with milk alternatives.” It’s always good to see that LA stereotypes are still alive and well. It’s even better when they’re accompanied by delicious quiches and pesto rice bowls. I go here at the start of every new semester with our community news editor Emily Jo. Sqirl somehow always manages to make me feel more at home in LA. —Jackie Dall, Managing Editor