If you've ever stood on the second floor of the Los Angeles Central Public Library and marveled at the explosion of color within the rotunda or the 12 adjacent murals depicting California history, then you have the Los Angeles Conservancy to thank. When the library was scheduled for demolition in the mid-1970s, concerned citizens formed the Conservancy to save the rotunda, the exterior limestone sculptures, and the library's many other architectural treasures. The group finally convinced the City Council to preserve the library in 1983, after years of public discussion, debate, and book-sniffing sit-ins. Ever since, it has advocated for greater Los Angeles's historic sites and educated people about the city's architectural heritage. The Conservancy is responsible for saving and revitalizing landmarks such as the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, and the world’s oldest remaining McDonald’s restaurant.
To accomplish its mission, the membership-based nonprofit offers a number of ways people can experience these beautiful and storied places. The Last Remaining Seats series earned a Reader Recommendation for Best Film Series and Best Downtown Event in the Los Angeles Downtown News' 2012 poll, in which the conservancy’s walking tours also earned the title of Best Downtown Tour. But the organization does more than save grandiose public buildings: increasingly, it also focuses on smaller community projects such as garden apartments and sites that reflect the area's rich Latino culture.
Executive director and 20-year Conservancy veteran Linda Dishman explained to Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times, "People are becoming more vocal. …That's one of the great secrets about Los Angeles: People really identify with their neighborhoods." The Conservancy also presents annual preservation awards to honor the efforts of individuals who fight to save places such as Pann’s Coffee Shop and Griffith Observatory.
In 1927, after seven years of Prohibition, Vincent Rizzo had an idea. He would buy a winery. While this may have been an unconventional move, he knew he could get Bernardo Winery at a lower price and keep the business thriving with an unlikely product: olive oil. In a stroke of cunning and arguable genius, the first-generation Rizzo owner made use of the olive trees growing on his property, selling the cold-pressed virgin oil to many of the tuna canneries in downtown San Diego. He also continued production of sacramental wine and grape juice that was, according to the winery's website, "guaranteed to ferment by the end of the road."
The winery grew to be one of San Diego County's major wine suppliers in the late 1940s, and Vincent turned the family business over to his son, Ross, in 1962. Ross's passion and dedication fueled the winery's success until his passing in 2008. Ross Rizzo, Jr. now keeps his father and grandfather's legacies alive, adding new varietals and winemaking techniques to the company's repertoire while paying homage to the old ways. Ross still sources his grapes from local vineyards and produces and cellars his wine to develop each variety’s distinct flavor.
Guests can get a behind-the-scenes look at the historic winery during tours and tastings, and the scenic spot also hosts private parties at several outdoor venues and in the Barrel Room, where wooden rafters and huge redwood wine-storage vats create a rustic feel. Once they are done tasting, visitors can wander through a micro village of shops and studios or get a bite to eat at Cafe Merlot. The sprawling property features nods to its storied past with accents such as wagon wheels and an antique thresher machine and events such as grape stompings, otherwise known as do-it-yourself purple pedicures.
Winchester Mystery House is an imposing Victorian mansion built by Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. The house's floor plan is a study in eccentricity, boasting details including twisting hallways, secret passages, and stairways that lead nowhere. Sarah Winchester built her profoundly odd home in an effort to drive away bad spirits, including that of her late husband, whom she believed cursed her upon his death. While Sarah compulsively remodeled the house until her death in 1922, historians estimate there must have been between 500 and 600 rooms built in total. Due to the extensive remodeling and the ravages of time, only 160 rooms remain—though, by any standard, the house remains a sprawling homage to Sarah Winchester's tormented mind.
Today, visitors make their pilgrimage to the house to witness in person all its peculiar glory. The home is lovingly restored and now plays host to a number of fun, bone-chilling excursions each day. Thrill seekers can stalk through the halls by flashlight during guided tours that divulge the sordid details of Sarah Winchester's nightly séances. History buffs can explore rooms dedicated to period furniture, antique trinkets, and vintage firearms found in the home. A gift shop and café onsite give guests the opportunity to purchase souvenirs, some more edible than others.
The thick September fog haunts the water like a lonely ghost, obscuring the boat’s passengers’ view of everything but their fellow riders. Convinced that they’ll see nothing more that day, Captain Joe Nazar turns his vessel around and heads back to shore when suddenly, out of the brume, a graceful hulk breaks through the rolling waters. The boat has unwittingly happened upon a pod of humpback whales, and everyone––including the seasoned naturalist guides aboard––suddenly falls into a stunned silence as the majestic creatures spout water and dive into the mist. Fostering humbling, awe-inspiring interactions with nature such as this is Captain Joe’s raisons d'être and the driving force behind the founding of San Francisco Whale Tours.
San Francisco Whale Tours demonstrates the beauty and diversity of the Bay’s bustling ecosystem with regular nature tours that trawl the coast. Captain Joe––aided by his expert crew and sage naturalists––shares his passion for aquatic adventures with his guests via leisurely excursions through the waters of the Farallon Islands aboard the Kitty Kat, his trusted watercraft. The catamaran ferries its curious passengers in style with a sun deck and enclosed cabin, and its low wake and gentle underwater noise make it a model marine houseguest. Aiding the crusade to preserve whale populations, San Francisco Whale Tours donates a portion of profits to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Behind courtyards filled with lit fountains, verdant trees, and grassy spaces stands the glossy façade of River Park shopping center. During each annual A Taste of River Park these courtyards fill with local chefs serving tastes of their restaurants' signature dishes and Central Valley wineries pouring samples of their wines. While visitors stroll through the outdoor festival, the mall's retailers put on a fashion show of upcoming fall fashion trends and demonstrate the 21 ways to button a cardigan. Visitors can also thrill to the sights and sounds of the featured live entertainment.
Fright Planet Haunted Theme Park's outdoor theme park acts as a library of the world's most potent phobias. Every year, cast members reimagine its catalog of haunted environs, crafting new sets, props, and characters to prey on guests. Its dedication to genuine scares calls for only the best actors and the most grisly scenery, which is constructed with the help of a former Disneyland artist and a bulldozer possessed by the soul of a 1700s architect.
The 2013 lineup has expanded to include 10 attractions, including the ScreamMax 3-D movie theater. Though the houses all have distinct themes and decor, they share two factors: a richly painted backstory and a population of live, ghoulish denizens. Staring toys line the shelves at Höbart's Doll Factory, tight passageways put the squeeze on those brave enough to enter Jatinga: The Forbidden Temple, and cornstalks bear bloodstains on Podunk Farms. Other experiences play on claustrophobic fears—for example, Buried Alive: The Ride shuts patrons into a coffin where they endure a simulated hearse ride, burial, and the chilling sound of worms calling dibs on their body parts.