Bryan Freeman wanted two things out of his career: to meet new people and spend time outdoors. With this in mind, Mr. Freeman's path seemed obvious. He would start giving bike tours. A self-described "fact guy," the expert guide draws upon his extensive knowledge of the Venice area to delight both tourists and California natives. From the Venice canals to the spacious mailboxes of celebrity homes, the expert guide tells stories about famous locations and uncovers some of the area's hidden gems. "Everyone always says they had no idea the tour would be so exciting," he says. "People think Venice is just the beach, but just a block away there is so much more."
Mr. Freeman doesn't keep his groups confined to the seats and cowboy saddles of bicycles. He frequently points out ideal spots for photo ops and occasionally pauses for activities, such as letting groups spray paint their names onto a legal-graffiti wall. He also supplies optional helmet cams that capture videos for souvenirs.
The ocean-side city of Santa Monica, flush with food, culture, and history, provides ample fodder for Destination Food Tours’ signature outing. Led by a local guide, groups stroll to a succession of eateries such as Bar Pinxto, where chefs infuse tapas with traditional Spanish flavors. At MAKE—a completely raw restaurant—chef and author Matthew Kenney showcases the decadence of uncooked food, and at the tour’s final stop, N’ice Cream, scoops of organic gelato refresh taste buds and extinguish mustache fires.
Isla Studio's professional photographers expresses the world and its people through richly colored fine-art images. Whether dealing with landscapes, buildings, portraits, or UFOs, the team waits for a moment to reveal itself, combining the timing of photojournalism with a carefully considered emotional resonance. They also expand the shutter-snapping community with small classes that explore the ins and outs of digital photography.
Surrounded by walls tacked with sunny works of art, rows of easels prop up paintings in progress, their evolving canvases commanding the attention of aspiring artists. This scene plays out every day at Paint Lab, a creative haven where talented instructors ignite pupils' imaginations with positive encouragement. The studio's classes teach the technical elements of acrylic, watercolor, or oil painting while students craft their own rendition of a classic work, capture the human form in figure-drawing sessions, or turn their pen toward anime and cartoons. Adults pique their artistic sensibilities with liquid inspiration during classes that provide refreshments and cheese, and younger Picassos can pay homage to their favorite lunchbox by painting it in battle dress during after-school or weekend children's workshops.
When Santa Monica celebrated its centennial in 1975, the Civic Auditorium hosted a small exhibition covering the city's 100-year history. Turns out Santa Monica's citizenry was hungry to document its past: by October of that year, the Santa Monica Historical Society held its founding meeting. 13 years later, the society opened the Santa Monica History Museum, which now encompasses myriad artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia. Most of those materials comprise the museum's timeline, which traces the city's origins up to the 1930s.
Beyond goodies from the past, the museum sports several interactive features to bring that history alive. Visitors can wander through a replica of a Douglas aircraft or digitally insert their photos onto front-page newspaper stories about historical events. The "Then & Now" touch-screen map, meanwhile, reveals the development over time of different Santa Monica landscapes, such as the many canyons that blossomed into In-N-Out Burgers. Along with its permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts an array of special programming, including concerts, workshops, and lectures from top historians.
FrameStore's craftsmen have created more than 250,000 custom frames in the store’s 35-year tenure, designing pieces that now adorn the walls of prestigious institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Walt Disney Company. Professional designers guide FrameStore’s clients through the 2,200 moulding options that can accent paintings and treasured items while adding style and elegance to rooms. The store’s craftsmen then fashion pieces to patron specifications, outfitting frames with classic or museum-quality glass that blocks UV rays from bleaching out images or censoring pictures of the moon. Every piece goes through a 16-point inspection before it is given to patrons, and the team averages a seven-day turnaround on all of its projects.