Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

LOS ANGELES: Hidden Los Angeles Part 5: Annelisa's Picks

Annelisa, editrix extraordinaire, has some hidden Los Angeles picks that will relax and educate you. These are perfect for a weekend day trip to get away from the concrete jungle, to see some nature, to learn some botany and architecture and perhaps check out some fine arts.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden: This botanic garden is dedicated to California native plants. There are 86 acres of gardens to peruse, with mountain views as a backdrop. From now until March manzanitas are flowering, but the best time to experience the wildflowers is March and April when everything is in full bloom and bursts of color are everywhere.

The garden is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is free, although they ask for a donation of $4 if you wish.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
1500 North College Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 625-8767

Theodore Payne Foundation: This is another place devoted to promoting and appreciating native California plants. Yet another foil to the "palm trees and lawns" stereotype of L.A. Theodore Payne was actually an Englishman and a horticulturalist. He came to LA in 1893 and fell in love with the plant life here. He dedicated his life to preserving it.

At that time, native vegetation was being lost to development and agriculture. Theodore Payne dedicated his time to lecturing and educating to preserve and promote the local plants. He also started a nursery and seed business to sell native wildflowers and helped create several botanic gardens around California.

The onsite nursery here has hundreds of native plants for sale depending on the season. There is also a wildflower hill to tour with a memorial oak grove dedicated to one of the founding members of the foundation.

Theodore Payne Foundation
10459 Tuxford St.
Sun Valley, CA 91352
(818) 768-1802

Villa Aurora: Just a short drive into the hills of the Pacific Palisades, you will find the Villa Aurora. The Villa Aurora is a landmark of architectural history, of which Los Angeles has many. The Villa Aurora was a demonstration house commissioned by the Los Angeles Times in the 1920s. It is a Spanish-style villa, which at its inception was meant to demonstrate the latest in household technology. It was also meant to encourage Angelenos to purchase homes in what was then an outlying wilderness too far from downtown for most city residents. It must have worked, because that area is now the fancy-schmancy Pacific Palisades.

The design of the Villa was based on a Spanish castle, and the house became famous in the 1950s when German novelist Lion Feuchtwanger and his wife purchased the residence and turned it into a salon where many prominent artists and intellectuals would gather for dinner and demonstrations of their work. Regular guests included Thomas Mann, Bertholt Brecht, Aldous Huxley, Fritz Lang, and Charlie Chaplin.

The Building was willed to USC on the death of Mrs. Feuchtwanger and is now owned by a German consortium, who has once again transformed it into a space for artists to showcase their work, and lectures, concerts, and performances are a regular occurrence. The space combines, history, architecture, and art all in one experience.

Villa Aurora
520 Paseo Miramar
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
(310) 454-4231


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