A Ride on Angel’s Flight into Downtown LA

Denise and I at the top of Angel’s Flight

Up until the 1950s, when the freeways in Southern California were expanded there used to be a thing called the Pacific Electric Railway. For no more than 25 cents you could get anywhere in Southern California. The last red car ran public service in 1961. Driving cars in California might have been novel and fun at one time but now driving is more of a nuisance. Our freeways are usually over congested with grumpy drivers who will often perform risky manuevers just to get one car length ahead of you, and don’t even get me started on how it is when we get that occasional rain!

The Metrolink can connect you to virtually anywhere in Southern California.

Luckily, Southern California has recently come to it’s senses and we now have the Metrolink. I love riding the Metrolink on Saturdays. Every Saturday (and Sunday) the Metrolink costs only $10. For that $10 you can go almost anywhere in Southern California and many times transfers (especially in LA) are free all day long.

This last Saturday we spent our time going to the Historic Downtown LA area. Our goal was to see Angel’s Flight, America’s oldest and shortest funicular railway. A funicular railway is a train that instead of going sideways, goes up and down. Angel’s flight started in 1901 as a way for Angelenos to get from Grand Central Station (which is now a Market) to Bunker Hill (which was a residential zone). Angel’s Flight was closed in in 1969 when Bunker Hill was rezoned as a Financial District.LA never forgot about Angel’s Flight but it wasn’t until 1996 when money was found to reopen it at it’s current location.

The old Los Angeles Theater

The old Angel’s Flight was very dependable. It never stopped, not even for the sailor in 1943 who tried to walk on it’s rails (his outcome was fatal). The current Angel’s Flight has not been so dependable. When it was rebuilt, they added in new technology,but forgot some other more important technology. The most important being the secondary backup chain. In 2001, the primary chain broke and unfortunately there was another death, so it closed again. It had many open and closures. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until they fully restored the railway, complete with secondary cable and original brake backup systems did it once again work. Sometimes old technology is the best technology.

The railway ride is very short, less than a minute long. You pay at the top station. The cost is a $1 or only .50 cents if you have a valid metro or metrolink ticket.

Clifton’s is living history.

After our ride on Angel’s flight, we headed back down to broadway where we visited Clifton’s. Not only is it the largest Cafeteria in the world, it is one of the oldest, having been established in 1932. It was established in the depression as a place for everyone. The original model was “pay what you wish.” Unfortunately, too many people took advantage of that and what was once a chain with over 10 different themed restaurants dwindled down to just the current location in Los Angeles.

The good news is the cafeteria has been fully restored and though it is no longer “pay what you wish.” It is quite the experience. The meals average around $15 (depends on how many items you take) and are good unto themeselves, but the place is more about ambiance. Inside there are many stuffed animals including a bear, a buffalo, and a lion. There is live music, 20s style posters, a castle tower, secret rooms, and even a secret forth floor (which I never figured how to get to). Just remember eat first, explore later.

The Neon at Clifton’s never turns off.

The dish that made Clifton’s famous was it’s meatloaf.

The more you go inside, you realize how big the place really is.

These are not replica posters.

All around the restaurant are full size stuffed animals. Reminded me of a natural history museum.

The plaque states that this is the oldest continuous neon. It was connected to the main switch in 1934 and has never been turned off.
















After the meal at Clifton’s we went the the famous Biltmore Hotel. The Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles opened in 1923 and is not only a marvel of beauty but has been home to many historic events. The most renowned of which probably was that in 1927 the Oscars were concieved in the Crystal Room. In fact eight Academy Awards have been held in the hotel. In 1960, President Kennedy gave his acceptance speech in the lobby. In 1964, the Beattles flew by helicopter unto the roof to stay the night. On the more obscure side, it was in 1947 in the telephone room, that last time anyone saw the Black Dalia alive.

The entrance to the Biltmore is stunning.

The grand concourse at the Biltmore.

Denise at the stairway of the Biltmore.

AJ enjoying a spin at Pershing Square.















While we were there, there were many weddings being held. I later looked up the prices. The presidential room was expensive, but the regular rooms were reasonably priced.

After the Biltmore Hotel we went to Pershing Square and had some fun before it was back to Union Station to catch the train back home.

Another video of our adventures:


The Warner Brothers Studio Tour

Aka.. The One With JohnnyP….

AJ got to take a flight on a broom.

So, for my mother’s birthday I decided to take her and the family out to see the Warner Brothers Studio tour. This is about a three hour experience in Burbank, California, just one hill away from Universal and Hollywood. Warner Brothers is probably currently most famous for the Harry Potter movies, but they are also known for some blockbuster hits such as Casablanca, Willie Wonka, the Music Man, Friends, Batman, and many more.

The tour for California residents costs about $49 dollars and starts at the Warner Brother Studios Tour building which is just across from the Warner Brothers Records building. There you check in and watch a short film highlighting the movies made by Warner Brothers. After the movie you get in a golf cart to go tour the studios.

Studio Tour check-in.

In the tour you ride in golf carts.

It is funny to see all the fake city fronts.

This was the front for the toy shop where Gizmo in the movie Gremlins was bought.

Wonder Woman costume.

The Casablanca piano.

Sound stage 16 was made bigger by Marion Davis who got her boyfriend William Randolph Hearst to expand it.





















Warner Brothers is an open studio, which means that anyone that is willing to pay for studio space can be on the studios. Many television productions like to be at the studios including the Ellen show which is currently staged in stage 1. If a production lasts more than ten seasons they put a brass plaque on the side of the stage. Many have brass plaques, except sound stage 23, which for some reason is unlucky. It is said that everything produced at that stage has bombed. Also, there is no stage 13 because that is an unlucky number.

Outside the stages are facades. All but one of the buildings at Warner Brothers don’t have signs because they can all be dressed up to be used in movie production. Even a little bit of grass we learned can serve as Central Park. Or, some trees and a dirt road become a scene from Jurassic Park.

My favorite part was the props department. In there we saw several versions of the Maltese Falcon, the piano from Casablanca, and played with set pieces from the West Wing. We noticed that all the items were available for rent. Not cheap, but if you need creepy doll whose head turns 360 degrees, they have it available.

The tour was bit expensive but it was very interactive which made the experience very enjoyable. I don’t know if I would do it again very soon, but it would be interesting in a few years to go back and see what is popular in the future and to see what will be the latest coolest production.

This is a short video of our experience:


I know the acting is amazing, for all the casting agents out there my contact is on the about me page.

A Colorado Aventure

The Mork and Mindy House is on Pine St. in Boulder, CO.

Colorado is known for its outdoor adventure but there are many urban adventures to be found. I took an extended weekend to discover some lesser known spots in Colorado…


The Mandir, Chino Hills, CA

A Mandir is a holy place of worship for the Hindu religion. Kind of like a temple it is a place where Hindu worshipers come to be in contact with the divine spirit of God. While in Asia there are many such structures, there are only 5 such structures in North America.

The history of how a Mandir was constructed in Southern California goes back many years to 1977 when Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the leader of the BAPS movement of Hinduism visited Los Angeles, CA. At the time he organized a very small organization of followers that met and eventually grew into a large congregation. The dream was always to have a Mandir in Southern California. In 2000, Pramukh Swami Maharaj again visited California and decreed Chino Hills to be the site of the next Mandir in Northern America.

Chino Hills, was not ecstatic about this revelation and almost immediately put up new code laws to prohibit the Mandir from being built. The faithful were not deterred by this and in 2003 held a groundbreaking ceremony even though they didn’t have the permits to begin construction. The Hindu church, however did have an ally at the time who was the Mayor of Chino Hills, who declared the new code laws to be racist and helped the church get the law changed so they could get permits. In 2011 the church got the final approvals needed for construction and in December of 2012 the Mandir was dedicated. Even though the Mandir is dedicated the grounds are still being built up. When we were there the walkways were being built up.

The Mandir is principally made of pink sandstone and white marble.

The Mandir was built in the traditional Hindu method, which means all the materials must conform to ancient Hindu construction methods. This means that everything is hand constructed and only natural materials are used (no steel or rebar). This presents a problem considering Southern California is prone to earthquakes. To get around this they built the Mandir on top of 40 steel isolators which sits on a gigantic slab base. In this way the Mandir can resist an earthquake and be constructed in the traditional way.

The Mandir is a place of worship. Strict dress codes that include no bare shoulders, knees, or shoes are enforced in the temple. There is also no photography allowed. Inside the temple are Murtis (there are pictures of pre-dedicated Murti on their website at http://www.baps.org/Global-Network/North-America/LosAngeles/Mandir-Info.aspx), which are basically life size statues meant to represent spiritual leaders of the faith. Murti are considered physical manifestations of the spirit and are treated as if that person were present. As such not only do worshipers pray to the Murtis, but they have conversations with them, feed them, and even bathe them.

Some detail on a visitor center door.

The Mandir and visitor center are exquisitely decorated. Every inch inside the Mandir and the visitor center are intricately detailed in decorations. The images are often grand, such as multiple elephants, but sometimes they were more sublime. One series of statues I saw that was interesting to me was how a god lived day-to-day (he walked, he talked, he shaved, he took a bath, etc.) . Another series showed Krishna as a child and how he was taught by his parents. The idea I got was that these previous spiritual beings had already done everything and so they could show the followers the correct way to lead not only their spiritual life but their everyday life as well.

In the visitor center there was a bookstore, a food store, and a small cafe. On our way out we bought some Hindu snacks. It is always interesting when you eat food you can’t pronounce. Luckily for us the packaging at least told us the basic ingredients.







The Mandir is open every day and is free and open to the public. Donations are gratefully accepted. Even if you are not Hindu it is a must place to visit. Even if only for the beauty of the unique architecture.

A small video of the grounds:


2017 Soboba Pow Wow

Location: Soboba Indian Reservation, San Jacinto, CA
Cost: Free

The grand entrance was very vivid with movement and color.

It Denise’s birthday and we were a little low on cash and wanted to get out for a bit. Looking on the Internet we were able to find that the Soboba Indian Reservation was having a Pow Wow.

I had never been out to the reservation before because besides the casino, there isn’t much there for visitors. The casino (at least from the outside looked nice, just behind the casino was a resort with a very nice looking golf course. We did not go inside the casino so we can’t say much for the inside. We went to the stadium where we got to see the free pow wow.

We got there right as they were doing the grand opening. All I can say is it was flurry of sight, sounds, and color. It was very interesting. In addition to pointing out all the different types of dancers I thought it was interesting that they even had their own national anthem.

I was struck with the mix of the old designs with now pop culture.

The outside fair had a bit of everything.

The dole whip taco was definitely different.

A close up of a dole whip taco.













The detail on the dress was amazing.

They had a little fair going on outside the stadium. There were handicrafts, tshirts, nick nacks, and of course food. I was expecting fry bread, and they had it, but the unexpected was the Dole Whip taco. It cost about $6 and was kind of small. It was basically a small fry bread, mixed with pineapple dole whip (kind of like ice cream), and an apple cobbler. It was different but good.






A video of what we saw:

Activity List

This is a summary list of activities we have visited (or want to visit). The list has the name of the place, city, type of activity, cost per most expensive person, free day offered (if so check out the free or free day page).

Arizona State Capitol (Phoenix, historical, FREE, yes)
ASARCO Mineral Mine (Sahaurita, Nature, $8, no)
Mission San Xavier del Bac (Tucson, church, FREE, yes)

Los Angeles
California Science Center (Los Angeles, science, FREE, yes)
Cathedral of our Lady of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, Church, FREE, yes)
Dante’s Peak (Los Angeles, Trail, FREE, yes)
Griffith Park Observatory (Los Angeles, Science, $7, yes)
Italian American Museum of LA (Los Angeles, Cultural, FREE, yes)
Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, Cultural, $12, yes)
LACMA (Los Angeles, Art, Monthly/Holiday, $15, yes)
Natural History Museum of LA County (Los Angeles, history, $12, no)
Olivera Street (Los Angeles, historical, FREE, yes)
America Tropical (Los Angeles, Art, FREE, yes)
Avila Adobe (Los Angeles, historical, FREE, yes)
Plaza Firehouse (Los Angeles, historical, FREE, yes)
Sepulveda House (Los Angeles, historical, FREE, yes)
Pacific Asian Museum (Pasadena, Cultural, $7, yes)
The American Military Museum (South El Monte, Historical, $5, no)
The Autry Museum in Griffith Park (Los Angeles, Western, $14, yes)
The Getty Center (Los Angeles, art, FREE, yes)
The Getty Villa (Pacific Palisades, art, FREE, yes)
Union Station (Los Angeles, art, FREE, yes)
Universal Studios (Hollywood, Amusement, $75, no)

Orange County
Disneyland (Anaheim, amusement, $120, no)
Knott’s Berry Farm (Buena Park, amusement, $75, no)
OCMA (New Port, Art, $10, yes)
Oso Viejo Park (Mission Viejo, trail, FREE, yes)

Riverside County
Corona Heritage Museum (Corona, history, FREE, yes)
Castle Park, (Riverside, amusement, $20, no)
March Air Force Museum (Riverside, historical, $10, no)
Mt.Rubidoux (Riverside, Trail, FREE, yes)
Mt. San Jacinto (Idyllwild, Trail, $5, no)
Orange Empire Railway Museum (Perris, historical, FREE, yes)
Palm Springs Air Museum (Palm Springs, historical, $17, no)
Riverside Metropolitan Museum (Riverside, historical, $2, no)
Riverside Art Museum (Riverside, Art, $5, yes)
Riverside Commemorative Air Museum (Riverside, Historical, FREE, yes)
Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve (Murrieta, Nature, $5, no)
Sherman Indian Museum (Riverside, Historical, FREE, yes)
Shields Date Farm (Indio, Nature, FREE, yes)

San Bernardino
Desert Discovery Center (Barstow, nature, FREE, yes)
Graber Olive House (Ontario, historical, FREE, yes)
Indian Trail Rock Trail (Lake Arrowhead, Trail, $5, no)
Kelso Depot (Baker, historical, FREE, yes)
Kimberly Crest House (Redlands, historical, $10, no)
Lake Arrowhead Village (Lake Arrowhead, amusement, FREE, yes)
The Mountain History Museum (Lake Arrowhead, Historical, FREE, yes)
Mt. Baden Powell (Wrightwood, trail, $5, no)
Original McDonald / Route 66 Museum (San Bernardino, historical, FREE, yes)
The “Asistencia” (San Bernardino, historical, $5, no)
Redlands Bowl (Redlands, cultural, FREE, no)
Route 66 Museum (Victorville, historical, FREE, yes)

San Diego County
Asistencia Santa Ysabel, (Santa Ysabel, Church, FREE, yes)
Mormon Battalion Center (Old Town San Diego, historical, FREE, yes)
Palomar Observatory (Palomar, Science, $5, yes)
San Diego Zoo (Balboa Park San Diego, Nature, $58, no)
Timken Museum of Art (Balboa Park San Diego, art, FREE, yes)

Sonoma County
Train Town (Sonoma, Amusement, $5, no)

Ventura County
Heart Castle (San Simeon, Historical, $25, no)

Millennium Park (Chicago, Park, FREE, yes)

New York
Grant’s Tomb (New York, historical, FREE, yes)

Free Day Activities

This is a list of activities (museums, parks, etc.) that usually cost money for admission but have a free admission at least once a month. The Format for each entry is the name of the museum, the type of museum, the frequency of free admission, the day of free admission, and the regular admission price).

The goal is continually update the list. If you see a place on the list that we have missed (we want to go too), no longer offers a monthly free day, or closed please let us know.


Los Angeles
Japanese American National Museum (Cultural, Monthly, Third Thursday, $12)
LACMA (Art, Monthly/Holiday, Second Tuesday/Federal Holidays, $15)
The Autry Museum in Griffith Park (Western, Monthly, Second Tuesday, $14)

Orange County
OCMA (Art, Weekly, Fridays, $10)

Riverside County
Riverside Art Museum (Art, Monthly, First Thursday, $5)

Free Activities

Many of my friends ask me how we go to so many places. The secret to our success is the amount of free museums. This is a list of free museums we know about.

All of the places listed below have a general admission that is free. Sometimes museums have special exhibits or show and those exhibits and shows may charge an extra fee but you can still go to the general admission for free.

Some of places require online tickets prior to going, but if they are on this list the online ticket is free.

All of the museums accept donations, but I purposely didn’t list any museum that has a “suggested” donation. Technically, “suggested” donation museums are also free but my experience is that docents at those museums get kind of pushy if you don’t pay the “suggested” price, which means it really is not a free museum. I only have included museums we know to be completely free to enter without question.

The goal is continually update the list. If you see a museum on the list that we have missed (we want to go too), no longer free, or closed please let us know.

Arizona State Capitol (Phoenix)

Los Angeles
California Science Center (Los Angeles)
Olivera Street (Los Angeles)
America Tropical (Los Angeles)
Avila Adobe (Los Angeles)
Plaza Firehouse (Los Angeles)
Sepulveda House (Los Angeles)
Union Station (Los Angeles)
The Getty Center (Los Angeles)
The Getty Villa (Pacific Palisades)

Orange County
Oso Viejo Park (Mission Viejo)

Riverside County
Orange Empire Railway Museum (Perris)

San Bernardino
Graber Olive House (Ontario)
Original McDonald / Route 66 Museum (San Bernardino)
Route 66 Museum (Victorville)

San Diego County
Mormon Battalion Center (Old Town San Diego)
Timken Museum of Art (Balboa Park San Diego)

Millennium Park (Chicago)

New York
Grant’s Tomb (New York)

The Orange International Festival

Traveling to different countries is awesome. Unfortunately, it is not free and lot of times not practical (if only I didn’t have to be a responsible adult). Thankfully I live in Southern California and in California you don’t have to travel. No, and it doesn’t involve “medical prescriptions”. What it does involve is the many cultures.

1973 was the hundredth anniversary for the city of Orange. Drawing on inspiration from the street fair of 1910, the city of Orange decided to create a  free (but the food is not free) International fair as a place where friends and family could get together and enjoy international vistas, food, and music without having to go far from home.

Chapman University

AJ vs the Bounce House

I taught AJ how to win the bottle ring toss.








It fit the bill for our family and we decided to go to the fair. The fair was great and we really enjoyed eating bratwurst while listening to a German band play Juan Talavera (and if that isn’t multicultural I don’t know what is), the problem was part of the tradition is that the city of Orange always holds this fair during labor day weekend. I don’t know why but for some reason labor day weekend in Southern California is always hot. This weekend was no exception. It was in the high 90s when we got there. Everything was extremely fun but we didn’t last very long due to the heat.


After the fair we accidentally found a YouTube meet and greet with Justin Scarred at the historic Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana. We were in Santa Ana because we were looking for missions on Ingress, an online game we play, I would explain it but that would take a lot of explaining, but for those that do play, go green!

After meeting Justin Scarred we ended up at Genki Sushi. It is sushi place but instead of waiters bringing you the sushi, you order sushi rolls on a tablet and they come out on a little express train to your table.


Mel’s Diner, Phoenix, AZ

“Kiss my grits!” says the menu . Well, I ate them so that is close enough I figure. The sitcom Alice was ran from the late 70’s until about 1981. It featured a recently divorced lady named Alice who was heading west with her son but car broke down in Phoenix, Arizona. Seeing a help wanted sign she applies for, and immediately gets a job as a waitress in a tiny diner. Of course the rest of the staff is ultra quirky and all the customers are a bit essentric. Classic formulaic comedy. 

Recently I had to go to Arizona for training and was able to bring along the family. On the way out of town we heard that the actual diner from the show was still standing. Just like in the show we found the diner to be kind of away from the center of action and just like the neighborhood it was in it all looked like it had seen better days.

Inside the restaurant, most customers were kind of oblivious to why the diner had once been so popular, but Mel’s Diner had not forgotten and there were plenty of tributes to the show along the wall showing filming locations and signed pictures from the actors.

The food was pretty good. Very typical of what you would kind in an Americana greasy spoon type of place. I went with a very typical plate with eggs over easy, sausage, and of course grits.

AJ has this thing where if there is counter he has to sit at the counter. For the most part he was alone at the counter and he spent most of his time flirting with the waitresses, who were more than willing to play along with him and help him color his placemat.

In a way I kind of envy the locals at Mel’s Diner. The was a nice reminder of things that once were and a fine example of Americana. It felt like a place that if you went there enough times you could get your own mug, they would remember your name, and ask if you were ordering the “usual” (whatever that is).