Great Last Minute Gifts: Unique Local Experiences

Buzz Co-Publisher Patty Lombard (at right in white shirt) enjoys the Old Hollywood tour, with guide April Brooks Clemmer (in vintage polka-dot dress), earlier this year

Yes, Christmas Eve is tomorrow, and yes, we know that means all of you who are celebrating are all done with your gift shopping and have everything you need already wrapped and under your tree…so you can just sit back today and relax.  Right?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Well, if you are that well prepared, we applaud you.  But if you’re like some of us here at the Buzz, there may be at least one or two names still to be ticked off your gift list before the big holiday.  And if that’s the case, we’ve got some great ideas for last minute gifts – some unique experiences, virtual and in real life, right here in good old Los Angeles. They also focus specifically on good old Los Angeles…with the emphasis on “old” (in a good way!).  Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a relative newcomer, the recipient of any of these will be sure to discover something new and wonderful about our familiar landscape.

A DVD of “The Red Kimono,” a 1925 silent “melodrama about a young girl who is tricked into a life of prostitution, murders her pimp/lover and finds redemption in true love.”  What’s so unique about it?  Well, for one thing, it was written, produced and directed by women (in an era when the film business was already dominated by men), with a story by Dorothy Arzner, screenplay by Adela Rogers St. John, directed by Dorothy Davenport Reid and produced by Mrs. Wallace Reid.  But just as interesting, at least for local history buffs, and as noted in this recent blog post by film location historian John Bengston (whose books tracking down the locations from old silent movies also make great gifts), the film is a treasure trove of local Los Angeles locations, including – in our neighborhood – the Fremont Place gates and several homes in that historic neighborhood, several classic Wilshire Blvd. apartment buildings, and many other recognizable destinations throughout the city.

A walking tour of Old Hollywood, which goes back even further than today’s star-studded image of Hollywood Boulevard and illustrates the original suburb’s very early history and what put it on the map for tourists in pre-movie biz days. The excursion also points out – and visits – some of the Boulevard’s earliest buildings that still survive, often hidden under new facades and remodels.  We wrote about this one last spring, and still think tickets would be a great gift choice, even for local residents who think they’ve seen everything there is to see on Hollywood Blvd. (for example, have you heard of the Janes House?).

A bus tour from Esotouric, which provides extensively researched, highly detailed and very entertaining excursions based on many aspects of L.A. History, including the Black Dahlia murder case, other infamous downtown crime scenes and stories, the lives and works of authors Charles Bukowski, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler, neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights and West Adams…and many more.

A private, architecture-themed tour from Architecture Tours L.A. These 2 to 3-hour tours, led by architectural historian Laura Massino Smith in a comfy minivan, do a deep dive into the architectural history of individual Los Angeles neighborhoods (including one tour dedicated exclusively to Hancock Park and Miracle Mile), and two outings dedicated to the local works of architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry.  Jam-packed with great info, these are not your typical tourist-level hit-and-run drive-bys.

A seat on the Neon Cruise by the Museum of Neon Art.  These double-decker nighttime bus tours highlight the classic neon signs, movie marquees and permanent installations of contemporary neon art in Hollywood and downtown L.A.  There are standard tours, special seasonal tours for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Holiday Lights…and themed tours focusing specifically on Hollywood and “Neon Noir.”

A walking tour from the LA Conservancy.  The historic preservation organization is famous for its year-round walking tours of downtown and historic neighborhoods such as Angelino Heights, but it also offers a holiday-themed tour of downtown, featuring “some of downtown’s iconic buildings when they’re all dressed up for the holidays.”

Finally, we couldn’t write a list like this without including the book Larchmont, by the Buzz’s very own Patty Lombard.  Published two years ago, this enlightening and photo-packed history of Larchmont Blvd. is still one of the best-selling items at Chevalier’s Books, where you can almost always find it in stock and on prominent display at the front counter.

Merry Los Angeles gift-giving from the Larchmont Buzz!

 

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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