Tag Archives: Tour Guide

Watts Towers | Location: LA

We often remember a location for an unfortunate event; a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, and in this case, a riot. The Watts Riots broke out in August of 1965 after an African American man was arrested for drunk driving and a fight broke out. The city responded in outrage which lead to six days of violence and looting. The result was 34 deaths, over a thousand injured, and over $40 million dollars in property damage. The riots were the result of a corrupt and racist police department.

Anyway, today I want to share with you another reason that Watts should be on the map. While many people at least know of the Watts Towers, I have found most Los Angelenos have never paid a visit. Several weeks ago when my Dad was in town, and my brother was in South Bay with us, Sye suggested we swing by Watts Towers as he had never been. I had never heard of them before, and Dad has only seen them from the train, so we were both totally game.

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Some may tell you that Watts is a dangerous neighborhood, but it didn’t seen any more dangerous than the rest of LA to me. We passed by a barber shop, a mechanic, a few houses, and then just off the highway there was a park and the infamous Watts Towers. Our visit took place on a Sunday, but I have a feeling it’s relatively easy to find parking any day of the week, which is a great change of pace from most LA attractions. We grabbed a spot on the street just a few feet away, and set off to explore.

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The park itself houses a tiny arena, a playground, basketball hoops, plenty of grass, and a public bathroom. Additionally, there is an art gallery/community center, and an outdoor garden area with a pond that is home to a few turtles!

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The towers themselves are fenced off, but there are guided tours offered every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We opted not to take the tour as we were there before they started, but after seeing the outside, I would say it’s well worth the $7.00 so that you can enter into the enclosed area. I especially wish we had so I could have offered you more pictures. The cost to enter also helps to maintain the structure and their arts center.

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The Towers themselves are the creation of Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant. After purchasing the property in 1921, Rodia spent over 30 years completing the Towers. The Towers themselves are made of reinforced concrete and are decorated using found objects such as tile, glass, shell, and ceramic. At one point the structures were thought to be a danger, so the city did an endurance test. They were unable to topple or even shift the Towers, and the test concluded when the crane experienced mechanical failure. Their beauty and strength have given Watts Towers an infamous place in both art history, and the history of the community.

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Watts Towers is a California Historical Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places. I hope that if you are an LA local or visiting LA, you’ll consider a trip to Watts Towers, I promise this unique piece of art is worth every minute.

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Venice and Marina del Rey

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As an LA newbie, almost everywhere I go I am oooohing and ahhhing. It seems every place is more exciting or interesting or beautiful than the place before. LA is like one giant candy shop to me, and I looove candy. One, or I guess two, places I have visited more than once is Venice and Marina del Rey. As neighboring beach towns, they boast great food, entertainment, and of course, beaches. My wonderful friend Salil, who I might not have lasted this long in LA without, lives in Marina del Rey and has made for an exceptional person to explore with.

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Abbott Kinney Boulevard, named after the founder of the Venice Canals (more on those later), is one of the more happening spots in Venice. Compared to Venice’s other attractions, Abbott Kinney is probably the most upscale location. Home to many high end restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and galleries, you’ll want to bring your wallet here. While most of the shopping is far above my pay grade, it is great fun to walk Abbott Kinney, popping in the occasional shop, and stopping for some tasty treats. Thus far, I can recommend The Tasting Kitchen’s ($$$) charcuterie board and Gjelina’s Take Away ($$) for an amazing slice of pizza.

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The Venice Canals have quickly become one of my most favorite places ever. Yes, ever. Abbott Kinney, a tobacco man from New Jersey, wanted to build his own version of Italy’s Venice Canals. Using man and machine he dug his own version, complete with a lagoon, a rollercoaster, and Italy’s own Gondoliers. Opening day of the canals was July 4th, 1905, over 40,000 people attended. Unfortunately, due to the ever growing popular automobile, by 1929 the Supreme Court ruled the closing of the majority of canals to put in roadways. While there are just a few canals left, the glimmers of Abbott Kinney’s Venice certainly shine. You will notice throughout Venice that some buildings have beautiful ornate columns. Many of these are original to when Abbott Kinney built his canals, as he truly wanted to emulate Italy, including the architecture.

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My next favorite stop, and a total must see, is the Venice Beach Boardwalk. The mile and a half stretch is an exciting chance to see all walks of life. There are, of course, a bazillion tourists, but don’t let that turn you away. Along the Boardwalk you’ll catch all kinds of street performers and vendors. You have to stop by the famous Muscle Beach (still waiting to see Arnold there), and the Venice Skatepark (where it’s much more likely you’ll see a few famous skateboarders, you’ll just have to know what they look like). I haven’t dined at too many places on the Boardwalk, but there is a little alleyway with several windows all right in a row, where you can buy some of the most delicious food Venice has to offer. The Wee Chippy ($) has the best french fries ever, and the somas at Bombay ($) are crazy delicious. Salil also recommends El Harique ($$), a Peruvian spot, which is his favorite place to eat in all of Venice and also happens to right next door. I guess you better come hungry, which will be no problem as you can easily tire yourself out after your walk, and then splash around down at the beach before you feast.

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Marina del Rey is much less tourist-y and more super fancy condo/apartment filled. However, while there are less attractions, you can still find great food and drink. Personally though, I come, and stay, for the beach. The walk along the beach from the edge of Venice to the marina at the opposite end is BEAUTIFUL. I’d recommend you go at sunset, and then probably on the 4th of July so you can see the fireworks. The water was a beautiful teal blue on this year’s Independence Day. We could see fireworks all along the coast, even to Malibu! It was a specular sight, and totally worth sitting in traffic for an hour half when we tried to leave.

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