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Out & About in Southern California - Fall 2023

Jazzi McGilbert at her bookstore, Reparations Club, in Los Angeles. Photo by Kayla James

For the love of books

If you’re in the market for some new reads, check out these independent bookstores in L.A. County—all owned by women of color and highlighting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors in their collections.

Bel Canto Books, Long Beach

Bel Canto Books

Photo courtesy Jhoanna Belfer 

By Meghan O’Dell

Avid reader and poet Jhoanna Belfer started Bel Canto Books as a pop-up in 2018 and now has locations in 2 Long Beach retail collectives, as well as a mini bookstore at Steel Cup Coffee. The stores are stocked with fiction, nonfiction, and children’s and YA books, but Belfer stresses the importance of highlighting authors from historically marginalized backgrounds.

As a Filipina American, she grew up without seeing herself represented in pop culture. “It’s exciting and worthwhile to be able to do that for readers, who can walk into a bookstore and see people who look like them on the cover and read about their experiences,” Belfer says.

Octavia’s Bookshelf, Pasadena

Octavia's Bookshelf

Photo by Nikki High

By Elisa Parhad

This new bookstore—owned by Nikki High and named for acclaimed Black science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler—highlights BIPOC authors in every genre, including Butler’s groundbreaking works. Its location on Pasadena’s buzzy corner of Washington and Hill further commemorates Butler, who was born and raised nearby. Fans can take a 2.5-mile self-guided walking tour in the surrounding neighborhood where Butler loved to stroll.

Reparations Club, Los Angeles

Jazzi McGilbert

Owner Jazzi McGilbert. Photo by Kayla James

By Elisa Parhad

Reparations Club, opened in 2019, is filled with books that speak to the Black experience. You’ll find nonfiction, children’s books, poetry, fiction, and memoirs by Black authors and other intersecting and marginalized identities—along with new and used vinyl records, artwork on display, and gift items. Owner Jazzi McGilbert says independent bookstores create safe spaces for many different voices: “Visiting is a very intentional way to support a local community whether you’re a local or not.”

Hammer time

Hammer Museum

Hammer Museum lobby. Photo by Jeff McLane

By Jim Benning

If you haven’t been to UCLA’s Hammer Museum recently, you’re due for a visit. In March, the museum unveiled the results of a 2-decades-long renovation, complete with a dramatic new street-level entrance and lobby, additional gallery space, and an outdoor sculpture pedestal. Designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture—the brains behind the new 6th Street Viaduct linking Boyle Heights and downtown L.A.—the newly renovated space gives the museum a more inviting presence at the bustling corner of Wilshire and Westwood.

Visit by August 27 and you’ll see Berlin-based artist Chiharu Shiota’s The Network, an eye-popping work featuring red yarn in sprawling, cobweb-like patterns set against the lobby’s white walls. Closed Mondays; free.

Peak experiences

By Benjamin Epstein

With training and preparation, nature lovers can set their sights on summiting the 3 highest peaks in Southern California. I speak from experience: I hiked San Jacinto and Mount San Antonio with each of my 5 kids when they were about 10, and I recently solo-climbed Mount San Gorgonio at age 68. Here are my tips for ascending each of these pinnacles.

Mount San Gorgonio

Mt. San Gorgonio

Photo courtesy Benjamin Epstein

Summit: 11,503 feet

The shortest way up “Old Greyback” in the San Bernardino Mountains is via the steep Vivian Creek Trail, known for its numerous switchbacks. The route is about 19 miles round-trip, and starting or finishing in the dark is common. Panoramic summit vistas far above the tree line span from the Pacific to Nevada. A free day permit is required to hike; parking requires a day pass ($5) or an Adventure Pass.

San Jacinto Peak

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Photo courtesy Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Summit: 10,834 feet

John Muir deemed the view from San Jacinto Peak “the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.” Most trekkers take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (adults, $29.95) to the mountain station, which leaves 6 miles to the top (be sure to grab a day-use permit at the Long Valley Ranger Station). The 12-mile round-trip trail leads through old-growth pine forest, and the alpine environment is glorious no matter how far you get. Reward your efforts with a top-of-the-tram repast at Peaks Restaurant or Pines Café.

Mount San Antonio (“Mt. Baldy”)

Devil's Backbone Trail

The Devil's Backbone Trail at Mt. Baldy. Photo by trekandshoot/Alamy Stock Photo

Summit: 10,064 feet

Mt. Baldy Resort runs a chairlift year-round from the Manker Flat parking area to Top of the Notch Restaurant. This shaves off about a third of the distance to the summit while retaining a spine-tingling stretch of the Devil’s Backbone Trail with views at the top of Mount San Gorgonio and Santa Catalina Island. The out-and-back hike from the restaurant to the summit is about 6.5 miles. Parking requires a day pass ($5) or an Adventure Pass ($30 annually).

SAFETY NOTE: Hiking in wilderness areas and summiting these peaks pose inherent risks and are not suitable for inexperienced hikers. On Mt. Baldy alone, 3 hikers died and at least 19 required rescue last winter. Always hike with a partner and tell someone where you’re going before setting out. Be prepared for different climates, as weather up high can change quickly.

You may also like: 7 awesome hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Open house

Donaldson Futuro House

The Donaldson Futuro House in Idyllwild. Photo by Paul Kozal; Studio 391; 2018

By Meghan O’Dell

This fall, add architectural gems to the many reasons visitors keep returning to the mountain town of Idyllwild.

The Idyllwild Area Historical Society’s annual home tour returns on September 16, including stops at a 2-story log cabin built in 1910 and a 1930s fishing cabin. But perhaps most notably, you’ll get a rare opportunity to look inside the otherworldly Donaldson Futuro house, which was dedicated as a California Historical Landmark in July 2021.

The Donaldson Futuro house is one of fewer than 100 plastic ellipsoid structures designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as portable homes in the late 1960s. The Futuro served as a higher-end mobile vacation home, and its design tapped into America’s fascination with space travel.

In 1969, the Donaldson Futuro was the first to arrive in California, and it moved around San Diego before landing in a parking lot in 1974, where it deteriorated and was almost destroyed. Preservation architect Wayne Donaldson purchased the flying saucer–shaped house and relocated it to Idyllwild in 2004. The house was later renamed after Donaldson and his wife, Laurie, to acknowledge their extensive restoration work, and today it’s the only Futuro house in the state with an occupancy permit.

“The site reflects the remote ambience of a vacation retreat that housed the first Futuro in Finland,” Donaldson says, adding that the natural setting in Idyllwild makes it appear that it “just landed.”

The self-guided driving tour (6 homes will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) costs $25; get tickets at or on the day of the tour in front of the Idyllwild Inn or at the Idyllwild Museum.

Pretty in punk

Punk Rock Museum

Casualities memorabilia at the Punk Rock Musuem. Photo by Lisa Johnson

By Jim Benning

Billed as housing “the world’s most expansive, inclusive, and intimate display” of punk rock artifacts, handwritten lyrics, and instruments, the Punk Rock Museum opened this April in Las Vegas with a very, well, punk-rock approach to the museum-going experience.

In addition to memorabilia from 5 decades of punk history, the space has a bar, a chapel for wakes and weddings, a tattoo parlor, a gift shop, and a Jam Room where visitors can play guitars used by NOFX and other bands. And, in another twist, a rotating cast of musicians from influential bands lead museum tours (for an extra fee) and regale visitors with stories.

Southern California’s punk scene is well represented here, says Chief Marketing Officer Vinnie Fiorello, who played drums in the band Less Than Jake. In fact, Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise took apart the band’s Hermosa Beach practice room and rebuilt it inside the museum. “The museum shows just how much punk rock reverberated in pop culture,” Fiorello says. “It touched everything from movies to artwork to fashion.” General admission, $30.

Access for everyone

Friendly Like Me

Photo by Chona Kasinger

By Paul Zieke

It can be hard for the millions of Americans with accessibility needs or disabilities to plan a road trip, visit a beach, or attend a concert. The new app Friendly Like Me aims to close this gap. Travelers rate hotels, restaurants, stadiums, national parks, local businesses, and more for the presence or absence of accessible features. Users can also find out whether a location has ramps, accessible bathrooms, or open-sided chairs.

The free app—available on app stores and at—launched in April with more than 3,000 places reviewed nationwide, a number that developers say is growing every day.

Take your pick

Apple Picking

Photo by karandaev/

By Danielle Pedersen

Autumn in Julian—the historic gold-mining town nestled in San Diego County’s Cuyamaca Mountains—is a feast for the senses. Here are 6 ways to enjoy apple-picking season in the area. U-pick season typically starts in early September and goes through October.

  1. U-Pick at Volcan Valley Apple Farm. Julian’s largest orchard grows 7 apple varieties, including sweet Empires and tart pippins. There are also semidwarf trees that are perfectly sized for kids. Stay for barbecue, local honey, and fresh-pressed cider. Admission: ages 6 and up, $5; $15 per bag for picking.
  2. Family fun at Julian Farm and Orchard. After picking berries, apples, or pumpkins at this 25-acre farm, race through a hay-bale maze, visit the animal sanctuary (it’s baby goat season!), scale a rock-climbing wall, and relax in the picnic areas. Admission: ages 4 and up, $5.
  3. Apple pie at Mom’s Pie House. This restaurant, which opened in 1984, makes apple pie daily from scratch, with a choice of flaky or crumb crust. Order a slice à la mode with cinnamon ice cream or grab a whole pie to go.
  4. Drinks at Julian’s tasting rooms. Find 4 dry hard ciders on tap at Calico Cidery, made with apples and pears from local orchards ($13 per flight). On September 2, celebrate old-world traditions at Menghini Winery’s annual Julian Grape Stomp (adults, $20).
  5. Stargazing. Julian was named an International Dark Sky Community in 2021. Stop by the visitors center for stargazing tips or attend the Julian Natural Wonderfest, a family-friendly star party, on September 16 at Menghini Winery (free).
  6. History walking tour. Explore Julian’s history with this free self-guided tour, available at the visitors center. Answer questions about the tour stops on any of the 5 “History Hunt” cards, and return the cards to the visitors center to claim a prize.

Anaheim’s Arabia

By Danielle Bauter

Little Arabia, a mile-long stretch along Brookhurst Street, was officially recognized by the city of Anaheim last year. Here are a few standouts in the hub of O.C.’s Arab American community.

Kareem’s Restaurant

Kareems Hawari's Eatery

Photo by Kareem Hawari

Perhaps best known for its falafel and chicken dishes, Kareem’s also serves items like the PlantBasedFatKid, a vegan smorgasbord that includes hummus and grape leaves.

House of Mandi

House of Mandi

Photo by Sarem Mohamed 

Manager Sarem Mohamed feels that House of Mandis location in Little Arabia “enhances the emergence of the Yemeni culture, customs, and dining traditions.”

Le Mirage Pastry

Owner Maher Nakhal’s specialty is bouza, a Damascene ice cream that’s chewy in texture, sweetened with rosewater, and dipped in pistachios. You’ll also find baklava and knafeh, along with éclairs and crème brûlée, at Le Mirage Pastry.

Jarir Bookstore

This bookstore has more than 20,000 titles in Arabic and also hosts events like calligraphy workshops and a children’s story time. Owner Jarir Saadoun emphasizes the store’s “huge literary heritage for people who love to read.”

You may also like: Bargain Bites: 2023's best cheap eats in Southern California

Checking in: The Richland

The Richland

The Attic Room at The Richland. Photo by Tanveer Badal Photography

By Elisabeth Abrahamson and Meghan O’Dell

Old Towne Orange—a bustling college town with a vintage vibe—saw the opening of its first boutique hotel, The Richland, in February. The 12-room hotel offers a fresh, modern take on the city’s historic charm, paying homage to its roots throughout the property, from citrus-patterned wallpaper to framed images of Old Towne on the walls. The inviting bar and lounge in the main building—a restored early-20th-century residence—is open to the public, making The Richland a true neighborhood hangout. Rates start at $350.

The rooms: Wallpapered ceilings, colorful light fixtures, Smeg mini fridges, and luxury bedding make it hard to peel yourself away from your room. The Attic Room wows with its patterned sloped ceilings and nooks and crannies.

A separate 2-bedroom cottage sleeps 5 and has a full kitchen and dining room.

The Living Room Bar and Lounge: This cozy space—which looks and feels like a living room—is your go-to for tasty bites and refreshing cocktails. Try the Check You Out, made with vodka, lime, mint, and aloe, and snack on marinated olives and house-made chips. Follow up with the juicy chicken katsu sandwich or the decadent mushroom flatbread.

The neighborhood: During your stay, stroll around the Orange Plaza and discover some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and boutiques. 

Where to eat

Grab a bite at Citrus City Grille, Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, or O Sea.

Where to get a drink

Get your sip on at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations, Haven Craft Kitchen & Bar, or The District Lounge.

Where to shop

Browse clothes and gift items at Laurenly Boutique, Sunny Days, or Nectar Clothing.

What’s new in Newport Beach

By Elisabeth Abrahamson

Whether your trip to one of SoCal’s flashiest beach towns involves surfing, shopping, or sunbathing, these 2 new hot spots are worth a visit.

Where to eat

A Crystal Cove

Photo courtesy A Crystal Cove

Hang with the “it crowd” at A Crystal Cove, which opened last year and features plush red booths and a 24-seat oval bar with an impressive bar-to-ceiling fluted centerpiece. Start with the spicy yellowfin tuna served over tempura eggplant, and then fill up on the cacio e pepe pasta or the Fancy Pizza, topped with Wagyu hanger steak, curry, roasted pineapple, calabrese aioli, and Fresno chiles.

Where to sleep

Vea Newport Beach

Vea Newport Beach. Photo by Isaac Maiselman

Check into Vea Newport Beach, the newest hotel to grace the Fashion Island area. The ocean-view rooms are coastal-inspired, and some rooms have firepits on the patio (evening ’mallows, anyone?). In warmer months, expect a vibrant pool scene with cabanas and live music. Don’t check out before indulging in some self-care or taking a yoga class at Spa Vea. Rates start at $389.

You may also like: 8 new things to do in Newport Beach

Art at your fingertips

San Diego Museum of Art Augmented Reality

Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art

By Sharael Kolberg

Paintings, tilework, and porcelain come to life with movement and sound through augmented reality (AR) at the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) in Balboa Park. Look for the “AR” symbol next to more than a half dozen artworks throughout the museum. (Parents: Send kids on a hunt to find them all.) You’ll see gondolas glide on water, a painting of a volcano erupt with spewing lava, and an abstract art piece dance out of its frame, to name a few. “AR has proven to be a useful engagement tool for guests of all ages,” says SDMA’s Chief Operating Officer Kari Kovach.

Guests enable the AR through the free SDMA app, which they can access via a QR code at the museum’s entrance. After downloading the app, simply choose the AR icon, select a piece of art, aim your device at it, and wait for the magic to happen. Adult admission, $20.

You may also like: Restaurant review: Artifact at Mingei, San Diego

Ocean oracle

Scott Bass

Scott Bass. Photo by Steven Lippman

By Jody Hammond

Each day before dawn, Scott Bass compiles surf observations from Surfline, Scripps Institution of Oceanography buoy cams, and fellow wave riders, and records his morning surf report for KPBS-89.5 FM. Bass could stick to the basics, noting only wave heights and general conditions, but that’s not his style. “You can only say the surf is 2 to 3 feet high so many times before even I get bored,” he says. “I’m always looking for something that will make it more interesting.”

In fact, his reports, which air on the San Diego NPR station weekdays at 7:22 a.m. and 12:22 p.m., are often downright poetic. For example, he’s described waves crumbling “like a fitful toddler fading into a nap.” One day, he characterized the ocean surface as having “small dollops of wind like the top of a lemon meringue pie.”

Such vivid “Bassisms” have earned the 58-year-old surfer and longtime Encinitas resident a devoted following among surfers and landlubbers alike. “The richness of his language is almost like poetry,” says Encinitas surfer Steve Judd. Rancho Santa Fe resident Sue Drean, a nonsurfer, also tunes in regularly. “I look forward to his reports. He’s got a sexy baritone voice.”

John Decker, KPBS’ senior director of content development, hired Bass for the gig in 2012. “His descriptions of the waves developed over time,” he says. “Now it’s like his calling card.”

Bass, who supports his family through various surf-centric businesses, including his annual Boardroom Consumer Surfboard Show in Del Mar, insists he doesn’t want to push the poetry too far: “It’s not something you can do every day. I don’t want it to be a schtick.”

La Jolla

Photo by Weldon Thomson/Alamy Stock Photo

Scott’s “Bassisms”

“Onshore wind crumbling the tops of waves like a day-old bran muffin.”

“Topping waves like a Jenga tower on Jell-O.”

“A foggy day like Irish potato soup.”

“Ocean the color of the underside of tin foil.”

“Offshore wind grooming and raking the waves like a bonsai garden.” 

“Waves are languidly rolling in, coerced by the draining-away tide.”

You may also like: Day Trip: 8 things to do in La Jolla

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