Friday, January 1, 2010

Labor Day in Los Angeles

We spent our Labor Day Weekend exploring Los Angeles. It seems like every time we end up in LA we are overwhelmed with things to do. On this particular trip Jeff and I arrived in LAX from separate work trips at the same time. Ever conscious of lodging costs we headed to Fort MacArthur ( for the night. As military lodging goes it is one of our favorites – you can’t beat the coastal views and the base is beautifully manicured. It also provided the perfect staging ground to head out to Catalina Island.

When Jeff graduated from TPS his cousin gave us a gift certificate for the ferry to Catalina so we took advantage of the lovely weather and headed out to the Island. The Catalina Express ( schedule can be a bit confusing and reservations are recommended. We called the help line and were booked on the 8:50am ferry headed out to the Island and the 3pm ferry back. The ferry ride lasts about an hour but flew by as we watched the coastline disappear and were treated to a variety of wildlife from dolphins racing the boat to frolicking seals and birds. Before we knew it we were pulling into Avalon.

Although there are a variety of tours offered on Catalina we decided to wait till we arrived to figure out our schedule. We spent the first 45min wandering around Avalon and getting the lay of the land. The walk out to the Casino ( was much quicker then it looked, taking only about 15min. Around the back of the Casino was the Catalina Island Museum ( the five-dollar entry charge was well worth it. The Museum has an amazing collection of old photographs of Catalina that make it easy to feel like you have gone back in time. The Museum was a great place to start our visit as it highlighted our must sees of the trip.

We spent the rest of the morning wondering around the shop area grabbing small snacks at stores and admiring the variety of homes. Around noon we decided to high-tale it back to the Casino and try to catch the “behind the scenes” tour. We arrived just in time – grabbing the last two slots on the tour. (I would recommend making your reservations online if you know its something you want to do.) The Casino tour was the highlight of our trip – we felt like we had been swept back in time as we explored every dressing room and backstage area of the theater. The tour ends on the worlds largest circular dance floor in the casino ballroom. In addition to everything being fully restored they have adorned the walls with photographs of the Casino in its hay day. It was truly amazing!

After our tour we strolled back to the docks to catch our ferry home. Our day was not over though – a quick change of clothing and we were off to the Hollywood Bowl. ( We met up with friends on the property of the Hollywood Bowl for a pre-show picnic. As long as it’s the philharmonic show you are welcome to bring alcoholic drinks with you. As the sun set we enjoyed some Whole Foods and a few bottles of wine with friends. We stowed our picnic items in our car and headed up to our seats. We saw John Williams conduct the LA Philharmonic in a show that featured his most recent work on Harry Potter as well as his more classic movie theme songs. By the time the third encore rolled around we were spent and ready to head home for the night.

Saturday we headed to Hermosa Beach ( for a Notre Dame game watch at the North End Bar & Grill. The bar has a good selection of food and beer. The place gets a bit crowded during the game watch so you have to arrive early if you want seats. Hermosa was also having its Festival this weekend adding to the crowds. After Notre Dame’s victory over Nevada we headed into Hermosa Beach proper for the night.

We had booked tickets at the Comedy and Magic Club ( for their 20 comics show which features 20 comics each given 5 min to run through their routine. We also decided just to eat at the club –which turned out to be a great decision. We ordered the mac and cheese (which was outstanding) and an apple and goat cheese salad. The show was great and kept us laughing all night. On our walk back to the car we couldn’t help but repeat some of the best lines of the night.

Sunday was our errands day – when you live in the desert you have to make the best of coming into town. We spent Monday recovering from our whirlwind weekend – which in my opinion is the best way to spend a holiday!

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