By Charly SHELTON
2016 has been an impressive year for CVW’s Leisure section. New theme park rides and lands, incredibly successful movies, cool new TV shows, the return of fan favorites like Harry Potter (in a new play), Darth Vader (in “Rogue One”) and “Ghostbusters” (not that anyone really wanted it back), and the beginning of new franchises – “Deadpool,” “Doctor Strange,” “Zootopia,” “Suicide Squad” and the “Dawn of Justice (League).” Let’s break it down month by month.
Vintage Glorious Glendale
The City of Glendale is over 100 years old and, as such, carries a history of the people, places and events that have shaped the city into what it is today. By living in the area, residents have been exposed to at least bits and pieces of this history – historic buildings, names of streets and places taken from important Glendale residents and founders of the past – but there is much more history available for those digging for it. Velvet Rhoades, organizer and founder of the Glendale International Film Festival, rereleased her documentary “Vintage Glorious Glendale” for a week on the big screen at the MGN Theater in Glendale, to much acclaim.
If you’ve ever had cake, you like cake. And pretty much everyone has had cake at some point. So when I say the L.A. Cookie Con and Sweets Show is for everyone, it really is for everyone. Hosted the first weekend in February at the L.A. Convention Center, the con featured cookies, cakes, fudge and other sweets as well as pickled tomatoes, jellies, jams, fruit butters, jerky and my new favorite thing in the world, bacon jerky. The con saw enthusiasts, bakers, restauranteurs, trade professionals and people who just enjoy eating sweets.
The annual exhibition of Oscar-nominated movie costumes was on display at the Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising from February through April. Featuring 100 costumes from 23 films, including the five Oscar nominations, the exhibit runs the gamut from romantic “Cinderella” ball gowns to high tech “Star Wars” Stormtrooper armor to “Straight Outta Compton” blinged-out rapper wraps.
Harry Potter Preview
Fans across Los Angeles got their letters to Hogwarts and assembled at Universal Studios Hollywood to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. An all-new land with two rides, a signature drink and one of the best restaurants the park has to offer, Wizarding World is the largest land expansion the theme park has seen since the lower lot opened in 1991. While the new land at Universal Studios Hollywood didn’t officially open until April 7, CV Weekly was invited for a sneak preview of the Wizarding World with art director Alan Gilmore, who has worked on the Harry Potter films as well as Wizarding World in Florida and California.
Creating an antiquated Scottish village and a gigantic magical school just off the 101 Freeway in L.A. is no small task. And also, being that the new land is in the center of the theme park on the site of the former Gibson theater, it had to play within the boundaries of Springfield, the Universal tram tour and Waterworld. The result was the best land expansion in any of the L.A.-area theme parks since Toontown opened at Disneyland in 1993.
Knott’s Boysenberry Fest
Raspberry. Blackberry. Dewberry. Loganberry. Water. Heart. Go berries! By these powers combined, this is a BOYSENBERRY! One of the greatest fruits ever made, this genetic hybrid of four other berries was an invention of three farmers: Rudolph Boysen, George Darrow and Walter Knott.
Knott was a well-known Southern California farmer and berry expert, and also the namesake and proprietor of Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. This berry-farm-turned-restaurant-turned-theme-park owes some of its popularity to the humble boysenberry, which was served in pies and sauces in the restaurant and now is served in the best concessions and foods at the park. As a way of celebrating its most famous berry, Knott’s Berry Farm hosts The Boysenberry Festival. This annual festival began in 2014 and returned for its third year, running from March 19 to April 3. With boysenberry foods, boysenberry beer, boysenberry wine, boysenberry stuffed animals, boysenberry entertainment, boysenberry decorations, boysenberry merchandise and the all-important boysenberry pie, there were plenty of boysenberries to go around.
DCA Food and Wine Fest
After five years, the California Adventure Food and Wine Festival finally came back. The beloved classic festival was put on hiatus after the 2010 event due to construction of Cars Land in 2011 and, despite massive public outcry and questions online, the event was not brought back when expected in the 2013 season. Now, six years after the last festival tents were folded, the California Adventure Food and Wine Festival returned from April 1 to May 1, with additional demonstrations and seminars held on weekends. It’s a difficult call to make, but the best dish of the day was the white cheddar ale soup with bacon in a Boudin sourdough mini-boule, a thick, almost chowder-like soup with cheese and crumbled bacon in a little tiny sourdough roll. Or possibly the Meyer lemon macaroon with blueberry dust, blueberry marmalade and Meyer lemon cream. Honorable mention goes to the deep-fried artichoke chips with spicy aioli, which had just the right amount of spice to give it great flavor but not so much that you need a glass of water, the chilled ahi poke with avocado cream, wakame (seaweed) salad and sesame tuile, and finally the pork belly bao taco, a braised pork belly slab with pickled vegetables on a super light and soft bao bun, served folded up like a taco.
‘Armenia My Love’ Movie
Last year, 2015, marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Commemoration events, including a massive march of Armenian Americans, were held around L.A. to mark the day and call for recognition of the Genocide. A year later almost to the day, a full, dramatized account of the Armenian Genocide is told through the lives of one family in the film, “Amenia, My Love” by Diana Angelson. The film tells the history of Armenia and her citizens, from the resurrection of Jesus Christ all the way through to last year’s march in Los Angeles.
Temperatures in L.A. were moderate in early summer but as the season raged on, things were expected to get hot. So why not go somewhere with a great climate, beautiful beaches and some of the best wining and dining in California? The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is the perfect getaway from L.A. – close enough to reach by car in less than half a day but secluded enough to transport you to a world away. Just five hours north on the 5 or 101 freeways, the Hyatt Regency Monterey is the perfect place to plan a summer getaway, Father’s Day surprise or graduation celebration vacation.
Eighty-two years ago, Cordelia Knott had a restaurant. It started as a roadside stop for tea and biscuits, and maybe a slice of boysenberry pie. Ever the courteous hostess, Mrs. Knott whipped up some fried chicken for guests when biscuits and pie weren’t enough. The restaurant evolved, soon drawing massive crowds from all over Southern California with wait times of nearly four hours on the weekend to get a table. Walter and Cordelia wanted to make their guests’ trip to “Knott’s Berry Place” as much fun as it could be, so Walter built little amusements around the restaurant to keep people entertained while they waited for their table. He built a Ghost Town out behind the restaurant with citizens to interact with guests and perform shows, photo spots, exhibits of interest and more. This was the first step toward becoming a theme park, even though they didn’t know it yet. Between Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant and the Knott’s Berry Place amusements, this quiet little produce stand had exploded into one of Southern California’s premier attractions for locals and tourists alike. This year, Knott’s Berry Farm celebrated the 75th anniversary of Ghost Town opening to begin the journey toward what the theme park is today.
Walking Dead Opens
CV Weekly covered many aspects of the new The Walking Dead attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood from auditions to training to design aspects and finally its opening on July 4. The walk-through hit on some of the highlights from the last six seasons of “The Walking Dead,” starting with the hospital where Rick woke up in season one, episode one, and leading all the way up to Negan and the end of season six. Guests see a burning cabin with flaming zombies, a perimeter breach at the prison, trailer trucks full of branded zombies and the now iconic zombie torso crawling on its hands in the pilot episode, among many other moments from the show. And if this was the first foray into this kind of an attraction for Universal Studios Hollywood, I would be blown away. But after several years of “The Walking Dead” being one of the best mazes at the annual Halloween Horror Nights, it just feels like a rehash of what they’ve done in those mazes.
Pterosaurs at NHM
“Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs” opened in early July and ran through Oct. 2. The exhibit focused solely on these flying reptiles from the smallest, Nemicolopterus crypticus, which is about the size of the human hand, to the largest, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, which is larger than a Cessna airplane. The exhibit also helped to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding pterosaurs, including its association with pterodactyl. As explained in the new exhibit, Pterodactylus antiquus was the first flying reptile to be discovered and described in the late 1700s while in the collection of a German prince. It wasn’t until 1828 that the second flying reptile was found and described by legendary fossil hunter Mary Anning. This Dimorphodon macronyx proved that flying reptiles were a group unto themselves, Pterosauria, and pterodactyl was not the odd bird it was thought to be for the last almost 50 years.
Frozen at DCA
Walt Disney World proudly opened “Frozen Ever After,” a new boat ride attraction in the Norway Pavilion of Epcot, in late June. In California, there isn’t room to add a new ride of that size so Disney California Adventure brought in “Frozen,” a stage show, to capitalize on the wave of popularity. Taking over the Hyperion Theatre from the outgoing “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” after its wildly successful run since 2003, “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” is a 65-minute long, Broadway caliber musical performed three times daily. The show condenses the action of the animated movie, only 37 minutes longer than the stage show, into a surprisingly good musical with great effects, elaborate sets and actors who do their best to live up to the film.
Pokémon touched so many people during the last nearly 20 years, and that is probably why Pokémon Go has taken off with such force. It’s a new take on a classic favorite. Rather than walking around the digital world to catch Pokémon, battle trainers and visit gyms, players walk through the real world to catch Pokémon, hatch eggs and visit gyms. It’s getting people up off the couch and out into the world. The popularity surged to make it the number one app on Apple and Android in just three days, but has since dropped off with many players citing limited content and access.
Come for the T-shirt launchers and flying toilet paper, stay for the rock show. That might be a worthy tag line for the ongoing North American tour headlined by arguably the biggest band in pop-punk history. Blink-182 wound down its tour with A Day to Remember in Southern California in late September and early October and, if you’re a fan of this genre, there are certainly worse ways to end your summer than buying a ticket to one of the shows. After a decade of break-ups and inconsistency, Blink-182 looked to have found something worth holding onto. If you’re a fan, young or old(er), you’re going to want to be a part of this new era.
Dixie Consumer Products launched Deadzone Diners the last weekend in August. The campaign aims to make diners more aware of the benefits of putting down the cellphone and striking up a conversation. The initiative will transform the negative perception of cellular dead zones into unique opportunities for people to “Be More Here.” Friday night’s DZD was held at the Federal Reserve Vault in downtown, where a classic ’50s style diner was set up to serve classic meatloaf sandwiches, glazed carrots, smashed potatoes and chocolate pie. Saturday’s diner featured an ice cream bar and was held in Bronson Cave in Griffith Park. Finally on Sunday, breakfast foods were served at Temescal Canyon Park.
It’s fall everywhere else, but in L.A. summer raged on. It was not time for jackets and pumpkin beers yet, but time for sunglasses and cold gin with lemongrass. That’s why Ombra Wine Bar is perfect for this time of year. This new outdoor wine and cocktail bar located at the Americana at Brand is part lounge, part restaurant, part vacation. Andrea Scuto, the mixologist behind the amazing bar program at Trattoria Amici, designed Ombra with L.A. weather in mind.
“This is a very California place,” Scuto said. “You can’t do a restaurant like this anywhere else because everywhere else has rain and cold. We only had like six days of rain last year.”
Day Trip to Channel Islands
The Channel Islands, off the coast of Ventura, provide a fascinating day trip or overnight camping trip for anyone looking for a new adventure. There are five islands located across the Santa Barbara Channel that are part of Channel Islands National Park. While each of the islands is unique, the trip out there is just as exciting as it offers sightings of schools of dolphins, sea birds, seals, sea lions and even whales, depending on the time of year you visit. All in all, there’s much to discover on these beautiful islands, just an hour or two from Los Angeles.
Halloween at the Parks
Halloween is a big industry in L.A. because the local theme parks go all out for haunted attractions and walkthroughs. This year, we reviewed Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor and, for the first time in many years, Six Flags Fright Fest. The real standout was Fright Fest. After years of disappointment and frustration with the park overall, he decided to not attend their events any longer. For the first time in seven years, he went to Fright Fest and it was like stepping back in time, to the early 2000s when Six Flags was the King of Halloween events. Fright Fest was well done and creative, employing simple yet effective gags and an incredible use of space to make some of the best mazes of the year. Honorable mention goes to KSF for its new maze “Shadowlands” – a trip through the dishonored dead’s underworld, and USH’s HHN for its updated preshow for the Terror Tram.
The long awaited opening of Shake Shack in Glendale took diners by storm for a while. CV Weekly reviewed the restaurant and the verdict was “meh.” The burgers aren’t bad, they are just burgers. It is a burger much like any other hamburger you can get at any restaurant anywhere you may happen to be. And especially in L.A., with so many options for gourmet food and interesting takes on old favorites, I don’t see why people wait in line for this. And at $5.29 for a single basic cheeseburger alone, I don’t know that it is worth it. In every case but the ShackBurger and plain hamburger, there are fewer calories than cents – the SmokeShack single is $6.84 and 620 calories, the double is $9.64 and 925 calories, and so on and so forth. Almost $10 for a double bacon cheeseburger, a la carte – that is only alright.
Susan James reviewed the Marvel hit film “Doctor Strange.” Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular hero, the film follows renowned surgeon Dr. Stephen Strange as he seeks to learn magic to repair his shattered hands. What he finds is a larger world full of more dangers than he ever imagined. Visually the film is stunning, especially the sequences between Strange and his teacher, the Ancient One, at the beginning of their relationship when AO opens the doctor’s astral mind and shows the skeptical neophyte that there is more in heaven and earth than he has knowledge of. Another key aspect of the movie that works well is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Like its fellow Marvel “Iron Man,” humor plays a large part in breaking the drama into relatable bites. Here Cumberbatch’s comic timing plays to the story’s advantage and helps us relate to him as a man beneath the superhero outfit.
Holidays at the Parks
The local theme parks put on quite a spread for the holidays. From Chill at Queen Mary, with its winter-themed activities including ice skating, tube sledding and gingerbread house making to Universal Studios Hollywood’s annual Grinchmas celebration featuring The Grinch to Disneyland’s more classic take on a secular Christmas and its Festival of Holidays to include other winter holidays in the celebration, there really was something to fit everyone’s celebratory style.
Susan James reviewed the Star Wars film, “Rogue One.” The story follows a band of Rebel soldiers fighting against the tyranny of the Galactic Empire as they try to steal the plans for a massive new weapon, the Death Star. James was pleased with the film, citing director Garreth Edwards’ fanboy base as the difference between this and “The Force Awakens” in 2015. He gave audiences an homage to the 1977 original without attempting a slavish reiteration of characters or a tired re-tread of the same old plot. And the female lead, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), proved to be a force to be reckoned with and a female role model in the vein of Princess Leia.