So you’ve been to Los Angeles more than once and ticked off everything your Lonely Planet guide suggested would be fun. You can now rules out a Segway tour of Santa Monica, a drum circle on Venice Beach, an adventurous foray into a Venice pharmacy (followed with a quick back away -you’re really going to sell me what!?) and the usual thrills of Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood Sign and the Getty Museum. Depending on your age, career and personal inclinations you may also want to add West Hollywood to that list, Westwood ( a mecca for students and fraternities), Rodeo Drive (lovely on the eyes, hard on the wallet) and Griffith Park (pretty, but watch out for snakes).
Now you can happily tell everyone that you’ve ‘done LA’- but wait! There’s so much more to the sunshine state than 24 hour McDonald drive throughs and exploring new food outlets such as Taco Bell and Jack In The Box (written by a UK based person, OK?).
Within the city of Los Angeles there exists a panoply of alternative attractions all which will add a little more joy to your Los Angeles expedition, so I’d suggest you to sit up straight and get your CTRL+C fingers at the ready.
In no particular order I’d like to welcome you to my five unusual hot spots in Los Angeles- where the crazy never ends and all adults can become kids again.
The LAX Firing Range: Tuition
Sure, you’ve played plenty of Gears of War but have you ever held a 9mm semi automatic Glock in your hands? The answer may be yes if you’re from abroad or have visited Vegas, but even then it’s unlikley that you’ve loaded the magazine, taken apart the gun or looked inside the machine and learnt how to aim correctly.
LAX Firing Range offer a 2 hour training session that costs $99 (including tax) and which takes you from a gasping sweating gun fearing Brit into an armed and dangerous ninja. OK, in reality you turn from someone who whimpers at every bang to a competent and calculated shooter, who memorizes the rules of combat. Taught by a straight up speaking ex marine, the first rule was that on a semi automatic, ’The Safety is the trigger button’. Seriously. The next few rules were equally thrilling (for someone with a Die Hard fetish).
To quote, Rule One: Only point at something you are willing to destroy, Rule 2: Only point when you are ready to shoot and Rule 3: Always check if your gun is loaded.
The 2 hour class taught me how to take a gun apart, put it back together, check if the chamber had bullets in it, learn the release and load buttons for the magazine and learn how to disable a gun if the magazine was empty- but a bullet was still in the chamber.
I worked on stance, which eye was stronger (I’m a rightie) and how to pull the trigger (best to hold your breath as it avoids your gun lifting when you shoot). My accuracy and confidence improved, and I also learnt to wear higher cut tops as a hot bullet shell plus a V neck involves squeaking (true story). Next stage is regular practice, and then an advanced class where I could learn to
play practise with more guns, and find out what suits me.
LaserTag – Adult Style
It could be my recent conversion to How I Met Your Mother( truly amazing TV show) that made me look up laser tag in LA, but I’m so glad I did. Ultrazone Laser Tag is based in LA and consist of a 5,000 square foot arena where you can duck, dive and roll as the mood takes you. Armed with your trusty laser gun and team mates at your back, you concentrate on tagging the opponents, protecting the base, and going Rambo style crazy on the enemies stronghold.
In the UK lasertag tends to be the domain of kids but the Ultrazone Laser tag centre has late opening hours, adult only events and a ridiculous warren of mazes, smoke and blaring music. Prices are pretty cheap, with options starting at $8 a game, or $15 all you can play on Thursdays. Some nights they are open to midnight and beyond, so you really can get your game on whenever you choose.
The arena is multi level which means you need to get seriously tactical and as its only lasers you can’t actually hurt people (unless you drop kick them; avoid).
The Los Angeles Derby Dolls
I blame Drew Barrymore for my obsession with roller derby as Whip It was my first intro to the sport. Since then I’ve gone to a London RollerGirls meet (exhilarating) and enquired about auditioning (they said maybe, but my back injury can’t take it), so the prospect of true to life American Roller Derby Girls was pretty thrilling. The sport started in the USA and they take it a lot more seriously here, with the Los Angeles Derby Dolls having a dedicated arena they can always practice in (as opposed to temporary erections in Bethnal Green and Excel).
The Derby Dolls practice in the Doll Factory, a dedicated banked rollertrack which is 100′ x 60 and is created out of f wood, steel, and masonite. If you have time you can sign up for some training classes with the derby girls, but you should definitely attempt to take in a meet. They have regular bouts-all on their calendar- and the action is as fast and as chaotic as watching WWE- but this is REAL and unscripted. What are you waiting for?
Find out more about the Derby Dolls here.
[image via Derby Doll site]
Royal-T Maid Cafe in Culver City
I know that Maid Cafes are big thing in the East, but having never ventured that far (yet) I was unsure what to expect. In the last few years a few have reached Los Angeles and I checked out Royal-T, the biggest and most famous of the LA Maid cafes. So what was it like? Well the venue is a cafe/gallery/art space/ restaurant and all the waitresses are dressed in predictably kawaii style clothing- aprons, knee socks, cute little collars. The menu was relatively small, but they did offer a good selection of teas ( I advise the flowering blossom one if you’re interested) and the menu was affordable and tasty, with a definite Eastern inspired menu. The waitress was bubbly and friendly but no ‘extras’ were offered (you know you wondered about that) and after eating we were left to wander around and look at the art installations, They ranged from the bizarre- a selection of trash in a glass box to the quirky- a portaloo designed to look like an iPod with a disco ball and iPhone inside so you could have a ‘Porta-Party’.
There was also a small shop which sold the kind of tat you find in little boutiques- weird anime figures, quirky cushions, a hat that looked like a cupcake, and all with a size-able markup. The experience was fun and friendly, but I can’t help feel that service would be a little different were I to visit a similar cafe in Tokyo. Worth a visit for the experience, and they also host comedy nights here, if you want something to do on a night out.
Go snowboarding at Big Bear or Mountain High
Snowboarding is definitely not the first thing you think of when you visit Los Angeles, but if you’re there from Dec- March it should be something you might want to consider. Yes, it’s bizarre packing a bikini and thermals, but where else can you go in the world where the beach and the snow are both about an hour away? There are two main mountains close to Los Angeles which are around an hour and a half drive from the city.
Both mountains have a different feel to them- Mountain High is good for beginners and generally always has snow as they often use artificial stuff to add to their slopes, whilst Big Bear has much more of a party atmosphere with ramps, jumps and a massive bar down at the base. Prices are cheap-sooo much cheaper than in Europe- with a lift pass and equipment rental costing around $76 for the full boots, board and half day lift pass-that’s currently around £48 at the current exchange rate. It’s a sport I love and wish I could do more of, so if you get the chance you should head to the mountains. The drive there and back is also pretty stunning- though you might want to crash out on the way home.
Any other crazy LA attractions you think are worth checking out? Let me know in the comments section.