December 2018: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Christmas Events

December offers many special seasonal events which highlight the richness of where we live. Read on and mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

The season of Scandinavian Christmas fairs is wrapping up but not before the SWEA Los Angeles presents its 39th annual Swedish Christmas Fair on Sunday, December 2, in Torrance. It’s a big one that welcomes about 3,000 visitors during the one-day event. Highlights of the fair include a multitude of vendors selling Scandinavian gifts, books, music, handmade crafts, traditional holiday foods, and baked goods as well as traditional entertainment with folk dancing and Lucia pageants.

The Norwegian Church hosts its annual Christmas luncheon on Tuesday, December 4, at 12:00 p.m. Suggested donation is $30 and you have to sign up, but as of November 29, there was still availability. Please contact the church if interested in attending.

This year the Norwegian Church is also hosting Julekonsert, a Christmas concert, on Sunday, December 9, at 2:00 p.m. They are proud to present artists from far and near and even their own band.

And so you can plan ahead, one of my favorite Scandinavian events returns next month. The Scandinavian Film Festival LA opens the weekend of January 5 & 6 in Beverly Hills and continues the weekend of January 19 & 20.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* THROUGHOUT DECEMBER *

Plaza Film Nights, ICE Skating Rink, Downtown Santa Monica, Wednesdays, until January 16. This films series is driven by the desire to foster a deeper connection between the people of this city and the cultural histories of Santa Monica and Los Angeles at large. With the same spirit of celebration as a holiday movie marathon, Plaza Film Nights will honor the diverse histories of Los Angeles, featuring films rooted in the city’s identity and geography, from Hollywood to Watts, Mulholland Drive to Chinatown, South Central to Beverly Hills and every freeway in between. Plaza Film Nights will take place every Wednesday with an 8:00 p.m. LA-centric film and a 6:00 p.m. family-friendly movie celebrating seasonal traditions.

DTLA Holiday Lights Walking Tour, Meeting Point: Union Station, Downtown LA, Sundays, Wednesday, & Fridays at 6:30 p.m. until December 28. Explore the richness of Downtown LA with the annual DTLA Holiday Lights Tour offered by DTLA Walking Tours. It is a two-hour evening tour of the festive holiday decorations and traditions in Downtown LA. The tour begins at Union Station and highlights include Las Posadas at Olvera Street, Grand Park with its illuminated fountain and Winter Glow (new month-long, immersive nighttime art experience), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Broad Museum, and Pershing Square festivities. Adults $20, children ages 5-12 $5, and children 4 and under free. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit website.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 1 & 2 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/1, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of LA’s Chinatown. Cost $20. Buy tickets at their website.

Origami with Ruthie Kitagawa: Holiday Wreaths and Cards, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/1, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Get ready for the holidays and learn from JANM’s resident origami expert Ruthie Kitagawa how to make a holiday-themed origami card and a wreath. Space is limited to 15 participants. Advance ticket purchase is required. $12 non-members, free for JANM members. Museum admission included.

Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, Lincoln Heights, Saturday, 12/1, 1:00 pm. – 5:00 p.m. The 14th annual Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival opens December 1 in Lincoln Heights. See short films and animation from around the world. No advance tickets required. Free admission for everyone. (Next festival date is December 29 in Santa Monica.)

CicLAvia: Heart of LA, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/2, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The annual Heart of LA route is here. CicLAvia returns to DTLA, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Boyle Heights. Streets will be closed to cars and open for cyclists, pedestrians, runners and skaters to use as a recreational space. You will enjoy the sights, music, food, and culture that make LA such a vibrant city.

Ancient Greece: Shields and Swords with Greek God Symbols (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/2, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA. The program is open to all ages, including children, families, and adults.

39th Annual Swedish Christmas Fair, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Torrance, Sunday, 12/2, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The fair features artisans and stands presenting the best of Swedish fine art, handicraft, books, jewelry, toys, decorations, and much more. Enjoy a traditional Swedish lunch or “fika” (coffee break) with delicious home baked sweets. You can even enjoy an invigorating glass of hot glögg (mulled wine). The radiant Lucia Pageant is performed twice during the day, at noon and at 3pm. There’s also a children’s corner with crafts, games, and a possible visit with Santa.

Hanukkah Festival: This Little Light of Mine, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 12/2, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine! This celebration of the ancient Jewish festival of light explores the themes of justice, courage, and persistence at the core of the Hanukkah story and the current exhibition Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Enjoy performances, storytelling, hands-on workshops, exhibitions, dining and shopping. Advance ticket purchase recommended.

Fowler Families: Printing with Purpose, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 12/2, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Explore the legacy of independent publishing in Mexico City in the exhibition South of No North: Gato Negro Ediciones. Design an original art print to serve as the front cover of your very own booklet—ready to be filled with what’s most important to you!

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 8 & 9 *

Medieval France: Illuminated Letters (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/9, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA.

Traditional Clothing (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 12/9, 11:00 a.m. Explore the role of clothing throughout history and learn about the beautiful garments of Asian culture. Textile experts explain the history of traditional garments from different countries and demonstrate the proper context and wearing of hanbok, kimono, and sari. Enjoy artmaking activities, storytime for kids, and docent tours.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 15 & 16 *

Austria: Klimt Inspired Holiday Cards – Printmaking (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/16, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA.

Las Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/16 – Monday, 12/24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Las Posadas has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930. Every evening beginning December 16 and continuing through Christmas Eve, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is reenacted with traditional songs, colorful costumes, and vibrant music. Festivities begin with a children’s piñata breaking. Free sweet bread and champurrado are given to all in attendance afterwards. While the event is rooted in Christian and Catholic traditions, it is attended by people from all religious backgrounds, and all are welcome to participate.

Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, Hollywood & Santa Monica, Sunday, 12/16 – Thursday, 12/20. The Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival is recognized as the most prestigious Brazilian film festival outside Brazil. It showcases the best in new Brazilian cinema. Opening Night Gala is in Hollywood, but festival screenings will take place in Santa Monica. See website for details and schedule.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 22 & 23 *

Las Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/16 – Monday, 12/24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Las Posadas has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930. Every evening beginning December 16 and continuing through Christmas Eve, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is reenacted with traditional songs, colorful costumes, and vibrant music. Festivities begin with a children’s piñata breaking. Free sweet bread and champurrado are given to all in attendance afterwards. While the event is rooted in Christian and Catholic traditions, it is attended by people from all religious backgrounds, and all are welcome to participate.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/22, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants.

59th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, Downtown LA, Monday, 12/24, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Community and professional choirs, music ensembles, and dance companies representing the diverse cultures and holiday traditions of the region celebrate the season during this free three-hour holiday show. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. First come, first seated. People begin lining up early. The show is also broadcast live in Southern California on PBS SoCal (KOCE) and live streamed on pbssocal.org.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 29 & 30 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/29, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants.

Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, Santa Monica, Saturday, 12/29, 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. The 14th annual Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival continues at Santa Monica Public Library with more short films and animation from around the world. No advance tickets required. Free admission for everyone. (Festival returns March 29-31, 2019, at WonderCon in Anaheim.)

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email the details. Thank you!

‘Tis the Season for Scandinavian Christmas Fairs!

Norwegian Swedish Danish Christmas Los Angeles

Thanksgiving may still be a couple of weeks away, but the season for Scandinavian Christmas fairs has arrived in Los Angeles. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all offer events with a cozy Christmas atmosphere and unique vendors, foods and drinks, and entertainment. The fairs may require a bit of driving, but they’ll be worth it. Presented in order of occurrence, here are the upcoming Scandinavian Christmas fairs in the greater Los Angeles area. Did I miss one? Please let me know in the comments.


Norwegian Christmas Fair – Julebasar

First on the calendar is the three-day Norwegian Christmas fair Julebasar hosted by the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Pedro on the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’ve been at this event several times both as a guest and as a volunteer and it never disappoints. Warm gløgg (traditionally, mulled red wine with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, raisins, and slivered almonds, but for this occasion, non-alcoholic) and ginger snaps welcome you as you arrive. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. There are daily raffle drawings with wonderful prizes and even live entertainment if you‘re there at the right time. On Saturday there’s a children’s workshop to occupy the young ones while you can enjoy festivities on your own. And of course, the kitchen offers a wonderful assortment of traditional Norwegian foods. My favorite is rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge served with butter, sugar, and cinnamon), but there is so much more to choose from such as open-faced sandwiches, meat stew, pea soup, and Norwegian sausages (at least in previous years). And don’t forget to check out what’s for sale in The Bakery and in the church’s store! The Julebasar is free to attend and all are invited. You do not need to be Norwegian nor a member of the church.


SWEA Orange County Swedish Christmas Fair

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, SWEA Orange County (Swedish Women’s Educational Association) hosts its annual Swedish Christmas Fair in Huntington Beach. Come for Swedish handicrafts, traditional Swedish foods and home-baked goods, a gløgg bar, dancing around the Christmas tree, and Lucia pageants (at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.). There will also be a fish pond and jultomte and much more! Entry fees are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 15.


Scandinavian Christmas Fair – Julemarked

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Scandinavian enthusiasts can visit the Danish Church’s Scandinavian Christmas fair Julemarked in Yorba Linda. This annual event features Scandinavian vendors selling items imported from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland or that feature Scandinavian themes as well as traditional Danish foods and drinks such as smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with powdered sugar and raspberry jam, strong Danish coffee, and gløgg. Danish pastries and selected meat products are also available for purchase. I have not attended this event, but maybe this will be my first year.


SWEA Los Angeles Swedish Christmas Fair

Last on the calendar is the Swedish Christmas Fair organized by SWEA Los Angeles (Swedish Women’s Educational Association), which is another favorite yearly Scandinavian event of mine. It takes place the first Sunday in December in Torrance. The event is in its 38th year and welcomes about 3,000 visitors during the one-day event. Highlights of the fair include a multitude of vendors selling Scandinavian gifts, books, music, handmade crafts, traditional holiday foods, and baked goods as well as traditional entertainment with folk dancing and Lucia pageants. When you go, make sure to be there for one of the two Lucia pageants. They perform at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is also a children’s corner where kids can create crafts to take home and visit with Santa. To top it all off, there is also a gløgg bar and Café SWEA serving traditional foods and baked goods.


Are you unable to attend a Scandinavian Christmas fair or would you like to bring the cozy Scandinavian Christmas feeling home? See my list of books for the family written by classic and contemporary authors from within and outside Scandinavia about Christmas and wintertime in Scandinavia at Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia.

November 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge (including Scandinavian Christmas Fairs & a book signing)

Cultures from all over the world are represented at special events happening in and around Los Angeles in November. And ‘tis the season for Scandinavian Christmas fairs!

Of special significance to me this month is the Norwegian Christmas Fair. I’ve been at this event several times both as a guest and a volunteer. It takes place, as it always does, the weekend before Thanksgiving (Friday, November 16 – Sunday, November 18). In addition to the Norwegian Christmas Fair, Scandinavian enthusiasts can visit Swedish and Danish Christmas fairs. Both SWEA Orange County and SWEA Los Angeles host their own Swedish Christmas fairs. SWEA Orange County’s event takes place on Sunday, November 18, in Huntington Beach, and the SWEA Los Angeles event happens on Sunday, December 2, in Torrance. The Scandinavian Christmas Fair hosted by the Danish Church takes place on Saturday, November 24, in Yorba Linda. For more information, visit ‘Tis the Season for Scandinavian Christmas Fairs!

Also happening this month, Magnus Nilsson, internationally acclaimed Swedish chef and author of bestselling The Nordic Cookbook, will be in town for a book signing for his follow up book The Nordic Baking Book on Wednesday, November 14, at 7:30 p.m. at Now Serving in Downtown LA (Chinatown). Advance ticket purchase is required to attend this event. Ticket price includes a signed copy of the book and an opportunity to meet Magnus. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Eventbrite.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 3 & 4 *

21st Annual Arpa International Film Festival, Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, Friday, 11/2 – Sunday, 11/4. The annual Arpa International Film Festival is a dynamic forum for international cinema with a special focus on the work of filmmakers who explore the issues of diaspora, exile, and multiculturalism. A strong emphasis is placed on ideals of independent thought, artistic vision, cultural diversity, and social understanding.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/3, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of LA’s Chinatown. (Offered every first Saturday of the month).

India: Diwali Rangoli Designs (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/4, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Día de los Muertos, Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, Sunday, 11/4, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The City of Santa Monica presents its seventh annual Día de los Muertos celebration. This family-friendly event celebrates the cycle of life and the remembrance of ancestors with live music and dance, storytelling, workshops, altars, craft vendors and food trucks. Free and open to all.

Mexican Day of the Dead Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 11/4, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the Day of the Dead at Bowers. Dia de los Muertos is based on the Mexican belief that our departed loved ones come back to earth to be with us every year in a joyful celebration that lasts for three days. Join the celebration and enjoy pan dulce with Mexican hot chocolate, face painting, special art projects, and performances by Rhythmo Mariachi Kids, Folklorico Raices de Mexico, Trio Tres Souls and Xipe Totec Danza Azteca.

Arts of Africa Festival, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 11/4, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Come for an afternoon of African-inspired food, music, storytelling, and surprising conversations with curators and blacksmiths. Programs for all ages will spark curiosity about the impact of art in communities far away and how it shapes our own daily lives. There will be gallery talks, family activities, forging, food, and music! See website for schedule.

Rome If You Want To (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/4, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, explore Roma bella! Whether it is through the mythological gods and goddesses, or iconic architecture, ancient Rome has been a fountain of inspiration for artists throughout history. Take a family friendly, bilingual tour of the exhibition To Rome and Back: Individualism and Authority in Art, 1500–1800 and get inspired to make art in workshops. (Offered Sunday, November 4, 11, and 18).

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 10 & 11 *

Red Nation Film Festival, Various Venues, Monday, 11/5 – Friday, 11/16. Red Nation Film Festival is a showcase for new work by American Indian and Indigenous international independent filmmakers. It brings together decision makers and content creators with the goal of ensuring media representation of American Indian and Indigenous content to the world at large.

32nd Israel Film Festival, Various Venues (Beverly Hills, Skirball Center, Encino), Tuesday,11/6 – Tuesday, 11/20. The mission of the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles is to spotlight Israel’s thriving film and television industry, enrich the American vision of Israeli life and culture, and provide an intercultural exchange through the powerful medium of film. A special program, Jewish Identity Through Israeli Film, will be presented at the Skirball Cultural Center on Tuesday, 11/13.

AFI Fest, Various Venues, Hollywood, Thursday, 11/8 – Thursday, 11/15. This is American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers. It features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes.

JANM Free Family Days: Superheroes!, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/10, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This full day of crafts, performances, and other activities is inspired by real-life heroes as well as fictional characters as seen in the exhibit Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys. For more information on activities and schedule, please visit website.

Ancient Rome: Chariots (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/11, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Textiles, Status, and Ceremony (Free Second Sunday@PAM), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 11/11, 11:00 a.m. Explore the connections between textiles, status, and ceremony through the history and culture of Korea! Learn about the king who used his status to develop the Korean alphabet. Enjoy artmaking activities, storytime for kids, and docent tours.

Rome If You Want To (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/11, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, explore Roma bella! Whether it is through the mythological gods and goddesses, or iconic architecture, ancient Rome has been a fountain of inspiration for artists throughout history. Take a family friendly, bilingual tour of the exhibition To Rome and Back: Individualism and Authority in Art, 1500–1800 and get inspired to make art in workshops. (Also offered Sunday, November 18).

Performance@PAM: The King’s Language, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 11/11, 3:00 p.m. In a blend of contemporary and folk theater, The King’s Language whimsically retells a historical milestone of a nation’s identity as a people through rhythmic beats of a native drum punctuated with dialogue, song, and movement. This Korean musical performed mostly in English playfully traverses culture to incite awareness in audiences of a fundamental human tool we often take for granted—casting a spotlight on what we risk as a species if it is eroded. Visit website for ticket information.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 17 & 18 *

Norwegian Christmas Bazar, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, San Pedro, Friday, 11/16 – Sunday, 11/18. The third weekend in November is the annual Norwegian Christmas Fair at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. There are raffle drawings with wonderful prizes, traditional foods served in the church’s cafe, baked goods for sale in the church’s bakery, and Norwegian Christmas food available in the church’s store. There will also be a children’s Christmas workshop from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. All are welcome!

The Great Los Angeles Walk, Meet at Pershing Square, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/17, 9:00 a.m. Get to know our city by walking across it. Every year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, hundreds of walkers start the free urban hike on one side of the city and, 9 hours and 17 miles later, end up at the other. It is a low-key event, and you can hop on or off the walk whenever you’d like.

USA: Native American Sand Paintings (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/18, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

28th Annual Mariachi Festival and Community Fair, Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights, Sunday, 11/18, 10:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. The 28th Annual Mariachi Festival will be held at the 40-year-old landmark, Mariachi Plaza, in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Local mariachi groups will perform during the day-long program. There will also be arts activities, photo opportunities, art exhibitions, food, and information booths.

Rome If You Want To (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/11, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, explore Roma bella! Whether it is through the mythological gods and goddesses, or iconic architecture, ancient Rome has been a fountain of inspiration for artists throughout history. Take a family friendly, bilingual tour of the exhibition To Rome and Back: Individualism and Authority in Art, 1500–1800 and get inspired to make art in workshops.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 24 & 25 *

Scandinavian Christmas Fair, The Danish Lutheran Church, Yorba Linda, Saturday, November 24, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Danish Church hosts its annual Julemarked with Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian vendors selling items imported from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland or that feature Scandinavian themes. Artisans and crafters offer high quality, unique and one-of-a-kind glass, ceramics, paper art, paintings, jewelry, and fabric art. Guests can also enjoy traditional Danish foods such as smørrebrød (elegant, elaborate open-face sandwiches) and æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with powdered sugar and raspberry jam as well as strong Danish coffee and gløgg, the hot Scandinavian yuletide drink (mulled red wine with cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, raisins and slivered almonds). Danish pastries and selected meat products are also available for purchase.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/24, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants. (Offered every last Saturday of the month.)

Germany: Grimm Fairytale Puppets (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/25, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have tips on future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me with details. Thank you!

CicLAvia: Celebrate LA! #LAPhil100xCicLAvia (2018)

My latest CicLAvia experience was unlike any of the other ones I’ve participated in. CicLAvia events have always been fun rides along streets closed to traffic, but this particular one took it up a few notches. CicLAvia: Celebrate LA! was a celebration for the LA Philharmonic’s centennial season. The route went between Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA and the Hollywood Bowl with musicians, artists, and dancers performing at the six hubs and along the route. It even included a free concert at the Hollywood Bowl in the evening (for those who were able to get free tickets). It was one large ongoing street party.

An added bonus for me was that I had the pleasure of riding with a friend the whole time. My family was unable to join due to soccer commitments, but friends on Facebook had seen my interest in going and reached out to me. One was a first-timer to CicLAvia, and the other had participated before. I was thrilled they both got in touch with me because I hadn’t fully committed to going yet since I did have a kid’s soccer game in the afternoon, but their interest in joining me convinced me to do it.

To make it work I had to be at the route when the roads opened up to riders at 9 o’clock. As I’ve done before, I took the Metro Expo Line to Downtown LA. I was not alone on the light rail train. The area for bikes was full after just a few stops. There wasn’t even room for pedestrians to enter. Most of us were single riders, and conversations about plans for the day and previous CicLAvia experiences flowed freely.

I surfaced from the Metro station at 7th Street and met Whitney, the first-timer, as planned. We began to ride towards Hollywood. It was oddly quiet and calm at 9 o’clock. I was afraid she’d get the wrong impression about CicLAvia. But at the same time, it was nice because we could chat and ride and look around without worrying about other riders around us. We rode along Wilshire Boulevard through MacArthur Park and Koreatown and then on towards Melrose and Hollywood.

Melrose Hub

As time went on, the streets filled with more riders. I wasn’t actually aware that most of the entertainment wasn’t scheduled to start until 10 o’clock. By the time we arrived at the Hollywood Hub, it was more like the CicLAvias I knew from before, crowded and lively.

Hollywood Hub Stage

Due to time constraints, we didn’t take the shuttle from the Hollywood Hub to the Hollywood Bowl to see the performances there, but we enjoyed the entertainment on the stage at the Hollywood Hub. Too bad we didn’t stay just a little longer; we could have heard Rivers Cuomo with members of the LA Philharmonic who were up next.

Audience enjoying Koreatown Hub’s Main Stage from the much appreciated shade!

When we were back at the Koreatown Hub, we parted ways. Whitney had to return home for her daughter’s soccer game. I then waited for my other friend Julie to join me. It was nice to be able to hang for a while and enjoy the entertainment at the two stages at the hub.

Koreatown Hub’s Oxford Stage

Julie and I continued towards Downtown and the Grand Avenue Hub. This was where the heart of the festivities was. Two big stages alternated entertainment. Food trucks and activity tents were lined up. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Broad Museum, and the mountains in the background provided an exceptional setting to the event.

Grand Ave Hub

After soaking it all in for as long as we had time, we headed back to the Metro station. Soccer obligations called for both us of. But my day on wheels wasn’t over. I took the Expo Line all the way to the end of the line in Santa Monica and made it just in time for my son’s soccer game. And then after the game, I rode my bike along the Expo Bike Path back home. It was a lovely day spent all over LA without a car.

For those interested, the next CicLAvia event is around the corner on Sunday, December 2, 2018, in the Heart of LA. The route has not been published yet, but it will include Chinatown, Downtown LA, and Boyle Heights. Mark your calendars!

October 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Events

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. Here are some special events happening in LA this month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, October continues to offer events that may be of interest. On Sunday, October 7, the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation will host its annual Leif Erikson Day Celebration. Judith Vinje, a world traveled journalist and expert in Viking history, will be the keynote speaker at a presentation which will be followed by a reception at the Scandinavian Center. Leif Erikson will be at the Center for pictures and conversation, so be sure to bring the kids! The event is free of charge.

The following weekend, on Sunday, October 14, Vasa Park Association will host their annual Scandinavian AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration in Agoura Hills which includes a Swedish meatball contest. More details can be found in the listing below.

On Thursday, October 25, the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation‘s Scandinavian Book Club resumes its monthly meetings after a long summer break. Please reach out if you’re interested in details.

And finally, news for Scandinavian enthusiasts and film buffs beyond Los Angeles, Netflix is releasing the movie 22 July, a drama about the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway that claimed the lives of 77 people and the aftermath, on October 10 both on its streaming platform and in select theaters around the world. The film is based on the book One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad, translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death. The movie is written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 6 & 7 *

Los Angeles Korean Festival, Seoul International Park, Normandie & Olympic Blvds, Thursday, 10/4 – Sunday, 10/7. This is a free four-day festival whose mission is to provide the community with the best possible outlet to learn about the roots and traditions of Korea. Entertaining performances will lighten up the festival’s main stage. Thoughtful cultural exhibitions will educate visitors about South Korea’s history and culture. Local restaurants as well as vendors from South Korea will present a wide variety of food in one space. The shopping space will consist of booths selling Korean products such as cosmetics, appliances, apparel, and accessories.

7th Annual San Pedro International Film Festival, various locations in San Pedro, Friday, 10/5 – Sunday, 10/7. The San Pedro International Film Festival (SPIFF) was founded to celebrate the diverse culture and community of San Pedro with a wide spectrum of independent film, documentaries, and shorts. SPIFF is committed to exhibiting films that embody inspiring entertainment for all, works that express fresh voices and differing global perspectives, with the intent that these films enlighten audiences while providing invaluable exposure for filmmakers, local and international.

L.A. Greek Fest, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Pico & Normandie Blvds, Friday, 10/5 – Sunday, 10/7. The L.A. Greek Fest is the largest and most iconic Greek food and wine festival in Los Angeles, California, bringing over 15,000 attendees together for a three-day weekend of all things Greek. Each day of festivities is a celebration of food, wine, dance, games, performances, and one-of-a-kind cultural experiences. Located at Pico and Normandie on the same grounds of one of LA’s most beautiful and well-known Greek Orthodox cathedrals, Saint Sophia Cathedral, the festival brings together the community of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter and people from all over downtown Los Angeles and Southern California. Visit website for schedule of events and $2 coupon.

Around the World in a Day Multicultural Festival, Oxnard, Saturday, 10/6, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Visit Oxnard for a day of music, dance, and cultural booths from around the world. The festival features live music and performers, food and vendor booths, exhibitors, demonstrations, arts & crafts, and plenty of family friendly activities. Every year, hundreds of guests look forward to coming together to celebrate the many diverse nations, languages, and cultures of the world.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 10/6, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown. (Offered every first Saturday of the month)

Sunday Funday: A Haunted Pedal, Meet at The Crafty Pedal, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/7, 9:30 a.m. Explore Downtown LA in a unique way. The first stop on this haunted ride is the “Murder House” from season one the FX television series, American Horror Story. Then, the group will take a short ride over to Rosedale Cemetery, built in 1884, the first cemetery in Los Angeles open to all races and creeds. Many founding Angelenos rest in these beautiful garden grounds. Next, the ride goes toward the haunted and infamous Cecil Hotel in Downtown LA, past home of the Night Stalker, and the site of other mysterious happenings. Finally, the group rides to Pershing Square, where you’ll hear stories of the historical haunts of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Ride finishes back at The Crafty Pedal. Visit website for important details on the ride.

Korea: Theater Masks (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/7, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

COAST, Downtown Santa Monica, Sunday, 10/7, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. COAST, the city of Santa Monica’s third annual open streets event, brings the City’s commitment to art, sustainability and mobility to life by filling two miles of streets with large-scale art installations, interactive activities, music and dance performances, roaming musicians and more! All are welcome to explore Downtown Santa Monica by foot or any number of wheeled devices.

10th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/7, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Vendors will be on hand with unique jewelry, kimono fabric fashions, cultural t-shirts, handbags, ceramics, origami, bronze and glass art, Giant Robot products, and more. Enjoy a Taiko performance by Yuujou Daiko at 1:00 p.m. Admission to the boutique is free. A $20 purchase gets you free museum admission (10/7/18 only) and a 10% discount at local participating Little Tokyo eateries during the month of October (some restrictions apply).

Italian Renaissance Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 10/7, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Immerse yourself in a real Italian Renaissance Faire complete with special sword demonstrations, interactive gallery experiences, face painting, and musical performances. Experience the thrill of knights in armor demonstrating historical dueling techniques and walking throughout the galleries, Western Martial Arts interpreters, and fashion experts dressed in Renaissance garb appropriate to the region. Using an array of period instruments, live music will be provided by Courtly Noyse.

Leif Erikson Day Celebration, Scandinavian Center at Cal Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Sunday, 10/7, 2:00 p.m. Judith Vinje, a world traveled journalist and expert in Viking history, will be the featured speaker at the Leif Erikson Day presentation. The presentation will be followed by a reception at the Scandinavian Center. This will be a fun opportunity to see the Scandinavian museum, library, resource center, and programs offered to members. Leif Erikson will be at the Center for pictures and conversation, so be sure to bring the kids! The event is free of charge.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 13 & 14 *

Scandinavian AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration, Vasa Park, Agoura Hills, Sunday, 10/14, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. AutumnFest offers a wide range of activities for the whole family. In addition to enjoying traditional foods of Sweden, you can be a judge in the 10th Annual Swedish Meatball Contest. You can buy beautifully crafted gifts and souvenirs and enjoy Scandinavian musicians and folk dancers, demonstrations, and a Viking reenactment group that shares stories about Viking times. There will be many activities for kids including a waterslide, an alpine tube slide, swimming, a rock climbing wall, and field games.

Peru: Incan Sun God with Foil and Beads (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/14, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Weaving & Film, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Watch Artist Yan Zhang demonstrate the unique Li Brocade weaving style and then try decorative weaving yourself! At 3:00 p.m., join filmmaker Xiaowen Zhu and documentary subject Kenneth Wong for a screening of Oriental Silk, Zhu’s short film on the history of the first silk importing company in Los Angeles. Explore themes of cultural value and traditional craftsmanship, estrangement and homesickness, and the colors of memory.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 20 & 21 *

Ancient Egypt: Tomb Paintings (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/21, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Fowler Families: Celebrating Día de los Muertos, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 10/21, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Prepare for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at the Fowler Museum. Celebrate the Mexican cultural tradition of honoring departed loved ones through music, dance, regalia, and storytelling by the LA-based group Xipe Totec Danzantes Aztecas. Originating in Mexico City, this ensemble has developed with the blessings and recognition of traditional elders in Mexico. Xipe Totec Danzantes Aztecas will present “Journey to Mictlan,” a dance piece conveying the Aztec view of death as a transition in life’s journey. Begin the afternoon by creating your very own tissue paper marigolds or contributing to a collaborative papel picado banner that will be displayed in the Davis Courtyard. Xipe Totec Danzantes Aztecas will begin their performance at 2:00 p.m. with a blessing in the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives before progressing into the Fowler Amphitheater.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 27 & 28 *

Asian World Film Festival, Culver City, Wednesday, 10/24 – Thursday, 11/1. The Asian World Film Festival brings the best of a broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles in order to draw greater recognition to the region’s wealth of filmmakers. The festival screens films from 50 countries across Asia spanning from Turkey to Japan and Russia to India. This year’s theme will focus on female empowerment.

Día de los Muertos Festival, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Thursday, 10/25 – Friday, 11/2. Olvera Street is home to a colorful celebration that takes place over nine days. Merging ancient traditions with modern-day interpretations, you are invited to join in honoring deceased loved ones. Each evening, colorful and vibrant novenario processions take place at 7:00 p.m. The traditional, pre-Columbian procession evokes special memories of deceased loved ones with colorful pageantry and indigenous blessings. Pan de muerto (sweet bread) and champurrado (a Mexican hot beverage) are provided after processions. During the festival days on the weekend, there is entertainment and face painting throughout the day. Community altars, or “Las Ofrendas,” are on display in the plaza.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 10/27, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants. (Offered every last Saturday of the month.)

Día de Los Muertos 2018: Coatlicue “Mother of Gods”, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, Saturday, 10/27, 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. Spend an eventful day watching as the cemetery comes to life with joyful celebrations. Highlights include a vibrant traditional procession with traditional Aztec blessings and regional musical dance group dedications, 100+ altars created by members of the community to their ancestors and loved ones, four stages featuring music and theatrical performances, an art exhibition in the Cathedral Mausoleum, and a wide variety of Day of the Dead arts and crafts available for purchase. See website for complete schedule and ticket information.

JAM Session: Mexican Folk Dance, Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey, Saturday, 10/27, 3:00 p.m. (Part of Marina Spooktacular) Delight in the vibrant music and dance of Veracruz! Step up on the tarima (wooden dance platform) with Ballet Folklorico Ollin who will walk you through this rhythmic dance style. The JAM will end with a fandango celebrating the entire community. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. JAM Sessions are participatory while also centered on movement and music. All JAMs are free. All ages and skill levels are welcome.

Kenya: Animal Masks with Fur (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/28, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided

JAM Session: Aztec Dance, Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey, Sunday, 10/28, 12:00 p.m. (Part of Marina Spooktacular) Experience the splendor of the Aztec people with Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc. Create rhythms and beats with fellow drummers and explore the music, choreography and poetry of this ancient Mesoamerican culture. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. JAM Sessions are participatory while also centered on movement and music. All JAMs are free. All ages and skill levels are welcome.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have tips on future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me here with details. Thank you!

✨GIVEAWAY!✨ Tickets to Wardruna with Eivør in Los Angeles, Sept 14

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience a one-of-a-kind evening of Nordic music in Los Angeles. On Friday, September 14, Wardruna will be joined by Eivør for an evening like no other. They will be performing at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA. Enter my giveaway for a chance to win a pair of tickets to their concert! Keep reading for giveaway details.

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September 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Much to offer for Scandinavian enthusiasts!

Just because the lazy days of summer are over doesn’t mean you can’t seize the opportunity to do something new! September offers many opportunities to enjoy some special multicultural events or explore new-to-you areas. And Scandinavian enthusiasts in particular are in for a treat.

One particular favorite LA event, CicLAvia, returns at the end of this month on Sunday, September 30. But this is not a regular CicLAvia event; it’s a special eight-mile street party to celebrate the LA Phil’s centennial season. The route goes between Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA and the Hollywood Bowl, and it will showcase LA’s creative spirit with 1800 musicians, artists, and dancers coming together to perform at the six hubs and along the route. It even includes a free concert at the Hollywood Bowl in the evening (concert details and ticket information here). Celebrate LA!: LA Phil 100 x CicLAvia looks to be an event not to be missed.

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, September has much to offer!

Not only are there two special Scandinavian festivals going on this month, but also Norwegian film, music, and an author are making their way to Los Angeles.

        

Neither of the two festivals are in the local Los Angeles area, but both could make for interesting excursions out of town. During the weekend of September 14 to 16, Solvang in Santa Barbara County celebrates its Danish heritage with the 82nd annual Solvang Danish Days festival. The following weekend, September 22 and 23, you can experience all things Viking and Scandinavian at the Vista Viking Festival in San Diego County.

      

Norwegian thriller “Revenge” by writer-director Kjersti Steinsbø opens August 31 and runs through September 6 at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. Using a false identity, Rebekka sets out to confront the man with whom she shares a dark secret about the death of her sister. She must face the consequences of her actions and decide how far she will to go to seek revenge. It is in Norwegian with English subtitles. The LA Times says, “Come for the chills, stay for the view…

Wardruna, a Norwegian music group, is coming to The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA on Friday, September 14. Their music has been featured in the History Channel series “Vikings.” Although Wardruna’s music shares characteristics with music typically labeled as folk, world, and/or ambient, none of these genres really describes their unique style. It truly must be experienced. And now’s your chance! Buy tickets here OR enter my giveaway for a pair of tickets!

Finally, Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård will be in town to discuss My Struggle: Book 6the long awaited final book in the My Struggle series. He will make two appearances. The first one is Saturday, September 22, at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. The second one on Sunday, September 23, at Aratani Theatre of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Downtown LA.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

August 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Don’t Miss an #OwnVoices Immigrant Film from Norway

Have you had a chance to try something new or explore a new-to-you area of Los Angeles this summer? Summertime offers some special multicultural events for Angelenos. There’s still time to take advantage!

Some exciting Norwegian film news! What Will People Say by Norwegian-Pakistani filmmaker Iram Haq opens today in Los Angeles. I saw this movie at AFI Fest this past fall and loved it. It’s a very powerful film about a first generation Norwegian teenager born of Pakistani immigrants in Oslo. The movie is about family, culture clash, honor, and shame. There were many gasp-out-loud moments in this film. It’s a thought-provoking and heart-breaking movie. I highly recommend it. It opened my eyes to a world very foreign to me, a world that could theoretically be right next to me without me knowing it. Read my full review here. It is playing at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. Visit Laemmle’s website to see showtimes. Don’t miss it!

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

Los Angeles Culture Challenge: July 2018

It’s summertime. Seize the opportunity to do something new! Is there a new event or excursion that you could add to your calendar to make this month a little different from the others? Explore another part of town, take in a cultural festival, watch a performance, or do an arts activity. How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

18th Annual Los Angeles River Ride (2018): Finally My Chance

This year I was finally able to do the Los Angeles River Ride myself. Six years ago our family went to our first LA River Ride, but I wasn’t able to ride it since Doobie was too young for the Family Ride. I stayed with him in the parking lot for the younger riders’ mini-course and bike wash. Only Daddy and Sonny were able to ride along the river. Ever since that year I’ve wanted to ride along the river myself, ideally with the family, but other commitments always interfered. This year was finally my chance.

This year’s Los Angeles River Ride took place Sunday, June 3. Both kids had obligations, but I was able to get away to Griffith Park for the event. There were several rides to choose from: 2-mile Kids’ Ride, 15-mile Family Ride, 36-mile Ride, 68-mile Metric Century Plus, and Century Ride from Griffith Park to Long Beach and back, each ride starting at a different time in the morning. I chose the 15-mile ride since the next longer ride of 36 miles seemed a little daunting as my first experience (even though we’ve done that and more as a family on cycle tours in Europe previously).

There weren’t as many riders at the start line as I had expected, but then again this was the last of the rides to get started. Organizers started us in stages so we wouldn’t overwhelm the road or each other when we started. Due to construction, we had to ride about 3 miles on road through the park to get to the bike path. I had no issue with that, especially since my husband’s one complaint from our last experience was the interference with cars while riding over the freeway to get to the bike path. This year’s route was a little awkward just as we were getting to the bike path. We had to dismount, cross an intersection two ways, walk down a grassy slope, and then wind our way around tennis courts before joining the bike path. But it was not a big issue in the grand scheme of things.

Riding along the river was a wonderful experience. It’s really becoming a much more green space with lots of birdlife and opportunities for recreational use. Even though concrete still played a dominant role and at one point, but for a very short distance, the freeway buzzed by on the other side of the path, you could easily forget you were riding in the middle of big city metropolis.

The ride went from The Autry Museum in Griffith Park to Elysian Park and back. The turn-around point was not clear. Luckily, a volunteer had noticed that riders were continuing on and stationed himself so that he could tell us to turn around.

One of my favorite moments of the ride was coming upon Spoke Bicycle Café. It was a pit stop along the route. I thought the pit stop was going to be just a table with refreshments along the route so I hadn’t paid much attention to the details of it. It was indeed “just a table with refreshments” but the table was inside this very cool, laid-back, bicycle themed café. Spoke Café was its own little special world. I wished I wasn’t there alone so I could have hung out for a while and enjoyed the atmosphere, live music and all.

Another local discovery I made was La Colombe Frogtown, another café right along the bike path. This had a totally different vibe than Spoke Bicycle Café, much more modern and chic. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee, but the cold pressed juice by Liquiteria was perfect.

Eventually, it was time to pedal my way back to the start of the ride. I’ve decided that next time I do this event I’ll sign up for the longer ride. This 15-mile ride only took 1 ½ hours (excluding café stops). I would have loved to spend more time along the river. Who’d like to join me next time?

The yearly Los Angeles River Ride is organized by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) which is a membership-based nonprofit organization that works to make all communities in LA County healthy, safe, and fun places to ride a bike through advocacy, education, and outreach. You can help by becoming a member, donating, or joining a bike ride (see below for one coming up soon in Santa Monica!), plus more.

Coming up soon… Sunday Funday: Tour of Santa Monica on Sunday, July 1, 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Join LACBC and local chapter Santa Monica Spoke for the first Sunday Funday of the summer season! They’ll be taking in the cool coastal air as they explore the Michigan Ave greenway and get a preview of the 17th St corridor. They’ll be starting out at the 26th Street / Bergamot Station on the Expo Line meeting at 9:30 a.m., rolling at 10:00 a.m. There will be stops and water breaks along the way and is a perfect way to meet people and discover new neighborhoods. RSVP here. This ride is a no-drop ride (no rider left behind) with LACBC Ride Marshals. Riders should be able to keep a 10-12 MPH pace, and cover 12-15 miles.