Hidden Gems in Culver City
Learn about destinations worth seeking out in “The Heart of Screenland”
Historically a hub for the motion picture, TV, and aviation industries, Culver City has enjoyed significant revitalization and diversification over the past decade. While Sony Pictures Studios remains its largest employer, new development, in part driven by the opening of the Culver City Metro Expo Line light rail station in 2012, has included a walkable selection of retail, hospitality, and office properties, plus a famously vivacious arts district. Amidst all this it can be easy to overlook some of the lesser-known destinations in “The Heart of Screenland.” Here are some worth seeking out.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Discover (or rediscover) Los Angeles with the breathtaking views from this 500-foot peak just southwest of downtown. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a memorable, 58-acre urban park boasting a state-of-the-art visitor center, two hiking trails (one steep and winding, the other an easy loop), and panoramic vistas of the entire L.A. Basin, the Pacific Ocean, and surrounding mountains. Exhibits tell the story of a site once drilled and exploited for oil which has now become a symbol of restoration and conservation. Park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Parking runs $2/hour or $6/day. For up-to-date Visitor Center hours call 310-558-5566.
The Bhagavad-gita Museum consists of eleven stunningly sculpted life-size dioramas. Combining India’s ancient doll-making artistry and yogic wisdom with America’s advanced multimedia tech. Different concepts of the Bhagavad-gita, renowned as the jewel of India’s yogic knowledge, are introduced in the course of 45 minutes of narrative accompanied by animatronics, light show and video projection which provides attendees a unique, possibly inspirational, experience.
Need a cocktail? How about a haircut or beer trim? The Blind Barber has you covered! The original West Coast location of a four-shop bi-coastal chain, complete with its own range of related grooming products, presents itself as a crisp white barbershop. But if you’re instead craving a pricey libation, continue through the nondescript door at the back into a surprisingly spacious speakeasy, its old wood paneling and fading yellow wallpaper washed with dim light. Settle into a leather booth, take a table, or congregate with regulars at the bar to enjoy small bites, beer and wine, and house and seasonal cocktails like the Red Hot Señora and Smoke + Dagger.
Some call it “third-wave” coffee – a New Millennium movement focused on high quality roasts – but most of us would declare the caffeine-laced creations served at Cognoscenti Coffee simply delicious. Founded in 2009, this former pop-up now has three local cafes, including one at its DTLA roastery. The skilled baristas at its cozy, angular Culver City shop brew coffees sourced from highly regarded roasters from all over the country, emphasizing washed coffees offering cup clarity and sustainability. Cognoscenti has always carried divine Proof Bakery pastries, which can be enjoyed inside or on its modest patio.
The Corner Door
A bare brick and wood architectural delight, The Corner Door is a hip neighborhood hang serving spot-on comfort food paired with stellar cocktails in intimate booths or at its beautiful bar. Open ‘til 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, and through midnight on Wednesdays, this is a spot where you can settle in and really get to know someone or savor existing friendships. Come for classic eats like fish and chips, braised beef, and chicken wings, and stay for the imaginative cocktails and quietly sophisticated vibe. The Corner Door celebrated its 10th anniversary last year in a notoriously competitive market, which speaks volumes about the consistent quality within. (Cash not accepted.)
Jackson Market proclaims itself “hidden in Culver City since 1925.” Sure enough, even as it approaches its centenary, this quaint neighborhood market and deli maintains a best-kept-secret aura. Tucked behind a foliage-draped patio on a quiet residential avenue, it has continued to thrive mostly on word-of-mouth recommendations. Known for custom deli sandwiches, wraps, and salads, plus coffee, pastries, and breakfast items made fresh daily, there’s also a broad variety of craft beers, wine, teas, juices, and sodas, as well as ice cream, snacks, and basic groceries. Enjoy your food on beautiful outdoor patios, order online for convenient fast pickup, or get delivery through Jackson Market’s app.
Kirk Douglas Theatre
With just 317 seats, the Kirk Douglas Theatre is the most intimate of Center Theatre Group’s three L.A. venues. Originally built in 1946 as a movie palace in the Streamline Moderne style, the former Culver Theatre received an $8-million renovation in the early aughts, with most of its exterior, including the box office and distinctive mezzanine tile, carefully preserved. Today, a diverse set of plays are performed at the Kirk Douglas, where Center Theatre Group stages adventurous new works including world premieres and the development and youth program of DTLA’s much larger Mark Taper Forum.
Museum of Jurassic Technology
Founded in 1988, the Museum of Jurassic Technology comprises collections of bizarre but fascinating exhibits, many of which knowingly stretch the limits of credibility. A dimly lit, maze-like floorplan houses diverse collections encompassing art, science, anthropology, and philosophy. Telephone receivers provide narration for a quirky set of artifacts, trinkets, holograms, and taxidermy with intriguing titles like The Stink Ant of the Cameroon, the Deprong Mori of the Tripiscum Plateau, and The Horn of Mary Davis of Saughall. Evoking the 16th-century “cabinets of curiosities” that preceded
contemporary natural history museums, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is itself a curiosity that lovingly indulges murky concepts of “learned entertainment.” Great for curious teens looking for a video game alternative.
Sony Pictures Studios Tour
The guided Sony Pictures Studio Tour offers a two-hour glimpse behind the scenes of a working studio. Visit soundstages once home to iconic films like The Wizard of Oz, Men in Black, and Spider-Man. Swing by smash-hit games shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. You might even catch a glimpse of the Barbra Streisand Scoring stage or a set from the hit comedy, The Goldbergs. Sony has reintroduced its popular Twilight Tour, starting at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, and 3-hour VIP lunch tours are also available. Whichever tour you choose, keep your eyes open, because you never know what – or who – will be around the next corner!
Wende Museum and Archive of The Cold War
Named for a German word meaning “turning point,” the Wende is an art museum, cultural center, and archive of the Cold War that explores social, political, and cultural change. But it also transcends the conventional walls of a museum in pursuit of international scholarship, artistic interpretation, community engagement, digital access, and experimental public programming. The Wende’s collection of more than 100,000 artifacts, archives, and personal histories, a small portion of which is on view to the public at its Culver City HQ, is recognized as an unparalleled resource for insight into the Eastern perspective of the Cold War. The Wende is open to the public Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.