Culver City is a city on the Westside of Los Angeles County, and was given the moniker the "Heart of Screenland" during the 1930s and 1940s when it was responsible for half of America's motion picture production; today it remains home to Sony Studios (formerly MGM Studios) and Culver Studios. In addition to its role in the film and television industry the city has a reputation as a great food destination due to the huge number of trendy restaurants found in the downtown and elsewhere.
This museum is a truly unique experience, as it is an artistic mixture of fact and fiction, featuring weird and wonderful displays of things that never happened, next to strange but true practices of bygone years; it can be hard to distinguish between the two, and it's best not to try. Exhibits include micro-sculptures that fit within the eye of a needle, portraits of the canine astronauts of the early Soviet space program, and artwork made from the scales of butterfly wings that can be viewed under microscopes. An enjoyable afternoon's visit and a tribute to the weirdness of the world. The Tula Tea Room is located upstairs and serves complimentary tea and cookies, while the Borzoi Kabinet Theater has free movie screenings hourly; both open one hour after the museum, closing one hour before the museum. Photography and cell phone use (including texting and pictures) is not allowed in the museum. This attraction is actually in the Palms district of Los Angeles, although it has a Culver City address.
The Culver City ArcLight is the fifth LA location of the popular movie chain that first opened its doors in Hollywood in 2002. The chain has made a name for itself with excellent service, clean theaters, reserved seating in comfortable chairs, excellent picture and sound quality, onsite bar and cafe, no advertising before the movie, and a distraction-free theater in which cell phone use and late arrivals are strictly forbidden once a movie has started (seriously, don't be late). The chain is also famous for special presentations, some of which include Q&As with actors, writers and directors (sign up on their email list for notifications). Prices are a bit higher than at other venues, but if you want to be able to choose your seat in advance and be certain that your movie experience will be pleasant, the extra couple of dollars will be worth it.
When it first opened in 2012 Corner Door made fried brussel sprouts famous, but their other food items are equally well done if a bit on the pricey side. What they are best known for, however, are the upscale cocktails - Beau du Bois, the bartender who has been at Corner Door since its opening, was named "2014 LA Bartender of the Year" by Eater LA and can fashion a drink for any taste. Be warned that the interior gets LOUD when it fills up, so arrive early or sit on the patio if you want to be able to hear the person next to you. Daily happy hour from 5PM-7PM features $7 cocktails, $3-$5 beers, and $5 wine, as well as $5-$9 snacks. Sunday night is "Burger R&D" night, featuring the weekly burger, fries and beer for $15, and $5 old fashioned cocktails.
This lounge is most famous for chef Roy Choi's Kogi Korean barbecue tacos ($7 for three), but also offers a unique selection of cocktails including the Cuban Mistress (rum, hibiscus, strawberry, rhubarb bitters, lemon, ginger beer) or the Breaking Bad (tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, pear, fresh lemon, serrano chile infused agave). All food is ordered directly from the bar and brought to you based on the oversized playing card you'll receive after paying. The vibe is upscale hipster, with a younger, affluent crowd. It gets extremely full and very noisy as the evening goes on, so consider an early arrival if you want a cushy lounge seat and the chance to talk to your dining companions without yelling.
As you might guess, the emphasis here is on the fresh salads of all types, but you can get them small, meal-sized or pair them with steak, chicken or fish. This popular chain uses local, organic produce to assemble fresh and healthy salads and soups, as well as delectable hot dishes from the grill, such as free-range chicken, Angus flatiron steak, and line-caught tuna. This eco-conscious restaurant also uses biodegradable to-go containers, reclaimed timber, and non-toxic cleaners. The atmosphere is relaxed and beautiful, with a spacious patio for outdoor dining. Portions are large, and a wide array of boutique wines and microbrews will please any palate. Friendly service.
Choco Vivo is a unique chocolate shop that makes chocolate from scratch, starting with beans imported from a grower in Mexico and using a stone grinding technique dating back to the Mayans and Aztecs. Their chocolate contains no dairy, so the end result is a dark chocolate that is very different from what most people are used to. Bars are sold at $6 each that include different amounts of cacao and flavorings such as sea salt or almond. A "tasting" option is also available in the store, as well as flavored chocolate drinks, organic tamales, and chocolate-inspired gifts. Events are held frequently that range from chocolate & tequila pairings to speed dating.
An exotic environmental science & wildlife rescue center that is in a nondescript building, the Eco Station is a hidden attraction offering hands-on experiences with rescued tropical birds, mammals, reptiles and other critters. Most of the facility's animals are illegal shipments seized by US customs that needed a home. Hands-on tours lasting 45-60 minutes leave every hour on the hour from 10AM-3PM on weekends. Hands-on opportunities as part of the tour. Special community events throughout the year. If you are in the area for Earth Day they hold a massive celebration including hands-on experiences and special events.
Over three hundred feet above the surrounding neighborhoods, this overlook provides tremendous views of the LA basin, as well as some short nature trails for those interested in native plants and animals. A self-pay parking lot is available at the top of the hill, but hearty souls can park for free along Jefferson Blvd and then walk up 315 vertical feet of switchbacks and steps (note: no dogs allowed on the trails). The visitor center features exhibits on area history and nature. Special events including twilight walks, junior ranger programs, and bird-watching are scheduled regularly.
If you didn't know it was here, you'd never find this great hangout. The front is a working barbershop with a nondescript door in the middle of the back wall. Walk through that door and you're in a bar with a roaring-twenties theme. The cigarette dispenser by the bathroom sells hair product, the fans are operated on pulley systems, and a free drink is offered with every barber service. Cocktails are fancy and made by bar tenders who double as waitstaff. Snacks include numerous varieties of grilled cheese and upscale bar munchies like sloppy joe sliders or imported olives.
Don't be fooled by the relatively small selection - if you show up to a party with a box of flaky Danish pastries from this bakery, you're going home a hero. The pastries are made fresh throughout the day using traditional Danish recipes, and samples are available if you are unsure of what to buy. The Kringle lines and Copenhagen lines - flaky pastries made with almond paste or custard - are the specialties. They also have wholegrain rye bread, small cakes, and other items that are worth the visit to the gym that it will take to burn off the extra calories.
This performing arts center was originally built in 1947 as a movie theater with over 1,000 seats, and today the original marquee and tower are still in place, creating a striking presence in downtown Culver City. It underwent an $8 million renovation in the 1990s that created two playhouse stages, one with 350 seats and the other with 100 seats. The theater is owned by the Center Theatre Group, which also operates the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum in downtown LA. There are regular performances several nights a week.
Culver Center was one of Southern California's first shopping centers when it opened in 1950. Today it is anchored by a Best Buy electronics store, a Ralph's Grocery store, and an LA Fitness club. Numerous dining options as well as a Rite-Aid drug store, several boutiques, and numerous smaller stores make this is a useful destination for those that need to pick up basic necessities. Parking can be difficult, so be aware that spaces that are often overlooked can be found by following the ramp onto the Best Buy roof.
Founded by three techies who wanted to be able to eat pho at a local restaurant, Pho Show serves the Vietnamese rice noodle soup to a crowded house. The soup that gives the restaurant its name is delicious, with a particularly aromatic broth that is different from other pho restaurants, and portions are generous. For those who chose this restaurant but for some reason decided against the soup, there are numerous rice, noodle and curry dishes on the menu. Beer and wine is available for dine-in customers.
While the hotel's downstairs lobby has a bar and live music most nights, up the stairs on the second floor is a speakeasy that is slightly less crowded and offers views of downtown. Opened in 2014 after a hotel remodel, the bar's ambiance is a cross between 1920s Paris and Hollywood, making for a sophisticated yet comfortable environment. While the cocktail selection and furniture evoke the Prohibition era, sadly prices are on the high side and most definitely reflect 21st century Los Angeles.
Owned by Akasha Richmond (owner of neighboring Akasha Restaurant), this Indian-inspired restaurant serves gourmet dishes heavily influenced by Indian spices and flavors. The menu changes with the seasons, and focuses on local ingredients. Service is excellent, the cocktail menu is unique and delicious, and the food offers a surprising take on traditional Indian fare. Happy hour is daily from 4PM-7PM and offers $6 cocktails, half off beer and wine, and a happy hour snack menu.
Opened in 2008, Akasha features New American food, meaning that everything is delicious, organic, seasonal and local. You'll never feel trendier but welcomed. Good for dates and business meetings. There is also a well-stocked bar. Happy hour is daily from 2:30-7PM and features significant discounts on drinks and appetizers. Bonus trivia: the owner, Akasha Richmond, was formerly the personal chef to pop star Michael Jackson and actors Barbara Streisand and Billy Bob Thorton.
The Culver City Municipal Pool, affectionately known as "The Plunge", is a heated, olympic-sized swimming pool that was first opened in 1949. It is open to the public (resident and non-resident) for recreation swimming, lap swimming, water aerobics, swimming lessons, and diving (1m and 3m springboards). Lockers and showers are available on-site. Schedules vary, so call or check the web site before visiting to ensure that the pool is available for your desired activity.
Rooms include free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast, a microwave, refrigerator and free parking. The property is a bit run-down, and would be much improved by renovations. The Metro Cafe, located downstairs, is a surprisingly good dining option, serving sandwiches and excellent breakfasts and attracting mostly non-hotel guests. This hotel is located at the intersection of two busy streets, so request a room that doesn't face the road if available.
Proudly advertising itself as "the best dive bar in the world" Backstage offers a high-energy atmosphere with a really fun crowd. Expect a packed house on weekends and call ahead to reserve a table if you don't want to be standing. Drinks are reasonably priced ($4 for a draft beer), the staff is extraordinarily friendly, and there is karaoke (Thursday - Saturday), pool, darts, and decent bar food to help keep the evening entertaining.
Formerly the MGM studios, the two-hour guided tour leads through stages that have seen the filming of such productions as the ''Wizard of Oz'', ''Men in Black'', and ''Spider-Man''. Visitors may also see the homes of the game shows ''Jeopardy!'' and ''Wheel of Fortune''. Tours are offered M-F at 9:30AM, 10:30AM, 1:30PM and 2:30PM. Reservations are recommended, and the tour is only available for visitors age twelve years and older.
Another restaurant born of Culver City's downtown renaissance, K-Zo is a sushi bar and "Japanese tapas" restaurant, offering various hot and cold bites in addition to the more standard Japanese fare. Prices are a bit higher than some other restaurants, but the food is generally excellent, service is friendly, and the atmosphere is great. For those seeking to maximize their eating dollar, happy hour is daily from 5:30-7PM.
This car show features hundreds of classic cars, food, and entertainment, with proceeds benefiting local charities. The streets of downtown are closed and filled with stalls and classic cars, with owners competing for awards in dozens of categories such as "Best of the 20s", "Best of the 70s", "Best Paint", "Most Different", "Best Hearse", etc. The first car show was held in 2005, and it has since become a yearly event.
A rather unique organization, the CLUI is devoted to researching and illustrating how land is used and perceived. The exhibits hosted in their minuscule gallery space are small, but are usually very intriguing and often draw attention to features of the landscape you would normally overlook. The tiny bookstore (more of a bookshelf, really) is a real treat, selling some excellent texts as well as humorous postcards.
From the sidewalk, you can see Terry Allen's sculpture "Golden Time", a humorous comment on work after overtime. Michael Hayden's sculpture uses cutting edge materials (holographs) producing a rainbow spectrum on the sidewalk and surrounding areas of the Game Show Building. Hayden collaborated with Game Show Building architect, Steven Ehrlich, AIA, who won a National AIA Design Award for the project.
The unusual vegetarian restaurant operated as part of the hospitable and charitable tradition of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. A buffet luncheon or sandwiches will cost you less than ten bucks. Above the restaurant you will find a boutique filled with fine garments and unusual handicrafts and art objects from India, the spiritual home of the Krishna devotees.
Renovated in May 2014, rooms in this hotel are 350 ft<sup>2</sup> and offer 37-inch flat-screen TVs, complimentary wired and wi-fi internet, cotton bathrobes, and turndown service. There are also three suites available. Hotel amenities include a business center, restaurant, lounge, 24-hour market, meeting space, coin laundry, gift shop, fitness center, and outdoor pool.
Cheap (a full meal for under $5) and authentic Mexican food, individually prepared while you watch. You stand in line to order, then move aside to wait. Delicious and unusual. Noisy; you hear Spanish and English spoken here in equal amounts. Family-friendly. Park in the lot or under the freeway (feed the meters with dimes or quarters), not in the red cul-de-sac.
The industrial location is appropriate for a barbeque place that's "Tender as Mother's Love." Real pit barbecue beef ribs, pork ribs, "rib tips", great sides, and if you have room left, peach cobbler or 7-up cake! Three choices of sauce - they're serious when they say it's hot. The proprietor, "Robert Johnson", may or may not be the famous bluesman.
Family-run coffee shop that roasts their own beans daily and makes one of the best macchiato's this side of the Big Pond. They are known for their "latte art" - you have to order one in a china cup to appreciate it. A local favorite, they also have a huge variety of teas from around the world and make a wonderful Mexican hot chocolate.
The mission of the Wende Museum is to preserve Cold War history. The museum's exhibits and artifacts include artwork, films and personal histories from the fall of Communist Europe in the late 1980s. Much of the collection is about the German Democratic Republic (DDR). Also has materials from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located in the heart of downtown Culver City, this hotel opened in 1924 and offers a unique lodging option with rooms featuring antique furniture. The hotel was once owned by John Wayne and served as accommodation for most of the cast of the Wizard of Oz during its filming.
Located in downtown Culver City, Culver Studios was founded in 1919. Fans of classic motion pictures will immediately recognize the studio's colonial mansion from the opening credits of the David O. Selznick International productions such as Gone With the Wind and Duel in the Sun. Unfortunately public tours are not available.
Established by the former mayor (and councilman) of Culver City, this market has a reputation as ''the'' place to go for authentic Italian grocery items on the West Side. The deli offers amazing sandwiches and the friendly family owners are more than willing to help with everything from selecting a wine to choosing a dessert.
Located downtown, this unique establishment is a combination wine bar, wine retailer, and cafe. Over 800 wines are sold, with prices ranging from $5 to over $600 per bottle, but most people come either for wine tasting or simply to enjoy a glass of wine with an appetizer. Happy hour is Monday - Thursday from 4PM to 6PM.
African-American history and culture, with a collection of over 2 million items. Initially the solo effort of Dr. Clayton in 1975, housed in her garage, by 2007 there was a foundation and the collection moved to its present home. Guided public tours at 11AM and 2PM Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
A cozy Italian cafe with extensive outdoor seating and a reasonably-authentic Italian menu. This establishment specializes in Italian cafe food, so expect sandwiches, carpacchio, insalata, pasta, and gelato rather than the standard "spaghetti and steaks" fare common at most Italian restaurants.
Worth a visit if only to be served by waiters with authentic French accents, the cafe also offers excellent French cafe fare at reasonable prices. A few blocks from downtown on a corner of the old Helms Bakery complex; expect large crowds, with both indoor and outdoor seating.
With nearly 200 stores, Westfield Culver City is a major shopping center located close to the 405 and 90 freeways. The complex underwent a major expansion in 2010 and now features a Target, Best Buy, Gold's Gym and BJ's Restaurant in addition to the many smaller stores.
Held every Tuesday, rain or shine. The market offers fresh foods, flowers, crafts, and other fare. Two hours of free parking are available in downtown garages. When you walk across the alley, you are actually moving from Los Angeles to Culver City (or vice versa).
Reasonably priced and very tasty Lebanese restaurant. Seating is in an outdoor patio complete with hookahs, heat lamps, candles, and a bustling crowd that mixes young hipsters with Lebanese locals. Service is friendly and the place stays busy until closing.
This annual festival is held at the end of the summer and generally lasts from Friday through Sunday. The festival features a beer & wine garden, carnival rides, petting zoo, food trucks, a Farmer's market, 100 booths selling artisan wares, and live music.
Tasty fresh Mex food made without lard or trans fats. The vibe is easy-going with plenty of outdoor seating (including a firepit) and a friendly, slightly quirky staff. Happy hour specials include 2-for-one margaritas and appetizer specials.
Located within Surfas Restaurant Supply, the cafe offers absolutely amazing (although small) Italian sandwiches for $7-14. In addition, Italian drinks, pastries, cheeses, and salads are available for those looking for top-quality food to go.
The crowd at this bar combines students from Loyola Marymount with middle-aged regulars. Karaoke every night but Thursday, pool tables, and an atmosphere that borders on dive-bar without actually crossing the line.
Affordable, home-cooked style breakfast and lunch in a cozy, neighborhood diner. Food is good and portions are reasonably large, but be prepared for long lines in the mornings, especially on weekends. Cash only.
The Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments have been aptly called the "Hobbit House," and people actually live in these unusual apartments. Los Angeles city historic-cultural landmark No. 624.
From the sidewalk, you can see sculptural gates and fencing, created by artist John Okulick, using the colors of "My First Sony" (red, yellow, blue). Also, Margaret Nielsen designed a mural maquette .
Free wireless internet access is provided in downtown Culver City, but connectivity varies greatly depending on your location. Login is required using any web browser to activate access.
Jim Heimann's sculpture "Plato's Cup" (1995) is a riff on a weathervane, which pays homage to the film industry, a former cafe at the location, and the initials of the building's owner.
The Culver City library offers free internet connections (wired and wireless) as well as an extensive book collection. The library underwent extensive renovation in 2015.
This upscale pub is famous for its burger, just don't try to make any substitutions - they don't allow them, and they really mean it. There are also over 70 beers on tap.
This is a simple, quaint little Argentine bakery. The Empanadas are delicious, and you can always find the big screen in the dining area tuned to a soccer match.
Opened April 2008, this hotel features 260 spacious rooms and suites in addition to 10,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a full catering department.
This Indian vegetarian restaurant serves up tasty South Indian dishes including a large selection of masala dosas. It's usually full of Indian families.
R. M. Fisher designed "Wading Pool" (2000), the plaza fountain, which celebrates Sony's history of filmmaking and references the set of "Lost Horizon."
Jim Heimann's sculptures "Studio Pass I", "Studio Pass II", and "King Kong Gone" (1995-6), celebrate the history of Culver Studios and Sony Pictures
Albert Paley's entrance gates "Primordial Reflections" (1996) provide a monumental entry to architect Jaquelin T. Robertson's Media Building.
An Archives and Resource Center preserves local history, and aims to serve everyone from young children to senior citizens.
Jud Fine's courtyard installation "Scan" traces the history of television.
Northern Italian cuisine on Main St. Try the homemade gnocchi.
Harry Culver, a real estate developer, founded the city in 1913. Located along the roads and rail line that connected the beach resort city of Venice with downtown Los Angeles, the town grew fairly quickly. Culver attracted "immigrants" from the Midwest by offering homes that included furniture and even appliances in exchange for a monthly mortgage payment.
During the 1920s the film industry arrived, with silent film comedy producer Hal Roach and Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) building studios. During the 1930s through the 1940s Culver City was home to half of America's motion picture production and was dubbed the "Heart of Screenland." Today the entertainment industry is represented in Culver City by Sony Studios (formerly MGM), Culver Studios, National Public Radio's "NPR West" facility, the NFL Network studios, and a handful of smaller media companies.
Movies that have been produced in Culver City include classics such as Citizen Kane, the original King Kong, and Gone With the Wind. The Wizard of Oz was filmed at MGM studios, and the original yellow brick road is still inside the lot on Stage 27 of Sony Studios. In addition to being the home of classic films, the television show I Love Lucy was produced at Desilu Studios. More recent productions include Grease, Raging Bull, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, City Slickers, Men in Black, Air Force One and Spider-Man. In addition to I Love Lucy, television shows made on Culver City sets include Lassie, Batman, The Andy Griffith Show, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
The city has other ties to the entertainment industry beyond the movies and television shows created at its studios. The iconic Culver Hotel was once owned by Charlie Chaplin, and was later sold to John Wayne, legend has it for the price of $1 after a high-stakes poker game. The town's streets also reflect Culver City's entertainment history, with names such as (Mary) Pickford and (Douglas) Fairbanks.
Culver City was in a state of decline in the 1990s, but since that time has undergone a tremendous revival. The downtown area is now a bustling district that is home to dozens of restaurants and multiple theaters, while other districts throughout the city are gaining reputations for the culinary and artistic businesses that have set up shop.