Behold: Five great things you should do in Southern California this week, from art to food to music to an adventure we'll call "the Wild Card," from the makers of the 5 Every Day app. You can also get this as a new podcast in iTunes. If you want five hand-picked things to do in Los Angeles every day, download the free 5 Every Day from the App Store.
ART: Paramount Ranch
Saddle up, because it’s time to go to the ranch.
That’s right, l'il doggies, it’s time for the Paramount Ranch Art Fair. It’s a yearly half-happening, half-festival that transports approximately 30 galleries and artist spaces to an old cowboy movie set deep in the Santa Monica mountains.
Paramount Ranch, as in Paramount Studios, has taken a few star turns over the years. It stood in for 1860s Colorado in "Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman" and saw its fair share of action on John Wayne flicks.
These days it’s a national park attraction, but it excels in its late-career role as an off-grid art-world compound. Make the trek to see the Western facades transformed into ad-hoc galleries by a laundry list of hip international galleries.
Highlights this year include a pop-up shop from avant garde, post-gender fashion line Eckhaus Latta, and a Gem Fair hosted by Joshua Tree-based arts organization High Desert Test Sites.
But it’s the people-watching that we go for. The promise of high art in the mountains really — dare we say — rustles up a scene.
CITY: Camellia Festival
The Huntington Gardens get all the love. But Descanso Gardens, 160 acres of beautifully-kept botanical collections and seasonal displays on the edge of La Cañada , might be the best, most romantic green space in the city. It’s also cheaper than the Huntington — because not every day is Mother’s Day.
Right now it's Camellia season, a great time to visit Descanso if you've never been.
Camellia flowers bloom in the winter, and since it’s theoretically winter, the park is alive with their red and pink blooms.
The leaves of the camellia plant are used to make tea — not some special kind of herbal tea, but tea, the most popular beverage on the planet. So the festival is also a tea festival with a full tea service in the Descanso's Japanese tea-house and tastings hosted by experts from Chado Tea of Pasadena.
While you're there, take a stroll through the small forest of coast live oaks, some of which are hundreds of years old.
Oh, and ride the circuit around the grounds on Descanso’s “Enchanted Railroad,” an 1/8th-scale train you straddle like a pommel horse.
It’s not just for kids, keep telling yourself that.
FOOD: The Semi-Tropic
Zac: In spite of our commitment to deliver to you, dear reader, all the undusted jewels we can find in this fair city, with some places we hesitate.
You know, there are spots whose sparseness is kind of the point. Spots that, if blown up, might be blown altogether.
The Semi-Tropic is one of these spots.
It's a relatively new bar/cafe on Glendale in Echo Park, tucked discreetly behind that gnarly-looking combination KFC and Taco Bell under Sunset.
By day it's a spacious third wave coffee shop with exposed brick, ample booth seating and a solid food menu. Think avo-toasts, sandwiches and well-rounded salads. At nightfall, it segues into a reliable neighborhood bar.
Parking is... well, good luck. But for day-timers, the Semi-Tropic offers a precious commodity far too few Eastside coffee spots can promise: space.
For now, at least.
MUSIC: Lucky Dragons at Pehrspace
Pehrspace is kind of a miracle: a volunteer-run, not-for-profit, all-ages venue in a strip mall in Westlake, whose unlikely, decade-long existence is testament to its total necessity.
They host everything from punk shows to guided meditations and this Saturday, Lucky Dragons.
That’s L.A.-based media artists Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck. They’re the gentlest giants who share their lives in a number of ways, most prominently as the multifaceted and genuinely magical musical group Lucky Dragons.
They're prolific makers of things, collapsing technologies in ways that are cerebral, playful and unerringly humane.
Live, they're like a utopian social experiment that must be seen — or rather, felt — to be understood.
WILDCARD: Milion Dollar Botanica
There are botánicas everywhere in Los Angeles, folk pharmacies hawking everything from religious candles to Bayer aspirin. They service a broad spectrum of spiritual and medical needs in the Roman Catholic tradition, with shades of candomblé, curanderismo, espiritismo, macumba and santería thrown in for good measure.
For the uninitiated, the Farmacia Y Botanica Million Dollar — right next to downtown’s Grand Central Market — is a solid one-stop shop for sundry spiritual goods.
It’s a great place to pick up very specific votive candles: To burn for success in business or hex an ex-lover. Great party favors, by the way.
There’s a whole aisle of spiritual aerosol cans. If you need to spray a room with the essence of a black cat, you’re set.
Plus minerals, rosaries and oils. Don't forget to pay homage at the altar to La Santísima Muerte before you check out.