Monday April 14, 2014
There are a number of Old West movie sets scattered around the borders of Los Angeles, and Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Santa Clarita is one of them. Although events are spread around Santa Clarita and Newhall, the studio lot is the centerpiece of the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, which features cowboy music, a western wear fashion show and vendors, cowboy movies, poetry and storytelling, a Medicine Show Revue, children's activities and an Old Town Hoedown. Some events sell out, but there's still plenty to do to get you in the cowboy/cowgirl spirit.
When: April 24-27, 2014
Where: Various locations in Santa Clarita and Newhall, CA
Photos by Ryan Resella, courtesy of Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival
Saturday April 12, 2014
If you're looking for the spectacle of a hi-production-value Easter story, the Passion Play at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch might fit the bill. Other continuing traditions are the Easter Egg Hunt at the LA County Arboretum, the Blessing of the Animals at Olvera Street and Big Bunny's Spring Fling at the LA Zoo. There's something for everyone in the Easter Events in LA Guide.
Photo courtesy of the LA Zoo
Wednesday April 9, 2014
The official press opening for the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride and Super Silly Funland at Universal Studios Hollywood is tomorrow, Thursday, April 10, and it opens to the public Saturday April 12, 2014. Impatient for the official opening, I was able to take an advance run on the new ride with some friends while it was in previews last week.
Replacing the Terminator 3D ride on the upper lot, Minion Mayhem is set up more like the Simpsons Ride, although the 8-seat cars are open to each other in kind of an amphitheater layout. In the holding area outside the ride, Gru and his three daughters recruit you to be trained as Minions. Once inside, settled in your seat, the 3D glasses go on and your training begins. Things don't quite go as planned and you're off on a flying, falling adventure with Margo, Edith and Agnes. The seat shifts around with the motion of the scene.
On the way out of the ride, join in the Dance Party and watch yourself live on video high up on the wall.
Of our crew, 7-year-old Margo says it was "scary, fun, cute and weird." Nine-year-old Zoe called it "Amazing!" Dad, who hadn't seen the movie, said it was fun, but he didn't get it. Mom thought it was age appropriate, but not as good visually as some of the other rides. I agree with all of them. You don't need to have ever seen The Simpsons to follow
what's going on in The Simpson's Ride or to have seen Transformers to get into the action of that ride. Minion Mayhem, on the other hand, benefits more from having seen the movies. Nevertheless, it's cute and fun, and hopefully they will have worked out the visual bugs in previews.
Super Silly Funland was still under wraps behind its purple castle arch, guarded by Minion soldiers, but from what I could see, the new play area is a visually enticing recreation of Gru's neighborhood, Miss Hattie's Home for Girls and the seaside carnival. I look forward to checking it out after it's open. If you get there before I do, come back and tell us all about it!
This is year three in Universal's 5-year expansion plan. Transformers The Ride was a great new addition in 2012. In 2013 they remade the center of the upper lot into a rather disappointing centerpiece, the Art Deco Universal Plaza. This year's introduction of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Funland is the largest project so far, and the first fully themed area in the park. In 2015, the entire area around The Simpson's Ride will be themed as Springfield, and the Fast & Furious--Supercharged will be added to the Tram Tour. 2016 will complete the 5-year project with the fully immersive The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Saturday April 5, 2014
Book lovers will gather in Los Angeles April 12-13, 2014 for the country's largest celebration of literary accomplishment. The LA Times Festival of Books will bring 140,000 readers and collectors to see 450 authors and 300 exhibitors to a celebrate the written word. The free event will return to the University of Southern California campus. The Festival includes literary panels, author book signings, storytelling, readings for children and adults, music and dance performances. Some events require tickets, which are free, but have a $1 processing fee. These tickets are made available about a week before the event on a first come basis. A $35 festival pass will let you reserve tickets for up to 8 events in advance. There are also writing workshops organized in conjunction with the festival for a fee.
Celebrity authors this year include Hugh Acheson, Shoreh Aghdashloo, Gustavo Arellano, Reza Aslan, Philip Bailey, Mayim Bialik, T.C. Boyle, LeVar Burton, Roy Choi, Sandra Cisneros, Jackie Collins, Giada de Laurentiis, Rob Delaney, Barbara Ehrenreich, John Green, Carla Hall, Daniel Handler, Robert Hilburn, Pico Iyer, Diego Luna, Chris Kluwe, Terry McMillan, B.J. Novak, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Katherine Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Alicia Silverstone, Susan Straight, Marlo Thomas, Stephen Tobolowsky, Sandra Tsing Loh, Henry Winkler, Rachel Zoe and Adrian Todd Zunigaand more.
To help navigate the festival there's a free LA Times Festival of Books App for iTunes and Android.
When: April 12-13, 2014, Saturday 10-6, Sunday, 10-5
Where: USC Campus, Exposition Blvd and S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Festival is free. Indoor panels and lectures are free, but require tickets.
Parking: $10 in campus lots. Shuttles will run from outer campus lots.
Photo of DJ Lance from a previous Festival of Books, photos © Kayte Deioma licensed to About Los Angeles Travel