Dive into Your Holiday Vacation on Home Turf with Our List of Curated Activities

The adventurous staycation.


Sweet Immersion

At Duff’s Cakemix in Tarzana (18734 Ventura Blvd.), it’s all about decorating your cake and eating it too. Created by Food Network star and cake decorating guru Duff Goldman, this unique bake shop gives kids (and adults) the chance to design and decorate the cake of their dreams.

Customers begin by receiving a fully baked cake or cupcakes, and then the imagination can go wild. All kinds of clever adornments and professional tools allow you to bring your edible masterpiece to life. Duff’s also has a colorful array of candies in every shape and size as well as a multitude of frostings and fondants (hardened icing that can be molded into nearly any decorative shape). Make a design following step-by-step instructions or make your own custom creation.

Sure, you’ll find a few serious bakers, but generally the vibe is light and fun. Prepare to laugh a lot and even sneak a few sweets as the artistic process unfolds.

Go Green

On a charming row of shops in the heart of Valley Village, you’ll find the newly debuted Greenwood Shop (12441 1/2 W. Magnolia Blvd.). It features bespoke home decor items and accessories—everything from clean-burning candles to handmade tapestry wall hangings. You instantly feel like you’ve been transported to one of those hip stores in downtown Ojai. But Greenwood is more than a shop; it’s also a plant nursery, with a do-it-yourself feature—a “potting bar.” Customers pick out a container (all are moderately priced) at the interactive planting station, and then select a houseplant or succulent.

With guidance provided by the green-thumbed staff, customers mix the nutrient-rich soil, plant it properly and then receive a tutorial on home care.

Cool Sculpt

Owner and lifelong artist Kristin Davis recently opened Creative Ceramics in Sherman Oaks (15116 Ventura Blvd.). The bungalow (set back a bit off the Boulevard) is an artistic hub where people of all ages are encouraged to experiment and, yes, even play with clay.

While the studio features classes and open studio hours to “throw” pottery on the wheel, Kristin advises only experienced ceramicists (teens and adults) use the motorized equipment. For kids, she suggests sculpting and modeling clay using just their hands, small tools and molds.

There’s plenty of artistic inspiration throughout the studio to get creative juices flowing. Design a wall sconce, dog bowl or sculpt a figurine. Kristin is there to offer expert techniques and tips as your creation takes shape.

Creations are left behind to fire in the kiln, and then customers return at a later date to paint them.

Lighten Up

Billed as the “party of the year” at the 150-acre Descanso Gardens (descansogardens.org), the Enchanted Forest of Light runs through January 5. It is an interactive, nighttime experience: a one-mile walk through the botanical gardens, which have been magically lit. A variety of large-scale light displays, many of which are interactive, allow visitors to manipulate the lights and sounds.

The interactive features are what makes this experience so much fun. At the Symphony of Oaks, visitors can make the majestic trees sing with color by kicking off a symphony of hues from the platforms under each tree. At Lightwave Lake, visitors can change the colors or control the lights to create their own designs. Also during this special event, the Japanese Gardens are adorned with hundreds of glowing red lanterns, and thousands of radiant tulips are in full bloom.

A number of food and beverage options are available, and Maplethe on-site restaurant, is open for dinner. Tickets to this rain-or-shine event must be purchased in advance and are nonrefundable.



Fancy Flight

With the no-frills experience of flying these days, it’s hard to imagine that airplane transportation—even in coach—used to be considered a luxury experience. And no one did it better than Pan Am Airways. The airline was known for its large, plush seats; fully decked out, attractive “stewardesses;” and multicourse meals. When it shut down in 1981, a chapter in American aviation was closed.

So when Talaat Captan, the CEO of Air Hollywood—an airline-oriented production studio in Pacoima (the hilarious Kristen Wiig drunk scene in Bridesmaids was shot there)—stumbled across a collection of memorabilia from the iconic airline, he had to have it. “The collection was just incredible, and really well preserved,” Talaat shares. “It included part of an actual 747, dishware, silverware and all the stewardess, pilot and crew uniforms.”

That vintage assortment was the inspiration for the creation of the three-and-a-half-hour Pan Am Experience (panammexperience.com) at Air Hollywood—a chance for the nostalgic and the curious to take a meticulously crafted trip back in time.

Just like in the good ol’ days, there are there three classes of travel for the 50 passengers: Clipper, First Class and the exclusive Upper Deck in which passengers ascend the famous Pan Am spiral staircase to what essentially amounts to a private space—great for small groups.

The experience kicks off with a cocktail party in the lounge set off by two illuminated, fully stocked bars. One was made from the circular exterior of a real plane. Then “passengers” climb aboard the jet for a five-course meal (meat, chicken and vegetarian options). The team stewardesses—who make three complete outfit changes during the evening—seem right out of central casting and provide much of the evening’s entertainment. They lead games and preside over the duty-free cart, which of course, includes cigarettes (fake).

Several scenes from the movie Once Upon A Time in Hollywood were shot on the Pan Am set. “Leonardo Caprio and Brad Pitt were both here, as well as the director Quentin Tarantino. In fact, Quentin had so much fun that he actually came back with his wife after the shoot and the two did the whole experience together,” Talaat shares.

— Written by Linda Grasso

Zoom Lens

In 1945, an observant, quirky 17-year-old from the Bronx named Stanley Kubrick sold his first photograph to Look magazine, one of the most popular pictorial publications of the day. Soon he was working the New York beat for the magazine, taking hard-nosed, unflinching photos in the style of his hero, the tabloid photojournalist Weegee.

Now these revelatory slice-of-life photos, many never published, are on view through March 8 in Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs at the Skirball Cultural Center (skirball.org). The exhibit offers a tantalizing glimpse inside the creative mind of the future director of such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, his unique eye already evident in every shot.

In his photographs, Kubrick trained the camera on his native city, drawing inspiration from the nightclubs, street scenes, and sporting events that made up his first assignments, capturing the pathos of ordinary life. Viewing the photos, one can see the filmmaker focusing on the themes that would inspire him throughout his creative life, capturing the drama of human interactions and telling stories in dynamic sequences.

The striking shots include boxers, burlesque queens and even a young Montgomery Clift.

— Written by Hadley Hall Meares

Sippin’ Safari

Over the holidays, the folks at Saddlerock Ranch’s Malibu Wine Safari (lasafaris.com) are transforming Camp Cabernet into a winter wonderland with Malibu Lights: Winter Nights. For the adults-only evening experience, guests get to ride through the scenic 1,000-acre property—which is decked out with a holiday-inspired immersive light show—while tasting Saddlerock’s best locally produced wines along the way.

As the driver team leads the adventure on custom-built open-air safari vehicles, guests will enjoy the light show, making pit stops along the way.

 At each stop guests will be served two wine tastings of the property-label wines including some from Semler Estate. The property’s famous oak grove will be decked out as Candy Cane Lane, and at one point, you even get to share your wish list with Santa.

— Written by Linda Grasso

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