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6 Indoor L.A. Adventures

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L.A. Public Library
Central Library / Photo:Jimmy Yeh/Flickr/Creative Commons License

If you're heeding the warnings about the Godzilla El Niño that's supposed to pummel Southern California this winter, you might be wondering how you're going to pass the time with an activity that's not directly in the path of washed-out trails, mudslides, or intermittent downpours.

Sometimes it feels like everything is an outdoor activity here -- shopping, having brunch, or admiring public art. So what are we supposed to do indoors to avoid getting soaked or swept away while we try to recover from the drought? There must be something to do besides staying home in front of the TV.

You could always go to the movies -- an obvious choice -- but here are six other options for you to experience the art, culture, and history of L.A. in ways you might not normally when it's 72 degrees and sunny out. And you can spend more than just an hour or two at each of them.

Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein

Take a factory tour
L.A. has been and still is very much the center of many different industries -- from aerospace to fashion. And many of our factories will open their doors (sometimes for free) to show curious visitors how everything works (and tastes). You can visit Huy Fong Foods any time of year to get your Sriracha fix -- not just during their annual summertime open house. You can also taste fresh-out-of-the-fryer ramen noodles at Nongshim in Rancho Cucamonga and tour both the editorial offices and the Olympic printing plant of the L.A. Times during a monthly Thursday night Downtown ArtWalk. Swing by U-CAN Zippers, Fender guitars, Deering banjos, and Robinson helicopters for truly eye-pening experiences. (Generally it's best to make arrangements for your visit in advance.)

Get your library card
Well, not just any library, but our city treasure, the LAPL Central Library, where you can get lost in the stacks, sit in on a lecture, and take an architecture tour to learn about how the landmark survived devastating fire twice. 

There are tons of murals to peruse, including many that depict the history of California, as well as rotating art and photography exhibits; but if you feel like doing some reading, take a ride in the elevator, whose walls are lined with vintage salvaged card catalogue entries. Because although Central Library has a modern annex that features contemporary art, it's inscribed in the walls of the main building: "In books we live in all ages."

Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein

Work on your high score
It used to be that if you wanted to recapture your youth and play something besides darts, you'd have to go to one of the big chains and fight the crowds of tourists and families. Now, with Button Mash in Echo Park, Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena, The One Up in Sherman Oaks, and EightyTwo in the Arts District, you can find a cool  video arcade pretty much wherever you are. 

If you're looking for something more athletic, there's a new outpost of Brewskee-Ball, the national Skee-Ball league, starting up at Arts District Brewing. There's even a board game-themed coffee joint in Glendale called the GameHaus Café, where you can eat sandwiches, salads, and pastries while you choose from their hundreds (if not thousands) of games stacked to the ceiling, which you'll be charged by the hour to play. Serious gamers will figure out how to get access to one of the several private collections of antique pinball machines around the city, but fortunately there's one that's open occasionally to the public: Pins and Needles in Echo Park. Check their website for times and dates.

Spend the day at a hotel
Hotels aren't just for overnight stays, especially in L.A. Many of them welcome -- in fact, encourage -- local visitors who aren't spending the night to take advantage of their amenities. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, for instance, is rich with history, Hollywood lore, and ghost stories -- and it can keep you entertained for hours. Start by people-watching in the lobby, and then grab a meal at the Public Kitchen and a bespoke cocktail at the Library Bar. Head upstairs to roll some boozy bowling balls at The Spare Room (where bands and DJs often play), catch a show at Beacher's Madhouse (if you can get in), and grab a gourmet burger and some onion rings at any time of night at 25 Degrees, which is open all night. 

Or get traditional afternoon high tea at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, have dinner and a show at the Ace Hotel and its adjacent theater, or find a member to get you into the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where you can swim in a gorgeous vintage pool (like Don Draper did on Mad Men), and then sneak up a hidden staircase to a tiny and very exclusive speakeasy.

Go for a scrub
Going to one of the city's Asian- or European-style spas could be one of the best deals in town, if it's one of the places where you pay a flat fee (usually somewhere in the ballpark of $20) to spend all day there. Your admission charge will go toward the cost of your service, if you decide to get a massage or a mud scrub. Usually there are steam rooms, saunas, hot tubs, and cold pools for you to rotate through and lounge about it, so you can definitely kill a couple of hours and not think about how the weather outside is frightful. At Olympic Spa in Koreatown, you can get a traditional scrub or a milk bath (which is exactly what it sounds like) for under $50. If you do want something a bit fancier but still affordable, Wi Spa near Macarthur Park is open 24 hours and has an on-site restaurant. 

Go underground
OK, so you may not want to take the Metro to actually get anywhere, but the Metro stations themselves, including, of course, our crown jewel Union Station, are quite fascinating and worth a visit. Union Station often hosts musical performances, lectures and slide shows, and even movies in the afternoon and evening. Afterwards you can have a nice sit-down dinner at Traxx and a nightcap at Traxx Bar. Metro conducts regular tours of Union Station in both English and Spanish (as does the Los Angeles Conservancy) as well as of the art that's been installed in the various stations along their lines. Each has its own theme, which is expressed with sculpture, light, video, and wall and ceiling motifs both on the train platforms and in the entryways before you go through the turnstiles. Your best bet is probably the Red Line, so you can stay underground and not fight the elements on a light rail like the Expo Line or the Gold Line. But that's not a bad thing, since Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles say it's haunted.

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