By Merle Rosenstein
By day, California’s Southern Coast tempts winter weary travellers with golden sand beaches, soothing surf and outdoor adventure. At night, the entertainment options are endless. Sun seeking snowbirds can dance to a salsa beat on LA’s Sunset Strip. Or, tune into live jazz in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Comb California’s Southern Coast from Ventura to San Diego for after-dark amusement.
Surf Brewery in Ventura
The town of Ventura, 97 kilometres north of Hollywood is tucked between the Los Padres National Forest and the Pacific Ocean. Ventura appeals to foodies with nearby wineries and a strong farm-to-table movement. A thriving arts community keeps Ventura entertained with live music, galleries, museums and theatre.
Go live: The Rubicon Theater Company performs a broad repertoire of plays and the Majestic Ventura Theater hosts concerts in all musical genres. Enjoy dinner and music from Bluegrass to Indie at Zoey’s Café. Other live performance venues are W2O Lounge and Café Fiore. The Ventura Harbor Comedy Club and Ventura Improv Company will keep you in stitches.
Wine and dine: Tour the Ventura Wine Trail, whose unique offerings include Zeductive, a blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah or Temptress, a blend of Tempranillo, Mourvedre and Grenache.
Tierra Sur, Ventura County West
A short drive northwest of Los Angeles, Oxnard is a prime location for outdoor activity and fine dining. Just 16 kilometres offshore, sea caves in the Channel Islands provide prime animal and plant life viewing. A total of 40 eating establishments cater to different tastes such as Mexican, Mediterranean and Brazilian.
It’s showtime: The Downtown Centre for the Arts runs a foreign film series and arranges fine art exhibits. The Elite Theatre Company puts on plays five times per year at the Petit Playhouse at historic Heritage Square. The New West Symphony’s 2012-13 season features pieces by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Visit California/Max Whittake
After a day of slathering on sunscreen, chasing wild surf, searching for sea shells and tossing a football across the beach, you’re probably ready to relax and take in a show, sample gourmet goodies or wander around downtown.
Get down tonight: At downtown LA’s massive entertainment centre, LA Live, you can grab a bite, go salsa dancing, catch a movie or watch a sports event. The 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre features top performers. The historic El Cid Restaurant in the Silver Lake area entertains guests with a Flamenco dancing show. UCLA Live and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion showcase fabulous dance performances throughout the year. At the Mayan you’ll feel like a master as you sway to a Latin beat. supperclub in the historic Vogue Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has cirque artists, dancers and special guest DJs.
Feel the heat: New specialty bars are springing up around LA serving signature cocktails mixed with a variety of spirits. La Descarga, a Cuban club in Hollywood, stocks 100 different types of rum to be sipped straight, mixed or on the rocks. Entertainment includes a Latin band and burlesque dancer. Las Perlas resembles an Oaxacan cantina. The drinks menu lists tequilas and mescals. The vintage-style Thirsty Crow whips up whiskey sours and mint juleps at a horseshoe-shaped bar.
Laugh tracks: LA’s comedic talent shines at clubs across the city such as the Improv, Laugh Factory, Comedy Store and MI’s Westside Comedy Theater. Some of Canada’s top comedians have graduated and gone south.
Cruise Sunset Strip: The Sunset Strip has hosted some of the hottest musical talents for more than 40 years. Legendary establishments are the House of Blues Sunset Strip, the Viper Room, the Roxy and the Whisky A Go-Go.
Visit California/Max Whittaker
San Diego’s entertainment districts are the historic Gaslamp Quarter with over 30 bars and nightclubs, downtown, the beach and Shelter Island.
Get in the groove: In San Diego, national and international companies perform a variety of dance styles from hip hop to ballet. You might even find dancers in unusual places like the trolley or in the streets. Take to the dance floor at clubs in the Gaslamp Quarter or along Pacific Beach’s Grand and Garnet avenues.
Tempting tunes: Many top musicians and bands started out in San Diego such as Fran Zappa and Blink-182. Whether it’s raucous rock or refined classical tunes, there’s a club for everyone in San Diego. Here is a sampling:
• Little Italy: Anthology in Little Italy resembles a supper club from the 1940s.
• Downtown; The House of Blues San Diego serves up the hottest acts. At Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar in the Gaslamp Quarter, established in honour of the late Jim Croce, jazz is performed nightly.
• Solana Beach: The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach showcases new and legendary artists in genresranging from rock to blues.
• Shelter Island: Humphrey’s on the Bay attracts jazz, soul and rock legends to the city’s most beautiful outdoor venue overlooking San Diego Bay.
The San Diego Symphony, established in 1910, is one of the best in the nation performing more than 100 concerts each season with artists such Yo-Yo Ma, Yes, Charlotte Church, and Cirque Eloise. Guest artists display their talents during classical, pop and family festivals and a summer series.
Sip some suds: In San Diego County, 40 microbreweries are ready to share suds with tourists.
One More Option
Explore Danish architecture, culture and cuisine in Solvang, just up the coast from Ventura. Visit the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art to learn about local history; the Hans Christian Andersen Museum for a look at the life and work of this beloved Danish author, Solvang Vintage Motor Cycle Museum for a look at road trips from days gone by; and the early California mission, Old Mission Santa Inez.
Tasting by taxi: Book a local taxi and head out to the wineries in Santa Barbara County at you own pace. You pick the wineries, or leave it to the driver, and you sent the schedule.
For more information on evening entertainment along the Southern California Coast go to www.visitcalifornia.com
Related content on Canadian Traveller