Itinerary: Culver City

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A funny thing happened to filmmaker Thomas H. Ince when he was shooting one of his silent films at Ballona Creek in the early 1900s. Henry Culver talked him into moving his Hollywood studio to newly incorporated Culver City and the town has been show bizzy ever since.

Recent renovations to the decaying city core have turned Culver City into a fun place to explore. Be sure to nose around the city center for the few remaining thrift shops before total gentrification sets in.


Tonight, catch the last free Summer Sunset Music Concert at City Hall (9770 Culver Blvd., [310] 253-6640) from 6-7 p.m. The group Adaawe performs West African percussion music.



On Friday, tour Sony Pictures Studios (10202 W. Washington Blvd. Tours are Monday-Friday at 9:30, 11 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. $20. [310] 244-3695). Reservations are advised for the two-hour walking tour of the lot, which was once MGM. This is a working studio, so you may see actors from the new series “Grosse Pointe” or Mr. “Jeopardy!” himself, Alex Trebek.

Next door is Sony’s Culver Studios (9336 Washington Blvd.), which isn’t part of the tour, but is a big part of movie history. It still features the “Selznick” entrance that looks like a Southern mansion. Culver Studios was formerly RKO (think Fred and Ginger) and then Desilu (think Desi and Lucy). According to legend, it was also on this back lot, during the filming of the burning of Atlanta scene from “Gone With the Wind,” that David O. Selznick was first introduced to his Scarlett, Vivien Leigh.

Friday evening, head to the Cuban restaurant El Rincon Criollo (4361 Sepulveda Blvd., [310] 397-9295) and try its hot garlic roasted pork.


More local film history is available at the Culver City Library (4975 Overland Ave., [310] 559-1676). The library is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, but if reading isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the beautiful Japanese meditation garden in front of the library--a gift from Culver City’s sister city in Japan, Kaizuka.

The Culver Hotel (9400 Culver Blvd., [310] 838-7963) has been refurbished and features a restaurant called Scarlett that serves Chinese-American lunch until 3 p.m. and dinner until 9 p.m.

The hotel is best known for hosting the actors who portrayed Munchkins in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” Legend has it the diminutive actors slept three to a bed and caused quite a stir. The film “Under the Rainbow,” with Carrie Fisher and Chevy Chase is a fictionalized but hilarious account of the partying little people.



On Sunday, enjoy the several bike paths in Culver City. The city center bike path is most easily accessed at Elenda Street, where you’ll find a profusion of purple lantana, Culver City’s official flower. The Ballona Creek bike path can be entered at National, Duquesne or Overland streets. Picnic spots abound on the bike path, or grab lunch at the popular watering hole Sagebrush Cantina (9523 Culver Blvd., [310] 836-5321) while enjoying strolling guitarists.

Finish the weekend on another musical note by catching the last night of Chico Hamilton’s show at the Jazz Bakery (3233 Helms Ave., [310] 271-9039). Located in the renovated Helms Bakery building, the Jazz Bakery is one of L.A.’s top jazz venues. Or, check out the exhibits at the free Helms Bakery Museum (Antique Guild, 3231 Helms Ave., open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m., except Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. [310] 838-3131).