Named by Italian immigrants for its once abundant olive groves, Sylmar means sea (mar) of trees (silva). Now, L.A.'s northernmost neighborhood is more synonymous with fires and earthquakes, but its ties to the Mediterranean fruit live on in the names of local institutions such as Olive View Medical Center and Olive Vista Junior High School.
Riding and gliding
Stetson Ranch Park, one of L.A.'s two equestrian parks, shows off Sylmar's rustic roots (13877 Glenoaks Blvd.,  989-8891). Located at the base of the mountains, the park offers hiking trails, picnic tables and parking for horse trailers in addition to its equestrian facilities.
Sylmar claims to be the "World Capital of Hang Gliding," and Sylmar Flight Park, on the other side of town from the equestrian park, is a popular landing zone (12600 Gridley St., www.shga.com).
The launch pad is accessible only to members of the Sylmar Hang Gliding Assn. El Cariso Community Regional Park offers a good view of the hang gliding show (13100 Hubbard St.,  367-7050, www.parks.lacounty.gov), along with tennis courts, a golf course, a swimming pool and ball fields.
Situated next to Mission College, the park is named after the El Cariso Hotshots, a wild land firefighting crew that lost 12 members in November 1966. They were killed while fighting the Loop Fire in the mountains behind Sylmar.
Down Hubbard Street from the college is Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural (13197-A Gladstone Ave.,  528-4511, www.tiachucha.com). A combination bookstore, cultural arts center, and then some, Tia Chucha's hosts exhibits, workshops and readings.
The J.B. Nethercutt Collection at San Sylmar is made up of classic automobiles, musical instruments, and a remaining eclectic mix of art objects (15200 Bledsoe St.,  364-6464, www.nethercuttcollection.org).
Nethercutt died in 2004 and was president of Merle Norman Cosmetics, which was founded by his aunt, Merle Norman. San Sylmar is on the site of one of the company's plants.
Some Sylmar restaurants have roots well over 25 years old and generations of loyal patrons keep them in business. Caruso's Pizza serves up classic Italian dishes (13737 Foothill Blvd.,  367-7766), and Dome Pochana brings a taste of Thailand to town (13191 Gladstone Ave.,  362-7864).
El Chaparral, which has been around since 1967, (13763 Foothill Blvd.  367-5979 www.presidenterestaurant.com) and El Caporal Restaurant (13634 Foothill Blvd.,  362-6265) are two local favorites for Mexican dishes.