Loving Los Angeles
Day 9. We were still in Los Angeles that day and we were loving it! We were supposed to visit the Natural History Museum early that morning if we were to follow our itinerary. But we didn’t.
Euben had a brilliant idea. Just a few days ago, Star Wars – The Force Awakens premiered in LA and he thought, since we are Star Wars fans, why not watch the movie instead? It was opening day, Dec 18. We were in LA and there would be no better place to watch it than in Hollywood.
So we headed to Hollywood Boulevard early that Friday morning to try our luck and see if we could catch the movie there. Our accommodation in LA, the Magic Castle Hotel, was just behind Hollywood Boulevard and so it was a quick walk to one of the most prominent streets in the world.
We were absolutely thrilled when we found out that TCL Chinese Theatre was showing it that morning! I guess there’s nothing more satisfying for Star Wars fans than to see the movie in the same theatre where it premiered just a few days ago. TCL was one of the 3 theatres used for the premiere of the new movie, and it was also where the very first Star Wars movie premiered in 1977. How’s that for trivia? 🙂
Another trivia: It was Joaquin’s first time to see a movie in the theatre. He has never been to one in Singapore. One lucky kid – his first movie was in Hollywood, in TCL no less.
Before the movie started, some fans were igniting their light sabers. After it finished, people applauded and Benjamin raised a thumb of approval.
On our way back to the hotel to get the car, we passed by some of Hollywood Boulevard’s iconic fixtures like the El Capitan…
And the Dolby Theatre – home of the Oscars and American Idol.
Incidentally, El Capitan and Dolby Theatre were the other two venues of the Star Wars – The Force Awakens premiere.
And of course, no matter how ‘touristy’ it was, we could not pass up the chance to have a picture taken with those brass stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
And also a shot with the famous white ‘Hollywood’ sign, no matter how far it was and small it looked (and in our case, a teeny tiny bit too little to see in the picture).
And I suppose if you come across Spider Man or Captain America, it wouldn’t hurt to also take some selfies with them.
After getting our car from the hotel, we drove 11mi (17.7km) to the California Science Centre. Both our kids take pleasure in going to science centres, galleries and museums, and so we had to put this on our itinerary.
The California Science Centre hosts a permanent exhibit of the space shuttle Endeavour, which was the focus of our visit there. The general admission to the centre is free but during peak periods, they advise to get a timed admission to the Endeavour exhibit for a token service fee of USD2. We did not know what time we will be in the centre, and since our visit was not considered a peak period, we leave it to chance and did not get a timed admission.
The Endeavour was located at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, which can be accessed from the 2nd floor. There were a few exhibits that can be viewed and done before reaching the shuttle. At the Air & Space exhibit, there were small airplanes and fighter jets on display and other space-related exhibits which the boys found interesting.
For USD5 each, we did the motion-based simulator which took us to space. It was educational but I should warn you that the ride was quite small, just nice for 4 people otherwise claustrophobia, if you have, might kick in.
Joaquin was looking at a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), which was on loan from NASA. The SSME, we learned, helps push the shuttle from the launch pad to orbit.
It would look something like this during operation.
Finally, we reached the space shuttle Endeavour. We felt honoured to be standing so close to something that travelled to space and back to Earth a number of times. It was just the size of a mid-sized passenger plane but one can tell it was something special.
Do you notice the interesting tiled underside of the shuttle? Those black tiles were apparently the shuttle’s thermal protection system to keep it insulated from extreme heat during re-entry to Earth. These tiles are reusable and replaceable, and they bear serial numbers so that NASA would be able to tell exactly which tile was lost and needs replacing.
Another interesting observation was the rather strange American flag. Do you see it? The blue part was on the top right instead of its usual position on the top left. They said they intentionally did this to make the flag look like it was flying with the shuttle.
Endeavour completed a total of 25 missions and, to us, the most memorable were its first mission to add a component to a communication satellite and the other was to fix the main mirror of the Hubble Telescope. Just imagine yourself doing a spacewalk, like the astronauts of Endeavour. How awesome would that be?
Endeavour’s first mission was in 1992. Its last mission was in 2011 and it finally made its way back to California in October 2012. It ended its glorious career with a flyby over California, piggy backing on a Boeing 747.
Isn’t that the cutest picture? Do check out NASA’s website https://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/status_reports/SCA_Endeavour_status_09_12.html on how they manoeuvred this baby on the streets of LA to reach its new home in California Science Centre.
Moving on, we visited the other exhibits but the kids were mostly interested in the marine and river displays.
We bought a magnet before leaving the centre. We realised a few years ago that we have accumulated a number of them from our previous travels and so we decided to continue that habit.
The sunset is early during winter and at 5pm that day, it already looked something like this when we reached our next attraction, the Griffith Observatory.
We were supposed to arrive there earlier but our GPS somehow got confused with the hilly terrain on the way to Griffith. We were supposed to arrive at sunset because people say this is the best place to see the white ‘Hollywood’ sign. But destiny decided that we see LA, twinkling like stars instead…
The ‘parking’ beside the cliffs overlooking LA was full. We tried the parking lot at the observatory and there it was – one single space remaining for our 4Runner.
This was Griffith Observatory that night.
Visitors can look through telescopes here to see the sky and space up close. There are exhibits to see and shows to watch.
The kids felt that they had already a lot of museum time today and chose to check out only a few exhibits and the tesla coil demonstration.
The kids found the electric charges flying off and bouncing on the walls fascinating, like watching lightning striking up close. By the way, admission is free at Griffith and it is open on most days of the week.
Around 6:30pm we drove back to downtown LA and headed to Dodger Stadium to watch Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities. One thing we do before heading to our holiday is to check ‘what’s on’ in our destination. Kurios was one of them and we were quite lucky because the run started just a few days back and the show would be in LA for 3 months only.
The four of us enjoyed the circus tremendously. The show revolved around an inventor in the 19th century who seemed to have invented what looked like a machine. The machine brought him to another dimension where all the unbelievable, thrilling, heart-stopping acts took place. There was a juggler suspended high above the ground, an aerial biker, an aviator guy balancing on tubes, an acrobat who balanced his body on one arm high up on a stack of chairs, ladies who were so flexible they didn’t seem to have any bones and a whole lot more. Some acts looked so dangerous we had to squint and hold our breaths. I know you can imagine what I’m saying; it’s Cirque du Soleil after all.
The show started at 8pm and lasted 2 hours with a break in between. There were hotdogs, pretzels, wine and other sorts to fill you up before the show starts or during the break.
That was our Friday in LA – Star Wars, space shuttle, a glowing LA and an epic circus. We couldn’t ask for more.
The following day, we had a day-trip out of LA with my high school friend, Heinrich, and her family.