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Greater Los Angeles New Fun

From Hogwarts to Hollywood's Walk of Fame, check out these hot reasons to visit Greater L.A.

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  • picture the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center
    Photo credit
    Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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    Visitors have a blast at the California Science Center, home to the space shuttle Endeavour.
  • picture the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
    Photo credit
    Photo: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
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    The Chinese Garden is one of 12 gardens at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
  • picture people sit on the lawn in front of the Griffith Observatory
    Photo credit
    Photo: Carlo Acenas/Tandem Stock
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    The 1935 Griffith Observatory is located on Mount Hollywood.
  • picture Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
    Photo credit
    Photo: David Sprague/Universal Studios Hollywood
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    For a magical time, head to Hogwarts castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • picture Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
    Photo credit
    Photo: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
    Photo caption
    Get up close to the residents of the Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

1. The April unveiling of the West Coast’s Harry Potter–themed park establishes Universal Studios Hollywood as a truly magical destination. With dark, crooked streets and a dusting of snow, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter casts a verisimilar spell over visitors, perfectly re-creating Hogsmeade village, Hogwarts castle, and groundskeeper Hagrid’s hut. Aspiring wizards can get fitted for magic wands at Ollivanders and quaff mugs of nonalcoholic butterbeer in the Hog’s Head tavern—all while keeping an eye out for mysterious shadows, strange creatures, and other surprises.

Even those who don’t know a Muggle from a mandrake will thrill to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a virtual ride inside the walls of Hogwarts castle. After a captivating walk through the castle, you take a seat on the ride’s enchanted benches and don Quidditch-inspired 3-D goggles.

Before you can say “Floo powder!” you’re soaring high above the turrets of Hogwarts with Harry and Ron. An escaped dragon, a Whomping Willow, and a rousing Quidditch match await, all brought to life with fan-pleasing details and impeccable visual effects.

2. In 2011, NASA chose the California Science Center on Exposition Park Drive as the permanent home for the space shuttle Endeavour, which will eventually get its own enormous wing and sit in a vertical, launch-ready position. Until then, you can see the 155,000-pound ship in its temporary digs, propped on its belly like a plane. Accompanying educational exhibits offer glimpses of the galley where astronauts heated tortillas (preferable to bread because they don’t generate crumbs) and the “space potty.”

3. Now is the time to visit the 1935 Griffith Observatory. Last year, its Samuel Oschin Planetarium installed a state-ofthe- art projection system and powerful theatrical lights that make its dazzling shows, such as the long-running Centered in the Universe, even more vivid and immersive.

4. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has received an overhaul. The 1913 Beaux-Arts rotunda and grand Depressionera dioramas—such as bison wandering the plains and elephants at a watering hole—have been preserved. Outside you can explore 3 1/2 acres of new nature gardens. And be sure to check out the 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall. You’ll find a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus skeleton—most of that great length in its neck.

5. The revamped 1919 Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino has 120 acres of ponds, arbors, and themed gardens, such as the popular Chinese Garden. The galleries hold 650 paintings, such as John Constable’s View on the Stour near Dedham. Only 300 of the library’s 9 million rare books and manuscripts are on display, but these include a First Folio, a collection of William Shakespeare’s plays printed in 1623. A visitor center opened last year with a café, an expanded store, and an additional 6 1/2 acres of gardens.

6. Frank Lloyd Wright’s hilltop Hollyhock House reopened in 2015 after a major multiyear restoration that returned drab beige walls to their original rich forest green. Built between 1919 and 1921, the Hollywood house—which resembles a Maya temple—was Wright’s first experiment in California-style indooroutdoor living.

7. Take a stroll down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and look for recent stars, such as those for Claire Danes and Ridley Scott. Stars honoring Bradley Cooper, Kathy Bates, and others will be added in 2016.

Check out the feature Downtown Los Angeles for art, eats, and architecture.

This article was first published in Summer 2016. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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