"Vacation to the Planets," weekends at the Griffith Observatory, is a 45-minute multimedia program designed to appeal to children of all ages and their parents. (The rest of the planetarium's shows are not open to children under 5.)
The program, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, introduces children to the solar system by imagining what it would be like to take vacations on other planets. "We see if the planets would make good vacation spots. We talk about the environment--air, water, temperature--to see if each one would be a fun place to visit," says program designer Suzy Gurton. There are slides, short films, zoom effects and a projection of 9,000 stars in the current night sky cast on the planetarium's dome ceiling.
"Vacation to the Planets" was designed by Gurton as a school show for first- through third-graders but is basic enough to appeal to preschoolers as well. Lecturers gear their discussions to the makeup of each day's audience: When there is a preponderance of very young kids, the lecturer slants his comments their way.
Tickets ($2.75 for adults, $1.50 for kids) go on sale at 1 p.m. each day. Saturdays can be busy and Gurton recommends getting to the ticket window when it opens. Admission to the rest of the observatory--which includes astronomy and physical science exhibits, such as a detailed model of the moon--is free. The observatory is at 2800 E. Observatory Road in Griffith Park, (213) 664-1191.
If you're hungry after all that planetary activity, the best idea might be to bring a picnic and head for a grassy spot adjacent to the observatory, or drive down to either the Greek Theater or Bird Sanctuary sections of Griffith Park, both of which have picnic tables. Picnic lunches can be augmented by drinks and treats from the observatory's snack bar.
Pinocchio and Mixed Vegetables--These are two short ballets presented by the professional ballet company, Ballet Pacifica, at Long Beach Jewish Community Center (3801 E. Willow St., 213/426-7601) Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Headquartered in Laguna Beach, Ballet Pacifica has performed all over the United States. Tickets are available for the hourlong program which begins with a shortened but fully costumed version of "Pinocchio," and is recommended for ages 5 and up. The "Mixed Vegetables" vignette features dancers dressed as produce who get tossed in a salad. There's some audience participation (perhaps a few little anchovies from the audience?). The box office opens at 12:30 p.m. and tickets are $3.
Eaton Canyon Family Nature Walks--Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. the docents at Eaton Canyon County Park and Nature Center lead an easy-paced walk through the park's native flora. Since the 184-acre park is dedicated to preserving local plant and animal life, these walks offer a chance to see birds and small animals as well. Meet at the flagpole at 9 a.m. Infants and toddlers in backpacks are welcome but the trail is not stroller accessible. The walk lasts an hour or so, and is free. Eaton Canyon is at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains at 1750 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, (818) 794-1866.
Will Rogers State Historic Park--Two amateur polo games are scheduled this weekend: today at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. Visitors to the park are free to spread a blanket and watch the games from the sweeping grassy embankment between the parking lot and the polo field (there are no bleachers). Bring a picnic lunch (there are no food concessions in the park). The nice thing about this casual approach: If you don't feel committed to sitting through the whole thing, you can tour the ranch house where Will Rogers lived, or take any number of short hikes within the park. The park is located at 14253 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades, (213) 454-8212. Polo watching and house tours are included in the $2-per-car entry fee. Parking is limited; best be early.
Burton Chace Park--At the tip of Mindanao Way in Marina Del Rey, this small, six-acre park is surrounded by water on three sides and the boats are so close you can almost reach out and touch them. However, the park is safely fenced off from the water--making it safe for kids, yet exciting. It's a great spot for those who don't own boats to watch those who do. Saturdays are less crowded than Sundays and while there are some picnic tables in the shelters, the best way to enjoy this waterside park is to picnic on the grass. Since it's on the water, the weather can turn chilly; bring sweaters.
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