RIVERSIDE — You can go back to school just for the fun of it with an outing to the University of California, Riverside, an hour's drive east of Los Angeles. Photos and flowers are the main attractions.
This is where you'll find the California Museum of Photography, a $12-million collection of photographic images and equipment. It's also home to a 37-acre plant and bird sanctuary, the UCR Botanic Gardens.
Visitors are invited to stroll around the attractive campus, also noted for its 161-foot carillon tower, or you can join one of the daily student-guided tours.
The 1,200-acre campus is on the site of the Citrus Experiment Station established by University of California regents at the turn of the century. Since UCR opened its doors in 1954, enrollment has grown to 6,500 students.
The California Museum of Photography began in 1973 with the donation by Riverside physician Robert Bingham of 2,500 cameras and accessories that represent all periods in photographic history.
Soon came the gift of the entire archives of negatives and prints of Keystone View Co., 350,000 stereographic images that document the world from the 1890s through the 1930s.
UCR's range of significant camera equipment and photo print collections is only matched in the United States by the Smithsonian Institution and the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, N.Y.
The California museum is showing examples of 19th- and 20th-Century photographs, including work by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Paul Strand. On Friday it will be joined by another exhibition, the fifth annual Photographers' Christmas Card Show.
Any type of seasonal photographic greeting card sent or taken to the museum will be put on display through Jan. 3. The show grows as the cards are received; last year more than 1,000 were exhibited. Mail your photo greeting cards to California Museum of Photography, UCR, Riverside, Calif. 92521.
Or take them in person to the museum that occupies the rambling brick Watkins House on Canyon Crest Drive. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year's Eve and Day. Admission is free.
To get to the museum and campus from Los Angeles, drive east on the Pomona Freeway (California 60) to Riverside and University Avenue exit. Turn left to go under the freeway, then left again on Canyon Crest Drive. Park at the rear of the museum.
Free Campus Tours
A right turn off University Avenue will lead you to visitor parking in lot VP20, close to the administration building, where free campus tours begin. Tour reservations should be made before you go by calling (714) 787-4531 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (To park, deposit four quarters in the coin box for an all-day pass.)
Go to the building lobby and the admission office halfway down the hallway on the first floor.
The hourlong campus tours begin at 1O a.m. and 11 a.m. and noon on weekends, and on the hour from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. Weekend tour hours will be in effect Dec. 21 to 24; no tours Christmas through New Year's Day.
East of the administration building you'll see the campus landmark, the carillon tower, where faculty member Dave Christensen plays music on its 48 bells, noon to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He'll also give a carillon Christmas carol concert next Sunday at 2 p.m.
Opposite is the cafeteria, where visitors are welcome to stop for lunch or refreshments; it's open weekdays only, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Variety of Plant Life
In hilly terrain east of the campus you'll discover the botanic gardens that were started in 1963 and have grown to more than 2,000 species of plants. Follow signs on the campus roads.
Drive up the road to the garden parking lot and pick up a free trail map at the entry kiosk; admission is free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; closed Christmas and New Year's.
Most plantings are labeled, and they're grouped in areas according to type or region of origin.
In the African section you'll find the aloes in bloom this time of year. Also head to the rose area that will be in flower until the bushes are cut back in late January.
A good display of cactus and other succulents is near the garden entrance. You can spend a leisurely time exploring along four miles of trails. Keep an eye open for birds that make the botanic garden their home; more than 100 species have been seen.
Return to University Avenue to rejoin California 60 back to Los Angeles. (West of the freeway on University Avenue is a variety of restaurants and lodgings.)
Round trip from Los Angeles to play hooky on the UC Riverside campus is 112 miles.