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Itinerary: Mall Respites


A soft economy. Rising jobless rates. Fear of terrorism. Who knows? Maybe this time chaos won't reign at the shopping mall after Thanksgiving, typically one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

But don't count on it.

So when each floor of the parking structure feels like another circle of hell, when you think you'd have more luck finding an emu in ladies wear than a sales clerk, or when you're just about to scream at the top of your lungs, "Why are there so many wool sweaters in Southern California?," take heart. There are islands of refuge in many shopping centers.


When too many sale signs set your head spinning, set your body spinning to catch up. At the Media City Center (Magnolia at San Fernando boulevards, in Burbank), there's a remarkable carousel at the bottom of the atrium near the front entrance.

The carousel by famed carver Charles Looff dates back to 1895. In the 1950s, it operated at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica. A family from Oregon restored all the wood animals and placed it in the Media City Center in 1997, where for $1.50 kids or adults can ride the racing horses--or the more rare creatures, such as a dragon, goat, dog, giraffe or bear.

The Media Center has another feature that's more cultural than consumerist: The Colony Theatre Company, which took up residence in the Burbank Center Stage more than a year ago. The well-reviewed company just closed its most recent production last Sunday. The next production, the musical "Side Show," opens Feb. 2.


South Coast Plaza is a mecca for shoppers, but it's also a destination for art lovers. In 1997, the Orange County Museum of Art took over a gallery space-and, yes, a museum store-in the mall from the Laguna Museum, which had operated it since 1989. The OCMA Gallery at South Coast Plaza (3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. Free admission. [714] 662-3366) attracts about 200,000 visitors a year to its exhibits.

"Georgia O'Keeffe: The Artist's Landscape" is on view through Jan. 2.

Photographer Todd Webb documented the life and work of O'Keeffe, the famous American artist, over 30 years. From 1955 to 1981, he captured her in the New Mexico environment that inspired her most famous work. The pictures document the landscape and the specific objects O'Keeffe was painting.

Another photography show opens Jan. 12. For it, Richard Ross captured the essence of the California teenager by photographing his daughter each day before she headed off to high school.


At the decidedly upscale mall Avenue of the Peninsula (550 Deep Valley Drive, off Silver Spur, between Crenshaw and Hawthorne boulevards, Rolling Hills Estates), an ice skating rink provides an activity for kids whose parents are shopping, or while waiting for "Harry Potter" to start.

The mall, interestingly, was renovated about two years ago and went from being a two-story, enclosed mall to a three-story, open-air shopping plaza. Wander over by the Gap on the first floor, or Banana Republic on the second, and a window opens right onto the ice.

The rink, owned by Ice Chalet ([310] 541-6630), is a bit smaller than regulation size- 160 feet by 60 feet-but you won't have to fight the hockey players for use of the ice during the day. Public skating hours are Mondays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays, noon to 5 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m.; Wednesdays, noon to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 11 to 5 p.m. Admission for public skating hours is a flat $6.50 fee. Add $3 if you're renting ice skates.

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