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A wild-West ambience

September 02, 2008|Katherine Tulich | Special to The Times

NESTLED IN the oak-filled foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains in western L.A. County, Calabasas is an upscale community firmly rooted in small-town charm. The origin of its name is, however, less certain. It's believed original settlements of Chumash Indians named the area Calabasas, from the Indian word for "where the wild geese fly," while a more popular theory claims it comes from the Spanish word for pumpkin, an interpretation celebrated by the area's annual Pumpkin Festival in October. Its open spaces have made it a mecca for frontiersman, bandits, Old Hollywood stars and reality-TV upstarts ("Newlyweds" and "Keeping Up With the Kardashians").

Old Town Calabasas is a renovated strip paying homage to an 1800s Western town. It offers shopping, dining and a walking tour of historic sites, and is also the center of attention Saturday mornings with its Farmers Market. If you want to feel culturally nourished while choosing your favorite libation, head to the Wine Cask (23538 Calabasas Road, [818] 224-5662), a wine shop housed in Bernard's Gallery. For serious shopaholics, the city's free red trolley goes from Old Town to the outdoor mall the Commons up the road.

Old Western life is re-created at the Leonis Adobe Museum (23537 Calabasas Road, [818] 222-6511,, a working museum that houses an authentic 1880s home once belonging to Miguel Leonis, a landowner dubbed "the king of Calabasas." The surrounding ranch displays livestock and a heritage garden. Also part of the museum is a vintage Victorian home, the Plummer House, that was moved from West Hollywood, and a park with gardens.

Blast from the past

Our humble adobe

Where the locals go

An Old Town institution, the Sagebrush Cantina (23527 Calabasas Road, [818] 222-6062, features wide-open patios and sawdust floors. It draws families and bikers (who have their own parking area) with hearty Mexican and Tex-Mex plates of ribs, burritos and tacos. Weekends are a perfect time to sip margaritas or indulge in the all-you-can-eat brunch.

They're game for dinner

The Saddle Peak Lodge (419 Cold Canyon Road, [818] 222-3888, stands as one of L.A.'s most renowned dining destinations. Step through its wooden doors into another time to dine on game such as elk, antelope and buffalo. The menu also contains seafood and vegetarian selections.

Get back to nature

With 15 miles of stream-side trails, Malibu Creek State Park (1925 Las Virgenes Road, [818] 880-0367) has plenty of hiking and horse-riding opportunities; it was once a popular TV and film location ("MASH," "Planet of the Apes").

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