The San Fernando Valley is 260 square miles of suburbia. Actually, make that suburbia on nutritional supplements. And antidepressants. With perhaps a little cosmetic surgery south of Ventura Boulevard, where the big money is. Or maybe — now that it's grown to more than 1.7 million people in nearly three dozen cities and neighborhoods rich and poor — the Valley isn't even a suburb anymore.
It begins just 10 miles northwest of Los Angeles City Hall, sprawling west to the Simi Hills, north to the Santa Susana Mountains, and east to the Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains. When you ask the natives what there is to do besides Universal Studios, you may hear a long pause.
They just take it for granted, that's all, and they also know it will never replace the beaches on tourist itineraries. But once their lips are loosened, most locals can tell you far more local secrets than are disclosed in the 11 Valley micro-itineraries collected here. Think of this, the fifth installment of our Southern California Close-ups series, as just a start. (You can see others at latimes.com/socalcloseups.)
The Valley is the home of the oldest Bob's Big Boy diner and perhaps the only porn-star karaoke night in North America. (After all, the Valley is widely known as the nation's porn production capital.) This is where Bob Hope and Ritchie Valens rest in peace, where "Friends" was shot, where Disney makes movies (but doesn't give tours), where the ageless phrase "gag me with a spoon" was born, where the papa of Patagonia honed his climbing skills. And there's Universal Studios too.