(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)
Adventurous dads with a penchant for travel might consider heading to one of these Southern California airports on Father's Day weekend. Not to fly, but to spend some time looking for exotic airplane tails or watching a giant Airbus A380 land.
Plane-spotting is fun and pretty much free. Just grab a camera and binoculars, plus any grandkids and other family members hanging about, and go scour the skies for interesting aircraft. Here are some good viewing spots:
Observation Deck at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): The airport will mark its 50th year with a free "Sunday Morning Coffee" from 8:30 to 11:30 at the Observation Deck atop the Theme Building. Plane-spotting from this 360-degree perch is like shooting fish in a barrel. The first 300 people who show up will receive a commemorative coin to mark the occasion. The observation area, accessed from the ground floor of the Theme Building, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays for free. 1 World Way; (310) 646-5252.
Jim Clutter Park (aka Clutter's Park or Imperial Hill) in El Segundo: This small park, named for an El Segundo city councilman, faces runways in an area that veteran plane-spotters rave about online. The nearby In-N-Out Burger at 9149 S. Sepulveda Blvd. also has nice views, apparently, and might be a good stop for a nosh. East Imperial Avenue and Sheldon Street; (310) 524-2300.
Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO): Even though this airport isn't a big commercial hub, you get to see planes taking off and landing with the ocean as a backdrop. Two free viewing decks -- one on the third floor, one on ground level -- at the Airport Administration Building are open from dawn to dusk daily. You can listen to the control tower and even picnic on one of the decks. 3223 Donald Douglas Loop South; (310) 458-8591.
Long Beach Airport (LGB): The second-floor Legends of Aviation restaurant has long windows that face the runways at this tiny 1940s-era airport. "You can see all the planes taking off and coming down," says Regis Telesca, the restaurant's procurement manager. "You don't need to buy anything to get the view." Still, it wouldn't hurt to treat Dad to a beer or a snack. The restaurant ( 420-6800) is open 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. 4100 Donald Douglas Drive; (562) 570-2600.
Van Nuys Airport (VNY): This small airport in the San Fernando Valley has a viewing space off Woodley Avenue at the end of Waterman Drive that is open 8 a.m. to sunset daily. You can listen to a real-time broadcast of air traffic controllers and watch the planes roll by. If you're lucky, you'll catch the Condor Squadron, which flies World War II-era planes once used in training missions. 16461 Sherman Way; (818) 442-6500.