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Southern California Close-Ups: Los Angeles' park neighborhoods

Here are 10 itineraries for the Griffith Park, Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park areas.

March 30, 2012|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Do happy people live in Los Feliz? Well, some. But the area got its name from Jose Vicente Feliz, an 18th century settler who received this real estate through a Spanish land grant. The Greek Theatre (2700 N. Vermont Ave.;, home to many summer concerts, is a few blocks north of the commercial district on Vermont and Hillhurst avenues. Barnsdall Art Park (including Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House and a picnic-ready grassy knoll at 4800 Hollywood Blvd. (, is a few blocks south. Once you snag a parking spot (or arrive at the Sunset-Vermont Metro stop), walk Vermont between Franklin and Prospect avenues. Begin with people watching and caffeination in a sidewalk seat at Figaro (1802 N. Vermont Ave.;, which carefully cultivates its French flavor, or Fred 62 (1850 N. Vermont Ave.;, a 24-hour retro-kitsch diner with lime-green walls. Both draw celebrities and often show up on TV, and among customers at either, you may encounter attitude. For larger outdoor dining areas and more people-watching, there's also Alcove Cafe (1929 Hillhurst Ave.; and Home restaurant (1760 Hillhurst Ave.;; there’s another Home in Silver Lake at 2500 Riverside Drive; For unfancy food but warm welcome to kids, there’s Palermo (1858 N. Vermont Ave.; Browse Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave.;, and check this week's memes at Y-Que Trading Post (1770 N. Vermont Ave.;, where today's news is tomorrow's silk-screen theme. If you stay on the block for dinner or drinks, the dull facade of Dresden Restaurant (1760 N. Vermont Ave.; conceals a neighborhood treasure: the lounge act of Marty and Elayne, who have been playing and singing, Tuesdays through Saturdays, sometimes in matching caftans, for nearly 30 years.

6. Cowboys, Indians, gorillas and elephants

Los Angeles Zoo (Mariah Tauger / For The Times)

The Los Angeles Zoo (5333 Zoo Drive; can't match San Diego's, but it's cheaper ($16 per adult in early 2012), and it's right in Griffith Park. A new Asian elephant exhibit recently opened, but the best entertainment is still the Campo Gorilla Reserve, where your kids might get within inches of a gorilla's nose (with a thick viewing window in between). Their near-human attributes (we mean the gorillas) are endlessly absorbing. If you're more interested in human doings, the nearby Autry National Center's Museum of the American West (4700 Western Heritage Way; may surprise you. It covers not only Indians, cowboys and other newcomers but also pop culture's portrayal of them. And it has a great gift shop full of books, art, music, blankets and belt buckles.

7. Tchotchkes and tiki

Tiki Ti (Perry C. Riddle)

You owe somebody a gift? Perhaps a grown-up pop-culture sort of gift, not necessarily in good taste? Step into the vast and semi-subversive retail wonderland known as Soap Plant / Wacko and the Luz de Jesus Gallery (all at 4633 Hollywood Blvd.; in Los Feliz. Tiki tchotchkes, concert posters, Beatles lunch boxes, Bozo kazoos, rubber frog handbags -- they're all here in a former post office building, along with many picture books not suitable for children. After shopping, get a bite at Umami Burger (4655 Hollywood Blvd.;, a block northwest. And then it's time to catch a movie at the Vista Theatre (4473 Sunset Drive), Spanish on the outside, Egyptian on the inside). Or maybe you'd rather head for a drink at Tiki Ti (4427 W. Sunset Blvd.;, three blocks southeast. No beer, no wine, no credit cards. What you get are tiki drinks, about 90 of them, served since 1961 in a 12-stool space that fills up quickly. Important note: Smoking is allowed inside because all bar employees are part of the Buhen family, which owns the place. The Ti is usually open Wednesday nights through Saturdays, but every three months, the Buhens take three or four weeks off. So check before showing up. Once you're inside, certain drink orders will cause everyone around you to start yelling, "Ooga-Booga!" Act as though you expected it. And when you’ve had enough, retire to your quarters at El Tres Inn (4439 W. Sunset Blvd.;, an eccentric, three-suite lodging above El Chavo Mexican restaurant and El Chavito bar. It’s not cheap, but for a place to crash after a night of tequila, it makes good sense.

8. Sunset Junction

Sunset Junction (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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