12 best things to do in Culver City
As you pass through the studio gates on this leisurely walking tour, you’re immediately greeted by Tony Tasset’s arching Rainbow sculpture—a nod to the studio’s past as the home of The Wizard of Oz. The lot’s footprint has been significantly downsized since then, when it was known as the iconic MGM Studios, but the magnolia tree-lined sidewalks and clean, white Art Deco facades provide a pleasant backdrop for a trip through Tinseltown's past and present.
Don't be fooled by the name, this is not some kind of Spielbergian dinosaurland. It's far more interesting than that. Hidden behind an unassuming, windowless storefront, David Wilson's Museum of Jurassic Technology presents itself as a repository of curiosities, scientific wonders and artistic miracles. Which exhibits, if any, are bona fide? Which, if any, are satirical? A subversive, witty and brilliant enterprise, the museum challenges the very nature of what a museum is or should be, while also taking its place as one of the most fascinating attractions in the entire city.
This luxury shopping complex has brought nearly 20 high-end eateries and shops to Culver City, with outposts of Blue Bottle Coffee and Van Leeuwen, as well as mindful-living staples like Sweetgreen and SoulCycle, and the meat-centric butcher/restaurant the Cannibal. The colorful complex sits just across the street from the Culver City Metro stop, making it both a convenient stop on the way to Santa Monica and a destination in its own right.
Griffith may get all of the attention, but Kenneth Hahn is impressive in both size and topography for a park in the middle of the Westside. On top of the usual list of amenities, the Culver City-adjacent park contains a lotus pond, fishing lake and sand volleyball court. But the urban oasis really establishes itself with more than seven miles of walking and hiking trails through the Baldwin Hills, with views of almost every corner of the LA Basin—from the South Bay and the Pacific Ocean to Downtown and the San Gabriel Mountains.
It's 282 steep, concrete stairs to the top of this Westside lookout, with a windy, paved walk down. On weekends and weekdays after work, the wide stairs are jam-packed with young locals, couples and groups of friends working out together. Having a lazy day? Take a shortcut and drive up to the top of the hill and park in the many empty spaces ($6). Once you reach the summit, sit at the long park bench and take in the 360-degree city views.
Helms Bakery was built in 1931 and operated as a bakery (naturally) for more than four decades. The cherished historic landmark has since been repurposed as a group of restaurants, shops and public spaces for locals to enjoy. The delicious burger joint Father's Office has a home here, as does the Patchwork craft fair when it comes into town. The bakery itself is slated to reopen—eventually—under the helm of pastry chef Sherry Yard.
The Westside branch of the Center Theatre Group offers the company's most adventurous fare, along with intermittent collaborations with some of LA's smaller troupes. The theater itself was originally built as a cinema and retains its iconic old neon sign out front.
Tim Robbins remains in charge of the Actors' Gang, the theater company he co-founded in the '80s. Productions remain hard-edged and presentational, and often rely on politically charged material. Performances take place in a century-old electricity substation.
Culver City's historic Culver Hotel was once the part-time residence to Old Hollywood, from Clark Gable and Joan Crawford to Greta Garbo and Buster Keaton. Charlie Chaplin supposedly sold the hotel to John Wayne for a buck, while tales of apparitions surround the Neo-Renaissance–designed hotel. Locals and tourists alike can drop in for a nightcap at the hotel's lobby bar, while overnight guests can lie their heads at one of the 46 newly renovated rooms.
An earnest exhibition compiled by a young, Cold War–obsessed academic, this small collection is somewhat appropriately located in an anonymous office park, making it feel like an undercover operation. There are Stasi artifacts here, along with propaganda posters, remnants of the East German counterculture and segments of the Berlin Wall. So why is it in LA? According to founder Justinian Jampol, the geographic remove lends critical distance. Case in point: the Wende’s acquisition of East German ruler Erich Honecker’s personal papers, which Honecker requested be housed in a non-German institution.
Committed to the promotion of emerging talent, this intimate and welcoming gallery distinguishes itself from the pack with its intriguing pop-artist exhibitions and jam-packed gallery openings. Thinkspace Art Gallery is committed to showcasing work that spans popular culture, graphic art, design and street art. Past exhibitions have featured creations by Karla Ortiz, Elliot Brown, Seamus Conley, Henrik AA. Uldalen and dozens more.
Part wildlife rescue center, part educational facility, this very family-friendly enterprise practices what it preaches in terms of environmental awareness—it was even built from recycled materials. Staff provides care for unwanted exotic animals, many of which have either been donated by the public or were confiscated by governmental agencies. Families are welcome to pet an alligator or stroke a snake as they learn about endangered species, environmental concerns and how kids can make a change. A number of other exhibits add further context; call or check online for details of special events.