A Beginner's Guide To Glendale

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(Photo by Renee Silverman via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

Glendale is the third largest city in L.A. County with a living population that is, if you count its massive cemetery, outnumbered by its dead. It's sleepy, it's safe, and in 2011, a bunch of consultants reported that most people found it "boring." That inspired city leaders to launch a marketing campaign centered around the slogan, "Your Life. Animated." This was derived from the fact that Glendale is the home of both Dreamworks and Disney's Grand Central Creative Campus.

Glendale was incorporated in 1906, and owes much of its success to real estate developer Leslie Coombs Brand, for whom the town's main drag is named. It's certainly scenic, with views of distant mountains and blue skies and numerous public parks. In the early 1900s, Chamber of Commerce president Edward U. Emery came up with the idea to call Glendale "the Jewel City," as he said it "sparkled like a jewel in the sun." The name stuck, and can be evidenced in businesses such as Jewel City Bowl and Jewel City Crossfit.

But if you really dig in, you'll find that Glendale has a variety of fun things to do that you just can't find in L.A.. You can, for example, enjoy a $4 Mai Tai or learn about the history of neon (and even how to make your own neon sign). Glendale also hosts a large Armenian population—one of the largest in the United States—which has gifted the city with numerous fantastic Armenian bakeries and restaurants (we've listed one of our favorites below). It has an old-school roller rink with a decades-long LGBTQ night, and a music venue that is often more out there than anything you'd find on the Sunset Strip. Here are 18 ways to have a totally not boring time in Glendale, the Jewel City.

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(Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

The Museum of Neon Art

The Museum of Neon Art (MONA) used to be located in downtown Los Angeles, but opened in a larger space in Glendale in February of 2016. It's easy to find, as a bright neon diver in a red swimsuit adorns the top of the building. Inside, you will find a rotating gallery of neon effulgence, a studio where you can sign up to learn how to make your own neon art, and lots of fascinating history. Their collection includes the sign from the Brown Derby formerly at Hollywood and Vine, as well as the animated sign from Zinke's Shoe Repair in Glendale. Each sign tells a story, so feel free to linger in the glow and absorb them all. If you're interested in learning even more about neon, we recommend Angel City Press' Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles 1925-1960 by Tom Zimmerman. It's authored with help from MONA board member Eric Lynxwiler, who also hosts the museum's neon tours. Be sure to begin or end your visit to MONA with a stroll down the adjacent paseo, where you will find a refurbished neon sign from Clayton Plumbers, originally located in Westwood. The animated sign features water dripping from a leaky faucet.

The Museum of Neon Art is located at 216 S. Brand Blvd., 818-696-2149. Tickets are free for MONA members and children 12 and under, $5-10 for everyone else.

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The Americana

Okay, the Americana is a mall. But it's a magical open-air mall and the big sister of Los Angeles' The Grove. It is always full of shoppers who seem so casually unhurried as they relax with a latte or a cupcake (which are available at a Sprinkles ATM machine). One could spend a great deal of time here: restaurants include Katsuya, Din Tai Fung (which usually has a line of people waiting to eat their dumplings) and Bourbon Steak; coffee is available in numerous spots including French eatery La Pain Quotidien; and you can unwind at Ombra Wine Bar or Nordstrom's Bar Verde. One of the Americana's newer shops is Sugarfina, a high-end candy shop where one can customize their very own bento box of unique treats. Also new are a handful of favorite eateries located across the street, including Shake Shack, Eggslut and Mainland Poke. The mall, it should be noted, was home to one of the very first Apple stores. Some people apparently love The Americana so much that they live there in one of the over 300 luxury apartments and condominiums.

The Americana is located at 899 Americana Way, 818-637-8982.


The Glendale Galleria

This is also a mall. We love it because it uses song and dance (see above) to note its competition with the posh Americana. We're also fond of the fact that, with their two powers combined, the malls have just about every shop a person could ever desire. Sure, the Americana has a Nordstrom's, but it doesn't have a Hot Topic for all your metal tee and blackest black eyeliner needs now, does it? The Galleria also has an In-N-Out and a Chipotle, and, according to the above song, they "haven't seen a ghost in days."

The Galleria is located at 100 W. Broadway, 818-246-6737.

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A Beef Lulu Pate (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

Elena's Greek Armenian Restaurant

Here is where you can get a very filling plate for $12 at most. The menu is fairly simple, consisting of lulu, shish kabob and other meats, paired with rice, veggies, hummus and deliciously tangy garlic sauce. They've also got felafel, stuffed eggplant, lentil soup and salads for vegetarians. The food is flavorful and hearty, and it's an unpretentious restaurant that's amicable and effortlessly casual. Elena's has been in this location for over 30 years, and everything they serve is made daily in-house.

Elena's Greek Armenian Cuisine is located at 1000 S. Glendale Ave., 818-241-5730.

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(Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

Forest Lawn Memorial Park

A sprawling six cemeteries make up this 300-acre park, consisting of some 250,000 graves and 250,000 internments. The cemetery was founded in 1906, but in 1917 management was handed over to Dr. Hubert Eaton, who decided that he'd much prefer a happier cemetery where life could be celebrated. Eaton, a Christian, believed that life after death held something greater, which perhaps colored his rosy sentiments. He wrote that Forest Lawn should be "unlike other cemeteries as sunshine is unlike darkness ... a great park devoid of misshapen monuments and other signs of earthly death, but filled with towering trees, sweeping lawns, splashing fountains, beautiful statuary, and ... memorial architecture." And so it is. A stroll through Forest Lawn is one filled with beauty, and it can culminate in a visit to the hilltop museum, where one will find rotating exhibits, statues, a collection of stained glass and other breathtaking works.

Famous residents include Michael Jackson (he is privately interred), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, father-and-daughter musicians Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole and Walt Disney, who was not cryogenically frozen and stored at Disneyland, despite pervasive rumors to the contrary.

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(Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

Glendale Tap

The Glendale Tap is a dark, comfortable dive with over 50 brews on tap. The bartender will hand you a beer list printed on several sheets of paper attached to a clipboard, and serve you up a basket of shelled peanuts. The beers are available in full pours as well as small pours, which gives aspiring cicerones the option to try more than a few. They have all the usual hoppy selections, as well as a list of more unique stouts, porters, sours, barrel-aged and fruity beers, as well as ciders. If you want to see what they have before heading out, you can view their tap list here. Available beers change regularly, so don't expect to find that pumpkin ale you fell in love with in October to be there in March, but do expect to find a more than suitable replacement.

The Glendale Tap is located at 4227 San Fernando Road in Glendale, 818-241-4227.

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Brewyard Beer Company

Brewyard is Glendale's first brewery, opened by childhood friends Sherwin Antonio and Kirk Nishikawa in December of 2015 in a former warehouse. The brewpub specializes in "Ale'd Lagers," which they describe as beer made with a fermentation technique in which "lager yeast is fermented at higher ale-like temperatures for shorter periods of time and completely skips the lagering process." The end result is a beer that takes like an ale, but has the lighter finish of a lager. Communal seating and board games make for a neighborhood feel, and food is available via a rotating cast of food trucks. There's a truck inside the bar, too: a 1936 Ford where the flatbed functions as a table.

Brewyard is located at 906 Western Ave., 818-409-9448.

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(Photo by Michael Locke via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

Alex Theatre

The city of Glendale owns this historic theater. It opened in 1925 and was named "The Alexander" after the son of developer C.L. Langley, who intended to "provide a good place of entertainment to keep Glendalians from going to Los Angeles and Hollywood." In its early days, guests could see vaudeville and silent films, and by mid-century the theater was screening first-run blockbusters. The theater briefly closed in 1991—it's final screening was Terminator 2: Judgment Day—before being purchased by the Glendale Redevelopment Agency in 1992. It reopened on New Year's Eve, 1993, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Today, you're apt to see a host of entertainment, including film, theater, dance, comedy, music and more. Though it may be known today for its iconic, 100-foot neon tower and marquee, the Alex didn't get this feature until 1940, when it was added by architect S. Charles Lee.

The Alex Theatre is located at 216 N. Brand Blvd., 818-243-2539.

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Moonlight Rollerway

The Moonlight Rollerway is a rare gem: an old-school roller skating rink, just like the ones you loved in junior high. It opened in 1956 as Harry's Roller Rink, and still has the original maple flooring. In addition to your standard all-ages, kids' and adult skate times, Moonlight also hosts various themed nights. Wednesdays, for instance, have been an LGBTQ night for over 20 years. On Tuesdays, owner Dominic Cangelosi still plays live music on a vintage organ. If you want to make a day of it, a concessions stand serves relatively cheap snacks, ice cream, candy and non-alcoholic beverages.

The Moonlight Rollerway is located at 5110 San Fernando Rd., 818-241-3630.

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The Complex hosted a 'Back to the Future' themed 'Enchantment Under the Sea' dance. (Photo by Annie Lesser/LAist)

The Complex

Proprietors John Giovanazzi (of Das Bunker) and Mike Guerrero opened this relatively small, 150-capacity venue in 2013. What's fun about The Complex is that if you pop by on a random night, you can hear pretty much anything. The music could be metal, goth, industrial, EDM or some amalgamation of all of the above. And on Mondays they do a karaoke night where you're less likely to hear "Sweet Caroline," but might finally get to do that obscure 90s alt-rock track that's never in any of the other books. They also have plenty of craft beer and cocktails made with fresh ingredients.

The Complex is located at 806 E. Colorado St., 323-642-7519.

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Dave's on Broadway

Dave's isn't what some people would call a great bar, but it's a great dive bar, the likes of which are rapidly disappearing. It's dark, the drinks are strong and cheap, and it's the least amount of fuss. They've got all the things neighborhood dives must have: open mics, TVs for watching sports, pool, free pizza or hot dogs on select occasions, a live band or two, and judgment-free karaoke multiple days a week.

Dave's is located at 708 E. Broadway, 818-956-9123.

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Breakfast croissant. (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

Foxy's

If you ever wanted to go out to breakfast and toast your own bread, Foxy's is the place for you. It's a very versatile diner, offering a variety of both American and Mexican cuisine that's suitable for all three meals of the day. You could sit on the lovely patio and commune with the sparrows who are hoping you drop a crumb or two, or you could ask to be seated indoors at one of the tables that features a shiny toaster. The menu is quite expansive. You can get an Ahi tuna salad, chili fries, a burger, a monte cristo, filet mignon (for $16), pork chops, tilapia, tacos, pasta, omelettes, French toast, pie, a shake, a beer, a Bloody Mary or many cups of coffee. And that's only a fraction of Foxy's offerings.

Foxy's is located at 206 W Colorado St, 818-246-0244.

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Brand Park

Brand Park is a 31-acre park that you will find at the base of the Verdugo Mountains. It's as scenic a park as you'd want, with a plenty of trails for hiking and biking, a basketball court and a wading pool for the kids. Unique to Brand Park is the Doctors House Museum & Gazebo, as well as a gorgeous public library.

The Brand Library opened in 1956 in the former home of Glendale's greatest champion, the aforementioned Leslie C. Brand. According to KCET, the palatial estate was built for Brand by his brother-in-law Nathaniel Dryden, who traveled to India to get ideas for its architecture and design.

The Doctors House was built in 1888 and was the residence of four doctors, hence the name. The Queen Anne Victorian home would later house silent film star Nell Shipman and her family. The Canadian born actress was one of the first women to direct her own films, as well as one of the first movie stars to appear nude on screen, which she did in the film Back to God's Country. The Doctors House was moved to Brand Park in 1979 from 921 E. Wilson Ave., also in Glendale, where it had been slated for destruction. It was officially restored and opened to the public as a museum in 1984. You can go on tours of the house on Sundays for a suggested donation of $5. The window is narrow, as docents are only around from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to call ahead to ensure they'll be there and to check their website for special events.

Brand Park is located at 1601 W. Mountain St., 818-548-3782.

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(Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

Damon's

Damon's is a long-standing tiki restaurant and bar right in downtown Glendale. It's been around since the 1930s and has been in this particular location for over 30 years. If you find yourself unwilling to wait in line to get into Clifton's Pacific Seas, Glendale's casual tiki bar has all the Polynesian decor, coconut shrimp and cheap fruity cocktails your heart could desire. Behind the bar, the bartender will tell you that their specialties are the Mai Tai—rum, orange, pineapple—and the Chi Chi, made with rum, pineapple and coconut. They're $7, unless it's a Monday or happy hour (daily from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), during which they come at the dangerously low price of $4 a piece. Food options include plenty of reasonably priced barbecue, steaks and seafood that skew towards the comfort variety. Damon's is not a fancy restaurant, but it's kitschy and fun.

Damon's is located at 317 N. Brand Blvd., 818-507-1510.

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The beautiful grounds of Rockhaven. (Photo by Annie Lesser/LAist)

Rockhaven Sanitarium

The abandoned Rockhaven Sanitarium sits on 3.5 acres at the foothills of the Verdugo Mountains. It is technically in Montrose, but owned by the city of Glendale. At one point in time, it served as a feminist sanitarium, both employing and serving only women. It opened in 1923 via nurse Agnes Richards, who was upset by the way she had seen women treated over the course of her career in other psychiatric hospitals. The facility shut down in 2006 after some 80 years of service. LAist writer Jean Trinh and photographer Annie Lesser explored the grounds in June of 2016. "With the way the rooms are decorated, it appears as if the residents of Rockhaven just vanished and left all their belongings behind. It's equally fascinating and eerie," Trinh wrote.

The facility is maintained by the nonprofit Friends of Rockhaven. Tours of the crumbling grounds are occasionally offered, though the opportunity to see the facility for yourself in this state may be limited. As of late 2016, Glendale had selected a proposal from developer Gangi Design LED Build to convert the site into a retail center and park, according to the L.A. Times. The plan involves renovating 14 of the buildings into shops or for nonprofit uses. Glendale Mayor Paula Devine said she selected Gangi's proposal "mainly because it satisfies my goals for Rockhaven and, more importantly, the desires of the majority of our community. I feel that Rockhaven is a jewel in our community … so I really feel that the city needs to retain ownership of this property."

The Rockhaven Sanitarium is located at 2713 Honolulu Ave., 818-248-1707.

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Tumanyan Khinkali Factory

You could wait in line at Din Tai Fun, and we're sure you wouldn't be disappointed. But if that sounds unappealing, give the Georgian dumping destination known as Tumanyan Khinkali Factory a shot. This J-Gold approved restaurant specializes in soup dumplings known as khinkali, the best of which is the beef, though they also come in cheese or spinach and mushroom. The dumplings are boiled or fried, then served hot and flavorful, with a dollop of sour cream on the side. They are rather large and only $2.50 or $2.75 each. You also might also go for a cheese plate, which consists of Chanukah, a soft Armenian cheese. The restaurant has a full bar with beer, wine and specialty cocktails as well.

Tumanyan Khinkali Factory is located at 113 N. Maryland Ave., 818-649-1015.

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Deukmejian Wilderness Park

This spectacular park consists of 790 acres in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. There are a variety of trails here from easy to advanced, and rewards include sweeping views that make you feel far removed from crowded city life. Bring lots of water and sunscreen, of course, even on a cool day.

A portion of the park is developed and holds the Le Mesnager Barn, built in the early 1900s by French winegrower Louis Le Mesnager for use as a stable and storage facility. The original stone barn had to be rebuilt in the 1930s due to damage from both fire and flood. This area is where you can find your ranger station, parking, bathrooms and picnic areas. The rest is all nature.

Deukmejian Wilderness Park is located at 3429 Markridge Rd., 818-548-3795.

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(Photo by Archie Tucker via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

St. Mark's Episcopal Church

Even if you're not the religious type, this historic church is something to see. The church itself dates back to the late 1800s while the present building in this particular location was built by architect Carleton M. Winslow in 1948. In addition to religious services, the church hosts a variety of theater and music performances. (We first became aware of this beautiful church when attending Johnny: The Shell, a production by The Speakeasy Society, an the immersive theater company.)

Church grounds include a courtyard with a fountain, lovely stained glass work, and a bench or two for people watching.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church is located at 1020 N. Brand Blvd., 818-240-3860.

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The Famous

The Famous is where you go if you want to get a craft cocktail in Glendale. It's found across the street from The Americana and has a fine selection of whiskeys, as well as a cast of classic cocktails. Happy hour is Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and consists of $2-off cocktails. Small bites are available and include your usual bar bites: tacos, wings, burgers, a couple sandwiches and a salad or two. It's a dark hideaway that, unlike some mixology joints, manages to not be pretentious.

The Famous is located at 154 S. Brand Blvd., 818-241-2888.