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5 Art-Filled Summer Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Savor the last languid days of summer with these five getaways, from a house made of glass bottles to a classic film set buried in the sand.

Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village (photo by Jonathan Haeber, via Flickr)

The Los Angeles art world may seem sleepy right now, but the following weeks will see tons of fall shows opening, and the anticipation of trying to keep up with them all can be dizzying. For those who want to savor the last languid days of summer while still taking in a bit of art, we’ve got five getaways to keep you occupied: from an art collector’s home museum, to a house made of glass bottles, and even a classic film set buried in the sand.

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Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village

When: Tours by appointment, email [email protected]
Where: Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village (4595 Cochran Street, Simi Valley, California)

Southern California is rich in outsider art, from Watts Towers to Imperial County’s Salvation Mountain. About an hour north of Los Angeles in Simi Valley sits another folk art icon: Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village. In 1956, when she was 60 years old, Tressa Prisbrey began transforming her modest lot into a wonderland of shimmering glass and mosaics. Over the next 25 years, she would cover over a dozen structures in glass bottles and other found materials. The compound was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, limiting general access. Luckily for us, private and monthly tours are still available.

Distance from downtown LA: approx. 45 minutes 

scene from DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (1923) (image via California Historical Society, via Flickr)

The Lost City of DeMille

When: Open Wednesday–Sunday, 10am-4pm, or by appointment (adults: $7; seniors: $6; children under 12: free)
Where: Dunes Center (1065 Guadalupe Street, Guadalupe, California)

Los Angeles has a reputation for forgetting its own history, but a visit to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center will prove otherwise. Home to a thriving beach ecosystem designated a National Natural Landmark, the Dunes are also where Cecil B. DeMille filmed his 1923 silent epic The Ten Commandments. Using the sandy landscape as a backdrop for ancient Egypt, DeMille built a massive set, ordering it to be buried in the sand once filming wrapped to prevent rival filmmakers from recycling them. The faux-Egyptian artifacts remained hidden for 60 years until some cinematic sleuths began digging them up. Discoveries are still being made, including a 300-pound plaster Sphinx head unearthed last year. Although much of the sets still lie beneath the Dunes, the recovered objects are on display in an exhibition on The Lost City of DeMille.

Distance from downtown LA: approx. 3 hours 

Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation

When: Monday–Friday, 10:30am & 2pm (Advanced reservations are required.(310) 277-5321, [email protected])
Where: The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation address will be shared upon making a reservation.

With the recently opened Marciano and the Broad, Los Angeles has its share of high-profile private museums formed around a single collection, but a few lesser-known ones have been around for years. Established in 1982, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation houses the modern and contemporary art collection of the influential entrepreneur and philanthropist. Located in a 1920s Mediterranean-style villa, with a postmodern pavilion designed by Franklin D. Israel, the foundation contains over 400 works from Giacometti and Picasso, to Rauschenberg and Rothko, up to contemporary artists like Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode. An alternative to the white-walled institution, it offers the opportunity to view these works in a more intimate domestic setting.

Distance from downtown LA: approx. 40 minutes 

Michael Heizer, “Double Negative” (1969-70) (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Double Negative

When: Always open, free
Where: Double Negative (Mormon Mesa, near Overton, Nevada)

On the way to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, you pass Ugo Rondinone’s day-glo “Seven Magic Mountains,” but just on the other side of Sin City lies a much more substantial, if less flashy, earthwork: “Double Negative.” Between 1969 and 1970, Michael Heizer carved two large gouges into the side of Mormon Mesa, on either side of a large gap. That sounds simple enough, but doesn’t do justice to the experience of scrambling down into one of the trenches and staring into the void. Exploring issues of scale, site, and viewer interaction, the man-made intervention is both awe-inspiring and dwarfed by nature’s monumentality. The location is remote, so an appropriate vehicle is recommended, as are good walking shoes and extra water.

Distance from downtown LA: approx. 5 hours 

Kimberly Crest House (photo by Don Graham, via Flickr)

Kimberly Crest House & Gardens

When: Tours every half hour, Thursday, Friday & Sunday, 1–3:30pm (adults: $10; students, seniors, veterans: $8; children 6–12 years of age: $5; children under 6: free)
Where: Kimberly Crest House & Gardens (1325 Prospect Drive, Redlands, California)

Lavish estates with sprawling gardens aren’t limited to the Hollywood Hills. Case in point is the Kimberly Crest House, located a mere 70 miles east of Los Angeles in the town of Redlands. Built in 1897 for Mrs. Cornelia Hill, the 7,000 square-foot Victorian chateau was modeled after a French castle that Hill visited in her travels. Surrounding the house are six acres of Italian Renaissance–style gardens which were expanded by subsequent owners. Now owned by a nonprofit dedicated to its historical preservation, the house and gardens are open to the public through a series of tours that explore this iconic example of California Victorian architecture.

Distance from downtown LA: approx. 1 hour

Check out our 2017 list of 5 Art-Filled Summer Day Trips from Los Angeles here

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