Company is Coming

Secret Summertime Escapes   

Company's Coming by Barbara Neal Varma   It's summertime in Southern California and you know what that means: you've got guests. You could take them to the usual So Cal fun zones: Hollywood, the zoo, the berry farm-but wait! Before you rev up the family hybrid, how about touring the out-of-towners where no company has gone before?

   Maybe they'd like to parasail off the bluffs overlooking the scenic Torrey Pines golf course, or get a relaxing massage at the Nordstrom day spa discreetly hidden on the store's fourth floor at South Coast Plaza. You might even be able to talk them into staying at the Beverly Hills Mosaic hotel instead of little Jimmy's room when you whisper in their ear that Mosaic's guests get a complimentary Mercedes or Mini Cooper to tour around town.

   No doubt Aunt Sally and Uncle Bob would thrill to the opportunity to see parts of our Southland paradise beyond the brochure. Here are a few local favorites that only a few locals know about. But remember: Let's keep it to ourselves, shall we?

Disneyland's Club 33

   Part gourmet restaurant, part VIP lounge, Club 33 is an exclusive, members-only secret treat in Disneyland that Walt dreamed up to entertain original investors and other VIPs. What began as a stylish grown-ups retreat has today turned into an elegant restaurant complete with imported French ambience and daily chef's specials that'll knock your Mickey Mouse socks off. Hidden high atop New Orleans Square, the club boasts a wait staff well trained in the art of Disney service magic. If only the furniture could talk (where's an animator when you need one?), the white marble console would tell you about its cameo in "Mary Poppins," and the hand-painted harpsichord would sing about the time Elton John played it up one side and down the other. Ooh la la!   

   After dessert, you can stroll onto the balcony to watch the Fantasmic light and laser show at nine o'clock during the summer, but one of the best perks of dining at Club 33 is what comes with the meal: a complimentary park hopper pass.

   Entry to the Club is gained only through the good graces or business connections of a limited membership. Your best bet for required reservations is to find someone with ties to a corporate membership; in other words, a company that's willing to pay its dues for the opportunity to wine and dine its clients. The company is committed to seat a minimum number of guests per year to keep its membership in good standing. Tell your friend of a friend who knows someone that you'll be glad to help them out with that.

Magic Castle Weekend Brunch

   It's no secret there's a Magic Castle in Hollywood that hosts world-class magicians to perform miracles and magic right before your very eyes. Thanks to cable magic shows, A&E and MTV spots, it's common knowledge that if you know a Castle member and are willing to sport a suit and tie (little black numbers for the ladies), gaining entry is as easy as telling the foyer owl: "Open sesame."

   But even those in the know are surprised to find out the usually "only 21 and older" Castle opens its doors on weekends to serve kids of all ages a full-spread brunch followed by all-you-can-see magic shows in the Castle's many showrooms. The 5-star food is as good as the magic, making this a tasty treat for the entire family. To make reservations, just call on any Castle member to obtain an entry pass. Don't know a magician? Try this trick: Google "Magic Castle member" and a list of local magicians will suddenly appear. Pick one, any one.

   Bonus: Teens may be inspired enough to audition to become a junior magician in the Castle's apprentice program, meaning your child will "disappear" at least once a month to attend meetings. Now that's magic.

Bob's Big Boy in Burbank

   Ohhh Boy! Gather up your guests in your restored 1955 Ford Thunderbird and be-bop over to Bob's Big Boy in bee-utiful Burbank for a replay of the days when the burgers were served hot and the service was on skates. On Friday nights, vintage cars roll in to park on display while their drivers enjoy a side of fries and Bob's own all-American classic: the original double-decker hamburger.

   Designed by well-known Los Angeles architect Wayne McAllister (Sands and Desert Inn in Las Vegas), the Burbank Bob's is the oldest remaining Bob's Big Boy in the United States. Established in 1949 by local residents Scott MacDonald and Ward Albert, the restaurant sports many claims to fame including a booth that once held the backsides of The Beatles, and all those memories folks store away like Cracker Jacks prizes about the time their parents took them to Bob's for a family night out on the town.

   During your visit, you may spot a celebrity or two belly up to the counter, Drew Carrey for one, or be interviewed during a spontaneous video cam segment on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Don't forget to buy a "Bob-blehead" doll on your way out. You'll need some dashboard bling on your '55 Ford for next Friday night.

Dana Point's Ocean Institute

   Maybe the kids haven't read the Clive Cussler ocean adventure novels as much as mom and dad (okay, just dad), but for those fans of a scientific good time and adventure on the high seas, there's the Ocean Institute in Dana Point. Unlike other ocean cruising or whale watching companies, the non-profit "OI" steers its many educational programs and sea trips on good old-fashioned scientific exploration and the wonders of the sea. The institute's Sea Explorer vessel is a 70-foot floating laboratory with five distinct teaching areas, viewing aquariums and state-of-the-art electronics capable of teaching kids and their parents a multitude of things from ship to shore to ocean floor.

   The really big (huge!) secret here is the appearance of the Blue whales spotted swimming around Catalina Island in record numbers during the last few years. Unlike its cousin the gray whale, the Blue whale doesn't migrate but instead heads to where the plankton is like tourists at a Vegas buffet. Contact the Institute to inquire about year-round membership or visit during weekends when it's open to the public. Be sure to bring your extra wide lens on the Institute's summers-only Blue Whale Safari to capture these creatures reputed to be the largest animals ever to live on the Earth. (Hey, easy on the plankton.)

Torrey Pines Golf Course

   Panoramic Pacific ocean views…rolling green hills as lush as any hobbit could hope for…the occasional parasailer flying by to add a swath of color against a bright blue sky. La Jolla's Torrey Pines Golf Course has it all, and this summer the renowned golfer's paradise will have the eye of the world when it hosts the U.S. Open Golf Championship, a veritable coup for the course since being the PGA pick means millions of incoming dollars for the local economy. After hosting Tiger Woods and other celebrity swingers for so many years at its annual Buick OPEN and Buick invitational competitions, Torrey Pines has earned the right to be included among the winning circle of golf courses throughout the country. Its (not so) secret is, this municipal/residents only golf course is fast becoming a public-play pride.

   Parents should note this PGA pick is rated PG-13 for one of its nearby neighbors. At the bottom of the south Torrey Pines course lies the Torrey Pines state beach, known to locals as "Black's Beach," the secluded strip of black sand where clothing is, ahem, optional. Something to keep in mind before those non-golfers in your party start parasailing down from the Gliderport above: the fly route will take them right over the clothes-barren beach. Talk about your scenic views.

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