Exploring the Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Right Field Pavilion at Dodger Stadium

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I've been a Dodger fan my entire life, having been born and raised in the Los Angeles area and moving to the Conejo Valley in the mid 1990s.

When I was a kid, my dad would take us to the game a couple times each season. We sat in the cheapest seats and on our way there would stop by McDonald's or In-N-Out Burger and bring food into the stadium.

Today, while still fans of the Dodgers, we rarely go to games. Just too many other things going on in our life. But I decided it would be fun to take the kids on a Saturday night.

BUYING TICKETS ONLINE

Plenty of tickets are available, but I had moderate sticker shock at the prices. The cheapest seats on the Dodgers ticketing website were $28 + $6.50 "Convenience" fee (whatever that means) and a $5.10 "Processing" fee. It certainly would be nice if all online ticket sellers just have one "all in" price that clearly shows the total price.

I was amazed at how terrible the Dodgers' ticketing website is, compared to other sites like StubHub and SeatGeek. They make you run Flash and don't provide a view from the seats like the other sites do.

In any case, I reviewed multiple alternatives to the Dodgers' ticketing website and went with StubHub. StubHub adds a service fee and a fulfillment fee to ticket prices. These fees vary based on event and ticket type. For the Dodgers game, the service fees were in the 23-25% range and fulfillment fees were $2. Factoring these fees in, StubHub still had the best overall prices for comparable seats out of the options I looked at.

PICKING THE SEATS

I was taking three kids to the game and my cheapest alternative were seats way, way up high in the Top Deck or Reserve areas. I didn't really want to be that high up, so I looked at the alternative of the bleacher seats. 

I'm not a fan of bleacher seats as they are just that - long benches with numbered seatbacks - no individual seats. I'm that guy who is annoyed the entire flight on a plane where the guy next to me's arm intrudes on my space. So bleacher seats probably are not the best idea for me.

But on second thought, we're only talking two to three hours and the kids would enjoy it. How bad could it be, right? So I decided to look at seats in the Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Right Field Pavilion. They were about $20 to $25 more than the seats in the Left Field Pavilion, but ALL YOU CAN EAT sounded like a fun option with the kids.

The bleacher seats make you feel closer to the action IMO than the seats in nosebleed land.

The bleacher seats make you feel closer to the action IMO than the seats in nosebleed land.

THE ALL YOU CAN EAT PAVILION

If it were me and a buddy, I would not sit in the Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Pavilion because, well, I'm not big into gorging myself. But hey, I was with the kids, and thought it would be fun to just let em at it and not worry about cash. And indeed it was fun.

A few things to note. We are not talking about a gourmet selection in this deal. We're talking Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn and non-alcoholic beverages (soft drinks, iced tea and water). No ice cream, churros, cotton candy or beer (though those were available for sale). And no pizza, hamburgers or other food items. One pizza vendor walked by around the 7th inning; I suppose he was desperate to unload them at that point.

Is the All You Can Eat Pavilion worth it? Well it comes down to numbers. If you were to consume one Dodger Dog (cost is $6.50), one bag of peanuts ($5 estimate) and one drink ($6 insanely expensive), you are consuming $17.50 of Dodger Stadium cuisine. Throw in one other item, like another hot dog or nachos, and you've pretty much broken even on the deal. 

Two of the three kids with me "broke even." So I had to personally make up for the third kid's under-consumption. Indeed I was hungry on the drive from Thousand Oaks to Dodger Stadium, so I was prepared for the challenge. In fact, I went for a run that morning to ensure my metabolism was raring to go.

My take: 3 Dodger Dogs (really closer to 2 1/2 as I couldn't finish the 3rd one), 1 iced tea (refilled once), 2 bags of peanuts (I brought one home) and 2 bags of popcorn. Ignoring the refill, I think I devoured about $46 retail value in food.

Of course consuming all that salty food might make one thirsty. I woke up the next morning with a very dry mouth. And I certainly got my money's worth the night before so it was worth it. Kind of.

I had fond memories of Dodger Dogs going back to my childhood. They were great back then. But these Dodger Dogs were lukewarm at best and had kind of a metallic taste to them. I find the hot dogs at Costco, for $1.50, INCLUDING drink, to be more fulfilling.

The popcorn I thought was actually pretty good for pre-bagged popcorn. The peanuts were quite salty. The nachos were meh, not particularly good, according to the kids. 

THE BLEACHER SEATS

They weren't that bad. It was fun. The crowds were pretty mellow and there were a lot of families/kids out there.

There is zero room between your legs and knees and the row in front of you, but thankfully we didn't experience too much back and forth of people passing by as we were seated towards the middle of the row.

Great view of the field. We had to twist our necks a bit to see the big video screen, but it wasn't too bad.

There's nowhere to place your food and drinks, so you have to kind of balance the food in a tray on your lap. There's no cup holder for the drink. I placed my iced tea under the bench, where it was soon joined by trash. In fact, the amount of trash left by attendees was jaw dropping.

Quite a mess under the seats of the bleacher benches.

Quite a mess under the seats of the bleacher benches.

My back was a little tweaked by the end of the game, but I survived. Though the Dodgers lost, the game was entertaining, as was the between-inning on-screen shenanigans. It was a fun night out.

GETTING THERE AND PARKING

I decided to use the Waze app to tell me the best way, factoring in traffic conditions, to get to Dodger Stadium. Without the app, the natural way I would go would be the 101 east to the 134 east to the 5 south.

Waze informed me that I would get there 12 minutes faster from Newbury Park via the 23 north to the 118 east to the 5 south to the 134 east to the 2 south to the 5 south. Yep, a bit out of the way, but it worked like a charm. A very stress-free drive, with minimal traffic.

Going home was much more direct - 5 north to 134 west, then 101 west. If you find yourself in the right-hand lane on Stadium Way coming out of Dodger Stadium, you will be forced to go on the 5 south. Whoops, wrong way! But if you do find yourself in this situation, not to worry. Continue on the 5 about half a mile and take the Riverside offramp, turn right, then you'll soon see a 5 north onramp.

Parking at the stadium is $25. DO buy a parking pass on the Dodgers ticketing website in advance for $15 to save yourself $10. www.mlb.com/dodgers/ballpark/transportation/parking

Was fun catching a Justin Turner home run in the 4th inning.

Was fun catching a Justin Turner home run in the 4th inning.

IN SUMMARY

  • Dodger Stadium is just 40 to 60 minutes from the Conejo Valley and is a fun entertainment option for the entire family.

  • Plenty of seating options are available. The Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Right Field Pavilion is a great option if your family enjoys Dodger Dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos and soft drinks.

L.A. Zoo Lights Holiday Light Display Runs From 11/16/18 to 1/6/19

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For the 5th year, the Los Angeles Zoo hosts LA Zoo Lights, a nightly holiday light display throughout a large section of the zoo. This jaw dropping display is sure to bring a smile to your face. There are lighted animals of all types, snowflake lane, twinkle tunnel, reindeer village, brightly lit monkeys all over the place and much more.

LA Zoo Lights will be held nightly, from November 16, 2018 to January 6, 2019, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Learn more and purchase tickets at www.lazoolights.org. LA Zoo Lights is a rain-or-shine event.

But WAIT...discounted tickets available at bit.ly/LAZooLights2018 (affiliate link).

Scene from LA Zoo Lights 2014

Scene from LA Zoo Lights 2014

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LA Zoo Lights will be held nightly, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, from November 18, 2016 through January 8, 2017. Learn more and purchase tickets at www.lazoolights.org. LA Zoo Lights is a rain-or-shine event.

 

"That's From Disneyland!" Pop-Up Exhibit in Sherman Oaks through August 24th

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The 20,000 square foot "That's From Disneyland!" free pop-up exhibit at a former Sports Authority store in Sherman Oaks is worth going out of your way for!

It is located at 13730 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks (directly next to the Westfield Fashion Square Mall - cross-street is Woodman). Just 25 miles from the Conejo Valley.

This wonderful display allows Disney fans to experience artifacts from Disneyland from a private collection going back to the beginning of the amusement park. The artifacts are from the collection of Richard Kraft, who after 25 years of collecting them is auctioning them off on August 25-26.

Some of the numerous items on display include:

  • It's a Small World figures.
  • 15 Disneyland ride vehicles, including Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan's Flight Ship, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Car, Haunted Mansion "Doom Buggy," Fantasyland Skyway Bucket, Tomorrowland People Mover, Matterhorn Bobsled, Space Mountain Vehicle, Disneyland Ticket Booth and many more.
  • Haunted Mansion Stretching Room paintings.
  • Enchanted Tiki Room bird and signage.
  • King Arthur Carrousel items.
  • Massive Submarine Voyage Sea Serpent that closed in 1998 (after operating for nearly 30 years).
  • Miniature Disneyland Model by Robert Olszewski with a replica of Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. between 2002 and 2012.
  • Frontierland posters and artifacts.
  • New Orleans Square items.
  • Lots of poster, artwork and maps of the park going back to the early 1960s.

This pop-up exhibit will be on display Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 8pm through August 24th. Over 900 lots from the collection will subsequently be auctioned off. on August 25-26. Learn more at www.thatsfromdisneyland.com.

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Geological Wonders at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce

If you're ever driving California State Route 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) on your way to the high desert, you'll probably notice amazing rock foundations north of the freeway in Agua Dulce and freeway signs that indicate Vasquez Rocks.

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The 932 acre Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, owned and managed by the County of Los Angeles, contains ancient rock sculptures created by 20 to 25 million years of earthquake movement along the Elkhorn Fault, an offshoot of the San Andreas Fault.

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The ancient rock layers have slowly been compressed, folded and tilted while erosion has gradually stripped away the soil around the rocks, leaving spectacular jetting slabs. The large rock outcroppings are sandstone beds with areas of shale, basalt and reddish brown layering, sitting at angles of as much as 50 degrees, sweeping up to a peak of nearly 150 feet high.

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Although habitation of the area goes back to the Tataviam Indians from 2000 B.C. to the late 1700s, the land has been named after a bandit named Tiburcio Vasquez, who used the rocks to escape from sheriff's posses. Vasquez Rocks may well be the only park in the world named after a notorious bandit who was ultimately caught and hanged.

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The park is a popular hiking, picnicking and equestrian area and has been used in many hit movies, television shows and commercials. A sampling of productions filmed at Vasquez Rocks include The Flintsones (movie), Planet of the Apes, Dracula (1931), Blazing Saddles, Austin Powers, Little Miss Sunshine, Power Rangers, Star Trek and many more.

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Located at 10700 W. Escondido Canyon Road in Agua Dulce. Take the Agua Dulce Canyon Road exit from the 14 and follow the signs. When you pull into the park, there will be an Interpretative Center with educational displays and a small gift shop on the right. Turn left on the dirt road to get to parking near the rock formations. The Interpretive Center is open Tuesday – Sunday 8:00am to 4:00 pm. Closed Mondays, except holidays.

Visit parks.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/dpr/Parks/Vasquez_Rocks_Natural_Area or call 661.268.0840 for more information. Vasquez Rocks is about an hour drive from Thousand Oaks and 35 to 40 minute drive from the eastern end of Simi Valley.

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is Worth the Drive

The Petersen Automotive Museum originally opened in June 1994 in a former Ohrbach's department store building at Fairfax and Wilshire in Los Angeles.

The museum underwent extensive renovations in 2015 and was re-opened in December 2015 with a uniquely new facade and interior spaces were configured to accommodate 25 changing exhibits in the four floor, 300,000 square foot masterpiece, with over 150 vehicles on view.

We stopped by in June 2016 and enjoyed the greatly varied exhibits, including the stunning Mullin "Rolling Sculpture" exhibit, the "Precious Metal" exhibit of silver cars presented by Rolex, Automobiles in the Movies, Hot Rods and Customs, the interactive Disney/Pixar Cars Mechanical Institute, "Howlin': Select Vehicles from the Nearburg Collection," vintage motorcycles, Forza Motorsport Racing Experience (race car simulator) and much more.

The Cars Mechanical Institute is sure to please the younger crowd.

The Cars Mechanical Institute is sure to please the younger crowd.

The Petersen Automotive Museum is open seven days a week, 10AM to 6PM. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors/students with ID and $7 for children (free 2 and under). Parking is available for $12 (free for the first 30 minutes). Visit petersen.org to learn more.

1959 Corvette XP-87 Stingray Racer in Precious Metal exhibit by Rolex

1959 Corvette XP-87 Stingray Racer in Precious Metal exhibit by Rolex

My boys most enjoyed the "Automobiles in the Movies" exhibit and of course the interactive Forza Motorsports Racing Experience, which was a videogame like experience. Younger kids I suspect will enjoy the Discovery Center. I was personally wowed the most by the Precious Metal collection, as well as the Mullin collection (most of which I had previously seen and enjoyed at our local Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard). Something we did not take the time to do, that I would recommend you consider, is the "Vault Tour." For an additional $20 take an hour long tour of the unique vehicles currently stored in "the vault" rather than on general display. petersen.org/portfolio-item/the-vault.

The Mullin Collection on display includes the $30-40 million  1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic .

The Mullin Collection on display includes the $30-40 million 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic.

The kids were excited to see this  Back to the Future  car at the Petersen,

The kids were excited to see this Back to the Future car at the Petersen,

This Rolls Royce hood ornament caught my attention.

This Rolls Royce hood ornament caught my attention.

A 1903 Thor Camelback motorcycle that is so pristine it looks nothing like 100+ years old!

A 1903 Thor Camelback motorcycle that is so pristine it looks nothing like 100+ years old!

Scenes From the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 13th

The U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials took place on the Los Angeles Marathon "Stadium to the Sea" course on Saturday, February 13, 2016. 

The men's race started at 10:06 a.m. with a field of 211 qualifiers who ran qualifying marathon times of under 2 hours, 19 minutes (or sub 1:05 in a half marathon) between August 1, 2013 and January 17, 2016.  A total of 86 men met the "A" standard time of under 2 hours, 15 minutes, receiving funding support to get to the race.

Start of men's race (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

Start of men's race (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

The women's race had a field of 246 qualifiers who ran a qualifying time of under 2:45 in the marathon (or 1:15 in a half marathon). A total of 42 women met the "A" standard of 2 hours, 37 minutes. A total of 11 "masters" women (age 40+) qualified, which was quite impressive.

Start of women's race (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

Start of women's race (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

It was a warm winter day in Los Angeles, with temperatures in the mid 60s in the morning, reaching high 70s towards the finish of the race. And the race started mid-morning to accommodate TV broadcasts...unlike typical marathons that start early in the morning.

A total of 108 men completed the marathon course, including the top three, who are now slated to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. The overall men's winner was 29 year old Galen Rupp, who was actually competing in his first full marathon!  His time of 2:11:12 earned him his 3rd trip to the Olympics, having competed in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympics and 10,000 and 5,000 at the 2012 Olympics. Rupp took the silver medal in the 2012 10,000 meters, the first American male medalist in the 10,000 since 1964.

Keflezighi and Rupp in the lead  (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

Following Rupp in 2nd place was three-time Olympian and now 40 year old master's runner Meb Keflezighi, who finished in 2:12:20. Meb is a sensation indeed, having earned the silver medal in the 2004 Olympics, the first American medalist since Frank Shorter in 1976. After missing the 2008 Olympics with a hip injury (though he still finished 8th in the Olympic Trials), he went on to compete at the Olympic level again in 2012 with a 4th place overall. Rounding out the top three was 27 year old Jared Ward in 2:13.

A total of 149 women completed the 26.2 mile course, with the top three spots going to 32 year old Amy Cragg in 2:28:20, 32 year old Desiree Linden in 2:28:54 and 34 year old Shalane Flanagan in 2:29:19. This will be Cragg's and Linden's first visit to the Olympics. Flanagan holds the 2nd fastest American marathon time ever (a 2:21:14 at the 2014 Berlin Marathon) and this will be her 4th visit to the Olympics, having competed in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 games.

Cragg and Flanagan  (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

Cragg and Flanagan  (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

Congratulations to all of the competitors and best of luck with some solid training to those who have earned the right to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games!

And for 26.2 training tips to complete your first marathon

Marathons within a one hour radius of Ventura County

Some extremely fit looking runners at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials  (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

Some extremely fit looking runners at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials  (Photo Credit: Carl Pytlinski)

Space Shuttle Endeavor at the California ScienCenter Well Worth the Trip

The California ScienCenter is located in Exposition Park, about an hour-long drive from Thousand Oaks. Located adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the ScienCenter is a fantastic place to explore the world of science with the kids.

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Sweetening the deal is the addition of Space Shuttle Endeavor at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, the Endeavor's temporary home until the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is opened (currently anticipated sometime in 2018).

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The Endeavor was first launched into space in May 1992 and its final mission was in May 2011, with 25 space missions and nearly 123 million miles flown. The orbiter has a wingspan of 78 feet and length of 122 feet. At 57 feet tall, it has quite a presence inside the Pavilion.

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Also impressive is the array of informational displays surrounding the Endeavor, covering key milestones for all NASA space shuttles, including the Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor. For example, we learned that the Discovery has flown the most miles of any of the shuttles - over 148 million miles on 39 missions.

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In addition to the Pavilion, the Endeavour: The California Story exhibit contains artifacts and displays associated with the shuttle program here in Southern California.

Admission to the California Science Center is free of charge; parking is currently $10. Due to the popularity of the Endeavor exhibit, timed reservations are required for weekends, holidays, special events and other high attendance periods, including Thanksgiving week and school winter/spring breaks. There is a $2 fee for online, printable reservations, $3 for phone reservations.

Better yet, book the Endeavor and an IMAX film together and the $2 Endeavor fee is waived. You won't regret it as the IMAX films are spectacular.

Visit www.californiasciencecenter.org to learn more.

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