There is something pretty funky north of L.A. We’re talking about Topanga Canyon Blvd., an 11-mile stretch of winding canyon roads through the Santa Monica mountains between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway. Flying pigs. Indians on horseback. Pirate girls. Chinese soldiers.
Throw in some mystic coffee shops, roadside bonsai and wind chime stands and a range of houses that go from shacks perched on the side of the hill to mansions and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect. For those of a certain age think Woodstock.
Just about anything goes in Topanga. In fact, just about anything has gone to Topanga. In the 1920s Hollywood stars bought cottages in the area as a retreat from Los Angeles. In the 60s the area attracted a bohemian collection of artists and musicians and some very strange characters. Charlie Manson lived here and the first murder to try to launch Helter-Skelter took place in the Topanga Canyon home of music teacher Gary Hinson.
Other more acclaimed characters came from Topanga including the music group Canned Heat (an old Kongo favorite), Neil Diamond, John Denver, Neil Young, and Etta James among others.
Every Memorial Day celebrations break out up and down the canyon in celebration of Topanga Days with plenty of music, belly dancing (of course!) and lots of arts and crafts.
There are plenty of little cafes and restaurants that are open on a rather random schedule. There’s plenty of weird shops that have things you can’t find at the local mall — mostly recycled junk from the tie-died culture of several decades ago. It’s fun.
There’s a Little Theater serving up everything from Shakespeare to Animal House.
The Overlook at the Top of Topanga is a great place to do L.A. watching. The “Valley” stretches off toward the right. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Grapevine.
The next time you’re in the area and have some time to kill, take the trek. You’ll be glad you did.
Travel safe. Have fun.