It’s the time of year when we invite you to stuff the stockings of those on your holiday list with historic Los Angeles lore, in the form of Esotouric gift certificates. From now through December 24, we’re offering bulk discounts on tickets to ride ($8-16 off the regular price). Your friends will be delighted as they choose from more than a dozen offbeat tours of the city we love, and we promise that all proceeds will be spent in the further exploration of the region’s mysteries, history and oddities. For more information, or to order gift certificates, simply click here.
And there are plenty of upcoming tours to tickle the pickiest fancy. Skim down the right sidebar for our schedule through February, from true crime to literary lore to California culture and back to the dark side with the second revised edition of our Wild Wild West Side crime bus.
We’re back on the bus this Saturday, with a Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice crime and social history tour, including a subterranean jaunt through a long-forgotten 1920s speakeasy. Then next Saturday, it’s time for Richard’s once-a-year birthday bus adventure, this one featuring the architectural highlights of several lovely southland cemeteries, good company and a scrumptious Indian buffet feast. Join us, do!
- HOTEL HORRORS AND MAIN STREET VICE – SAT. 11/22
From the founding of the city through the 1940s, downtown was the true center of Los Angeles, a lively, densely populated, exciting and sometimes dangerous place. After many quiet decades, downtown is making an incredible return. But while many of the historic buildings remain, their human context has been lost. This downtown double feature tour is meant to bring alive the old ghosts and memories that cling to the streets and structures of the historic core, and is especially recommended for downtown residents curious about their neighborhood’s neglected history.
- SPECIAL EVENT: RICHARD’S BIRTHDAY BUS TOUR OF PUBLIC MAUSOLEA OF LOS ANGELES AND ORANGE COUNTIES – SAT. 11/29
For Richard’s once-a-year birthday bus adventure, we invite you to climb aboard for a 7-hour excursion exploring some of the greatest buildings in the Southland that you’ve never seen–unless you go to a lot of funerals. The tour is hosted by Nathan Marsak, America’s wittiest historian of mortuary architecture. Come discover the beauty, secrets and unexpected modernism of Sunnyside Long Beach (1922), Community Mausoleum Anaheim (1914), Fairhaven Santa Ana (1916) and Calvary East Los Angeles (1936). Lunch is included and much merriment will be had. Visit the tour page for more information on this one-time-only event and reserve your spot today.
- PASADENA CONFIDENTIAL (WITH CRIMEBO THE CLOWN) – SAT. 12/6
The Crown City masquerades as a calm and refined retreat, where well-bred ladies glide around their perfect bungalows and everyone knows what fork to use first. But don’t be fooled by appearances. Dip into the confidential files of old Pasadena and meet assassins and oddballs, kidnappers and slashers, Satanists and all manner of maniac in a delightful little tour you WON’T find recommended by the better class of people! From celebrated cases like the RFK assassination (with a visit to Sirhan Sirhan’s folks’ house), “Eraserhead” star Jack Nance’s strange end, black magician/rocket scientist Jack Parsons’ death-by-misadventure and the 1926 Rose Parade grand stand collapse, to fascinating obscurities, the tour’s dozens of murders, arsons, kidnappings, robberies, suicides, auto wrecks and oddball happening sites provide a alternate history of Pasadena that’s as fascinating as it is creepy. Passengers will tour the old Millionaire’s Row on Orange Grove, thrill to the shocking Sphinx Murder on the steps of the downtown Masonic Hall and discover why people named Judd should think twice before moving to Pasadena.
- THE WORLD OF RAYMOND CHANDLER: IN HIS OWN WORDS – SUN. 12/7
LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association and The Larry Edmunds Bookshop invite you to join Barry Day for a celebration of his new book, “The World of Raymond Chandler: In His Own Words” (Random House). There will be a short talk and questions, followed by a book signing and free walking tour of Chandler’s Downtown haunts, hosted by Richard Schave and Kim Cooper. The event is free, but reservations are required.
- EAST SIDE BABYLON – SAT. 12/13
Go East, young ghoul, with our most unhinged crime bus adventure. Come visit Boyle Heights, where the Night Stalker was captured and a mad dad ran amok. Roam the hallowed lawns of Evergreen, L.A.’s oldest cemetery and home of some memorable haunts and strange burials. Visit East L.A., where a deranged radio shop employee made mince meat of his boss and bride–and you can get your hair done in a building shaped like a giant tamale. Explore the ghastly streets of Commerce, where one small neighborhood’s myriad crimes will shock and surprise. Visit Montebello, for scrumptious milk and cookies at Broguiere’s Farm Fresh Dairy washed down with a horrifying case of child murder.
- THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA – SAT. 1/10
Join us on this iconic, unsolved Los Angeles murder mystery tour, from the throbbing boulevards of a postwar Downtown to the quiet suburban avenue where horror came calling. After multiple revisions, this is less a true crime tour than a social history of 1940s Hollywood female culture, mass media and madness, and we welcome you to join us for the ride. This tour always sells out, so reserve your spot today.
- CHARLES BUKOWSKI’S LOS ANGELES – SAT. 1/17
Come explore Charles Bukowski’s lost Los Angeles and the fascinating contradictions that make this great local writer such a hoot to explore. Haunts of a Dirty Old Man is a raucous day out celebrating liquor, ladies, pimps and poets. The tour includes a visit to Buk’s DeLongpre bungalow, where you’ll see the Cultural-Historic Monument sign that we helped to get approved, and a mid-tour provisions stop at Pink Elephant Liquor.
- PASADENA CENTRAL LIBRARY TALK: KIM COOPER AND RICHARD SCHAVE ON “THE KEPT GIRL” – THURS. 1/22
We’re delighted to have been invited to speak at the DRW Auditorium of the Pasadena Central Library, a National Register building and a great place for literary conversations. At this free presentation, Kim will discuss and read from her 1920s mystery, The Kept Girl. Kim’s illustrated talk will draw on her years of research into the lost lore of Los Angeles, with a focus on the bizarre Great Eleven cult, which ensnared dozens of credulous Angelenos in their mystical rites before one disgruntled ex-believer brought the whole enterprise tumbling down. You’ll hear about Raymond Chandler’s pre-literary life as an oil company executive, the idealistic L.A. policeman who is a likely model for Philip Marlowe, the real woman who inspired the character of Chandler’s secretary Muriel, and the terrible secrets revealed by the fraud investigation in the Great Eleven’s activities. Richard will share insights into how he used cutting edge computing tools to evoke the look and feel of a mid-century book, and Kim will talk abut the deluxe Art Deco wraps created for the Subscribers, whose pre-publication support covered a big chunk of the print cost. Copies of the book and the new Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles will be available for purchase and signing after the talk. We’d love to see you there!
- RAYMOND CHANDLER’S LOS ANGELES – SAT. 1/24
Join us for a journey from the downtown of Chandler’s pre-literary youth (but which always lingered at the fore of his imagination) to the Hollywood of his greatest success, with a stop along the way at Tai Kim’s Scoops for unexpected gelato creations inspired by the author. We’ll start the tour following in the young Chandler’s footsteps, as he roamed the blocks near the downtown oil company office where he worked. See sites from Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister, discover the real Philip Marlowe (Esotouric’s exclusive scoop, and the inspiration for Kim’s novel The Kept Girl), and be steeped in noir LA.
- THE BIRTH OF NOIR: JAMES M. CAIN’S SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NIGHTMARE – SAT. 1/31
Ride along on a very pulpy path on a wide-ranging tour that digs deep into the literature, film and real life vices that inform that most murderous genre, film noir — from Double Indemnity (where Raymond Chandler’s Hollywood career intersects with Cain’s) to The Postman Always Rings Twice to Mildred Pierce and beyond. The tour rolls through Hollywood, Glendale and old Skid Row, lost lion farms, murderous sopranos, fascist film censors, offbeat cemeteries — all in a quest to reveal the delicious, and deeply influential, nightmares that are Cain’s gift to the world.
- SOUTH LOS ANGELES ROAD TRIP: HOT RODS, ADOBES, GOOGIE & EARLY MODERNISM – SUN. 2/1
This rare Sunday tour in our California Culture series rolls through Vernon, Bell Gardens, Santa Fe Springs and Downey, and the past two centuries, exploring some of L.A.’s most seldom-seen and compelling structures. Turning the West Side-centric notion of an L.A. architecture tour on its head, the bus goes into areas not traditionally associated with the important, beautiful or significant, raising issues of preservation, adaptive reuse, hot rod kar culture and the evolution of the city.
- BOYLE HEIGHTS & THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY: THE HIDDEN HISTORIES OF L.A.’S MELTING POTS – SAT. 2/7
Come on a century’s social history tour through the transformation of neighborhoods, punctuated with immersive stops to sample the varied cultures that make our changing city so beguiling. Voter registration, citizenship classes, Chicano Moratorium, walkouts, blow-outs, anti-Semitism, adult education, racial covenants, boycotts, The City Beautiful, Exclusion Acts and Immigration Acts, property values, xenophobia, and delicious dumplings–all are themes which will be addressed on this lively excursion. This whirlwind social history tour will include: The Vladeck Center, Hollenbeck Park, Evergreen Cemetery, The Venice Room, El Encanto & Cascades Park, Divine’s Furniture and Wing Hop Fung.
- ROUTE 66 (back from hiatus) – SAT. 2/14
A Valentine’s Day treat for lovers, or those who are in love with urban exploration, and back by popular demand, it’s our Route 66 bus adventure. Join us on a time travel trip due east along California’s Mother Road to explore the building of its dream, from citrus ranches to oddball roadside attractions, sinister sisters, an ancient hidden graveyard (perhaps the most remote and haunted site we visit on any of our tours) and the many mysteries of the northern San Gabriel Valley.
- THE LOWDOWN ON DOWNTOWN – SAT. 2/21
Come discover the secret history, and the fascinating future, of a most beguiling neighborhood. This is not a tour about beautiful buildings–although beautiful buildings will be all around you. This is not a tour about brilliant architects–although we will gaze upon their works and marvel. The Lowdown on Downtown is a tour about urban redevelopment, public policy, protest, power and the police. It is a revealing history of how the New Downtown became an “overnight sensation” after decades of quiet work behind the scenes by public agencies and private developers. This tour is about what really happened in the heart of Los Angeles, a complicated story that will fascinate and infuriate, break your heart and thrill your spirit. Come discover the real Los Angeles, the city even natives don’t know.