Originally part of El Camino Real (The Royal Highway), a road leading through the great Spanish missions, Ventura Boulevard is now the oldest route in the San Fernando Valley. It winds through SoCal’s diverse Los Angeles suburbs: starting in Universal City, home to Universal Studios, and ending at Valley Circle in Woodland Hills. This main thoroughfare is home to countless boutiques, restaurants, book stores, camera shops, car washes, supermarkets, mini-malls – well just about anything can be found on the boulevard.

Begin your day by fueling up the car because no one walks in L.A., then head to the heart of Sherman Oaks and the unusual mega-boutique: Handmade. What makes this store uncommon is that it’s made up of handmade pieces, unique collectibles, and trendy new manufactured pieces displayed by artisans. Eclectic, one-of-a-kind treasures are displayed in a chic flea market atmosphere. You’ll find everything from funky hair ties, clocks made from old vinyl records, cool silver jewelry, clunky bracelets, and hundreds of other rare and eclectic finds. In L.A. there’s not a lot to be said about longevity as restaurants and boutiques come and go, but Handmade has beat the odds and survived over ten years in this very popular section of the valley.

Continue your shopping spree visiting the many assorted shops along the boulevard such as the environmentally friendly Buffalo Exchange, where you can find new and recycled clothing or bring in some of your former faves for cash or trade. Want to dress in the latest hot couture but
don’t want to break the bank? Rodeo Drive Resale offers designer duds from Marc Jacobs to Gucci at bargain prices. And if you’re looking for something to soothe the soul, Second Spin has 30,000 used CDS and 5,000 used movies to choose from.

For lunch check out Carney’s Express Limited. This old time railroad car rests comfortably amongst the hustle and bustle of the city as a home for the weary and haven for the hungry. Founded in 1968, this theme restaurant, serves the ubiquitous hamburgers and hotdogs, as well as
salads, chicken dishes, and veggie burgers. So it’s a great place to hang with your vegetarian friends too. And the inside of Carney’s is actually a train compartment—only in L.A! After ordering sit inside by the window or outside under an umbrella, either way you’ll get the full
railroad dining experience and yes, a view of Ventura Boulevard too. Oh, and the bathrooms are in the caboose. Where else?

Now that your tank is full, a fun way to burn off a few excess calories is bowling. In fact, right next door to Carney’s is a bowling alley of a different color. Pinz has been kicking around for a long time, but has recently evolved into a modern futuristic bowling alley. As one of the
growing trends of bowling alleys, Pinz houses 32 bowling lanes with runner lights, that on certain nights of the week become rock’n bowl (more on that later), automatic scoring with 3D graphics, 9 ½ foot screens, light show and special effects everywhere. This place is totally cool. And about the Rock’n Bowl, well, on certain nights of the week you can dance your way down the lanes. Extreme pins glow in the dark, and the space is filled with light and special effects to enhance the bowling experience. This isn’t your Dad’s bowling alley. They have a state-of-the-art sound system to get you rockin’ and rollin’ to super hits under three mirror disco balls and strobe lights. Who cares if you miss a few pins, it’s all in the fun.

It’s been an amazing day and now that the sun is beginning to set and the tummy is starting to rumble. So, make your way down to experience a bit of old Italy at Maria’s Italian Kitchen and home to some of the city’s best Italian cooking. Originally started in Brentwood, California in
1975, Maria wanted a restaurant where she could serve up the food she learned to love back home in Hoboken, New Jersey. With the recipes, passed down from her grandmother, Maria started what has now become a 30-year-old tradition.

Everything at Maria’s is fresh, fragrant and delicious. They use the best ingredients with everything made from scratch. Try the traditional spaghetti and meatballs or a healthy Chicken Michelangelo, a low carb chicken breast sautéed with spinach and mushrooms, and one of my faves:
Pizza Bianchi: pizza topped with spinach, fresh garlic and mozzarella cheese. Yum, yum, yum. Maria’s also offers a full bar so you can relax with a nice house chardonnay or one of their many martinis. The room is cozy, decorated in their signature black and white checkerboard and pictures of some of America’s most famous Italians like Frank Sinatra decorate the walls. You can also eat outside on their patio, which has heating lamps for those chilly California nights. Maria’s Sherman Oaks is located in the heart of LA’s most exclusive area, so on any given night you might find a celebrity or two eating alongside you. But don’t bother them, they’re there for the food too.

Ahh, it’s been a great day of shopping, playing and eating, and yet there’s so much more to do – oh, well there’s always tomorrow. And that’s the great thing about Ventura Boulevard, you never run out of new places to explore. There’s always something you’ve never seen before or something
new cropping up, and just spending a day exploring is well-worth the time. Time to head home, and dream of the sparkling jewelry at Handmade, the great fries at Carneys, Day-Glo bowling balls at Pinz,and the scrumptious tiramisu at Maria’s Italian Kitchen.

What & Where
Handmade Galleries (14556 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; 818-382-3444)
Second Spin (14564 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; 818-986-6866)
Rodeo Drive Resale (13727 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; 818-980-9990)
Buffalo Exchange (14621 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; 818-783-3420)
Carney’s Express Limited (12601 Ventura Blvd, Studio City; 818-761-8300)
Pinz (12655 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City; 818-769-7600)
Maria’s Italian Kitchen (13353 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; 818-906-0783)