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The Traveling Nerd: The Greater LA Area

Written by John Lewis on Tuesday, April 21 2015 and posted in Columns

The Traveling Nerd: The Greater LA Area

Your guide to all things nerd in the Greater LA area of Southern California.

Welcome to The Outhouse’s newest column!

Now, I know many of our readers expect snark and sarcasm in every article but this isn’t about that. The Traveling Nerd is about the best places in the world to get your geek on whether they’re comic book stores and Doctor Who shoot locations to art galleries and restaurants. If you happen to be traveling to a new destination or moving somewhere, this is your geek guide.

To start things off, I’m choosing my home turf of the Greater-LA area. For those who don’t know, I’m referring to Los Angeles County (besides the city of LA) and Orange County. I don’t really go to Los Angeles much because the Greater-LA area has so much to offer:


Beach Ball Comics

Anaheim, California

Only a few miles away from Disneyland and the location of this year’s WonderCon is Beach Ball Comics. While Beach Ball happens to be a smaller store, it makes up for it with a stellar selection of comic books, graphic novels, and toys. The staff is very friendly, more so than the friendliest of stores, and eager to help out.

Beach Ball has also hosted signings featuring Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Rick Remender and you can always take a pic of their Hulk, R2-D2, and Spider-Man statues if there are no comic book creators around.


The Camp and Lab Anti Mall

Costa Mesa, California

            First off, I hate malls and shopping. My version of shopping is going to chain bookstores and reading books until whoever is shopping comes and collects me. However, I do like The Camp and Lab.

            The two “malls” are only a block away from each other and parking is atrocious at both places so you might as well go to both them. What makes them great is SEEDs People Market and the food places. SEEDs is an outdoors/eco-friendly store with everything you need to go camping, cycling, or just enjoy the outdoors while you’re indoors. This is very important in Southern California where you can access the beach, the mountains, or the desert in just a couple of hours from anywhere in SoCal.

            When it comes to food, there’s Cuban, Italian, vegetarian, a bakery, an exotic taco place, and more. You can’t pick a bad place there for dinner or a drink.


Comics Factory

Pasadena, California

            It wasn’t too long after I got back into comics that I was driving along Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena and came across Comics Factory. The store served as my gateway drug into Vertigo (back when the imprint was amazing), Image, Dark Horse, and other independent comics. After Comics Factory, there was no going back.

            Comics Factory has a great selection of comic books with the superhero books separated from the indie books so you can easily find what interests you. In the middle of the comics are bookshelves with every trade and graphic novel in print and a few no longer in print. Plus, they have a huge selection of toys, statues, and back issues. The staff is very welcoming and are always glad to help.


Disneyland Resort

Anaheim, California

This may be cheating a bit but this is my damn list. What place can you go to where you can fight off Darth Vader, help Indiana Jones escape a death trap, snap a selfie with Thor, and go on a boat ride with Johnny Depp? Well, there’s really only one place.

It would be easy enough to talk about the rides and attractions but what really makes Disneyland great is the amount of detail that goes into everything they do there… Which inspires Disney nerds, the scariest of all nerdoms. Seriously, they will argue over the species of a crab on Pirates of the Caribbean with the same zest as comic book fans discussing Man of Steel.

Starting in May, Disneyland is getting prepared for their 60th anniversary so there are plans to debut all new shows and attractions. Right now is really the best time to go.

Now, Disneyland is quite expensive so if you want to a Disney experience for cheap, you can always go to Downtown Disney that has a few Disney-related stores (and Marvel and Star Wars-related goods) and places with booze (since you can’t drink inside Disneyland).


Dog Haus

Pasadena, California; Alhambra, California; West Covina, California; Santa Ana, California; Burbank, California; Thousand Oaks, California

Everybody loves phallic tubes of meat in-between two buns, right? Even vegetarians like their food that way. Well, Dog Haus is the best hot dog option in Southern California. While they have only been open since 2010, they have spread throughout SoCal and even into other states like an invasion of delicious tube forms of meat.

What makes Dog Haus great is their creativity. While it’s easy to get a hot dog with mustard and ketchup on from almost anywhere, Dog Haus is inspired by Mexican, Korean, Japanese, Polish, and other cuisines to make their hot dogs and hamburgers unique. Plus, the dogs and burgers have names such as The Pig Lebowski, Scott Baioli, The Fonz, and Mötley Bleu 2.0.


Don the Beachcomber

Huntington Beach, California

I would probably have an alcohol problem if there was a tiki bar within a mile of my house. Out of all of the tiki bars I’ve been to, Don the Beachcomber is the best. With a tiki bar, you want strong drinks, friendly bartenders, and tiki-themed stuff everywhere. Don delivers that with a restaurant attached to it.

I never had the food at Don the Beachcomber but I’ve had their Zombie’s and Mai-Tai’s and the drinks have never disappointed. The Zombie, in particular, is stronger than the Hulk. Plus, the bar is right on the legendary Pacific Coast Highway and only a couple miles away from where surfing competitions are held. The only way you can get more tiki-ified was if you were in a Don Ho song.


Frank & Son Collectibles Show

City of Industry, California

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been to Frank & Son’s in awhile and in good reason as Frank & Son’s is a swap meet for collectors. You can find everything from graphic novels to G.I. Joe’s to movie memorabilia to Barbie dolls to video games. If you’re not prepared, this warehouse can take advantage of your wallet. Big time.

Vendors do set their own prices so there’s nothing wrong with haggling and searching for a better deal. However, Frank & Son’s is only open two days a week and gets busy so you may not see what you want again.


Nucleus Art Gallery and Store

Alhambra, California

            Usually, a great art gallery needs to be located in a big city such as LA or San Francisco to be successful. Not the case with Nucleus. This art gallery is located in Alhambra (about ten miles from Los Angeles) which is a city mostly known for… I got nothing.

            Nucleus hosts signings of artists who worked on various movies and events based around various themes such as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, The Big Bang Theory, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Wizard of Oz. You can find art, prints, and books by many artists who work in film, TV, comic books, and children’s literature at Nucleus.

Furthermore, Nucleus hosts classes on how to become better artists and understanding visal storytelling.


Vroman’s Bookstore

Two locations in Pasadena, California and one small location at Los Angeles Airport.

And last but not least is the best bookstore in Southern California. Vroman’s has been serving Pasadena since 1894 and has been owned independently since day one. The bookstore has been at its current two-story location since 1929 and has hosted book signings of everyone from Art Spiegelman to David Sedaris to former President Bill Clinton. Plus, it’s a go-to site for films and TV shows whenever they need a bookstore as a setting.

While that’s all impressive, Vroman’s backs it up with two-stories of books, graphic novels and trades, art, toys, stationery, and anything else possibly related to books. The graphic novels/trades section is top notch and the envy of many comic book stores. Furthermore, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable and can help you out big time.

The only problem is that Vroman’s isn’t open 24/7 and I can’t live there.


If you happen to know of an area with some great comic book stores, food places, and other places for nerds, then feel free to contribute to this column.


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