Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where to Holiday: Halloween 2014

I’ve seen scores and scores of Halloween lists floating around the internet and popping up in my inbox, so I decided to throw my two cents into the mix and create a specially curated 
#WilsonsGuide Top 10 list of Halloween activities in the Los Angeles area.

From theme parks to festive parades and drink specials, there’s surely something to satisfy everyone, whether you feel like dressing up, dressing down, going hard or taking the more chill option.

Read on to see what’s happening in the city!

10. Halloween Horror Nights @ Universal Studios

The Merriment: Seven mazes, five scare zones and a Terror Tram, all within an area of some of the most recognizable sets from the most beloved movies

The Location: The Valley

The Vibes: Frightening, terrifying, spectacular

Good for: Groups of friends; must be 13+

When-To-Go: now until Sunday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m. – 2 a.m. nightly

The $ Factor: $62 - $219, depending on type of ticket purchased; options include GA, Day/Night Combo, Front of Line Pass and VIP Experience

Parking Situation: A parking lot that's $16 - $35 per car

The 4-1-1: Sure, Universal Studios is where movies are made, but on Halloween, it’s where terror reigns rampant. Arguably the theme park with the best Halloween attractions, the Studios transforms into a playground of abmoninations. There’s creepy mazes filled with unexpected twists and turns, scare zones, the Terror Tram, and of course “scareactors” all over the place, ready to scare the living daylights out of you at any given moment. Everyone should experience Halloween Horror Night at Universal Studios at least once!

For more information: Website

9. Booritos @ Chipotle

The Eats: $3 "boorritos," bowls, salads, tacos and/or kids meals for anyone dressed in costume

The Location: Multiple Locations

The Vibes: Casual

When-To-Go: Friday, Oct. 31, 5 pm. – close

The 4-1-1: On the day of Halloween, Chipotle is continuing its annual fundraiser for its Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, helping to raise funds that will go towards sustainable food initiatives—to add to the more than $2 million that's already been raised. Chipotle burritos are already mad crazy delicious in general, and at this price, it just makes sense to satisfy any pre- or post-Halloween festivities hunger pains here.

For more information: Website

The Merriment: Blocks upon blocks of live entertainment, food vendors and the best costumes in the city

The Location: West Hollywood

The Vibes: Creative and fun

Good for: All ages

When-To-Go: Friday, Oct. 31, 6 – 11 p.m.

The $ Factor: FREE

Parking Situation: Several nearby parking structures offer parking; street parking extremely limited and far away.

The 4-1-1: Probably one of the liveliest and largest Halloween celebration in the city, the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival brings out some of the most entertaining and amusing costumes ever. Take, for example, the one pictured above, where my friends and I met two guys dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz—if she hadn’t made it out of Kansas. You can literally spend hours simply ogling over all of the different costumes. But, aside from people-watching, there are tons of activities throughout the night: a costume contest, live music and many of the nearby bars and restaurants are great to check out, and there will be food trucks stationed around. 

For more information: Website

7. The Spirit and Voodoo of New Orleans @ Sassafras

The Merriment: A splendidly Southern saloon with live music

The Location: Hollywood

The Vibes: Charming, intimate, genteel

Good for: 21+ guests

When-To-Go: Friday, Oct. 31, 9:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Parking Situation: Street parking

The 4-1-1: Stepping into Sassafras on any given day is literally like stepping into a different era and location; it literally feels as if you’ve gone back to the 19th century, to a Southern state like Georgia or Louisiana. And on Halloween, this Hollywood bar is kicking up the ante by ushering in the “spirit and voodoo of New Orleans.” The band Reverend Tall Tree will play live blues and there will be a tarot card reader and a fortune teller. Aside from libations and Voodoo Punch, there’s also a costume contest with prizes given to the three best dressed.

For more information: Website

6. The Hobgoblin @ The Raymond/1886

The Drinks: Creatively designed libations with fantastic, one-of-a-kind names and eclectic flavors

The Location: Pasadena

The Vibes: Vintage, cozy, nostalgic

Good for: Small groups

When-To-Go: Friday – Sunday, beginning at 5 p.m.

The $ Factor: $8 - $14 per cocktail

Parking Situation: Valet parking

The 4-1-1: Already a #WilsonsGuide favorite, this former hotel-turned-drinking parlor and restaurant has a hauntingly intriguing past that includes decadent wealth lost during the Great Depression, destructive fires and alleged ghosts that still visit the property. So, it’s the perfect location to partake in a more leisurely subdued Halloween, sipping hand-crafted cocktails, like the special for the weekend, the Hobgoblin. Pictured above, this cocktail is a blend of Applejack brandy, house-made pumpkin syrup, cinnamon and other ingredients, all garnished by a chocolate spider web. A food menu is also available.

For more information: Website

5. The Purge: Breakout

The Merriment: A 30-minute interactive "game" where you must work with members of your team to escape before “the purge” begins

The Location: Mid-City

The Vibes: Suspenseful, psychologically thrilling

Good for: Groups up to six people; must be 18+

When-To-Go: Now until Sunday, Nov. 2, beginning in the afternoon, going until midnight

The $ Factor: $27.50 - $30 plus fees

The 4-1-1: Based on the action-horror film The Purge: Anarchy and made by the film’s producers, Universal Pictures and Blumhouse, this interactive maze is based on the movie and forces you to solve collaborative mind games together in order to move through its various levels and eventually escape it...just in time before "the purge" begins. Four semi-trucks are stationed on Beverly Blvd. Nondescript on the outside, they house cramped cages that will hold you and your group members, dilapidated living rooms, dark, narrow hallways and bloodcurdling surprises in the most unexpected places.

For more information: Website

4. Freaky Friday Halloween Party By The Sea @ Marina Seafood & Steakhouse Restaurant Waterfront

The Merriment: A costume party for the grown and sexy

The Location: Southbay

The Vibes: Lounge, restaurant

Good for: 21+ although 25+ is preferred

When-To-Go: Friday, Oct. 31, 9:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.

The $ Factor: $10 online or before 10:30 p.m.

The 4-1-1: It's a night of sultry R&B, rhythmic reggae and rare grooves. Music will be provided by DJ X-Treme, the self-proclaimed Original BasementSoul Disciple, and DJ Lady Jamar. There will also be a costume contest with a $500 prize. This event is hosted by Vince Gilbert of BlackStar Productions, Ricky Johnson of The Peepgame Group, Mark Bruce of Mark "The Man" Productions and a good friend of mine, Darryl Holmes of Southern Bot ENT.

For more information: Website

3. The Monster’s Ball @ Arena

The Merriment: The self-proclaimed “Sexiest Halloween Party Ever”

The Location: Hollywood

The Vibes: Club

Good for: 21+

When-To-Go: Friday, Oct. 31, 9 p.m. – 3 a.m.

The $ Factor: $15 - $20 plus service charge

Parking Situation: Onsite parking

The 4-1-1: With hosts Ronnie from New Edition/BBD and Shamari DeVoe and DJs EQUE, Mike Smoove and Tagg Team on the 1’s and 2’s, it’s bound to be a night of grooving to R&B, hip-hop and all the 90’s classics. There will be $1,000 costume contest, so be sure to dress for the occasion, and bottle service is available. This is brought to you by Ron & Shamari DeVoe, Diamond Productions, M.S. Entertainment, Doc & Disco, BlackNLA, Honey Collective, TG3 Ent. and Herb The Ent. Spec.

For more information: Website

2. 6th Annual Los Angeles Hayride @ The Old Zoo

The Merriment: Mazes, scare zones and an actual hayride

The Location: Griffith Park

The Vibes: Frightening, ghoulish, chilling

Good for: 8+

When-To-Go: Now until Friday, Oct. 31, 7 p.m. until closing time

The $ Factor: Individual GA; $30 - $58; Season Pass $149; Private wagon for up to 30 people $1,395

The 4-1-1: The “Old Zoo” in Griffith Park has been transformed into a lair where it seriously seems as though the worst of what you could imagine about humanity exists. It’s literally like all of the devastating images from your worst nightmares and from horror movies are now in one location. Attractions include its namesake the Haunted Hayride, the Purgatory House of the Horseman, a Haunted Village, the In Between Dark Maze and the all new Seven Sins Sideshow. Expect not just creepy figures, but flying creatures, tons of special effects and, to even get a few liquids thrown on you.

For more information: Website

1. The 15th Annual Día De Los Muertos @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The Merriment: A spirited celebration of life and death within one of the most famous cemeteries in the city

The Location: Hollywood

The Vibes: Festive, colorful, inviting

Good for: All ages

When-To-Go: Saturday, Nov. 1, noon until midnight

The $ Factor: $20 for GA; free children under 4 and adults over 65

The 4-1-1: Day of the Dead—or Día de Los Muertos—is a Mexican holiday with origins in indigenous Aztec culture that’s widely commemorated here in Los Angeles. It pays joyous homage to loved ones who are no longer with us. While there are many Día de Los Muertos celebrations throughout the city, the one at Hollywood Forever is a force to be reckoned with, as it takes place in an actual cemetery, where many Día de Los Muertos celebrations have occured traditionally. There will be live music and performances, more than 100 decorated altars, Aztec dancers, a Cathedral art exhibit and much more. Guests are also highly encouraged—and do—dress in the Calaca tradition, painting their faces as skulls and wearing traditional garb.

For more information: Website

Where will you end up? Let me know in the comments below. See you at one of these places soon!

Friday, October 24, 2014

And Where Do You “Where To?”: Recording Artist Erica Campbell

At the Grand Opening of celebrity stylist Goo-Goo Atkins’ showroom The Style Suite last week, I caught up with the legendary, award-winning singer, Erica Campbell.

As half of the powerhouse duo Mary Mary, Erica Campbell has been on the scene, changing the face of gospel music—and music in general—for more than 15 years. In particular, 2014 has also been an extremely exciting and busy year for her, with the March debut of her first solo album Help, the continuation of her successful reality show Mary Mary and performances in multiple cities, worldwide.

And now this fall, she’s revealed her latest venture: a nail polish line, EC x CC!

During our talk at the showroom's opening event, Erica shared with me more about her new line, her business ventures and of course, where she "where to's" in Los Angeles. Read more below!

WilsonsGuide: What was the inspiration behind this launch? Why now?
Erica Campbell: I love nail polish. I get my nails done all the time. I have two daughters and seven sisters. So nail polish is always somewhere in my house. It’s something that I love. And, I think it’s great for a mom, a woman, a college student—whoever—to have a little glamour in a bottle of your own, as opposed to going to the [nail] shop, looking on the walls and sometimes what we’re looking for is not there. Take your own color—you know exactly what you’re getting. You know there’s nail thinner in it, you know that it won’t crack, that it’s going to polish, that it’s a good product. I love to offer good product, whether it’s nail polish or music.

WilsonsGuide: Do you have a favorite color?
Erica Campbell: That’s so hard—that’s not easy at all! Today I’m wearing hot pink. I do like the blue, and the lime…and the red…and the nude. I like them all (laughs)!

WilsonsGuide: I want to ask you another hard question: because you’re in a lot of different professional ventures—you sing, you have this new line, you have a reality show—is there one business venture that is closer to your heart than another?
Erica Campbell: The closest thing to my heart is my kids and making sure that I leave a legacy for them. That I teach them how to be responsible; that I let them know that you can work and be successful and still be a loving mom and nurture them. That’s what’s most important.

The music I would say, because it’s ministry. It is not just me being fabulous. It’s about inspiration. It’s about motivating people and letting them know that there is an answer, that there is help and that there is hope and you’re not in it alone. That part of the music is really what I love the most. When I know I’m touching lives and changing lives, that’s the most important thing.

    Pictured: Goo-Goo Atkins and Erica Campbell, at The Style Suite Showroom Grand Opening

WilsonsGuide: My blog is all about where to eat, drink and be merry in Los Angeles, so do you have a favorite restaurant, or favorite lounge or anywhere you like to go?
Erica Campbell: I love Katana. It’s seriously one of our faves, but I could also do Wokcano. But I’m a real L.A. girl, so you got to include Roscoe’s in there, too. I just mix it up! I’m a little high end—I could do Crustacean, but I could do Roscoe’s. I could go any way (laughs).

* If you haven’t already, check out my post covering The Style Suite Grand Opening here and also my interview with Erica Campbell's sister Goo-Goo Atkins here!*

Pictured: Erica Campbell with models at The Style Suite Showroom Grand Opening

Thursday, October 23, 2014

And Where Do You “Where To?”: Celebrity Stylist Goo-Goo Atkins

Last week was the Grand Opening of Mary Mary castmember and celebrity stylist Goo-Goo Atkins’ Style Suite Showroom. Not only did I attend, but I also had the chance to chat with her during a quick one-on-one interview, which is posted below.

I have to say—she’s just as stylish and elegantly composed in person as she is on the Mary Mary television series. And, it was great to get a glimpse of her personality. She’s fast-talking, brutally honest, hard-working and brilliantly business savvy, but most importantly, she’s proving that she’s a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry.

During our conversation, we talked about everything from advice for starting a business to fall fashions, what her new showroom would offer and of course, where she “where to’s” in Los Angeles.

Read more below and if you haven’t already, you can check out my post covering the Style Suite Showroom's Grand Opening here!

WilsonGuide: Why did you decide to open up a showroom now?
Goo-Goo: The main thing is, there aren’t very many options for plus-sized women or even curvy women. In the industry, once you become a size six, they start looking at you like, “uh oh, she’s getting fat.” So then anything from [size] eight on up, they treat you like, “we can’t make clothes in your size.”

There are options out there, and so I went and got those options and I found a space. And I wanted it to be somewhere centrally located. I have 24-hour access to the space. I can come in here any time—doesn’t matter what time [clients] land, or if they want to be private, at nighttime, it’s secured—and we can come in here and I can get them styled for their event. Let’s say it’s the day of the Grammy’s, you can come in here by 12, leave by 2, with your hair, your make up, your clothes, everything completely done.

But, the main thing  like I said was, women of larger size, there were no options. When you go to showrooms, there are no options for them. They have like 200 dresses in size 2-4, but anything 8, 10, 12, 14, 22, 32, 24, there are no options. Maybe one or two, and they look like our grandmothers’ dresses.

So, I got my designing hat on and I designed a lot of things and some plus sizes and bought some stuff, but I just want the ladies to know that I got you covered!

WilsonGuide: Can you talk a little bit about the designers who are featured in the showroom?
Goo-Goo: Well I’m going to tell you something. A lot of the designers that I pull from, they stopped returning emails when I told them I wanted some wholesale pieces—to buy pieces to put in here for my clients. I didn’t get responses back. That’s why I said I put my designer hat on and called some seamstress friends of mine. Sir Algernon, he’s a great designer and he sent me some original pieces and then I said, “now I need this, I need that!” He played seamstress and helped my dreams come true.

Jared Lamar, another local designer...Goo-Goo (laughs).

WilsonGuide: Can you give us some fashion tips for the fall?
Goo-Goo: Stay warm. We here in California, sometimes we want to wear certain things and the weather doesn’t really call for it. I love my Uggs too, but I just want to wear them when it actually is a little cool out. And then when you wear them, wear them warm. Don’t wear them with a mini skirt, where your legs are freezing and then you have on a tank top, but your feet are burning. Just, make sense.

I love layering. I like the monochromatic layering too. I know color blocking was a big thing last season and it still is, but I like slight variations of the same color, like four different greys on. I love that.

WilsonGuide: What advice do you have for any aspiring business owners, in launching your showroom?
Goo-Goo: That is the first time I have ever been asked that question because this is so new to me. Do you know this whole thing happened in 27 days?

WilsonGuide: I did not know that! Congratulations—wow.
Goo-Goo: Yes. 27 days. Everything. This store was a big, ugly box, and all of this happened. Make sure you get your business straight. I’m passionate about styling and the creative element, but I had to make sure that my business was tight, so you won’t come here next week and there’s a padlock on the door because I didn’t handle my business right. Insurance, everything—make sure everything is tight. Take your time and get that information. Luckily, I was in the position where I had connections with people and I called them and I said, “hey, I need to take care of this, that and the other,” and sometimes they would say, “well, you’re gonna need this and that and that,” and so I put it together that way, and really, God just intervened and helped me to get it done.

But I would say make sure your business is straight before you go into it because sometimes creative people, we just want to hurry up and “oh, it’s open now!” but it’s like, it’s going to be shut down because you kind of did it raggedy.

WilsonGuide: My blog is about where to eat drink and be merry in Los Angeles, so do you have a favorite restaurant, lounge, bar, social destination?
Goo-Goo: You know what, wherever my friends are. I love Bottega Louie. It’s really cute there. The food is good there, it’s centrally located. But, then I go across the street to Wokcano, too. I found a place not too far—I think it’s called Food Haus and they were very, very good, so that’s probably going to be my new eating spot. But, wherever my friends are.

Read more about the Grand Opening of Goo-Goo's Style Suite Showroom here

* This interview has been edited for length.