Santa Monica: Camera Obscura

Kind of random, but I think this is now one of my favorite things Los Angeles has to offer. Possibly because out of my whole life living here and being in Santa Monica quite a bit, I've only heard about it recently, and therefore it seems to me this sort of visibly hidden wonderful treasure if that makes any sense.

The Camera Obscura is visibly located on Ocean Ave. near Santa Monica Pier. But it's also easy to miss. Aside from the very cool sign on the outside of the building, there isn't much that makes it known. The building itself is actually used as an adult/senior activities center, and you have to ask the lady at the window for a key to the Camera Obscura – almost like it's a secret code name.

Once you've got the key, and enter in, the Camera Obscura shows itself as a dark square-ish room with a white table in the middle and a hole at the top. The hole acts as a portal where light comes through and has mirrors that reflect images outside 360 degrees to show on the white table. It was built in 1898 by Robert F. Jones and was originally located on the beach.

Upon entering, I wasn't exactly sure what to make of it at first. I felt like I was in a mix of a "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" throwback and we were learning how a camera works by going into it, and also a robot where my only vision was this portal thing.

The feeling was strange, but the experience was so neat to me. I like that it's interactive too and you can adjust the table and also use the pirate wheel to move the portal hole around to show a different view of the outside.

It's a little difficult to visit during the week if you work full-time. I was able to go on my lunch break and it was completely worth the side adventure!

(Make sure you go on a day where there's a lot of light – that will lend the most visible projected image.) 

Address: 1450 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401

Check-in at 1450 Ocean with an ID. You'll be given a key to unlock the room.

Hours: M-F 9am – 3pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm