Many Angelenos rarely venture so far north to the City of San Fernando, but Alex and Daniela Del Guadio, sisters and co-owners of Wild Plum, a holistic spa and yoga center, says it's worth the drive. They praise the real, down-to-earth primarily Hispanic community the neighborhood hosts and tailor their shop's services and pricing tiers directly to the needs of the neighborhood, offering community classes, donation-based classes and scholarships for yoga. "The whole idea is that it's for everybody and everybody needs it. That was always the mission," said Alex.
Alex and Daniela are both proud natives, growing up in nearby Pacoima. They consider the neighboring cities of San Fernando and Sylmar a part of their community as well. Their grandparents started Del Guadio's Market in the '40s and lasted 71 years and several generations running it, just closing this last January. "This is our people, this is where we're from. My grandparents came, they were Italian immigrants and they set up a deli market," said Daniela, "It's where my parents met. My mom went in there for a part time job, met my dad, fell in love, had seven kids and raised us all there. It's one of those American dreams that we don't get to see often anymore, but my grandparents were able to do it."
Family and love for a hard-working community is one of the biggest motivators for the two sisters, so we asked the two for their take on neighborhood gems that may give those "other" cities on your list a run for their money:
The San Fernando Trolley
It may not be a bird's eye view of the city, but a ride in this throwback trolley is an enjoyable spin through some of the neighborhood major stops like the Foothill Shopping centers, several schools and the San Fernando Swap Meet. It runs daily and makes 28 stops at the cost of just a quarter! "The Trolley goes up and down Maclay — and to the San Fernando mall area," said Daniela, "It's the little historic tour of this little area!"
Tía Chucha's Cultural Center and Bookstore
Since 2001, Tía Chucha's has been a lighthouse for the northeast San Fernando Valley community, offering artful activist experiences from their Sylmar headquarters. "They are a non-profit that has been working with the community for years. They were doing book readings, poetry, music nights, art and a café," said Daniela.
"The director, Michael, is amazing," added Alex, "They were doing plant-based cooking classes for youth when no one else is talking about plant-based cuisine in the northeast end of the Valley. Literally, there's not a single restaurant that you can go to for organic, plant-based food — but they're doing these classes." A sampling from their fall workshop menu includes sessions on community organizing, son jarocho music, cooking for self-care and danza mexika. Attendance includes instruments and materials with a suggested donation of $30.
Flor De Lima Farms
"They were the first and only juice bar for many years. I very much respect and appreciate what they do for the community," said Alex, "They offer salads, smoothies, juices and Acai bowls." While juice bars feel like they're on every corner in some areas of the Southland, Daniella shared that the northeast Valley very rarely has a lot of healthy food options, which makes Flor De Lima's offering even more crucial. Unfortunately, fire damage sustained Aug. 22 has caused the shop to shutter temporarily, but the shop is working closely with the City of San Fernando to rebuild and open their doors as soon as possible.
Wildlife Learning Center
If you're looking for a family-friendly outing, why not check out Sylmar's Wildlife Learning Center? "[It's] a rescue with all kinds of exotic animals that you'd be surprised to see. They have a giraffe…," said Alex."They care for some long term and some are just rehabilitative. It's such a fun afternoon to experience with children, even adults! I know plenty of adults that would love to go out and hang out with these animals." Some of the rescues at the center hail from all over the country. These include a kinkajou, a tree-dwelling relative of a raccoon from Latin America; an eagle with an arthritic wing and a gray fox from the Santa Monica Mountains. General admission is $10 for kids and $12 for adults and a more interactive tour that includes feeding a giraffe, touching a reptile and feeding a porcupine run upwards of $330 for up to 5 participants.
Annie's Sweet Oven Bakery Cafe
Taking a walk on the wild side may leave you hungry, so Alex recommends walking just across the Wildlife Learning Center to Annie's Sweet Oven Bakery Cafe. "It's Annie's bakery and café — it's just her and a couple other staff members. She's always there baking five hours a day. We LOVE Annie! They make these flaky croissants, avocado toast, smoothies, lattes….so delicious," said Alex.
Veterans Memorial Community Regional Park
"Alex's favorite hike is at Veteran's. And I'm kind of nervous to put that out there because we love that it's so quiet," said Daniela. This 97-acre park features gently rolling hills, camping areas and even a disc golf course. Once home to the original Veterans Hospital in the 1940s, the park has well-maintained and clean surroundings. Parents will also appreciate its children's playground made with 5-12-year-olds in mind. The sisters love the trails in this park. "It's a beautiful park, so cared for and so loved. There are some trails that you can take up if you wanted to hike. Even just strolling the park, I tell people that it's better than any anti-anxiety pill you can pop," said Alex.
"I love this restaurant called Magaly's Tamales," said Alex, "The owner is amazing, she has famous tamales. She started, I think from a food stand and then she got her first brick and mortar and now she's in this full-blown restaurant building. Everything is made with so much care. I call it elevated Mexican."
Papa Juan's Baja Grill
For those with a craving for Baja-style tacos, "You have to go to Papa Juan's Baja Grill," said Daniela, "The guy who owns it is also friends with our brother. The fish tacos are unreal, so yummy. He also does Taco Tuesday (and Fridays) for $1.50. The chipotle sauce is to die for. The avocado baja taco, which is battered and fried avocado with the fresh cabbage and crema, are you kidding me? It's so good."
Discovery Cube Los Angeles
For a truly interactive and STEM-based educational experience, the San Fernando Valley has a family-friendly offering for young and curious minds. Discovery Cube Los Angeles is a science center and museum filled with engaging exhibits created to encourage lots of sensory play. It's the perfect excuse for kids and their adults to enjoy a fun day out in the Valley!
"Can we just mention one more?" added Alex, "To satisfy your little sweet tooth, you can stop by Pop's Creamery. The owner, she comes all the time. Her family runs it. Again, it's all handmade and tropical and exotic flavors like lucuma, pink guava, cherimoya, raw cacao and more. All of these things that you're not going to find at 'the other ice cream places.' Obviously way more fresh, small-batch artisanal ice cream."
How to get to Wild Plum Holistic Spa and Yoga Center
By Bus: Take Metro Green Antelope Valley Line to the Sun Valley Station. From there, walk to the Sun Valley Metrolink Station and get on a Bus to the the Truman/Maclay Station where you'll get off and walk a few minutes to Wild Plum Holistic Spa and Yoga Center.
By Car: Take I-5 North and exit 5 to Maclay St. Turn left onto Maclay St and destination will be on your right.