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OUTDOOR FUN APLENTY SEE INDIAN ARTIFACTS, SPACE-AGE AIRPLANES AT LOCAL PARKS.

The Antelope Valley's attractions range from the desert to the mountains to outer space.

The valley has two municipal theaters, a professional baseball team, a state museum specializing in desert American Indian culture and two auto racing complexes, plus the landmark Edwards Air Force Base.

Outdoor attractions include California's best wild poppy area, a ski resort, desert state parks, and two sanctuaries for exotic wild animals.

Performing arts

Antelope Valley has two first-rate municipal theaters. The Lancaster Performing Arts Center opened in 1991 at a cost of $10 million, and the Palmdale Playhouse opened in 1994 for $2.8 million. Both host touring entertainers - often top names - as well as community theater and music groups. The 750-seat Lancaster theater opened with Henry Mancini and has hosted B.B. King and Heart. The 350-seat Palmdale Playhouse has hosted Sergio Mendez and the comedy groups Capitol Steps and Houseful of Honkeys. Lancaster Performing Arts Center, 750 W. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster, (661) 723-5950. Palmdale Playhouse, 38334 10th St. E., Palmdale (661) 267-5685.

Antelope Valley Fair

A tradition for more than 60 years and still a late-summer focal point, the Antelope Valley Fair features farm animals, carnival rides, craft competitions and top-name entertainment; ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, Vince Gill and Maroon 5 have been past headliners. The fair runs for 11 days every August, concluding on Labor Day. This year's entertainment lineup is expected to be announced in the spring. This is the second year at a new, larger fairgrounds that replaced the facility first used in 1938. The fairgrounds also hosts teen dances; bridal, computer and gun shows; and dog and cat shows. There is also a state off-track betting center for horse-racing fans. Located at 2551 W. Ave. H, Lancaster. Call (661) 948-6060.

Clear Channel Stadium

Clear Channel Stadium, formerly known as Lancaster Municipal Stadium, is home of the minor-league Lancaster JetHawks baseball team. The stadium was built by the city for $14.3 million and opened in 1996. The JetHawks, who play in the Single-A California League, are a farm team for the world champion Arizona Diamondbacks. The stadium is also used for high school graduations, college baseball tournaments, auto shows and even concerts. Lancaster Municipal Stadium, 2400 W. Ave. I, Lancaster. Call (661) 726-5400.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Nestled around Fairmont and Antelope buttes 15 miles west of Lancaster are 1,745 acres judged to be the most dependable area for California's state flower, Eschscholzia californica. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a state park, dedicated in 1976 after a statewide search for the best California poppy spot. It also boasts lupines, coreopsis, goldfields and other flowers, varying year by year according to rainfall. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, 15101 Lancaster Road, Lancaster. The visitor center is open during wildflower season, usually about mid-March to early May. Parking fees during wildflower season are $2 per vehicle, $1 for seniors age 62 and older. District state park office: (661) 942-0662. Poppy reserve visitors center: (661) 724-1180.

Antelope Valley Indian Museum

Giant boulders on rocky Piute Butte form part of the floor and walls of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum's Swiss chalet-style structure, built in 1928 by artist H. Arden Edwards. Inside are exhibits concentrating on native peoples of the western Great Basin east and southeast of the Sierra Nevada range, including the Antelope Valley. State park property since 1979, the museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from mid-September through mid-June. Admission is $1 for adults, free for children 16 and younger. Antelope Valley Indian Museum, 15701 E. Ave. M, (661) 946-3055. District state park office: (661) 942-0662.

Exotic Feline Breeding Compound

The Exotic Feline Breeding Compound's Feline Conservation Center houses more than 60 wild cats, ranging from the diminutive margay to jaguars, leopards and tigers. The nonprofit center breeds wild cats for propagating rare species. The center is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Wednesdays. It also has periodic special events called Twilight Tours, when visitors can see special breeding areas and see animals unavailable for viewing during public hours. Daily admission is $3.50 for adults, $1.50 for children 3 to 18. Twilight Tours are $15 per person, age 18 and older. Another wild animal sanctuary is Acton's Shambala Preserve, operated by actress Tippy Hedren's Roar Foundation. Created in 1972, Shambala has nearly 70 animals, including lions, tigers and elephants. Shambala is open to the public one weekend a month and for special events. Visitors must be at least 18. Minimum donation is $35. Exotic Feline Breeding Compound, off Mojave-Tropico Road north of Rosamond Boulevard, www.cathouse-fcc.org, (661) 256-3332. Shambala Preserve, Acton, www.shambala.org, (661) 268-0380.

Edwards Air Force Base

Edwards Air Force Base has not reopened to the general public since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Before then, visitors could take a bus tour along the base flight line and see the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum and historic aircraft at the Jimmy Doolittle Airpark. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Dryden Flight Research Center also offered public tours. Aviation enthusiasts can still inspect retired military jets at the Flight Test Center Museum's annex, Blackbird Airpark in Palmdale, which has SR-71, A-12 and U-2 spy planes on display, and at the adjoining Palmdale Plant 42 Heritage Airpark. Blackbird Airpark is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays at Avenue P at 25th Street East, Palmdale. Air Force Flight Test Center Museum: www.edwards.af.mil/museum, (661) 277-8050.

Los Angeles County Raceway and Willow Springs International Motorsports Park

These venues offer every kind of motorcycle and auto racing. Los Angeles County Raceway has a National Hot Rod Association championship drag strip for vehicles ranging from junior dragsters powered by lawn mower engines to import sedans to street hot rods to all-out racers. It also has motocross tracks and drag-racing and stunt-driving schools. Willow Springs has road-race and oval tracks, as well as classes for motorcycle and auto racing. Los Angeles County Raceway, 6850 E. Ave. T, Palmdale, CA 93550, www.lacr.net, (661) 533-2224. Willow Springs International Raceway, 3500 75th St. W., Rosamond, CA 93560, www.willowspringsraceway.com, (661) 256-2471.

Mountain High Resort

This ski resort, on Angeles Crest Highway west of Wrightwood in the Angeles National Forest, has 47 trails and 12 chairlifts spread over 220 acres of skiable terrain. Originally opened in 1937, the resort now has snow-making equipment to provide snow when Mother Nature doesn't. Lifts are open until 10 p.m. nightly on lighted runs. Mountain High Resort, 24510 Highway 2, Wrightwood, www.mthigh.com, (760) 249-5808.

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(color) Lancaster JetHawks outfielder Jarred Ball, left, practices his swing. The JetHawks are a farm team for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Michael Owen Baker
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 24, 2005
Words:1135
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