When we have had family visitors from out of state, naturally they have wanted to visit the usual tourist spots: the Hollywood walk, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, etc. However, we wanted to offer a look at some of the lesser known attractions in downtown Los Angeles. So, after doing a little research on the internet, we devised our own tour that will consume 4 – 6 hours, is easily accessed on foot and hits several points of interest. (This map might be helpful.) Let’s get started.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
We begin our tour at the Walt Disney Concert Hall located at 111 South Grand Ave in LA, which is easily reached from either the 110 or the 101 (Hollywood) freeways. If you go during the week, you can park underneath the concert hall for free until 4:30pm as long as there is no matinee performance scheduled. Otherwise, the parking is $9.00.
This Frank Gehry designed building, home to the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, was opened in October 2003, based upon an initial gift of $50 million from Lillian Disney, the widow of the late Walt Disney. You can experience this beautiful structure through a free tour, either a self guided audio tour or in a group with a guide. The tour takes about an hour and covers both the interior and exterior. Definitely worthwhile.
Leaving your vehicle in the concert hall parking structure, exit the Walt Disney Concert Hall and go right on Grand Ave. Continue on Grand to reach California Plaza at 350 South Grand Ave. The top of Angel’s Flight can be accessed from California Plaza.
Known as the “Shortest Railway in the World”, the Angel’s Flight funicular dates back to 1901. The original Angel’s Flight was closed in 1969 and eventually relocated to its present location when the Bunker Hill section of LA underwent major redevelopment. You can take a ride today for 25 cents. However, according to this website it will be closed for maintenance for a few weeks beginning January 10, 2012.
Grand Central Market
When you reach the bottom of Angel’s Flight, look across the street to find Grand Central Market, LA’s oldest open air market dating back to 1917. It you arrive hungry you will find lots of options for lunch representing many of the cultures of LA. Browse around and try to narrow down your choices so that you can find an available table to have your lunch before continuing the tour.
Next stop: the Bradbury Building. You will leave Grand Central Market on the side opposite of where you entered to get to the corner of 3rd and Broadway. Across the street you will see the Bradbury Building. Built in 1893, it is considered one of the finest architectural masterpieces in Southern California. It was commissioned by the mining millionaire Lewis Bradbury and designed by George Wyman who based his design on a science fiction story which described a utopian civilization in the year 2000. The building has been featured in many movies, music videos and other popular media, most notably the 1982 cult classic, “Blade Runner”.
Go in, wander around and enjoy this spectacular building. The walls are pale glazed bricks, the marble used in the staircases is from Belgium and the floor tiles are from Mexico. And be sure the check out the life sized Charlie Chaplin sculpture in the back. It shows him in his role as “The Little Tramp”.
Walk back out the front door of the Bradbury Building and turn left on Broadway. Walk to 5th Street and turn right, 2 blocks to Pershing Square. This park was first dedicated for use in 1866 and then renamed to Pershing Square in 1918 to honor the World War I general. Be sure to check to sculpture garden which includes a statue of Beethoven. You’ll recognize this as the place where LA Times writer Steve Lopez meets Nathanial Ayers in the film “The Soloist”, which was inspired by actual events.
If you walk across Pershing Square to the side fronting Grand Ave, you will see the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
Millennium Biltmore Hotel
For over 85 years, the Millennium Biltmore has been host to presidents, dignitaries and celebrities. Take a few minutes and stroll through lobby and check out some of the photos showing a portion of the storied history of the hotel, including playing host to the early Academy Award presentations. If you feel like a splurge, then grab a table for some coffee and dessert in the Rendezvous Court with its Italian travertine stone walls and the carved bronze Baroque staircase.
Bunker Hill Steps
Designed by Lawrence Halprin in 1990 the Bunker Hill Steps are meant to evoke the Spanish Steps in Rome. There is a “stream” that runs down the middle section of the steps with the water flowing from a fountain at the top containing Robert Graham’s nude female sculpture, “Source Figure”. Also, from the steps, you get a very nice view of the Central Library directly across the street.
Once the reach the top of the steps, continue walking along Hope Street to return to the Disney Concert Hall. I hope you enjoy your tour.