There's not much you get for free nowadays - well the Watercourt in downtown LA is right up there with free plastered all over it! Right up on top of bunker hill, craddled between high-rise towers is a beautiful water-themed plaza. You find waterfalls and fountains dispersed between shops, hotels, and restaurants. At night the fountains are mesmerizingly illuminated in different color lights. You can stroll around, sit at the tables all around the plaza, have a coffee at the coffee-shop, or dress up and go for a fancy dinner. Since you are on top of bunker hill, you can enjoy the beautiful view over downtown LA, or (once it is re-opened) you can take a 50 cent ride on the antique angels-flight monorail down and back up the hill.
During summer you can catch one of the Grand-performances, a series of free concerts and art-performances. If you keep strolling further down along the plaza (follow the water!) you will end up at the back-entrance of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Arts). You can also stroll across the street and visit Disney Concert Hall.
Watercourt can be a fun hangout, catching a concert with friends; a solitary leisurely afternoon; or a romantic evening for two. *
Don't think many tourists bother coming Downtown. It doesn't have the vitality & excitement of New Yorks financial centre, but it would be a mistake to miss it if you're spending a few days in LA.
Firstly don't bother driving in as parking mid-week is a nightmare. Best advice we had was to park at Hollywood & Highland with their all day flat rate of a couple of $$, then jump on the Los Angeles subway that runs underneath.
If the 20min journey has worked up an appetite theres plenty of places for food here.
Popping up at Union Station it's a short walk down Olvera Street for the open air market and Mexican food. Quickly nip into Philippe The Original, with more sawdust on the floor than a hamsters cage, for one of their French dipped sandwiches. Then it's dim sum in Chinatown, and dessert in Little Tokyo.
If buildings float your boat then there's the Bradbury on Broadway, Central Library's eight-story atrium, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Finally a drink in the fabulous roof top bar at The Standard Hotel Downtown. Very cool (literally as the sun can't pierce the jungle of skyscrapers that surround this place), trendy hotel, on the top of which sits a small pool surrounded by water beds, chaise lounges & models in perspex boxes ! Apparently Hugh Hefner is often dug up for a night here with his lady friends. We found the staff to be surly & crabbish as you unfortunately expect in a place whose reputation and hype has exceeded it's actual worth.
Still very impressive (we've since seen it used in a few films) and I'd love to return for a night out to go skinny dipping with Hugh.
Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown L.A. was always just a business community, that was busy during the day and then fell quiet and empty at night. In the last ten years or so, that has changed dramatically. All the old and rundown neighborhoods that surrounded the business district have transformed, into a real and vibrant, urban environment with condos, lofts and trendy restaurants and bars. Living and working downtown has become a preferred lifestyle here in L.A. There are numerous choices for hotels in Downtown L.A., many luxury and business type hotels as well as 3 star and boutique hotels.
The fairly new Complex surrounding the home of the L.A. Lakers basketball team, is called "L.A. LIVE!", and is quite a combination of restaurants and bars, as well as shopping and sport related activities. Located on Olympic and Figueroa, it includes the trendy club, the Conga Room, owned by such stars as Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Smits, Paul Rodriguez, Sheila E, and will.I.am. of the Black Eyed Peas.
Another not to be missed attraction downtown is Olvera Street, a step into Old Mexico. Somewhat touristy but a lot of fun with many many stalls and restaurants, - located across from Union Station.
Also close by, are both Chinatown and Little Tokyo, each worthy of a visit as well.
For those looking for bargain shopping, there is the Garment District, located on Los Angeles Street and Santee Street, where all the famous designer fashions are available for a fraction of the price.
Very cool architecture, interesting haunts. You can make a good walk from Pershing Square (6th @ Main? check a map.). Move around the square. Check out the old theaters on Broadway. Find The Bradbury Bldg. (google it) and be sure to go inside!!! Detour over to the public library, worth checking out. On the way, you'll pass the Edison Building. Check out the lobby and the elevators! After the library, walk up the funky stairs with the cascading fountain to get onto Grand Ave. Continue walking up past LA-MOMA. Check it out for art and such. Then walk on to Disney Hall, walk around it and go up to the catwalk too! You can keep walking down the other side of Grand into Chinatown or a longer walk down 1st street to Little Tokyo. From Chinatown it's a short walk to Union Station where you can get on the subway to take you back to Pershing Square. Now, that's a full day! For night life, go to The Standard (9th & Grand?? look it up) and head to the roof-top bar. If you're there before 6, no cover. After, $20 but very L.A. cool.
Walking around downtown LA was more interesting that I first thought. This is where real people live and work away from the glamorous district like Beverly Hills etc. We got down at Pershing Square(named after the general J.J.Pershing) where we met with a friend, this open park-like square is a meeting point for many people some guys approached us and asked if we were someone else btw! :) )
First we visited the amazing Central Library where we spend some time before starting to explore the area around. There are some interesting corners with modern sculptures among highscrapers (pic 1), there are not so many in LA because of the earthquake issue. We admired some more of them like the US Bank building (pics 2-3) but as the sun starts to go down have in mind the area is a bit dangerous (a lot of homeless people and beggars around) so you may not feel very comfortable(dont go further south than 3rd street in the evening). The Bunker Hill Steps(pic 4) are some funky stairs with a nice cascading fountain coming from the top of the steps, we walked up the steps to reach Grand avenue on our way to MOCA.
The Town Hall (pic 5) is definetely one of the distinctive buildings in the area. It was built in 1928 and has a nice art deco style. It’s 138 meters high with 32 floors. If it looks familiar to you is because it has shown up in many films/TV series and of course the The Daily Planet building for Superman. There is an observetion level on 27th floor but we didnt have time to go there so missed the view.
Dont forget that Olvera Street, Chinatown and Little Tokyo are in walking distance from here (actually part of it) so you will noticed the variety of diverse neighborhoods in downtown (modern high rises in Financial district, short ethnic buildings in Chinatown). LA Conservancy offers walking tours in downtown for $10, the tour usually lasts for 2,5 hours (www.laconservancy.org/). We prefered to do it on our own but their program is interesting.
The Central Library in LA is definetely worth a visit. The building is located downtown with a nice exterior space (pics 1-2-3), a garden with fountains, sculptures and famous apothegms written on the walls. What I didnt know was how big and nice was the interior though (and very clean too). The Library's eight-story atrium is really beautiful (pic 4) while some great rooms, especially the awesome rotonda that has a great ceiling and murals (pic 5).
Students come and go while at the same time you can find photo exhibitions, lectures etc Of course the books are the main reason to visit this place, if you have some time your will find something to please you, so much knowledge is available here, I believe public libraries one of the most important things in our society, all residents must have access to the information. Here in LA, it is free for all the residents of California.
It is open Monday-thursday 10.00-20.00, Friday-Saturday 10.00-18.00, Sundays 13.00-17.00. There’s free wi-fi. Their site is also very useful, provides information and entertainment resources, web site indexes, databases, virtual library links as well as links to its central library.
The Standard is a very cool, very hip and very L.A. place to be. The decor is retro 70's complete with orange plastic furniture and woodsy wallpaper murals. There is a rooftop restaurant/bar with great views of the downtown cityscape by day or night. You can take a dip in the pool , relax on a waterbed, or watch videos that are projected onto the neighbouring buildings at night.
Built between 1889 and 1893, the Bradbury building is a true bragging point for Los Angeles architecture.However, it's the details of her birth that really set The Bradbury apart.
Lewis Bradbury, a man who made his millions in the mining industry, fired his original architect and hired a mere draftsman, George Wyman, to design the unique, grand edifice he envisioned. At first, Wyman was wary of such a large undertaking, but legend has it that the draftsman's dead brother contacted George through a "planchette board"(precursor to the "Quija board") and convinced him to take the job.
The finished product, largely influenced by Utopian literature, is a serene work of art. Vaulted skylights filter on a central courtyard served by cast-iron birdcage elevators. The intricate iron work, glazed brick and imported marble spun costs out of control. The edifice was finished at a cost of $500,000 - far in excess of the original $175K estimate.
Many remember The Bradbury as immortalized in "The Blade Runner", but a visit in person is highly recommended. In keeping with the occult-origins, I must mention that, upon my last visit, the security guard pointed out how some of the decorative ironwork, when seen at the right time of day, indeed resembles The Devil. He also shared his fear of night shifts in the famous building, saying he "never felt alone"..
Now, you 're not gonna get those details in a guidebook.
From the Westin Bonaventure's restaurant, as I told you in my last tip, you may enjoy a lovely view of the town.
This hotel is known even because a famous movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Total Recall", has been shot here.
The restaurant turns around in 360 degrees, so you may sit down, have a drink (eating is not necessary) and enjoy a view of the whole town. A 360 degrees turn is completed in about 45 minutes.
Finally, downtown Los Angeles has a mega entertainment-restaurant center in the neighborhood development of L.A. Live. In 2010, the mega-million project is complete, with with the premiere of the luxurious and hip JW Marriott and the grandiose Ritz Carlton. There is entertainent galore with Nokia Plaza, featuring Nokia Theater (new home of the Emmys and the ESPY award shows), the Conga Room (venue esp for Latin-themed performance), a huge Edwards cineplex and the Grammy Museum. Several restaurants, including, sushi mecca Katsuya, Boca at the Conga Room and the great steakhouse, Fleming's. For those who like to play, the trendy bowling alley, Lucky Strikes, makes for a fun night out. All of these are just steps away from the well-established Staples Center for major, crowd-pleasing sports and music events.
Warning! Expect traffic and parking nightmares here for events! There are still not enough parking spaces and premium ones can be rather pricey. Also, check out the L.A. Live calendar for new updates. There is always something exciting going on at this place.
Most people don't think historic anything when it comes to LA and the city is not synonymous with beautiful architecture but there are some real gems in the city, most of which are concentrated in the downtown area.
Art deco treasures dominate in this area although there are some other styles to see and enjoy. If you go, wear comfortable walking shoes, take a map (altho there are kiosks throughout the area to help you find your way if you don't have a map), and keep an eye on your purse and wallet because, unfortunately, this is not the greatest neighborhood in any other aspect besides architecture. It's worth the effort though, because what you'll find are some real treasures of architecture.
Included in that are the Orpheum Theatre, the Eastern Bldg, 215 Seventh, the Oviatt Bldg, the Biltmore Hotel, the Los Angeles Theatre, the Fox Bldg, the LA Library, and the Title Guarantee & Trust Bldg. Each one of these and many others highlight an era that not only showcased but truly honored hard work and attention to detail. Nothing was created quickly, cheaply, and thoughtlessly. A lot of buildings built nowadays could take a lesson from the beauty found in some scrolls around a window, patterns above the door, tile flooring, fanciful sconces, and many other touches that most present designers don't seem to know exist.
The LA Conservancy offers many walking tours if you don't want to attempt it on your own.
OK, riding on the metro is such a mundane thing to do but it's quite interesting (even better- can be free!) here in Los Angeles. Art tours are conducted mainly on weekends. Meeting places and times may change- check website. Free passes or badges are given beforehand, good for use for the whole day of tour.
MTA docents have done something special, though many who are boxed in their cars do not even realize it. Metro has 7 major lines-RED, PURPLE, BLUE, GREEN, GOLD, ORANGE and the EXPO. All are artistic in their own way, with many stops having a unique motif. The most extensive, perhaps most fascinating tour is the RED. Hopefully, LA government will actually make more lines, but of course there's even argument about colors to be chosen for the new lines, besides which routes.
RED & PURPLE are the only all-underground lines, running downtown. Both travel the same route until at the Wilshire/Vermont station. The PURPLE heads ultimately to Wilshire/Western. The RED goes down to North Hollywood. At the Universal /NoHo station stops, there is mosaic artwork on columns displaying historic scenes of Los Angeles & California.
BLUE is an external line that goes from downtown through south LA, ending in Long Beach. At the busy Imperial/ Rosa Parks stop, there are a number of colorful, joyful images of young African-American figures cut out from wooded board.
GREEN is another line running above ground, from Norwalk (south-east from LA) to Redondo Beach (west of LA). At the Harbor Fwy stop (from LA travelogues), there is an archaic feel of the place.
GOLD is a newer line, running over ground from downtown , through Pasadena to Sierra Madre. The most colorful construction along here is the Chinatown stop with harmonizing yellow, green and orange-red.
ORANGE is a bus line which runs through the San Fernando valley. It starts/ends where the red line does, North Hollywood. Ride a bus that imitates a train on its own track. Although not so artistic of a line, it is a nice, fast way to get around LA. The best stops here are the starting/ending points, the artistic NoHo district and Warner Center, close to major Valley shopping.
EXPO is the newest rail line of Metro. Its major end points are Downtown L.A. (7th/Metro) to Culver City. While I can't judge the art work from all the stops in between as I have not yet explored the whole line, the Culver City stop is quite interesting for the impronto mural art along Washington Blvd, just steps away from the Expo rail exits.
I love taking walking tours of historic areas so I was glad to hear of the LA Conservancy which offers a variety of walking tours in Los Angeles. I picked the Historic Core tour which started in Pershing Square in downtown LA and covered the highlights of the downtown area including the Bradbury Building, the LA Central Library, the Million Dollar Theater, the Subway Transit station to name a few. We ended the visit at the Grand Central Market which is a nice place to grab some lunch.
If you want to do a walking tour on your own, this the Angels Walk website has a walking tour of the Bunker Hill/Historic Core.
In this area you will see the Old Movie Palaces, theres alot of shopping opportunities and you can find tons of jewelry. Just a little fun fact: in the mall the jewelry is set at 300% mark up and where do they get most of their jewlery? The Jewelry District. You can find alot of nice gifts, good quality for not too much money. I have two uncles that work in the Jewelry District who would shoot me if I bought gold anywhere else.
In this area is also the Grand Central Market and The Bradbury Building.
One thing about the Broadway area, its loud! There are alot of people and alot of music. Merchandise is inexpensive, but even if you dont shop go check it out, its very interesting. You will find a variety of people as well. Mostly you will see latino and hear alot of Spanish but there are many other people here too. Latino, white, black, Native American, Middle Eastern, and Asian. It's ineteresting to people watch. Most importantly dont feel intimidated, everyone just minds their own business.
Los Angeles's city hall is one of those random monolithic high rises that leaves people wondering..."why"?
Why a "skyscraper" for City Hall? Seems rather imperialistic, no? Well, relax, LA's city hall is not America's tallest(that title belongs to the lovely city of Philadelphia), and is, in fact, a gem.
Complete restoration was completed in 2004 at a cost of more than 30 million dollars - a figure that enrages many Angelenos. However, I know an assistant to a council member(can't release names), who gave me a backstage tour that was fascinating. The staid facade belies gorgeous details, and architectural notes inside. And, for those who decry the pricetag - justifiably - don't forget that such restoration was unavoidable after the 1994 Northridge Quake that effectively condemned City Hall until proper retrofitting could be completed.
If you're interested in Art Deco architecture or a view into LA noir, then take a tour. Otherwise, take a picture and move along.
Side note: City Hall was "The Daily Planet" building of Superman comics.