3 Hours in Downtown Los Angeles

As a beach dweller, when out-of-town friends ask “how’s L.A.?” I often have to answer “I have no idea.” So I was really happy to turn my coverage of last Saturday’s pro-labor union rally into a mini-tour of Downtown Los Angeles, where I was able to check off several places on my “to do” list.

The rally took place outside the iconic Los Angeles City Hall, which figures prominently in L.A.’s history and its crime fiction, such as the movie version of James Ellroy’s “L.A. Confidential“. I have never been to City Hall, and really enjoyed its counterpoint to the Walt Disney Concert Hall a few blocks away, which was near where I parked.  Check. After covering the rally, a friend and I went in search of coffee. We crossed 1st and Spring Streets and walked past the Moderne Los Angeles Times Building, which has an interesting historical motif on the Broadway side.

City Hall as rally backdrop

Just a couple of blocks down Broadway, we saw the Bradbury Building, another item on my list, and another building widely known for its appearances in L.A.-centric movies, including “Blade Runner“. It was quite stunning to see all the wood and other trim in such good shape, all well-lit by the cathedral-like skylight ceiling. I enjoyed the old cast iron letter box, with its chute reaching up to the top floor. Check.

Bradbury Building

When we got back outside, my friend noticed the Grand Central Market across the street, and recommended that we get some food there. I had no idea that this 1917 landmark even existed. Inside, the variety of chow choices was a bit overwhelming; you can pick up prepared food, fresh produce, and, according to the Market’s website, “a cone of ice cream.” I did find my espresso at a rather modern coffee bar, the Hill Street Cafe, on the upper level.

Grand Central Market

Then, right across Hill Street from where we were sitting, I saw the Angels Flight railway. I had to get back up the hill to get to my car, so the ride was transportation as much as tourism. However, I really enjoyed stepping into the car and into the past. The car, tracks, ticket house, signs, etc. all appeared to be in superb restored condition. And for just $ .25 per ride, with 5 rides for a buck, it’s a great deal. Check.

Angels Flight

At the top of the hill, I walked by California Plaza/Water Court, turned right on Grand Ave., and past MOCA. The view of the metallic Disney on the other side of the street and the mountains with lots of new snow on them just in the background was another reminder of the uniqueness of Los Angeles.

Angels Flight, John Ford style

I left armed with a greater appreciation for our city, and, perhaps more importantly, some answers about L.A. for my inquisitive out-of-town friends.

Sails and snow

3 Replies to “3 Hours in Downtown Los Angeles”

  1. FYI, one of the best-kept secrets in Los Angeles is that you can go up to the top of City Hall and walk out onto the observation deck. I didn’t know that until I started working in City Hall a few years back. They sometimes do hold events up there, so when you check in at the visitor’s desk on the Main Street entrance, ask if the observation deck is open. They’ll give you a visitor’s badge and you take the elevators up as far as they go, then you get off and find another set of elevators that will take you up further. You ride those as high as you can, then you get off and walk up the stairs to the Tom Bradley room, which is very impressive. The observation deck is out the doors. I’ve only been up once, and there was just me and a janitor cleaning up. He said that he hardly ever sees anyone up there.

    Blogdowntown did a post on it, and included some photos:
    http://blogdowntown.com/2007/11/2957-a-little-reminder-city-hall-observation-deck

  2. Cool! Next time you visit, you should check out Little Tokyo or Historic Downtown (mostly Main & Spring between 4th & 7th).

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