For a change of pace, let’s do an urban hike. Los Angeles, a vast metropolis having grown outward to the far away suburban malls and cinemas, is now trying to morph into a downtown community by offering upscale lofts, apartments, and condos. An effort to appeal to the young crowd, to come work and live among high-rise businesses and enjoy a very creative nightlife, is underway. Many new attractions loom among historical sites, civic buildings and shimmering, towering, skyscrapers. It’s truly a curious and dynamic evolution.
Let’s go take a look. Since our urban hike will include just a small slice of L.A., backpacks won’t be needed. Pop the kids in the stroller, put on your comfy walking sneakers, and we’ll go meander, gawk, peek, and explore for a while.
Our hike will start at the Music Center and we’ll do a leisure stroll over to the Bradbury Building. Be warned, parking is pricey (about $20.00 for the day in the Music Center structure).
The Music Center is at 135 N. Grand Avenue. To get there take the Hollywood Freeway (101) south and exit on Temple Street or, if northbound, exit on Grand Ave and turn left across the freeway. You’ll see it on the right.
In case you didn’t know, the Center consists of four main venues: The Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and now the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Collectively, this is home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Center Theatre Group, LA Opera, and the Los Angeles Master Choral. Over the years many of us have celebrated special holiday events and enjoyed wonderful classical performances there.
And speaking of enjoying the Music Center, you may have to chase your little ones out of the water jetting up from the fountain in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. On a hot day many youngsters find it irresistible. Well, go ahead and wander around. Make note of upcoming engagements and performances. (By the way, here’s a trivia question. Who presided over “Luncheon at the Music Center,” on KFAC?)
Across First Street the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the newest addition to the Music Center complex, having opened in 2002. It burnishes in the hot summer sun. The metallic skin covers the flowing shapes and mesmerizes us as those shiny curves swoop up into the deep blue sky. A staircase curves off to unseen places catches our attention. Have your camera out and at the ready. Meandering and gawking is definitely encouraged.
From The Walt Disney Concert Hall we’ll cross to the southern side of Grand Avenue. As we head a few steps westward toward Angels Flight, we’ll quickly come to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). MOCA is dedicated exclusively to “modern art in all mediums”. If modern art intrigues you then go ahead and take a peek. At least check out the gift shop. It has plenty of unusual items. If we’ve explored a little too long this is a good place to rest and get lunch. There is a nice cafe with outside seating downstairs.
About a half-block west of MOCA is California Plaza, at 350 S. Grand Avenue. This is the home of Grand Performances. Nestled among sleek skyscrapers, Grand Performances is equipped for outdoor concerts: stage, lights, amphitheatre and, of course, a water court. They offer up free summer events that range from jazz concerts, to film screenings, and many other performances. The place often throbs at night with eclectic sounds and a high-energy that matches Southern California living. Check out their calendar for upcoming events. Current brochures are usually available on site.
Adjacent on the south side of Grand Performances area is the upper station to Angels Flight. From here we board the quaint funicular- a landmark that Angelinos love. The kids will be fascinated by it. The fare is 50 cents one way and I’ve been assured you can board with strollers at no extra charge. The funicular goes down steeply for about one city block. When we arrive at the bottom entrance we’ll find ourselves standing across the street from Grand Central Market. Now we’ll go peeking around the market.
The Grand Central Market, at 315 S. Hill St, claims to be the largest and longest operating open-air market in Los Angeles having moved into the ground floor of their building in 1917. The site of the market was chosen because of its closeness to Angel’s Flight and the residents who lived up on Bunker Hill at that time. Talk about mash ups! Ethnic eateries flourish along side the produce vendors, bakeries and a variety of other goods. The hustle and bustle of commerce is always interesting. Wander among the stalls as you pass through to the other side to Broadway.
When we emerge from Grand Central Market, we’ll see an older but well kept building across the street. This building has a very special place in Los Angeles lore- The Bradbury Building. The Bradbury Building was built in 1893 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Movie buffs know it as the location of the cult sci-fi, Blade Runner. Down through the years it was used as a location in many films, going back as far as the 1940’s. The reason is the unique interior design of the building.
The Bradbury Building, built around a central court, has a long skylight spanning the top five stories overhead. The open elevators have wrought-iron lifts. The staircases and walkways spiral around the interior in an attractive geometric pattern of decorative wrought iron and wood. The walls are glazed brick, marble, and polished wood. The open interior has natural light from the skylight high above us. Access to the upper floors are for tenants and their clients only. Still, we can shamelessly gawk and click our cameras; after all, this is an L.A. landmark.
Well, we’re at the turnaround point. To go back let’s retrace our steps through the Grand Central Market. Now we can get that pastry we had our eye on. Then we go back across the street to the Angeles Flight and use that return ticket to ride back up to California Plaza. From there we can go back to the MOCA gift shop and perhaps get that book or print we promised ourselves, then continue on back to the Music Center.
Urban hikes are not the same as traipsing through the mountains but they can be just as enthralling. While we won’t see trees and mountains this hike offers us a glimpse of many different views; around every turn will be something very new or something very old. L.A. is definitely a cultural destination and a worthwhile hike.