A Look at What’s Fabulous About Los Angeles by Allan Seiden
My New York origins have always made me disdainful of horizontal cities. They were too sprawling in an uninspired way without the density that energizes real urban living. Having visited Los Angeles many times,
I’ve come to appreciate its more casual version of urban America, particularly as LA has taken on the attributes suited to its rank as the country’s second largest city. A recent three-day visit put the focus on LA’s evolving cultural identity.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall This fourth hall of the Los Angeles Performing Arts Center may well be Los Angeles’ single most noteworthy architectural accomplishment. Its free-flowing lines and burnished stainless steel skin provide the city with a building of sophistication and visual impact. This is architecture as grandscale sculpture. If the exterior is inspiring, the interior proves a match, a modern version of the world’s most impressive musical
auditoriums, a fanfare of floating, warm-toned, hardwood panels integrating form and function with a visual power and acoustic brilliance that embrace the senses. And, the innovative central location for the LA Philharmonic allows for 360-degree seating so well designed that there’s not a bad seat in the house in terms of sight or sound. Elegant gifts at the gift shop.
Go on-line (musiccenter.org; Disney.losangelesboxoffice.com) and see what’s
being offered while you’re in town, with charismatic conductor enhancing the LA Philharmonic top-rank reputation. If you can’t take in a performance, you can access the hall on a Music Center Tour to appreciate the brilliant craftsmanship and sculptural elegance,
Olvera Street & the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District
It’s a short walk from the Disney Center’s Grand St. setting to Olvera Street, the heart of old LA, where the music and mood are Mexican. There are two bandstands in the vicinity of Olvera St.,
where vendors sell everything from guitars and sandals to candy, jewelry, and masks. There are several popular restaurants that serve up delicious Mexican fare accompanied by a cold Dos XX or margarita, with a dinner serenade by strolling mariachi band. It’s lively, fun, and atmospheric, with most of the visitors Latino locals who dance at the Plaza bandstand, shop with kids in tow, and pray at the historic Old Plaza Church and the
church of Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles (1814). What makes Olvera St. work is a sense of authenticity, a reminder of a very different Los Angeles, the one founded by in 1781 at this very spot.
The city’s oldest building, Avila Adobe, dates back to 1818 when this was Spanish California and this settlement was called El Pueblo do Nuestra Senora Reina de los Angeles. Google: Olvera Street, Avila Adobe.
Nearby Union Station, completed in 1939 is another historic district landmark, restored to its deco days of glory, with inlaid marble floors and grand scale architecture.
California Science Center : This affiliate of the Smithsonian is now home to the Space Shuttle Endeavor, this popular museum is well worth a visit, with or without kids, with diverse exhibits and impressive IMAX theater presentations. Science goes in many directions, from space-oriented to historic to ecological to cultural. Current special exhibit: Cleopatra. On line ticketing is an option: www.californiasciencecenter.org/Exhibits
LACMA (Visit www.lacma.org)
Thanks to the generosity of wealthy patrons and a focused effort at enhancing the Museum’s reputation, the Los Angles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has established a name for itself with Asian, European, American, Pacific Island, and modern masters collections and beautifully displayed special exhibits on an eclectic range of subjects.
Leave at least 3 hours or more if you want to enjoy both the permanent collection and a special exhibit, more if you tie in a classic film. This is a museum clearly on the ascendant and is worth more than one visit if you have the time. Closed Wednesdays, with late closings on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays that make it easier to fit into a tight schedule.
Hip-and Happening Dining
West Los Angeles: The West Side Tavern in the Westwood Pavilion is deservedly popular, with Italianesque and fusion options on the easy-to-please, and it stays open late in a town that closes surprisingly early.
Santa Monica: The Pier’s been upgraded and is still a great place to come and watch the sunset toward Hawaii as gulls caw as dusk descends on the coastline. It’s a short walk to the new Santa Monica Mall, with its focus on shopping and dining, with The Curious Palette (www.yelp.com) a tasty, inexpensive lunch recommend. Mercado (www.mercadosantamonica.com) offers excellent and varied Mexican fare. Very popular, Tar and Roses (tarandroses.com) gets high praise for its contemporary American cuisine. The Misfit Bar (www.themisfitbar.com) and Michael’s (michelssantamonica.com) are two happy hour favorites for locals and visitors in the know.
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In November: Traveling With History: Philadelphia …
Philly has cleaned up its act as far as art & history are concerned.