Goin’ to LA for Culture & a Few Good Meals.

Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall is a masterpiece of 21st century architecture.
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Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall is an acoustically refined masterpiece of 21st century architecture.  © Walt Disney Concert Hall

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,

Los Angeles highrise heart rises above surrounding neighborhoods with the mountains the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop.

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

The interior of Disney Hall is a perfect fusion of form and function, the dynamic beauty of the architecture designed to enhance acoustics. The LA Philharmonic, under the baton of charismatic Gustavo Dudumel, is in top form. Their central location in the auditorium assures that there’s not a bad seat in the house.

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.

Gift store entrance…from music to jewelry, classy merchandise to match the setting.
City Hall (1928),  an earlier architectural icon (the one overflown by Superman on 1950s television), as seen from the Disney Center. Daytime, head to the open air observation deck for panoramic views of the sprawling city.

     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,


Three dancers in colorful Mexican garb dance at the Los Angeles Plaza’s bandstand adjacent to Olvera St..

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.,

Olvera Street vendors cater to all kinds of tastes.

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

The altar at Nuestra Senora Reina de los Angeles dates back to 1861.

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.

Interior of the Avila Adobe (1818), built when Los Angeles  was just an outpost in still Spanish California. Open to the public,  it is the oldest residential building in the city.

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.

Magnolias in bloom at the California Science Center garden.


Great exhibits, IMAX films, and the recently arrived space shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center

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)

Great lighting highlights great art at LACMA, where deep pockets have helped enhance its collections and stature.

       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.

Detail from a graphic depiction of the Spanish conquest of Mexico in a 16th century painting from an excellent recent special exhibit.

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.


Culver City: Brunching is “in” in tree-lined Culver City. The food’s deliciously healthful at Tender Greens.




The Santa Monica Pier offers panoramic views of the coastline and is a great place to watch the sun as it heads toward Hawaii at sunset.

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. 

Two out on the town.


Questions ?  go to   aseiden@hawaii.rr.com/

In November:    Traveling With History: Philadelphia …

Philly has cleaned up its act as far as art & history are concerned.






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