Across 1st Street and northeast of The Walt Disney Concert Hall is Music Center Plaza where The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, The Mark Taper Forum, and The Ahmanson Theatre reside. Located at 135 North Grand Avenue, these three venues plus the Disney Concert Hall equal The Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County. You will hear people more commonly refer to the plaza as The Music Center. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is home to the L.A. Opera as well as the L.A. Master Chorale and tickets range from roughly $43 to $298. The Mark Taper Forum is in the middle of the plaza and includes plays such as Arthur Miller’s The Price. Tickets at the Taper range from roughly $40 to $60. Lastly, The Ahmanson Theatre also shows plays such as the recently closed Blithe Spirit with Angela Landsbury and the upcoming Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye. Tickets range from roughly $40 to $100. I saw The Phantom of the Opera at The Ahmanson many moons ago and it houses big productions quite well. In fact, there was an earthquake during the production and being a grade school kid, I couldn’t tell if it was a real earthquake or part of the show. Of course, the performance proceeded uninterrupted. Tours of the various theaters are free and offered through Symphonian 4-Theatre Tour.
From Grand Avenue all the way down to City Hall off of Spring Street is the recently developed Grand Park. An easy jaunt from The Music Center, this large community space includes the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, pleasant lawn areas, and a terrace with water-wise plantings. The fountain has a tapered splash pad on the lower level where visitors are invited to wade through a few inches of flowing water. There were several kids enjoying this feature the day we were there and I think there was even a dog cooling his paws. The lawn areas lend themselves to relaxed picnicking and with nearby public restrooms, you can easily make an afternoon of it. If you are craving some caffeine and small bites, there is a Starbucks conveniently located next to the fountain. Underground parking is located in Lot 10 off of Broadway and Hill Street and is $10 on the weekends.
Heading two blocks south on Hill Street and just beyond 3rd, you will find the Grand Central Market. Located at 317 South Broadway, this long-standing marketplace is on the ground level of the Homer Laughlin Building. Open since 1917, local residents have had access to a wide variety of farm to table products. Today you will find fresh produce and meats, but also other items such as flowers, jewelry, pizza, and books. There is even a coffee bar where you can sit and sip. I toured the market about a decade ago and it was a little gritty. You could smell the meats that were freshly procured and crowds were a bit questionable. Now it’s a posh spot to drink your espresso and peruse the latest high-end ingredients. Residents living at the top of Bunker Hill – once an upscale residential district of Victorian homes way back when – could take a cable railway down to the market for easy shopping.
Angels Flight is a “narrow gauge funicular railway” that is located between Hill and Olive Streets. Dubbed “the shortest railway in the world”, it has two cable cars: Olivet and Sinai. It was originally built in 1901. Due to redevelopment, the railway had to be deconstructed and stored in 1969. It was later rebuilt in 1996, but has seen its fair share of safety issues. There was a fatal accident in 2001, then it closed. It opened in 2010, but then still had issues so it closed in 2011. It reopened later in 2011, but sadly had to close yet again in 2013. Based upon its aging infrastructure, this railway probably needs some costly upgrades. For now, it’s a neat piece of L.A.’s past available for your viewing pleasure. Should it ever get its cables in gear (sorry, too easy), rides cost a whopping 50 cents.
At the top of Angels Flight off of Olive Street is The California Plaza. Located at 350 South Grand Avenue, The California Plaza is home to two high-rise buildings, the Omni Hotel, and MOCA. In my previous article, I mentioned that the Blue Ribbon Garden at the Disney Concert Hall was a great spot to hide out on your lunch break. Well, the WaterCourt at The California Plaza is another great place to take a breather. I suspect, however, it gets quite busy during no the week with all the business people spilling out of the towers. When it comes to food, you have your pick with Panda Express, Johnny’s Pizza, Famima, and – big shocker – Starbucks. WaterCourt has a grand outdoor stage and stadium seating for free summertime performances. Think ahead if you plan to go because it fills up fast. The public is welcome to start saving seats two hours before the show. You are also welcome to bring your own food and beverages, including the adult kind. The Grand Central Market also sells picnics to go, so keep that option in your back pocket. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is at 250 South Grand on the northwestern side of the plaza. Admission costs $12, but is free on Thursday afternoons from 5 to 8pm. The museum is currently running an exhibit on Andy Warhol and you can expect to see other pop art and abstract works on display. There is a café at the museum called Lemonade that offers sandwiches and salads. Parking for the plaza is off of Olive Street and costs $7.50 for 90 minutes. If you plan to visit the museum, park at the Walt Disney Concert Hall up Grand Avenue and off of 2nd (near the REDCAT). Cost is $20 cash with an $11 refund after validation.
From the Music Center to MOCA, you have your pick of cultural corners to explore. You can lounge by the fountain at Grand Park, check out the latest spices at Grand Central Market, wander MOCA on a free Thursday afternoon, and see a free performance at the WaterCourt in the California Plaza. Downtown Los Angeles is quickly becoming my new favorite hang out.
The map was respectfully borrowed from http://www.centertheatregroup.org, a great website full of helpful information. Check it out.
Here are some other great links: