LOS ANGELES It’s official. The list of key Los Angeles-area tourist
attractions Disneyland, the beaches, Hollywood has expanded to
include long-overlooked downtown L.A. itself. Even more surprising,
in a region known for its dependency on automobiles, downtown
tourism is being driven by increasingly popular walking tours of
new landmarks like the Walt Disney Concert Hall and old buildings
like the preserved movie palaces of Broadway.
“What’s gaining momentum is cultural tourism in Los Angeles,”
said Tony Hoover, owner of Red Line Tours, a commercial
walking-tour operator. “Before, people came here to go to the theme
Red Line has been having success with its two daily tours of
downtown, Inside Historic Downtown L.A. and Inside Contemporary
Downtown L.A. Operating out of one of the city’s older
architectural masterpieces, the Bradbury Building, it uses headset
receivers to let customers clearly hear the guide’s live
commentary. The cost is $20 per person for adults; $18 students and
seniors; $15 for ages 9-15, and free for children under nine. Red
Line works with agents and also offers various group packages and
Meanwhile, attendance on the historic walking tours given by Los
Angeles Conservancy reached a 22-year high in January and February
and the non-profit organization expects a record year.
“It’s a result of growth and all the articles about how great
downtown is becoming,” said Anne Laskey, the Conservancy’s program
coordinator. “There’s an accelerated sense of identity and change
Among the 14 tours offered are three popular weekly ones
Downtown’s Historic Core, Art Deco and the Broadway Historic
Theater District. With 12 theaters preserved (and one, the Orpheum,
recently renovated), Los Angeles has the nation’s largest
historic-theater district. The cost is $8; $10 after July 1.
Downtown L.A.’s appeal rests in its mixture of the new and the
old, the cutting-edge with the retro. The leading new attraction is
the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by architect Frank O. Gehry
to resemble a steel-clad sailboat or bursting-into-bloom
Primarily built for use by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los
Angeles Master Chorale, the futuristic building has proven so
popular in its own right that the Music Center of Los Angeles
County has instituted a new self-guided audio walking tour narrated
by actor John Lithgow.
Available daily except for holidays and special-event days, the
timed-entry audio tours cost $10. For groups of 15 or more, tickets
are $8 (advance reservations required). Guided group tours for $15
per person are available too.
Because of orchestra rehearsals, neither tour visits the actual
performance hall, which requires concert tickets. (The Philharmonic
performs at the outdoor Hollywood Bowl in summer.)
Another draw at the Walt Disney Concert Hall is restaurateur
Joachim Splichal’s new, street-level Patina restaurant, which has
won raves for its contemporary design and invigoratingly inventive
menu. In its review, Los Angeles magazine placed it in the running
as the city’s best restaurant. The Patina Group has six other
upscale restaurants and cafes in downtown.
Tucked away in a corner of the Walt Disney Concert Hall is Los
Angeles’ most experimental, avant-garde performance space, a
separate entity called REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts
Theater). It features music, theater, dance and opera performances
by international acts, plus film screenings and art shows. It also
has a lounge and book boutique.
Through April 25, it will present the first event built and
designed especially for its space a contemporary adaptation of a
Chinese opera called “The Peach Blossom Fan.”
Not far from the Disney Hall is the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Through Aug. 2, it features the groundbreaking exhibition “A
Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958-1968.” It’s the first
large-scale historical survey of minimalism, an artistic movement
of enduring popularity, featuring 150 objects from 40 American