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Saturday, February 9, 2013

California Plaza & Los Angeles Central Library: Downtown with Kids (Part II)

In April 2009 I took my sister and her son, along with my wife and kids, on a little walking tour of downtown Los Angeles. Here's a link to Part I from last week as we explored the lobby and amazing elevators at the Bonaventure Hotel (what my nephew called the "bomb adventure"). 

Continuing on towards the California Plaza, we passed the downtown YMCA (above). I liked the sculpture and flowers. The two story YMCA and surrounding plaza was built on top of a parking garage. Nice use of space. 

The Wells Fargo Tower (one of two office buildings at the Wells Fargo Center) is located on Grand Ave. in between 3rd and 4th Streets. The Wells Fargo Tower always makes for a fun picture from this angle. The building is four sided, but the southern-most corner is very sharp, making this 54 story building appear like a flat, almost 2 dimensional, object.

As we crossed Grand Avenue towards the California Plaza and Water Court, the Walt Disney Concert Hall (more on this in a future post) was visible a block to the north. The tall office towers of Bunker Hill drop off quikly around the Concert Hall.

Looking west toward the 73 story US Bank Tower, another Los Angeles landmark that's been in multiple movies and TV shows (including the films "Independence Day" and "Hancock"). I never understood why the tallest building west of the Mississippi doesn't have any sort of observation deck on the top floor.

Despite being surrounded my office towers - and a block from L.A.'s tallest building - I'm always amazed how empty this part of downtown Los Angeles feels. 

You'll see more people out and about around lunchtime, but during the middle of the day, it's really lacking pedestrian traffic. 

The California Plaza, located across the street from the Wells Fargo Center. The California Plaza consists of two large office towers, MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and a 1.5 acre water court. Part of the outdoor courtyard - including the upper half of this huge fountains - actually cantilevers over Olive Street. How cool is that? The California Plaza also connects Bunker Hill to the historic Grand Central Market via the Angels Flight funicular - which, unfortunately,  wasn't operating at the time due to an accident that occured in May 2004. Since then, it's back on line.

There's a series of outdoor steps along the western side of the US Bank Tower. Of course, my kids opted for the outdoor escalator.

Our two hour tour of downtown Los Angeles ended where we first started (and parked), at the Los Angeles Central Library. 

As I shared last week, if you have a Los Angeles Public Library card, the 524 South Flower Street Garage is available at just $1 for the first hour, and then only $4 for each additonal two hours. Here's a
 link to more info.

If you've never seen it, the Los Angeles Central Library is a historic treasure and definitely worth a visit. The library originally opened in 1926, and in 1986 was saved by the heroic efforts of the Los Angeles Fire Deparement from an arsonist's fire. The city rallied around not just to to save and rebuilt, but to renovate and restore the building. It was reopened in 1993. Today it's a state of the art building that maintains it's historic roots.

Here's the children's section. There are some beautiful artwork focusing on varoius scenes from California history along the walls - and a huge selection of children's literature.

My kids along with my sister and her little three year old in the rotunda located on the 2nd floor. Each of the four walls contains more artwork - this time murals - depicting California history.

Below on the first floor. The ceiling artwork is by artist Renee Petropoulos. Here's a link describing other architectural highpoints found througout the library.

My favorite part of the library is actually the beautiful public park on the west end of the library. At one time this was a parking lot - making this garden a huge improvement! There are some beautiful fountains, large mature trees, and an outdoor cafe. It makes for a wonderful "welcome mat" to the four million people who live in the city of Los Angeles.

One of the fountains contains this quote from nineteenth century abolintionist Frederick Douglass:

"Power never concedes nothing without a demand. It never has. It never will."

The design of this foundtain reminds me of the passage found in Amos:
 וְיִגַּ֥ל כַּמַּ֖יִם מִשְׁפָּ֑ט וּצְדָקָ֖ה כְּנַ֥חַל אֵיתָֽן׃
"Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream." (5:24).

If you're unfamilar with Downtown Los Angeles, this is an easy way to get your feet wet, as it were. Chinatown, Philippe'sOlvera Street, Union Station, the Bradbury Building, the Grand Central Market: there's a ton of others things to see and do with kids in Downtown Los Angeles. 

I'd love to come back to this spot and have lunch in Cafe Pinot, the adjacent outdoor cafe (where apparently kids under 12 eat free? really? wow!)  but that have to wait for another day. The kids all voted for the "Panda Express" just inside the library. At least we were able to enjoy our lunch with this impressive view of the cafe and the Bonaventure.

Of the three places we visited, the Bonaventure, the office towers on Bunker Hill, and the Central Library - I found the Central Library the most enjoyable. 

Why? Not sure. Maybe it's because of the three, it's the most public - and most welcoming - of spaces. 

Maybe because it's a reminder of both heroic efforts of the Los Angeles Fire Deparment in 1986 - and the thousands of men and women that rallied around it to rebuild it. 

But most of it, I think it's because of the chance to connect with Los Angeles' history. To walk through a building that has served generations of Angelenos. And, God willing, will serve generations to come.

View Downtown Los Angeles with Kids in a larger map

originally published 6/20/2009 
© 2013


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