Overview: The tour explores the public buildings within the heart of the Los Angeles Civic Center district. Starting at the Civic Center Metro... more »
The tour explores the public buildings within the heart of the Los Angeles Civic Center district. Starting at the Civic Center Metro... more » Station, it includes a visit to the observation deck of City Hall, to historic Olvera Street and to Union Station, the last great railroad station and transit hub in L.A.
The Civic Center contains the second-largest concentration of government offices and employees (after Washington D.C.). Federal, state, county and city government agencies are represented here. less «
If you wish to enter the public government buildings, you will need to pass a security screening, so bring a government picture ID,... more » and leave all guns, knives and metal objects behind for the day. It's best to not bring any large bags, jackets or backpacks. Bring a water bottle and hat, sunscreen and comfortable shoes.
If you are using public transit to arrive, a Metro Day Pass and TAP card are an option; see www.metro.net.
The tour is best done during normal weekday working hours in order to visit the interior public spaces of the government buildings and use the downtown DASH circulator busses. Olvera Street and Union Station may be visited on weekends as well. less «
Yes, Los Angeles has a public transit system, although only a small bit of it is subway. The Civic Center station opened in 1993 after seven years of construction. Inside the station, look overhead for "I Dreamed I Could Fly" by Jonathan Borofsky, who created the well-known "Venice Ballerina Clown." Many of the civic works in... More the district feature public art.
Exit at street level to the corner of First and Hill. Opposite on First Street are several courthouse buildings and uphill to your left are the Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center and the DWP building (Department of Water and Power). As you walk toward City Hall you will pass the editorial headquarters of the Los Angeles Times. The building is only accessible by prearranged tour.Less
The building is open Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm; security screening and government picture ID are required. The impressive Spring Street steps are often used for press conferences and filming, but public entry is on Main Street. When you pass screening, you will be asked to sign in and indicate a room number and be issued an ID. Ask if the... More observation deck is open, if it is not, ask for Room 360 (city clerk, third floor)
Designed by architects John Austin, Albert C. Martin and John Parkinson, the 1928 construction of steel frame and glazed terra cotta tile suffered through a number of late 20th century quakes. A seven-year program of historic restoration and seismic retrofit was completed in 2002. One of the city's most iconic landmark buildings, it's featured in TV series as the Daily Planet and Dragnet headquarters.
Interior: Note the historic elevator cabs, third floor rotunda (featured in many film and TV series, including substituting for the Vatican in "The Thornbirds"). On the third floor, facing the bridge, Room 300 is the mayor's office and on the left is the sometimes-staffed information desk. If open, ask for a self-guiding brochure. Check the council chambers and public works hearing rooms (Room 350). Both are beautiful rooms often used as courtrooms in film and television. Tip: Failing an open info desk, ask one of the city employees, who will be wearing name badges.
To reach the observation deck, take the ground floor elevator to the 10th floor, then the express elevator to the 22nd floor, then the tiny elevator to 26th and walk up the stairs to the 27th floor. From the Tom Bradley conference room, you step out to the wraparound balcony. The views are spectacular, offering extensive views of the city and, if its clear enough, even the ocean. If you're a bit acrophobic, you may not want to spend much time out here, although you'll miss seeing the Hollywood sign, Griffith Park Observatory, Disney Concert Hall, Bunker Hill financial district and, on a clear day, Catalina Island. Also note the new LAPD building and Caltrans building south across First Street, our next stops.
Opened October 2009, the 10-story building replaces Parker Center. Designed by Paul Danna and Jose Palacios of AECOM, the building is gold certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, featuring energy-efficient mechanical systems, day lighting, high-performance glass and recycled or renewable building materials.
Start by facing... More the building on First Street, viewing the reflection of City Hall on the glass curtain wall. Head to your right on First Street, then turn left and walk down Spring Street toward Second Street, noting the public art installation of Peter Shelton's whimsical animal sculptures, "sixbeaststwomonkeys." These did not impress former LAPD Chief William Bratton, who called them "some kind of cow splat."
Walk around the block and then left on Main Street, where steps lead to a public plaza and the privately funded brass Police Memorial Wall with the names of more than 200 LAPD officers killed in the line of duty.Less
Before leaving the area, look to the southeast to see the former cathedral of St Vibiana(aligned with the LAPD building's diagonal). The oldest parts of the building date to 1867. It was damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake and has been replaced by the new Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. Vibiana, as it is now known, hosts various events and... More weddings.Less
Completed in 2004, the 13-story building at 100 S. Main St. houses employees of Caltrans District 7 and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). Principal architect was Thom Mayne (Morphosis), winner of a Pritzker Architecture Prize.
The public plaza on Main Street includes galleries, public art and a cafe. The outdoor lobby features... More a four-story light installation by artist Keith Sonnier, titled "Motordom." "Motordom" is the largest public art installation in Los Angeles.
The building includes many innovative energy features, including photovoltaic cells on the south building facade and programmed, movable panels on the Main Street (west) facade. A self-guided mini-tour brochure may be printed from the Caltrans website.Less
Cross Temple Street via the elevated pedestrian bridge. In the courtyard is the bizarre, oft-mocked 1975 "Triforium" sculpture. Intended to be a computer-controlled, laser-emitting, musical sculpture, lights may be flashing around dinnertime. The subterranean mall level contains various fast-food outlets or you can return to street level... More and cross the Santa Ana Freeway.Less
The El Pueblo District is the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles. The brick Garnier Building was built in 1890 by Philippe Garnier, a French settler and prominent businessman. It is the oldest and most significant remaining building from the city's original Chinatown. It now houses the Chinese American Museum (enter from the alley, aka Sanchez ... MoreStreet, between Los Angeles and Main).
The museum offers permanent exhibits on Chinese immigration and the Sun Wing Wo store, which opened in 1891 and remained in this building until 1948.
425 N. Los Angeles St.
Closed Mondays, holidays
The rotunda/band stand to your north is the site of the Plaza, center of Spanish and Mexican life.
Olvera Street, the popular Mexican-themed marketplace, is part of the district created in 1930 thanks to the efforts of socialite Christine Sterling. Sterling was alarmed by the potential loss of significant buildings to decay and demolition, so ... Moreshe set out to save them. Key buildings include the 1818 Avila Adobe, the 1870 Pico House hotel built by the last governor under Mexican rule and the 1887 Sepulveda House. The Visitor Center and the Avila Adobe are roughly in the center of Olvera Street. Look for the 18-minute orientation film if you'd like to learn more about the history of Pueblo, the birthplace of L.A. Your Metro ticket entitles you to a 20 percent discount.
Restaurants: Claims by the uninitiated that there is no good food on Olvera Street are wrong. Some options:
La Luz del Dia is a cafeteria-style eatery at the southwest corner near the kiosk. The same family has operated the restaurant for 50 years. Try the freshly made soft tortilla tacos, preferably carnitas (pork) and a side of nopalitos (cactus) salad. You need to know what to order before you get in line. Opens 10am and earlier on Sundays; closed for dinner Monday.
For dessert or a sweet snack, visit Mr. Churro, between the Visitor Center and Golondrina; $2 plain or $3 filled. Bring your sweet tooth.
A more upscale choice is La Golondrina Cafe, housed in the Pelanconi House. Still operated by the Bonzo family, La Golondrina was Los Angeles' first Mexican restaurant. Skip the combination platters here (those are better ordered at Luz del Dia). Order from the specialties such as cochinita pibil or chicken mole. However, its mostly about the atmosphere here as the food can be uneven.
Designed by John and Donald Parkinson, and built between 1934 and 1939, Union Station is the last great railway station built in the U.S. A combination of Spanish Colonial Revival, Art Deco and Steamline Moderne, it remains a hub of public transit, including Amtrak, local commuter trains (MetroLink), Metro Rail and bus lines (including the Flyaway... More to LAX).
Be sure to examine the stunning California tiles by Gladding McBean, the light fixtures, the former Fred Harvey restaurant at the south end of the concourse and the fountain courtyard where you can find the restaurant Traxx. If you've managed to avoid snacking during the tour, this is a fitting end to your day.
(The L.A. Conservancy conducts a full-hour tour of the station at 10am Saturdays.)Less