The Grand Avenue area of Downtown Los Angeles has become the cultural heart of the city. Many Californians and out-of-state tourists have thought about visiting this place but simply haven’t gotten around to it. Now that the holiday season is here, this vibrant area seems logical to add to an itinerary.

Located a couple blocks west of City Hall, up Bunker Hill, the Grand Avenue locale is bordered by Second Avenue and Fourth Street. Upon arriving, the best thing is to take a stroll before going to the museums and other sites.

On your walk, first thing to catch your eye will be Disney Concert Hall.

It is an overwhelming building, suggesting the gigantic billowing sails of a tall-masted ship about to embark over the horizon. Dedicated in 2003, this Frank Gehry architectural masterpiece draws visitors from around the world. Those who get concert tickets can also hear the exquisite acoustics inside.

Across First Street lies the Music Center with its four venues – the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson theaters for plays and musicals; and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, for larger productions, such as ballet and opera. The small Redcat for experimental presentations is tucked along side the Pavilion. The Music Center offers a free tour brochure “Explore the Architecture of Grand Avenue” to assist visitors.

In the large open plaza between the theaters is an undulating fountain. At its center is a monumental sculpture, “Peace on Earth,” by Jacques Lipchitz.

Peace on Earth by Jacques Lipchitz

During the yuletide season, the center is decked out in festive finery with many celebratory events. Benches and tables are located throughout. Altogether, it’s very pleasant place to take it all in.

Currently at the Ahmanson Theater, a big new crowd-pleasing musical, “Bring It On,” plays through Dec. 10. Set against the world of competitive cheerleading, this powerhouse based on the movie, features an energetic young cast, performing an array of spectacular cheer-leading routines. The award-winning “FELA” Dec. 13 and plays through Jan. 22. The hit musical is both rave and theatrical wonder. It features the choreography of Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones and tells a tale of courage, passion and love.

Walking back up Grand from the center, you come to the brick-colored Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, appreciated for its architecture, as well as art. Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles is the current show. After moving from New York to Los Angeles, the famed tabloid photographer known as Weegee, left behind his career taking crime photos and trained his camera instead on Hollywood stars, strippers, costume shops and naked mannequins. He produced intriguing photos, sometimes distorted through trick lenses and multiple exposures.

Museum of Contemporary Art features Weegee’s photos

These historic photos are now on display.

MOCA’s subsidiary, the Geffen Center, a 20-minute walk away, has a major survey dealing with the rise of art in California, Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974–1981. This exhibit  constitutes the most comprehensive survey to date, examining the diversity of art practiced in California between 1974 and 1980, a unique period in American history when artist’s political and social roles were being questioned. This is part of Pacific Standard Time, a project in which more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California, visually tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. Museums admission is free on Mondays, and shuttles run regularly between MOCA and Geffen.

Another attraction to see is located a block north of the Center on Grand: the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Opened in 2002, this building is of post-modern design – a sharp contrast to the Romanesque and Gothic style of European churches. Most notable are the massive bronze doors and, inside, John Nova’s tapestries, “Community of the Saints,” which cover the walls

Staying overnight is an attractive option. And there is no more convenient place than the Omni Hotel, on Olive Street, backing up to MOCA. This is a four diamond hotel with a fine-dining restaurant, Noe. While there, in an instant, you’re out the door and into the museum.


Along with theaters and museums, the 17-story hotel provides easy access to all of L.A.’s cultural and business destinations, for example: Civic Center, the financial district, Olvera Street, Chinatown, Staples Center and the historic office buildings and movie houses on Broadway.

It is always less expensive to stay on weekends, Friday to Sunday, than during the week. In addition, the Omni has several appealing packages.

For example, Omni’s Standing Ovation Package offers guests who have theater tickets the opportunity to be “pampered like a headliner” and enjoy deluxe accommodations, as well as $100 credit to Noé Restaurant, sedan transportation to select theaters, overnight valet parking and breakfast for two in Grand Café. Additionally guests have the choice of opera glasses or a wine amenity. The all-inclusive package is $299 per night.

For information, theater specials and other discount offers, contact; 1-800-THE-OMNI. For theaters and Disney Hall:; (323) 850-2000. For the museums:; (213) 621-1710.