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  An LA Icon That’s Great For Kids..And Free!

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

I recently took a field trip with my UCLA architecture class to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. I had been to the hall before for performances, but this time I got a tour led by a docent…and you can too.

Frank Gehry Designed Walt Disney Concert Hall

If you have seen photos or been yourself, I don’t have to tell you how stunning the stainless steel-clad building is.

The inside is breathtaking too – but not in such a grand way – it is simply gorgeous wood, mixed with white walls, steel accents, and a lot of light from large windows and sky lights. (Of course, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but most would agree the structure is a beauty.)

If you are visiting LA, or are a local – this is a fantastic place to visit on the weekend.  Many locals eat lunch in the beautiful garden area on weekdays, and it is a quiet time to take a tour, but on some weekends there are free musical concerts and arts and crafts activities for the kids. (Look up “Phil the House” activities on  the WDCH website.)

In my opinion, it’s one of the best cultural experiences for the little ones in all of my travels. The concerts don’t happen every week so plan ahead. The kids are also able  to create a masterpieces at art tables set up outside.

If you don’t have children along, take the docent led tours…or if you prefer, a self-guided audio tour. Both take about an hour. The tour leads you throughout the inside of building, and some outdoor spots like the garden or public balcony.

Along the way you learn the story of how the magnificent downtown centerpiece came to be – Lillian Disney donated $ 50 million for a concert hall….there was an architectural contest … Frank Gehry’s design won, it is supposed to resemble a ship’s hull…the grand opening was in 2003.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

The tour goes into a little more detail, but I have to be honest, I would have liked more in depth information from the docent. If you are someone who only wants to learn more, I’d recommend the book that tells the whole story – makes a nice coffee table topper. Concert/dp/0810949814

Unfortunately, the tours don’t go inside auditorium because there are rehearsals. Disappointed?  It is still a worthwhile tour, but if you are dying to see the auditorium, why not go back for a LA Philharmonic performance? Here’s a tip:

If you are a student or a senior, buy rush tickets – show up two hours before concert time and get discounted tickets for $10 – $20!!! (Good seats normally can go for more than $100)

And don’t park in the hall’s parking lot – it is cheaper on the street, or in some of the lots nearby.

Check the WDCH’s website for schedules of both the self-guided and docent-led tours.

Now that spring is almost here, you can enjoy a clear view of downtown from various places on the tour. As much as LA is criticized, this landmark will leave one in awe, and hopefully inspire some appreciation for the City of Angels.

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Top Ten Outdoor Concert Venues

John Mayer at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday, Aug. 23

Finally beautiful weather here in Southern California….perfect for a John Mayer concert at the Hollywood Bowl!

Sunday afternoon at the outdoor venue….

into the evening with a full moon shining down on the packed house of Mayer fans.

Any local will tell you that this is one of the best,  – if not THE BEST – Los Angeles attractions. When you visit Tinseltown, use all the resources possible to get a ticket…Stub Hub and Craig’s List are good options if tickets are sold out. The Bowl  is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, but there are other artists’ concerts sprinkled throughout the season which runs June -Oct.

Make sure you picnic before hand to dine under the stars – that is part of the whole amazing experience. if you bring alcohol, get there early to sit on the grass outside, otherwise you’ll be relegated to pavement! No alcohol is allowed to be brought in the theater. Otherwise you can bring in your dinner and eat at your seats – buying  your beer, wine, or even sangria once inside – but it’s pricey – one beer costs $9.00! There is also a quaint restaurant at the Bowl…or you can order at least 24 hours in advance for the Bowl catering service (Patina restaurant – one of LA”s finest) to pack you a picnic.

Parking and traffic are still the biggest problems – another reason to get there early.

There are other outdoor venues throughout the country that are still operating through September, since most places still have nice weather. Check them out if you are traveling to these destinations!

Here is a list of the Top 10 outdoor concert venues in America….(there are other lists out there but I agree most with this one.)

1) The Gorge, George Washinton  – right on the Columbia River

2) Charter One Pavilion – Northerly Island, Chicago, Ill.

3) Red Rocks Amphitheater – Morrison, Colo. (On another note – look into the Moab, Utah Music festival every Labor Day weekend. A 40 minute boat ride takes you down the Colorado River into a cavernous red rock grotto where a grand piano and symphone awaits you to perform in the red rock cave. Nothing short of amazing.)

4) The Backyard at the Bee Cave – Austin, Texas

5) Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA

6) The Greek – Berkeley, CA

7) Summer Stages – Central Park, NY

8) Bands on the Beach – Pensacola FL

9) Dallas Cowboy Stadium, Dallas, TX

10) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA

BONUS: John Mayer is scheduled to appear at two of the above locations in the next couple of weeks – Aug. 28 at the Gorge… Sept. 1 at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado..He’s in Irvine, CA tonight. He has more of a bad boy edge than the last time I saw him, which brings even more electricity to his performance. Gotta go download his “Stop This Train” right now…

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