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Stay the Weekend to Explore Some of Downtown L.A.’s (DTLA) Hidden Gems

Posted By Susanna (Whitmore) Fránek, Cultural Anthropologist, Ethnologix Susanna_franek@ethnologix.com, Wednesday, October 12, 2016
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Have you ever wondered how Harold Lloyd filmed his famous clock scene in Safety Last! (1923)?  Are you a movie buff who knows the answers to obscure questions on quiz shows about old Hollywood films? Maybe you’re an architectural enthusiast interested in old historic buildings, or perhaps old movie theaters make you feel part of a bygone era.

If intrigued even slightly by Hollywood’s Golden Era, one good reason out of many to stay in DTLA over the weekend following the January 18 – 20, 2017 QRCA Annual Conference is to catch a Saturday, 10:00AM Los Angeles Conservancy walking tour of DTLA’s opulent theatre district.


The 6-block, South Broadway corridor — just 7 blocks from the JW Marriott — is home to the first and largest historic theatre district in the world.

Fifteen movie palaces line the Broadway corridor. The larger theaters have gone through stages of renovation and stand as magnificent as when they opened during 1910 and the early 1930s. The smaller theaters have converted into flea markets, churches, or still remain part DTLA’s jewelry mart.

The walking tour focuses on the unique architectural history of the movie palaces. It is only $15 for 2.5-hours, and led by well-versed volunteer docents that have great stories of lore to share. At least a month out, you should go online to register for Saturday the 21st, reservations are required.

As an extra bonus, you’ll get a sense for Broadway’s ongoing revitalization. The many cultures of Los Angeles converge as quinceañera shops and botanicas still coexist with new restaurants, galleries and urban retail that cater to both L.A.’s Latino community and the newer condo/apartment-renting downtown residents.  DTLA’s renaissance has been in full swing for decades, gentrification positions the old and the new alongside each other, yet the jury is still out on its sustainability. Displacement of Latino-owned businesses is an ongoing controversy, but along Broadway you can still capture that cultural comingling.

And in case you’re a die-hard Hollywood film aficionado, here’s the specifics on exactly where (9th and Broadway) and how Harold Lloyd created his stunts for Safety Last!

After your walking tour, there are multiple options for lunch. You might want to explore the renovated Clifton’s Cafeteria on 7th and Broadway, or the Grand Central Market between 5th & 4th Streets — L.A.'s oldest and largest open-air market — where dozens of food vendors will whet your appetite; with either option you’ll relive some of L.A. historic moments. 

In the afternoon, why not walk on up to Grand Ave. where the Broad Museum, DTLA’s newest contemporary art museum, sits across the street from Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, both architectural wonders not to be missed.

You can even reserve free general admission tickets to the Broad Museum a month in advance. Tickets for January will become available on December 1 at 12:00PM PST.  Put it on your calendar because they run out quickly.

On the evening of Saturday, January 21, classical music fans might want to hear the world-famous L.A. Philharmonic perform Mussorgsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky with violinist Gil Shaham, conducted by Lionel Bringuier.

If you’re an architectural enthusiast, the Hall also has a self-guided audio tour that will introduce you to some of the most fascinating engineering in modern architecture.

So, instead of rushing out to Santa Monica or Venice, which gets so much airtime when out-of-towners come to Los Angeles, I encourage you to explore something new. You’ll come away in awe of all the creativity the DTLA corridor has to offer. And, there’s always airbnb in case you want a different experience outside the hotel over the weekend.  There are multiple options to stay in the heart of DTLA.

For more ideas on exciting off-the-beaten-track things to explore over the weekend following the conference, stay tuned for my next article on discovering Boyle Heights and East L.A.’s Latino community, and it’s rich multicultural history, just a Metro ride from DTLA.

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