Being a somewhat-native Angelo (I say somewhat since I'm actually from Long Beach), it's easy for me to breeze past activities or places I deem "touristy." This often causes some difficulty when I'm planning a day in LA, like the one I had planned with my friend Melody this past weekend. Melody currently lives in the UCLA area, so I tried my best to find something that wouldn't bore her in her own neighborhood. After a bit of searching, I came across a site that listed complimentary tours of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA. I decided to take a gamble on this tour, after having lunch in the UCLA area.
We settled on udon just a few minutes from Melody's place, called Musashiya. Upon entering the humble udon shop, we were struck by the quiet atmosphere and a familiar Japanese aroma we both love. Seating is relatively communal but wasn't busy or impersonal. It took a little while to choose our meals, but I went with the wakame udon and Melody chose the combo, udon + poke bowl. Take note of my hands with my udon bowl for size reference!
After some catching up over our Japanese feast, we headed over to Downtown LA for a tour of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. If you are unfamiliar with this iconic structure, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the prestigious home of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. It not only boasts of the best acoustics in the world, but it is a striking piece of architectural art. It was finished in 2003, but I wasn't aware it was worth a visit without going for a concert or performance.
We made it just in time for the 3:15PM guided, hour-long free tour. Although we didn't get to go into the auditorium itself, we learned about the architecture of the building itself, its design history, and even its relation to the Disney family.
The tour took us through every floor except one, since that floor is small and apparently not worth showing off. We learned about the concert hall's donors, the materials used, and our guide even pointed out some hidden functional parts as well. From the Lillian Disney-inspired carpet to the hidden rain gutters, our tour was full of surprises. While I am not a connoisseur of architecture, I was still able to appreciate the beauty of this building, especially with the help of our very informative guide.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Blue Ribbon Garden - it is open to the public and can be accessed without any entrance fee or ticket. The views of Downtown LA are wonderful, and we were able to catch them at golden hour. There is something very special about the whimsy of the concert hall against Los Angeles being enveloped in a warm, sun-kissed glow.
Mostly, I was enamored with the rose fountain created in honor of Lillian Disney. At least 200 Delft Blue vases were smashed and pieced back together to create this stunning fountain, a wonderful juxtaposition against the lush trees around it, further contrasting against the sleek silver exterior of the concert hall.
Afterwards, we returned to some of our favorite spots on the tour to further admire the sun setting on the city, wandering through the metallic, futuristic walkways a few floors up. It had been a warm day, and we were fooled into thinking it was summer yet again.
Our day continued at Grand Central Market, but only for a moment. I talked Melody into taking the historic Angel's Flight (if only to save us a walk back up the hill!) before we headed to the flagship store of my favorite Los Angeles-based chocolate company: Compartes.
It wasn't a quick drive, but it was on our way back to the UCLA area so I didn't mind. Part of the Southern California charm is putting on a great playlist, taking long drives with good friends, and enjoying the safe space of car talks.
Before we knew it, we had arrived at Westfield Century City, grabbed a quick bite, then made our way to Compartes for a frozen hot chocolate. I'm a long-time Compartes fan, in love with both the chocolate and their branding. I was introduced to them by my cousin Samantha, and I regularly indulge in a bar or two on their online shop. I'd visited their Beverly Hills location right underneath Alfred Coffee, but I was so excited to see their new art deco store.
Unfortunately, they ran out of frozen hot chocolate halfway through my cup! Melody didn't get one but we decided to split the small portion I got (I opted for the 24k gold flake topping just to be extra, by the way). We were compensated with some free truffles, parked on some nearby seats, and enjoyed our chocolate! The frozen hot chocolate exceeded my expectations - it was the perfect amount of bitterness, reminding me of a good 72% dark chocolate.
I'm not sure if it was being in good company, or if I didn't have too many expectations, but I had a really fun day exploring somewhere local. I spend so much time dreaming of exotic places that I forget adventures can be had close to home. If you are local to Los Angeles, I highly recommend taking a free tour of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, enjoying some local food, and spending some quality face time with friends.
Until next time,