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AAA Walking ToursDowntown Los AngelesThe tour takes 6-8 hours, depending on your pace and the number of listed sites you visit along the way.

Having earned a reputation as a place where nobody walks, famously car-oriented Los Angeles may seem like an unlikely place for a walking tour. Yet, while L.A. may indeed sprawl across 467 square miles of Southern California, the downtown area is relatively compact and chock full of attractions within walking distance of each other. From the financial district's hi-tech skyscrapers to historic El Pueblo de Los Angeles—site of the original settlement from which the mighty megalopolis arose—L.A. has a lot to offer a pedestrian with a comfortable pair of shoes and a desire to get acquainted with the heart of America's second largest city.

The tour is designed to return you to the starting point via the Metro Red Line subway, which runs from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. You can pay the $1.75 one-way fare at any of the automated ticket vending machines located at each station. The city's subway system has no turnstiles or gates, but hold on to your ticket. If a police officer asks to see proof that you paid the fare and you cannot produce a ticket, you could be issued a citation and fined.

Note: Before you begin your tour, please be aware that even on sidewalks, pedestrians will frequently find themselves crossing paths with cars entering and exiting the area's numerous underground parking garages. Many garages feature alarms that sound when a car is about to emerge. Listen for the alarms and be careful.

Begin at one of the city's most treasured landmarks: the Richard J. Riordan Central Library, 630 W. 5th St., between Grand Avenue and Flower Street. Underground parking for the library can be entered from Flower Street between 5th and 6th streets; reduced rates are offered to library patrons with a validated ticket. Other parking facilities are at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Hope Street and at 4th and Flower streets across from the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. Please note that parking fees in the area are steep. The underground lot next to the library charges $4.15 for just 10 minutes with a maximum of $37.60 per day. An early bird rate of $13 per day applies to vehicles entering before 8:30 a.m., while a daily rate of $8 applies for those parking after 4 p.m. or on weekends. The closest Metro Rail stop is 7th Street/Metro Center at 7th and Figueroa streets.

The Richard J. Riordan Central Library is unmistakable. Its squat tower topped by a colorful tiled pyramid has been a city icon since it was built in 1926. Designed by Bertram Goodhue, renowned for his 1920 design for the sky-scraping Nebraska State Capitol, the library is a fanciful hodgepodge of Egyptian, Byzantine and Spanish motifs. Stern-faced terra-cotta busts of allegorical figures representing such lofty endeavors as The Arts, Philosophy and Statecraft peer down at visitors along with likenesses of Homer, Plato, Dante and Milton. Inscriptions lauding contemplation and reading run along the walls. “Books invite all; they constrain none” is a memorable one.

Be sure to visit the elaborate Lodwrick M. Cook Rotunda on the second floor. Look up at the domed ceiling and the 2,000-pound bronze chandelier suspended from it. A painted glass globe in the center shows the continents in amber. An outer ring displays the signs of the zodiac and features 48 light bulbs—one for every state in the union when the library opened. Large murals along the rotunda walls portray phases in California's history including discovery, mission building and the founding of Los Angeles.

You should also stop by the more recently constructed east addition: the Tom Bradley Wing. In 1986 a devastating fire at the library necessitated an extensive restoration. Thanks to library boosters, the restoration included this huge addition, most of which is below ground so as not to detract from the original structure. Completed in 1993, the wing includes a dramatic eight-story sky-lit atrium with three rainbow-hued chandeliers and a series of unusual metallic columns illuminated from within. A 1.5-acre garden outside features fountains and artwork.

Make your way to the library's north (5th Street) entrance. Across 5th and to your right is the U.S. Bank Tower, a cylindrical skyscraper with pleated walls. More than 1,000 feet high, this steel, granite and glass tower is one of the country's tallest office buildings. You may recognize it as the object of alien wrath from the 1996 science-fiction blockbuster, “Independence Day.”

Curving around the base of the tower are the lovely Bunker Hill Steps, evocative of Rome's Spanish Steps. Water tumbles and splashes down the center of the staircase within a raised channel designed to look like a natural brook, ultimately pouring into a basin at the bottom. Foliage provides a lush border on either side of the steps. Cross 5th Street and climb these to Hope Street. If you plan on finishing the entire walking tour today, you might want to take it easy and ride the escalators that are to the left of the steps. At the top you'll find “Source Figure,” a small bronze statue of a nude female standing on a column in the middle of a fountain by noted artist Robert Graham.

Along the Bunker Hill Steps and throughout downtown, you will see eateries offering a variety of cuisine. Unfortunately many of these cater exclusively to the 9-to-5 crowd and promptly close in the late afternoon or early evening. If you tour downtown L.A. Monday through Friday, be aware that the cute cafe or elegant bistro you thought you would try out for dinner may lock its doors by 6 p.m.

Heading north, follow the left side of Hope Street to 4th and turn left in front of the Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA. The people you see working up a sweat on the second floor have a great view of the sculpture garden in front of the building. Here you'll find abstract shapes as well as, appropriately enough, human figures running and performing gymnastics. On the YMCA's west side are the frequently photographed glass cylinders of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.

Stroll across the walkway suspended high above Flower Street for a look at the dramatic six-story, glass-roofed atrium in which massive concrete columns dwarf the trees and fountains at lobby level. Not for the faint of heart, curved catwalks stretch across dizzying spaces, leading to spiral stairways and upholstered balconies called “pods.” Designed by John Portman & Associates and completed in 1976, the Bonaventure provides fantastic views of the city from its glass-walled elevators and 34th-floor revolving lounge.

As you return to the front of the Ketchum-Downtown YMCA via the walkway over Flower Street, pause to notice the numerous rooftop parks connected by footbridges that transform what would otherwise be a harsh urban wasteland into a lush, landscaped vista. From the YMCA, follow Hope Street as it passes above 4th and over to BP Center, which is on the west side of Hope. The green space you see sits atop an eight-level parking garage. A circular court in the center echoes with the sound of water falling from three projecting ledges into a blue-tiled pool a floor below. A few yards farther along Hope stands Alexander Calder's aptly named 1974 sculpture, “Four Arches.”

Although high-tech skyscrapers and public art displays characterize the Bunker Hill district now, this wasn't always the case. A ritzy neighborhood of manicured lawns and elaborate Victorian mansions dominated the hill in the late 1800s. By the 1930s the area, hard hit by Depression-era scarcity and the growth of outlying areas, had decayed into a seedy warren of decrepit houses sheltering all sorts of unsavory characters. With the 1960s came urban renewal and the mechanical growl of bulldozers scraping the area flat. Bunker Hill's high-rise rebirth began in the early 1970s and accelerated through the '80s and '90s, resulting in the futuristic urban setting you see today.

Cross Hope Street, heading east up the steps and through Wells Fargo Center's brick-paved plaza. Once again, artworks make an appearance in various shapes and sizes, providing office workers with an aesthetically appealing backdrop for their lunch breaks. The Wells Fargo Museum is to your left, in the center's north building at Hope and 3rd. Stop in to see a beautifully restored 19th-century stagecoach and learn about the company's long and colorful history.

From Wells Fargo Center, cross Grand Avenue into California Plaza. You'll recognize the plaza's Watercourt by a circular fountain that tempts children to dodge its ring of spurting jets, especially on hot days. Shops and restaurants line the court, and in back is a larger, terraced fountain along with a stage where afternoon and evening concerts are performed.

The orange and black structure you see behind the stage area is the upper terminus for Angels Flight, a funicular originally installed nearby at the corner of Hill and 3rd streets in 1901. Called “The Shortest Railway in the World,” Angels Flight was restored and reopened in 1996 after being mothballed for the better part of 3 decades. The ride closed again after an accident in 2001 and reopened when extensive repairs and safety modifications were completed in early 2010.

Take Angels Flight (if it's running) down to its Hill Street terminus below; or if you want the exercise, use the stairs that parallel the tracks. There are more than 150 steps down to the bottom.

Facing Angels Flight across Hill Street is Grand Central Market. Enter this aromatic realm of food stalls where an international medley of foods is prepared daily. Here you'll find Angelenos shopping for exotic spices, baked goods, fresh meats and colorful fruits and vegetables. Walk through the market and exit at the opposite end of the building onto Broadway. To your left, at the corner of Broadway and 3rd, is the historic Bradbury Building.

The facade of this Los Angeles landmark may be unassuming, but don't let that fool you; concealed behind that banal exterior is an architectural gem. Step inside for a look at the building's striking five-story, sky-lit atrium, which is lined with open-air walkways bordered by florid, wrought-iron balustrades. Office workers move between floors via marble staircases and two cage elevators. Completed in 1893, the Bradbury is one of the oldest commercial buildings in downtown L.A. Exit through the opposite end of the building onto 3rd Street. Directly across the street at 240 S. Broadway is the “Pope of Broadway” mural, which features actor Anthony Quinn and covers an entire wall of the Victor Clothing Company. A poster-child for pluralism, greater Los Angeles is a mecca for muralists—boasting more than 1,000 murals.

Return to the Watercourt at California Plaza via Angels Flight or the stairs. Then head diagonally across the plaza back to Grand Avenue past the red sandstone facade of MOCA Grand Avenue. MOCA stands for Museum of Contemporary Art, and appropriately enough it is filled with modern artworks created since 1940 running the gamut from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art and beyond. With its distinctive pyramid skylights and sweeping entry staircase, MOCA's exterior has been hailed as a work of art itself.

Continue north on Grand Avenue. If you are a fan of innovative modern architecture, then get ready for an eyeful. In contrast to the geometric simplicity of MOCA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall at Grand and 1st is a massive jumble of complex, stainless-steel-clad shapes flowing together in graceful curves and terminating in sharp edges. Designed by renowned Los Angeles architect Frank O. Gehry, the concert hall looks like a sculpture one might see in a MOCA gallery. Inside the hall, a 2,273-seat auditorium features an open platform stage allowing seating on all sides. The concert hall complex, which opened in 2003, also contains smaller performance spaces and is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. An excellent self-guiding audio tour is available most days at the lobby box office.

Directly across 1st Street are the other three buildings that make up Los Angeles' Music Center: the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre. The first building you'll come to after leaving the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the lavish Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which was named for the energetic wife of a Los Angeles Times publisher who spearheaded efforts to bring world-class cultural facilities to downtown Los Angeles. Opened in 1964, the pavilion hosted the Academy Awards Ceremony nearly every year from 1969 to 2000. With its polished marble floors and crystal chandeliers, the venue is still going strong as the home of the Los Angeles Opera.

Next, in the middle of a small, moatlike pond, is the Mark Taper Forum, a theater-in-the-round sheathed in glass and concrete and adorned with an abstract bas-relief. Numerous award-winning plays that have gone on to Broadway were first produced here, including “Angels in America,” “The Kentucky Cycle,” “Jelly's Last Jam” and “Children of a Lesser God.” Between the forum and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a fountain spurts columns of water into the air. These unpredictable bursts surround a dark, bronze sculpture by Jacques Lipchitz titled “Peace on Earth.” On Temple Street right behind the Mark Taper Forum is the center's last venue, the Ahmanson Theatre, where large-scale musicals and other crowd-pleasing productions command the stage. An airy, free-standing colonnade embraces both theaters.

If it’s a weekday and time allows, retrace your steps to the Music Center fountain, cross Hope Street and enter the 1960s-era John Ferraro Building, headquarters for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power . In the ground floor lobby, a series of excellent exhibits tells the story of the L.A. Aqueduct (built 1908-13) and William Mulholland, the city’s legendary water chief from 1886 to 1928.

Walk back to the Ahmanson and proceed to the intersection of Grand and Temple. On the opposite corner stands the austere, asymmetric walls and 120-foot bell tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, a stunning contemporary interpretation of this very traditional structure. Designed by noted Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo, the cathedral—with its bell tower, arcades and broad plaza—evokes California's mission past with a 21st-century flourish. Completed in 2002, its interior is a vast, awe-inspiring cavern dramatically lit by translucent alabaster windows. The cathedral opens weekdays at 6:30, Saturdays at 9 and Sundays at 7, and closes daily at 6 p.m.

Return to the Music Center and look west. The large rectangular building you see on the other side of Hope Street is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, completed in 1964. Cantilevered sunshades divide one floor from the next, making the building look like a stack of glass boxes. Surrounding this public utility's headquarters is a reflecting pool and a broad walkway offering views of central Los Angeles and the hills to the north.

Proceed east through the middle of The Music Center and across Grand Avenue. You are now in Grand Park, a terraced, 12-acre, 4-block-long park that descends from the Music Center to the base of City Hall via sloped walkways and stairs bordered by lawns, trees and 24 gardens.

One of the first landmarks you'll come to is the circular Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, dedicated to an L.A. County official who was instrumental in creating the original Civic Center Mall—now the updated and enlarged Grand Park. Next to the fountain is the Splash Pad, a one-quarter-inch deep, granite-bottomed wading pool laced with water jet fountains. On warm days, kids splash and frolic while parents watch from a shaded patio next to a Starbucks and clean public restrooms. Nearby you'll find statues of Christopher Columbus and George Washington as you continue east alongside the Los Angeles County Courthouse, which will be on your right.

Ahead is the park's Performance Lawn, scattered with lightweight, pink-colored movable lawn furniture perfect for maneuvering under a shady tree, or into full sun if you prefer. Cross Hill Street, pass the Metro station escalators and you enter the Court of Flags, a display of American flag designs from 1777 to the present.

Continue east, descend the Broadway Steps and cross Broadway to the brilliant green expanse of the Event Lawn, which occasionally hosts music concerts and other big events. Ahead of you, gleaming white in the California sunshine, is the landmark Los Angeles City Hall . Anchoring the east end of Grand Park, the 27-story building was dedicated in 1928 and remained the tallest in Los Angeles for decades until local height restrictions, from which it had been exempted, were repealed.

Odds are you'll recognize this longtime symbol of the city. After all, it has starred in a multitude of movies, from 1945's “Mildred Pierce” to 1997's “L.A. Confidential.” It also served as The Daily Planet in TV's “Superman” and as police headquarters on “Dragnet.” The building’s distinctive, pyramid-topped tower was even blasted apart by alien spaceships in 1953's “The War of the Worlds.”

Unfortunately city hall had a close call with real destruction after damage caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake made extensive renovations necessary. Angelenos then faced a tough choice: tear it down to build a modern, quake-resistant structure or spend many millions more restoring and seismically retrofitting the existing building. They chose the latter course, and city hall now stands as a monument to L.A.'s civic pride.

Seven years and $300 million dollars later, this architectural masterpiece has been returned to its 1920s grandeur. The exterior now gleams and the great bronze doors at the Spring Street entrance have regained their luster. Inside, decorative friezes and murals have been meticulously restored, and a stunning 17-foot bronze chandelier, removed after the 1933 Long Beach quake, was reinstalled in the domed rotunda. An original Art Deco elevator car, found in a salvage yard, was used to create a mold for replica cars, which now carry visitors to the fully-restored 27th-story observation deck. Even the Lindbergh Beacon, which flashed across L.A.’s nighttime sky until it was extinguished for security reasons during World War II, has been reinstalled atop the tower.

Head south on Spring Street until you reach 1st. The Los Angeles Times headquarters, a squat, gray building with a clock near its top, is on your right, at the corner of Spring and 1st streets. Distinguished by a facade of thick pilasters and stylized bas-reliefs, the Times building's design won a gold medal at the 1937 Paris Exposition. Take a peek at the Globe Lobby, named for the rotating aluminum sphere at its center. Embellished with bronze bas-reliefs, Depression-era murals and 13 varieties of marble polished to glossy perfection, this sumptuous chamber also features a photo display depicting the newspaper's history along with examples of antiquated printing and typesetting equipment.

From the Times building, walk 1 block east on 1st Street to the corner of Main Street. The imposing gray structure on your right is the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters. Designed by Thom Mayne, the 13-story glass-and-steel behemoth houses some 2,000 state and city transportation employees. The $200 million project completed in 2004 has seen its share of controversy. The postmodern design helped Mayne win the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, while critics, who deem the building a soulless monstrosity, have dubbed it the “Death Star.”

From the Caltrans building, walk 1 block east on 1st Street past the DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown and make a right onto Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street. This diagonal street, part of L.A.'s Little Tokyo district, honors one of seven astronauts killed in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. A memorial featuring a replica of the Challenger stands in the middle of this landscaped pedestrian mall. Visit the lovely little Kyoto roof garden atop the DoubleTree hotel's south wing, an excellent spot to take a break. The bustling city below and the skyscrapers on the horizon provide an intriguing contrast to the tumbling waterfalls, placid streams and serene landscaping of the half-acre garden. From your vantage point among the swaying ferns and trees, you also can see a cracked tower topped by a cupola belonging to the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral, built in 1876. The cathedral, damaged in the Northridge earthquake, was replaced by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Temple Street and Grand Avenue.

Within Weller Court, next door to the hotel, are various shops and eateries, including Japanese book stores and sushi restaurants. Return to Onizuka Street and follow it toward 2nd (city hall will be directly behind you). You'll pass a sculpture titled “Friendship Knot” made up of two huge interlocking white pipes. Cross 2nd and San Pedro streets and proceed a half block to the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center's brick-paved plaza. Designed by renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi, the plaza is centered around his work titled “To the Issei,” which consists of two massive hewn boulders positioned on a raised brick platform, one standing upright and one lying horizontally. At the southern end of the plaza is a lovely garden appropriately named “Garden of the Clear Stream.” Redwoods, Japanese black pines, wooden bridges and stone lanterns create a Japanese-style oasis between the cultural center and the 880-seat Japan America Theatre, where audiences are treated to performances ranging from traditional Kabuki to innovative multicultural dramas.

Leading north from the cultural center, a pedestrian lane traverses 2nd Street at mid-block and enters Japanese Village Plaza, a collection of restaurants and stores with blue-tiled roofs and exposed wooden beams reminiscent of traditional Japanese architecture. When you reach 1st Street, cross over and to your right, where Central Avenue is closed to automobile traffic, to reach the Japanese American National Museum. Housed in a 1996 glass, steel and red-stone pavilion, the museum offers an array of exhibits that relate the Japanese-American experience to visitors, including multimedia presentations, displays of modern art, colorful kimonos and objects from World War II internment camps.

Farther north on Central Avenue is the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Intended as a temporary show space while MOCA's Grand Avenue building was under construction in the early '80s, this site was so popular that patrons rallied to make it a permanent museum annex. Pieces too large for MOCA's main location fit easily through the huge doors of this former warehouse and garage. Inside you'll see railings, ramps and partitions in keeping with the Geffen Contemporary's industrial origins that were designed by Walt Disney Concert Hall architect, Frank O. Gehry. At the end of Central Avenue is the “Go For Broke” Monument, a semi-circular wedge of black granite inscribed with the names of Japanese Americans who valiantly served their country during World War II.

Return to Central and 1st, and turn right. Heading west on 1st, you'll get a kind of sidewalk history lesson. Set into the pavement are quotations from people who lived here and the names of Japanese-owned businesses that once existed on this historic block. Continue west, cross Aiso Way, proceed one block to Los Angeles Street, then turn right. On your left is City Hall East and City Hall South, and on your right stands the administrative headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department.

When you reach Temple you'll see a sweeping footbridge spanning it; use the bridge to cross over to Fletcher Bowron Square, which is part of the Los Angeles Mall. A public space designed in the 1960s to serve as a meeting place for Angelenos, the mall never attracted the crowds that optimistic urban planners envisioned, and once area civil servants go home, the mall turns into a desolate stretch of closed doors and empty sidewalks. Stairs lead down to shops and fast food restaurants.

The unusual sculpture at the corner of Temple and Main that looks like three wishbones tied together by a knot of multicolored glass bricks is the Triforium, an often-maligned artwork that has enjoyed even less popularity than the mall in which it stands. Looking at this somewhat-too-tranquil corner now, you might be surprised to learn that it was once ground zero for 19th-century frontier society while it was occupied by the Bella Union Hotel. Before the hotel, California's last capitol under the Mexican flag stood here.

Go around the Triforium and head north on Main Street. Once you pass over the Santa Ana Freeway, you've entered El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, the city's birthplace. You'll notice the Old Plaza first. Tropical foliage and ancient fig trees surround the perimeter of this circular, brick-walled park, which is centered on a large bandstand. It was near here in 1781 that a group of 11 families, recruited by Mexican Governor Felipe de Neve, arrived to establish a town after a more than 3-month journey from Los Alamos, Sonora. Statues of de Neve and King Carlos III, who ruled Spain at the time, stand on opposite sides of the plaza.

Across Main Street you'll find the Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, built in 1822. A colorful mosaic panel showing the Annunciation adorns the facade. Added in 1981 to commemorate Los Angeles' bicentennial, it replicates a mosaic from a chapel in Italy that inspired the city's name. Next to the church are two historic buildings: the 1883 Plaza House and the 1888 Vickrey-Brunswig Building. The adjoining buildings are home to the La Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum. Pico House, an 1870 Italianate commercial building, forms the south side of the plaza. On the other side is the entrance to Olvera Street.

This Mexican-style marketplace opened in 1930 after a group of prominent citizens campaigned vigorously to save Olvera Street's historic buildings from crumbling into ruin. In addition to visiting crafts booths and vendors of traditional Mexican wares, you should stop by the 1818 Avila Adobe, reputedly the oldest house in Los Angeles. Other significant buildings along this short but picturesque thoroughfare include Sepulveda House, a former boarding house built in 1887 that now houses the pueblo's visitor information center, and next door, the 1855 Pelanconi House, said to be the oldest brick house in the city. The last building on the block is Italian Hall, an Italian American community center built in 1907. The building's second-floor wall is graced with David Alfaro Siqueiros' controversial 1932 mural titled “América Tropical,” which shows a Mexican peon crucified beneath an American eagle. The mural, which lay hidden under a layer of whitewash for many decades, has been restored and can be seen from an observation deck at the nearby América Tropical Interpretive Center.

Return to the Old Plaza via Main Street by making a left at the end of Olvera Street. You might want to cross Main to better see Sepulveda House's Victorian brick-and-wood facade. From the plaza's east side you will see the red tile roofs, clock tower and lofty arched entryway of Union Station, another well-known Los Angeles landmark. Carefully make your way across Los Angeles and Alameda streets to take a closer look at this 1939 beauty.

Built by John and Donald Parkinson, the architects who designed Los Angeles City Hall, this grand building blends Spanish Mission Revival and Art Deco styles. The interior—with its cross-shaped floor plan—seems more like a cathedral than a train station. Broad graceful arches frame your view of an immense interior. A dark wood-beamed ceiling hangs 50 feet above the waiting room's marble floor, while vibrantly hued tiles line walls and drinking fountains. Outside, gated courtyards landscaped with blooming bottlebrush trees and birds of paradise serve as waiting areas for passengers.

Like train stations around the country, Union Station hit upon hard times when air and auto travel became popular after World War II. During the 1990s, however, the station was redeveloped as a transportation hub for buses, Amtrak and commuter trains, and L.A.'s slowly expanding subway. From within the station, follow signs to Metro Rail's Red Line. You'll end up in the East Portal Pavilion, a 1996 addition designed to link the station with the Patsaouras Transit Plaza and the 26-story headquarters of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Sunlight streaming through panels of translucent glass in the domed ceiling of the pavilion's splendid lobby creates shifting patterns of brightness that dance across its smooth stone walls. Gazing down upon travelers passing through are the polyglot faces of Angelenos, the subject of Richard Wyatt's vast mural, which is part of a project titled “City of Dreams, River of History.” One end of the tiled “River Bench” by May Sun incorporates pieces of Chinese crockery and bottles excavated from around the station, which was built on the site of the city's original Chinatown. Not far away is the district currently known as Chinatown, which sprawls along Broadway north of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue.

Outside the pavilion, a palm tree-lined transit plaza serves as a city bus depot, but it performs this utilitarian function with style thanks to its many artist-designed details. Here you'll see a steel fence with whimsical grille work featuring insects, leaves and Native American-inspired shapes. Fanciful benches supply wild splashes of color to the scenery, and even the bus shelters betray an unusual level of artistry. Shielding benches from the elements beneath a curving sheet of glass, the shelters look like the spine of some prehistoric monster rendered in metal.

The Metro Red Line entrance is within the East Portal Pavilion. Take the train to 7th Street/Metro Center and exit the station at Hope Street. You are 2 blocks south of the Richard J. Riordan Central Library, which is where your tour began.

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3,792,621

Elevation

267 ft.

Sales Tax

State and county sales taxes total 9.5 percent in Los Angeles. A lodging tax, called a transient occupancy tax, of 14 percent also is levied along with an 8.25 percent rental car tax.

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Kaiser Permanente-Los Angeles Medical Center, (323) 783-4011; LAC+USC Medical Center, (323) 409-1000; Providence Little Company of Mary, (310) 832-3311; Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, (310) 825-9111; Valley Presbyterian Hospital, (818) 782-6600.

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The Los Angeles area is served by several airports with cheap airline flights including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is about 20 miles southwest of downtown L.A. Several other airports serve the area.

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Most major car rental agencies serve Los Angeles. Hertz, (800) 654-3080, provides discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

It's almost worth traveling by train just to experience Union Station, the combination Spanish Revival-Art Deco-Streamline Moderne-style terminal at 800 N. Alameda St., near Olvera Street and Chinatown. Amtrak trains, (800) 872-7245, use the station, as well as depots scattered throughout the region.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, has a terminal at 1716 E. 7th St., near Alameda Street, about 1.5 miles south of Union Station. Caveat emptor: ticket purchase does not guarantee a seat on the bus.

Taxis

Taxis are plentiful downtown and at major tourist sites. They can be hailed or boarded from stalls found at the airport, Union Station and major hotels. The base rate is $2.85 at flag drop and $2.70 per mile. The fixed fare between the airport and downtown is $46.50 plus a $4 surcharge for fares originating from the airport. Some large companies are Checker, (800) 300-5007; Independent (800) 521-8294; United Independent, (213) 483-7660 or (800) 892-8294; and Yellow Cab, (424) 222-2222 or (800) 200-1085.

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