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Cheap dates: A walking tour of historic downtown L.A.

Our itinerary includes the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market, Richard Riordan Central Library, Millennium Biltmore Hotel and Pershing Square. It's free except for the cost of lunch.

February 01, 2009|Tiffany Hsu

1 My boyfriend Erik and I decided to take a free walking tour of downtown L.A.'s historic architecture, planned and guided by us (although the Los Angeles Conservancy offers a printable tour of the area online).

The first stop: the Bradbury Building, the oldest commercial office structure downtown. More than a century old, the landmark's interior is covered with intricate French ornamental cast-iron lacework. The building was featured in the 1982 futuristic thriller "Blade Runner" as well as several other movies and TV shows.

After wandering up the marble stairs and peering up at the skylight, we unsuccessfully tried to get into one of the cage elevators and left for the Grand Central Market a short stroll away. Under the neon lights of the market, which was founded in 1917, we shelled out for what became our most exorbitant purchases -- a $3.50 beef gordita from one of the booths and three packs of fresh blackberries for $1 from a produce shop.

Up on Bunker Hill behind the market, we had a late lunch on a bench. The orange-and-black rail cars on the Angels Flight railway, which carried passengers up and down the steep incline and operated intermittently from 1901 until 2001, were mere feet away from our impromptu picnic.

Once done, we wandered over to the Richard Riordan Central Library. Built in 1926, it is notable for a tiled mosaic pyramid atop the central tower and an eight-story atrium. Entirely by accident, we stumbled into a maps exhibition in the Getty Gallery and spent nearly an hour perusing a 1791 map of California's coast drawn by Spanish explorers.

Across the street is the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, which hosted the Academy Awards eight times in the 1930s and 1940s. As we passed under ornately decorated vaulted ceilings, awash in an opulent golden sheen, we watched women taking tea in the lobby and a bride and groom preening for a photographer.

Readers will have to wait until next fall to take advantage of the last part of our day: the open-air ice-skating rink that is set up in Pershing Square from November through late January.

It happened that the skating was free the day we went, although it normally costs $6 for an hour of skating and $2 for skate rentals. So we stumbled around the rink under strings of lights and the shadows of skyscrapers for a lovely end to a great day.

Total cost: $4.50.

-- Tiffany Hsu

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