Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Seattle has the Space Needle. NYC has the Empire State Building. 15 euro, 22 bucks, 32 bucks – respectively.
So you want to see Los Angeles from way up there too?
Well, L.A. has City Hall and it’s FREE!
Recently, a friend of mine came into town for a visit. “No typical L.A. touristy stuff,” she tells me. She’s done that already. She just wants to hang or do something new. So I suggest downtown.
“L.A. has a downtown?” she asks.
Ergo, we hop on the Metro Red Line, get off at the Civic Center/Grand Park station, and step foot onto downtown soil no later than an hour after the suggestion is made.
As we start walking through Grand Park, we come face to face with City Hall.
“Let’s try to go up to the top,” I tell her. I had recently heard rumors that there is an observation deck at the top of the tower. I quickly dismissed it as only rumor at the time because I thought: why would City Hall just let anybody in? Nevertheless, we settle on City Hall being our first stop just to see if the rumors are true.
After scoping out the grounds around the building, we finally figure out that “the public” may only gain entrance through the Main Street doors. We walk in and I sheepishly ask if we are allowed to go up to the observation deck, half thinking the security guard would only chuckle and say no. The shame from that is already creeping up inside of me. However, we get an “of course!” and after we stuff our bags through the security check, get body screened, and sign in at the security desk, we get to take two elevators to get up to the top. First, 25 flights. Then another two. Then one more set of stairs, and we’re at the top.
Who the heck built that thing, you ask?
The Los Angeles City Hall building was designed by John Parkinson, John C. Austin, and Albert C. Martin, Sr., and the 32 floor, 454 ft. building was completed in 1928.
But what about the earthquakes, you ask?
Because the building was retrofitted to sustain minimal earthquake damage, you can feel safe on this observation deck. The City retrofitted the City Hall building between 1999 and 2001. So it was fairly recent, and the building should be able to withstand an 8.2 magnitude earthquake. Even so, I hope that 8.2 magnitude never happens.
Is that the tallest building in Los Angeles, you ask?
From 1928 through 1964, it was the tallest building. Because of a city ordinance that was passed in 1950, it was to be kept that way. But something must have been amended because after 1964, skyscrapers started going up and City Hall finally lost its “tallest building” status.
The view is spectacular. Whereas I’m a little knobby-kneed outside up at the top, my visitor is taken in by the view. She can’t get enough of it. The observation deck wraps completely around the tower giving views every which way – North, South, East and West. If you’re really lucky, you may even witness a helicopter land… a helipad sits right below the east facing view. You can’t miss the target.
Check out Disney Hall while you’re up there too. If the sun is in the right position, you may catch it glistening off of Disney Hall’s spectacular architecture.
After she’s had enough, we take a self-tour of all the portraits of former Mayors at the bottom of the stairs below. A lot of years. A lot of Mayors. And the City still has some catching up to do – At least three of the most recent Mayors are not there. At least I can’t find them.
We both agree that it’s been quite the kick-off to a day downtown. Next, lunch at Grand Central Market.
The Los Angeles City Hall is located at 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA (90012 – if you need the zip)
More fun facts: The first Mayor of Los Angeles was Alpheus P. Hodges. He took office in 1850, lasted one year. The current Mayor of the City is Eric Garcetti. He took office in 2013. Tom Bradley was the only African American Mayor of Los Angeles to date. He served 20 years, 1973-1993, the longest tenure by any Mayor of the City.