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Summer Blockbuster Adventures in Downtown L.A.

by Elyse Glickman

Jun 20, 2018

© OUE Skyspace LA

Destinations / North America

Southern California is often regarded as the birthplace of the modern theme park, with many blockbuster family movies successfully translated into all-encompassing immersions into Hollywood fantasy. While Disneyland never gets old with its three-dimensional adaptations of beloved animated and live-action icons, Universal Studios pulls all visitors into the fantastic universes of more recent franchises.

While the concepts were born in Hollywood, they’ve successfully been raised everywhere else, from Paris to Asia’s media capitals. However, there are some cinematic adventures that can only be experienced in the most authentic state in Los Angeles.

Although studio tours offered by the major studios are a tourism staple in Tinseltown, to go deeper into what’s been shot off the back lots, try seeking out some of the city’s most interesting on-location sets. Downtown Los Angeles is a great place to start, especially with its proximity and easy access (via its Metro subway lines) to Hollywood, the proliferation of hotels and emergence of destinations like L.A. Live and the Arts District, making the city center more family-friendly and fun.

The central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, has made several appearances in feature films and television shows, including the original 1984 Ghostbusters and several television shows. Inside the walls of the photogenic structure, the library offers special lectures, activities and workshops for people of all ages throughout the year.

The magnificent Art Deco Los Angeles Times Building is also on the A-list of filming locations, appearing in Argo and Dreamgirls as well as television series Nip/Tuck and Bones. L.A. City Hall, meanwhile, is a hall-of-famer, with its credits including feature films Ocean’s Eight, Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, and television shows that include 1960s police potboiler Dragnet, CBS legal drama Doubt and the Fox television adaptation of Lethal Weapon.

Oscar-nominated La La Land offered moviegoers a fresh look at Downtown L.A. as well as several legendary spots in nearby Hollywood. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling broke bread at the century-old Grand Central Market, which today is ready for prime time as one of the city’s trendiest places to grab a bite. The leads’ romantic date night sequence at the Griffith Observatory also played a starring role in the 1955 James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause.

OUE Skyspace

© OUE Skyspace LA

The US Bank Tower, a cinematic icon for a couple of decades (most memorably in the original Independence Day), found new life as the home of OUE Skyspace LA, a gee-whiz experience 1,000 feet above ground that includes the daring Skyslide, the Skyline Time Lapse showcasing the city’s most notable landmarks and neighborhoods, an Infinity Mirror (creating reflections upon reflections down an old elevator shaft) and the Silhouette Wall, using pixels to create reflective images based on individual body movement.

While inside the Skyspace, you may catch a glimpse of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, which became internationally iconic in action films True Lies and In the Line of Fire. During the 1980s, the landmark Millennium Biltmore Hotel a few blocks away was a bright spot in Pretty in Pink, Beverly Hills Cop and Ghostbusters. Up the road and underground, The 2nd Street Tunnel had many action movie star turns in Blade Runner, Godzilla, The Terminator, Transformers, Cellular, Kill Bill, Demolition Man, Sneakers, Lethal Weapon 2 and Con Air.

If time and budget allow you to splurge on a weekend stay in Pasadena, a half hour east of Downtown, check into the Langham Huntington Pasadena. In the last couple of years, its public areas provided backdrops for Modern Family, FX’s American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace and HBO’s Westworld.

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