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Los Angeles - Downtown Serves Up Family Fun


There's much to see Downtown, much of it an easy walk or DASH ride (special buses that offer 25 cent rides) away.
For example:

The Old West lives again at the Wells Fargo History Center. The exhibits include an authentic Wells Fargo stagecoach for ogling, a replica for climbing into (it jiggles like the real ones did), 19th century firearms collection and a 2 1/2 pound gold nugget (more ogling). The Plaza at Wells Fargo Center, 333 S. Grand Ave.; 213 253-7166; www.wellsfargohistory.com. Open Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Los Angeles CaliforniaOlvera Street for a sense of Los Angeles' early days, when it was an outpost of Spain, explore El Pueblo de los Angeles Historic Monument, a cluster of the city's oldest structures plus the restored central park (zocalo) with a gazebo and plenty of running room. Olvera Street is at the north end -- with its old-fashioned candy stalls, souvenirs galore, yummy hot churros and a glassmaker at work making the most intricate sculpture right before your eyes. It's definitely family-worthy. Watch YOUR tortillas being made behind the counter at La Luz del Dia cafe or sit down for a leisurely meal at one of the mid-block patio restaurants where mariachis often stroll by. Also mid-block, the historic Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles, is open to visitors. 845 N. Alameda St.; 213 680-2525. Docent-led tours of El Pueblo: Tues-Sat 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Olvera Street open daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m. with many shops and restaurants open later. www.olvera-street.com.

Grand Central Market. L.A.'s oldest and largest open-air market opened in 1917 and is still an intriguing adventure. Wander the aisles and you'll find exotic produce, seafood and meats, fragrant herbs -- great fun even if you don't buy. Several lunch counters are sprinkled throughout. Be on the lookout for one that promises L.A.'s biggest burritos. 317 S. Broadway; 213 624-2378; www.grandcentralsquare.com. Open daily 9-6.

Japanese American National Museum. A visit to historic Little Tokyo, along First Street, might start with an exploration of the Japanese American National Museum where the ongoing exhibit "Common Ground: The Heart of Community," features objects, documents and photos that detail 130 years of Japanese American life in the U.S. Then head for one of the many restaurants for a great meal of tempura, sushi or noodles. JANM, 369 E. First St.,; 213 625-0414; www.janm.org. Open Tues - Sun 10-5, Thurs 10-8 (free after 5 on Thursdays).

L.A. Dodgers. That glow in the sky on summer evenings just north of Downtown? That would be Dodger Stadium with the Boys in Blue playing a night game. Night game. Day game. You can't miss having an old-fashioned fun time watching the Dodgers in their 42nd season in L.A. And when you hear fans in the stands talking about Dodger Dogs, it's not a comment on their team's playing but a reference to the famous, succulent hot dogs sold at the snack stands -- a must. Call for home game tickets: 323 224-1-HIT; www.dodgers.com

California Science Center. Just south of Downtown in historic Exposition Park the big summer show (through Sept. 1) at the California Science Center is "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit." You'll see over 250 items rescued from the ocean floor including 15-ton piece of the hull. The permanent exhibits of this dazzling monument to all things scientific explore how everything works from engines to bodies -- and the interactive exhibits are so clever and inviting, there's nary a textbook vibe in the place. Save time for the Air and Space Gallery (helicopters, planes and gliders to climb into plus a motion-based simulator) and the IMAX Theater (a seven-story screen, the largest in L.A.) -- also part of this complex. 700 State Dr., 213 744-7400; wwwcasciencectr.org. Open daily 10-5. Air and Space Gallery: open 10-1 weekdays; 11-4 weekends. Call for IMAX schedule.

Natural History Museum. With dueling dinos in the rotunda (complete skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops) this museum will have your attention from the get-go. Beyond the prehistoric giants, there are dioramas of world wildlife, a gem and mineral hall with the largest gold collection in the U.S. and a very interactive Discovery Center for kids. This museum is a short stroll east of the California Science Center and IMAX, still in Exposition Park. 900 Exposition Blvd.; 213 763-DINO; www.nhm.org. Open daily 10-5.

The Museum of Neon Art is a gas. In fact the current special exhibit (through Sept. 14) focuses on artistry in gas with amazingly complex neon sculptures in eye-popping colors. 501 W. Olympic Blvd.; 213 489-9918; www.neonmona.art. Open Wed-Sat 11-5; Sun 12-5. MOCA During august, the Museum of Contemporary Art will be installing a major Fall exhibit welcoming Frank Gehry to the neighborhood. Recent acquisitions to the collection will be on view during this time including work by kid pleasers such as Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein plus, out on the Sculpture Plaza, there's Nancy Rubin's monumental sculpture made from used airplane parts. 250 S. Grand Ave.; 213 626-6222; www.moca.org Open Tues - Sun 11-5, Thus 11-8 (free after 5).

los angelesDisney Concert Hall. How to turn a youngster on to architecture? Yes, architecture. A walk by world-renown architect Frank O. Gehry's about-to-open Walt Disney Concert Hall is guaranteed to catch kids' imaginations. All that free-form stainless steel is already one of the world's most talked-about structures. Part of the Music Center of Los Angeles County, Disney Concert Hall will be the new home of the L.A. Philharmonic this fall. First St. between Hope and Grand; 213 972-7211. www.disneyhall.com.

Union Station. Just as dazzling to kids is Union Station. This Spanish Mission Revival train station, the last of the grand train stations to be built in the U.S., has been restored to its 1930s glory with ornately painted beams, marble floors and the comfiest leather and wood chairs from which to admire it all. Just east of Olvera Street. 800 N. Alameda St. Open daily.

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