Walt Disney Concert Hall

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Location: 135 North Grand Avenue, Downtown L.A.

This past Saturday was one of those days that I’ll always look back on fondly. What a treat when we decided to take a tour of the famous Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, designed by famed L.A. based architect, Frank Gehry.

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Named in honor of the legendary Walt Disney through an initial 50 million dollar donation on his wife Lillian’s behalf, the stainless steel structure sits eye-catchingly on the corner of 1st and Grand in Downtown L.A. Aside from the unique curvatures of the gleaming exterior, this facility was built to produce state-of-the-art, unparalleled acoustics for concert-goers.

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Always in the mood to explore something for the first time, I was ecstatic when I learned some time ago of their free architectural tours. You can take the self-guided audio tour or, as we did, the 60 minute docent lead tour. Eva, our excellent guide, graciously took us around the massive structure feeding us insight and key details that added context to the visual oasis around me. From the 12,500 pieces of steel; to the use of Douglas Fir tree trunks, for both aesthetic and structural purposes; to details on the funding, development, and construction; as well as the controversy surrounding the reflection issues that caused quite a stir when the sunlight hit the building producing unbearable amounts of heat for the residents living near the building; were all topics of discussion.

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What I found most fascinating that I wouldn’t have picked up on without Eva’s knowledge was that the space reflects Frank Gehry’s love of sailing. Inside, walls give a subtle salute to fish scales, railing and carpeting are reminiscent of a cruise ship, and the only piece of art, a painting, sits on the wall in a vibrant ocean blue.

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On top of the Concert Hall, sits a slice of heaven dedicated to the memory of Lillian Disney and her love of roses, a public garden that boasts spectacular views of Downtown L.A., the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory.

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Unfortunately, the tours don’t take you through the actual auditorium due to on-going rehearsals during this time of year, but we did get a taste of the space when our guide described the sophistication and attention to detail in the acoustic design. The energy and vibration she described that happens during a concert was palpable.

Leaving the space with such appreciation in its architectural design, I realized how much I wanted to return as an actual concert-goer to personally experience what the purpose of this spectacular building is for – a night of live music. It’s now on my list of things to do. Hopefully, I’ll get to share that with you very soon.

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The Walt Disney Family Museum

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Location: 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio, San Francisco

It was December 23rd; a rainy, Sunday morning when we hit the road from Santa Cruz and took the nearly 2 hour drive into San Francisco for our first official start to a Northern California Christmas vacation. And talk about RAIN! The vast difference I learned right away was that when it rains up north – it rains non-stop, all day. In L.A. – it rains, then stops, might sprinkle, and then it’s sunny again!

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{Rainy drive into SF.}

We didn’t let the wet skies change our plans or our mood. I was beyond excited to spend the day learning about one of the greatest contributors to the legacy of Hollywood and later my childhood, Walt Disney.

The Walt Disney Family Museum sits on an old military base in The Presidio district in San Francisco, with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the backdrop. It houses the ancestry, history, and creative legacy of Walt Disney; from family beginnings, to his rise to success in the animation world, to the creation of his film studio, and later the conception of Disneyland, to his untimely passing in 1966.

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{Golden Gate Bridge.}

The Walt Disney Family Museum does an exceptional job of educating its visitors on all things Walt Disney. The massive collection showcases archival documents, telegrams, early sketches and drawings, family photographs, news paper clippings, video footage, 3D models, replicas, real artifacts, movie posters, awards (where even Oscar himself sits among the prized trophies). I left the museum three hours and 10 galleries later feeling like I knew Walt Disney in a way I never had. He wasn’t just the creative genius whose motto was always surrounded by the ideology of dreaming. The museum also paints the portrait of Walt Disney as a human being.

Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the galleries, but was allowed in the main lobby space. Here are just a few photos from an amazing start to a wonderful Northern California Christmas adventure. I highly encourage any “dreamer” to go for a visit and learn from the master.

“What ever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” – Walt Disney

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{Awards display.}

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{Photographs of Walt Disney.}

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{Lobby – staircase.}

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{View outside the museum window upstairs.}