If you’re visiting downtown Los Angeles, one can’t miss location is the L.A. Times Building, which offers free tours and has its beautiful Globe Lobby open to the general public. Gordon B. Kaufmann designed the Times Building, which won a gold medal at the 1937 Paris Exposition. At minimum, the Times Building is a must-visit 15 minute stop on a DTLA itinerary to marvel at the Art Deco architecture and peruse the exhibits.
As of the time of this post, there are three options for Los Angeles Times Building tours. For something more informal, you can do a self-guided tour of the Globe Lobby, which offers a small exhibit on the history of the Los Angeles Times, which simultaneously covers significant moments in California and United States history via the collection of landmark covers stories.
This self-guided “tour” is available during business hours any day of the week, and does not require reservations. It’s not incredibly substantive nor will it take you behind the scenes of the L.A. Times, but it’s a glimpse at the paper’s history and accolades. The lobby is also stunning, so there’s that. If you plan in advance, there are two other tours that are better options…
These other two tours are both guided, and require reservations in advance. Currently, these tours are of the Editorial Department in the aforementioned Los Angeles Times Building and of the Printing Plant on Olympic Boulevard. Each are offered once daily, Monday through Friday. We toured Editorial at 11 a.m., followed by the Printing Plant at 1:30 p.m., with the same guide each time.
I’m not sure whether this is the permanent schedule or just the current one, so your mileage may vary if you’re reading this a couple of years from now…or even this fall once local schools are back in session. Regardless of when you’re reading, reservations are a strict necessity–tours are not given on a walk-up basis.
There’s not much info about these tours online; even the Los Angeles Times page concerning them is vague, so we thought we’d share our experience. In terms of general background, each tour is a little under an hour long. The Editorial tour is a bit more restrictive, not allowing large bags and only permitting photography in some areas (the photos below are all just of the lobby). The Printing Plant on Olympic allows bags and photography.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: why give such an egregious purveyor of fake news our time? I agree with you–their panning of San Andreas was so blatantly wrong, it was downright laughable. The Rock is an infallible national treasure and deserves to be treated as such. However, I’m more sympathetic to their recent editorial work, so I’m willing to give that clearly erroneous movie review a bit of a pass.
The guided tour of the Editorial Department was excellent. Beyond going into rooms where editorial meetings would take place, seeing award-lined walls, and the usual glimpses at facilities you might see on such a tour, we frequently in working areas, like the newsroom offices.
I’m not sure whether this was because it was just the two of us or if the tour normally crisscrosses the L.A. Times’ offices like this, but it was neat to see. Not exactly the bustling floors where fervent debate over stories is taking place as you might see in dramatized accounts, but still cool to see the process, even if it’s pretty much like any other quiet office.
This included areas where the L.A. Times creates its digital content, particularly video. Much has been written about newspapers trying to transition to the new media landscape, so this was particularly interesting. In fact, the whole tour had a “this is how things were, this is now how they are” vibe to it.
For a newspaper tour, such a history meets current production approach seems wise. One thing that struck me during the course of the tour–both tours, actually–was just how much goes into producing the daily paper. This was true in the past, and remains true today.
Even as technology changes, it does not necessarily make things easier–it just seems to move the target.
Our tour of the Editorial Department ended with the cafeteria, where we could’ve eaten lunch. There looked to be some solid options here at reasonable prices.
This being DTLA, there are a wealth of great restaurants nearby, so we opted to go elsewhere.
After lunch, we headed to the Olympic Printing Plant. There we were met by the same tour guide, and we were once again the only ones on the tour. He indicated to us that tours are often (usually?) much larger, and that on days when journalism teachers bring their classes, tour sizes can balloon to 40-60 guests depending upon the location.
While the intimate tours were certainly nice, I suspect the experience on each tour would be just as good with even 15-20 people. It might become uncomfortable if someone were to confront the guide over the L.A. Times’ “fake news” of printing such a heinous San Andreas review, which, apparently, is a thing that now happens. (Albeit not over that particular review.) I cannot imagine going on a tour of a place that I think is peddling fake news, but to each their own, I suppose.
As for the substance of the Olympic Printing Plant tour, it was likewise intriguing. The warehouses here are cavernous, and inhabited by a mix of robots (operating via laser-guided tracking systems), printing presses, gigantic rolls of paper, and other equipment, the names of which elude me.
I know next to nothing about production of anything, but this type of thing still fascinates me. What struck me the most about these facilities was that they were so technologically (at least from my perspective) advanced. You hear so much about newspapers being a ‘dying media’ that perhaps the assumption is the underlying production process is likewise antiquated?
Well, it is not. The production process is advanced and efficient. It’s also incredibly large-scale. Not only does plant print the L.A. Times, but also the West Coast editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
All told, seeing the full process of how the daily newspapers come to fruition, going from information to a tangible form ready for shipment was an excellent experience, and well worth the time.
I would recommend the Editorial Department tour to anyone. From locals to tourists visiting Los Angeles, it’s worthwhile. There’s really something for everyone: architecture, history, and various aspects of journalism.
For a time commitment of around an hour and no cost, doing this tour is really a no-brainer.
As for the Olympic Printing Plant tour, it’s a trickier recommendation. If you’re a local, you should absolutely do it. The facilities are fascinating, and it’s free. I’m a bit more hesitant about the recommendation for tourists, primarily because of the location at the edge of the industrial district.
Aside from the nearby Coca-Cola Building, there’s not much in this area that’s worth seeing. Essentially, it’s a bunch of warehouses.
If you’re parking or taking the Metro and walking DLTA (as we recommend doing), it’s a bit of a hike–about 30 minutes from the nearest…anything. Since most parking garages don’t offer in/out privileges, you’re either going to need to walk or take an Uber. Given the heat, we opted for the latter option. (Parking is free at the Olympic Printing Plant, for what it’s worth.)
If you don’t have the time to do one of the more comprehensive tours or simply are not that interested, I would still highly recommend stopping inside the Globe Lobby. It’s close to Los Angeles City Hall, so I suspect you’ll be in the area if you’re doing a walking tour of DTLA, anyway.
The Globe Lobby is one of the aesthetic highlights of Los Angeles architecture. To be honest, the only reason we finally visited was because we had seen it on Bosch so many times, and were intrigued. So, if you enjoy Bosch, you’ll likely get a kick out of the Times Building. (If you’ve never heard of Bosch, we recommend it. Fun, binge-worthy show on Amazon.)
In addition to the namesake globe in the center of the lobby, the lobby features 10-foot-high murals painted in 1934 by Hugo Ballin, who also painted the Griffith Observatory rotunda. These match the Art Deco stylization (of both locations) and are stunning.
Overall, we’ve enjoyed all of our experiences with the Los Angeles Times’ facilities. If you’re able to find the time for the two guided tours, I doubt you’ll regret the decision to do them. Both of these tours strike me as under-the-radar offerings in L.A. that offer a lot of value. If you’re reading this during your trip or at the last minute and it’s too late to book one of those tours, all is not lost. Simply visiting the building’s lobby gives you a taste of the architecture, as well as the history of Los Angeles in transcribed form.
If you’re planning a California vacation, check out my California category of posts for other things to do. For Los Angeles-centric trips, we’ve found the most useful guidebook to be The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas, which is written by locals (and we use it even as locals!). If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!
Have you been to the L.A. Times Building? Taken either, or both, of these tours? Any additional thoughts to add? Do these sound appealing to you? Any other suggestions for DTLA? Hearing from readers is both helpful and interesting, so if you have perspective from your own experiences, or questions, please share in the comments below!