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During our recent run of 95-degree autumn days -- can we be done with those? -- the last place one would think to seek relief is in the landlocked asphalt wonderland of downtown Los Angeles. But downtown is now home to the city's most accessible, life-affirming aquatic refreshment, in a vibrant public space nestled unassumingly, almost secretly, in L.A.'s newest park.
The plaza below a restored 46-year-old Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, once obscured by the ramps of a parking garage, has been transformed into a vast "membrane pool." An inch of water creates a rippling canvas for a field of choreographed geysers where kids, dozens of kids, in swimsuits and Crocs and sunblock, squeal as they weave between the columns of water. Nearby, fluorescent pink chairs are occupied by smiling, towel-holding parents and buttoned-up city employees, more than a few of whom kick off their shoes and wade into the pool themselves. The whole scene looks even prettier at night.
"It's huge," my friend Kalee Thompson, a writer and Highland Park mom, gushed about the fountain. "It's a great place for kids to play a game of tag on a hot day and a fun place to meet up for a play date or picnic since there is also a big expanse of lawn, public bathrooms and even a Starbucks."
The fountain plaza -- which I've dubbed Toddler Beach -- is the very best part of Grand Park (formerly Civic Park), a new 12-acre strip of public space that cascades down Bunker Hill from the Music Center to the steps of City Hall. Although sections have been functional since July, the fully-operational park officially opens this Saturday, creating a nice outdoor area in the center of the city and bringing some much-needed amenities like a dog run to the neighborhood. It's definitely not "our Central Park," as some have hyped (maybe Bryant Park?), but Grand Park accomplishes a lot, and with very little to work with in this small, park-starved sliver of downtown.More »