The Hollywood Bowl – A Treat for the Whole FamilyOctober 15, 2011 1 Comment
Whether you’re visiting Los Angeles or a long time Southern California resident, your children will love experiencing some of the finest music in the world at the Hollywood Bowl. This outdoor concert venue is one of the best known attractions in greater Los Angeles, and it’s perfect for kids of all ages, and has a variety of programs and musical adventures to suit just about any child – or adult.
This large outdoor concert venue isn’t named for the domed band shell that makes the stage an iconic landmark, but rather for the natural area created by the topography of the Hollywood Hills in which the Bowl is located. Just north of Hollywood proper, I’ve taken my kids to the Bowl since they were babies in arms.
From a plethora of family friendly evening concerts to specialized morning programs just for small children and free, day time rehearsals the whole family can enjoy, there’s always an opportunity for great music at a reasonable cost. One caveat: while scattered concerts take place year round, the children’s programs and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra season run June to October.
SummerSounds, a just-for-kids morning concert series and art studio program began in 1968, when the program was called “Open House” at the Hollywood Bowl. A six week series that runs July to August every weekday morning, this musical festival has performances running at both ten and eleven a.m. on a stage set up at the patio of the Hollywood Bowl Museum.
My kids saw wonderful multi-cultural programs from flamenco dancers to big band jazz; last summer’s offerings included a Korean musical presentation including fan dancing, gospel, and Irish folk. Each presentation offers up an art project for the kids to partake in after a performance, from crafting one’s own musical instrument with rubber bands, wood, and cardboard, to designing necklaces or sculptures inspired by the music. Perfect for children ages three and up, the SummerSounds series also offers discounted group tickets – LA based parents take note – it’s a great activity for your pre-school or parents group to enjoy together. One of the things we always took advantage of with this program was an offer you can’t refuse: if you purchase three SummerSounds programs you can receive two free tickets to an evening Philharmonic performance at the Bowl.
While the costs for SummerSounds are truly reasonable, there’s an even more cost-effective option in these economic times. Free rehearsals. During the day before a scheduled performance, the Philharmonic rehearses on the Bowl’s main stage. Come in for free, settle down, enjoy for as long as you’d like, and then leave again to explore the lovely wooded grounds of the Bowl. Or check out the exhibits at the Bowl museum. This friendly space has many interactive exhibits all about music, the Bowl’s history, and its architecture. The museum is also free during the day, and is open to ticket holders until show time on performance days. An outdoor walk includes interpretive panels depicting the history and points of interest surrounding the Bowl. You can pick up a free map on-line or in the museum.
Certain evening concerts will be better for children than for others. When my daughter was just two, she clapped her hands along to an opening Hollywood Bowl Orchestra version of “Turkey in the Straw” and then fell quietly, blissfully asleep for the Brahms, even though it was not Brahms Lullabye being performed. A babe in arms, my son slept through Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and the fireworks that followed. At four and five, my kids enjoyed sitting in the least expensive bench seats, way in the back, with the bowl a perfect pearl in the distance ahead of them, the sound perfect, and the ability to stand and dance during the music. School age children will love movie sound track sing alongs – we’ve participated in both a sing along for The Sound of Music and for Grease. Both presentations including big screen film clips, costumed performers, and audience members costumed like the movie characters, too.
Another awesome child-friendly event: a performance of Walt Disney’s Fantasia score. With film clips on the Bowl’s giant screen illuminating a live sound track by the Orchestra. Fireworks capped this evening, too.
Only you can decide whether your small child will enjoy an evening concert, sleep through it, maintain a respectful quiet or not. Having begun evenings at the Bowl at early ages, my kids love going there and retain a going-to-church like reverence for the proceedings. And there’s something about sitting outdoors with the stars and moon above you, palm trees swaying in an evening breeze, and popcorn – that makes an evening of Bowl-ing a wonderful, child and parent satisfying event. An extra bonus of course is pre-show picnicking on the grounds – bring finger food favorites to eat at picnic benches, on a grassy overlook, or even in your seats. We love the food friendly policy at the Bowl, allowing us to bring those all important healthy food items like carrots with hummus from home, while still indulging in a sweet chocolate treat on site.
We love seeing popular acts there too – from Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame to this year’s splendid, inspiring indie rock evening with The National. If you’re bringing multi-age children and you’re worried about sound levels, headphones may do the trick. We’ve seen many a small child with headphones as a fashion statement.
But whether you go by day for a rehearsal or a scheduled children’s program, or by night for a magical evening under the stars, do go – the Hollywood Bowl is a musical experience your children, and you, will be sure to appreciate.