Visiting Velaslavasay Panorama

Say what now?

I’d heard about the Velaslavasay Panorama years ago and was intrigued. First, there’s that name. To this day I still can’t remember it correctly. Second, a panorama? Nowadays?

You see, in the 19th century before tv, film and radio the panorama made for a night of entertainment. Folks would visit the panorama to be surrounded by a painted landscape and immersed in a world they might never see. Or to smooch. With dim lighting and mood music it was an ideal environment for each situation.

Today, it’s rare to find a panorama still in use. Unless, you’re in Los Angeles. Nestled in the heart of the city in the West Adams district is the Velaslavasay Panorama.


I’d long been interested in the panorama and had even stood right in front of it when catching a play at the 24th Street Theatre situated right across the street. But you know how it goes…you want to see the panorama but you’ve got things to do and it’s not going anyplace…

Well, last week I decided to finally stopped by. I even dragged my mom and sister along so we could all experience it.


We paid our admission, climbed the stairs and entered the heart of the arctic.

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Rather, we entered a room where there were painted icebergs, iceberg sculptures and the sounds of icebergs crashing playing on a loop. Are you getting that there were icebergs?

It was…unique. As we sat in the panorama we all wondered if 19th century folks really found this appealing. I know they didn’t have film and tv but was this that interesting for them? Maybe. Or maybe they just wanted a dark place to smooch.

After a few minutes in the “arctic” we explored the rest of the place. The panorama is located in the historic Union Theatre built in 1915. A small neighborhood theater rather than a movie palace the Union showed newsreels. When that fell out of favor it became among other things a tile layers union house. Today, it’s restored and home to the panorama. A small theatre still remains to showcase live events.

As nothing was scheduled during our visit we passed through the theatre into the garden. A real, honest to goodness garden.

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Part forest, part tropical oasis, part film set it was an interesting spot and we all thought it would be a fun place to throw a party.

The Velaslavasay Panorama is certainly a unique part of the Los Angeles landscape. It may not be for everyone but I’m still glad it’s here.



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