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Issue: Issue Fall 2010

The Amazing LA Race


 

It's a sightseeing tour… It's a game… It's a scavenger hunt. It's an immersive experience. It's, well, it's all of the above - and more!  The challenge is how to write an article about Hollywood and Los Angeles' most unusual sightseeing "event," the Amazing LA Race, without telling too much about it and spoiling the fun.

Launched in LA a year  ago by actor/ writers Larry Toffler and Bob Glouberman, the race is a cross between the DaVinci Code and the popular Amazing Race reality show (which they assert  could have been "inspired"  by their pitch to a TV network).  It is actually the second such race after a Cozumel, Mexico version created for Carnival Cruise Lines. 


 

"It's a very active experience," says Larry.  "You can't just sit and watch. You actually need to interact with your surroundings in order to get from one place to another. And by surroundings, we don't just mean places. We mean people too."  Their newest venture is the Amazing Santa Monica Race.

The Los Angeles race is run each Saturday and Sunday with future plans to make it a daily event.  It convenes in the Hollywood Bowl picnic area adjacent to the historic Hollywood Studio Museum and unfolds from there.

After official welcome by a staff member (on the day we played Larry Toffler did the honors), participants arrange themselves into teams  and choose a team name.  No need to worry about this, teams are made up of who you came with, of two to eight people.  The more hands and feet and brains you have on your team, the better the chance of winning or, at the very least,  completing the race before dark.  All teams meet at the starting line, where they receive their first clue.

As Larry emphasized in his welcoming remarks, focusing on the experience and not the race is where the fun is.   Armed with our first clue and an identifying badge around our necks, we were off and running…almost.  First you have to find your next clue.  This is when we realized that this race wasn't going to be easy.  The solution to each clue leads to a new location and a new clue, then to the next and so on. The team that solves all the clues and crosses the finish line in the least amount of time is crowned the winner. Fun, packed with surprises and an assortment of ingeniously devised clues and a cast of support players, our race took us from key Hollywood locations to downtown LA via the Metrorail.  Solving the clues that reveal the next location had us chasing all over downtown from Central Market to Figueroa and 5th Street and back.


 

Perhaps the hardest part of the race was resisting the urge to stop and enjoy  some of the sights, but this was a race and the clock was ticking.  The pace is your own, but there were lots of stairs and a couple of miles walking both downtown and in Hollywood.  Comfortable clothes and shoes are a must.

Saturday in Hollywood and the streets were teaming with visitors.  Using  the Metro as our primary transportation is a requirement and even part of the game.  Like Hollywood, the subway was getting its share of business but arriving downtown, the experience was surreal.  Streets were almost deserted and it seemed like we had the city all to ourselves.  One of the other teams reported later that they ventured onto Broadway where the street scene was much more vibrant.



Gazing at the tall gleaming buildings and checking out the monumental art gave us a new appreciation of downtown.  Along the  way we delighted in the grandeur of Disney Hall and the whimsy of our own funicular railway.  With the exception of one team visiting from San Diego, all the other teams were "local", that is, from Brentwood, Santa Monica and Torrance.  Everyone, from the most to the least familiar with Los Angeles, remarked that they came away with a whole new appreciation for our town.


 

It was go, go, go every minute and the last downtown clue was a race against time which had to be solved before exiting the subway.  The pressure was on but soon we were back in Hollywood and its star lined sidewalks with only two more clues to go.  We were now racing up and down the streets for the big finish.  Three and one-half hours later we joined the other teams for the Amazing L.A. Race's award ceremony.  We were the last to arrive.  However over beers, chips and salsa,  the talk was lively and triumphant all agreeing that the day had been perfect and well worth the time and money.   This definitely wasn't about winning or losing, it was all about playing the game. DH