Downtown Los Angeles is both gritty and glamorous and is an example of LA’s complexity as a whole. There are a variety of experiences not to be missed here if you are curious about ethnic, historic, or artistic sides of LA. Thanks to some friends of mine who own Edmonton Mudjacking and their recent adventure to LA, I’ve put together the top things to do in downtown Los Angeles.
For two of the best cultural attractions in downtown LA, go up to the top of the hill on Grand Avenue. The first one is The Broad, it’s the contemporary art museum. Admission is free, though you have to get a time ticket on the website to go in. Make sure you do that a bit ahead of time because if not there can be pretty long lines for stand by tickets. There are lots of cool stuff in there, probably worth an hour or an hour and a half inside.
Just next to The Broad is the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is the location of the LA Philharmonic and you can also take free guided tours and self-guided tours of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Most of the guided tours are typically in the morning, you can check their website to see the times for those as well. Walt Disney Concert Hall with its sweeping metal architecture is somewhat reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House.
Take a stroll through downtown LA’s Historic Core district and check out the theaters along Broadway. There were 14 original Los Angeles theaters, almost all of them are now defunct, but the architecture is pretty neat. It’s cool to see the old awnings; some of them like the Million Dollar Theatre is used for private events. But a stroll down Broadway is really great to check out old Hollywood before it moved up to actual Hollywood where most of the theaters that are still in operation in LA are today.
One of my favorite neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles is Little Tokyo. The central of Little Tokyo is the cute Japanese village with blue roofs. There used to be 30,000 Japanese that lived here and now it’s only about five large city blocks, but it’s one of the best places to come for tasty Japanese food, Japanese snacks, and just Japanese culture. So if you are in downtown LA, definitely check out Little Tokyo and make sure you are hungry when you are here.
Just five blocks away from Little Tokyo is the LA arts district. The LA arts district is famous for having big murals of public art. It’s kind of an up and coming neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles. The parking is kind of tough here, there’s not a lot of it, but if you are into public art, and you want to take some great pictures in front of big murals then check out the LA arts district.
If you are hanging around the LA arts district and you are hungry check out Wurstkuche. As you come in the front door, they have a refrigerated case of interesting sausages, of course, there’s German bratwurst, but there’s also some more interesting items like the rattlesnake and duck. To wash your sausages down, they have a big Germanesque beer hall in the back. If you want dessert, well they have only sausages here. Right across the street is a place called Pie Hole which is famous in LA for pie by the slice. It’s not cheap though, those pies will cost you about $6 a slice, almost the same price as the sausage will at Wurstkuche.
Visit downtown Los Angeles’ Chinatown district, originally built in 1938 for some of LA’s Chinese culture. While this isn’t the biggest collection of Chinese culture in LA, there is a little old Chinatown plaza that has the old lantern lights, particularly picturesque at night, still a lot of good Chinese restaurants too. And in the background, you can hear some interesting old Chinese music. They have a little Chinatown gate at the front and a statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China, known to most people as Taiwan. Besides tasty Chinese cuisines, you can pick up some Chinese souvenirs.
Just between Chinatown and Union Station is Olvera Street, which is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles National Monument. This is where the city of Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Spanish settlers. Olvera Street is like a pedestrian street with lots of shops and restaurants. You can get a lot of Mexican souvenirs, Mexican food, and this is also home to Los Angeles’ oldest structure, the Adobe which has been standing since 1818. So once you are done experiencing the Chinese culture in Chinatown, you can experience the Mexican culture on Olvera Street.
Walk over to Los Angeles’ LA Live District – it’s where you will find the Staples Center, Microsoft Theater, Wolfgang Puck, JW Marriott, the Ritz Carlton hotels and there are several restaurants here. This LA live district is most lively at night with the nightclubs and often the sporting events. LA Live District is also home to the Grammy Museum and the Grammy Walk of Fame.