18 Things to do in Downtown LA that Rock!
Published by Josh Hirsch.
Los Angeles is a beast of a city – a busy, sprawling urban center with dozens of neighborhoods and thousands of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops, and sites to see. Navigating Los Angeles is difficult enough as a native, but tourists can easily find themselves lost in the City of Angels. With so many large neighborhoods that make up LA, it’s nearly impossible to see them all in one trip, which is why visitors should focus on one at a time.
For years, downtown Los Angeles was considered an entertainment wasteland, but recently, it has become a thriving spot for nightlife and culture. If you’ve written off downtown LA as something you don’t need to see, you may find yourself reconsidering after reading about the top restaurants and things to do in the up-and-coming neighborhood.
Grab a bite at Grand Central Market
The once mostly vacant food hall has become a hotspot for locals and tourists alike, with dozens of vendors – both traditional and experimental – occupying booths throughout the historic site. Hungry travelers can get anything from fresh-squeezed juice and light vegan fare to hearty BBQ and gourmet seafood, especially as part of a delicious Downtown Food Tour. LA’s famed Eggslut even has an outpost in the market, and it makes for a fantastic breakfast to kick off a long day of fun in downtown.
Be amazed by the murals in the Downtown Art District
There’s no shortage of art in Los Angeles, but the historic art district of downtown has been a mainstay in the community since the 1970s. It is home to an extensive collection of murals and other types of unique street art, and hosts a variety of walking tours that can educate you on the history and meaning of some of the art. While you’re enjoying the murals, stop into the highly decorated Angel City Brewery to sample its assortment of craft beers.
Catch up on the city government at City Hall
City Hall, built in 1928, is one of the oldest buildings in all of Los Angeles. It was also the tallest building in the city until modern technology allowed skyscrapers to be built in the 1960s. At 32 floors, it is still tall enough to provide gorgeous views of the city, and you are able to do so at the observation deck on the 27th story. The mayor and members of city council still work here, so you will be visiting a building that has been a major part of the city’s history and will continue to be important into the future.
Get an even higher view at OEU Skyspace
If City Hall didn’t provide you with a thrilling enough view of LA’s skyline, check out the Skyslide exhibit at the US Bank Tower. The tower is the tallest building in LA at 73 floors, and the Skyspace observation deck on the 69th floor provides a unique experience that will wow both architecture geeks and thrill-seekers. You’ll slide down 45 feet of the building’s exterior – encased in glass of course – while taking in stunning views of Los Angeles and the surrounding area. After that, relax on the open-air observation decks, where you’ll be able to decide to look at mountains, buildings, or the ocean.
Catch some tunes at the LA Music Center
The LA Music Center is a collection of 4 different theaters – The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theater, the Mark Taper Forum, the CalArts Theatre, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. No matter what sort of entertainment you are looking for, you are sure to find something that tickles your fancy. Acts include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, and The Center Theatre Group. If you aren’t lucky enough to score tickets to one of these shows, you can always participate in one of the daily guided tours.
Relax at Grand Park
Build in 2012, Grand Park is a 12-acre green space that provides a nice change of pace from city life. While there is plenty to do in the form of performances, restaurants, and gathering places for groups, there are also numerous areas that you can escape to for relaxation. The park houses an interactive fountain as well as a variety of statues and memorials. It’s a great place to sit back and read a book or enjoy a picnic with your friends and family.
Brush up on your reading at The Last Bookstore
The Last Bookstore is a two-story bookstore with a twist. They don’t just buy and sell new and used books – they put a special focus on local art, and it can be seen in the displays and decorations throughout the shop. On top of that, it is also home to the Crocker Club, one of LA’s most exclusive and celebrated cocktail bars.
Experience transit history at Union Station
Los Angeles may not be known for its commitment to public transit, but there is still plenty of history that has passed through on the rails. Built in 1939, Union has been the central transit hub for the city for the better part of a century, and it shows no signs of slowing down. It still acts as the main hub for Amtrak, MetroLink, and MTA trains, so whether you are looking to hitch a ride or simply want to see a historic building, it makes for an excellent stop.
Thumb through some more books at the Los Angeles Central Library
You may have had your fill of books at The Last Bookstore, but don’t worry, you don’t need to read anything else to enjoy the LA Central Library. The jaw-dropping architecture of the building combines art-deco fashion with elements of ancient Mediterranean buildings. It might sound like a hodgepodge of styles, but it works very nicely, especially in a city like LA.
See a show at the Regent Theater
With more than a century under its belt, the Regent Theater has seen its fair share of shows. It began as a cinema but was renovated in 2014 to host live music and comedy performances. Many big names have come through since the renovations, and there will no doubt be many more. The sound is fantastic, especially considering the age, and you can whet your whistle and satiate your appetite at the venue’s bar and pizzeria.
Learn some history at the Grammy Museum
The history of the Grammy’s is an extensive and interesting one, and the Grammy Museum does a great job of covering every genre. At 30,000 square feet, there is more than enough room to learn new facts about your favorite artists.
Appreciate the architecture of the Bradbury Building
Built in 1893, the Bradbury Building is one of the oldest in the entire city of Los Angeles. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and within a minute of stepping inside, it is easy to see why. This classic architectural wonder is rife with sunlight, beauty, and elaborate ornamentation. Film enthusiasts will love climbing the staircases from Blade Runner, and architecture geeks will enjoy the juxtaposition of simple and complex structures.
Take a Stroll down Olvera Street to El Pueblo de Los Angeles
This historical monument is home to the Avila Adobe, which is the oldest surviving structure in Los Angeles. There’s also a Mexican marketplace and a cultural art museum. The entire area is zoned for pedestrians only, so you won’t have to worry about cars getting in your way
Support local artists at the MOCA
The Museum of Contemporary Art keep its main location in downtown, with thousands of works spread throughout. Many smaller artists have works here, but you can also find pieces by some of LA’s most famous creators.
Catch a game at the Staples Center
The Staples Center is a multi-use sports arena that is full of energy and modern amenities. The Lakers are the main draw here, and there’s a good chance you’ll run into to some celebrities if you score tickets to a big game.
Tour the Biltmore Hotel, even if you aren’t staying there
The Biltmore Hotel is one of the oldest in LA and is another site that has gained landmark status. The large, old-school luxury hotel has quite a storied history, with many movies filmed here and many celebrities calling it home for long stretches of time. On top of that, may even claim that the hotel is haunted!
Experience some more culture in Chinatown
Chinatown isn’t particularly large, but it packs quite the punch. With distinct Chinese architecture and a large selection of restaurants, you can find plenty to do in LA’s Chinatown.
Take the Downtown LA Food Tour with Sidewalk Food Tours
Los Angeles is a diverse city with a vast array of local and ethnic cuisines, and many of these are showcased in the downtown neighborhood. With Sidewalk Food Tours’ Downtown LA Food Tour, you’ll get to sample some of the best food that the city has to offer without wasting time researching what you want to eat. Not only will you get to enjoy delectable meals, you’ll also learn the history behind many of the most famous restaurants and cuisines in the city.