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You might not think it, but there are so many things to do in downtown Los Angeles, it’s amazing how much there is to see and do.
Los Angeles has always felt like a huge, chaotic place that could rinse your wallet dry if you’re not careful.
But downtown Los Angeles felt different.
Perhaps I’m a little city starved, but I found Downtown Los Angeles to be vibrant and fun while not being too chaotic and city overwhelming.
And despite what you might hear about LA, downtown LA doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to see.
If you’re not sure what to do in Downtown LA, here are some of the top attractions and things to do that I enjoyed on my visit.
- What I Loved About Downtown LA
- Save Money On LA Attractions
- Cool Things to Do in Downtown Los Angeles
- 1. Explore the Streets of Downtown Los Angeles
- 2. Check Out OUE SkySpace LA
- 3. Watch the Sunset at the Perch Rooftop Bar
- 4. Watch The Sunset at Upstairs at the Ace Hotel
- 5. Find Some Quiet Time at The Last Bookstore
- 6. Head to Olvera Street and the El Pueblo Historical Monument
- 7. Check Out Grand Central Markets
- 8. See Angels Flight Railway
- 9. Walk Around LA's Chinatown
- 10. Check out the Los Angeles City Hall Observation Deck
- 11. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
- 12. Catch a Performance in the Music Centre
- 13. Check out the Architecture at Bradbury Building
- 14. Visit the Broad Museum
- Places to Eat & Drink in Downtown LA
- Places to Stay in Downtown LA
- Getting Around Downtown LA
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Downtown LA
- Other LA Travel Tips
What I Loved About Downtown LA
I have a confession to make; I’m not the biggest fan of Los Angeles.
I avoid flying in and out of LA whenever possible. If it’s unavoidable, then I head straight for Manhattan Beach or Hermosa Beach in the South Bay area.
When I first visited LA in 2006, Downtown LA was a no go area. Noted for crime and nothing much to see, so we steered clear of it.
Since then it’s gone through a huge revitalization and is known as a hip and happening place.
So when I decided to go to LA for Blog Her conference, I was a little excited to have the opportunity to check out Downtown LA and perhaps change my opinion of Los Angeles.
And it did. I loved my time visiting Downtown Los Angeles.
I love the ability to walk everywhere. I’m a walker and a fast paced one. I rarely get to indulge in that when traveling with kids. I was doing 10 – 15 kilometers a day and loving it.
I loved leaving my centrally located apartment with no particular plans than just to see what I could find. I had a few tips from our community and my accommodation to help guide me.
There’s such a vibrant mix of culture in Downtown LA. I loved walking around and hearing a great mix of accents and language around me.
It is hip and happening. Cool street art, funky cafes, amazing restaurants, a great nightlife, history with a lovely mix of modern.
The weather was perfect.
I usually complain that LA weather is bad when I go to beaches in LA as there is always a cool breeze off the ocean making it feel so much colder than it is.
The Aussie in me says, “that’s not summer!”
But in Downtown LA without the breeze, you get the warm, dry heat, which cools down to comfortable levels during the evening.
Save Money On LA Attractions
If you plan on doing a few attractions in LA, purchase a Sightseeing Pass.
It is a city discount card which will save you money on several big name attractions. we use them in all major cities we visit. (We also work as affiliate partners with The Sightseeing CArd and they provided us with LA passes).
We are happy to share them with you as they can be a great saving tool when you travel.
If you are visiting multiple cities in the USA, a USA Sightseeing Pass may work better for you.
Cool Things to Do in Downtown Los Angeles
Now you know how you can save money on attractions in downtown LA, it’s time to show you the best things to do in the area!
1. Explore the Streets of Downtown Los Angeles
As mentioned, the best way to see Downtown Los Angeles is to walk and see what you find. There are many hidden side streets, funky buildings and amazing street art to see.
Olympic Boulevard, a block away from LA Live, is where I saw the following street art.
Keep an eye out for filming while you do. There seems to be filming happening almost daily in Downtown LA.
I saw them set up in multiple locations.
I walked out of my apartment one morning and the streets had been transformed into New York City. They were shooting a scene from Rosewood. It was cool to watch the behind the scenes of it.
Some areas to explore in Downtown LA:
- Pershing Square
- Grand Park and its many fountains
- Grand Avenue
- The Arts District
- Little Tokyo
- Fashion District and Rodeo Drive
- LA Live
There are plenty of photos you can take of palm trees framing beautiful buildings.
2. Check Out OUE SkySpace LA
Are you brave enough to slide from the 70th to the 60th floor of California’s tallest building on a glass slide?
I thought nothing of it, but a few visitors behind me screamed the city down and many on social media said they wouldn’t do it.
The slide was over so quick you barely notice you’re held up by a piece of glass hanging off the side of a building. I forgot to check how strong it was. I thought it was fun and I promise you it’s not scary.
It is expensive though. It costs around $25 for general admission, or $35 for a trip up to see the 360-degree panoramic views of LA, including one turn on the slide.
It will cost you an extra $8 each time you want to do the slide again. But the Oue Skyspace is a unique experience and worth doing if your budget is not too tight.
It’s also included in the Los Angeles Sightseeing Pass which will save you a huge chunk.
3. Watch the Sunset at the Perch Rooftop Bar
The Perch Rooftop Bar is possibly my favourite rooftop bar in the world (so far) and the best thing I experienced in Downtown LA.
Thank you to Venessa (my accommodation host) for recommending the Perch Rooftop bar to me.
I almost didn’t go as I was tired from my late party the night before with my conference buddies.
But, my window of time was closing and I wanted something awesome to report back to you.
I grabbed myself a glass of Chardonnay, followed by a Shiraz, and soaked up the sunset views and the serenity.
The rooftop bar is perched on top of an old art deco building. The French inspired ambiance is chilled, happy and unpretentious.
There was live music on the restaurant level below and down on the ground in Pershing Square was a vibrant Gays against Guns festival.
I was smart enough to drag myself back out once the sun went down for an early night.
4. Watch The Sunset at Upstairs at the Ace Hotel
If you’re looking for a place to just hang for awhile, this is it.
Bring your swimmers, your book, and even your laptop. My last afternoon/evening was spent at the Upstairs rooftop bar at the Ace Hotel.
There’s a lovely Moroccan designed covered area popular for people for those tapping away on their computers with an ice cold happy hour PBA.
It’s a digital nomad’s dream office with those LA views. For the cooler days and nights, there’s a fire to sit around as well.
Walk through the bar to the other side was a swimming pool.
Yep. What an amazing way to cool off from a hot summer LA Day. There are plenty of lounge chairs for you to chill out on as well.
Then enjoy the spectacular sunset. There aren’t as many high rises here as there are around the Perch Bar so you get to see more of the setting sun.
Try the tofu tacos – they look simple, but pack in a lot of flavour.
5. Find Some Quiet Time at The Last Bookstore
If you are a book nerd, you’ll want to reserve a couple of hours to lose yourself in The Last Bookstore.
Since opening in 2015, The Last Bookstore has been on a mission to ““keep the paper and ink book business alive in an era of e-readers and digital downloads”
The Last Bookstore is California’s largest used and new book and record store and began in a Downtown LA loft. It has grown since then to 22,000 square feet and is housed in the grand atrium of what was once a bank.
The best treasures are kept upstairs. It’s a labyrinth of books suspended in flight as they erupt from a bookcase, tunnels built from books, hidden side rooms with more than 100,000 used books for sale, plus free-standing sculptures and mobiles.
The only thing missing is a cafe!
6. Head to Olvera Street and the El Pueblo Historical Monument
I can’t believe I stumbled upon this area in my quest to find good coffee at Union Station.
Imagine just stumbling upon a square surrounded by Spanish-style historical buildings, churches, and cobblestone streets. I soon discovered this was the site of the first settlement in LA!!
Olvera Street, LA’s first street, is a long, narrow, tree-shaded brick lined market with old structures, street vendors, cafes and restaurants famous for tacos.
Adobe Avila is the oldest house in LA, which you can take a walk through.
It’s in an area that is not too developed with high rises so it feels so authentic and you can look out from the garden across to the Spanish style Union Station.
I visited a couple of times as I found it a peaceful and pretty place in LA to be in.
7. Check Out Grand Central Markets
Feeling hungry or thirsty and just want a young, vibrant, multicultural atmosphere? Head to the Grand Central Markets on Hill Street.
The markets opened in 1917 and had stalls such as greengrocers, fishmongers, Jewish delis, and butchers, as well as stalls for dry goods, baked goods, flowers, coffee, cheese, notions.
It has evolved into a food emporium, retail marketplace and gathering place.
I ate here several times. It was easy, fun, and fairly cheap. It was crazy to watch the lines for some of the vendors, in particular, the many Mexican food stalls, and Eggslut.
I’m not sure what Eggslut had going on besides a very interesting name. I was not about to join the line that wrapped around the stall almost twice to find out. I don’t do lines.
But someone on Instagram stories told me their food is worth it if you’re willing.
I instead grabbed a very authentic and delicious pad Thai from Sticky Rice, a ramen rice bowl from Ramen hood, a creamy coffee from G&B coffee (the waffles smelt amazing here) and a thirst quenching cider from Golden Road Brewery.
I also had a smoothie from Press Brothers Juicery, but I didn’t find it too ravable, although I am a harsh smoothie critic.
8. See Angels Flight Railway
Across the road from Grand Central Markets is a bright orange archway leading to the world’s shortest railway at 298 feet.
It’s a quirky historical landmark which last stopped running in 2013 after one of the twin cars slipped off the track – with an Aussie tourist inside!!
My local friend, Lizza told me about it. She was shocked that I had missed it on my first visit to the Grand Central Markets. It’s short enough to miss!
Angels Flight was originally built (in a nearby location) to carry residents of the luxe homes on Bunker Hill to their jobs in downtown. By the 1950s, it had carried more than 100 million passengers.
It won’t be reopened until they can upgrade the safety so passengers won’t be flung out the doors. Hilarious. For now, you can take a look and a few photos and climb up the steep stairs instead.
You may also recognize it as it featured in the movie La La Land.
9. Walk Around LA’s Chinatown
There’s not a lot to see in Chinatown and probably not worth a visit unless you are mad on Chinatowns.
I did stumble upon this beautiful temple, just near the Chinatown gates. I like the photos I took which is why I’m sharing it with you!
Chinatown in LA is known for its dim sum. Being gluten free I can’t tell you whether they’re good or not!
10. Check out the Los Angeles City Hall Observation Deck
If you think the Oue SkySpace is a little pricey for you, then the City Hall Observation Deck is a cheaper alternative and also gives you 360 degree views of the city.
Not only is it free, but from the 27th floor, you can see views across the whole city, including of the famous Hollywood Sign on a clear day.
11. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
If you’re fascinated by quirky and abstract modern art, then the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is the place to go.
It was established in 1979 by a collection of artists, dedicated to showcasing and preserving contemporary art. In fact, it’s the only artist-founded museum in LA.
The gallery has around 7,500 pieces, including some significant and ground-breaking works.
12. Catch a Performance in the Music Centre
If you’re looking for things to do in downtown Los Angeles at night, then take advantage of all the music theaters and performance venues in downtown.
Disney Hall is located in the heart of the music center, and is a beautiful and interesting building designed by Frank Gehry. It is the home of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra.
I did appreciate this building from the outside, but you can also do hour-long tours of the inside on most days, or self-guided audio tours.
Catch an opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, or visit the Ahmanson Theatre for a Broadway-style musical, or the Mark Taper Forum for drama productions.
13. Check out the Architecture at Bradbury Building
Another building worth checking out is the Bradbury Building. From the outside, you may think it’s just another building, but when you walk into the entry way, you will see why it’s worth seeing.
The office building has this beautiful skylit atrium which has a series of access walkways, stairs and elevators, built using wood, iron and brick.
It was built in the early 80s by gold-mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury. You may even recognize this building from the movie Blade Runner, or as the official office of the Mayor of LA.
If you’re not familiar with the film, you should be sure to visit this building anyway. The building is a private office space, except for the ground floor which is open to the public.
14. Visit the Broad Museum
The Broad is another contemporary art museum that’s hugely popular. In fact, the line was far too long for me to contemplate joining the free tour of this contemporary art museum.
But you can save time and energy by booking tickets in advance.
It became increasingly popular after the inclusion of the Infinity Mirror Rooms by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
But there are actually more than 2,000 pieces in the museum from Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection. Also in the gallery are works by iconic artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jeff Koons.
Video of The Top Things to Do in Downtown LA
Places to Eat & Drink in Downtown LA
Apart from the aforementioned Grand Central Markets, Upstairs and Perch bar here are a few other places I enjoyed eating and drinking at in Downtown Los Angeles.
Juice Crafters became my go to for my morning smoothie. For those who follow me on Snapchat, you know I have a slight smoothie addiction.
They nailed it with their Pacific Love smoothie complete with bee pollen and royal jelly. Love the goodness of the bees! Their green juices were also great.
A dimly lit a Tex-Mex cantina, Bar Ama came highly recommended to me as the place for delicious Mexican food.
I had the AMÁ’S ENCHILADAS – carrot sofrito, queso fresco, potato. I really didn’t know what many of those words meant, but it sounded good so I took a punt.
It was a little small and expensive, but delicious and paired beautifully with my glass of white wine that I could not pronounce!
I was disappointed I missed their nachos hour at the bar by a couple of minutes. I had to sit at the bar anyway as it was super busy! Make a reservation if you visit.
Apparently, the fluffy tacos and mescal based drinks are the things to be seen having at Bar Ama.
If you’re looking for some pub grub, Beelman’s Pub is a pretty cool place to hang out.
You can sit outside and watch the DTLA life go by. There are happy hours every afternoon and decently priced meals.
It was my first meal in Downtown LA, and the first of many fish tacos! They were delicious. I highly recommend pairing it with a bowl of chili lime edamames!
I loved all the music memorabilia on the wall. It seemed to be a bit of a local’s favourite and a cool meeting place.
The Conga Room
Now y’all might visit and not have the incredible DJ Fulano as your DJ like we did. He was the host of our final BlogHer party. They outdid themselves.
Not only did he play the best music I’ve heard from a DJ in a very long time, he is only 13, and has worked live events for such luminaries as Stevie Wonder, President Clinton and Diane von Furstenber since he was 9!
No wonder he knows to spin such classic tunes.
The Conga Room is in the LA Live area and is known as one of the hottest clubs in Downtown LA and often frequented by celebrities.
We grabbed a spot out on the balcony so we could chat with each other, but kicked up our heels for a bit of dancing on the way out. Snapchat and Instagram stories followers got the inside look at that!
The Library Bar
The Library Bar was our next stop after The Conga Room. It was a bit more of a mellow place to hang out with its book-lined walls and leather couches.
I found the music a little too loud for its style that seemed to encourage intimate conversations.
We only hung around for one drink, but it’s worth checking out. It’s well known for its cocktail happy hour.
Casey’s Irish Pub
You just can’t beat an Irish pub right? Particularly as your last stop for the night.
Casey’s is an underground pub that once was a general store and a Turkish Bath House. It has a lot of character, great Guinness, live music, and games like pool in the outdoor patio, and basketball hoop shooting. Fun place to be!
Places to Stay in Downtown LA
If you’re still looking for somewhere to stay in Downtown LA, then here are some places we loved.
My friends stayed at the Sheraton Grand, so I went back to their room a couple of times. It looked fantastic and the location is central to many of the buzzing restaurants and nightlife.
I stayed at the J. W. Marriott in the LA Live area, next to the Staples Centre and where most of the nightlife is. It was comfortable and the location is also excellent.
You may enjoy the glamorous downtown boutique hotel Hotel Indigo, which we also stayed in and loved!
Getting Around Downtown LA
When it comes to getting around downtown LA, it’s pretty easy. I either walked or used Uber. There wasn’t any need to use public transportation, other than getting to downtown.
Uber and other ride share apps like Lyft and RideGuru tend to be cheaper than the Yellow cab taxis. You can also get a metro bus and there is also a metro, though you probably won’t need to use it to get around downtown.
If you are staying in other parts of LA and need to get to downtown, the metro train station is Downtown Union Station.
And of course, there is always the sightseeing hop on, hop off bus.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Downtown LA
Downtown LA is one of the coolest places in California and has so much to see and do in such a small area.
Whether you’re looking for scenic viewpoints, hip bars to party in, or even just want to kick back in one of the movie theaters – downtown LA has it all.
I hope this guide helped you plan your trip to LA and gave you some inspiration for what to do there.
Before you go, bare in mind that saturdays and sundays are heaving with tourists so try to plan your visit for midweek if you can.
Other LA Travel Tips
Need more inspiration for visiting LA? Here are some other guides that may be useful to you…
- What to do in LA with kids
- 10 Day Itinerary – Best Places to Visit in Southern California (beyond Disneyland)
- The Ultimate guide of best things to do in LA
- 8 non-touristy things to do in LA
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What other things to do in Downtown LA do you recommend? Let us know in the comments.