Every month or so, my friend Krysta and I try to get out and have, what we’ve come to call, a field trip day. We’ve branched out a couple times, but time after time, we keep finding our way to Downtown LA to spend a portion of our Friday covering major ground on foot and exploring a slew of places. It seem to be never-ending…there’s always new things we haven’t done and old favorites that we can’t say no to.
I love researching and finding new places to explore–I actually keep categorized lists on Evernote of different places I have visited or want to visit (so dorky…I know).
So, in an effort to share the awesome-ness that I’ve come to discover, I want to present to you my list of things to do, places to eat & drink, and hidden gems to explore in Downtown LA*. I’m highlighting my favorites and giving you some honorary mentions for you to check out on your own.
Part of the draw to Downtown is that it is easily accessed by the Metro. This eliminates the hassle of parking and provides a little added adventure and time to read or catch up on those emails. There are several stops in Downtown, so plan your trip out according to where you want to go.
Once you’re in Downtown, the Dash bus runs throughout the area, arriving every 10 minutes on weekdays (there’s a more limited schedule on weekends), and costing only 50 cents each way.
There are ample bike lanes throughout Downtown, but biking may not be for the faint of heart. There can be lots of traffic during the weekdays, but if you happen to be there on a weekend, the streets empty out and you can have the road to yourself. Bonus: you can bring your bikes on the Metro…ride the train into downtown and bike around once you get there
Downtown is not very big. If you plan your trip right, you can cover lots of stops on foot. And since you’re moving a little slower, you’ll be able to catch things you wouldn’t otherwise notice–like street art, or a little door that leads to a temporary art gallery. Just make sure to wear proper sun protection, bring water, and wear good shoes.
You may recognize this beautiful historical building from The Artist, 500 Days of Summer, and Blade Runner. Despite it’s Hollywood fame, the building is stunning—-cast iron rails, marble, a glass ceiling, and old timey elevators. Anyone can walk in to see the building, but since it still houses office space, visitors are only allowed onto the first landing.
Observation Deck at City Hall
This is a very unassuming, and kind of touristy thing to do, but it provides a wonderful 360 view of the city. Once you enter City Hall and go through minor security, you’ll register and then head up to the 27th floor (by way of a couple elevators and some stairs) where you’ll go through a weird little room and out a set of narrow teal doors. This will place you on a small balcony that wraps around the building and has little signs of landmarks in the distance.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Grand Park LA
Los Angeles Central Library (make sure to pay a visit to the Rotunda on the 3rd floor)
The Last Bookstore
DTLA Art Walk
Probably my favorite place to eat downtown, Bottega is a restaurant, bar and bakery. Very European in feel, it is simple, classy, and not overly expensive. Their food is delicious, their cocktails are fabulous and their French Macarons are the best I’ve had in LA (try the Salted Caramel and the Earl Grey).
Sister restaurant to Baco Mercat, Bar Ama is chef Josef Centeno’s take on Tex-Mex. And it’s to die for. Anything you order will be good, but if you need a suggestion, try the Chile Relleno. They also have a great selection of Tequila and Mezcal.
Grand Central Market
This indoor market has lots of tasty food options. Grab a coffee from G&B Coffee and peruse the options—-cheese shops to seafood to gelato.
This favorite Downtown bar is a whiskey bar decked out with plaid and taxidermy. Fresh, seasonal cocktails and a Whiskey Society…What’s not to love?
True confession–I have never been to Perch. Which is apparently the sin of all Los Angeles sins according to the gasps I get when I say I have never been. But I guess that makes it worth mentioning here. This French inspired rooftop bar boasts the best views of Downtown and makes for a magical night out.
There are lots more items on my list that I either haven’t done or simply didn’t make the Highlight Reel cut. Feel free to contact me for the full list.
I’m considering putting together some suggested itineraries similar to these …thoughts?
Have you explored Downtown LA? What are your favorite spots?
*Excluding Arts District…that deserves it’s own post.