Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Snapshot
- Visit Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall: Be wowed by the genius architecture, and grab tickets for an L.A. Phil performance led by Gustavo Dudamel.
- See a Lakers or Clippers game: Catch the action at the Staples Center and possibly rub elbows with stars like Denzel Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio.
- Take a historic walking tour: The L.A. Conservancy offers several tours, such as of Olvera Street, where you can see traditional Mexican culture and shop for goods.
- Peruse the Last Bookstore: This is not only one of the best bookstores in Los Angeles, it's also one of the most fantastical. Peruse the endless collection of rare and used books and LPs downstairs, then go upstairs into a labyrinth of oddities.
- Have a cocktail in old L.A.: Downtown is great for drinking and even better for drinking in the history of Los Angeles. Some of the city's oldest buildings have been converted into glorious hotels with excellent bars, like the NoMad or the Freehand, while other drinking halls have been around for more than a century, like the Golden Gopher.
Cole's. One of the oldest restaurants in L.A., Cole's also lays (disputed) claim to being the originator of the French dip. There's not a lot on the menu, but what they serve is made beautifully. 118 E. 6th St. www.pouringwithheart.com/coles
Grand Central Market. A palace of food stalls that's so overwhelming, it's almost impossible to choose a meal here. But to narrow it down, try either Ramen Hood at stall C-2 or Sticky Rice at stall C-5. 317 S. Broadway www.grandcentralmarket.com
Philippe the Original. The other (disputed) originator of the French dip. Bottom line—when in Downtown and in want of a quick bite, eat a French dip. 1001 N. Alameda St. www.philippes.com
The good news is that freeways 5, 101, 110, and 10 all get you here; the bad news is that the traffic can delay your travels. If you're coming from the Hollywood area, skip the freeways altogether and take Sunset Boulevard, which turns into César Chávez Boulevard. If you’re coming from LAX, take the 105 East to the 110 North. Be warned: parking can be very expensive. It's better to rideshare or take the Metro.
Planning Your Time
Visit weekdays during the day, when the area is bustling and restaurants are open for lunch. The streets are packed weekend nights, and wait times can be long at restaurants and bars. Weekday evenings tend to be much quieter and it's easy to get yourself a table or a barstool. Seeing everything in one day is possible, but it's best to spread it out over two. Plan your visits around specific areas you can walk to in one circuit.