California Spotlight: Downtown L.A.

California Spotlight: Downtown L.A.

By Alejandra Saragoza | Photos by Brin Hanson December 29, 2019

The birthplace and pulsating heart of Los Angeles, Downtown L.A. is a vibrant hub reflecting the city’s past, present, and future. What started as a small settlement in 1781 evolved into the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles, which is now home to 4 million people and draws nearly 50 million annual visitors.

But D.T.L.A. has evolved into a world-famous destination in its own right. A recent renaissance has created a more walkable, dynamic urban center dotted with renowned museums, exclusive entertainment venues, innovative hotels, unique shops, and critically acclaimed restaurants. Thanks to rapidly expanding public transit and bike-sharing options, it’s also easier—and better—than ever to see the prominent neighborhood in all its glory. 

There are countless things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, so for your next urban escape, head to this hoppin’ ’hood and spend a weekend exploring the network of bustling streets bursting with buzzy nightlife destinations, famed cultural attractions, historical landmarks, and numerous boutiques. Here’s a glimpse of the adventures that await.

Built in 1893, the Bradbury Building is the oldest remaining commercial structure in L.A. and is a popular filming location, making appearances in (500) Days of Summer and Blade Runner, among others.
The famed five-story building and architectural landmark is known for its striking interior featuring cage elevators, wooden banisters, and marble staircases. 
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is considered to be an architectural masterpiece. The modern marvel is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale, serving as one of the city's premier cultural destinations.
The Downtown L.A. skyline is already dotted with soaring skyscrapers, but given the current development boom, additional high-rises and towering structures are set to reshape the city over the next decade.
The legendary Million Dollar Theater was one of the earliest and largest movie palaces in the United States when it opened its doors on February 1, 1918, with the premiere of The Silent Man. Guests included Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
Painted by local artist Eloy Torrez in 1985, the 70-foot-tall Pope of Broadway mural depicts Mexican actor Anthony Quinn and harkens back to an important part of Broadway’s history when it served as a commerical center for many Latino immigrants.
Metro Bike Share makes it possible to explore the expanse of Downtown Los Angeles on two wheels. A day pass costs merely $5, and all rides 30 minutes or less are free. 
Public transit options in the city are also expanding, allowing locals and visitors alike to get around the city without a car. 
A downtown landmark since 1917, the Grand Central Market is home to more than 35 vendors selling everything from tacos and ramen to fresh produce and exotic spices. 
This 30,000-square-foot foodie's paradise offers an array of tantalizing options such as Thai street food, artisanal ice cream, California seafood, Latin fare, and wood-fired pizza. 
While Grand Central Market offers ample indoor seating, many diners choose to savor their drinks and delicacies alfresco at the tables facing bustling Broadway.
The famous Angels Flight Railway, also known as the "world's shortest railway", was recently restored to its early 1900s glory. Pay $1 to step back in time and go for a ride up or down Bunker Hill.
One of the few operational funiculars left in California, Angels Flight is another well-known filming location, recently appearing in the Academy Award-winning film La La Land starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. 
Situated near the corner of 5th and Spring Streets, The Last Bookstore is an iconic Los Angeles destination boasting the largest collection of records and new and used books in California. 
Housed in the grand atrium of a former bank, The Last Bookstore offers over 250,000 books, thousands of vinyl records, spaces for book club meetings and events, a labyrinth of book sculptures, a yarn shop, and an art gallery.
The discerning book lover will want for nothing at The Last Bookstore. From new fiction and non-fiction titles to rare books and graphic novels, there's something for every interest in this 22,000-square-foot treasure trove. (There's even a small section where used books are on offer for only $1.)

What are some of your favorite spots in Downtown Los Angeles? Tell us about them in the comments below. And if you're looking for more things to do in L.A., check out our articles on other top Los Angeles destinations.

WRITTEN BY
Alejandra Saragoza

WRITTEN BY Alejandra Saragoza

Alejandra is the managing editor of California.com. She's a California native based in the Bay Area and enjoys writing about all things food and travel related. Her work can also be seen in Diablo, T…

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