54 of the Best Things To Do in Downtown L.A.

Listed in no particular order…
831

What to Do

Rooftop Destinations

The view from the top of the US Bank Tower

Photograph by Awoken Photography

Want to see the city from another angle? We’ve got a few ideas for you.

22. OUE Skyspace LA

The US Bank Tower lost its title as L.A.’s tallest building to the Wilshire Grand, but it gained two open-air observation decks. Can’t stomach the exterior-hugging glass Sky-slide? A meal at Vartan Abgaryan’s 71Above goes down easy, and the views are enjoyed from within.

23. City Hall Observation Deck

Walk into the city’s elegant 1928 control center, snag a visitor’s pass from the front desk,and take two elevators to the 26th floor. The terrace—just below the tower’s ziggurat—offers a breathtaking panorama.

24. Perch

One of DTLA’s OG rooftops, Perch was pretty much made for sipping a glass of Cava or a craft cocktail and gazing at Bunker Hill and Pershing Square. The ceramic tiles lend a Parisian vibe. Savor it with truffle poutine and steak frites, served until midnight most days.

25. The Rooftop

A perennial scene, the Standard DTLA rooftop has broad appeal: Beer fans appreciate the Hefeweizens and giant pretzels served in a German biergarten, Instagrammers vie for Boomerang ops in waterbed “pods,” while the club set comes for the nightly DJs.

26. Upstairs

An instant classic when it opened three years ago, the Ace Hotel’s sky high sanctuary is the place to go to sate yourself with pineapple mojitos and egg-plant barbacoa tacos—served poolside and in the lounge area. Almost-nightly DJs provide the soundtrack.

27. WP24

Wolfgang Puck’s brand of Chinese cooking is one reason to head to the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live. But summertime movie screenings, two floors up on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, are an added perk. Dine in for dinner, then enjoy a flick and dessert alfresco.

Parks

LA State Historic Park

Photograph by Dustin Snipes

28. Los Angeles State Historic Park

Like much of the city, downtown has long been park poor. But not anymore. If Grand Park helped combat that image when it opened in 2012, Los Angeles State Historic Park has done away with it entirely. Completed earlier this year, the undulating 32-acre patch of green space on the northern border of Chinatown is unlike anything else in the area—big and broad, with plenty of shade trees (albeit young ones) and a crescent-shaped pedestrian bridge from which you can take it all in. Once Gabrielino-Tongva stomping grounds, the parcel later became a thriving rail depot and, eventually, a hotly contested strip of brownfield slated for industrial development.

That is, until the site was acquired by California State Parks in 2001. More than 65 public meetings were held to decide the best way to use the space, and a temporary version of the park was launched in 2005. “It was built with people rather than for people,” says State Parks superintendent Sean Woods. “We were able to imagine all the elements that we’d like to bring to the center of the city: urban habitat, recreational areas, places to talk about the history and culture of the city, and a great venue for community events.”

After several delays, the park—which includes a welcome center, ranger station, and wetlands—opened in April, the culmination of a $20 million renovation. Other final touches,  like a walkway from Broadway to increase accessibility and a medicinal plant garden, are in the works. So is a giant waterwheel by artist Lauren Bon, which will be installed on a park-adjacent embankment of the L.A. River. “The park begins to create a geographic center for the city because it’s so profound in terms of scale and the urban context,” says Woods. “People will begin to identify it with the historic core of the city, the cradle of Los Angeles.”

29. Blue Ribbon Garden

Ascend the stairs outside Disney Hall and you’ll find yourself in a shaded rooftop hideaway, complete with a Frank Gehry-designed fountain.

30. Arts District Park

Small but mighty, the half-acre plot opened last November. Funny how a little greenery transforms a hood.

31. Vista Hermosa Natural Park

Just outside downtown in Echo Park, the gorgeous space offers stunning skyline views, lush greenery, and an especially creative play space for kids.

32. Spring Street Park

Designed by Lehrer Architects, the pocket park between 4th and 5th streets is a surprising little oasis.

Art

Photograph by Dustin Snipes

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows the Arts District as well as Cindy Schwarzstein. The founder of Cartwheel Art Tours, she leads customizable, in-depth excursions through the area. Here’s a quick one she made for us.

33. Art Share L.A.

The warehouse serves as a community art space, with affordable housing, studios, and a gallery. “It really speaks to what the Arts District was when it first became known as the Arts District,” Schwarz stein says. Pick up a Cartwheel Art map while you’re there.

34. UTI Crew Hall of Fame Yard

In the parking lot across from Art Share L.A., three walls feature the work of the UTI Crew, an international graffiti collective founded in L.A. in the mid-’80s. Look up to the right, at the back of the American Hotel, to glimpse a towering portrait of a Navajo weaver by artist El Mac.

35. Angel City Brewery (for the art)

So nice, it’s on this list twice. At Traction and Alameda you’ll see street artist Hueman’s floral mural honoring Joel Bloom, the activist regarded as the district’s unofficial mayor until his death in 2007. Stop at the brewery for a pint of Marilyn Blonde beneath the watchful eyes of a Wrinkles in the City mural by French artist JR.

36. Hauser & Wirth

After checking out the gallery, enjoy the free Wi-Fi in the public garden. Those chickens milling about provide eggs for the on-site restaurant, Man uela. The courtyard mural of the praying woman by Else Oner predates the gallery.

37. Hammer and Spear

This studio/showroom specializes in vintage and designer furniture, but it sells jewelry and perfume, too. “Some people don’t know it’s there,” Schwarz stein says, “but it’s one of my favorite places to go and shop.”

Historic Movie Palaces

A screening of “Gone With the Wind” at the Los Angeles Theatre

Photograph by Kelley Lee Barrett for Cinespia

It’s fitting that the movie capital of the world has the world’s largest concentration of historic movie palaces. A dozen opulent theaters remain along Broadway, each built between 1910 and 1931. Their architectural features were lifted from countries around the globe: The curtain at the Los Angeles features a courtly French scene, the Palace is drenched in Italianate decor, and the Arcade is modeled after an English music hall. In their heyday most did double duty as live venues for the likes of Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong, and not much has changed. Today some continue to host screenings—many part of the Eat/See/Hear, Cinespia, and Last Remaining Seats series—but the programming is still full of primo comedy, music, and even podcast performances.

38. Los Angeles Theatre

The most lavish of the bunch raised its curtain in 1931 for the premiere of Chaplin’s City Lights, and the Little Tramp brought Albert Einstein as his guest. The French Baroque palace had some high-tech accoutrements, including a system that projected the movie onto a second screen downstairs, neon illumination in the aisles, and a panel of lights denoting where you could park your keister.

39. The Theatre at Ace Hotel

Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and director D.W. Griffith teamed up in 1919 to launch their own movie studio. Eight years later the “United Artists” built a Spanish Gothic auditorium modeled on a 16th-century cathedral in Segovia. Look for the founders’ faces in the balcony murals.

40. Million Dollar Theatre

Before he orchestrated the first movie premiere at the Egyptian or christened the autographed forecourt at the Chinese, showman Sid Grauman built this downtown fantasy in 1918. “It’s over the top with rich detail,” says Escott Norton, executive director of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation. “It has Spanish influence, but then it has Egyptian details running right into a Corinthian column.”  

Activities 

LA Boulders

41-44. Recreation Stations

The Arts District has its sporty side, too. Weekends can get busy at the Los Angeles Gun Club, an indoor shooting range where 15 lanes are open seven days a week. Or trade the handguns for handholds next door at LA Boulders, where there’s 11,500 square feet of climbing terrain. About a mile away you’ll need connections to crack the code and score an invite to the private indoor skate park the Berrics. Code cracking comes in handy at EscapeIQ, too, where you can try puzzling your way out of one of three themed escape rooms.

Where to Shop

For a Little Bit of Everything

 

A post shared by ROW DTLA (@rowdtla) on

45. ROW DTLA

From the street, ROW DTLA (more affectionately referred to as the Row) isn’t much to look at. Set foot inside, however, and you’ll see that what was once an enormous turn-of-the-century produce hub for the Southern Pacific Railroad has been reimagined as the ultimate mixed-use project. Situated near the Arts District, the complex may be best known for Smorgasburg, a foodie wonderland held each Sunday in the parking lot. But with 1.3 million square feet of rentable space, the Row is also gradually filling up with retailers, fitness concepts, and, of course, restaurants. Storefronts have been opening on a rolling basis, and you can already stop by vintage purveyor Gossamer, modern furniture outlet A+R, and eccentric giftery Yolk. On the horizon? The first West Coast outpost of NYC’s Shadowbox gym, Ryan and Travis Croxton’s famed Rappahannock Oyster Bar, and Australia’s Paramount Coffee Project.

For Your Kicks

A Sneaker Care Technician at Jason Markk

Photograph courtesy Jason Markk

46. Jason Markk

French Dramatist Charles-Guillaume Étienne (or The Fifth Element’s Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg, depending on whom you ask) coined the axiom “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Which is how Jason Markk (the dude) ended up opening Jason Markk (the store), the world’s first sneaker dry cleaning service.

In the early aughts Markk—then in advertising—was frustrated by the lack of options for keeping his sneakers pristine. “The stuff that was five bucks a can at Foot Locker wasn’t specialized for the sneaker collector,” he says. So Markk capitalized on a need. In 2007, after hiring a chemist and perfecting a sneaker-friendly formula, he launched an eponymous line of care products. Seven years later he opened a flagship boutique in Little Tokyo, where a team of apron-clad Sneaker Care Technicians (SCTs) removes everything from dirt to blood (yikes). The idea sounds niche, but consider this: Sneakers have become status symbols, not to mention wearable investments. The person who buys a pair of Yeezys at the stratospheric re-sale price of $4,000 will want them to look fresh at all times.

Whether your shoes are leather, canvas, or suede, SCTs assess the damage and recommend a treatment. The standard turnaround time is three days, with services ranging from $5 (deodorizing) to $65 (deep cleaning). Busy days yield upwards of 80 drop-offs, often from celebs like Lupe Fiasco and Swaggy P. With more than 20,000 pairs cleaned, the store is getting its kicks.

Twofer Shopping Destinations

47. The Wheelhouse

Bicycles + Coffee
Pop in to tweak your ride or browse the selection of commuter-friendly cycling merch, from Handsome bikes to Yakkay helmet covers (for a hatlike effect). While you wait, you can hit the adjoining coffee shop for a shot of Washington’s Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. espresso and pastries from Venice’s Superba Food + Bread.

48. Alchemy Works

Local Wares + Warby Parker Eyeglasses
Hometown heroes get all the love in this store across from Hauser & Wirth. Chris Earl furniture and Clare V. handbags mingle with vintage home decor finds and goods from a rotating roster of California-based designers. Eyewear guru Warby Parker has set up a branch in the back—one of four in L.A. that carries most of the brand’s line.

49. Arts District Co-Op

Flea Market + Live Music
Formerly Arts District Flea, the 15,000-square-foot space hosts more than two dozen stores offering everything from jewelry and apparel to home goods and oversize paintings by L.A. artisans. On the third Saturday of the month you can groove to local bands like Flow She Goes and Sara Dee.

Flowers

50-51. The Flower District

Near the Arts District, the seven vendors that make up the country’s largest wholesale flower market spill over with fresh-cut blossoms. Start with the two oldest marts—the Los Angeles Flower Market and the Southern California Flower Market. Both offer an astounding selection, from deep purple anemones to silky white calla lilies to pastel pink snapdragons. The vendors open as early as 2 a.m. for wholesalers, but the public has to wait until 8 a.m.

Museum Gift Shops

The Broad

Photograph by Spencer Lowell

52. The Broad

Unless you’re the Leslie Knope of planning ahead, your chance of sauntering into the Broad sans ticket depends on the mercy of the standby line. Can’t get in to see Koons’s Tulips? Peruse the store for made-in-L.A. goods. Delicate diamond-studded pieces by Gabriela Artigas are on display, while Sisters of Los Angeles’ colorful neighborhood tumblers let you raise a glass to your hood.

53. MOCA

Exclusive items give this shop its edge. A partnership with Japanese brand United Arrows & Sons has yielded a simple white oxford, its hem emblazoned with a tone-on-tone MOCA logo. Paris’s Études Studio dreamed up a graphic tee in Dodger blue inscribed with the phrase “Dérives in Los Angeles” (meaning “wandering in Los Angeles”).

54. Japanese American National Museum

Little Tokyo’s business owners are the stars of JANM’s store. The museum collaborated with Japangeles on a snapback hat bearing the clothier’s script logo, while Chado Tea Room crafted custom blends, each inspired by different generations of Japanese Americans.


RELATED: 52 Perfect Weekend Getaways In and Around L.A.

Facebook Comments