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If you are looking for things to do in Downtown Los Angeles in California, here is a LA weekend travel itinerary to help you plan the perfect vacation- things to do for free and with kids.
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Los Angeles might be known for more well known neighborhoods like Beverly Hills or Hollywood, but downtown Los Angeles is weaved in the history of the city.
Its story plays out like a movie script. In the early days, downtown Los Angeles saw a lot of development and prosperity. During the great depression and after WWII, it became delapidated and became a low income area. In 1950’s reconstruction started to take place, but it wasn’t until recent years that downtown LA has enjoyed a successful revitalization process, spurring residents to move into the area and businesses to start investing in it.
The area now has a much more hip vibe and spending an afternoon in downtown LA is a great way to get to see this lesser visited part of Los Angeles.
Things to Do in Downtown Los Angeles
If you have never visited LA, then you are probably not aware that as opposed to New York or DC, Los Angeles doesn’t have a great public transportation infrastructure. Residents don’t have a walking culture either. Everyone drives everywhere, which makes for very congested roads.
What I liked most about visiting Downtown LA was that all of these locations were within walking distance to each other, so not only you can explore things to do in downtown LA, but also get some exercise and enjoy California’s sunny weather.
Here are my favorite things to do in Downtown LA.
Eat at the Grand Central Market
A foodie’s heaven, the Grand Central Market 30+ vendors will surely satisfy any food craving that you have and awaken cravings you didn’t know you had. It’s like traveling the world through food without leaving the building. And don’t expect a cheap imitation, food here is the real deal. You can find traditionally made dishes or a new take on an old staple. For the market’s website, click here.
Take a Selfie at Angels Flight Railway
Right outside the Grand Central Market is one of Los Angeles’ iconic attraction: the Angels Flight Railway.
It has been in operation since 1901 and although it is the shortest railway, only a block long, a million passengers ride it a year and it has been featured in the movie La La Land.
Marvel at the Architecture of the Bradbury Building
This historical building built in 1893 is the oldest commercial building still standing in Downtown LA. It was also featured in a couple of movies in the past like Blade Runner. If you are into architecture, you need to see this beauty! For more information about the Bradbury building, click here.
Take a Stroll Through Grand Park
Big cities Downtowns usually resemble a jungle of concrete, but Grand Park in DTLA provides a refreshing green lawn and water feature to soothe office workers and travelers alike. Take a break on a bench or sip a drink in the cafe. For the park’s website, click here.
Walk Around or Attend an Event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
One of the most impressive architectural buildings made of metal, the Concert Hall defies gravity with its curves and stays true to the style of Frank Gehry (the architect) and to the creative genius of Walt Disney. If not for the concerts, visit it for the architecture alone. For a list of events, click here.
Visit The Broad Museum
The Broad Museum could not stay in the shadows of brilliant architecture right next door at the Walt Disney Concert Hall so it is a modern piece of art on its own. Geometric designs filter light into this free museum. If you are a food lover and still have space for one more meal, don’t forget to check out Otium, owned by an award-winning chef, next door. For the museum’s website, click here.
Read at the Downtown LA Central Library
If you are traveling with babies or toddlers and want to entertain them with a story time, stop by the central library in downtown LA. If you are interested in the architecture of the library, stop by for daily tours. Check out the times for both activities here.
People Watch at the LA Central Station
If you are traveling by train with Amtrak to or from California, chances are you will stop at the LA Central Station. It was built in the 1930s and services more than 100,000 passengers a day. But most incredibly it looks amazing!!
I have a thing for Central Stations in the United States, and I recommend you visit the ones in NYC and Denver as well.
Get Nerdy at The Last BookStore
As the name implies, this might be one of the last brick and mortar bookstores you might find. It is also the largest at 22,000 sq feet and holds over 250,000 new and used books and vinyl records. In addition they hold daily events for the community so it’s a great place to spend a couple of lazy, relaxing hours in downtown LA.
Take in The View From The LA City Hall
During the week, from 9 AM to 5 PM, you can get take the view of downtown LA from the top of the city hall. The open-air observation deck is free and a great way to get a bird’s eye view of downtown LA.
Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
This cathedral is huge and the architecture stunning. If you are looking for a place to worship or just interested in modern architecture, stop by this cathedral.
Shop at the Chinatown and Little Tokyo
Although much smaller than other Chinatowns and Little Tokyos around the US, if you are on the hunt for authentic products, head over to this area of Downtown LA and you will have a good chance to find it.
Planning a Trip to Downtown LA
Where to stay in Downtown LA
There are many accommodation options for downtown LA. Here are some recommendations.
For more things to do in California, check out these travel guides:
- The Best Beaches in Southern California
- Malibu Travel Guide
- Where to Whale Watch in Southern California
- Yosemite Valley National Park Travel Guide
- A Day Guide to Joshua Tree National Park
- Things to Do Near Mammoth Lakes