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Los Angeles is a huge sprawl of dozens of different neighborhoods, but none of these neighborhoods is as well-known as Downtown LA. LA’s downtown area is an eclectic mix of businesses, tourist attractions, and local favorites, combining the diverse cultures and interests that the city as a whole exemplifies.
The exact borders of Downtown Los Angeles will vary based on who you’re talking to, but it generally includes parts of Bunker Hill, Civic Center, Little Tokyo, Fashion District, Jewelry District, Industrial District, Old Bank District, Skid Row, and Chinatown. That’s a pretty huge plot of land for one neighborhood, and whether you work in the area, have an apartment there, or you’re a visitor wanting to explore the concrete jungle, Downtown offers a wealth of things for all interests and walks of life. What is there to do in Downtown Los Angeles? Read on to learn more.
If you are truly unsure what to do in Downtown Los Angeles, Grand Central Market is the best place to begin your journey. Founded in 1917, Grand Central Market is a truly historic landmark that hosts upwards of 50 different food and drink stalls offering fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish from all over the world, along with prepared meals cooked right in front of you. Even the pickiest eaters can find something to love at this hidden gem. Some standouts include:
Eggslut – Drawing hundreds of diners every day, Eggslut specializes in the humble egg sandwich, perfected to a T thanks to fresh, quality ingredients and friendly service.
China Café – China Café is one of the oldest vendors in the area, opening over 60 years ago, and it still remains a beloved institution by locals and tourists alike. While you won’t be disappointed by the Chinese-American favorites, including egg foo yeung, chow mein, and chop suey, the real highlight is wonton soup, which offers a warm, bright broth with plump wontons.
Wexler’s Deli – A standard-bearer for the growing modern Jewish deli scene in the city, Wexler’s offers exactly what you want from a neighborhood deli. Good pastrami sandwiches on rye bread, lox on fresh bagels, and black and white cookies. What more could you ask for?
Sarita’s Pupuseria – Sarita’s Pupuseria draws on inspiration from owner Sara Clark’s El Salvadorean roots. The stall serves handmade pupusas with a variety of different fillings, alongside stews, fried plantains, chicharron, and more.
If you want to know how to meet people in Los Angeles, this is a pretty great place to start. The friendly faces and diverse characters make Grand Central Market in DTLA a great place to make some new friends and acquaintances.
Established in 1979, LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art is the only artist-founded museum in the city. Committed to sharing with art created after 1940, MOCA offers a collection of over 7,000 pieces of contemporary artwork from all over the globe, engaging with ideas and questions that span all of history and still apply even today. The museum has two separate buildings. The main building is in DTLA, near the Disney Concert Hall, while the Geffen Contemporary, once a temporary exhibit space, is located in Little Tokyo. Both are well worth your time, especially considering general admission is free for both buildings.
The largest new and used book and record store in California, The Last Bookstore was established in 2005. Back then, the store was housed in a loft. Today, the indie bookstore occupies a multi-level building spanning 22,000 square feet that houses more than 250,000 new and used books. The second story features an Instagram-worthy book tunnel, along with the Gather Yarn Shop and a series of gallery shops. If you consider yourself a bookworm or want to add to your vinyl collection, The Last Bookstore is the place to be, but even for those not looking for their next page-turner, it’s a fun place to explore. The store also features regular events, book club meetings, and readings.
Located in LA Live, the GRAMMY Museum was established in 2008, making it one of the newer additions to the Downtown LA scene. Perfect for those who love music and music history, the GRAMMY museum comprises four floors spanning 30,000 square feet featuring music memorabilia and artifacts, recording booths, and interactive music stations. The museum’s mission is to cultivate a greater understanding of music and celebrate all aspects of music as an art form, highlighting not only iconic musicians but also the ins and outs of the recording process and the mechanics of instrumentation.
The museum also houses the 200-seat Clive Davis Theater, which hosts live performances, discussions, and interactive classes and seminars. The interactivity and high energy make the GRAMMY Museum one of the best things to do in Los Angeles with kids.
Grand Park opened to the public in June of 2012, becoming a beautiful oasis in an otherwise urban environment. The park offers verdant lawns, fountains, splash pads, benches, and plenty of spots to sit and rest or people-watch. It hosts a variety of live performances and community events, but with just a blanket, some good food, and a little sunshine, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy the day in this beautiful park.
Verve is a Santa Cruz transplant, and if you want a midday coffee fix, you can’t do better than their two-story, 7,000 square foot location in the Arts District. As a café and a coffee roastery, Verve offers a unique combination of global cuisine, pastries, and signature coffee staples. The Arts District location specifically has some incredible coffee mocktails that are exclusive to the space. Top it all off with a dog-friendly patio and you have the perfect spot to read a book, get some work done, or simply enjoy some good brew.
Modeled after Japanese record lounges and coffee shops, In Sheep’s Clothing is a hidden gem located just inside Lupetti Pizzeria. Part listening lounge, part café, part cocktail bar, In Sheep’s Clothing is a perfect taste of everything. It’s hard to feel anything but cool here. During the day, In Sheep’s Clothing offers some single-origin coffee with local pastries and ambient records in the background. By night, the space offers a mix of cocktails, mezcal, sake, and natural wines, all accompanied by some more active vinyl spinning on the record player. The low-key but welcoming vibe makes this a great place to celebrate your birthday in Los Angeles .
This is just a small taste of Downtown Los Angeles things to do. Along with plenty of tried and true venues, one of the most amazing parts of Downtown as a whole is that it is a living, breathing organism. There’s so much happening on any given day, from street fairs to community gatherings.
Next time you head to Downtown LA, skip the walking tour and go for one of these fun and local spots. From hiking trails to street art to sunset boulevard, this part of Southern California is chock-full of fun activities and places to see. Now that you know all the top things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, it's time to start exploring!