Downtown Los Angeles has been experiencing a major revitalization over the years. It’s a hot spot of things to do an places to see when you’re visiting Los Angeles.
We’ve rounded up the top things for you to do in DTLA to help you make the most out of your LA vacation. Where possible we’ve organized them into segments that you can do as walking tours where there are cluster of cool things to do and see in LA in close proximity.
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1. Enjoy Breathtaking Aerial Views of Los Angeles from the Observation Deck at City Hall.
Until 1964, City Hall was the tallest building in Los Angeles. Part of the design included a balcony surrounding the top floor to be used as an observation deck for the public. It provides an unequaled 360 degree of downtown Los Angeles and it free.
City Hall is located at 200 N Spring Street and it’s near many of the other attractions you’ll want to see
2. Stroll through Grand Park and Play in the Splash Pad at the beautiful Arthur J Will Memorial Fountain.
Grand Park is directly west of City Hall and spans three city blocks. It’s an oasis of green in the middle of the concrete of downtown and frequently hosts concerts and other events. If you swing by in the evening, there’s likely to be something going on.
The fountain is on the west end near Grand Avenue. The address of the park is 200 N Grand Ave but you can enter the park on Hill, Broadway and Spring Streets as well.
3. Check out the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
As you step out the west end of Grand Park you’ll see the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It’s one of four venues that comprise the Los Angeles Music Center.
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is Pavilion is home of the Los Angeles Opera and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center. It’s one of the three largest music centers in the United States. The Pavilion has 3,156 seats spread over four tiers, with chandeliers, wide curving stairways and rich décor.
Truthfully, the main reason to visit would be if there is a concert you wish to attend. But it’s right across the street from where you are, so it’s worth a stroll through the grounds. It’s located at 135 N Grand Ave.
4. See the Amazing Architecture at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
Unlike the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the unique architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall makes it a top tourist attraction. The Walt Disney Concert Hall at 111 South Grand Avenue has been an iconic LA Landmark since it opened in 2003. Seating 2.265 people, it was designed by Frank Gehry and is the fourth hall or venue of the Los Angeles Music Center.
Self guided tours of the Concert Hall are available They are offered most days between 10 am and 2 pm. For individual guests of groups up to 14 people, the tours are complimentary. The tours last approximately 60 minutes.
5. Visit the Broad Museum
Steps south of the Walt Disney Concert Hall at 221 S. Grand Ave is The Broad contemporary art museum. General admission to the museum’s permanent collections is free. There may be a charge to visit certain temporary exhibitions.
The museum opened in 2015 and is named for philanthropist Eli Broad, who financed the $140 million building. The Broad houses a nearly 2,000-piece collection of contemporary art, featuring 200 artists. The collection includes works by Andy Worhol, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons Ed Ruscha and more.
More things to do in DTLA after the break…
6. View the Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art
The MOCA Downtown Los Angeles location is home to almost 5,000 artworks created since 1940, including masterpieces by classic contemporary artists, and inspiring new works by emerging and mid-career artists from Southern California and around the world.
250 S Grand Ave.
7. Drink in the Urban Oasis at California Plaza
Just down the road at 350 S Grand is California Plaza. It’s a beautiful urban oasis complete with ponds sealed off from the rest of the world by the tallest, most modern and beautiful skyscrapers in Los Angeles. As a note, these skyscrapers are located on the highest point in downtown Los Angeles, Bunker Hill.
California Plaza is both a performing arts plaza and an insanely cool food court. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and enjoy eating it at an outdoor table beside the ponds. When you finish walk to the east end and take Angel’s Flight to the bottom of Bunker Hill.
8. Take a Ride on the Beloved, Historic Angels Flight
Angels Flight dates back to 1901 when it was built to carry the wealthy people of the day up Bunker Hill from the shopping district below to their mansions below. It’s been preserved in its original form and is now a key tourist attraction.
Considered the shortest railway in the world, it has two cars, Sinai and Olivet, running in opposite directions on a shared cable on the 298 feet long incline railway. The fare is only one dollar and when you arrive at the base on Hill Street we have more cool things for you to do in downtown LA.
9. Eat at Grand Central Market, the Oldest Food Court in LA
Across the street from where you depart Angels Flight is Grand Central Market. The market dates back to 1917 and its considered LA’s oldest food court. It showcases California’s best chefs and ingredients. There are nearly forty food vendors in the 30,000 square foot space and each vendor bears a unique retro neon sign.
So if you didn’t grab a bite to eat at California Plaza, now is your chance. Either way, walk through it and step out on the east side. You’ll be at 317 S Broadway. Just to the north of you is the historic Million Dollar Theatre. This grand movie palace was built in 1918 by Sid Grauman, the man that later built the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Running south from this point is the historic Broadway Theatre District. You can find out more about the iconic theaters here by clicking our LA Theatres link. However, as fat as things to see in Los Angeles, the only real reason to spend more time here is if you at taking in a show at one of the theaters. Instead we recommend you step across the street and look inside the Bradbury Building.
10. Check Out the Historic Bradbury Building that is a Movie Star Itself
Directly across Broadway from the Grand Central Market is the Bradbury Building. It couldn’t look more boring on the outside, but that all changes when you step inside.
Built in 1893 it’s known for the huge atrium lobby with a massive skylight five stories above it, intricate wrought iron staircases and the old bird cage elevator.
Oh, and it has been the location for move movies than any other building in Los Angeles. Tourists are welcome to enter the lobby area during business hours and look around, but you can’t go above the first landing on the stairs.
It’s located at 304 S. Broadway and you DO want to see it.
11. Enjoy Another Ariel View of Los Angeles and a Wild Slide at OUE Skyspace
We depart from our walk right to the next attraction part of this tour of sights in downtown Los Angeles. At this point things aren’t situated in line with each other anymore The next thing to do on our downtown LA budget list is to take in the 360 degree views at Oue Skyspace.
Oue Skyspace offers a higher vantage point of Los Angeles than the observation deck at City Hall. It also has an interactive display telling you what you are looking at. And if you are feeling brave you can ride the 1000 foot ling glass slide on the top floors.
The reason I put City Hall ahead of this is that at OUE Skyspace, you have to pay for admission and the cost is between $19 – $45. So if you are trying to be economical, stick with City Hall.
OUE Skyspace is located in the US Bank Tower at 663 5th St. It’s open 7 days per week from 10 am to 10 pm. Last tickets are sold at 9 pm.
12. Visit the “Birthplace of LA” at Olvera Street.
The next three attractions provide an alternate tour that can be done on foot from City Hall instead of the first several we listed.
Walk north on Main Street a couple blocks from City Hall and you’ll run into Olvera Street. Located on the corner of Cesar E Chavez Avenue and Alameda Street, Olvera Street houses the city’s first church, firehouse and theatre along with a number of historic sites and residences. There are 27 historic buildings and a traditional Mexican style plaza.
It’s considered the Birthplace of Los Angeles and has been preserved as a part of Old Los Angeles. One of the main attractions are the numerous and colorful vendor booths selling authentic Mexican art and craft items and crammed with Mexican Restaurants.
When I visited Olvera Street for the first time, I wished I had not waited so long.
13. Check out the Historic Union Station
Across Alameda Street from Olvera Street is the historic Los Angeles Union Station. Built in 1939, it’s the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States. It’s considered “the last of the great train stations” and it’s considered one of L.A.’s architectural gems.
It’s evolved from being just a transportation hub into a hub for arts and culture as well. It and the stations of the Los Angeles Metro System are some of the most artistically rich places in the city. In fact you could go on an art tour by just hopping on a subway line and checking out the art at each stop.
Los Angeles Union Station is located at 800 N Alameda.
14. Visit Chinatown
North of Olvera Street is Los Angeles Chinatown. The entrance to it from here is through the Dragon Gate on Broadway just north of Ceasar Chavez Blvd. Its a festive part of town with pagoda style buildings, red lanterns, Chinese restaurants, bakeries an gift shops. You’ll have to walk up Broadway a few blocks to get to the beautiful Central Plaza and some of the other key attractions.
15. Enjoy the Music Artifacts at the Grammy Museum
This is another cluster of LA attractions that would also fit in with the OUE Skyspace. The first and probably the best is the Grammy Museum.
The Grammy Museum is open Sunday to Thursday from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 p,. It’s closed on Tuesdays. Tickets are $15.00 for Adults, less for seniors and students. The Grammy Museum is located at 800 W Olympic Blvd, but the main entrance is on Figueroa St.
16. Walk Along the Grammy Walk of Fame
Los Angeles is big on walks. Everyone has heard of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It sparked a lot more of them including the RockWalk, the Aids Memorial Walk and the Grammy Walk of Fame. Although it’s located around the Grammy Museum, it’s a project of the Recording Academy, not the Grammy Museum.
The Grammy Walk of Fame starts in front of the Grammy Museum and works its way around most of LA Live and the STAPLES Center. Each year’s winners have a round bronze embossed stone with an old gramophone in the middle and the winners of each category listed. The award medallions don’t show up the way they do on the Hollywood Walk of Fame even though they are quite large, so be sure to look down!
17. Check out Microsoft Square
Just down Figueroa Street from the Grammy Museum is Microsoft Square. It gets a bit confusing here, there is the Staples Center, the Grammy Museum, Microsoft Theatre and Square and LA Live and they are all kind of part of each other.
Microsoft Square is located in front of the theater and centrally located in LA Live directly across from the STAPLES Center. It’s a 40,000 square foot plaza that hosts festivals, community gatherings, and special events. It also boasts 20,000 square feet of LED signage.
During key events, 11th Street, named Chick Hearn Court in the section along the square, is closed to make a larger pedestrian friendly area and location for red carpet arrivals. And on the south side of Chick Hearn Court you’re the Star Plaza outside the Chick Hearn Ave entrance to the Staples Center. There are ten statues of legendary sports figures on the plaza. These include: Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Oscar De La Hoya, broadcaster Chick Hearn, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Luc robitaille, Shaquille O’Neal, Elgin Baylor and Kings announcer Bob Miller.
18. Go to the Staples Center
The STAPLES Center is a multi-purpose arena that hosts four professional sports franchises and is an LA landmark. It hosts over 250 events entertaining over 4 million guests per year. It has established itself as the Sports and Entertainment Center of the World.
The STAPLES Center is home to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. It’s also a performance venue for high profile concerts and events. These have included figure skating championships, the 2000 Democratic National Convention, 17 of the last 19 Grammy Award shows and Michael Jackson’s Pubic Memorial Service on July 7, 2009.
Unless you are watching an event here, the main thing to see are the statues of the legendary sports players in the Star Plaza mentioned above. The address is 1111 S Figueroa St.
19. Dine at the Pantry Cafe, the Restaurant that has Never Closed
The Original Pantry Cafe is so famous that One is that it’s been declared Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #255. The food is good and it constantly t has a line outside the door of customers waiting to get in.
The fare is greasy spoon. Huge portions of it. For example, the slice of ham on the ham and eggs breakfast is so large that it hangs over the edge of the plate and the fried eggs have to be placed on top of the ham.
The Original Pantry Cafe opened in 1924. It’s one of the few 24 hour a day restaurants in Los Angeles and in the years since it first opened, it has not been closed for even a day. The cafe doesn’t have a lock on the front door!
It’s just down the road from the places above, so if your hungry check it out. I think it’s cash only, but they have an ATM inside. It’s located at 877 S. Figueroa St, Los Angeles.
20. Experience The Last Bookstore
Whoever said print and/or the book is dead has never been inside The Last Bookstore. There are more books than you would believe could have ever been printed. They have also been arranged into the very fabric of the decor. There are even arches made of books.
It also has tens of thousands of vinyl records, another rarity. The mezzazine level has book nooks, artsy shops and artist spaces.
As for the printed book being dead, I don’t believe that. A very large number of bookstores have closed in the United States, but I believe that had more to do with Amazon’s carefully planned power play to squeeze them out of business. An article I read on it said Amazon underpriced its books to such a degree that they lost millions, if not billions to undercut the market enough to force bookstores out of business, then they raised their prices. Don’t you just love how we all lose when these mega-corporate power struggles play out?
There is a lot to be said for the feeling of being in a great bookstore. The atmosphere isn’t equaled anywhere else. So if you love a good book, or just want to see a really cool place, check it out. You’ll find it at 453 S. Spring Street.
21. Shop in the Santee Alley
The Santee Alley is in the LA Fashion District which spans from Main Street on the west, to Central Street on the east and from 8th Street on the north to 16th Street on the south.
The Santee Alley with its bazaar like atmosphere and high concentration of vendors is bargain central and it’s become rather famous. While it is predominantly apparel and accessories, you can also find children’s toys, computer games, jewelry, boom boxes and more. Santee Alley starts on Olympic Boulevard between Santee Street and Maple Avenue and continues for two blocks. It’s open 365 days a year.
22. Drive Through the Arts District
The Arts District is a repeating story throughout Los Angeles. It’s an industrial area of former warehouses and factories in downtown Los Angeles that became home to artists in the seventies. Murals started to appear on the buildings and while most were done illegally per city ordinances, it brought the value of the area up a LOT.
As this happened, developers moved in and began converting the old warehouses into upscale lofts and began pricing the artists out of the area. Now you will find an upscale area with some of the coolest restaurants and pubs to be found and lots and lots of “wall art” (murals) where ever you look.
There are a few places where you can purchase the work of the local artists, but mainly you will want to drive through the area and look at the amazing murals. The Arts District runs from Alameda Street on the west to the LA River on the east and from 1st Street on the north to 7th Street on the south.
We hope this helps your quest to find fun things to do in downtown Los Angeles when you are traveling to LA. Be sure to check out the other LA attractions we have for you to check out.