What are the top things to do in Downtown LA?
Downtown LA, or DTLA as it is more commonly known, has a lot to offer. If you’re visiting Los Angeles or are a local looking for some fun attractions, definitely take time to visit Downtown Los Angeles.
The coastline of Los Angeles is a 30 minutes drive away. Some of us may want to spend the day at Venice Beach instead, but DTLA immerses us into a different side of Los Angeles. Yes, there are parts that are rougher than others, but if you look closely, you’ll see plenty of beauty.
Downtown Los Angeles is what you make of it. It’s not New York City or San Francisco, but it has its own vibe.
From restaurants and bars with modern decor and some of the best food in town to cultural institutions like The Broad Museum and Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Since we’re in Pasadena, living only 20 minutes or so from Downtown Los Angeles, every now and then we make a day or afternoon of it. Sometimes we venture out for dinner at one of the many amazing restaurants residing in DTLA.
It’s always exciting to explore this part of Los Angeles. We love to visit the Grand Central Market because it is a great selection of local delicious food stands. Hit up Little Tokyo for some authentic shabu shabu or delicious ramen. Spend the afternoon with a friend at the Broad Museum.
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One of the things to do in Downtown LA, if you love older architecture as I do, is to keep an eye out for the intricate details that can be found in structures. You’ll see glimpses of what Downtown LA used to be in the early 1900s. I always say, look up because you never know what you’ll miss.
In this list, you’ll find all the top things to do in Downtown LA. Start planning some adventures into the city and heart of Los Angeles, California.
What’s the best way to get around DTLA?
Many of these places are listed below are close to one another and walkable. But, I do recommend using public transportation or ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft.
How do I spend a day in Downtown LA?
There are so many options for a day in Downtown LA. From visiting the Broad and grabbing lunch to taking the family for a day at Los Olivos Street. Keep reading for ideas on how to plan your day in Downtown Los Angeles.
What is there to do in Downtown LA for free?
Exploring on foot is always free. But there are some activities in Downtown LA that are free like The Broad Museum (must book in advance), the observation deck at LA City Hall, checking out the Bradbury building, hanging out in Olvera Street, relaxing at Grand Park or Pershing Square. Keep reading for more things to do in Downtown LA.
What is there to do in Downtown LA at night?
LA Live is a great place to visit at night in Downtown LA as it has a movie theater and restaurants. You can also grab drinks at one of the rooftop bars or make dinner reservations at one of the many restaurants in Downtown LA.
Is Downtown LA safe during the day?
Parts of Downtown Los Angeles are vibrant, exciting, and full of tourists and locals alike. Then there are some parts that are gritty. Like with any big city, you should practice being safe and vigilant. I recommend exploring and staying in the more popular and crowded areas of the city.
Things to do in Downtown LA
Here is a link with the Top Things to Do in Downtown LA in Google Maps to help with your itinerary plans.
Book a Hotel in Los Angeles – Booking.com
1. Visit the Walt Disney Concert Hall
One of the most beautiful architectural structures in Downtown LA is the Walt Disney Hall. This is a concert hall that was designed by Frank Gehry and it’s one of the photographed structures in the city.
It’s also the home of the LA Philharmonic. You can visit to see this exceptional concert hall in person or book tickets to one of their events.
Self-guided tours of the venue are available daily: click here for further information.
Downtown Los Angeles Architecture Walking Tour [Book Tour Here]
2. Explore Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo encompasses 5 blocks of Downtown Los Angeles and is known as Little Tokyo Historic District. It was founded in 1884.
You can spend time exploring the fun shops and restaurants in Little Tokyo. Check out Japanese Village Plaza and gardens. Don’t miss the Little Tokyo Market where you can find yummy and unique Japanese treats.
Top Foodie Pick: Shabu Shabu House has been part of Little Tokyo for decades. Eating here was the first time I ever had an authentic shabu shabu experience.
3. Explore Chinatown
Chinatown is vibrant with its red lanterns strung up across plazas and Xie Shan roofs. There are many shops and restaurants on Grand Avenue to explore. You’ll find everything from Chinese medicine to Asian bakeries.
A great time to visit Chinatown is during one of their festivals like the Chinese New Year. The city will come alive with festivities with dancing dragons, a parade, and more.
The one thing that always stands out to me when I think of Chinatown is the Bruce Lee statue. It’s inside Chinatown’s Central Plaza and it’s one of the most photographed areas in Chinatown.
4. Eat at Philippe The Original
Philippe’s is a Los Angeles institution that has been serving French dipped sandwiches since 1908.
As a matter of fact, not until you eat at Philippe’s are you considered a Los Angeles local. Angelino’s would mention Philippe’s to me and gasp when I didn’t know what it was. I have been there a few times now.
Is it worth the hype? No. Is it worth the experience? YES.
What I love the most about Philippe’s is the vibe. It’s old-school. There are even old telephone booth stalls. Sawdust on the ground. The staff is super friendly. It seems to be always busy but you do get that old-school LA feeling.
Foodie Tip: Get the sandwich double dipped! The messier the better. Don’t forget to add their famous mustard to it when you sit down to eat it.
5. Grand Central Market
The Grand Central Market is one of the top Los Angeles attractions. This market wins every foodie’s heart with various food options and cuisines. You can also find produce, unique ingredients, flowers, and a local butcher here.
The Grand Central Market has been part of Downtown Los Angeles since 1917. It has changed so much since then, now a trendier popular food hall where locals dine daily.
If you’re in the area, this is a great bathroom stop as they have multiple clean restrooms downstairs from the market.
Top Los Angeles Attractions
Visiting Los Angeles, California? Planning to explore and be a tourist in LA. Walk amongst the stars on Hollywood Blvd. See the spectacular views of Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory. Take a short ride on Angel’s flight. Here are the top attractions in the city of Angels.
6. Take a ride on Angel’s Flight Railway
This is a funicular railway in Downtown LA that goes up and down one of the steepest hills. It goes between Hill Street and Grand Avenue. It’s the shortest railway in the world.
Angel’s Flight has been closed down and restored a few times. The latest reopening was in 2017. I suggest experiencing this piece of Los Angeles history before it’s down again.
It only costs $1 each way or you can buy a round-trip ticket for $2.
Angel’s Flight has been featured in movies, most notably in the movie La La Land.
7. Bradbury Building
This is a beautiful building that was built in 1893. It’s been used as a location for countless films and TV shows over the years. One of the movies that come to mind and features the inside of it is 500 Days of Summer.
The Bradbury Building is also a National Historic Landmark. It’s one of those buildings you’ll want to visit if you love architecture. The outside is unassuming, but the inside is amazing. The ornate iron work, the glass atrium, and the open “birdcage” elevator are a few of my favorite things from this building.
You can see this for FREE as long as the building is open. They probably will only allow you to go into the main floor but that’s enough to really see why it is so special.
Old and New Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tour [Book Tour Here]
8. Union Station
If you decide to take the train to Downtown Los Angeles, Union Station is a great place to land to start your day in DTLA.
Union Station is the hub of Downtown LA for the Los Angeles MTA system. It’s a beautiful building and one of Los Angeles’s architectural gems. It’s worth taking a look at even if you’re not catching a train.
Many movies, TV shows, and commercials have been filmed here. You can click here for more info.
A fun little tidbit that is not widely known… there is an interactive LED art display inside the station. It is called the “A-train” by Bill Bell and it’s been there since 1996.
The display is located next to the escalators, in the escalators down to the B train (Red Line) and D train (Purple Line). On one side of the escalators, you’ll see the display and across from it, on the other side, you’ll find a plaque on the wall that says “A Train” by Bill Bell. In that plaque, there is a hidden microphone.
Here are classic celebrity names that you can say into the plaque to turn on the art display.
- Judy Garland – “Somewere Over the Rainbow” song will play
- Johh Weissmuller – the Tarzan call will play
- Duke Ellington “Take the A-Train” song will play
Top Foodie Pick: Check out the new Homebound Brew Haus for craft beers and cocktails. This art deco space will make you swoon.
9. Olvera Street
Across from Union Station, you’ll find Olvera Street. It is said to be the oldest street in Los Angeles. The street is filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment celebrating Mexican culture. It’s a fun spot to bring kids or just wander around and explore.
You’ll find plenty of souvenirs to take home with you here. The best thing to do is try as many of the food stands as you can. Perhaps you’ll be there on a day when there are mariachi players outside entertaining the crowds.
The street is also home to the Avila Adobe, which is the oldest residence in Los Angeles.
Dias de Los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo are great time to visit Olvera Street.
Top Foodie Pick: Try the tacos at Cielito Lindo, a food stand that’s been on Olvera Street since 1934.
10. Smorgasburg LA
If you’re looking for things to do in DTLA this weekend, Smorgasburg LA is running every Sunday. This is an outdoor food market that has everything from BBQ to tacos.
This food market is a foodie’s dream. You’re going to want to add Smorgasburg LA to your Sunday to-do list.
This is a fun day to spend with friends, family, or with your partners. Try out a few different food stands and see which one is your favorite.
Admission is FREE but food and drinks are available for purchase.
Open every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
11. Have Drinks at a Rooftop Bar in DTLA
One of the fun things to do in Downtown LA is enjoying a drink and the view at a rooftop bar. There are plenty of rooftop bars to choose from.
Some favorites are…
- Spire 73 at the Intercontinental Hotel
- Rooftop Lounge at the Standard
- Upstairs at Ace Hotel
12. The Last Bookstore
This bookstore is iconic in Los Angeles and a must-do while in Downtown LA, especially if you’re a bookworm. It’s a magical labyrinth of new and used collections of books. It’s also the largest new and used bookstore in California.
They often have events and readings. It can be a fun place to spend an hour or two browsing through books.
If you go here, please be respectful of the books and support this business. Don’t just go for the photos.
13. The Broad Museum
Just steps away from the Walt Disney Hall is the Broad Museum.
The Broad Museum is a contemporary art museum that opened in 2015. It’s home to over 2000 works of art from artists like Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein.
For anyone that has an appreciation of modern art, this is a must-do while in Los Angeles. The exterior design of this building alone is worth admiring.
Amazingly, the Broad has FREE general admission. You just have to book your tickets in advance. For more info, click here.
If you do not book tickets in advance, sometimes there is a queue that you can wait online in until space is available. Your best bet is to book a reservation and plan your day around it.
14. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
This is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful building and not what you’d expect when you think of a Cathedral. It’s actually one of the newest churches built in the western US.
The modern design was designed by Spanish architect Professor José Rafael Moneo. It’s unique with its sharp contemporary lines and angles. Reminds me of a modern museum.
Day Trips from Los Angeles
If you’re looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, then these day trips are perfect for you! From stunning beaches to awe-inspiring mountain ranges, there’s something for everyone.
15. Observation Deck at Los Angeles City Hall
Not many know this, but you can visit the Los Angeles City Hall and take an elevator to the observation deck on the 27th floor of City Hall. From here, you’ll have panoramic views of Downtown LA. It’s one way to see a beautiful view of Los Angeles.
It’s one of the FREE things to do in Downtown Los Angeles.
16. Helicopter Tour
Feeling like taking a daring adventure? Book a helicopter tour of Downtown LA. You’ll get amazing aerial views of Los Angeles and see things you’re not able to by car or on foot.
It’s one of the more expensive things to do in Los Angeles but it can be worth it for those that like thrill-seeking activities.
17. The Los Angeles Flower Market | Flower District
If you love flowers and plants, this is one of the things to do in Downtown LA that you should add to your list. You can find bouquets of flowers in bulk and also some of the most exotic plant life on display here at wholesale prices.
You’re going to want to plan to come here in the morning as most days they close at noon.
Entry: $2 on weekdays | $1 on Saturdays
18. See a game or a concert at The Crypto.com Arena (formerly known as the Staples Center)
The Crypto.com Arena is home to the LA Lakers basketball team. It’s also where you can find other sporting events, concerts, and shows happening throughout the year. You can buy tickets to one of the games or events at Staple Center.
I personally haven’t been to a game, but I enjoyed Disney on Ice at this multi-arena space.
For more info on events and tickets, click here.
19. LA Live
Adjacent to the Crypto.com Arena is LA Live. This entertainment complex is filled with restaurants, a movie theater, a bowling alley, and even a Grammy Museum.
This is also a great spot to go ice skating and enjoy Christmas festivities in Los Angeles.
20. Grand Park
For a day out with your family and friends, Grand Park is a great spot to enjoy and get some fresh air. There’s a playground, a splash pad, dog run, picnic tables, and plenty of green space to relax in.
Prior to the pandemic, city events and celebrations would take place here. We hope that in 2022 we can return to some former festivities at the park.
21. See an Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is a performing arts center that’s home to the LA Opera. It is one of the halls of the Los Angeles music center. It was built in 1964 and named after Dorothy Buffum Chandler, who was an American patron of the arts.
If you’re into classical music or opera, this is one of the things to do in Downtown Los Angeles. Have you experienced an opera in person? It’s absolutely amazing experience.
Outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is a nice courtyard with a water fountain that faces City Hall. If you’re in the area, it’s a nice place to also come by and enjoy a beautiful day.
You can find tickets to the LA Opera here.
22. Clifton’s Republic
Clifton’s is another Los Angeles institution that’s been around since 1935. This used to be a historic cafeteria-style restaurant that was once part of 8 location franchises and this one in Downtown Los Angeles is still standing… but it’s not the same as it used to be.
However, it is still a cool place to check out, even it is just from the outside. The love the art deco style of the building and the neon signs.
It has since gone through some major renovations and changes in the past several years. It is a bar and restaurant with eclectic and wild decor.
Reservations is highly recommended.
23. Pershing Square
The historic park that’s been around since 1866, but it was known then as La Plaza Abaja. Pershing Square was renamed in 1918. It is in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.
It is a nice spot to walk through and enjoy the scenery. Maybe even grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby outdoor cafes or food trucks.
Events and concerts do take place here from time to time.
24. The BLOC
The BLOC is not only an open-air shopping center in Downtown Los Angeles, it also has office spaces, restaurants, a hotel, and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. It stands for “Building, Living, Operating, and Culture.”
There are plenty of Instagrammable opportunities at The BLOC.
Alamo Drafhouse at The BLOC is quite possibly one of the nicest movie theaters downtown, great for a date night in LA.
Looking for a hotel in Downtown Los Angeles? The Sheraton Grand at the BLOC is a fantastic option. Click here to check for nightly rates.
25. Take a Downtown LA Food Tour
One of the most fun things to do in any city is taking a food tour. As a foodie, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to local spots with food that you may never have discovered on your own. Whether it’s your first visit to Downtown Los Angeles or you’re a local looking to do something fun and different to do, book a food tour.
You will eat a lot. Discover new delicious eats. Perhaps make a few new friends because food brings us together.
Los Angeles: Downtown Food Tour [Book Tour Here]
26. ROW DTLA
ROW DTLA is a shopping and dining destination in the Arts District. It’s made up of refurbished brick buildings that house art galleries, trendy restaurants, coffee shops, unique small businesses, and more.
Spend time here discovering new murals by local artists.
Los Angeles 2.5-hour Arts District Bike Tour [Book Tour Here]
27. Check out the Toy District
The Toy District is a fun area to explore in eastern Downtown Los Angeles. You’ll find warehouses, stores, and alleys full of all sorts of fun toys for sale. You can buy toys here at bulk prices.
It’s a colorful place to walk around and feel like a kid again. However, be cautious of your surroundings. The farther south you go, you’ll be entering a spotty part of DTLA.
Toy District | Los Angeles, CA (Google Map It)
If you’re looking for history, great architecture, good food, and drinks, or just an exciting day out in the city. There’s no shortage of things to do in Downtown LA.
What do you love to do in Downtown LA? What’s one thing on this list you’re planning to do?
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