Hip and historic, Downtown Los Angeles (or simply DTLA) offers big-city excitement with trendy restaurants, cultural attractions, budget-friendly shopping, and major-league sports. Easily accessible by Metro and perhaps one of the most pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles, DTLA is being transformed by a multitude of cultural offerings such as regular art walks and street festivals, as well as innovative businesses that include indoor/outdoor markets, hip boutiques, and pop-ups. An influx of new residents has helped energize the area, and Downtown L.A.’s re-emergence is also being driven by such attractions as Grand Park, an urban oasis with views stretching from the Music Center (including Walt Disney Concert Hall) to City Hall.
Start your food exploration at the reinvented Grand Central Market, originally opened in 1917, which has a bevy of artisanal food purveyors selling of-the-moment items (Belcampo grass-fed beef burgers, build-your-own ice-cream sandwiches at McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream) next to longtime vendors, like Wexler’s Deli.
Across the street, the legendary funicular Angels Flight offers riders a chance to travel up and down the hillside in old-school train cars named Sinai and Olivet—updated versions of the 1901 originals. The narrow-gauge, funicular railway became a familiar sight in classic noir films, like 1952’s The Turning Point, M (1951), and Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and later in 2016’s award-winning La La Land when the couple played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone ride up after eating across the street at Grand Central Market. You can ride the furnicular for $1 one way.
There are plenty of places to experience the health-centered food scene in L.A. as well. Zinc Cafe & Market, which accommodates anyone with dietary restrictions, offers seating inside their window-filled dining room or in the sunny courtyard. Grab a craft cocktail at Zinc’s latest addition, Bar Mateo, housed in a 1914 barn that sits inside an olive grove. Round out your dining excursion at Little Damage, a soft-serve ice-cream spot offering black (charcoal) ice cream and unique flavors such as Unicorn Tears or Fresas Con Crema (don’t miss the photo booth!).
The Arts District of DTLA is thriving, with museums, galleries, and cultural attractions galore (explore an interactive map here). Don’t miss The Broad, the honeycomb-facade museum that houses 2,000 pieces of modern art by artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Recently relocated from Santa Monica, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles features colorful and provocative exhibits, often from lesser-known but truly inspired international artists. Regular events offer one-of-a-kind opportunities to learn about the history of famous painted signs you can spot in L.A. Stroll the Arts District Co-Op, a warehouse-turned-small-business emporium with vendors selling handmade jewelry, screen-printed T-shirts, vintage denim, and drag queen-inspired looks straight from RuPaul’s runway, or browse the crazy cool wall displays and a labyrinth of books at The Last Bookstore.
Events, nightlife, and live music give DTLA an energetic vibe. Crowds flock to the sports and entertainment combo of Staples Center and Microsoft Theater L.A. LIVE, where you can also see music artifacts (Elvis’s sheet music, Michael Jackson’s glove) at the Grammy Museum. And Grand Avenue, true to its name, is the city’s cultural hub, thanks to the Los Angeles Philharmonic performances at the spectacular Walt Disney Concert Hall and the sandstone-clad Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
There’s no shortage of places to stay in the area, too, including classic properties and trendy boutique hotels created inside transformed vintage buildings. The ornate 1927 United Artists building is now home to the stylish Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles; while The Standard, Downtown LA was originally the headquarters of Superior Oil.
Want to see DTLA (and the surrounding areas) from above? Head up 1,000 feet to OUE Skyspace at the top of the U.S. Bank Tower. Soak up the panoramic views of the city from the observation terrace or try plunging down the outdoor all-glass, see-through Skyslide. There’s also a digital interactive area with a topography wall of L.A.—a cool way to learn about the city’s landmarks and history.