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Where to Go Now in Downtown Los Angeles

World-class art and a dynamic bar scene have helped transform DTLA into a must-visit neighborhood

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The Museum of Contemporary Art

Founded in 1979, the mission of this institution is clear—it’s committed to preserving, presenting, and interpreting art created after 1940. Its methods, however, are ever changing. Three distinct venues in the city shine a spotlight on forward-thinking artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Start at the Grand Avenue location, arriving right at the 11 a.m. opening for a chance to contemplate Mark Rothko’s emotional color studies in peace. After exploring work by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Miró, and Nijideka Akunyili Crosby (who created the mural that wraps around the building), grab lunch from Lemonade café to enjoy in the Sculpture Plaza. One mile away, the same general admission ticket gets you entry to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, which opened in Little Tokyo in 1983 after a renovation of a former police car warehouse by Frank Gehry; today, it hosts the museum’s more experimental exhibits. Architecture aficionados should also visit the third location, the MOCA Pacific Design Center, about 10 miles away in West Hollywood. (A fourth MOCA location, called Double Negative, requires much more of a detour—it’s a work of land art by Michael Heizer in the middle of the Nevada desert.) Art talks, screenings, and live music alongside food trucks make MOCA Grand and Geffen as much social venues as they are cultural ones. Pro tip: For an in-depth look at the collections, book the completely customizable educator-led tour (request a couple weeks ahead). For a livelier experience, visit on a Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m., when admission is free.

Broken Shaker

This rooftop bar has a refreshingly inclusive, come-as-you-are vibe. There’s no list at the door, no doorman sizing you up for anything beyond ensuring you’re of legal drinking age. For the prized sunset hour, arrive early—especially during summer—and grab a vintage table or booth by the pool with colorful mismatching chairs and tablecloths. Later in the evening, a bar stool is the place to be, watching the action and joining in when singalong-ready funk and disco tunes start playing. The overgrown garden that tops the circa 1924 Commercial Exchange building makes for a magical setting, softening the cityscape beyond. Atmosphere aside, the cocktails are what bring people here; masterminds Gabs Orta and Elad Zvi—who first started Broken Shaker as a pop-up in Miami—are known worldwide for their creative approach. It’s tempting to order drinks based on their clever names alone—not the worst idea—but be sure to try the O-Fish-Ally Open, with such radical flavors as miso and absinthe and topped with a nest of nori.

The Broad

When it opened in 2015, this museum drew headlines for its extensive contemporary art collection and Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed building, which resembles a futuristic honeycomb. Then a single exhibition catapulted it into fame: artist Yayoi Kusama’s installation of thousands of twinkling LED lights called Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. (The artist’s follow-up, Longing for Eternity, opened in 2017.) There’s plenty to be dazzled by in this museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. Hundreds of skylights illuminate the column-free third floor’s permanent galleries—featuring the Broads’ considerable collection of pieces by Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, Jasper Johns, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Insiders know to visit on weekdays for the most relaxed experience or around major holidays and occasions such as Halloween and International Women’s Day for engaging and sometimes provocative tours. Pro tip: Though general admission tickets are free, it’s wise to book tickets online ahead when they’re released on the first of each month for the following month, especially if you’re taking a date or going with a group (the same goes for Kusama’s rooms). At least two weeks out, request a before- or after-hours guided group tour of one hour, not including the Infinity Mirrored Room. And make sure to also book reservations at Otium, the trendsetting restaurant by Chef Timothy Hollingsworth located next to the Broad.

Apothéke

A good cocktail can cure almost anything that ails you—at least that’s the philosophy at Apothéke, the West Coast outpost of the award-winning New York City bar. In keeping with the playful apothecary theme, barmen don white lab coats and serve drinks that are categorized on the menu as stimulants, pain killers, stress relievers, and aphrodisiacs. If you feel a headache coming on, the prescription may be the Catcher in the Rye, made with rye whiskey and chamomile bitters. After a day of battling traffic, try the Dizzying Intellect, a bright combination of gin, jicama, cumin- and caraway-flavored Kümmel, and lime, topped with spruce beer bitters. Ingredients are all house-made, -muddled, or -infused, from charcoal-infused vodka to tequila tinted green from the addition of spirulina and eucalyptus. Decor plays into the old-fashioned apothecary theme. Everything centers around the glowing and generous pink marble bar, both inside and out, and the deck offers intimate nooks with Biedermeier wicker sofas. A D.J. spins a sultry, sophisticated selection nightly, keeping the mood relaxed. Pro tip: Make reservations ahead for weekends. Don’t miss the gratis “amuse” shot, made daily to prime, or cleanse, your palate.

In partnership with Afar.

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