Los Angeles gets a lot of bad rep. I tried to counteract preconceived notions with a post where I list 20 things to love about the city.
In my previous post, I didn’t feature prominently the Downtown / Civic Center area. Nevertheless, this neighborhood, delineated by the major freeways, is one of the more exciting parts of the city. After Washington D.C., Los Angeles has the largest concentration of government buildings and employees in the nation.
The diversity, vastness, and vibrancy of Downtown give us a good idea of what we can find in the rest of the city. After all, modern buildings and adobe houses, graffiti and masterpieces, fine dining and street food coexist here.
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Pictures of Downtown Los Angeles
In this post, I try to give you a taste of Downtown in 40 photos. The scenes are disparate, I know, but for some reason, they go together like pieces of a puzzle.
The City Hall
This grandiose, 32 story building was completed in 1928. Over the years, it has been renovated to keep up with the times. But, more important, it has been retrofitted to withstand high magnitude earthquakes.
The materials used in the construction have soil from all counties of California and water from the 21 missions. If you are around during the week, make sure to stop by the observation deck to get great views of Downtown Los Angeles (free of charge).
The Grand Park is in front of the City Hall. It is basically a big rectangle extending from Spring Street to Grand Avenue (hence the name). The big space is ideal to walk and rest (there is plenty of grass).
The park showcases plants from different parts of the world. The area around Grand Avenue features a big fountain (Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain) and a cafe. It is a beautiful place to relax after some sightseeing. Try to spot the hot pink chairs and tables.
This part of Downtown has a slightly higher elevation when compared to other areas. However, it is prominent because the tall skyscrapers were built in here.
Walk around and look at some of Los Angeles’ most modern buildings.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
The famous Walt Disney Concert Hall was designed by Frank Gehry and it is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale. It is named after Disney because the initial $50 million for the construction was donated by Lillian Disney, Walt’s widow.
Self-guided audio tours and guided tours are available almost every day. The Blue Ribbon Garden is open to the public free of charge.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
This is another hall which is part of the Los Angeles Music Center.
Mark Taper Forum
This smaller venue (about 700 seats) is used for plays.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
The MOCA has three venues distributed around Los Angeles but the main branch is located in Downtown. The museum has a permanent exhibition with pieces of artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, and Joan Miro. Special exhibitions change often.
You can visit the museum for free every Thursday from 5:00 p.m. To 8:00 p.m.
This is the biggest square in Downtown and it was dedicated as a plaza in 1866. Through the years, its aspect has changed. What has not changed is the use given to this spot. It serves as an open-air concert, public demonstration and protest venue. During winter, a big ice-skating rink is installed on the premises.
As of 2018, the square is under renovation.
The Public Library
The beautiful Public Library (that doesn’t look like a library, to be honest) was built with Egyptian and Mediterranean Renassaince accents. Admire the outside of the building but make sure to enter and see the mural room on the second floor.
Los Angeles has about 25 sister cities and the ties are celebrated with a monument at the Civic Center. It is not a surprise that Mexico City, San Salvador (El Salvador) and Yerevan (Armenia) are sisters of Los Angeles. After all, Mexicans, Salvadorans and Armenian are a big part of our community.
Cities like Beirut, Berlin, and Athens are sisters too.
This small funicular connects Bunker Hill to the Historic Core. In the past, it was used by workers. Nowadays, it is more of a tourist attraction. It is a nice place to stop by if you are in the area.
The fare is $1 each way so think about getting a ride if you are with small children. The cost goes down to 0.50 if you show if you have a Metro car.
Grand Central Market
This is one of my favorite places in the area. The Grand Central Market has been in business since 1917. It has had its up and downs (like any business). Nowadays, it is going up and up and up.
The market is full of stalls selling delicious food. For example, it is home of Eggslut, The Oyster Gourmet, Wexler’s Deli, Tacos Tumbras a Tomas and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. You will more than satisfy your appetite in here.
No long time ago, what is known as the Arts District was a derelict area full of abandoned warehouses and not so visually appealing spaces.
Today, this is one of the hottest parts of the city. You can stop by to eat at the modernly-designed restaurants, see the huge array of murals or visit one of the museums. In fact, you can spend an entire day in the area. I highly recommend spending some time here (especially if you are a content creator).
This area, located north of the Civic Center, lacks the size, vibrancy, and exoticness of other Chinatowns located in prominent cities (example, San Francisco or New York). Notwithstanding, the deficit of certain elements does not take away the interesting and pleasant qualities of the area.
There are enough eating and shopping options to keep you busy for half or, even, an entire day. For Chinese food, go to Kim Chuy or CBS Seafood. For more modern food, pick one of the options at Far East Plaza.
If you are looking to avoid the Downtown Fashion District (also known as ‘The Alleys’), covered markets such as Saigon Plaza, Chinatown Plaza, and Dynasty Shopping Center offer kind of the same variety of products in a less hectic (and maybe cheaper) environment.
Little Tokyo is the largest of the three officially recognized Japantowns in the United States (the others are in San Francisco and San Jose).
The area is home to a Japanese American National Museum. Stop by if you want to learn more about the life in detainment camps during World War II. After that, you can enjoy ramen, soba, udon, sushi or mochi at one of the area restaurants.
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Olvera Street. This is the place where Los Angeles was settled by 11 families from Sonora in 1781.
To celebrate the Mexican heritage in the city, the street features a marketplace, restaurants, monuments, and churches. Do not forget to try the taquitos with avocado sauce from Cielito Lindo.
This is not my favorite area of Downtown but I am sure sports lovers would like to take a look at the Staples Center. Try to score a ticket to a basketball game while in town. Warning: that ticket is not going to be inexpensive.
The Jewelry District is a bit shady, but you can find a gem here and there!
More of Los Angeles
- Find out how to spend one fun-filled day in Los Angeles
- Get inspiration by reading my Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
- 20 Reasons to Love Los Angeles
- Driving in Los Angeles: Tips and Tricks from a Local
More of Southern California
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