24 Best Things To Do In Downtown LA - Updated 2021

things to do in downtown la
Catherine
Catherine
Updated

Los Angeles is one of the most recognized cities in the world. There are many places that spring to mind when someone mentions Los Angeles: Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Venice Beach, Universal Studios, Downtown. Downtown? Yes, you may not know it but Downtown Los Angeles, better known to locals as DTLA, has a variety of exciting and fun things to do and see. Get ready to discover another side to LA that will have you booking your next flight to the City of Angels. Here’s a list of the best things to do in Downtown LA.

1. Check out the contemporary art at The Broad

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account


The Broad is a contemporary art museum in Downtown Los Angeles. This building has actually been named after philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. If you love art, then you should check out the museum’s exhibits that usually range from balloon animals and abstract paintings to over 2000 post-war artworks. In order to know more about the upcoming exhibits and various events being held at The Broad, do check out their official website.

The Broad

Address: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, United States

Website: The Broad

Price: Free

2. Keep your eyes peeled on art installations by Public Art "Gateway to Los Angeles"

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Public Art “Gateway to Los Angeles” is another tourist attraction in the City of Angels that displays multiple artworks in public places. One is a two 100-foot (30 metres) steel, aluminum, concrete, and stainless steel cable-net structures with LED lighting. Another is the breathtaking overhead structure on Los Angeles Street. Visit the website to check out the 10 best public artworks in the city as well as the addresses and locations to visit those public places. Don’t forget to take your camera because these artworks make for great pictures.

Public Art "Gateway to Los Angeles"

Address: N Los Angeles St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, United States

Website: Public Art “Gateway to Los Angeles”

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Price: Free

3. Sign up for a historic tour of Downtown LA (from USD 96.0)

Opt for this historic tour of Downtown LA where you get to explore Olvera Street and Little Tokyo! Two of the most historic neighborhoods in the City of Angels. You get to see all the popular spots and famous landmarks on this two-hour guided tour. The first stop is at Union Station, follow by Olverita’s Village where you can wander the streets, take in the culture, admire the art, and enjoy some delicious street tacos. You also get to visit popular attractions such as Pico House, La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes, James Irvine Garden, and Little Tokyo, where you can sample some mouthwatering sweets.

Historic Tour in Downtown LA: Olvera Street and Little Tokyo

Duration: 2 hours

1 review

4. Have a grand time at Grand Park

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Opened in 1966, Grand Park was known as the “Civic Center Mall” with plazas, fountains, and a Court of Flags. Now, this is a spacious 12 acre (almost 5 hectares) park in the heart of Downtown LA. This is a great place to just hang out, enjoy a picnic with your better half, watch the twinkling stars at night and if you’re lucky, enjoy a special concert or music festival too. Our recommendation? Grab a cup of coffee from the nearby cafes and enjoy a romantic stroll through the park.

Grand Park

Address: 200 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, United States

Website: Grand Park

Opening hours: 5:30am - 10pm (daily)

Price: Free

Nearby things to do

5. Enjoy the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame (from USD 30.0)

The Hollywood Walk of Fame needs no introduction! This amazing walking tour of the Hollywood Walk of Fame allows you to walk past Hollywood Pantages Theater and get a sight of the iconic Hollywood sign. Your tour guide will give you a brief history of all the places, including some trivia about the stars. There will be more than enough time for photo opportunities, so make sure you’ve got a good camera with you. PS: you should wear comfortable walking shoes because this tour will take around two hours.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Walking Tour

Duration: 2 hours

6 reviews

6. Join an exclusive tour of Griffith Observatory (from USD 149.0)

Griffith Observatory is a public observatory where you can look through telescopes and explore exhibits. One of the best ways to see this popular attraction is to join a private walking tour by Viator. This tour takes about three hours, where you get to learn all about the architecture, movies, science, and the history of the city of LA. Once the tour is over, you get to watch a live show at Samuel Oschin Planetarium.

Los Angeles: Griffith Observatory Private Tour

Duration: 3 hours

7 reviews

7. Explore the art collections at The Getty

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account


The Getty is a very popular museum in LA that is known for its lush green gardens, gorgeous architecture, and spectacular views of the city. This museum has a fantastic collection of artwork, with art collections by Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Monet. The art here is definitely a class apart, so your trip to Los Angeles is just incomplete until you visit The Getty. Since there is so much to do and see here, it is highly recommended that you do your research beforehand so you have a fair idea of what you want to check out when you’re at The Getty.

The Getty

Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049, United States

Website: The Getty

Price: Free

8. Get a sight of the Hollywood Sign

Hollywood sign
Source: Unsplash

Hollywood Sign is an American landmark indeed! Located at the top of Mount Lee, it’s an icon that overlooks Los Angeles, Hollywood, and California. While some people enjoy admiring this landmark from afar, most prefer to trek to the top of the hill to get a close look. If you and your partner are interested in getting close encounters with the Sign, wear your most comfortable shoes and trek the hiking trails of Griffith Park. For more details, kindly refer to its website.

Hollywood Sign

Address: Los Angeles, CA 90068, United States

Website: Hollywood Sign

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Price: Free

9. Admire the art displays at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account


Los Angeles County Museum of Art, commonly known as LACMA, is the largest museum in the western part of the United States. Located on Wilshire Boulevard, this beautiful and educational museum is definitely worth the visit. The collection of over 142,000 objects, paintings, and artifacts provides guests with insights into the artistic and cultural changes that took place years ago. If you are an art enthusiast, then you should include LACMA in your itinerary.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, United States

Website: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

10. Visit the unique The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account


Hancock Park, a quaint neighborhood known for its well-preserved mansions, was formed from La Brea Tar Pits. It’s a hollow in which tar or natural asphalt oozes from the ground. If you want to learn more about tar pits as well as see the preserved bones of trapped animals, then you should plan a trip to La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. The park surrounding the museum is where you can see paleontologist working, which is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.

The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Address: 5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, United States

Website: The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Price: 6 -15 USD

11. Get some pictures with the stars at Madame Tussauds Hollywood (from USD 29.0)

Madame Tussauds Hollywood is probably one of the most-visited wax museums in the world. With lifelike wax statues of celebrities, sportspersons, presidents, singers, actors, and more, this museum is the best place to get a few pictures with your all-time favorite celebrity or at least a picture with their wax statue. It is better to buy a ticket online; it is much cheaper and you don’t need to stand in line for hours.

Madame Tussauds Hollywood Ticket in Los Angeles

73 reviews

12. Go on a sightseeing tour (from USD 44.99)

go on a sightseeing tour

Big Bus Tour is a hop-on hop-off tour that allows you to see some of the most popular tourist attractions in LA. With around 20 hop-on hop-off spots, this bus tour covers it all. It includes a recorded commentary which is available in nine different languages, so you get to learn about the history of LA while touring the city. Once the tour is over, you get to soak up the sun and relax on Santa Monica and Venice Beach. If you’re interested in exploring Hollywood, the hop-on-hop-off bus is the best way to do just that.

Los Angeles Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour

110 reviews

13. Gorge on premium steak at LA Prime

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account


LA Prime is a popular rotating restaurant that is known for its exceptional prime beef steaks and gorgeous 360-degree views of the city. Located on the 35th floor of Westin Bonaventure Hotel, you will not only get treated to spectacular views but sumptuous food as well. Some of the most recommended dishes here are Chilean sea bass, braised double-cut pork belly, grilled Colorado double lamb chops, and prime beef steaks cooked to perfection.

LA Prime

Address: 404 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90071, United States

Website: LA Prime

Opening hours: Thu: 5:30pm - 10:30pm; Fri - Sat: 5:30pm - 11pm; Sun: 5:30pm - 10:30pm (closed from Mon - Wed)

14. Experience the magical world of Universal Studios Hollywood (from USD 110.0)

Who doesn’t want to visit Universal Studios Hollywood when they’re in LA? Here, get to see a real-life working movie studio, go behind the scenes to see where all your favorite movies were made, experience amazing rides that make you feel like you’re inside a movie. Literally, your trip to LA is incomplete till you spend a day at Universal Studios Hollywood. When you’re there, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Jurassic World ride, the Fast & Furious 3D motion-based simulator, and the world-famous Studio Tour are things that you shouldn’t miss.

Universal Studios Hollywood General Admission Ticket

Duration: 8 hours

589 reviews

15. Get your adrenaline pumping with paragliding (from USD 275.0)

get your adrenaline pumping with paragliding

Enjoy this 30-minute paragliding experience in Malibu where you get to soar like a bird in the sky above the magnificent Pacific Ocean. With stunning views of the beach, wildlife, and city, think of this as the experience of a lifetime. While you’re up there, keep your eyes open for dolphins, sharks, and stingrays. You might also spot mountain lions, hawks, deer,s and more. You get to fly with a highly trained instructor, so don’t worry, you will definitely be in safe hands!

Los Angeles: 30-Minute Tandem Paragliding Experience

Duration: 30 minute

13 reviews

16. Experience the city from a bird's eye perspective at OUE Skyspace LA

OUE Skyspace
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dancorona21 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Experience Los Angeles from a bird’s eye perspective. The OUE Skyspace is California’s tallest open-air observatory providing breathtaking 360-degree views of the city. Located in the iconic US Bank Tower, visitors experience at nearly 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) above the city, dazzling panoramic views of LA. And if that’s not compelling enough, there’s the added attraction of the world’s first ever Skyslide, an enclosed glass slide attached to the side of the building. The trip begins on the 70th floor and spits you out onto a terrace on the 69th, where the observation deck is located; truly not for the faint of heart!

Admission to the OUE Skyspace observation deck is 25 USD, plus an extra 8 USD if you want to ride the slide. The observation deck includes an interactive section featuring a digital topography wall of the city’s beacons. There’s also a small convenient store with snacks, soft drinks and some souvenirs available.

OUE Skyspace LA

Address: 633 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Hours: Sunday-Monday 10am to 9pm, Friday-Saturday 10am to 10pm

Contact: +1 2138949000

Website: OUE Skyspace LA

17. Watch a concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall

WaltDisneyConcertHall
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jon Sullivan used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

To experience a concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall is a grand affair. The acoustics are one of the most splendid in the world. Home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall is an internationally recognized landmark designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. It is the fourth hall that comprises the Los Angeles Music Center. The other three are The Ahmanson Theater, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and The Mark Taper Forum.

If a concert doesn’t fit your schedule take a tour of this amazing structure. Self-guided audio tours and guided tours are offered by the Music Center most days. All tours are only an hour long and begin in the Grand Avenue Lobby of Walt Disney Concert Hall. Getting an intimate glimpse of the stainless steel curves of the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s striking exterior and the state-of-the-art acoustics of the hardwood-paneled main auditorium will certainly be a highlight of your visit to Los Angeles. And if there are less than 15 people in your party, both the self-guided and guided tour is complimentary, but reservations are required. You can’t beat that deal!

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Address: 111 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012

Contact: +1 3238502000, for tour reservations +1 2139727483

Website: Walt Disney Concert Hall

18. Immerse in the world of Old LA on Olvera Street

Olvera Street
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Visitor7 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Among the soaring office buildings and snarled traffic jams is a colorful stretch of Downtown LA that is a real treat to experience. Get immersed in the world of Old Los Angeles with a stroll down Olvera Street. Olvera Street is one of the most popular tourist destinations in LA; drawing people from around the world. The tree-shaded, brick-lined market consists of old structures, painted stalls, street vendors, restaurants and gift shops. Many of the current merchants on Olvera Street are descended from the original vendors.

Olvera Street is located in the oldest district of the city, so it’s no surprise to find Avila Adobe, L.A.’s oldest house. The structure, made of adobe brick; material consisting of clay, water and straw, was built in 1818, and is designated as a California Historic Landmark. The Avila Adobe is worth a visit when you’re on Olvera Street. Olvera Street exudes an air of pure Mexico; with Mariachi music filling the air, as well as the aroma of fried churros and sizzling fajitas. Once you step onto Olvera Street it’s easy to see and feel why so many people flock to see it. Olvera Street definitely has its own unique vibe.

Olvera Street

Address: 845 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Website: Olvera Street

19. Take a trip through The Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Minnaert used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Not far from Walt Disney Concert Hall is The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). A contemporary art museum with three locations, actually, in greater Los Angeles. The main branch is located on Grand Avenue in Downtown and, like the other branches, is the only museum in LA solely devoted to contemporary art. Before you enter the facility, you’ll notice a large, distinctive sculpture fashioned from used airplane parts graces the museum’s front plaza. Do yourself a favor and don’t breeze past it. Take a moment to study, up close and at a distance, this amazing piece of art by sculptor Nancy Rubins.

Once inside, you’ll see works by well-known artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Diane Arbus. Emerging artists are also represented. Special activities geared toward kids, adults and teens are offered regularly, as well as a free audio tour and access to outdoor installations. Enjoy free admission every Thursday evening from 5pm to 8pm. When you’re ready to eat there’s the Lemonade at MOCA, conveniently located adjacent to the museum entrance, where you can munch on light and tasty dishes, like mango coconut chicken in a bright cafeteria setting. If a museum day is on your agenda, you’ll definitely want to check out The Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown LA.

The Museum of Contemporary Art

Address: 250 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11am to 6pm, Tuesday CLOSED, Thursday 11am to 8pm, Saturday, Sunday 11am to 5pm

Contact: +1 2136266222

Price: Adult 15 USD, Children 12 and under FREE

Website: The Museum of Contemporary Art

20. Fill your tummy with good food at Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market, Los Angeles
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user manfred matticka used under CC BY-SA 3.0

With so much ground to cover in Downtown LA you need to refuel, and the best place to do that is Grand Central Market. Just about every food you can imagine is at Grand Central Market. If this place brings together the cuisines and cultures of LA, as it claims, then it is definitely the right size; huge! A downtown landmark since 1917, this mega-food fest “is a vibrant and thriving community of multicultural stands and food stops, with 37 vendors in total.” - Jenna Chandler and Farley Elliott, lacurbed.com

But be warned, the lunch hour is so popular it can leave you on a major hunt for a place to sit. To avoid big crowds, visit mid-morning and at night. With so many choices it’s easy to be overwhelmed. A few top spots to help narrow your list are Sarita’s Pupuseria, the menu’s inexpensive and the crowd favorite is the pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling. Pastrami is the order of the day at Wexler’s Deli. And Knead & Co. is the top pick if you want to enjoy some delicious pasta and meatballs at a leisurely pace.

Grand Central Market

Hours: Daily 8am to 10pm

Address: 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Contact: +1 2136242378

Website: Grand Central Market

21. Find your zen at Kyoto Gardens

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
Source: Photo by Flickr user Channone Arif used under CC BY 2.0

One of the most surprising things to be found among the hustle and bustle of Downtown LA is a stunning roof-top Japanese-style garden at The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. Re-created from an ancient Japanese garden, Kyoto Gardens is a stunning sunlit garden filled with colorful flowers and plants. While you sit in the garden, you’ll be calmed by the sound of a cascading waterfall. And catching a glimpse of the surrounding skyscrapers reflected in a clear, tranquil pond will be the only reminder that you’re enveloped by a thriving metropolis. Stone pathways wind through the meticulously manicured trees and landscape creating a nice oasis-like feel.

Kyoto Gardens at Doubletree by Hilton Hotel is open to the public every day of the week, unless there’s a private event scheduled. So if you need to take a break from your frenetic vacation, spend some time relaxing by a babbling brook at this lovely hideaway called Kyoto Gardens.

Kyoto Gardens at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

Address: 120 S Los Angeles St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Contact: +1 2136291200

Website: Kyoto Gardens at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

22. Walk through a tunnel of books at The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Akos Kokai used under CC BY 2.0

The Last Bookstore is like no other bookstore on earth. Stepping into The Last Bookstore is like stepping into an alternate universe. It’s the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ of bookstores. When you enter an area known as the Labyrinth, located on the second floor, you’ll literally walk through a tunnel of books. The Last Bookstore is housed in an old bank, and it’s probably this former financial structure that allows The Last Bookstore to create such a unique space, as the Labyrinth room features doors that go nowhere and “secret passageways” that lead into hidden rooms. There’s even volumes of books displayed in a vault, and a functioning light switch embedded in a book! It feels like the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s school library. You almost expect to see Harry Potter among the stacks!

The Last Bookstore has grown into a beloved LA institution. With bookstores quickly becoming extinct, it is heartening to see The Last Bookstore’s devotion to its wares and their ingenuity to display those materials in a fresh and wonderfully bizarre manner. Don’t miss an opportunity to check out this unique place that houses more than 100,000 old and vintage books, some for only 1 USD each. It is a small price to pay for the future of books.

The Last Bookstore

Address: 453 S Spring St Ground Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Contact: +1 2134880599

Hours: Monday-Thursday 10am to 10pm, Friday-Saturday 10am to11pm, Sunday 10am to 9pm

Website: The Last Bookstore

23. Enjoy a tea time at Rendezvous Court

Rendezvous court at biltmore hotel
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user jim Winstead from... used under CC BY 2.0

The posh Millennium Biltmore Hotel’s Rendezvous Court offers a singularly refined experience in Downtown Los Angeles. The renowned weekend traditional Afternoon Tea is the chance to relax with a pot of fine-blended custom tea, while enjoying the beauty of the Rendezvous Court. A historic location, Rendezvous Court is a feast for the eyes with its rose marble fountain, gold-leaf accents, and immense Baroque stairwell. You will feel like royalty as you sip tea in this elegant atmosphere.

The Afternoon Tea service is available Saturdays and Sundays, from 2pm to 5pm. Along with tea is a very nice assortment of elegant tea sandwiches, fresh baked scones, a selection of French Macaroons and various other pastries served on three-tiered plates with an old country rose pattern. Reservations are recommended.

Afternoon Tea at Rendezvous Court

Address: 506 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Contact: +1 2136121562

Price: from 35 USD

Website: Afternoon Tea at Rendezvous Court

24. Go on a shopping spree at Santee Alley

Santee Alley
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jenna Pittaway/Ne... used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Popular for its bazaar-like atmosphere, Santee Alley creates a unique shopping experience in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. For die-hard shoppers, you’ll have from over 150 stores to choose from, selling such items as clothes, shoes, cosmetics and more. Santee Alley comprises two blocks of the 100-block LA Fashion District, and has traditionally been the retail core of the area for those shopping for a great deal.

The scene along the main corridor is packed with tourists and bargain-hunting locals making their way through the myriad of storefronts crammed with affordable accessories, footwear and thousands of mannequins clad in all kinds of apparel. Many of the merchants hail from far away places, like Kenya, Korea, and Lebanon, just to name a few, making Santee Alley a truly international shopping experience. Santee Alley isn’t all about bargain shopping. There’s plenty of eateries when you need to take a break and re-energize. The Alley Dog is a crowd favorite and home to the original bacon wrapped hot dog. Santee Alley is open 7 days a week, rain or shine.

Santee Alley

Address: 210 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Website: Santee Alley

25. Explore an architectural marvel at The Bradbury Building

Bradbury Building
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carol M. Highsmith used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

It is truly grand that one of Los Angeles’ most enduring landmarks, The Bradbury Building, has appeared in a fair amount of Hollywood movies. Those not able to travel to LA can at least get a glimpse of this five-story piece of divine architecture that has appeared in such films as, Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, Double Indemnity, Chinatown and Lethal Weapon 4. But if you are lucky enough to make it to Los Angeles, a trip to The Bradbury Building should be at the top of your tourist list. It’s not surprising many film directors have chosen to showcase The Bradbury Building. With its airy Victorian courtyard, open-cage elevators, marble stairs, and ornate iron railings, The Bradbury Building deserves a spot in front of the camera!

One of the most fascinating qualities about The Bradbury Building, constructed in 1893, is that it presents a very sharp contrast in appearance. The exterior is like any other commercial structure. But the interior is a dazzling crown jewel, dramatically lit by natural light. You might say the exterior is the cocoon and the interior is the butterfly that emerged. The Bradbury Building underwent a restoration project in the 1990s, and while the general public is only allowed to wander the first two floors, the rest is private business offices; do not let that deter you from experiencing one of LA’s most treasured gems.

The Bradbury Building

Address: 304 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Hours: Daily, 9am to 5pm

Website: The Bradbury Building

An overflow of surprises in Downtown LA

As you can see, Downtown Los Angeles can hold its own against rivals like Hollywood and Beverly Hills. With a variety of delectable foods, wild attractions, historic points of interest and inspiring tranquil locales sprinkled throughout, there’s so much more to Downtown LA than meets the eye. So when you plan a visit to LA that includes shopping on Rodeo Drive and a trip to The Hollywood Wax Museum, don’t forget to include a few of these activities on your itinerary.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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As a child, Catherine's family took a trip to the World's Fair New Orleans and her mom asked what she wanted to see. She exclaimed, "Everything!" She's been working on that endeavor ever since.

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