Top 10 Places to Discover in Downtown Los Angeles (2023)


  • 1. Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • 2.MOCA Grand Avenue
  • 3. Little Tokyo
  • 4. Museum Of Contemporary Art
  • 5. The Original Pantry Café
  • 6. Union Station
  • 7. LA Live/Staples Centre
  • 8. OUE SkySpace
  • 9. Skyslide
  • 10. Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours
  • Show More

Los Angeles, California, is a melting pot of cultures. The hip and happening Downtown Los Angeles, as the locals fondly call the place, has a variety of entertainment options. From well-known art museums to hip bars, socially conscious boutiques, stylish galleries, fine dining restaurants to street food hotspots, serving delicacies like Pupusas, Aguas Frescas, carnitas tacos, sandwiches, piping hot coffee and more. Modern high-rise marvels to architectural landmarks, Downtown Los Angeles, represents the spirit of California, USA. Whether you are a tourist or a local, an art lover or a foodie, a music connoisseur or book lover, a shopaholic or an adventurer by soul, a spendthrift or traveling on shoestring budget, on family vacation or on honeymoon, with bunch of friends or a backpacking vagabond, there is something for every age, budget and interest in Los Angeles.

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While the list of things to do is vast and you will find yourself with packed itinerary on your trip, these are Top 10 quintessential things that you have to check off on your to-do list when in Downtown Los Angeles.

1. Walt Disney Concert Hall

This architectural marvel in Downtown Los Angeles, by Frank Gehry, the monument is designed like a ship sailing down the Grand Avenue. Besides being a muse to every amateur and professional photographers, it is also a must-have background selfie for Instagram travel stories. It is an acoustic marvel when it comes to musical performances. The exterior and in interiors with Grand stairways and walkways allow you to enjoy a unique view of the structure at every angle and observe the downtown areas from different locations. Spend time exploring nooks and corner of the masterpiece with its beautifully manicured lawns, exquisitely designed landscaped gardens with orchid trees from Hong Kong, pink snowballs from Madagascar, Pistache trees from China, Mexico’s naked coral trees, Tipu trees of Brazil, and pink trumpets from South and Central America. Adorned with beautiful fountains in various shape and sizes and Rose Lilly Fountain designed by Frank Gehry plus more interesting installations makes the place beautifully welcoming. The building makes up for great pictures at night when fully lit in all its glory. The gift shop sells music-themed souvenirs and some vast collection of classical music records for the connoisseurs of music. Catch up a concert here for the exquisite acoustic experience or take a tour of the facility. The 90-minute self- guided audio tour for music centre has 60 minutes dedicated to Disney concert hall. Auditorium is excluded from the tour, in order to experience the best of acoustics, crafted with great detail, from ceiling in warm Douglas fir, wood panelling to wildflower floral patterns and bright colours on seat upholstery, thickness of material used and vineyard style seating arrangement, every small detail adds to the enhanced experience of the music being played here. One has to attend a concert in order to experience the real magic of the musical performance here. LA Philharmonic, La Master Chorale and other popular concerts are a must-have experience in Downtown Los Angeles. The Roy and Edna Theatre or the Cal Arts theatre is also situated on the same premises. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre also hosts occasional concerts and other events.

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2.MOCA Grand Avenue

Museum of Contemporary Arts at Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles houses works of renowned artists from across the globe. Sculptures, murals and more from established and upcoming artists grace the museum’s entrance. Study the distinctively upcycled installations made from used parts of aeroplanes and various other objects in the form of contemporary works. There are activities planned for kids, teens and adults on a regular basis. Free audio tours are available for the convenience of the visitors. Plan your visit on Thursday between 5 pm to 8 pm for free admission to MOCA.

3. Little Tokyo

Experience the real Japan at this historic area in Downtown Los Angeles. Spend time exploring the tiny shops in by-lanes of Japanese Village Plaza Mall or Nijiya Market for authentic Japanese products, snacks, unique gifts, vintage novelties, bento box, traditional and trendy clothing and various accessories. Visit Pagoda style watchtower or the friendship knot statue, The Japanese-American Museum offers a sneak peek of the cultural and historical influence of Japan on America and vice versa. The wide variety of exhibits of historic documents, from modern art to the interesting possibilities with Origami, comic book heroes to hello kitty exhibits keeps the visitors enchanted. Relish traditional Japanese noodles, rice bowl and authentic soups at Shabu Shabu House – one of the oldest restaurants in Little Tokyo. The freshly brewed soup with pieces of vegetables and tender meat of your choice sliced in front of you and cooked with a secret blend of sauces enhances the flavour of your meal. Try famous Daikoku Ramen, takoyaki, yakisoba, and other popular Japanese snacks at Daikokuya restaurant. Treat yourself at famous Mikawaya Mochi with some unique and classic flavours of ice cream while in Downtown Los Angeles. The week-long annual Nisei festival is an event held in warm summers of August, and it showcases the heritage and culture of Japan, the traditional Taiko drums, art displays, street art, delicious food, sushi and street dance adds to the authentic Japanese experience. The Japanese-American Cultural and Community Centre hosts varied events and activities, check out their event calendar for updates on cultural, musical and other events held here. The James Irvin Japanese Garden ‘Seiryu-en’ or Garden of clear stream offers relaxing Zen-style settings to set the mind free and take a break from the hectic schedules.

4. Museum Of Contemporary Art

Besides the MOCA at Grand Avenue, you will also find Museum of Contemporary Art at Little Tokyo as well as at West Hollywood. Numerous permanent and temporary installations depict a different perspective of life rendered by artists in a contemporary style. Each masterpiece is carefully crafted by renowned artists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and other upcoming artists. You can browse the entire place in a few minutes or spend an entire day absorbing the fine details of the artist's work while in Downtown Los Angeles.

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5. The Original Pantry Café

Located at the corner of Figueroa once was a single room pantry with 15 stool counter, a hot plate, a small grill and sink that served lunch and dinner is now an expensive place frequented by celebrities. Ranked as the most famous landmark in Downtown Los Angeles and restaurant claims to serve 90 tons of bread and 11 tons of coffee every year. It has never been without a customer and never closed. It relentlessly serves patrons from the time it was opened, in 1924. Sip a cup of decent coffee and savour some relishing dishes served here for an authentic feel of the place.

6. Union Station

The historic Union Station that was started for seven locomotive trains is now one of the busiest railway stations in the USA. The iconic structure is part of many movies and operas was built in 1939 at the cost of $11 million. The most recognised architectural landmark in Downtown Los Angeles is an eclectic mix of Spanish, Colonial, Victorian, Art deco and Modern Architecture with gorgeous public areas, courtyards and huge waiting halls clad with marble floors, decorative tiles, faux-wood ceilings, Mission-style exteriors, glimpses of Art deco everywhere you turn. The hub of commuter rails, long-distance trains, Metro Link, MTA Metro trains and Amtrak witnesses thousands of passengers on a daily basis, rushing to catch a train to their destinations. Stop by for few minutes and observe the fine details as you satisfy your wanderlust gazing at this marvellous architecture wonder. Every nook and corner has a history and a story to tell. The place has witnessed thousands of love stories and last good-byes.

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7. LA Live/Staples Centre

LA Live is a popular entertainment venue in Downtown Los Angeles. The complex spread across five and a half million square feet is the most happening place to catch a movie or a theatre performance, a concert or live gigs. Numerous bars, fine dine venues, and swanky restaurants on the rooftop of towering hotels offer a variety of cuisines to satisfy your taste buds. Explore the avenues that feel like a city within the city or pamper yourself at a Spa. The mega arena at Staples Centre hosts ice hockey, football and live concerts. With a capacity of over twenty thousand seats, it’s a favoured venue to host Grammy Awards, Music Concerts and other live events. Do visit this place and be a part of the extravaganza that represents the spirit of Los Angeles.

8. OUE SkySpace

California’s tallest open-air observatory offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Enjoy the bird eye view of Downtown Los Angeles and beyond from 1000 feet height. Take an elevator ride to the 69th and 70th floor of the iconic US Bank Tower, and the observation deck gives you a feeling of being at the top of the World. The night view of the LA is incredibly romantic with millions of lights illuminating the cityscape.

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9. Skyslide

While you are at Skyspace observatory, enjoy the ultimate thrill and adrenaline rush by taking a ride in a transparent glass-encased sky slide attached to the sides of the building at 305 meters height. Slide down from the 70th floor to the 69th-floor observation deck. An adventure that will be etched in your memories for years to come. The short ride on the slide is not for faint-hearted as you feel suspended in the air at a thousand feet height.

10. Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours

Best way to explore and cherish the heritage, history and culture of Downtown Los Angeles is to take a walking tour with Los Angeles Conservancy. The carefully designed tours unfold the history and architecture like a beautiful story, you can choose the tours based on your interest. The Angelino Heights tour and Historic Downtown tours are crafted to explore history and architecture of the bygone Victorian era and other cultural landmarks while the Art Deco tour explores the history, style of art and material popular in the 1920s and 1930’s architecture. To experience the cinematic, social and architectural history of entertainment, take a tour of Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District. ‘The host of the coast’ now known as The Millennium Biltmore Hotel also hosts special tours to explore the rich history and architecture of their magnificent property. There are few more tours that cover Downtown Los Angeles, The Union Station tour celebrates the culture, social history, art and architecture of the iconic landmark standing tall and graciously from 1939, Student tour presents the story of DTLA for school students in an interesting and interactive way while a private walking tour can be designed specifically for your group. Check out the tour that fits your itinerary and interest. These walks are also the most amazing times to capture the place in your camera for your travel diaries.

Besides these top 10 listed marvels, there is so much more to explore in Downtown Los Angeles, like Chinatown, Spring Arcade building, Pershing Square Park, Infinity Mirror rooms at the Broad Museum built by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad featuring work of over two hundred artists , the iconic Bradbury building with zigzag stairways that featured in climax of Blade Runner movie, cultural institutions and Angels flight at Bunker Hill, the Los Angeles City Hall, observation deck at civic centre, Olympic Torch of 1984 games near Spring street, hundred year old Regent theatre transformed to Rock club that now hosts podcasts, stand-up comedy shows, live gigs and much more. Grammy Museum exhibits music history and also houses state of the art Clive Davis Theatre.

There are various museums, sporting events, flea markets, boutique stores, fashion district, street art, murals, studios, art galleries and more to explore. One can also go pub-hopping or explore hidden cafes, restaurants and eateries. Pack a picnic basket and head towards the Grand Park dotted with beautiful fountains and bright pink benches. Walkthrough the oldest Spanish neighbourhood El Pueblo along Olvera Street while you appreciate the historical structures from 1781. The stunning Los Angeles Central Library is a labyrinth of tomes that houses an exquisite collection of books, while the building itself is an eclectic mix of Egyptian and Mediterranean style of architecture. The stunning rotunda dome beautifully depicts Californian history murals. The globe chandelier further enhances the beauty of the place.

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Shop for beautiful souvenirs from various parts of Downtown Los Angeles to take back home. The charm of this beautiful neighbourhood will be etched in your memories forever. So, explore and experience the best of Downtown Los Angeles on your next trip.

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