A Quick Guide to Downtown Los Angeles

Many people pick their vacation spots based on their ability to experience something different. After all, what’s the point of going if you’re just going to see the same old things you see every day? If this need for variety describes you, if you’re one of the people who want new experiences, a vacation in Los Angeles will suit you just fine.

Los Angeles is a very large, cosmopolitan American city. It’s a great place to visit because it offers its tourists an incredibly wide array of things to see and do. One of the city’s highlights for people who crave something different is its delightful melange of diverse ethnic groups and cultures. Although their influences can be seen throughout Los Angeles, several of these different cultures are centered or showcased in or around the Downtown district. But even if the multicultural nature of Los Angeles doesn’t really appeal, plenty of other Downtown attractions are available, and some of them will most certainly draw your attention. Downtown Los Angeles, offering something different in every direction, is definitely worth a visit.

No matter where your hotel is located, Downtown Los Angeles is easy to get to. It’s the central hub for transportation throughout the city, and freeways, commuter trains, subways, light rail and buses can all take you there. Downtown isn’t all that large, so whether you drive or take public transportation, once you get there you can take a DASH shuttle or set out on foot for your ultimate destination.

Historic Olvera Street, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Grand Central Market, the Disney Concert Hall, the Japanese-American National Museum, several different ethnic enclaves and stunning American and international architecture are just a few of Downtown’s tourist highlights. Olvera Street is in the oldest part of Los Angeles and it forms part of the Downtown area’s El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. it’s the perfect place to start if you’re looking for Southern California history or the quaintness of an old-style Mexican marketplace. A living museum lined with 27 historic buildings, Olvera Street also hosts a variety of ethnic celebrations that include Mexican-style music and dancing.

A cultural experience of another type, the permanent collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) provide a remarkably varied glimpse into post-1940 art in all media. It’s an invaluable cultural resource that Downtown is rightfully proud of. Walk through it and you’ll soon see why.

Grand Central Market is located on Broadway in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, within easy walking distance of several other area attractions. Full of brisk and bustling activity, it offers opportunities for people-watching in addition to fresh and already-prepared local and international foods. It’s a great place to take a break from the concrete jungle, and while you’re at it, have a cooling drink or a tasty bite to eat.

The Disney Concert Hall is a striking piece of functional architecture designed by Frank Gehry, an architect acclaimed for his talents throughout the world. The home of the equally-renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic, Disney’s acoustics appropriately are among the best in the world. Beautiful music, beautiful building. Need we say more?

Chronicling 130 years of Japanese-American history and culture, the Japanese-American National Museum provides a fascinating look into the interplay of Asian and American cultures. Its collections include a variety of paintings by Japanese-American artists, but the museum’s perspective on the World War II internment camps is particularly poignant.

Three ethnic districts are located in Downtown Los Angeles: a Mexican enclave, including the already-mentioned Olvera Street; Little Tokyo, home of the Japanese-American National Museum as well as a variety of Japanese shops and restaurants; and Chinatown, primarily centered around North Broadway. Little Tokyo, located near the Los Angeles Civic Center, is one of only three “official” Japantowns in the United States. The cultural focal point for Japanese-Americans in Southern California, this almost unique district is well worth a visit.

Many American cities have Chinatowns, but the Chinese community in Los Angeles, with its wide, busy main street, is somewhat different than the usual warren of narrow streets and lanes found in many cities. Yes, this Chinatown features the typical small shops and Chinese restaurants, but it is most interesting for its open-air marketplace where just about everything for sale is open to haggling.

Variety is the rule of thumb with Downtown Los Angeles dining opportunities, too. Restaurants in every price range, from hot dog stands to fine dining, offer cuisine as varied as the city itself. From early breakfasts to get you started through tasty late night snacks to nosh on, if you’re hungry one of Downtown’s caf├ęs, pubs or restaurants can help you. Downtown also offers taverns, lounges and bars galore, and you may want to take advantage, because many of them offer some pretty fine live entertainment. And if you need a place to stay, Downtown hotels range from the hip and trendy to those offering more than a touch of classic elegance. They cater primarily to business travelers, but vacationers can also take advantage of their prime locations in the city center.

Downtown, much like the entire city, has a number of faces. If you’re looking for something different, downtown Los Angeles has it. There’s enough variety to satisfy even the most demanding traveler.

Downtown Sarasota

Downtown Sarasota contains a small, walkable shopping and dining district a few blocks from the Sarasota Bayfront, east of Tamiami Trail. While Sarasota is a city, the sidewalks are not busy like most cities, unless there’s a farmers market or arts festival downtown. So it feels more like a small town during the day. At night, however, downtown Sarasota comes alive with people out and about, enjoying the many live music venues and restaurants.

Here are highlights of the various districts that make up downtown Sarasota.

FIRST STREET

The Sarasota Opera House, Selby Library, and Whole Foods Market Centre create a cultural and shopping spine along First Street. The Opera House, in soft tones of peach and cream, was extensively renovated last year. It sets a classical European tone and is very popular during Season. Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant, First Street Chop House, Bijou Cafe, and Florida Studio Theater (on Palm Ave at First Street) are all situated in old buildings with character, forming a cozy downtown theatre district.

Diagonally across from the Sarasota Opera House is Selby Public Library, designed by Hoyt Architects. It floats like a big white circus tent supported by elephant-leg columns. At least that’s how it looks to this observer. Inside is a very modern, airy, natural-light-filled library with lots of Internet-capable computers, free wi-fi for using your own laptop, a spacious children’s section entered via an exotic-fishtank archway, and large collections of books, CDs, DVDs, periodicals, fiction and non-fiction books.

Whole Foods Market Centre incorporates upscale ground floor retail shops, upper-floor condominium apartments, a parking garage, and a Whole Foods Market with lots of outdoor seating. This is one of the best places in downtown Sarasota to enjoy a bite while you watch the passing scene. There’s a takeout food bar and an indoor cafe, too. Whole Foods Cafe and the Main Street corridor all offer free wi-fi in downtown Sarasota.

MAIN STREET

Stretching from Rte 301 on the east, to the Sarasota Bayfront on the west, Main Street is the spine of downtown Sarasota. The section between Rte 301 and Osprey Avenue is busiest during weekday business hours, as most of its business comes from office workers related to banking, law firms, and the courts, which are all concentrated in that part of downtown. On the corner of Main Street and Rte 301 is the Hollywood 20 Movie Theater complex. There’s a branch of the Sarasota YMCA in the same building.

From Orange Avenue west to Gulfstream Avenue, you’ll find an eclectic selection of international cuisine, from Greek to Spanish, Vietnamese to Thai, Chinese, Italian, American, French, Pan-Asian, and Fusion. There’s a health food store with supplements and a branch Post Office, art galleries, an Apple store with a cafe, bakeries, and clothing stores from women’s fashions to Brooks Brothers.

During Season, Main Street hosts many arts and crafts festivals, a biker rally, and celebrations of major holidays with rides and food vendors.

In the evening, you can bar-hop around Main Street, checking out the live music at numerous venues such as Mattison’s City Grille, Sarasota Vineyard, Pastry Arts, The Box Social, and The Gator Club.

LEMON AVENUE

Every Saturday, from 7AM to 1PM, year-round, Lemon Avenue from First Street to State Street is the epicenter of the Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market, where approximately 50 vendors offer oodles of fresh produce, including lots of organics; flowers and plants; arts and crafts; prepared foods to take home or take out; baked goods; gluten free foods; meats; and cheeses. It’s one of the best people-watching and dog-parading events in town.

The main downtown bus depot for SCAT (Sarasota County Area Transit) is located on the corner of Lemon Avenue and First Street.

STATE STREET

It’s easy to miss State Street, quietly perched one block south of Main Street. State of the Arts Gallery shows work by artists who are all local and self-supporting with their art. Much of the work shown there is large-scale, museum quality. On S. State Street, one block west, European Focus is a colorful shop with lots of intriguing gifts made by artisans in Europe. From “bouncies” — dolls that bounce up and down on springs — to French linens, to Bavarian “smokers”, to ceramics and tours of Europe, this is a unique Sarasota store. Next door to European Focus is Sarasota Candle, a local manufacturer that also has a booth at the Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market.

PALM AVENUE

This is downtown Sarasota’s “Gallery Row”, with everything from handblown glass to elaborate jewelry to paintings, sculpture, and hats. There’s a First Friday Artwalk that takes place along Palm Avenue from 6-9PM, when the galleries stay open late and offer refreshments and live music. Caragiulo’s Restaurant is on Palm Avenue, with indoor and outdoor dining. At the corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue, Epicure is a favorite spot to sit outside and relax with friends over lunch or dinner.

BURNS SQUARE

Burns Square, at the south end of Pineapple Avenue, is part of downtown Sarasota, but it’s separated by a two- block walk alongside non-descript office buildings, so it feels like a separate district. It shares the First Friday Art Walk with downtown. Here the buildings are low and charming with bright stucco colors and a changing array of intriguing shops. Awesome Orchids, Parkland Art Gallery, Malika’s Imports, L-Boutique, Jack Vinales 20th Century Classics, and Citrus Cafe are all worth a look. Behind Pineapple Avenue, Burns Court reveals Sarasota’s art film house, Burns Court Cinema, and Owen’s Fish Camp restaurant. On Saturdays, there’s a small, independent, outdoor artists’ market on Pineapple Avenue in Burns Square.

SARASOTA BAYFRONT

At the far east end of Main Street, Marina Jack restaurant and marina ties downtown Sarasota to Sarasota Bay. The restaurant is surrounded by the scenic Bayfront Park, which includes a walking path, children’s playground, O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Restaurant, lots of free parking, yacht basin and small beach for launching rowboats. You can sit on a swinging bench and watch the tide go in and out, look across at the stunning John Ringling Bridge, or take in the glorious Gulf sunset.

How To Promote Your Local Downtown Business

If you own a small store or cafe in a busy downtown and want to increase the amount of local traffic that stops through your doors you should consider investing in something that will catch pedestrian’s eyes. The truth is that most local businesses survive by counting on regular customers who pass through the area and make regular stops into the stores. Therefore, you want to make sure you catch the eyes of those who regularly pass through the area because they are the most reliable customer base for you to build your reputation from.

One way to do this is by considering purchasing custom window stickers that you know they will be able to see from the road or sidewalk as they pass by. Given the fact that the aim is to make them take a second look at your store, by offering something in the window that they cannot help but take a second look at you will have caught their attention long enough to make them consider either stepping into your store, or returning at a later date to do so.

Even if the customer does not actually step through your doors the important thing is that you got them to consider the idea, because once they start thinking about making a stop into your store it is only a matter of time before they do so. This is why custom stickers that are eye catching and unforgettable are often the best method to attract new business into a store. It may seem too simple to be effective, but millions of small business owners have been using this tried and true promise for years and have experienced great success as a result.

You may want to think about choosing stickers that offer glimpses of what your business has to offer them by stepping through the doors. For instance, if you have a website that they can check out to see what you have that may intrigue them to actually make a stop into your doors you may want to consider creating a graphic that makes your website easy to read so that they can find it when they return home. After sifting through your website they may find themselves enticed enough to make some time to browse through your store next time they are downtown.

On the other hand, you may want to choose graphic images that will quickly catch their eyes and alert their senses making it almost a compulsion to want to stop in your doors. For instance, if you own a caf you may want to place pictures and small graphics of what you have to offer on your window such as deserts, breakfast dishes, or cups of hot coffee in order to create a craving that will draw them into your doors. In the end, whatever you choose to go with should represent your business enough that they will find themselves unable to resist from checking out your business.