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.