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Bradbury Building
Photograph: Courtesy Brayden Law

16 of the best things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Get to know L.A.’s resurgent city center with these quintessential things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

By Michael Juliano

A few decades ago, DTLA wasn’t on anybody’s radar: There simply were’t enough things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, aside from being a firsthand witness to the decline of what was once a buzzing city center. These days, it’s a different story. While Downtown still has some growing up to do, it’s in the midst of a cultural and architectural resurgence that’s turning the area into a walkable, Metro-friendly destination dotted with museums, destination-worthy restaurants and beautiful buildings. Get to know Bunker Hill, the Historic Core and beyond with these things to do in Downtown Los Angeles. Just a heads up: Some blocks are more family-friendly than others, and it likely won’t have the sheen you’d expect from a major American downtown, but we think there are plenty of incredible finds for visitors who arrive with an open mind.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Downtown Los Angeles

We’ve updated this guide to include include our favorite spots that are currently open right now. Some of the area’s most notable venues—including the Broad and MOCA—are still temporarily closed.

16 essential things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Anthony Fomin

1. See the twisted architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall (from the outside)

5 out of 5 stars
Music Music venues Downtown

As the crown jewel of the Music Center, Disney Hall opened in 2003 to rave reviews. The novelty hasn’t yet worn off: Both inside and out, this is a terrific venue (though, for now, you’ll be limited to gawking from the outside). Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale.

Grand Central Market
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

2. Eat tacos and egg sandwiches at Grand Central Market

Restaurants Downtown Historic Core

Even if you’re not there for the food, this century-old spot is worth a trip; people from all corners of L.A. mix and mingle among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage. Of course, if you’re hungry it’s a great place to get cheap pupusas from Sarita’s Pupuseria, carnitas from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas and chow mein from China Cafe, as well as food from handsome, trendy eateries like Sticky Rice, BelcampoHorse Thief BBQEggslut and G&B Coffee.

Bradbury Building
Photograph: Michael Juliano

3. Channel ‘Blade Runner’ at the Bradbury Building

Things to do Downtown Historic Core

Walk through the archway entrance of this otherwise nondescript brick building and you're greeted with a stunning, light-flooded alley of wood, iron and brick. You’ll have to do all of your gawking from the ground floor (and half a flight of stairs) as the rest of the building is private office space. History buffs will appreciate its place as Downtown’s oldest commercial building (1893); movie buffs will recognize the zigzagging staircases from the climax of Blade Runner.

Union Station
Photograph: Courtesy Union Station

4. Give in to your wanderlust at Union Station

Things to do Downtown

Train travel has gone in and out of fashion, but the last of the great American rail stations is just as handsome as the day it opened: Union Station’s Mission-style exterior opens up into a grand waiting area with marble tiles, faux-wood beamed ceilings and Art Deco touches. Wander through its halls and courtyards and you’ll find a building rich with history, locomotion and—with the eventual arrival of high-speed rail and a new concourse—progress.

The Music Center
Photograph: Courtesy Tim Street-Porter

5. Stroll between a trio of cultural venues at the Music Center Plaza

Things to do Downtown

You can’t see any shows right now at DTLA’s original cultural complex: That means no Broadway musicals at the Ahmanson Theatre, no dramas at the Mark Taper Forum and no operas at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. But you can get some fresh air at the Music Center Plaza, the fountain-adorned courtyard that links them all together (and has some perfectly framed views of City Hall).

Los Angeles Central Library
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

6. Explore by foot with the Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours

Things to do Walks and tours

Cherish Downtown L.A.’s rich history with a walking tour from the Los Angeles Conservancy, which has resumed one of its in-person tours—but only for you and up to four other members of your household. The two-hour open-air tour won’t be going inside any of its destinations, but you will learn all about and stop in front of DTLA landmarks like the Central Library, the U.S. Bank Tower and the Bradbury Building. Not up for an in-person tour yet? Look for the Conservancy’s virtual tours, as well.

Grand Park
Photograph: Michael Juliano

7. Pack a picnic at Grand Park

Things to do Downtown

The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown L.A. into a vibrant cultural hub got a lift when a portion of Grand Park’s 12 acres officially opened to the public in July 2012. Dotted with fountains, picnic lawns, bright pink benches and plenty of nooks from which to sit and people-watch, Grand Park is a bright urban oasis that proves the city has a sense of romance. The park plays host to performances, gatherings and other community events.

The Last Bookstore
Photograph: Jake Giles Netter

8. Get lost in a labyrinth of tomes at the Last Bookstore

Shopping Bookstores Downtown Historic Core

If the Last Bookstore Downtown were really our last bookstore, we’d be in good shape. Currently housed in what used to be an old bank building (complete with marble columns and giant doors), this store is as popular for its stellar book selection as it is for its labyrinth of literary photo ops.

Angels Flight.
Photograph: Michael Juliano

10. Have a ‘La La Land’ moment on Angels Flight

Things to do Downtown

Angels Flight—which you may recognize from La La Land—is literally the little funicular that could: The block-long railway has weathered mechanical problems, extended closures and relocation to keep pulling passengers up Bunker Hill over a century after its initial opening. The two, tiered cars that traverse its rails offer a view of the Historic Core below, as well as an amusingly bumpy ride. You can board Angels Flight from either Hill Street or Olive Street, but we suggest the former lest you end up hoofing it back up Fourth Street. Tip: Use your TAP card for a half-price fare.

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