Sandwiched between rapidly gentrifying areas, this troubled but historic Westlake park is worth visiting at least once. It's home to the Levitt Pavilion, a summertime band shell, as well as the recently installed "Sphere," a community-made art installation that features 2,000 painted orbs floating on the lake's surface. Come back after CicLAvia for a pastrami sandwich at Langer's, which unfortunately is closed on Sundays.
Teragram Ballroom is a brand-spanking new, 600-person live music venue on the border of Westlake and Downtown. Shows here are usually indie rock, which makes sense: owner Michael Swier is the man behind New York City's Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge and Music Hall of Williamsburg (some of the best live music staples on the East Coast). Shows are priced between $15-$45, and you can grab a bite beforehand at the venue's built-in bar and restaurant.
Plan Check's Downtown location sits a block uphill from the CicLAvia route, but it's worth the climb for fried chicken deliciousness and one of the best burgers in town. Stick around for the restaurant's signature cruller donuts, or sidle up to the bar to nurse a S&L old fashioned while you watch all the pretty Downtown folk stroll by.
One of Downtown's newest shopping and dining destinations, FIGat7th hosts movies, music and seasonal fests in its recessed plaza. The shopping center includes retailers like Target and Zara, a food court (highlights include Loteria Grill and its sandwich-focused Torta Company) and Downtown outposts of Sprinkles, Mendocino Farms and Pazzo Gelato. For CicLAvia, the centrally located shopping plaza is rolling out a free bike valet, parking validation for cyclists and more.
This 12-story Romanesque Revival landmark has a striking exterior, with intricately sculpted columns and Renaissance-like sculptures. But the "wow" moment awaits in its temple-like lobby, where large arches and a geometric, painted ceiling hang over a tiled floor and fountain. Make sure to stop in from time to time to check out the rotating display of artwork in the lobby.
If you’re into American craft microbrews, then Downtown’s Barrel Down could be just the bar you’ve been waiting for. Beer-wise, this place is a potable candy shop, offering a diverse and thorough range of top-tier brews from around the country. With a daily draft selection that’s 20 taps deep and an additional rotating beer list that changes every few days, there is undoubtedly something here for everyone.
15% off total bill with spoke card
After four years and more than $10 million in renovations, Clifton's Cafeteria has reopened in Downtown, bringing back a beloved institution that was once a landmark of Downtown's bustling Broadway. New owner Andrew Meieran has filled the five floors with intricate detail, from vignettes of famous LA sites to taxidermy to a massive tree that shoots up through the building. The first floor cafeteria offers plates of comfort food and that famous Jell-O, while the floors above include multiple bars (including a tiki bar!) and dining nooks.
Grab a drink at Downtown's self-proclaimed first gay cocktail bar. The spot takes its name from the Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization founded in LA in 1950.
$5 Pershing Square Cocktails with spoke card
Though this stretch of 7th Street is yet to have its own nickname (The Magnificent Seven?), you'll find a wealth of worthwhile restaurants and bars. Grab a Filipino bowl at Rice Bar, Mexican comfort food at Mas Malo, sushi at Sugarfish and macarons at Bottega Louie, arguably the area's most popular tenant. Wash it all down at the boozy Boba 7 or whiskey-driven Seven Grand.
Enter the terra cotta archway of this 1924 arcade and you'll find a glass-roofed alleyway dotted with restaurants. The crowds are still light—it's no Grand Central Market competitor, at least not yet—but the food offerings are already strong, with spots like Green Grotto Juice Bar, Gelateria Uli, Guisados and BierBeisl Imbiss.
If this really was the only remaining bookstore, we'd be in good shape. Housed in an old bank building (complete with marble columns and giant doors), the store first began in a loft apartment and has since expanded to include a record shop, coffee bar and "Labyrinth" mezzanine level solely dedicated to $1 books.
What was once a parking lot has given way to a lawn, playground and seating area tucked away in the shade of luxury lofts. Don't expect enough space to throw around a Frisbee, but the small yet handsome park offers just enough greenery and seating to linger in an area that's increasingly worth the time to visit.
Puffy tacos—light, deep-fried versions of this town’s staple—may be the claim to fame at Bar Amá, but the essence of chef Josef Centeno’s second Downtown venture lies in its queso. The molten orange substance with both the color and viscosity of melted Velveeta cheese tastes shockingly similar to the low-brow, store-bought stuff.
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.
Though a block off of the CicLAvia route, this European-style food hall is always worth a visit. It's a great place to get cheap pupusas, carnitas tacos and aguas frescas, but recently the market has emerged as a haven for handsome, trendy eateries like Sticky Rice, Horse Thief BBQ, Eggslut and G&B Coffee.
A 222-seat movie theater in the heart of Downtown that sells wine and beer. Enough said. (Except, we must also note that this very cool indie movie house also offers $5 tickets to DTLA locals and has a variety of interesting film events and 21+ screenings.)
Traditional and updated Indian street foods and favorites are served at this design-forward space. Sit at the bar, upstairs or along the sidewalk and take in the Bollywood movies projected on the wall as small plates arrive at the table. Start with street cart classics such as addictive 2-Bite Fish Fry and crunchy papri chaat chips.
The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown LA 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. For CicLAvia, the park is hosting the Big Draw LA, a community-driven free-draw.
As the oldest section of Los Angeles, where the city was first established in 1781 as a farming community, El Pueblo has an authentic, Spanish-style feel. The area comprises 26 historical structures, 11 of which are open to the public, as well as the famous Olvera Street, which is full of local, independent vendors selling a range of goods.
Far East Plaza looks unassuming from the outside, but step into the corridor of this pioneering ethnic shopping mall to find a mart overflowing with local character. In addition to Wing Hop Fung Ginseng & China Products Center, a two-story supermarket with a huge selection of herbs and teas, the shopping center has become a food destination thanks to spots like Scoops, Ramen Champ and Pok Pok Phat Thai.
Kimchi fans will revel in this popular outpost by Roy Choi (the legendary founder of Kogi BBQ food trucks), which serves up rice bowls packed with heavy-duty toppings like prime rib, pork belly and chicarrones.
10% off total bill with spoke card
Showcasing the neighborhood's most striking displays of delicate, unique Chinese and European pastries, this 40-year-old veteran outshines its more famous rivals with a cute atmosphere and enthusiastic staff. If you're not seeking sweet stuff with your coffee, stick to the mini, savory pies enveloped under flaky golden shells.
When Chinatown relocated to its current location in the 1930s, the Central Plaza was to be the neighborhood's vibrant hub of activity. And while the neighborhood isn't quite as bustling as it once was, the neon-drenched square still attracts tourists and locals alike with its shops, restaurants and events like Summer Nights. Local lore often traces the look of the area back to Cecil B. DeMille, but it was in fact designed by the resident Chinese community. There was, however, a Hollywood-backed (and highly orientalist) competitor named China City that burned down in the '40s.
At first glance, the pagoda facade doesn't betray much revelry, but once inside, namely in the downstairs dive bar, it's a different story. Chinese lanterns and a lacquered bar give way to the old-school charm of the oldies-playing jukebox and cheap drinks.
Across the street from the neon glow of Chinatown Central Plaza, the neglected Hollywood backlot-esque appearance of Chung King Road belies the cultural hipness of the pedestrian alleyway. Some of LA's best art gallery spaces have set up shop behind the worn facades, and the area transforms into a frenzy of activity during Saturday night gallery openings. Don't get too attached to any particular gallery, though; the area's tenants constantly change as cutting-edge artists come and go.
Inspired by the ubiquitous Korean taco, founders Chris Oh, Ted Kim and Yong Kim attempted to do something different in 2010 with the creation of a Korean hot dog food truck. Fast forward a few years, and the team now has a West LA storefront and this Little Tokyo shop, which offers diners proper seating while they tuck into plates of kimchi fried rice balls and the signature kalbi sausages, which come served in hot dog buns with kimchi relish.
$2 off any sausage with spoke card
While shopping is a must at this outdoor mall, don’t leave the cherry blossom-lined area without sampling a few street snacks. Join the constant line at the Mitsuru Café’s sidewalk window for a taste of imagawayki (freshly griddled red bean cakes), takoyaki (meaty dumplings on skewers) or mitarashi dango (rice flour dumplings). Across the way at Mikawaya, there’s freshly made mochi for sale—small, handheld rounds of ice cream or gelato wrapped in chewy, pounded rice cake. Finish up with a green tea donut from Café Dulcé.
This buzzy Little Tokyo spot is a ramen mecca. A wrap-around counter faces the open kitchen, providing a social atmosphere to dig into piping hot bowls of flavorful pork broth and chewy noodles—we love the specialty Daikoku Ramen. Chijire-style egg noodles sit in a rich tonkotsu soup and are topped with slices of kurobuta pork belly, boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions.
A favorite with beer lovers, this Little Tokyo bar serves a full menu of craft beers on draft and eats. While there are burgers on the menu—try the house version with smoked Gouda and grilled cheese—the theme is Asian with a mix of sushi rolls, Korean short ribs and teriyaki sliders. Don't miss weekday happy hour from 3-7pm and all-day Sunday.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself fighting back the urge to say "Oishii" upon tasting the ramen at this Little Tokyo joint. Chewy noodles are soaked in a rich layer of tonkotsu broth for a rich, comforting bowl with its own cult following. Make sure to grab a seat at the chef’s bar to watch all the noodle-slinging in action.
If you're sick and tired of waiting 15 minutes for a craft cocktail, get yourself over to this watering hole for a quick, uncomplicated drink. Wolf & Crane preserves LA's first-rate mixology culture without all the pretension. You won't get sneered at for ordering a Johnnie Red and soda, because there are six other drinks on the menu just like it. It's a casual, no frills kind of place with communal tables, comic print wallpaper and classic oldies bellowing from the sound system—a welcome reprieve from all those "speakeasies" a mile away.
15% off total bill with spoke card
The holy grail of arcade games and bowling, X Lanes in Little Tokyo is a virtual paradise for mixed-gender hang sessions. Our only complaint: not enough air hockey tables. If you're looking for a high-energy club vibe without the aimless standing around, plus the added exhilaration of 24 lanes of LED-lit bowling, this is your sanctuary.
This industrial space has a bare-bones, beer-hall feel, with plenty of room to spread out among picnic tables beneath a renovated mezzanine. But the main focus is the well-lit bar with 12 coveted bar stools, clean copper taps and an Art Deco-inspired backdrop.
If ever there was a bar to geek out in, this one is it. Los Angeles' first barcade (that's bar + arcade for you noobs) boasts more than 40 classic consoles, from Centipede to Ms. Pac-Man, all fixed with cup holders for endless booze-fueled sessions. An homage to the golden age of arcade games, cocktails here have names like Princess Peach, Zangief, Power Up and The Dude.
This family-owned cafe, whose interior consists of a few basic wooden picnic tables and chairs, offers homemade (if slightly expensive) pie like you've never tasted before. Popular choices include the Mexican Chocolate and the savory mac 'n' cheese hand pie.
This contemporary "sausage kitchen" grills meats like Polish-style Kielbasa and more adventurous Rattlesnake & Rabbit to pair with a "groot" worth of skin-on frites. In case you didn't know, that amounts to a lot of fries. Wurstküche primarily pours Belgian and German beers from (surprisingly) brand-free tap handles. Try the notoriously tart Duchesse de Bourgogne or sweet Aventinus Eisbock that packs a punch.
Having spent several years bouncing around the city, the A+D Museum—'A' for architecture, 'D' for design—has landed in the Arts District after a lengthy stay along the Miracle Mile. Urban hikes, discussions and workshops supplement the museum's roster of exhibitions.
This hilly Boyle Heights park isn't quite as tranquil as it was when it opened over a century ago; blame that on the 5 freeway, which cuts through the park's western border. That said, its manmade lake and footbridge keep this a charming destination. During CicLAvia, you'll find a free photobooth, a Dia de los Muertos paper flower workshop by Self Help Graphics & Art and a visit from the LA Phil’s VAN Beethoven.