Our 20 year anniversary party is non-stop! Today we will take a look at the 20 things we love about Downtown Los Angeles. While it has not always been at the top of L.A. visitors’ attraction lists, an extensive renovation over the last decade has transformed downtown into a thriving cultural center. From history to shopping to food and entertainment, you will find it all in downtown L.A.!
1. L.A. Live: L.A. Live is downtown’s new $2.5 billion entertainment complex consisting of apartments, ballrooms, bars, concert theatres, restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, and the Grammy Museum. The state-of-the-art 7,100 seat Nokia Theatre hosts music superstars, several award shows, and American Idol finales. The complex also houses ESPN’s broadcasting studio as well as an ESPN Zone restaurant. In the evening L.A. Live lights up like a mini Times Square at Nokia Plaza with giant synchronized LED screens at this red carpet special event site.2. Olvera Street: Part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, Olvera Street is Los Angeles’s oldest historic site and now home to a vibrant old world Mexican marketplace. One can tour the many historical structures, barter for souvenirs, and dine in authentic (and historic) Mexican restaurants. The block becomes an exciting fiesta of music and dance during Mexican-style festivals and holidays.
3. Restaurants: Meeting the needs of a rising and youthful residential community, downtown L.A. has become one of the country’s hippest dining scenes. Celestino Drago, John Rivera Sedlar, and Wolfgang Puck are only a few of the celebrity chefs who’s establishments are found here. Ultra popular choices are Bottega Louie for Italian, Church & State for French, and Wurstkuche for gourmet sausages. A diverse population has led to infinite varieties of international cuisine. For the traditionalists, Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet, Philippe The Original, birthplace of the French dip sandwich, and The Original Pantry Café have been serving Angelinos since the early days of the city.
4. Walt Disney Concert Hall: With a breathtaking architectural design by Frank Gehry and exceptional acoustics, the multi-purpose Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale. One can experience a guided tour of the complex before enjoying the world class music inside. Patina, the world- famous restaurant by Joachim Splichal, serves up French and California cuisine at the hall.
5. Nightlife: There is no shortage of bars, lounges, and nightclubs downtown offering high-energy to low-key evenings. From the exotic Latin celebration of The Mayan to the retro-chic glam of The Edison (built inside a 100-year-old power plant), there is surely something for everyone. Villains Tavern, Icon LA Ultra Lounge, Trader Vics, The Standard Rooftop Bar, and Library Bar are only a handful of the many popular watering holes.
6. Los Angeles State Historic Park: Run, walk, bike, picnic, kite, and watch for urban wildlife in the 32 acre Los Angeles State Historic Park. Fun and creative community events celebrate the city’s diverse culture and history in this space that was once the rail maintenance area for the Southern Pacific Transportation Company.
7. Hotels: You can stay right in the center of the action at one of downtown’s many fabulous hotels. Bask in Asian opulence at Miyako Hotel or enjoy modern luxury at the recently renovated Omni Hotel atop historic Bunker Hill. Be immersed in nightlight at L.A. Live’s two-hotel hybrid skyscraper that contains a JW Marriott on floors 4-21 and a Ritz-Carlton on floors 22-26!
8. Exposition Park: Sports, history, nature, and science converge at Exposition Park across from the University of Southern California. This attractive public space houses the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center, Exposition Park Rose Garden, the EXPO Center, and the California African American History Museum. Once the site of an agricultural park and racetrack, it is now a scenic escape of grand museums and natural greenery in the middle of a concrete jungle.
9. Jewelry, Fashion, Flowers, & Toy Districts: The jewelry, fashion, flower, and toy districts offer a variety of products in a unique shopping atmosphere. Hundreds of blocks of wholesale prices and amazing deals are found in these specialty areas dedicated entirely to shopping! If you still cannot find that perfect item, perhaps one of three retail shopping centers will provide: Macy’s Plaza, 7+Fig, and the Bonaventure Galleria.
10. MOCA: The Museum of Contemporary Art’s permanent collection of over 6,000 works primarily features American and European artists, post-1940. Established in 1979, the museum takes a multi-disciplinary approach to modern art and showcases artists’ retrospectives and art historical investigations. Here you will find contemporary masterpieces as well as new works by emerging local artists.
11. ArtWalk: Once a month, people from all over Los Angeles venture downtown to experience ArtWalk, a showcase of the best galleries, artists, photography, restaurants, bars, and shops. This hip local festival has become the happenin’ place for souveniring, people watching, and exploring with friends. This is also a great event for experiencing one of L.A.’s many famous food trucks.
12. Chinatown/Little Tokyo: Although not as large or dense as San Francisco and New York’s counterparts, Los Angeles’s Chinatown still welcomes with a serpent gateway and lights up with neon pagoda lights and lanterns. This is the place for authentic Chinese cuisine and specialty products from the Far East. Just next door you will find Little Tokyo, home of the Japanese-American National Museum. Its gardens, restaurants, and shops will give you a true taste of Asia.
13. The Staples Center: The Lakers, Clippers, Sparks, and Kings are all tenants of the 950,000 square foot Staples Center. This multi-purpose sports arena also hosts the world’s biggest musical acts including Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, and Bruce Springsteen. Outside at Star Plaza you can pose with statues of L.A. sports heroes like Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky, Chick Hearn, and Jerry West.
14. The Orpheum Theatre: Originally opened in 1926, The Orpheum Theatre is the most restored of Los Angeles’s historic downtown movie palaces. Some of history’s most legendary performers have entertained inside these walls including the Marx Brothers, Will Rogers, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin and Little Richard. Today it is still a popular venue for live concerts, but movie shoots, premiers, and television broadcasts have been added to its schedule of programming. A Beaux Arts façade and Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ are a few remainders from the theatre’s Vaudeville days.
15. Pershing Square: Pershing Square is a one square block park in the center of downtown whose history dates back to the 1800’s. Renovated in 1992, the small park now contains a 10-story purple bell tower, fountains, public artworks, a concert stage, a seasonal ice rink, and small plazas with seating. It is a popular landmark seen in many movies and video games.
16. The Downtown Independent: The Downtown Independent is the community’s premiere venue for independent features, local music acts, comedy shows, and special programming. They often host boisterous movie drink-alongs and many free events! This is THE place to come for off-the-beaten path arts and entertainment! Their facilities can also be rented out as a unique event space.
17. Los Angeles Convention Center: The Los Angeles Convention Center is L.A.’s major event and trade show facility. A leader of sustainability, the convention center was the first ever of its age and size to be awarded The United States Green Building Council’s certification in Leadership of Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings. It is well-known for being the site of the world’s biggest annual video games expo, E3.
18. California Plaza: Grand Performances present free concerts and performing arts shows at California Plaza, a beautiful complex made up of several eateries and an outside stage. This cultural venue situated just above Angel Knoll’s Park celebrates the diversity and community of Los Angeles in a lively atmosphere…and you can also bring your own alcohol! During weekdays it is a peaceful spot for lunch.
19. Union Station: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the grand Los Angeles Union Station is known as the “Last of the Great Railway Stations”. Designed by John and Donald B. Parkinson, the complex combines elements of Dutch Colonial Revival architecture, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne style. Completed in 1939, it now serves as L.A.’s main transportation center and services Amtrak, Metrolink, and bus lines. It is planned to be a future hub for the much-anticipated California High-Speed Rail System. From here you can reach almost anywhere in Southern California!
20. Unique Event Venues: At night, downtown Los Angeles comes alive! Towering buildings with glowing lights pressed against the backdrop of a starry black sky make for jaw-dropping views and amazing event locations. From sky-high indoor/outdoor venues like the Oviatt Penthouse and LoftSEVEN, to historical landmarks like Los Angeles Union Station, there are no shortage of unique options for your next downtown LA event!
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