For many people, visiting Los Angeles means the beach, Hollywood, or Beverly Hills. Too many overlook downtown, or DTLA as it’s called by locals. That’s a shame, as downtown offers some truly awesome sights, especially those with cultural significance.
In this itinerary, we bring the incredible arts scene of downtown LA into the center of your experience. Fine arts, performance, and even culinary delights will be focal points, the best the DTLA has to offer!
Stay: InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown
This high-rise luxury hotel has only been open a couple of years, but it has redefined the DTLA hotel scene. The lobby is up on the 70th floor, with killer views of the entire area! Grab a drink at the lobby bar, or head to Spire 73, billed as the highest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere. The cover charge is waived for hotel guests. Best of all, the hotel sits just across the street from the metro, making it possible to do everything in this itinerary via either foot or public transit.
Alternates: Try the Hilton Checkers, recently refurbished, or the iconic Westin Bonaventure with its cylindrical towers.
This awesome glass facade is the InterContinental with the lobby at the top!
Eat: Grand Central Market
Opened in 1917, has occupied a central role in the culinary scene of downtown Los Angeles, and has continually changed with the city’s changing demographics. As we are here in the morning, the focus will be on breakfast. Eggslut (ignore the controversial name) offers some of the best breakfast sandwiches in existence, with a line to match. If you don’t want to wait, PBJ.LA has gourmet riffs on everyone’s favorite!
Grand Central Market and its many food stalls.
Ride: Angel’s Flight Railway
The world’s shortest railway, this nearly 120 year old funicular climbs a hill in downtown Los Angeles, and as it happens to be the hill we need to climb, $1 is not too much to pay to be part of this historic journey!
Visit: The Broad Museum
Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad donated the $140 million for their namesake museum, which houses their personal modern art collection. Opened in 2015, the architecture is modern – resembling honeycomb – with more than 2000 pieces of contemporary art! Tickets are free, but should be reserved online ahead of time. They will give you an entry time – choose 10 or 10:30am – and just after entering you can put your name on the additional waiting list for artist Yayoi Kusama’s famed “mirrored infinity room.” Read my review of the Broad here.
Alternates: Just down the street from the Broad is the Museum of Contemporary Art. If art doesn’t appeal at all, visit the LA Central Library for one of the most fascinating buildings around!
The outside of the Broad.
Shop: The Last Bookstore
This is California’s largest used and new bookstore, and its shelves are always packed with wonderful diversions to read back in our hotel while appreciating the view! The store has become prominent on social media with unique displays of books designed for the Instagram generation.
Alternate: If we didn’t want to wake up early for breakfast, we can swing by Grand Central Market now for lunch.
Located inside the venue we will spend the evening enjoying, Patina offers a wonderful pris-fixe French dining experience. For those who view food as art (I do), this is justification of that opinion.
Watch: The LA Philharmonic
This world-class orchestra is worth seeing just for the venue, the amazing Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Hall. The spectacular music – often featuring surprise guests – is an added bonus! In the summertime, the LA Phil plays at the Hollywood Bowl, just a quick hop up the Metro Red Line from our convenient downtown hub.
Alternates: Try seeing LA’s resident opera company at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, or take in a Broadway show at the Ahmanson, all part of the LA Music Centre along with Disney Hall.
This is the inside of Walt Disney Hall, home of the LA Philharmonic.
This Angeleno staple has never closed since 1924, serving large portions of Americana favorites. The line can be long, so if you have a small party, duck inside and enjoy a shorter wait to sit at the counter. The restaurant is cash-only, but prices are reasonable considering how huge the plates are.
The Pantry sits on the corner here with the new Ritz Carlton towering behind.
Visit: The Grammy Museum
Located at LA Live, part of downtown LA’s successful redevelopment plan, the museum is an homage to music in all of its award-winning forms. From videos of amazing performances to artifacts from your favorite stars, this interactive space is truly one of the epicenters of the musical arts.
Alternate: If we chose not to visit Disney Hall for a performance, it offers a free self-guided audio tour most days.
Relax: Wi Spa
There is no better way to recharge after a fun-filled weekend than at a Korean day spa, and this is our pick for the best of them. Enjoy a soak in a tub or a sweat in a steam room before the body scrub that will invigorate you and your skin. While you can just show up, reserving your treatment ahead of time is recommended.
Alternate: Head to Olvera Street, a vibrant center of Mexican culture in LA located across the street from Union Station.
The ultimate way to cap our downtown experience, 71Above sits 71 floors up in the US Bank tower with sweeping views of Los Angeles. Innovative cuisine by Chef Vartan Abgaryan will excite your taste buds as much as the twinkling lights of the City of Angels will excite your eyes. Try to reserve the Edge Table, lining the window facing Santa Monica.
There is so much to do and see in downtown Los Angeles, and this itinerary only covers some of my personal favorites. Feel free to add your own choices, or to mix and match with our alternates. Most importantly, enjoy DTLA in all of its cultural glory!
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