Growing up in Los Angeles, I am surprised that I haven’t gone out that often to explore the sights and sounds of this massive, sprawling city. I attribute it to the fact that I live in a suburb of the city, which is quite far from the main sights that visitors usually frequent whenever they’re in town. That said, it wasn’t until I was in college (and beyond) that I started to venture out and be a “tourist” in my own city.
I have actually written about some of my adventures in Los Angeles before, but that was merely dedicated to food, as the city serves some of the most multi-cultural cuisines I’ve ever experienced (you’re free to read the posts starting here). For the sake of this post and others following, I will focus on the sights and attractions, so as to offer a more-comprehensive look into what this metropolitan area has to show, both for locals and visitors.
Downtown Los Angeles
Also abbreviated as “DTLA,” this is the heart of this sprawling, metropolitan city. It doubles as the business district AND the cultural district, with a dozen or so high-rise buildings that appear to block out the sun. It is one of the more-compact areas of Los Angeles, and it’s fairly walk-able once you get there.
There are various sub-district pockets within DTLA itself. From Little Tokyo to the Historic Core to the infamous Skid Row, it’s surprising to see the notable changes after every couple of blocks. Most visitors spend time in the Historic Core, Little Tokyo, and the Arts District, where there are plenty of interesting sites to check out over an afternoon in town.
The Historic Core has the most-concentrated number of sites within its few blocks. This is where one can check out Grand Central Market, a foodie’s paradise with famous joints like Eggslut and Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. It is packed with people at the stalls and tables, and it can be an overwhelming experience through its maze-like, indoor structure. But that’s the fun in it!
Just across the street from Grand Central Market is Angels Flight, a funicular railway that opened back in 1901. After several on-and-off operations over the century, it has since been operating consistently since 2017, as one can pay $1 for a ride to and from the top. I personally have not ridden Angels Flights, just because, despite its safety repairs, I remain apprehensive at its rickety structure– maybe some day!
Likewise, on the other side of Grand Central Market is the Bradbury Building, whose wooden, multi-leveled ironwork had been the filming location for Blade Runner and (500) Days of Summer. It also contains two old-fashioned elevators (which actually still work), and overall, it’s an architect’s dream.
Three blocks away is The Last Bookstore, which is the largest bookstore in California. It’s two floors of thousands of new and used books, as well as plenty of comfy sofas and chairs on which to sit and read for an hour or two. The second floor is a labyrinth of shelves and artists’ studios, where one can purchase the artists’ artwork to support their independent craft. Many people visit for the two, spiraled bookcases (one large, one small) where they can get cool photos from. Overall, The Last Bookstore is worth the hype and a pop in when in Downtown!
Just a bit north is The Broad, which is a modern-art museum and home to the famous Infinity Mirrors by Yayoi Kusama. You have to reserve your spot upon arrival to the museum, and the wait time can last up to two hours (that is, if it’s not sold out for the day). My wait time took 78 minutes, and I spent the time by first looking at the other exhibits upstairs (great nods to American contemporary art) before getting my 45 seconds in the scintillating room. The Broad is essentially just a floor of exhibitions (despite its three floors) and the Infinity Mirrors, but it’s worth going once for the vibes.
Across the street from the Broad is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. Super futuristic, it’s certainly an architectural masterpiece to behold, along with the honeycombed Broad itself. I only passed by it as I made my way to Los Angeles City Hall, which I also passed by for its towering, penciled-like structure. Completed in 1928, it’s in the Civic Center district of Downtown, and our “hôtel de ville.”
You cross the street from the City Hall, and you soon enter Little Tokyo, the historic Japanese community of Los Angeles. It’s still very much thriving with its Japanese restaurants, stores, and plazas, even if there are various other Japanese pockets in other parts of Los Angeles (e.g. Sawtelle, Gardena, etc.). You can wander the Japanese Village Plaza just behind the Little Tokyo Watchtower, where there are lots of game/toy stores and restaurants to keep you entertained– the traditional red-and-white lanterns hanging up top also add to the atmosphere.
Downtown is absolutely rich in things to do, see, and eat. Even if it’s a nightmare getting in from outside (let alone finding parking), planning to spend a day exploring its sights can be all the more rewarding. This is where one gets the historic vibe of Los Angeles, and it can be a fulfilling trip for locals and visitors alike.
Thanks for reading, and more to come soon! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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