25 Best Things to Do in Downtown LA in 2023 (By a Local)
There is SO much to consider when looking for the best things to do in Downtown LA. Marvelous museums, delectable dining, vibrant cultural heritage sites… the list goes on!
As a Los Angeles local, I’ve spent years discovering the cream of the crop in many areas of the city. When it comes to DTLA, there is so much to do, but I’d suggest reading up on the nuances of this LA neighborhood before you go. There are some great parts of this neighborhood, as well as some in which you should exercise caution.
In this guide, we’ll go over my top picks for things to do in Downtown LA!
Table of Contents
- 25 Best Things to Do in Downtown LA
- Union Station
- Olvera Street
- Grand Central Market
- Bradbury Building
- Angels Flight Railway
- Walt Disney Concert Hall
- The Broad
- Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
- Little Tokyo
- Arts District
- Fashion District
- Santee Alley
- Pershing Square
- Los Angeles Central Library
- The Last Bookstore
- St. Vincent Court
- Velaslavasay Panorama
- The LUME
- LA Live and Crypto.com Arena
- GRAMMY Museum
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
- Grand Park
- City Hall
- FAQs About What to Do in DTLA
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25 Best Things to Do in Downtown LA
📺 After reading, check out my Youtube video where I run down 80+ things to do in LA in just 9 minutes. If you like it, hitting the like button would be a huge favor!
Begin your downtown journey in an iconic Los Angeles train station
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 4 am – 1 am daily
Union Station is the perfect starting point for downtown LA adventures. It offers public transportation to many popular attractions, and the station’s Mission Moderne style is a wonderful introduction to LA architecture.
With stops near many top LA attractions, the Metro rail spares you from LA’s infamous traffic. Not to mention parking hassles! A single parking fee runs $15-$20, whereas a full-day Metro Pass costs $3.50.
The Blue Line and Purple Line are two of the most useful for downtown trips, along with the Red Line, which features stops on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Gold Line will take you to Chinatown and the east side, and you can get from Union Station to downtown Santa Monica on the Expo Line.
👉 Pro Tip: Before you jump on the train, take a quick walk across Alameda St to visit one of the most vital cultural attractions in downtown Los Angeles, Olvera Street.
Defy expectations at one of the most fun and lively historic sites in Los Angeles
📍 Google Maps | Website | 🚶 Los Angeles Beginnings Walking Tour
‘Fun’ and ‘lively’ aren’t exactly go-to descriptors for historical attractions, but they certainly fit Olvera Street. Colorful market stalls, cheerful mariachi music, and the enticing scent of taquitos are just a few of the delights awaiting visitors at the “birthplace of Los Angeles.”
To dive deeper into the early history of downtown LA, head to La Plaza de Cultura y Artes or the Avila Adobe.
🍽️ Pro Tip: You’re going to want more than a mere whiff of those taquitos! Cielito Lindo is where you’ll get the very best, served with supremely delicious avocado sauce.
Grand Central Market
Sample delightful cuisine of all varieties in a bustling marketplace
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)359-6007 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 9 pm daily
Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse city. In fact, almost 40% of the population was born outside the United States. Vendors at Grand Central Market source delicious food from across the globe, offering opportunities to taste a broad range of delectable cuisines under a single roof.
Located on Hill Street, the market is one of few ‘touristy’ spots equally beloved by locals. Such popularity does mean you’re likely to queue up, so plan to get there before you’re starving enough to enter the realm of ‘hangry.’
If you’re still working up an appetite or looking for a chill spot to visit while your meal begins to digest, check out the Bradbury Building.
Tour the oldest commercial building in downtown Los Angeles
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)626-1893 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily, Monday through Friday, 10 am – 2 pm Saturday & Sunday | Entrance: Free
Located less than half a block from the Broadway Street entrance to Grand Central Market, the Bradbury Building is an architectural landmark noted for its ornate style and sun-lit atrium. Featured in films including Blade Runner (1982) and The Artist (2011,) this National Historic Landmark is a favorite of both film buffs and architecture aficionados.
For a fun and unique way to continue touring downtown filming locations, walk northwest on 3rd St and make a left on Hill St to reach Angels Flight Railway.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Just around the corner from the Bradbury Building and Grand Central Market, citizenM Los Angeles offers comfortable rooms and lots of amenities at very reasonable rates.
Angels Flight Railway
Go for a ride on a railway that puts the ‘fun’ in funicular railway
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213) 626-1901 | Website | Hours: 6:45 am – 10 pm, daily | Fare: $1 | 👉 Browse Angels Flight Tours on Viator
The bright orange train cars of Angels Flight Railway are themselves a piece of film history, seen in Academy Award-winning La La Land, among other productions. The Grand Avenue station lands you in Bunker Hill, which served as part of Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises.
The world’s shortest railway, Angels Flight, is the sole remnant of a cable car system that ran from 1886 to 1902 when it was replaced by an electric railway. Which was in turn largely dismantled, allegedly, by oil and car companies promoting the building of freeways. (Thanks for that, btw. 🙄)
⚠️ Safety Tip: Keep your wits about you, especially on Grand Avenue. Though it’s just a 5-minute walk from prime attractions including Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad, and MOCA, the area right around the station is pretty seedy.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Ogle striking architecture and soak in spectacular sound at this magnificent music venue
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (323)850-2000 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 3 pm daily, Evening event times vary
It’s fitting that this next attraction is on Grand Ave because it is indeed grand. Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic landmarks.
Soaring stainless steel curves meet at bold angles against a bright blue sky, creating a visual display worthy of the top-notch performances held within the concert hall. One of five venues included in the Music Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, whose symphonic repertoire makes the most of the hall’s wonderful acoustics.
In addition to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Music Center hosts entertainment in Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, and the Roy and Edna Disney / CalArts Theatre.
To glimpse the building’s interior without splashing out on tickets to see the LA Phil, check out a free audio tour.
Embrace imaginative artistry in this lauded modern art institution
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)232-6250 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday, 11 am – 8 pm Thursday, 10 am – 6 pm Saturday & Sunday, Closed Mondays | Entrance: Free
Art lovers will find a world of wonder in the artworks on display at The Broad. Possibly the most popular contemporary art museum in Los Angeles, The Broad collection showcases masterpieces created between 1950 and the present.
While the museum offers free admission to primary galleries, including Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms, they observe a strict and slightly complicated ticket policy. Special exhibitions are not included in General Admission, so you’ll need to buy separate tickets for these. Free access to special exhibitions is available each Thursday between 5 – 8 pm.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Appreciate the creativity of acclaimed contemporary artists in an illustrious free museum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)626-6222 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Wednesday through Friday, 11 am – 8 pm Thursday, 11 am – 6 pm Saturday & Sunday, Closed Mondays | Entrance: Free, Special Exhibitions: $18/general admission, $10/seniors and students | 🕵️ Downtown Los Angeles Scavenger Hunt
Known to locals as MOCA, this contemporary art source is one of the best art museums in Los Angeles. Notable works on display in MOCA Grand include a prized collection of paintings by Mark Rothko and Number 1, 1949 by Jackson Pollock.
The only artist-founded museum in Los Angeles, MOCA has established a second Los Angeles location dedicated to promoting up-and-coming artists as well as established masters. To experience the fresh innovations of the art world’s talked about newcomers head to MOCA Geffen, in Little Tokyo.
🖼️ Love Art? Make sure to leave room on your trip for a few hours at LACMA, you won’t want to miss it!
Embrace Japanese food, shops, and temples in this vibrant cultural community
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)880-6875 | Website | 🍱 Food Tour of Little Tokyo and Arts District
For more than 130 years Little Tokyo residents have lovingly nurtured this thriving community. Nowhere in LA is better to experience authentic Japanese cuisine and fashion.
The centerpiece of Little Tokyo is the Japanese Village Plaza Mall, an enchanting space strung with bright paper lanterns. The Plaza is located near the intersection of 1st Street and S Central Ave, adjacent to the Los Angeles Arts District.
Make sure to visit the Japanese American National Museum to hear the poignant, firsthand accounts of Japanese Americans and learn more about the history of Little Tokyo.
Get creative in a spirited neighborhood splashed with dynamic street art
📍 Google Maps | Website
Street art is prevalent throughout Los Angeles, but the murals hit new highs in the Arts District. This is your go-to spot when you’re looking for cool things to do in Downtown Los Angeles. Trendy bars and eclectic art galleries round out the offerings in this hipster haven.
⚠️ Safety Tip: Sandwiched between the Los Angeles River and Skid Row, an area with a very high crime rate, this is an area best visited in daylight hours only.
Binge on bargains in the do-it-yourself fashion capital of Los Angeles
📍 Google Maps | Website | 💁 Private Tour of LA’s Fashion District
If you’ve got Rodeo Drive taste but you’re ballin’ on a Forever 21 budget, the Fashion District is here to help you fake it ‘til you make it. Any style imaginable can be found among the hundreds of shops, which run the gamut from street vendors to not-yet-famous designer boutiques.
Fabric sellers offer materials to create your own styles. You’ll also find plenty of accessories, footwear, and jewelry among the clothing sellers. What you can’t spot on the street, you’ll find in Santee Alley.
Just know, The Fashion District is bordered by rough LA neighborhoods. Shops tend to close before sunset, and you’ll want to be gone by then, too. Always be mindful of your surroundings and belongings.
Stock up on bargains at the best-known flea market in Los Angeles
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)488-1153 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 6 pm daily
Equal parts famous and infamous, Santee Alley isn’t so much a shopping area as it is a shopping experience. You’ll find plenty of no-name bargains, but what Santee Alley does best is fakes. Some are laughably bad, but others are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
I assure you they are not the real thing. Anyone that tells you otherwise is selling two things: a fake and a lie. Moral gray area aside, a good fake can be a great deal. You get the style without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a label.
Avoid the “luxury brand” makeup and skincare, which can pose a legitimate health risk. Instead, splurge on the genuine article or find a more affordable substitute at Sephora, in FIGat7th.
Santee Alley is a mile from the nearest train station (7th/Metro.) To be on the safe side, call a rideshare. Especially if you’re alone, or carrying a lot of bags.
Peruse a variety of mid-range shopping and dining in a spacious, airy mall
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)955-7170 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm Monday through Friday, 11 am – 7 pm Saturday & Sunday
Located at the intersection of Figueroa and 7th Streets, the aptly titled FIGat7th mall features three stories of well-known chains.
On the 7th Street side of the structure, you’ll find Corporate Head. A collaborative artwork by artist Terry Allen and poet Philip Levine, the bronze statue’s message is enhanced by an almost satirical placement, next to a bank that lies in the shadow of Wilshire Grand Center, the tallest building in Los Angeles.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Intercontinental Downtown Los Angeles, in the Wilshire Grand Center, features a rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city.
Pause for a peek at Los Angeles’ first public park
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 5 am – 10:30 pm daily
For more than 150 years, Pershing Square has been dedicated to the Los Angeles community’s public good. The current design features the usual park stuff – playgrounds, a pet area, monuments, a fountain – but this really hasn’t ever been that kind of park.
What Pershing Square is best known for is one variety or another of public unrest. It retains the raw energy of a century’s worth of protests against injustice and continues to serve as a haven for those with a desperate need to be seen and heard.
If you’re squeamish or traveling with children, steer clear of this one. On the flip side, if you want a complete portrait of life in LA, this is a good spot to glimpse the city’s gritty underbelly. Cautiously. In daylight.
Los Angeles Central Library
Scope out architectural art at the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)228-7000 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 8 pm Monday through Thursday, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm Friday & Saturday, 1 – 5 pm Sundays
Within walking distance of FIGat7th, the Los Angeles Central Library invites you to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet amid the city hustle.
Befitting the wealth of knowledge within, the building’s exterior is adorned with limestone sculptures of literary greats and a brightly tiled pyramid. The library’s second floor is capped with a high-domed rotunda decorated with a sunburst and lit by an astrology-themed chandelier.
The Last Bookstore
Pick up a page-turner in this quirky shop with a book tunnel
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)488-0599 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 8 pm daily
While we’re on the subject, this next literary landmark puts a whole new spin on the book game. Quite literally, in the form of a tunnel made of actual books, a hallmark feature of the Last Bookstore.
Located on the ground floor of an old bank building complete with vaults, the Last Bookstore is the largest new and used bookstore in California. They also carry records and a full stock of comic books.
The rare book annex offers an impressive selection of collectibles and first editions. As if that weren’t enough, there’s also an epic yarn shop. And ghosts.
The Last Bookstore is a five-minute walk from Pershing Square Metro station. Exit on 4th Street and head southeast toward Broadway. Make a right on Spring. The store is on your right, just before 5th Street.
St. Vincent Court
Explore a quaint collection of shops and cafes in a hidden alleyway
📍 Google Maps | Hours: 10 am – 7:30 pm daily, Monday through Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm Sunday
If you’re into unique attractions off the beaten path, our next spot will be right up your alley. Tucked between tall buildings, St. Vincent Court is a pocket of old-world European charm in the heart of DTLA.
Whether sipping a drink at a sidewalk coffee shop or browsing kitschy curios, this charming court feels a world apart from the city clamor.
🤪 Wanna get weird? For a full dose of wild and wacky check out Ripley’s Believe It or Not, in Hollywood.
Experience pre-Hollywood entertainment at this one-of-a-kind museum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)746-2166 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 4 pm Friday through Sunday, by appointment | Entrance: $7
Down a dark hallway and up a wrought-spiral staircase, the Shengjing Panorama awaits. A bit eerie, at first. You begin to examine the finely detailed backdrop and tiny scenes, then suddenly you’re transported in space and time to the world of mid-century China.
Velaslavasay is a diamond in the rough that you have to see to believe. After you check out the main event, take a moment in their lovely garden to ease back into present-day reality.
🚗 How to Get There: The panorama is way off the beaten path, just outside the bounds of downtown Los Angeles, in the West Adams Historic District. If you don’t have a car, grab a rideshare to visit this one.
Level up your perspective in a groundbreaking experience that places you within the art
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)608-3014 | Hours: 12 – 7 pm Friday, 10 am – 7 pm Saturday & Sunday, Closed Monday through Thursday | Entrance: $39 – $49 adults, $29 – $37 ages 4 – 14, Free for children 3 & under
What panoramas were to the 19th century, LUME is to the 21st. Using cutting-edge technology, the brand-new exhibition space creates a multi-sensory experience, immersing visitors in the world of the artist.
The inaugural exhibition, Street Art Alive, united the world’s best street artists to craft a mind-blowing journey into the world’s most dynamic street art. Combining phenomenal, large-scale digital projections with pieces commissioned specifically for this venue, creators invite visitors not to a museum or gallery, but inside the art itself.
⌛ Don’t delay! Street Art Alive will close on September 4th, so pick up tickets ASAP. The LUME isn’t going anywhere, so stay tuned to the website for what’s up next.
Engage with an integral part of Los Angeles’ cultural landscape
📍 Google Maps | Website | 🚲 Downtown Los Angeles Bike Tour
Hailed as the first modern American Chinatown, the history and culture of this lively district are woven into the fabric of Los Angeles. Popular events center around traditional Chinese holidays, such as Chinese New Year and the Full Moon Festival.
The area is quite large, with many excellent restaurants, shops, galleries, temples, and markets located along Hill or Broadway between the Chinatown Gateway Monument and Chinatown Central Plaza.
The ‘best’ or ‘most authentic’ restaurants are hotly debated, but one of my favorites, Yang Chow, gets a lot of votes. My go-to is their Szechwan dumplings. For more, see my guide to the best places to eat in Los Angeles.
LA Live and Crypto.com Arena
Go big in the premier downtown LA venue for top-shelf sports and entertainment
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (866)548-3452 | Website
Events at the world-class venues of LA Live are massive, star-studded functions you may well plan a whole trip around. Situated along Olympic Blvd, the complex is bordered by Pico Ave, Figueroa St, and the 110 freeway.
The Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) hosts top-tier tours and concerts and is home court for the LA Lakers. Microsoft Theatre showcases live music, comedy, and theater. Meanwhile, the GRAMMY Museum takes guests behind the scenes on music’s biggest night.
LA Live is chock full of restaurants, bars, and hotels. Regal movie theaters’ 4DX seats enhance your viewing experience with motion, scent, mist, and wind.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Connected to the LA Live complex, J.W. Marriott LA Live is a great choice for visits centered around downtown LA.
Peer behind the music industry’s velvet curtain
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213) 725-5700 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 10 am – 6 pm Saturday; Closed Tuesday | Tickets: $18, Adults; $15, Seniors (65+); $12 Students; $12 Ages 5-17; $15 Military; Free, 4 and under
GRAMMY Museum illuminates the history of recorded music, the namesake awards, and their winners. One of the best things to do in LA, the interactive exhibits demonstrate technology’s influence on music and music’s influence on society.
Fashion exhibit On The Red Carpet is a popular photo op, but my personal favorite is Crossroads, a sort of choose-your-own-adventure journey through the evolution of genre.
🎶 Love Music? Hollywood Bowl is incredible, and Sunset Strip spots book well-known bands in intimate venues.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Stop in for spiritual reflection at this prominent Los Angeles cathedral
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)680-5200 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 6 pm Monday through Friday, 9 am – 6 pm Saturdays, 7 am – 6 pm Sundays | Entrance: Free
While Los Angeles is more frequently associated with vague spirituality than devout worship, the Archdiocese served by Our Lady of the Angels serves more than 5 million Catholics. Positioned appropriately on Temple St, the cathedral’s modern, angular facade forgoes more ornate, traditional styles to create a space that conveys the message that all are welcome here.
The most unique feature is the windows, fashioned from slabs of opaque alabaster. When the light is just right, the building appears to glow from within.
Ground yourself in the largest, most serene green space in the downtown area
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)970-8080 | Website | Hours: 5:30 am – 10 pm daily
If you’re looking for a slice of the great outdoors but aren’t willing to trek all the way to LA’s beaches or to the hiking trails of Malibu, then head to the grassy slopes of Grand Park. You’ll find ample, grassy space to chill in the shade of leafy trees. Sloping downward from Grand Ave, the park is surrounded by courthouses and police precincts.
The heavy police presence keeps this area pretty quiet. A variety of protestors frequent the Spring Street end of Grand Park, but they generally focus their energy across the street, toward City Hall.
Observe impressive architecture and a sweeping view in a public building with an observation deck
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213)473-3231 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm Monday through Friday, Closed Saturday & Sunday
Those with an appreciation for architecture will marvel at the exquisitely preserved facade and bold interiors of City Hall. For many visitors, the big draw is the 27th-floor observation deck with sweeping views over the city. On a clear day, you can spot the Hollywood Sign.
FAQs About What to Do in DTLA
How do I spend a day in downtown LA?
One great way to spend a day in downtown LA is to go to a museum in the morning, Olvera Street for lunch, then spend your afternoon in the Arts District before heading to LA Live for dinner and drinks.
Is downtown LA worth visiting?
Downtown LA is definitely worth visiting. Encompassing the city civic center and historic core, you’ll find loads of great things to do in downtown LA.
Is there a lot to do in downtown Los Angeles?
There is so much to do in downtown Los Angeles! Check out world-class free museums, culturally diverse neighborhoods, and top-tier entertainment venues, just to name a few.
What to do in LA during the day?
One of the best things you can do in LA during the day is to visit the Art and Fashion Districts in downtown LA. Only during the day, as these are two neighborhoods you don’t want to wander after sundown.
Thanks for reading my list of things to do in Downtown LA! I hope this gave you some serious inspiration for what to do in Downtown LA. Up next, check out my picks for the best things to do in Santa Monica.
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Thanks for sharing, I’m new in La and this realy helps 😇😄
Love to hear it! Welcome to LA!!
Thank you Jericha helped out a lot
I’m glad to hear it! Thank you for the positive feedback. 🙂