Mon, December 5th, 2011 - By

Spotlight: Downtown LA

I recently attended a conference that was held in downtown LA – an area I’d always assumed was just for the 9-5 crowd, possibly even unsafe at night. With so many of my favourite LA neighbourhoods, like Pasadena, a known entity, why give downtown a passing glance?

I’m glad I had the chance, because downtown Los Angeles is booming – with heaps of new attractions that have popped up, to historic restaurants that have the crowds queued up around the block, downtown LA has got a lot going for it. And with plenty of hotel options, this is definitely one downtown that needs to be on your radar this year.


There’s so much to see in downtown LA these days – let’ start with Staples Center, home to more than one of the city’s sports teams, but even if you’re not up for a game, the area is now a sprawling complex of bars, restaurants, and shops, and is absolutely bustling at night – especially if there’s a game. I love the atmosphere.

You could also go and see what’s playing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall – that’s the weird-looking building modelled after the famous Guggenheim building in Bilbao.

The downtown branch of the Los Angeles Public Library is beautiful – and always has some sort of exhibition going on as well. In a similar vein of classic Californian architecture, don’t miss city hall – it’s wonderful.

You could even walk over to Chinatown and haggle for some souvenirs – talk about a unusual LA experience!

Last but not least is one museum recommendation – the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). It’s edgy, like LA, so a great choice in my opinion. Downtown doesn’t have a lot of museums, but you might also want to step into the free Old Plaza Firehouse, which was LA’s original fire station.

Downtown Los Angeles 003


You will not be going hungry here in downtown LA, that is for certain. There are two places that are a MUST, for their eclectic atmosphere and the lines of people pouring in for a bite:

  • Philippes: Near Union Station, this famous restaurant is home to the French Dip sandwich. Yes, the french dip was made here in LA, and Philippe made it. Love this place, and the sandwiches are to die for. Grab a pie for dessert.
  • The Original Pantry Cafe: Claims they have never been closed since opening in 1924, pointing to the lock-less front door as proof. I haven’t eaten here, but my friends braved the long Sunday morning brunch line for some greasy spoon breakfast, and they were still smiling hours later. I clearly missed out.

I could talk about food all day, but I should also make a drinks suggestion – the cocktail lounge at the Biltmore hotel. This hotel is a historic venue itself, as the many plaques and pictures on the walls will suggest, and you’ll find tasty snacks and great drinks that go down easy. It’s just one of the many things I didn’t know about downtown LA, but now I’m so glad I’ve been – and ready to go back for more.

Los Angeles Public Library

Photo credits: Channone Arif, Rafael, Ben Javelina, Steve Cadman

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Monday, December 5th, 2011 at 11:00
Category : Spotlight
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