Downtown Los Angeles is a four-hour car ride from my hometown of Las Vegas, and a 45-minute flight from McCarran to LAX. Not bad, right? It’s made even better when you find a flight for $50 roundtrip during the offseason! The convenience and cost leave you no reason not to visit, and somehow, after countless trips to Southern California, I have successfully managed to avoid the downtown area. Every. Damn. Time.
Typically I’m not one to gravitate toward the hustle and bustle of the city and prefer to spend my time on the beach or shopping at their numerous outlet malls. To my surprise, this go-around was much different. My fiance was staying in Downtown Los Angeles for two weeks because of work, and I decided to drive up to spend all of my time on the coast. Unfortunately, I quickly realized traffic in and out of the city would make my commute 1.5-2 hours each way. That seemed absolutely outrageous, so I started researching solo activities in the downtown area.
After compiling a list, reading reviews, and mapping out the most efficient route, I was on my way! This is a play-by-play of the 10 best things to do in Downtown Los Angeles (according to a slightly dull, sunburnt, solo explorer). Please note that these activities were completed in two full days. I did not attempt to visit all 10 attractions in one day. I’m much too lazy.
Downtown Los Angeles Overview
- Grand Central Market
- Angel’s Flight
- Little Tokyo
- Chunju Han-ll Kwan in Koreatown
- Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in Koreatown
- Olvera Street
- The Last Bookstore
- The Broad Contemporary Art Museum
- Anything and Everything on a Rooftop
Save this map of Downtown Los Angeles for future use!
1. Downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market
This is a foodie’s ultimate dream. With 38 options ranging from bars and restaurants to a small supermarket, you’re bound to find something delicious. All of the vendors at Grand Central Market have bright, eye-catching signs that were made for Instagram, and their food isn’t far behind. Every meal I walked by was more tempting than the last, and for some sad reason, I chose the worst meal there.
After waiting 37 minutes for the world’s most vile ceviche and another 13 for a piss poor michelada, I was pretty irritated. I consider myself a ceviche connoisseur so I can confidently say my meal was less than delish’. At a staggering 80% radish and 20% balled up white fish, I don’t recommend it.
As long as you avoid the ceviche (that is only sold at one location), you’ll be good 😉
Open Daily 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
2. Angels Flight
Angel’s Flight box office off Grand Ave.
For $1, yes a single dollar, you can avoid the steep incline/decline of the downtown streets and hop of the world’s cutest, and possibly shortest, railway. At an adorable 298ft long, it sits between Grand Avenue and Hill Street on Bunker Hill. Angel’s Flight has been in operation since 1901 and has been featured in numerous films including everyone’s favorite, La La Land!
When I first arrived on Thursday, Angel’s Flight was closed. Thankfully Google Maps threw me into a tailspin the following day, and I found myself standing in front of the box office on Grand Ave. ‘Twas a welcomed mistake, because it was open! The ride totaled about 30-45 seconds, and I’ve never been giddier. It’s the quickest, cutest, and most leisurely attraction in downtown Los Angeles and I highly recommend giving it a go.
Open Daily 6:45 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
3. Little Tokyo
My favorite musical artist, Gnash, has a song called Lil Tokyo, and after listening to it 300+ times, I had to see it for myself. Little Toyko was the first stop on my solo trek around Downtown Los Angeles, and it set the bar high. I was surprised at how calm, clean, and peaceful the area was. Just outside of the main square, it’s chaotic, and a bit dodgy, but somehow Little Tokyo is eerily similar to what I imagine Japan to be like. It is a charming district with authentic restaurants and shops that I recognize from my time in South Korea. I explored a few stores and was pleased to see how comparable the prices were to its overseas counterpart.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stay for a bite to eat, but if you have a favorite restaurant in the area, please tell me! During my next visit to Los Angeles, I plan on staying close to Little Tokyo because of how familiar it feels to my past. Any recommendations would be much appreciated since I will be spending most of my time nearby.
Open Daily: Check online for events.
Located in Little Tokyo, Popkiller is an eclectic, Japanese focused retail store that is a must see. With hundreds of wild graphic T’s and tons of throwback 90’s jackets, it’s impossible to leave empty-handed. I gravitated towards their bizarre accessories and decided on two pair of long socks (1. Corona design, 2. Burritos pattern), a dope boombox patch that I attached to my day pack, and some gnarly jumbo shades. If you’re in the market for a fun souvenir, this is your spot. Don’t believe me? Check out this link for a tour of the chaos you’re missing out on – Popkiller Virtual Tour.
Open Daily 11 a.m. – 10:45 p.m.
5. Chunju Han-ll Kwan in Koreatown
This is as authentic as it gets! As a former expat that lived in Korea, I can attest to the authenticity of Chunju’s. It genuinely felt like I was back in Seoul! While ordering, the staff seemed more comfortable using their native tongue, which made for a fun opportunity to use my Korean skills. Although I botched most of the order, we ended up with three great dishes! This was also Danial’s first time eating Korean food, and though he claims to “hate” kimchi, he LOVED the spicy kimchi soup I accidentally ordered.
Overall the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was extremely homey. It is 100% our new favorite dinner spot in LA!
Open Daily 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
(Sunday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
6. Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in Koreatown
With a 4.5 star rating and almost 1,400 Google Reviews, Kang Ho Dong’s is one of Koreatown’s most popular barbeque spots. This was our original destination, but when we arrived at 6 p.m., there was a 45-minute wait. We chose to look elsewhere because we were starving at that point, but I was able to poke my head in for a glance before moving along. It looked exactly like BBQ restaurants in Korea! The smells, the atmosphere, the tables, everything was just like I remembered in Seoul. Next time we’re in Los Angeles, we are making it our mission to experience Kang Ho Dong’s Baekjeong!
Open Daily 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
7. Olvera Street
Known as the birthplace of Los Angeles, this historic district is said to be the oldest part of the city. The main attraction on Olvera St. is the bustling Mexican marketplace the stretches for 328’. With countless shops and restaurants, you may find it challenging to focus on just one thing. The textured walls and brightly colored souvenirs leave you in a dreamy daze. You can go from buying handmade leather bags to downing micheladas within seconds. It’s honestly the most incredible place I’ve been in a long time.
At the southern point of Olvera St. is El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, and I was lucky enough to stumble onto a live performance the afternoon I visited. Keep an eye for a future post about that experience. Spoiler: I cried.
Open Daily: Check online for events.
8. The Last Bookstore
What the fricken frick!? The Last Bookstore is so cool! If you haven’t been, drop everything and go now. I found this gem on Instagram, and even the best pictures didn’t do it justice. This is a multilevel new and used book and record store. Does that sound lame? Well, you’re lame. There are numerous neat features scattered throughout the store like hidden rooms, suspended artwork, and a tunnel made solely of books. Even if you’re not a reader, this is a must see. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my fiancé pick up a book, and even he appreciated the eclectic aesthetic.
Open Daily 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
9. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum
Are you looking for a dope place to get a few fire Instagram pictures? Well, you’ve found it! The Broad is a contemporary art museum known for its eccentric pieces and photo-worthy exhibits. Admission is free, but get there early because the queue fills up fast! If you’re able to book in advance, it is possible to reserve a free ticket; this will allow you to bypass the line. There are also temporary exhibitions that require a purchased ticket, which you can do online or in person. Check out The Broad online to see what’s showing now!
Don’t forget to include #thebroadmuseum for a chance to be featured on their Instagram page!
Hours Vary: Visit The Broad
10. Anything and Everything on a Rooftop
Why doesn’t every building have a pool and/or bar on their rooftop? I’m genuinely bothered by this. I LOVE ROOFTOPS! Unfortunately, this is the only photo I managed to snag during my high time, but look at the view! It’s gorgeous! The hotel I was staying at had a small pool and couches on the seventh-floor deck. It may not have technically been a rooftop, but my smuggled bottle of wine and I were above the peasants below, and I felt GREAT!
Downtown Los Angeles is littered with great rooftop treats, and I want to see more of them! I did tons of research on sky-high bars, and plan to experience them first-hand during round two. If you know of any gems, please share, OR if you live in LA and want to show me yourself, I’m down!
The city of Los Angeles is a freakin’ snack. Book a flight, pack your bags, and go. It is truly an unforgettable place, and I promise, if my boring ass can fall in love, you can too.