Unlike other large cities, many people visit Los Angeles without ever setting foot Downtown. That's a shame, since Downtown LA is rich with historic architecture and cultural attractions, not to mention sports and entertainment complexes. Here are a few things to do in Downtown Los Angeles that are worth a visit.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, also known simply as Olvera Street, is the location of the oldest remaining structure in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe. The building itself is often overlooked, since people are primarily drawn to Olvera Street for its Mexican street market and shops that offer a cleaned-up taste of old Mexico. Olvera Street is a one-block pedestrian zone. Olvera Street is across from Union Station, which is served by the Red and Gold Lines of the Metro.
The Los Angeles Music Center consists of the three original theaters that are home to the city's drama, dance and opera companies, as well as the more recently added Disney Concert Hall, which is the home of the LA Philharmonic. There are self-guided audio tours of the Disney Concert Hall, as well as daily guided tours of the Music Center.
Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles, sometimes known as New Chinatown, was developed around the Central Plaza in 1938, just west of Old Chinatown, where Union Station is now. Before the move, this area was LA's Little Italy, and is still home to St. Peter's Italian Church and Casa Italiana Cultural Center. LA's Chinatown is less dense than New York or San Francisco. The shops don't line the streets as thickly, but there are still a few cute stores and plazas through the serpent gateway heading north on Broadway from Cesar Chavez. The neon pagoda lights and lanterns at Central Plaza make a colorful display at night.
Watch the Chinatown Video Tour
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles, designed by Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo, was completed in 2002, replacing the Cathedral of St. Vibiana, which was damaged beyond repair in the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. The modern structure towers over the 101 Hollywood Freeway from its perch between Olvera Street and Chinatown.
The modern gray architectural masterpiece that balances the opposite side of the freeway from the Cathedral is Central Los Angeles Arts High School #9.
Little Tokyo is the Japanese cultural center of Los Angeles, with Japanese shops, restaurants and bakeries populating a few short blocks. Of special note is the Japanese-American National Museum, dedicated to the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry.
Watch the Little Tokyo Video Tour
L.A. Live is a dining and entertainment complex next to the Staples Center in Downtown LA. Multiple live entertainment venues and restaurants surround the Nokia Plaza, which is adorned with a series of high definition outdoor screens with synchronized content to give a "bright lights, big city" feel of a miniature Times Square.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is located just down Grand Avenue and across the street from the Music Center and Disney Concert Hall. The museum's collection and touring exhibits feature work created since 1940.
Nearby: The museum is next to California Plaza, where Grand Performances hold summer concerts. At California Plaza, you'll also find the top station for the Angels Flight funicular railway down to Hill Street. Grand Central Market is at the bottom of Angels Flight.
The Los Angeles Central Library is a great place to visit on a budget. It costs nothing to admire the Art Deco architecture, explore the public art installations and temporary exhibits, settle in to read a newspaper or book in any of a dozen languages, or check your email online. There are also extensive public programs including author readings, lectures, discussion panels and performances.
Nearby: The Standard Downtown Hotel
The Fashion District is a great place to shop for bargain clothes, textiles and flowers. People who can fit into sample sizes will find extreme bargains on designer garb. The Fashion District website includes a photo tour as well as a podcast tour you can download.
Nearby: The Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising (FIDM) has a gallery that features costume exhibits from movies and TV.
Watch the LA Fashion District Video Tour