16 SUPER FUN Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Union-Station-in-downtown-los-angeles-california

Looking for the best things to do in downtown Los Angeles? We’ve got you covered. Art? Check. Museums? Check. Restaurants? Check.

It’s all here. And it’s one of the most fun areas of Los Angeles to explore and all of these things are walkable!

Create your itinerary for your trip to Los Angeles using our recommendations! Some of best things to do in Los Angeles can be found in DTLA. From cultural neighborhoods, incredible art museums (that are FREE to visit), historic landmarks, and one of the best food halls in the country, plus more.

So whether it’s your first time in Downtown Los Angeles or you’re a repeat visitor, check out our picks for the best things to do in Downtown LA.

What to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Visit The Broad

Tulips by Jeff Koons in The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles

221 S Grand Avenue

Combine contemporary art and architecture, and you’ve got The Broad. This is not only one of the best things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, but it’s one of my favorite contemporary art museums we’ve ever been to and better yet, it’s completely FREE to visit!

The building itself is a futuristic, textural design that is modern and photogenic. Once inside, you’ll be greeted with a vast collection of contemporary art from renowned artists, including Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol to name a few notable artists on display.

There are over 2,000 works in the museum, featuring more than 200 artists. If you have an interest in art, this is a must-see destination in downtown Los Angeles and one of the best museums in LA.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles

111 S Grand Avenue

Right across from The Broad is another architectural sight to behold, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. The silver, winding ribbons that comprise the building is where the Los Angeles Philharmonic calls home and is one of the best places to see a performance.

In the auditorium, you can catch performances from classic, contemporary, and jazz musical acts. The interiors are as stunning as the exteriors, and it’s considered the most acoustically perfect hall in the world.

You can also do a tour of the building and see exhibits about its history. This is one thing to do in downtown Los Angeles that you should add to your itinerary if you enjoy music or architecture.

Take advantage of complimentary tours given between 10 AM and 3 PM every day. At the front desk, you can take a guided or self-guided tour of everything but the auditoriums. For self-guided tours, use your phone or complementary devices to listen to all kinds of details about the architecture and LA Philharmonic.

Los Angeles City Hall Observatory

Los Angeles City Hall in Downtown LA

201 N Main Street

The most notable landmark in the Downtown Los Angeles skyline is City Hall, you won’t miss it as your wandering around DTLA and one of the best kept secrets of City Hall is that it has it’s own observation deck!

One of the best viewpoints in Los Angeles can be found at City Hall, who would have thought? Here, you can get panoramic views of the city, as long as you visit during their open hours.

Since you’re high up from the 27th floor, you’ll see iconic Los Angeles landmarks like the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory, as well as Downtown Los Angeles attractions!

It’s free admission and open during typical business hours on weekdays only. While you’re here, you can also check out Grand Park, which has picnic tables, a playground, and a splash pad.

Things to know: The visitors’ address is 201 N. Main Street. The observation deck is free to visit but you must check-in and acquire a visitor’s badge, bring a valid ID. Parking is under City Hall East at 200 N. Main Street and visitors have to pay. Only open from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays.

MOCA

interior gallery in MOCA in Downtown Los Angeles

250 S Grand Avenue

The Museum of Contemporary Art, otherwise known as MOCA, is the only artist-founded museum in the city and is completely free to visit! The museum prides itself on hosting exhibitions that are innovative and first-of-their-kind.

Explore the almost 7,000 objects on display, ensuring you’ll have plenty to gaze at if you’re into iconic contemporary art and artists. 

Inside you’ll find famous modern art pieces from 1940 and beyond. Walkthrough installations and check out photography, paintings, and other media. A few of the most notable artists on display here include Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, and Roy Lichtenstein to name a few.

This is an easy addition to exploring The Broad, as they are right next to one another!

Keep in mind that the museum is closed on Tuesdays.

Angels Flight Railway

Angels Flight Railway in Downtown Los Angeles

350 S Grand Avenue

One of my favorite things to do in Downtown Los Angeles is ride the Angels Fight Railway, the most adorable funicular that takes you on a super brief ride between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill.

The railway is over 100 years old dating back to 1901, so it really is one of the city’s coolest old landmarks! It’s also the world’s shortest incorporated railway. There’s a cool historic plaque at the top that gives you a bit of information on this historic landmark, as it was made by a friend of President Lincoln!

In my opinion, the best way to do Angel’s Flight is to first eat at Grand Central Market (also on our guide) then take a ride up the hill to head to spots like The Broad, MOCA, and Walt Disney Concert Hall!

Also, it’s only $1.00 to ride, you pay at the top. If you have a TAP Card for the LA Metro, you only have to pay $.50.

The Last Bookstore

Megan reading a book at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

453 South Spring Street

Calling all book lovers, this is one of the best things to do in downtown Los Angeles for you! Dare I say this is one of the best bookstores we’ve ever been to?! That’s a HUGE claim living in New York City too, we do have a lot of great bookstores here but there’s something about The Last Bookstore that we love!

Maybe we should say it’s the best on the west!

The Last Bookstore has new, used, and rare books plus records you can browse, against the backdrop of a visually striking interior. They boast over 250,000 books and records, as well as galleries to visit and art to view in this multi-floor establishment.

And you’ll find quirky and creative design elements incorporated in the store; there’s a makeshift tunnel made of books! Find all the different themed sections and be sure to explore the upstairs section to find the cool book tunnels and little chambers of books!

Grammy Museum

800 W Olympic Boulevard

This is an absolute must-see in downtown Los Angeles if you are interested in any aspect of music, including music recording technology and the history of legendary artists.

The Grammy Museum features over two dozen permanent and temporary exhibits that will give you an immersive experience. It opened its doors in 2008, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Grammy Awards. Spend an afternoon here, enriching your music history knowledge!

Walk Through The Arts District

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One of the best places to explore in downtown Los Angeles is to explore the Arts District on the eastern end of DTLA. This neighborhood and area is filled with, well, you guessed it – ART! From galleries to museums and murals, this is a really cool area to explore.

For things to do in the Arts District, check out Art Share L.A. (801 E. 4th Pl) which is an old factory building turned into a working artist hub that offers classes, exhibitions, and events to nurture your inner artist.

The Architecture & Design Museum’s (900 e 4th St) sole focus is, as can be expected from the name, architecture and design exhibitions.

Another one of the best things to do in the Arts District is check out the Institute of Contemporary Art (1717 E 7th St). This contemporary art museum is independently run and they don’t ‘collect’ their art as they exhibit works of local Los Angeles, domestic, and international artists.

For dining, check out Bavel for Middle Eastern fare, Zinc Cafe & Market for standard California cuisine and cocktails, and Guerrilla Tacos for tacos and margaritas.

And for shopping, Row DTLA (777 S Alameda St) is a collection of restaurants, shops, bars, and event spaces housed in the former American Apparel manufacturing facility.

Spire73

900 Wilshire Boulevard floor 73

Dinner with a view is the perfect way to describe Spire73 which is one of the best things to do in downtown Los Angeles if you’re looking for the perfect sunset spot. This is by far one of the best things to do in Los Angeles at night since you get such great views here!

Situated on the 73rd floor of the Intercontinental Hotel is this beautiful rooftop lounge. Its claim to fame is that it is the highest open-air bar not just in the United States, but in the Western Hemisphere.

Spire73 offers incredible views of downtown Los Angeles, fire pits, and an impressive selection of food and drinks. 

Things to know: Located in the InterContinental Los Angeles at 900 Wilshire Blvd on the 73rd floor. Reservations are recommended. Familiarize yourself with their dress code which is business casual. Valet Parking and the parking lot is available at 900 Wilshire Blvd, both are paid options.

Chinatown

Dragon Gate to Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles

One of the most interesting cultural neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles is Chinatown where you can find restaurants, art galleries, grocery stores with imported goods and hard to find ingredients, bars, and more!

The Chinese American Museum (425 N Los Angeles Street) has history exhibitions about the Chinese American community in Los Angeles, the first museum of its kind in Southern California.

If you would like to take a photo (selfie, perhaps?) in Chinatown, stop by the Dragon Gate (intersection of N Broadway and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue) for a gorgeous and well-lit picture not to mention a nice monument commemorating the mutual cooperation and prosperity for the local Chinese-American community here in Downtown Los Angeles featuring two dragons symbolizing harmony and good luck.

Another beautiful cultural sight is the Thien Hau Temple (756 Yale St), which was transformed by Vietnamese immigrants over three decades ago as a Taoist temple dedicated to the ocean goddess Mazu.

For one of the best culinary spots in the city check out Far East Plaza (727 N Broadway) which has a mix of old-school and modern Asian food stalls – some of which gather crowds with long lines to get some of the tastiest things to try at this popular food hall.

You could easily spend hours just exploring Chinatown when visiting downtown Los Angeles! Just make sure you come hungry and schedule around enjoying the food here or even a snack from Far East Plaza.

Little Tokyo

Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles

Having the distinction of being only one of three official Japantowns in the United States, as well as being declared a National Historic Landmark District, is Little Tokyo – another one of the best things to do in downtown Los Angeles.

One place to scope out in this area is the Japanese American National Museum (101 N Central Avenue), which has worldwide recognition for its exhibitions on the Japanese American experience.

Right across from this museum is the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (152 N Central Avenue), so you can get your fill of even more artwork in downtown Los Angeles at the largest of the three MOCA museums featuring contemporary art.

If shopping is your thing, check out Japangeles and Pop Little Tokyo (141 Japanese Village Plaza Mall) for clothes, accessories, and other fun items. For a good dining option, try Suehiro Cafe (337 1st St) for a little bit of everything. 

Grand Central Market

interior of Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles

317 S Broadway

If there’s anything you’ll figure out quick about Downtown Los Angeles is that there are some seriously good options for food and this might top the cake as there are so many great options all under one roof.

This is without a doubt one of the best food halls in the country! We actually stayed at a hotel nearby and ate here multiple times during our most recent trip to Downtown Los Angeles.

Grand Central Market is a 30,000 square foot establishment has so many great food options from breakfast to dinner, plus bars and breweries with happy hour specials!

It is the oldest and largest public market in Los Angeles, and it’s been around for just over 100 years.

A fantastic afternoon can be spent here, browning the 40 stalls in the market and tasting a variety of cuisines. They also host a variety of events, so be sure to check out if there are any going on during your visit.

If I were to give my personal recommendations based on what we ate, we would say don’t miss The Donut Man, Ana Maria, and Villas Tacos. Eggslut is also very popular and looked awesome, I just didn’t want to wait in line!

Peek Inside the Bradbury Building

interior of the Bradbury Building in Downtown Los Angeles

304 S Broadway

Another architectural masterpiece to see in downtown Los Angeles is the Bradbury Building. It is the oldest commercial building in LA and has a sunny Victorian court, open cage elevators, and marble stairs.

You can marvel at the elaborate iron railings while taking in the beautiful visuals here. Just keep in mind you will only get to peek inside as they don’t let you in further, and you’re welcome to do so! This is a great addition to Grand Central Market as it’s nearby.

Clifton’s Republic

Cliftons-Republic-aka-Cliftons-Cafeteria-in-downtown-Los-Angeles
Editorial credit: V_E / Shutterstock

648 S Broadway

Clifton’s Republic is the newly re-opened version of what was formerly Cliffton’s Cafeteria (the city’s oldest cafeteria-style restaurant) which has a heartwarming backstory. Clifton’s originally opened during the Great Depression in 1935 and the owner provided meals to people who couldn’t afford to pay for them. It reached the point in the 1940s where 10,000 people would visit Clifton’s per day and get a meal.

Currently, visitors can enjoy the three-story atrium with a redwood replica as the centerpiece, a tiki bar, Monarch bar, and a cafeteria to check out. The building itself is a masterpiece let alone the whimsical decor on the inside making this one of the best things to do in downtown Los Angeles if you’re looking for something a little different to do!

Union Station

Interior of Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles

800 N Alameda St

Another historic landmark to check out is Los Angeles Union Station, which is the biggest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States.

The work on the station began in 1933, with the purpose of bringing together three local railroad terminals. The architecture here uses a unique combination of the Mission Revival, Art Deco, and Streamline Moderne styles of architecture and it’s absolutely breathtaking.

I am a huge fan of architecture so I love it here, even the seating area is absolutely beautiful. It’s actually considered the “Last of the Great Railway Stations” built in the United States.

While the building is a masterpiece, it did displace the original Chinatown community. Be sure to pay a visit to the exhibit here acknowlding this history and talking about the families andcommunities that they displaced to build the station.

There’s also Traxx Restaurant here, we recommend swinging by here for happy hour for a nice cocktail, they did a really good spicy margarita and you can sit back and enjoy the views of this beautiful building. I am going to sound old saying this, but they just don’t make them like this anymore and this is one of our favorite things to do in downtown Los Angeles.

Olvera Street

a colorful vendor down the historic Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles

One of the best things to do in downtown Los Angeles is check out the historic Olvera Street which has deep roots in the city’s history and is located in the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, which signifies where early settlers traveled from northern Mexico to this area and created a farming community more than 200 years ago.

Currently, El Pueblo is a living museum and is the oldest part of the city. Olvera Street is a Mexican marketplace where you can visit shops, and restaurants, and if you happen to get your timing just right, you can attend one of the traditional events they put on during the year.

If you’ve ever been to Old Town San Diego, this has a similar feel and full of fun activities to do just like Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles!


And there you have it! There is so much to see in downtown Los Angeles, and lots of places to add to your list of things to do in the city. Historic sites, cultural neighborhoods, great food, museums, and more! It’s all here. So what are you waiting for, start creating your itinerary for your trip to Los Angeles!