When you think of LA, you think of Hollywood and stars. You think of beaches and sun. You don’t necessarily think of skyscrapers and a metro system that, once upon a time, was considered more sophisticated than the New York subway system. OK… so that was 90 years ago. Still, Downtown LA is one of those places that you never forget visiting. Besides its beautiful architecture and historic buildings there are fantastic shopping, concert and sports venues as well. Be sure to add it if you book a Build Your Own Tour (https://lainsidertours.com/build-your-own-tour/ ) with us.
Here are 5 reasons you should not skip seeing Downtown LA on your next tour of Los Angeles.
Olvera Street is the oldest part of Downtown LA and is a part of a vibrant, ethnic California community life in Los Angeles. Originally known as Wine Street, in 1877 Olvera Street was renamed to honor Los Angeles’ first Superior Court Judge, Augustin Olvera, who owned an adobe nearby. As part of a movement to restore and preserve California’s rich heritage, Olvera Street was turned into a modern Mexican style market place in the 1920’s. Today, Olvera Streets re-creation of a romantic Old Los Angeles is a popular destination for visitors and Angelenos alike. You can stroll along Olvera Street and listen to music, eat wonderful food, watch Mexican Folk dancers and purchase handcrafted items such as pottery, belts, purses and Mexican Folk Art.
There is no doubt that there are some incredible architectural masterpieces in Downtown LA. Some of our favorites include the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Union Station & City Hall.
Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall was a gift from Walt Disney’s widow, Lillian, as a tribute to Mr. Disney’s devotion to the arts and the city. While Lillian originally donated $50 million dollars to the project in 1987, it ended up costing $247 million by the halls completion in 2003. This included the cost of the parking (yes, parking!) garage which cost $110 million. The acoustics of the hall, designed by Yasuhisa are second to none. In fact, the director of the famed Los Angeles Philharmonic said “everyone can now hear what the LA Phil is supposed to sound like.” It ended up being the most successful opening of a concert hall in American history.
The largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States, Union Station was designed by The Parkinsons and built in 1926. It is a combination of Dutch Colonial, Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne architecture. While it is considered small in comparison to other Union Stations, its grand designs make it seem large, open and airy. While it is still a major hub for travel, it has also become a popular wedding and reception site in recent years.
Los Angeles City Hall was designed by John Parkinson, John C. Austin, and Albert C. Martin, Sr. and completed in 1928. It is the tallest, base isolated structure in the world with 32 floors and retrofitted in recent years to be able to survive an 8.2 magnitude earthquake (we are in California, afterall!). The construction is truly historical given that the concrete used to make it has sand from each of California’s 58 counties and water from its 21 historical Missions. Its beautiful design has influences from the LA Public Library and the Masoleum of Masoulus. While it is no longer the tallest building in Los Angeles, it is still one of the most beautiful.
The Bradbury is a pop culture icon, serving as the film location in films (Blade Runner, Chinatown, Pay it forward, (500) Days of Summer); TV (Quantum Leap, Mission:Impossible, Pushing Daisies, CSI: New York); 80’s music videos by Hart, Janet Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and Genesis; books; and comics. Originally built in 1893, The Bradbury became an architectural landmark in 1971. With its Italian Renaissance Revival style and incredible cathedral-like center court, the interior of the building is nothing like its undistinguished outside. Robert Forester once said it’s “one of the great interiors of L.A.” Now an office building to many different businesses, the bottom floor of The Bradbury is retail space and one of the stores it currently houses is Ross Cutlery, where O.J. Simpson purchased the stiletto knife that figured prominently in his murder trial.
Staples Center & LA Live
Home to the LA Lakers, LA Sparks, LA Clippers and LA Kings, The Staples Center is a multipurpose sports arena in Downtown LA. A popular concert venue, hosting such greats as Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, Elton John and many others, The Staples Center is approximately 950,000 square feet and can fit around 20,000 seats. It is a part of a 4 million square foot development which also includes the LA Convention Center and LA Live which is a 5.2 million square foot development that includes hotels, restaurants, clubs and residential space as a part of the complex. It almost feels like you are in your own little city when at this huge complex.
The Jewelry District & Shopping
Downtown LA has fantastic shopping. Home to the jewelry district, the fashion district and the flower mart, you can find almost anything you need in DTLA. The jewelry district is the largest jewelry district in the United States and you can find designer jewelry, precious stones, gold and silver in the close to 5,000 businesses that the district houses. The best part is that you can get these items for far less than you can in a regular mall jewelry store.
Spanning 90 blocks and known as the “hub” of fashion in the Western United States, the fashion district is home to a ton of clothing, accessory and fabric manufacturers. It is a popular place to shop for designer brands. But buyers beware! You need to watch out for counterfeit merchandise. The LAPD routinely raids the area to arrest counterfeiters. So if that LV bag that you have been coveting for years seems too inexpensive… it probably isn’t real!
Located to the North of Downtown, Chinatown is situated in what used to be Little Italy in Los Angeles. It is comprised of businesses such as restaurants, shops and art galleries, but also has a residential population as well. Popular movies that have been filmed in Chinatown include: Chinatown, Rush Hour, I Love You, Man and Gangster Squad. There are many specialized grocery stores in Chinatown as well as some wonderful novelty stores that you can purchase items at low prices. There are also some amazing restaurants in Chinatown that serve Cantonese, Teochew, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Thai Cuisine. Making a stop in Chinatown is always a fun and interesting experience!
As you can tell by some of our favorite places, there are a plethora of things to do and see in Downtown LA. Come join us on one of our tours and you can see these places and so much more!
- “Don’t Hesitate….Just Do It!!”
The tour was a lot of fun and he even took us to less well known spots for some great photo ops! Definitely recommend doing and would absolutely do another tour with these guys when next back in LA!
~ Kelly T
- “Perfect fit for our family!”
Our tour was AMAZING. This is one of the most professional companies I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I would recommend them in a heartbeat.
~ Michele G, El Segundo, California
- “LOOK NO FURTHER”
I can recall doing a bus tour of LA a number of years ago, and that tour did not remotely compare to what we experienced with our number one guide Rivers. Our family of four, including two boys aged 13 and 10, had the best day possible.
~ Lindsay O, Hepburn Springs, Australia
- “Worth the Splurge”
Eight hours seems like a lot of time, but the day just flew by. It was so fun and interesting. I would do this again with no regrets.
The Kozars, Lethbridge, Canada
- “Great family day”
A big thank you to Scott for our fantastic LA tour!! We got all the sights in, in one day including a last minute shop @ Dash!! Scott was full of information and my family including my 3 year old had a fantastic day!! Highly recommend !!