Downtown, Los Angeles Travel Guide
Downtown Los Angeles Summary
- Multiple access points for the clean, efficient Metro system
- Close to Union Station
- Recent boom of art galleries, clothing stores, restaurants, and cafes
- Hub of the city's freeway system (Interstates 10 and 110, and U.S. Route 101)
- Location of the city's main cultural institutions: The Public Library, Museum of Contemporary Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Staples Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
- Home to some of the city's most historic buildings
- Lots of grassy knolls and miniparks and public sculpture
- Two restaurants claiming to be originators of the French dip: Cole's and Phillipe's; this means two different places to get delicious French-dip sandwiches!
- The Central City East section of downtown -- aka skid row -- has one of the largest populations of homeless persons in the United States, and can make the area unsafe for tourists at night.
- Parking is expensive.
- During the day, the streets are packed and traffic is highly congested.
- At night, the streets can feel abandoned, unwatched, and unsafe.
What It's Like
Framed by the city's main freeways -- the Hollywood (U.S. Route 101), the Santa Monica (Interstate 10), and the Harbor (Interstate 110) -- and the Los Angeles River, downtown Los Angeles is located in the geographical heart of the sprawling metropolis. And it's certainly a "downtown" in the aesthetic, cultural, and architectural sense, with its skyscrapers, dense financial hub, and range of contemporary urban lifestyle commingling with the city's history. For art lovers, there is the internationally renowned Museum of Contemporary Art, but also a more independent gallery scene that's developed in recent years, now known as Gallery Row. (The 50-or-so art galleries there host a Downtown Art Walk the second Thursday of every month.) The Walt Disney Concert Hall and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, meanwhile, are icons of the city and host to innovative theater and music. And the Los Angeles Lakers and the Kings share the Staples Center as their home court and rink, respectively.
There's no shortage of options for nightlife and dining. New restaurants and bars (such as the phenomenal Bottega Louie) are opening constantly to satisfy the demands of the area's residential boom and the proximity to the University of Southern California. (Still, don't confuse downtown with, say, an area like West Hollywood, which has many more restaurants and bars, a more residential feel, and is generally a safer place to walk around at night.) Downtown also offers several easy access points to the efficient, clean, and under-appreciated L.A. Metro, which can take you all over the city, as well as to LAX airport (which in traffic could take you an hour by car). Its rich cultural options and aggregation of financial institutions make it an excellent option for business travelers and tourists alike.
Where To Stay
Downtown Los Angeles has hotels of all shapes, sizes, and styles. There are hip, boutique hotels like Hotel Figueroa and the not-quite-hip-anymore Standard Downtown LA. Corporate chain hotels-cum-shopping centers abound, like the Sheraton, which is attached to a Macy's; and, on the higher end, the Westin Bonaventure and the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Garden. Older, historic hotels like the Checkers and the Biltmore have kept their Los Angeles histories intact, despite recent renovations.