Downtown Los Angeles is in the midst of a revival that has put to rest the stereotype that high tech office workers in suits run a gantlet of homeless street people every morning to get to work, and depart the area at top speed when work is done. Hundreds of classic office buildings have been converted to condos and rental apartments. Cranes are everywhere. New restaurants pop up weekly to serve the influx of urbanites who now make Downtown their home.
Even if you think you already know it, a great place to start exploring Downtown is by taking one or more of the walking tours sponsored by the venerable Los Angeles Conservancy. The link above will take you to their website for details. The tours include guided walks through Little Tokyo, down teeming Broadway to see the fantastic collection of old theatres, an Art Deco tour, City Hall, Spring Street, the Biltmore Hotel, a tour called the Historic Core, and more. The tour guides are very knowledgeable, there are tours every Saturday at a cost of $10 for nonmembers, and take about two and a half hours.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
The Music Center at the north end of Downtown includes the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Disney Concert Hall. These venues serve both as the concert center of the city and also the major center for first run Broadway-type shows. They include the headquarters for the L.A. Opera, the L.A. Philharmonic, the L.A. Master Chorale, and the L.A. Center Theatre Group. Less well known is the Colburn School at 200 S. Grand, opposite Disney Hall, whose classical musicians perform regularly at their Herbert Zipper Hall.
To the east where Los Angeles Street and Alameda angle together is the historic Plaza where the City of the Angels originated. There the famous Mexican tourist attraction Olvera Street is filled with great Mexican restaurants and craft shops. It abuts Chinatown to its northwest, and Union Station to its east, Los Angeles' major rail terminal and starting point for its expensive little subway system. Artist colonies abound in factory and loft spaces along Alameda Street. Several of these colonies sponsor annual art tours of their live-in studios.
Moving south don't miss the famous Grand Central Market at 317 S. Broadway, with its dozens of stalls of fresh vegetables, meat, seafood, and spice sellers, as well as hot food service. It is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 6 pm. Across the street is the Bradbury Building, the city's oldest commercial building with its unique interior courtyard of wrought iron balconies and marble staircases.
The Central Library at Fifth Street and Hope. This is a wonderful resource and a peaceful place to spend the day. For more information see the section of this website on libraries.
Broadway shopping district. This vibrant area spreads down Broadway from 1st Street to Olympic where it gradually changes into the Garment District. The low rents have encouraged shops of every description, as well as arcades with multiple stalls.
This district of small shops spreads eastward from Broadway to Main and Los Angeles streets. The photo at left is at the corner of 4th and Los Angeles and is typical of the area, although the crowds thin out as you go east. For anyone who loves to explore streets of small old shops, this area is a real treat.
The Jewelry District is centered between 6th and 7th streets between Hill and Broadway. Its stores range from down-at-the-heels to very upscale. Here is the capital of diamond merchants, gold rings, fine watches, and costume jewelry by the ton.
The Garment District. Also called the Fashion District, this more upscale than Broadway. It is a shopper's paradise, where big name clothing and accessories are on sale at large discounts. Be warned, however, the sheer size of the place is intimidating. Single buildings, such as the California Apparel Mart on Main between 9th St. and Olympic may have more stores than you can cover in a day. And the streets for blocks around are lined with boutiques and outlets for every kind of clothing.
Unlike the north Broadway area, the Garment District has seen massive new construction or renovation of older buildings. New buildings go on for blocks, drifting from New York and Paris fashions for men and women to tuxedos and wedding dresses, and then onward to African or South Seas garments, and still further to hats, belts, handbags, perfumes, cosmetics.
Finally, heading east and north again, toward Wall Street, come the materials shops: dozens of stores that carry nothing but fabrics; others with lace or buttons or fringes, or embroidered edgings. Also in this area, particularly along Wall Street, many new one and two storey buildings are going up specifically to house stores of these kinds.
The Flower District. Moving north again on Wall Street toward 8th Street we arrive at the Flower District. This also spreads east on 8th to Central Avenue, ranging from big wholesalers to small retail stores. If you need a mass of flowers for a wedding, this is the place to come.
These have been just a few highlights. To find out what is really in our vibrant Downtown you will have to go yourself. If you happen to be lucky enough to already live in West Adams, you can be there in five minutes, so don't forget to take time to smell the roses.