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Discover DTLA’s Unique Districts on Foot

Things to do in LA

Discover DTLA’s Unique Districts on Foot

Discover DTLA’s Unique Districts on Foot

South Park

Not to be confused with the South Central neighborhood of the same name, Downtown’s South Park district is most famously home to the LA Convention Center, the Staples Center, and the LA Live complex.

How to get there: Take the Blue or Expo (light blue) line to the Pico Station. Cross the street and go west from the Pico station for South Park’s business area.

Check out:
LA Live: This $2.5 million complex has 5,600,000 square feet of restaurants, event venues, movie theaters, bars, and nightclubs. During summer, LA Live hosts live music in its open plaza space.
Staples Center: This area seats up to 19,000 for sports events and concerts. It’s been named the most vegetarian-friendly arena and hosts more than 250 events every year.


Fashion District

Home to 100 blocks of independently owned clothing, accessory, shoe, and fabric stores, the Fashion District is a great place to stroll away the afternoon. You’ll see a prevalence of quinceanera/bridesmaid/prom style formal dresses, kid’s clothes, and club wear at Santee Alley, but the crowds, food trucks, and atmosphere make it a worthwhile trip even if it’s not your style.

How to get there: Take the Red, Purple, Blue or Expo lines to 7th Street/Metro Center. Walk south to Olympic Boulevard and go east to Los Angeles Street.

Check out:
Santee Alley: The Santee Alley market stretches between Olympic Boulevard and 12th Street between Santee Street and Maple Avenue. 150 vendors sell clothes, accessories, shoes, and beauty supplies in a bazaar environment with plenty of food trucks and stands sprinkled throughout.
LA Flower Market: With a $2 admission fee ($1 on Saturdays), peruse the country’s largest floral market. The Flower Market has been an LA institution since 1919.


Financial District

Despite its influx of corporate buildings, the Financial District is experiencing a boom of new restaurants taking up residence in its classic urban architecture. The Financial District between Third and 8th Streets, and Olive Street and the 110.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple Line to 7th Street/Metro Center.

Check out:
Los Angeles Athletic Club: This gorgeous LA institution is part gym, part hotel, part restaurant. If Wes Anderson designed a health club, it would look like the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
Los Angeles Central Public Library: Built in 1933, this library houses more than 3 million historic photos in California’s best photo archive.


Jewelry District

This is the largest jewelry district in the United States with over 5,000 businesses selling jewelry, silver, gold, and precious stones. You can save between 50-70% buying jewelry and watches directly from the jewelry district rather than an off-site retailer. The walk-in jewelry shops open for wandering are located on Hill Street, Olive, Street, and Broadway between 5th and 8th Streets.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple Line to Pershing Square and head south on Hill Street.

Check out:
International Jewelry Center: Also known as the 550 Building, this is one of the country’s largest and more secure jewelry markets. Many accept walk-ins, but it’s recommended that you make an appointment for better service.
Clifton’s Cafeteria: The oldest surviving cafeteria in Los Angeles, Clifton’s recently reopened after a large renovation. Its kitchy theatrics have made it an LA favorite since 1931. Clifton’s now boasts several floors with mid-century cafeteria fare and classic cocktails. It’s one of the coolest places to visit in DTLA.


Historic Core

As the former center of the city, the Historic Core is home to LA’s oldest remaining buildings. Among them, the Grand Central Market and the gorgeous Beax Arts style Rosslyn and Alexandria Hotels, now turned into single-room occupancy housing. The Historic Core is between Hill and Los Angeles Streets, between Third and Olympic Streets. It’s also home to the Cecil Hotel, a building with a history so tormented, some people believe all 600 rooms are cursed.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple Line to Civic Center/Grand Park and head south on Hill Street.

Check out:
The Bradbury Building: Made famous by Blade Runner, the Bradbury Building is one of LA’s most beloved landmarks. Although the upper levels are functioning as private offices, stop by to check out the famous Romanesque Revival staircases and birdcage elevators in the lobby.
Grand Central Market: Nearly 100 vendors sell meats, vegetables, fish, and cheeses in LA’s largest public market. But even more people visit for the foodie destination dining options. Laid out in stalls reminiscent of a food court, the Grand Central Market offers ethnically diverse local favorites.


Gallery Row

A relatively new district in DTLA, Gallery Row was given distinction by LA’s City Council in 2003. Thirteen years later, it’s a super hip, pedestrian and bike friendly area between Main and Spring Streets, and Second and Ninth Streets. New restaurants, cocktail bars, and galleries open up regularly and it draws a crowd for its Downtown Art Walk on the 2nd Thursday of every month.

How to get there: Go west on 5th Street from the Red or Purple lines at Pershing Square.

Check out:
Hive Gallery: With two full galleries and 25 working artists, the Hive is a vibrant studio, gallery, and event space for LA’s art scene. They’re committed to a low-commission basis to keep the cost of original art affordable for the general public.
Downtown Independent: An indie theater and event space, the Downtown Independent hosts special screenings and community art events.


Toy District

With 12 blocks of vendor businesses selling toys, piñatas, silk flowers, small electronics, and general bric-a-brac, the Toy District fills the 12 blocks between Los Angeles and San Pedro Streets, between Third and Fifth Streets. Wandering the roughly 500 shops and open curbside stalls makes for a great way to spend a bright afternoon. The shops are a little claustrophobic and haphazardly spread out, so it’s best to go with a vague idea of what you’re looking for, rather than a specific mission. This is a daytime trip: not only does the area shut down at sunset, but it becomes very unsafe and dimly lit at night. Plan to be out well before the sun goes down and be aware that many shops aren’t open on Sundays.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple line to the Pershing Square station and go east on 5th Street past Los Angeles Street.

Check out:
ABC Toys: The original vendor, ABC Toys put the toy district on the map in 1979 when they started selling toys year round instead of putting up temporary holiday shops. Within 20 years, the Woo family owned 10 buildings in the Toy District.


Skid Row

Between Main and Alameda Streets and between Third and Seventh Streets, is Skid Row. It’s the largest unsheltered homeless population in the US and it’s been called America’s only third world country as LA Mayor Garcetti called it “a state of emergency.” Tent encampments, trash fires, and open trafficking are common. As LA’s downtown booms with new, trendy developments, Skid Row’s crime continues. Simply put: don’t be in Skid Row at night. If you parked in Skid Row during the day, take a cab and come back for your car the next day.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple line to Pershing Square and go east on 5th street past Main Street.

Check out:
Union Rescue Mission: Volunteer with Union Rescue to help with the 2,300 meals Union serves homeless residents every day. Check out the Little Steps program to help with homeless children or do a Water Walk during the summer months to deliver cold bottled water.
Nickel Diner: Only in LA would a Skid Row diner have long lines for red velvet and maple bacon glazed donuts every weekend. The Nickel’s a classic 1940’s diner that’s reinvigorated what used to be Skid Row’s most notorious intersection.


Little Tokyo

Home to the largest Japanese-American population in the country, Downtown’s Little Tokyo district runs between the Los Angeles Street and the LA River, between Third Street and the 101. It was Little Tokyo that first brought sushi to Los Angeles in 1926, sparking our nationwide sushi craze. It’s also a hotspot some of LA’s coolest art galleries and boutique shops.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple (and soon, Gold) lines to Union Station and walk south on Alameda past the 101.

Check out:
Q Pop Shop: Artist made items range from vinyl toys, Japanese street fashions, and original art in its mini gallery. Q Pop is co-owned by Ren and Stimpy/Spongebob Squarepants artist, Chris Mitchell and Thai pop culture host, Miki Panteepo.
Restaurant Komasa: This sushi bar tops some of LA’s best-of lists for sushi, despite its reasonable price point and humble space. The waits can be serious business, so come prepared to wait on the outdoor benches.


Civic Center

LA’s Civic Center has the largest concentration of government workers outside of Washington, D.C., but there’s plenty to do and see here. You might recognize the Parker Center from “Dragnet”, “Perry Mason”, or “Columbo.” And of course, you’ll recognize Los Angeles City Hall as the home of the Daily Planet for 1950’s “Superman.” The newly renovated Hall of Justice and Grand Park provide scenic walks on a clear day.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple Line to Civic Center/Grand Park.

Check out:
The Broad Museum: You can reserve your free tickets ahead of time or stand in line to check out this brand new museum, courtesy of the contemporary art collection of Eli Broad. Tip: it’s pronounced “brode”, as in rhymes with “toad.” Call it “broad” as in Broadway and a museum worker appears in a puff of smoke to correct you.
Grand Park: The park sparkles after its large-scale renovation and cleanup. It’s now home to a wadeable reflection pool, bright grassy knolls, and events like free yoga, lunch trucks, and free concerts.


El Pueblo

The original settlement of Los Angeles was founded here in 1781 by Spanish colonizers as El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles. The El Pueblo district today is between Spring and Alameda Streets, and Arcadia Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue. Today, the original buildings have been preserved as part of the historic park and the plaza area itself is a bustling open-air marketplace.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple line to Union Station and go west on Cesar Chavez.

Check out:
Olvera Street: One of the oldest streets in Los Angeles, Olvera is a popular tourist destination for its pedestrian mall selling Mexican artifacts. Olvera Street also hosts multicultural events like Los Tres Reyes, the Chinese Lantern Festival, and Dia De Los Muertos. The local favorite is The Blessing of the Animals where Angelenos bring their animal companions to be blessed by the Archbishop of LA.
LA Plaza de Cultura Y Artes: This free museum documents the Mexican-American experience in California with interactive exhibits on the history, culture, and arts of Mexican Americans in LA.


Arts District

Working with the same “Artist in Residence” ordinance that transformed Soho in New York, Downtown’s Arts District was created in the 1970s when artists began converting former industrial spaces into live-work lofts and studios. Today, the affluent district runs from Alameda Street and the LA River, and First and Violet Streets. The Arts District is a pedestrian-friendly area for shopping, dining, and checking out local art and design.

How to get there: Until the Gold Line finishes construction, take the Red or Purple line to Civic Center/Grand Park and go east on First Street past Alameda.

Check out:
Arts District Co-Op: A vendor space of “retail concepts”, the Arts Co-op features independent vendors on a rotating basis.
Urban Radish: A restaurant, butcher, and marketplace for sustainable and eco-friendly foodies. Shop and dine with live jazz and wine and food tastings every Wednesday night.



Los Angeles’s Chinatown inhabits the triangle between the 110, the 101, and the Los Angeles River. For exploring on foot, wander north on North Broadway from Cesar Chavez– you’ll pass through the Chinatown gate at this intersection. Many of Chinatown’s shops and restaurants are along North Broadway, although there’s a stretch along Alpine between Yale and Alameda as well. Fun fact: much of Chinatown’s design, particularly Central Plaza, comes by way of Hollywood set designers who exaggerated the style to attract tourists.

How to get there: Take the Red or Purple line to the Civic Center/Grand Park station and go north on Hill Street and east on Alpine.

Check out:
Melody Lounge: Illuminated by red paper lanterns, this romantic craft beer and cocktail spot with a happy hour that goes until 9pm.
Hop Louie: Insanely cheap prices for old school food in a delightful building. While it’s not the best Chinese food in LA by any stretch, Hop Louie’s dive vibe in its five-tiered pagoda has kept Chinatown going since 1941.

Stacey Garratt

Stacey Garratt is a freelance writer and a native Valley girl who moved back to LA from NYC five years ago.

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