Downtown, Los Angeles
In response to a forum question:
So many things to do in LA specially if it is your first time. But if you are a good driver and have international license, I suggest renting a car which is so cheap anyway -- there's a lot of good deals that sometimes just charge under $30 a day (sometime even less than 20 USD).
Having a car saves so much time becase unlike in Europe, public transportation is not as extensive in California. But if you can, try to rent a car with GPS, or if you have GPS, bring your own. The drive from LA to San Francisco is nice and can be done in less than half a day, depending how much you stop.
Driving is the way you can understand the California way of life --- traffic sometimes in LA specially during rush hour. Once in SF though, you can just leave you car in your hotel and just use the nice public transportation of trams and buses which are easy to understand. It is harder to drive around the congested "up and down" 45- degree hills in SF...but a nice experience to go through the world's crookedest street! In driving from SF to LA or vice-versa, you can also take the more scenic Carmel route which goes along the California coast (see the map and freeways).
The AAA map is nice and if you have a friend who is a member in USA, they can get the map for you for free and even a little book for free which will outline everything you can do around California.
The title says it all. While, Chinatown and Little Tokyo as well as a museum and the music center are downtown, after night fall, dowtown is pretty much a deserted no man's land. Some of the major swank hotels are located in this area, and unless you're doing something in particular at one of the areas above, you're just wandering around deserted streets. There are for example, no grocery stores in downtown at night and no foot traffic except for the bums in skid row. You heard it here first. Some boosters will disagree with me, but realistically it's a disgrace that LA's downtown is so deserted.
UPDATE- some major steps have been made, and downtown is starting to come around a little more, much like it did in the 80s before crashing. But it seems a bit different this time, and as a testament to the possible viability of downtown as a residential area, Ralph's supermarkets is even planning on putting in downtown's first full service supermarket.
Hoever it shakes out, don't expect to head downtown at night and see a bustling street life like you'd expect in NYC or other 'downtown' areas like European historical centers.
If you are in LA only for a couple of days, here is my personal list of things to see and suggestions on how to get organized for that. You don't need a car
1st day: the city
start from Union Station, an old beautiful train station (reach it by bus or metro, by car you can find reasonably cheap parking). Have a walk to Olvera Street where the historical core of LA is (the old mexican market, the oldest house in LA, the mission of Our Lady of Angels, el Pueblo, it's all there - 2 hours). You can walk towards downtown switching between grand, hope, flower, spring street. Along the way, have a look at the downtown area (the skyscrapers, the city hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall - 2 hours), take the metro redline at 7th / Figueroa to hollywood/highland and visit Gruman Chinese and Kodak Theater, walk of fame, it's all there (2 hours). You can take here the Bus to LA zoo and from there the bus to the Griffith Observatory. You must book in advance by internet. Be there at sunset, when LA turns lazily into the City of Lights (you can stay there until 10 pm).
If you are not tired yet and want to spend the night out, do it at Sunset BLVD, in the suset strip. There are some clubs that have made the history of music/glamour like The Roxy, The Viper Room, Wiskey a gogo. Take a taxi back to your hotel if you are late.
2nd day: the beach
take bus number 20/21 downtown to Santa Monica. step out and rent a bike somewhere with a locker. you can ride the bike all the way to Venice beach, there is a very nice byke\\pedestrian path. Stop where you like and enjoy the beach, people watching, entartainers, shops, etc. You can spend all the day and early afternoon to go and come back.
At Santa Monica I suggest a walk on the mythical pier and along third street promenade. At sunset stay on Pacific Palisades park at Santa Monica, another set of an endless number of movies. Enjoy the sunset and twilight on the Pacific.
at California Discovery Center! She has officially retired here in the Exposition Park venue.
Salute her at:
700 Exposition Park Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90037
Make a timed reservation for your visit!
Fondest memory: seeing the Endeavour literally creep down the streets of South L.A. and Leimert Park. A magnificent part of U.S. history rolled right in front of my eyes!
Real Deals and People in downtown
If you like to discover the daily beat of the locals while visiting a new area as I do, come to the Fashion District. And, oh yeah, if you refuse to pay full price for various items, make your way here, where you will find the famous cheap-sometimes chic shopping mecca of Santee Alley and more..
Warning--Streets in these parts are not pristine at all. This is a shabby area and you should take some extra precaution here though it's not a very dangerous area (basically, don't fall into the bad tourist traps of flashing money, not looking around you, etc). However, it is worth coming here to see the everyday, non-pretentious folk and the daily dealings of the sale.
At Santee Alley or "The Alley", sellers showcase everything knock-off-sunglasses, purses, jeans, suits, shoes, etc. Don't expect to find the truly authentic garb and accessories from the Guccis and all but , hey, don't knock the knock-offs- they're just as fabulous! There have been some police raids done here of fake merchandise but Santee continues to thrive.
Besides the Alley, one will come across the Flower Mart, really a district within the bigger one. The L.A. Flower District is the largest market dedicated to flowers in the U.S. It's amazing to see virtually every kind of flower on Mother Earth. Oh, the aroma here- come here to get your organic perfume on!
Fondest memory: Getting, at last, my fabulous $4 black purse in the district!!
I just found this very informative website on Los Angeles, not sure why I've never used it before. See My LA is the LA Convention and Visitors Bureau website and has a ton of info on what to see and do in LA. Log on and you can order a free visitors guide.
It also has a link to another website LA Downtown Guide which has terrific information on touring the city's downtown area.
This is one of downtown’s ATP's (automated public toilets) by the Pershing Square Metrolink, that are self cleaning and the door will open automatically after 20 minutes. Businesses say having more toilets in the neighborhood would reduce human waste on the streets by the homeless, but Police said public facilities often become crime magnets. At least this one is right near a very public street next to the Metrolink Pershing Square.
This is how downtown Los Angeles looks like in the middle of the summer.
"The citycenter" is basically just this officebuildings in the background.
It was not bad weather when I took this picture. The grey/brown color is unfortunatly the smog.
This picture is taken from Griffith Park Observatory.
SUSPENDED: Lacking of Funding. The city's kinda broke! Maybe it will come back. "til then, consider this a MarinArena classic vault tip!)
Entertaining streets downtown!
Grand Avenue is one of many good streets downtown for going and out. The best way to sample what it has to offer is to arrive here for the Grand Avenue festival in the fall. The next one is scheduled to be in October. Last year was the second time for the official festivities and my first time there. On one day, one can get to see free highly caliber performances along the street and off Grand at the Music Center and other venues, as well as sample foods from various delectable downtown establishments that set up stalls.
Grand Ave Festival ...
is very family friendly
very accessible with Metro (Pershing Square stop, 7th/Fig and Civic Center stop all relatively close by (5-15 min walking distance). Driving and parking can be a little problematic.
Good food court/markets!
Grand Central Market is a neighborhood treasure. Downtowners especiallyappreciate it for providing a variety of fruits, veggies, meats, exotic spices and more which would all be otherwise hard to get. If you happen to be downtown, this is the place to go for a filling meal without emptying the pocket. Various deli-style sandwiches are served and gobbled up. There is a good selection of cuisines- but, of course Mexican and other Latino foods are most popular, given the heavily-populated Hispanic community living around and frequenting here. My special tip- try Sarita's Pupuseria for Salvadoran craving feeding hungry mouths.
Food vendors are scattered upstairs (street level). There is a discount store underground. Basically, it is good for a quick drink, snack, a cheap toy , crayons, greeting card, an item for school/work and various other "knick-knacks"that make their way on the shelves. I actually found a fashionable pair of sparkling pink shoes for just $3. They would have been easily $20 at the mall. Oh the thrill of walking up to a fabulous deal!!!
Grand Central Market is between 3th St and 5th St, between Hill and Broadway.
Fondest memory: OK, not the fondest but I do miss my Sarita's pupusas and paying just 33 cents for a head of lettuce here instead on 80 cents+ in the suburbs!!!
Contemporary art is always on display in downtown LA.- and not just at the Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA, as we locals call the venue. Rather, an intriguing showcase of what I'd deem contemporary and artistic (even though commercial also) is the continuous tri-wall mural of Hotel Figueroa. Each day, thousands or motorists and pedestrians pass by and many notice the latest commecial advertisement for us to take into our consciousness- or just to simply glance at and then quickly forget.
The Moroccan-Arabesque themed hotel, opened in 1925 is architecturally charming itself. Ooh, the ornate design of the tiles, lanterns, gates and doors here...ooh la la the bold rich red, yellow, orange, blues on the exterior and within the hotel- will make you think you're in Casablanca, or Fez.
Check it out: http://www.figueroahotel.com/pages/about02.html
939, S. Figueroa Street
near Staples Center
Fondest memory: drinking a few fruity spirits in the gorgeous lobby after work. Made for very happy hours!
There is a bad myth about L.A. It is said often that the city is not good for walking. I beg to differ! True, people are so dependent on cars here. This is evident on the jam-packed freeways and equally crowded streets. However, walking is quite common and convenient especially when in downtown.
On 5th, between Olive and Flower St, is especially nice for a stroll. This is where I have often begun my little trips in downtown because my bus stops around here. Along this street is Pershing Square , the Central Library (including Maguire Gardens park area adjacent), the historic One Bunker Hill building, Westin Bonadventure and Arco Plaza.
There is quite enough history just on this stretch of 5th St. itself, let alone other paths. I'll elaborate about these sometime soon!
One can explore latino (particularly Mexican) culture about everywhere in Los Angeles. Yet, going from downtown L.A. on Pico Ave is an especially interesting way to discover Latino life and culture.
Fondest memory: I love to capture murals like this one (along Pico). I happen to be on the bus when I snapped this one. The smeared look of this pic from the bus window adds an interesting effect of the image. It is that of an angel. The mural reads, " We are each of us angels with one wing. We can only fly embracing each other." There are so many murals, small and big, to count throughout the city.
Great websites for places to go in downtown L.A. with walking maps.
1. Civic Center (Cathedral, Music Center, Disney Hall, MOCA & Plaza, Bunker Steps, Library, Jewelry District)
2. Union Station/Olivera St. (across from Union Station)
3. Chinatown (near Olivera St.)
4. Little Tokyo
Ralph's Fresh Fare on 9th St
If you're staying in downtown L.A. for an extended time, you'll surely want to make coming here as an vital errand. As it stands now, this is the ONLY major chain supermarket in all of downtown. Fresh Fare is a high quality market in an emerging upscale part of town with an abundance of gourmet, organic and specialty grocery and misc items, as well as an on-site cleaners and fabulous deli and cafe with ample seating. The store is super clean and fancy. Come especially for the produce section. The fruit assortment is amazing. Surely, the prices here are quite costly in many cases but not all. On one occasion, I saw a toothbrush with a fancy Colgate or similar toothpaste advertised for only 98 cents! It helps to have the Ralph's club card to save but if just briefly in town, a shopper behind you may just lend his/her card or the clerk may swipe a a spare savings card as a courtesy .
Warning: Street parking is scarcse and sometimes risky here. One has to compete against residential parking across the market. There is a parking garage with validation as official market parking (90 min free parking). There are many car tow announcements in the store!
645 W 9th St, (213) 452-0840