Olvera Street, Los Angeles
Olvera Street is basically a one-block-long swapmeet of Mexican-oriented junk. There are some historic buildings there, but you cannot see them because of all of the booths selling overpriced trinkets. If you want Mexican history, go to Mexico.
Last time my parents came to visit we took a trip downtown to see some of the sights he knew as a kid. The Olvera Street he remembered from his youth far surpassed the one we found. Traditionally speaking, Olvera Street is known as the heart of the Mexican community in downtown Los Angeles, and although there is a plethora of Mexican culture in the area the actual street is nothing more than an alley with restaurants and street vendors. I am sure the food here is good, but the vendors hawk nothing more than silly little trinkets. I suppose it would be exciting for the kids, but unless you’re dining here, don’t expect to kill more than an hour here. If you must go combine it with a trip to Chinatown (within walking distance of each other) and get a taste of two cultures in one.
Olvera Street is worth a walk down once, but there's not very much to do there. It's not a place that people would go to for very long or more than once.
Unique Suggestions: When you do your walk-through, be sure to check out the candle store. It's cool, and they have this giant candle that's the size of a tree trunk.
Once you've seen one store hawking turquoise, belt buckles, and Frida merchandise, you've kind of seen them all.
Do check out the Mexican arts & crafts--I particularly like the shadowboxes with doors that open to reveal little scenes. They are pretty and macabre and very culturally significant.
There is a good restaurant on the street called La Casa Golondrina. There is usually live music, and the patio is festive. Feels like a little Mexico vacation. The rest of the restaurants are NOT good.
Fun Alternatives: A fun, but crowded, time to visit Olvera is during a fiesta. They do a huge Dia de los Muertos parade, and at Christmas there is a parade each day leading up the 25th that is kind of a play about the birth of Christ. There are other festivals throughout the year; check their website for details.