LA Neighborhood Guide: Downtown Edition


Photo credit: Sydney Shintani

Portia Freeman ’18 and I eat at Lemonade located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA] in Downtown. Downtown offers many museums and restaurants for tourists and locals alike.

“LA Neighborhood Guide” is a collection of listicles highlighting unique Los Angeles neighborhoods. It explores places to go, things to do and interesting information about the area in general. Through this spotlight, The Oracle hopes to explore Los Angeles’ diversity and unique attractions.

Los Angeles’ distinct skyline can be recognized across the globe, but what makes Downtown special aren’t the buildings themselves, but what lies within them.

Downtown was founded in 1781 and still remains Southern California’s business center. The district is filled with artistic landmarks and cultural monuments, making it unlike any other part of Los Angeles.

While Downtown is full of hidden gems, here are five must-see destinations to fully experience this unique part of Los Angeles.

Embrace Chinatown

Photo by Cybele Zhang
The Thien Hau Temple located on the hillside above Chinatown. Inside the temple are ornate alters where visitors can pray, leave gifts for the gods and learn about Chinese ideologies.

Los Angeles’ Chinatown has served as the home for Chinese immigrants since its creation in 1938. The area is still lively; red lanterns decorate the plazas, and the fragrance of burning incense can be smelled from blocks away. Small shops along the streets sell colorful knick-knacks that are hard to find anywhere else. Many restaurants within Chinatown serve up authentic Chinese food ranging from Peking duck to boba tea to steamed soup dumplings.

I would recommend visiting Chinatown on a weekend afternoon or late morning when dim sum restaurants are in full swing. Many restaurants serve this brunch-like meal that is ordered by simply selecting whatever looks good from carts circulating around the large restaurants.

During Chinese New Year the Chinatown streets come to life, and vibrant celebrations of the holiday are held for consecutive weeks.

Explore The Broad

Photo by Nelly Rouzroch
The Double America 2 is one of the most popular installations at the museum. It was created by Glenn Ligon, a contemporary artist from The Bronx.

Opened in 2015, The Broad is a contemporary art museum created by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The museum’s architecture is unique, and its collection is huge. The walls contain over 2,000 works, making it one of the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide.

The newest addition to the museum’s collection is “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” which opened Saturday, Oct. 21. The exhibit showcases an interactive series of mirror rooms and art pieces, which appear to continue endlessly. The exhibit has taken social media by storm, and viewers are limited to 30 seconds in each room due to high demand.

Tickets to the museum are sold in advance, so be sure to register ahead of time. The most popular exhibits tend to be filled months in advance. The Broad is closed on Mondays and can be reached by calling (213) 232-6200.

Wander Through Grand Central Market

Going strong for a century, Grand Central Market remains as lively and hip as it was when it first opened its doors in 1917. It is located in the bottom levels of old office buildings, one of which architect Frank Lloyd Wright used as an office in the 1920’s.

Photo by Sydney Shintani
Customers enjoy central market on a Saturday afternoon. During lunchtime, the market is especially crowded, so it can be hard to find a place to sit.

The huge market hosts 39 vendors, who sell everything from jewelry to laundry detergent, but the market is best known for its diverse culinary treats.

The food served up offers your taste buds a trip around the globe. Jose Chiquito‘s custom hamburgers and salads, McConnell’s tasty ice cream, vegan ramen and pho at Ramen Hood and Sarita’s Pupuseria‘s handmade treats are only a few of the diverse and mouthwatering options available. With so much good food, it’s hard to go wrong at any stall.

The market can become pretty crowded during peak lunchtime hours, so I would recommend going either earlier or later in the day.

Grand Central Market is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It can be found at 317 South Broadway.

Discover the Arts District

Photo by Cybele Zhang
A mural depicting a woman overlapped by intricate designs. The Arts District is full of outstanding murals.

Colorful street art brings to life old, industrial buildings on the eastern side of Downtown. The Arts District is a hipster’s paradise — full of quirky murals and cutting-edge restaurants.

These intricate pieces of art illustrate everything from portraits to dancing juice boxes to powerful pieces giving political and social commentary.

Within many of the district’s refurbished historic buildings lie unique restaurants, like my favorite, Wurtsküche. This Belgian inspired restaurant serves a variety of sausages on freshly baked rolls. The sausages range from classics, such as bratwurst and hot Italian, to the unexpected, such as duck with bacon and rattlesnake with rabbit.

Other Arts District standout restaurants include BestiaThe Pie Hole and Zinc Cafe & Market.

Take in the View

Photo by Cybele Zhang
Los Angeles’ City Hall from the 24th floor of the Wells Fargo tower. Any tall building in Downtown can provide a breathtaking view of the surrounding city.

Where else can you take in the Hollywood Sign, Santa Monica Mountains, Pacific Ocean and Downtown landmarks all in one place? LA’s skyscrapers are the perfect place to take in the greater Los Angeles area so don’t forget to snap a few pictures while you’re at it.

The new OUE Skyspace within the U.S. Bank Tower has a viewing deck and glass slide that provide a perfect venue to witness Los Angeles come to life beneath you. The deck is the highest open-air viewing deck in all of California.

But for those who would rather save money and don’t want to wait in line, any high-rise in Downtown can provide a breathtaking view.

When you’re looking out, try to spot the Griffith Observatory in the distance or closer landmarks such as Los Angeles City Hall and the cylindrical shaped Westin Bonaventure.

Schedule your visit during sunset for an especially beautiful experience.

Be sure to head east and explore Downtown’s diverse cultures through art, food and entertainment.