On my first ever visit to LA, we had a few hours to fill on our last day and a valid hop on/off tourist bus ticket so decided to go on the tour of Downtown LA. It was a rare dull day, nothing we passed sounded or looked particularly interesting and we didn’t have time to hop off and explore anywhere further anyway and it was a Sunday so everywhere we passed seemed dead. Not the best first impression of the area!!
Deciding I hadn’t given it a fair chance, I made plans to explore the area more on a solo visit to the city a few years later. Researching online before my trip, I made a list of some of things I wanted to see or do downtown and plotted a route to follow. As I was staying in Hollywood, I began my day by catching the red line metro from Hollywood/Highland Station to Union Station. The station itself, the largest in West USA, is worth a wander around and is on the National Register of Historic Places. From here, I crossed the road from the front entrance to find Olvera Street.
Olvera Street, part of the El Paublo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, is one of the oldest streets in Los Angeles and is lined with Mexican themed stalls and restaurants. The street has become a big downtown tourist attraction and is a fun place to visit or for a spot of shopping.
After wandering down the street, I visited the nearby Avila Adobe, the oldest standing residence in LA. The building was set up inside as it would have been in the 1800s. It was free to enter and look around and there was information in each room about what life would have been like for the family that lived there.
From Olvera Street, I walked towards LA’s City Hall. I had read that with a valid ID such as a passport, it was possible to enter the building and get the elevator up to an observation deck at the top. I love a good observation deck and if it’s free, even better, so I thought I’d give it a try. I followed some other visitors in who, it turned out, were there for the same reason. After an ID and security check, we were shown instructions on how to find our way to the 27th floor!
The views from the top were pretty good. There’s not a lot of room to move around but luckily there weren’t too many people around – it was midweek at the end of June, I don’t know if it gets busy at weekends and holidays. I spent a bit of time looking out across the sprawling city and taking photographs before catching the elevator back down and heading off to get some lunch.
For lunch, I already knew exactly where I was heading having seen Philippe’s French dipped sandwiches on an episode of Man vs Food!! I walked back on myself back towards Union Station then along Alameda Street past the Post Office Building to find the restaurant.
My roast beef dipped sandwich was just as delicious as I had hoped it would be!
To walk off my sandwich, I took a quick stroll around China Town.
Then I walked back towards City Hall and through Grand Park behind it. The small, rectangular park has a fountain as it’s centrepiece and plenty of places to sit in the surrounding areas. There’s also a cafe for snacks and refreshments.
Right by the park is the Los Angeles’ very modern looking Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The church’s exterior and interior are very different from most Cathedrals I have visited before. There were beautiful stained glass windows, tapestries and other pieces of art and religious artefacts and it was definitely worth a look around.
On the opposite side of Grand Park, you will find another modern construction, the shiny silver building of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the LA Philharmonic. The unusual building is part of the larger surrounding LA Music Center and although I didn’t go inside, it is possible to take self-guided audio tours on certain days. https://www.musiccenter.org/visit/Exploring-the-Center/Self-Guided-Tours/
After a quick pit-stop for refreshments in Grand Park, I caught the metro a few stops from the Civic Center/Grand Park Station to 7th Street/Metro Center Station and walked a few blocks South to the Staples Center, home of the LA Lakers Basketball Team. I wandered around the grounds of the complex where there were statues of some of the NBA stars who have played there before walking back on my self to the neighbouring Grammy Museum.
I’d wanted to visit the Grammy Museum for a while. The museum is part of downtown’s LA Live entertainment complex and is full of costumes and other pop memorabilia belonging to a variety of Grammy Award winners. There were lots of interactive displays which I’d probably have participated in more if I’d not been touring the museum by myself but I’m returning to the museum later this year and dragging my friend along to see their current Backstreet Boys exhibition so maybe I’ll get more of a chance then!
And that ended my day touring the downtown area of LA. I was glad I’d given it another chance and seen a bit more of what it had to offer and I’m looking forward to returning later this year!
Read about my other experiences in Los Angeles: