Downtown Los Angeles, or simply Downtown LA, is an amalgamation of culture, history, and modernity. Often overshadowed by the city’s glamorous beaches and star-studded Hollywood, this bustling city center holds its own with a myriad of attractions. Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, a culture enthusiast, or a thrill-seeker, Downtown LA has something for everyone. Here are 25 things to do that will show you a different side of Los Angeles.
1. World of Illusions
Located in the heart of LA, the World of Illusions is a unique attraction that promises a fun and interactive experience for all ages. Among its four distinct exhibits, the Museum of Illusions stands out with its 3D illusions and paintings. Each piece is crafted to trick your mind and senses, creating a memorable journey through an artist’s whimsical interpretation of reality.
The Upside Down House, on the other hand, turns your world topsy-turvy with its seven upside down rooms. Imagine taking a selfie while seemingly defying gravity—it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. For those who want to feel like Alice in Wonderland, the Giant’s House, filled with oversized everyday objects, is a must-visit. Finally, unleash your inner rebel at Smash It, where you can safely smash plates against a wall.
2. The Broad
Just a few blocks away from the World of Illusions, The Broad is a contemporary art museum that houses over 2,000 works of art. Its striking honeycomb-like exterior is a masterpiece itself, adding to the overall allure of this downtown gem. The museum offers free general admission, making it a must-see for art lovers and budget travelers alike.
3. Grand Central Market
A culinary landmark in Downtown LA, Grand Central Market has been serving diverse cuisines since 1917. From authentic tacos to artisanal bread, this bustling marketplace is a feast for your senses. Don’t miss Eggslut, a popular stall famous for its gourmet egg sandwiches.
4. Los Angeles Music Center
As one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States, the Los Angeles Music Center is a testament to the city’s thriving arts scene. Here, you can watch performances by the LA Opera, the LA Philharmonic, and more. Remember to check out their schedule for special events and festivals.
5. Union Station
Union Station isn’t just a transportation hub—it’s a symbol of Los Angeles’ rich architectural history. Built in 1939, this iconic building features Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco styles. Whether you’re catching a train or just admiring the architecture, Union Station is a must-visit thing to do in Downtown LA.
6. Los Angeles City Hall
Offering panoramic views of the city, the Los Angeles City Hall is another architectural wonder in Downtown LA. It’s open to the public, and the best part is that its most popular thing to do, the observation deck is free.
7. Japanese American National Museum
This museum in Little Tokyo is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Japanese Americans. It’s an essential thing to do for history buffs and anyone interested in understanding LA ‘s diverse cultural heritage.
8. The Last Bookstore
A paradise for book lovers, The Last Bookstore is California’s largest used and new book and record store. Housed in an old bank building, this bookstore’s labyrinthine layout and book installations create a whimsical atmosphere that’s perfect for exploring.
9. The Grammy Museum
Located in the L.A. Live complex, the Grammy Museum offers four floors of exhibits dedicated to the history and winners of the Grammy Awards. Music lovers can delve into the creative process of making music through interactive touch-screens, videos, and recording booths.
10. LA Fashion District
Spanning 100 blocks, the LA Fashion District is a hub for the apparel industry. Whether you’re shopping for fabrics, accessories, or designer clothes, this is the place to be. Don’t miss the Santee Alley, known for its bustling open-air market.
11. Downtown Art Walk
Every second Thursday of the month, the streets of Downtown LA transform into a public art gallery. This self-guided tour takes you through numerous galleries and artist studios, showcasing the thriving art scene in Downtown LA.
12. Exposition Park
Home to several world-class museums, like the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum, Exposition Park is a haven for museum enthusiasts. The park also houses the beautiful Rose Garden, perfect for a leisurely stroll.
13. Bradbury Building
One of the oldest commercial buildings in downtown Los Angeles, the Bradbury Building is renowned for its stunning interior. Its wrought-iron details, marble stairs, and glass ceiling are sure to leave you in awe.
Los Angeles’ Chinatown is a vibrant neighborhood that offers a mix of traditional and modern sights and things to do. Here, you can savor authentic Chinese food, visit art galleries, and shop for unique souvenirs.
15. Olvera Street
A part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, Olvera Street is a colorful Mexican marketplace. Experience traditional Mexican culture, sample delicious street food, and browse through the many shops selling handicrafts.
16. Staples Center
Home to the LA Lakers, the Staples Center is a premier venue for concerts and sporting events. If you’re a sports fan, catching a game here is one of the exciting things to do in Downtown LA.
17. Echo Park Lake
Just a short drive from Downtown LA, Echo Park Lake is an oasis in the heart of the city. Rent a pedal boat, stroll around the lake, or simply relax and enjoy the views.
18. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Though not technically in the downtown area, LACMA is worth the short trip. As the largest art museum in the western United States, it boasts an extensive collection of art spanning different cultures and periods.
19. Griffith Observatory
Offering stunning views of Los Angeles and the stars, the Griffith Observatory is a gateway to the cosmos. The best part? Admission to the building, grounds, and telescopes is free.
20. Hollywood Walk of Fame
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a time-honored thing to do. Look for your favorite stars’ names on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
21. Walt Disney Concert Hall
Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world. Even if you’re not attending a show, it’s worth visiting for its striking architecture.
22. The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
An offshoot of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the Geffen Contemporary is located in Little Tokyo. Housed in a former police car warehouse, it hosts rotating exhibitions that push the boundaries of contemporary art.
23. Pershing Square
Pershing Square is a public park located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. It’s a nice place to relax amidst the city’s hustle and bustle. The square also hosts concerts, farmers markets, and other things to do throughout the year.
24. The Original Farmers Market
Founded in 1934, The Original Farmers Market is a beloved LA thing to do. With over 100 vendors, you can sample a variety of foods from around the world, buy fresh produce, or shop for unique souvenirs.
25. Los Angeles River Center & Gardens
Located just outside Downtown LA, the Los Angeles River Center & Gardens is a beautiful oasis with Spanish-style buildings and lush gardens. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic or a tranquil walk.
Closing off our list, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Downtown Los Angeles has to offer. This urban heart of LA bursts with culture, history, and experiences waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a seasoned Angeleno or a first-time visitor, these 25 things to do offer a diverse glimpse into the City of Angels. So why wait? Venture beyond the typical tourist trails, and dive into the vibrant tapestry that makes Downtown LA a destination like no other.
What are some of the unique things to do in Downtown Los Angeles?
Downtown LA is a treasure trove of unique attractions that go beyond the traditional tourist path. One of the most exceptional places to visit is the World of Illusions, a museum like no other in Los Angeles. It comprises four thrilling exhibits: the Museum of Illusions, Upside Down House, Giant’s House, and Smash It. Each one offers immersive and interactive experiences that create memories for a lifetime. Another must-visit destination, The Broad is an architectural marvel that houses a stunning collection of contemporary art. The Grand Central Market, a culinary landmark, presents a gastronomic journey through the diverse cultures that make up LA.
Is the World of Illusions worth visiting when in Downtown Los Angeles?
Absolutely! The World of Illusions stands out among the museums and things to do in Downtown LA. It offers an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages. Unlike traditional museums, each of its four exhibits is designed to interactively engage and entertain. Visitors can defy gravity in the Upside Down House, feel like a giant in the Giant’s House, and even unleash their inner rebel at Smash It. The World of Illusions is more than just a museum—it’s a place where imagination comes to life. Whether you’re a local resident or a tourist exploring Los Angeles, this one-of-a-kind attraction is sure to add a touch of magic and wonder to your list of things to do in LA.
I’m planning a trip to LA. What museums should I visit in Downtown Los Angeles?
Downtown Los Angeles is a hub for a diverse array of museums that cater to a wide range of interests. At the top of your list should be the World of Illusions. This interactive museum promises an entertaining and unique experience that is hard to find elsewhere. For art enthusiasts, The Broad and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) offer an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art pieces. If you’re interested in history, the Japanese American National Museum provides a profound look into the experiences of Japanese Americans. Music lovers, on the other hand, should make a beeline for the Grammy Museum, which celebrates the creative process and the history of music.