Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

This post covers the top things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, including free, nighttime, as well as family-friendly activities. It is geared toward tourists and visitors.

For even more ideas on what to do in Downtown Los Angeles, be sure to check out our master Things to do in LA post.

 

Youtube Subscribe

 


TOP 10

The following section will feature 10 of the most popular things to do in Downtown Los Angeles. 

Although some of these activities will be free, family-friendly or fun after dark, we recommend checking the individual sections for these topics if you want even more great ideas.

Don’t forget that a lot of the best attractions in this city are included either for free or at a heavy discount on Los Angeles tourist passes.

A word on safety: Parts of downtown LA have a large number of homeless people, and while generally, they keep to themselves, it’s always best to use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.


Enjoy the View from an Observation Deck (kid-friendly)

See the sights and surrounding San Gabriel mountain chain from high above downtown LA.

There’s a free observation deck on the 27th floor of City Hall that is open on weekdays or be daring and take a ride down a glass-encased slide at the observation deck at OUE Skyspace.

On a clear day, you should be able to see the ocean from both locations!


Check out Olvera Street (kid-friendly)

Loaded with souvenir kiosks, Mexican restaurants, and a lively crowd, Olvera Street is where the city of Los Angeles began.

This tree-shaded, brick-lined street is more of a spirited fiesta than anything else–be sure to listen for mariachi music and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells around you.

Los Angeles Olvera Street


Watch a Sporting Event (kid-friendly)

Depending on the time of year, you can see a number of sporting events in DTLA. Make your way to Chavez Ravine for a Dodgers baseball game or head to the Staples Center which is home to the NBA LA Lakers, LA Clippers, WNBA LA Sparks, and NHL LA Kings.


Explore the Fashion District (kid-friendly)

Covering 90 city blocks, the Fashion District is the epicenter of the West Coast’s fashion and design industry. Shop wholesalers, fabric stores, and a number of warehouses and storefronts.

Don’t miss The Santee Alley which is filled with over 150 stores and stalls selling inexpensive clothing, jewelry, accessories, and more. 

 

Santee Alley is a lively atmosphere where bartering is encouraged and the alley is open every day of the year! Most stores open by 9:30 am and close by 6 pm.


Visit Grand Park (kid-friendly)

This 12-acre park adjacent to City Hall offers beautiful views of the city, large grassy areas, plenty of tables and chairs to relax in, a children’s playground and splash pad, and water fountain features, among other attractions.

Additionally, the park holds multiple events throughout the year.


Visit a Museum (kid-friendly)

DTLA is rich with some of America’s finest museums. Enjoy modern and pop art at the ever-popular Broad Museum, or see an incredible collection of contemporary art at the MOCA.

Enjoy a vast number of interactive and hands-on exhibits that cover the art of recording music and more at the Grammy Museum. See our section below for more detailed information on each museum!


Sip a Cocktail on a Rooftop

No one can argue with the greatness of a delicious cocktail and a view! LA offers a number of rooftop bars that offer dazzling views of the city lights and mountains that surround the area.

Our favorites include Perch, Broken Shaker, and Spire73.


Enjoy LA’s Dining Scene

The dining scene downtown has really expanded over the last decade with a large offering of celebrity chef restaurants, a good mix of ethnic cuisine, and some tried and true favorites.

Enjoy the eateries along Grand Avenue and 7th Street, head into Little Tokyo for incredible ramen, or dine on Peking duck in Chinatown.


Explore the Arts District

The Arts District is full of old warehouses that have been turned into artists galleries and mixed-use spaces, breweries, and eateries.

It’s fun to admire the vast collection of murals and graffiti that grace the exposed brick walls throughout the area and see what local designers and artists are working on.

Check out the Arts District Co-op for local goods and enjoy a beer at Angel City Brewery.


Check out Grand Central Market (kid-friendly)

Opened in 1917, Grand Central Market has really come alive in the last few years! What was once full of produce stalls is now home to a large variety of food stalls, coffee shops, and a brewery.

 

Sample your way through the open-air market and keep an eye out for occasional events and pop-ups. The market is open seven days a week from 8 am-10 pm.


Honorable Mention: Take a Food Tour

If you want some help finding the best food in the city, Secret Food Tours has a downtown trip which includes roughly half a dozen stops and several great samples to eat.

Secret Food Tours Los Angeles Downtown

While you’re on this outing, you can expect to try a variety of different foods including taquitos, beef sliders, Korean BBQ and many other delicious treats.

Purchase tickets or learn more.

 


Back To Top


MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS

Downtown Los Angeles is home to a number of museums and attractions that are enjoyable for people of all ages. Some of the items below like the Grammy Museum and OUE Skyspace can be found on the tourist discount pass.


The Broad (kid-friendly)

Showcasing a lovely collection of modern and pop-art, The Broad features artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, and Jasper Johns among many other talented artists.

The Broad offers free tickets that must be reserved when they become available on the first day of every month.

If you don’t have reserved tickets, they offer a daily “stand-by” line though tickets through this line cannot be guaranteed.

Events and special exhibits might charge admission. Check the website for more information; hours vary.


Walt Disney Concert Hall (kid-friendly)

Home to the LA Philharmonic and known for its signature Frank Gehry architecture, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is worth a visit during your time in downtown LA.

See one of the many concerts or events offered at the venue or take a guided or self-guided audio tour of the space.


MOCA (kid-friendly)

The main branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art is located on Grand Avenue downtown.

The museum’s collection focuses on European and American contemporary art created after 1940 and includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photography among other media.

Hours and ticket prices vary. Tip: Visit the museum between 5 pm-8 pm every Thursday for free admission!


Grammy Museum (kid-friendly)

Opened in 2008, the Grammy Museum features a number of interactive and hands-on exhibits that explore the art in music recording, the history of the awards show, and so much more.

Enjoy an “on the red carpet” exhibit as well as various temporary exhibits. Music lovers of all ages will enjoy this museum! Hours and ticket prices vary.


LA Live (kid-friendly)

An entertainment epicenter located adjacent to the Staples Center, LA Live offers a variety of restaurants, shops, and a movie theatre.

It’s a great place to grab a bite or beverage before or after seeing a sporting event or concert. Check the events calendar to see what’s on.


OUE Skyspace (kid-friendly)

Take it all in from California’s highest observation deck! Head up to the observation deck for a panorama view of everything that makes LA special–the ocean, Hollywood sign, and mountains.

Once there, enjoy the interactive technology to learn more about the skyline in front of you. Adventurers can ride the Skyslide, a 45-foot glass-encased slide that lands on the exterior of the US Bank building–not for the faint at heart!


Museum at El Pueblo (kid-friendly)

A cultural hub of downtown LA, El Pueblo is where it all began–the birthplace of Los Angeles! The city has done an excellent job keeping buildings preserved and offering free museums and interpretive centers for visitors.

Check out museums like the Adobe Avila (the oldest structure in LA), the Chinese American Museum, the Sepulveda House, and the Plaza Firehouse among many others. All are free to enter!

 


Back To Top


THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT 

The City of Angels is full of life after the sun sets–there’s always something to do! Some of the activities we’ve listed above like seeing a sporting event or checking out OUE Skyspace are great nighttime activities.

Here are a few suggestions. Find even more ideas in our post on Things to Do at Night in Los Angeles.


Eat on Olvera Street (kid-friendly)

Let mariachi music fill the air and enjoy the twinkle lights that line the street! Spending an evening dining on Olvera Street will almost make you feel like you’re in a quaint Mexican village.

Filled with Mexican restaurants and souvenir kiosks, there is something for everyone. See what’s cooking at places like El Paseo Inn and La Luz del Dia.


See a Show (kid-friendly)

If live performances are your preference, you’ll find a few great venues in DTLA.

Aside from a number of bars that feature live music, you can take in a concert at The Regent or see a performance by the world-renowned LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

If you’d rather see what blockbuster film is showing, LA Live has a 14 screen Regal Movie Theater.


Experience an Eclectic Bar

Whatever type of atmosphere you’re in the mood for, DTLA probably has you covered.

Check out a speakeasy type lounge-like The Edison, experience a historic tiki bar like Pacific Seas, or enjoy a few beers among walls lines with bookshelves at Library Bar.


Back To Top


FREE THINGS TO DO 

Plenty of sights and activities in downtown LA are free of charge. Some of the items we’ve listed like El Pueblo museums and The Broad Museum don’t cost anything to visit. Here are a few more ideas for free activities downtown. 

Be sure to read our post on Free Things to Do in Los Angeles.


See the Bradbury Building (kid-friendly)

Sure, it’s an office building, but the interior of the Bradbury building is a sight to behold! Open in 1893, the building is known for its birdcage elevators, use of intricate wrought iron, and marble staircases.

A number of films have used the building for filming as well–most notably Bladerunner in addition to the Academy Award-winning, The Artist.  The building is free to enter and photography is encouraged.


Check out the Public Library (kid-friendly)

Located centrally downtown, the historic Los Angeles Public Library dates back to 1926 and has a lot to offer visitors.

Marvel at the Art Deco architecture, check out the many murals or public artworks that decorate the interior of the library or attend one of the many free events the library puts on throughout the year.

Free docent-led tours of the building are also led every day the library is open and a special garden tour is held on Saturdays.


Consider Purchasing a Tourist Discount Pass (kid-friendly)

While the pass itself costs money, it’s loaded with so much value that many of the attractions and activities end up paying for themselves after you’ve done just a couple of things that are included in the price–making them a free inclusion!

Be sure to check out our post on the tourist discount pass where we compare all passes that are offered in Los Angeles.

Tourist Passes Reviewed


Back To Top


 

FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

The City of Angels welcomes families and people of all ages with many activities that are fun for all!

Some of the items we’ve mentioned like enjoying some time at the Central LA Library and checking out LA Live are great activities for families. Here are a few more kid-friendly ideas.

Read our post on What to Do in Los Angeles which has many more kid-friendly activities.


Visit the Children’s Playground at Grand Park 

Have the kids let loose at this fun and free attraction that is a part of Grand Park. This whimsical, fenced-in playground has a “tree fort” with slides, climbing equipment, and interesting interactive landscaping (look for the lumpy features on the ground).

Don’t worry parents, there is a conveniently located Starbucks nearby. This park is designed for children up to age 12.


Ride Angels Flight 

The world’s shortest railroad, Angel’s Flight has been a Los Angeles landmark since 1901 and has given more than 100 million rides.

Originally used to take commuters up the steep Bunker Hill, the attraction is now more for the novelty of the (very short) ride.

Take the railway roundtrip for $1. Angel’s Flight is open every day of the year from 6:45 am-10 pm.


Eat at Grand Central Market (kid-friendly)

Grand Central Market has plenty of eateries that are kind friendly. As you stroll through the bustling market, keep an eye out for the candies, nuts, and dried fruit available at La Huerta or indulge in the kid-friendly (it’s peanut butter and jelly after all!) yet exotic offerings at PBJ.LA.

 


Back To Top


SEASONAL ACTIVITIES 

There are always special events and festivals happening in DTLA! Some are annual events that can be counted on while others are one-time experiences. Below are just a few.

Also, read our posts on individual months of the year as there are listings of things going on in Downtown LA.


SPRING

Fiesta Broadway (kid-friendly)

Typically occurring at the end of April, Fiesta Broadway is the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the country. This is DTLA’s signature Latino event (in the country’s largest Latino market!).

Fiesta Broadway features a parade, live performances and dancing, carnival-type games and rides, vendors, and much more. The fiesta is free to attend and fun for people of all ages!


SUMMER

dineLA Restaurant Week (kid-friendly)

Occurring twice a year in the winter and summer, LA’s restaurant week is a great way to experience five-star restaurants at much lower costs than you’d normally pay.

Restaurants will offer set menus at set prices, special deals or discounts, and sometimes a special dish that celebrates the week. This is a busy time of year at restaurants and reservations are always encouraged.


Nisei Week Japanese Festival (kid-friendly)

Since 1939, Nisei Week has been an annual event in Little Tokyo to celebrate Japanese culture and community.

The festival includes a grand parade, street performances, vendors, and much more. Most events are free to attend.


FALL

LA Film Festival

Usually held at the end of September, the LA Film Festival is a city-wide event that showcases a number of independent, documentary, and international films among other genres. The festival includes film screenings, panel discussions, evening events, and more.


Halloween Activities

Fall brings cooler weather and autumnal cheer to the City of Angels! Keep an eye on the calendar to see what might be brewing for the Halloween and Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) holidays!


WINTER

Holiday Events (kid-friendly)

There are a lot of annual events taking place in DTLA around the holiday season and new activities are added each year. Find out about Holiday tours, where to see Christmas Lights and several other really fun events from our post, Christmas in Los Angeles.


dineLA Restaurant Week (kid-friendly)

Occurring twice a year in the winter and summer, LA’s restaurant week is a great way to experience five-star restaurants at much lower costs than you’d normally pay.

Restaurants will offer set menus at set prices, special deals or discounts, and sometimes a special dish that celebrates the week. This is a busy time of year at restaurants and reservations are always encouraged.


Chinese New Year Parade (kid-friendly)

The Golden Dragon Parade has been a time-honored tradition for over 100 years. Celebrating the Lunar New Year and Chinese culture, the parade features dancing, parade floats, bands, and more. There are over 200,000 people who attend the parade each year and it is free to attend.


Grammy Awards

Music’s biggest night, the Grammy Awards are held annually in February at the Staples Center. While you might not score tickets to the event, look out for area restaurants and bars offering menu and drink specials and viewing parties to honor the event.


Back To Top


RELATED POSTS