Downtown Los Angeles is filled with more things to see and do than you might think. In fact, my last visit there took more than a weekend just to see it all. You can plan your Downtown Los Angeles weekend getaway using the resources below.
Scenes from Downtown LA
Enjoy some of our best shots in this Downtown LA Photo Tour
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Downtown Los Angeles?
Many Los Angeles visitors overlook downtown Los Angeles, but it offers the best in performing arts, great shopping, good places to eat and a glimpse into Los Angeles history.
Best Time to Go to Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles can be hot in mid-summer, but otherwise, it's fun almost any time.
There are so many movies and other productions going on in downtown these days; it's hard to miss them. So keep your eyes open for closed sidewalks, police escorts and lines of white trucks parked at the curb, all of them sure signs that there's filming going on close by.
5 More Great Things to Do in Downtown Los Angeles
- Take Our Self-Guided Walking Tour: You'll get a glimpse of all of the city's 200-plus-year history.
- Performing Arts: Get tickets for the symphony, Center Theater Group or other downtown performances. If you plan ahead, you may be able to get a discount.
- Take a Historic Walking Tour: The Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours are a good way to learn more about the city.
- Shop for Bargains: The Los Angeles Garment District is full of them. So's the Toy District, and the Jewelry District.
- Sports and Concerts: The Staples Center is home to basketball, ice hockey, and indoor football teams, and when none of that is going on, it sometimes becomes a concert arena. The Microsoft Theatre at LA Live also hosts some great performers. Dodger Stadium is also very close to downtown.
Annual Events You Should Know About
The Los Angeles Marathon finishes in downtown, causing many street closures.
It's held in early March.
Tips for Visiting Downtown Los Angeles
- It's bigger than it looks. On my last visit, we followed the walking tour of Downtown Los Angeles in a loop starting at Grand Central Market, but bypassing Chinatown and El Pueblo. According to my Fitbit, it was nearly 9 miles.
- Parts of downtown are still grubby, rundown and some streets host a large population of homeless folks. If you're walking and get into an area you're not comfortable with, turn around and get out. On the plus side, you'll see members of the "Purple Patrol" on the streets. Their job is to help keep downtown safe and clean. They're also like roaming concierges, ready to answer questions and provide directions to popular destinations.
- Leave your car parked and use the DASH bus or Metro to get around.
On my last visit, we were surprised and delighted by the selection of nice places to eat in the Old Bank District near Main and 4th Street.
We found Baco Merkat booked up solid until 11:00 p.m., but the outstanding, innovative dishes we shared made us glad they still had patio seating for us.
Where to Stay
Downtown is oddly short on hotel choices. It's easy enough to get a list of them on other websites, so instead I put together a guide to picking a downtown Los Angeles hotel.
Getting to Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles is 120 miles north of San Diego, 270 miles west of Las Vegas, 220 miles from Fresno and 380 miles south of San Francisco. Many of the LA metro area freeways will get you there, including US 101, I-110, I-10 and I-5.
If you're flying, LAX is the most obvious choice, but Burbank (BUR) is closer and much less congested.
By train, Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner Line stops at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.