Discover Los Angeles, the official tourism bureau for LA, calls it #DTLA on social channels, but a trendy hashtag doesn’t begin to reveal the massive facelift that Downtown LA has undergone in recent years. “It’s been transformed from a “ghost town after 5 p.m. to a bustling city center,” says the Los Angeles Times.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Go on foot. Carve out a day for the walkable Grand Avenue, the heart of downtown’s cultural renaissance. Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is a shimmering triumph by architect Frank Gehry. One of LA‘s (California’s?) most beautiful buildings has lost none of its ‘wow’ factor appeal since opening in 2003.
The best way to appreciate the interiors is to pick up free headphones for a one hour self-guided tour narrated by actor John Lithgow. Don’t miss the tranquil rooftop garden.
Next door, The Broad is a striking contemporary art museum in downtown LA that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opened in fall 2015, and with free admission, the permanent collection on two levels (just the right size to avoid museum fatigue) is outstanding with more than 2,000 artworks.
Among the artists represented are Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Alexander Calder, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Design-Forward Lunch at Otium
If the sight of Campbell’s soup cans set off SoCal hunger pangs, Otium is a trendy, design-forward restaurant with an open kitchen just behind The Broad. Sit on the patio or step inside to check out the dazzling blown glass chandelier and living mural as well as the fresh pasta making action and seafood on ice.
Yet More Downtown LA Museums
Craving yet more culture? MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art) is just a few steps away on Grand Avenue.
In pretty Grand Hope Park, visitors can find FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, has a free museum. While the entire collection is over 15,000 objects covering more than 200 years of history, you’ll get a treat by just dipping into some of it.
Downtown LA Flower Market
The original Los Angeles Flower Market is simply mind blowing in quality, quantity, and price tag. (Why would anyone in LA buy flowers at retail?) A conversation with a wholesale vendor went like this:
Q: “How much is this bunch of sunflowers?”
Q: “Oh, three-fifty?”
A: “Make it three dollars.”
A: “Actually, you can have them for two-fifty.”
Yikes. It’s terribly sad to think about how little of the glorious flora and fauna one can take home on the plane. If you can transport it somehow, think weddings, parties, holidays and go upstairs for DIY decorating heaven. Open early (6 a.m. or 8 a.m. – see the schedule) six days a week (they’re closed Sundays) the massive market under a covered roof is $2 admission, $1 on Saturdays.
Operating in its current location since 1921, the Original Los Angeles Flower Market on Wall Street (between 7th and 8th) is the single largest and most successful wholesale floral district in the entire United States.
Grand Central Market
What’s got Eggslut, Horse Thief BBQ, pupusas, carnitas tacos, aguas frescas and turned 100 years old in 2017? Arrive hungry at Grand Central Market and let your senses be your guide.
Hotel Indigo Tells a Story
Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown has banned the cookie cutter approach; there’s no mistaking a sense of place at this hotel opened in 2017. Intertwining themes are incorporated into the story of Hotel Indigo’s captivating design, chapters that capture the essence of this LA neighborhood in a bygone era.
- Prohibition Era Speakeasies
- Historic Chinatown
- Hollywood’s Golden Age
- La Fiesta de las Flores (precursor to the Rose Parade)
Enter the lobby and be pleasantly distracted by a floating wall of hanging homburgs and bowler hats. The chandelier’s dripping crystals symbolize downtown’s nearby Fashion Jewelry District.
Take a seat on a “newspaper sofa” upholstered in bespoke fabric showing clippings from the flower festival’s opening parade in 1906.
At Hotel Indigo, touch points to support the four-part story line reveal enormous design intent. Discover them everywhere.
- There’s a reason why the sink in your guest room’s bathroom is the precise color of Chinese jade.
- It’s no coincidence that a cocktail table at the penthouse lounge, 18 Social, resembles an upturned gentleman’s cufflink. (Salute the end of prohibition as President Franklin D. Roosevelt did when you order the signature FDR Martini.)
- It’s cool that Metropole Bar + Kitchen has a circular entrance to mimic the days when underground tunnels transported spirits to LA’s unmarked watering holes.
- How fun to sit in a tunnel-shaped booth at the restaurant beside a jazz band mural reminiscent of a forbidden party during the Prohibition Era.
- Notice stylized portraits of the hotel’s muse, Chinese-American movie star Anna May Wong.
- Seen from above, lighting that looks like diamonds are strung in the atrium.
The flagship property for this brand by InterContinental Hotels opened in 2017 with a nod to the urban roots of its locale. It’s really close to Staples Center, which really kicked off the new #DTLA.
After breakfast, we met up to follow our tour guide below city streets via underground tunnels that lead to hidden speakeasies, like the once-hopping Monterey Room.
Known to Hollywood types—and to local law enforcement—during the long 14 years of Prohibition, Cartwheel Art Tours knows where these speakeasies are; they’re no longer open to the public.
A Genuine Speakeasy
Except for this one…What a find! Step into the 1920s at the meticulously era-appropriate decorated Rhythm Room LA and bring some friends along to shoot pool or play darts.
Live music most nights, no cover charge, no secret password. You just need to know where the stairs are (Hint: 6th & Spring.) Rhythm Room is open until 2 a.m.
Changes are underfoot everywhere in #DTLA. Look up, too.
Be sure to check out our Los Angeles Travel Guide as well.
Note: The author was a guest of Hotel Indigo. Opinions expressed are entirely those of the contributor involving no payment from any source.