The New Downtown LA

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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 in Downtown LA

Walt Disney Concert Hall reflects a cloudless, deep blue sky in Downtown LA

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.

Walt Disney Concert Hall Downtown LA

Wandering around to explore all the angles on a self-guided tour at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown LA

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.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown LA

A quinceanera photo shoot in the garden at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA

Walt Disney Concert Hall Downtown LA

Stumbling upon a ballerina at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA

Walt Disney Museum rooftop Downtown LA

“A Rose for Lilly,” fountain sculpture dedicated to Lillian Disney in the Blue Ribbon Garden

The Broad

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.

Free admission banner at The Broad, Downtown LA

The Broad is a big draw with free admission, too

Exterior of The Broad, Downtown LA museum

Looking up at The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles

Among the artists represented are Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Alexander Calder, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein.

"Tulips" sculpture by Jeff Koons at The Broad, Downtown LA museum

“Tulips,” sculpture by Jeff Koons at The Broad in downtown LA is mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating

Andy Warhol artwork, The Broad in Downtown LA

Andy Warhol’s soup cans at The Broad, Downtown LA

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.

Interior at Otium restaurant, Downtown LA

Behind The Broad, the contemporary theme continues at Otium Restaurant

Yet More Downtown LA Museums

Craving yet more culture? MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art) is just a few steps away on Grand Avenue.

Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown LA

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown LA

Sculpture at entry to MOCA, Downtown LA

Whimsical 54-foot sculpture at entrance to MOCA in Downtown LA

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.

A free museum at FIDM in Downtown LA

FIDM costume design exhibition in Downtown LA

Costumes from TV shows at FIDM in Downtown LA

Costumes from TV show Riverdale, a contemporary twist on the classic Archie comics at FIDM in Downtown LA

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?”

A: “Three-fifty.”

Q: “Oh, three-fifty?”

A: “Make it three dollars.”

Q: “Thanks.”

A: “Actually, you can have them for two-fifty.”

Flowers at Downtown LA Flower Market

A beautiful bunch of sunflowers for $2.50 at Downtown LA Flower Market

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.

Inside the Downtown LA Flower Market

My favorites: Hydrangea mania at Downtown LA Flower Market

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.

Orchids at Downtown LA Flower Market

Masses of lovely orchids at rock bottom prices, LA Flower Market

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.

Eggslut breakfast, Grand Central Market in Downtown LA

Eggslut hits the spot at Grand Central Market, Downtown LA

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.

Hotel Indigo Downtown LA lobby

A stylized wall of 20th century hats at Hotel Indigo Downtown LA

Take a seat on a “newspaper sofa” upholstered in bespoke fabric showing clippings from the flower festival’s opening parade in 1906.

Bespoke sofa in the lobby of Hotel Indigo, Downtown LA

Boasting its urban roots, a sofa is covered in customized newspaper clipping fabric at Hotel Indigo Downtown LA.

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.
Downtown LA

Lighting strung like diamonds sparkle above the meeting space atrium at Hotel Indigo

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.

Underground LA

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.

An former underground speakeasy in Downtown LA

Monterey Room, a partially preserved 1920s Prohibition speakeasy, can be accessed via a narrow hidden underground tunnel.

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.

Speakeasy Rhythm Room Downtown LA

Rhythm Room LA has live music, pool tables, foosball, darts, shuffle board, ping pong, games

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.

Steps into Rhythm Room Downtown LA

Steps leading down to Rhythm Room Downtown LA, the city’s latest speakeasy brought back to life

Changes are underfoot everywhere in #DTLA. Look up, too.

Downtown LA skyline

Construction and the ever-changing Downtown LA skyline

Be sure to check out our Los Angeles Travel Guide as well.

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Note: The author was a guest of Hotel Indigo. Opinions expressed are entirely those of the contributor involving no payment from any source.

 

 

 

 

Laurie Jo Miller Farr
A career-long tourism, destination, hotel sales and marketing pro, Laurie Jo Miller Farr is a dedicated urbanite who loves walkable cities and has a knack for always finding the best public restrooms. As a San Francisco-based travel and copywriter, she enjoys views from its crazy signature hills following half-a-lifetime promoting her dual hometowns, a couple of oh-so-flat places: NYC and London. Her work is found online at USA Today, Yahoo, Eater, CBS, Where Traveler, and more. She tweets @ReferencePlease and posts on Instagram @lauriejmfarr.
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