Not long ago, I spent three weeks on jury duty downtown. It was really interesting! Of course, very few people want to spend THAT much time away from their “regular life”, but once I was stuck for the jury, I decided I was going to make the most of my free time, free downtown parking/metro pass, and $15 a day juror salary.
My goal was to see (and eat) what I could of the area within walking distance during my lunch hours. Sometimes, if we had a late call, I took the subway in a little early and explored even more. After all of my “research”, I came up with my own version of a self-guided tour of DTLA.
Now, there a lots more areas to visit and explore with great art, architecture, and food, but this is based around the area near the courthouses. Additionally, everything, other than food or merchandise is FREE so there are no entrance fees to do this either. ENJOY and please feel free to post suggestions from your own experiences for other variations for this tour or other areas of DTLA!
Downtown LA walking/eating tour plan:
Version A–includes Breakfast and lunch: If you are morning people and get an early start, this version might be better as City Hall is open early (your first stop) but the Last Bookstore opens at 10 and would be the first stop after breakfast in Version B.
- Start on Metro Red Line train towards Union Station. Exit at Civic Center/Grand Park, Temple Street side.
- Walk through Grand Park (you can seen the Court of Historical Flags and some memorials) towards City Hall (Spring Street).
- Jist Cafe–for breakfast. 116 Judge John Aiso St. http://www.yelp.com/biz/jist-cafe-los-angeles. This is an amazing spot with hearty Asian comfort food. My top picks are the Pork Omurice and the Chashu Hash. Go hungry!
Allow about 45 minutes. Closed on Mondays. Only open for breakfast and lunch.
- Directions from Metro: Turn Right on Spring Street to 1st Street, then turn left onto 1st (East). Walk 3 blocks and make a left onto Judge John Aiso St. (East side of the block, right next to East West Players) .
- Optional–can visit Little Tokyo as well, time permitting (you can visit all of the following in about 20 minutes–longer if you linger to eat) As you walk along the street in front of Jist and along 1st street, look down on the ground. There are markers that show what businesses occupied the stores there prior to WWII when the Japanese-Americans had to sell quickly due to the internement. Also embedded in the ground are images of life in the historic community.
There are also some informational signs along the street if you are interested. You can visit Fu-getsu-do (http://www.yelp.com/biz/fugetsu-do-los-angeles#query:fuget) @ 315 E 1st St , the oldest and best Mochi shop in LA.(If you’ve never tried the peanut butter, I highly recommend it. Get a package to go).
- In the Japanese Village Plaza across from JANM (Japanese American National Museum)I recommend one or more of the following: Cafe Dulce (http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-dulce-los-angeles) for Green Tea or Bacon Donuts, Yamazaki Bakery (http://www.yelp.com/biz/yamazaki-bakery-los-angeles) for the Green Tea Mochi cookies (you can get them to go for a snack later). Also worth visiting, time and stomach permitting, is Miyawaya (http://www.yelp.com/biz/mikawaya-los-angeles) for the original Mochi ice cream or Mochilato (gelato filled Mochi)–more fresh and more variety than what is available at the supermarket. Obviously, you will have to eat that when you buy it or it will melt.
- City Hall— Allow about 30-45 minutes.
- Directions from Little Tokyo: Go back up (west) 1st Street, the way you came. Turn Right onto Main. There is a cross walk midblock under a pedestrian walkway mid-block. The entrance to City Hall is right there, on the West side of the street.
- Enter and go through the metal detectors, then register at the front counter/police officer (Note: only one person needs an ID such as driver’s license but everyone will need a visitor sticker). Take the elevator to the 22nd floor (these elevators are GORGEOUS by the way). At the 22nd floor, transfer to the next set of elevators (serves 22-26th floors). On the 26th floor, go up the center stairs all the way up to the large room. Take the door out to the observation deck. You can go out either one and just proceed around the perimeter and then return the by the other door. Allow about 15 minutes to enjoy the view .
- Now return back the way you came. When you get back to the ornate original elevator, go to the 3rd Floor. City Hall Rotunda–this is the real main lobby area of City Hall.
You can explore the various wings–This a good place to use the rest rooms if you need! If you go down the hallway with the elevators (away from the main rotunda), you will some gifts to the city from other countries displayed. You will also come to the Mayor’s offices. You can also inquire about peeking in on a city council meeting if one is in progress (but you may need more time).
- You will be exiting at the door just past the rotunda (so go back that way now). This is the Spring street entrance (exit and employee entrance only). This is the photogenic side of City Hall and is used in many TV/Movie productions as other City Halls and stuff. See if you recognize it from anything you’ve seen.
- The Last Bookstore–453 S Spring St (http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-last-bookstore-los-angeles). Allow 15 minutes minimum and up to as long as you want.
- Directions from City Hall: Proceed South on Spring Street (towards 1st Street/LA Times building). You will walk past the new Police Headquarters (across the street from the Times building). As you get to about 3-4th Streets, you will entering the Historic Core. Take a look up and around at the beautiful old buildings, such as the Banco Popular building or the green tiled El Dorado. On 5th Street, turn right. The entrance to The Last Bookstore is on the North Side of the street.
- Take your time browsing and looking around. If you proceed to the corner of the store opposite the entrance, you will find stairs to the second floor. Go up and check out the art shops/galleries/studios and the art displays. Also, visit the Sci-Fi section just across from the top of the stairs. There is a tunnel of books inside. Stay as long as you like.
- Bradbury Building–304 S. Broadway (http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-bradbury-building-los-angeles). Allow about 10 minutes.
- Directions from The Last Bookstore: Exit the bookstore and turn right towards Broadway. Turn right on Broadway, staying on the East side of the street. Walk 2 blocks to the Bradbury Building (just before the corner of 3rd Street).
- Enter the Building (right next to the Subway). They don’t allow you to go beyond the first landing on the stairs or ride in the elevator but you can definitely walk around the lobby and look/walk inside the elevator.
Note the hand lever controls for the elevator–someone has to operate it for the passengers.
- When you exit the building, stop for a moment and look across the street at the theater. The vantage point for seeing the exterior is good from across the street. Next, turn right and cross Broadway at the light on the corner towards the theater. Turn left and walk past the theater to Grand Central Market.
- Grand Central Market –317 S. Broadway (http://www.yelp.com/biz/grand-central-market-los-angeles). Allow about 30-45 minutes.
- You can wander around and look at the various food stalls. Eat where you like but I recommend Sticky Rice (middle of the market) for the Hainan Chicken, BBQ chicken or pretty much anything they have! Or if you don’t mind two breakfasts, Eggslut. Other good bets are Horse Thief (but higher prices and smaller portions entrance is on Hill St so exit the main area and turn left) or Valerie Grand Central Market (sandwiches and bakery). Sarita’s, I hear, is also good if you feel like El Salvadorian food. Since my last visit, several other well-regarded restaurants have opened up and would be worth trying–Wexler’s Deli, Belcampo Meat Co., McConnell’s Ice Cream, among others. Coffee connoisseurs will definitely want to check out G&B Coffee.
- Metro Station, Pershing Square Station—
- Directions from GCM–Proceed through the market, away from the Broadway Street entrance to the Hill street entrance. As you leave, you can look across the street and see Angel’s Flight (which is unfortunately indefinitely grounded for the foreseeable future). Turn left along Hill St. toward 4th street. At the corner, turn right onto 4th and go down the escalators. This is the entrance to the Metro station.
- Make sure you take the RED LINE Metro train back to the Valley (Note: Purple line also runs along this section but splits off and goes further south towards Koreatown instead of Hollywood/N. Hollywood).
Version B: Basically Version A in reverse if you don’t want Thai food for lunch. Instead eat at Eggslut for breakfast and then either BadMaash or Jist or Marugume Monzo for lunch depending on your mood.
- Metro to Pershing Square: Exit 4th Street side, walk to corner of Hill and 4th and turn Right to GCM (Grand Central Market).
- Explore GCM, working your way all the way through to the Broadway side. (See version A, Step 6) Eat Breakfast at Eggslut.
- Bradbury Building (See version A, step 5 for details)
- The Last Bookstore (See Version A, Step 4)
- LUNCH (choose one) :
- Badmaash –108 W. 2nd Street (http://www.yelp.com/biz/badmaash-los-angeles-2) Indian Gastropub–Turn right onto 2nd street from Broadway. On the south side of the street before reaching Main St. Food is great. You might try the Chicken Tikka Poutine. I really liked the Butter Chicken and the Punjabi Style Chickpeas.
- Jist Cafe (turn Right on 1st street instead of 2nd)
- Marugume Monzo –329 E. 1st Street (http://www.yelp.com/biz/marugame-monzo-los-angeles-2)–handmade Udon.
- Visit Little Tokyo if Desired (See Version A, step 2, a and b)– from Badmaash, leave restaurant and take Main to 2nd street and turn right. Enter Japanese Village Plaza after between San Pedro and Central Streets or go to 1st street and turn right and enter the plaza from 1st street.
- Visit City Hall. (See Version A, step 3)
- Civic Center/Grand Park Metro: After City Hall, exit on Spring street and proceed through the next 2 sections of Grand Park. Enter the Civic Center/Grand Metro Station on Temple Street and take the Red Line (not the Purple!) back to the SFV.
Other options: If you prefer, can go straight to Pershing Square metro and visit the Biltmore Hotel, Pershing Square (across the street from the Biltmore) and the LA Central Library in addition to the Last Bookstore and Grand Central Market (parking free for 1hr located next to GCM in the structure that is attached and with validation). This would probably mean skipping City Hall and Little Tokyo, depending on how much time and energy you want to expend