A Few Days In

Downtown LA: Neighborhood on the Rise

by Berit Baugher
The The view of Downtown LA from the Hollywood Hills. All photos by Berit Baugher.

Popupla editor Berit Baugher spent a few days scoping out the hottest new happenings in Downtown LA, including an exciting new contemporary art museum, a highly spirited food hall, and an all-in-one wellness center.

THE SCENE

Growing up with a parent on each coast has it perks, including annual visits to Southern California, a much anticipated and welcomed escape from the freezing cold winter months on the East Coast. Despite the extensive amount of time I've spent exploring the state, I didn't make it to Downtown LA until two months ago. And I was more than impressed. The slightly seedy and somewhat corporate central vein of Los Angeles is rough around the edges but quickly becoming one of coolest and most exciting neighborhoods in the U.S.

Downtown LA Historic Core Architecture

The Tower Theatre.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall.

LAY OF THE LAND

In many ways, DTLA feels like its own city. Located about forty minutes in from the coast, it's populated with the kind of sleek skyscrapers you'd expect to find in New York or Chicago — very different from the beaches and bungalows you typically think of when picturing Los Angeles.

There are several micro-neighborhoods, all walking distance from one another, with their own look and feel. The Financial District and Bunker Hill make up central downtown and house many of the area's big office buildings and hotels, along with major architectural landmarks like and . The Historic Core gives a glimpse of OG Los Angeles, with its old movie palaces and classic eateries like Grand Central Market. Further afield, you'll find the Arts District, an industrial wonderland made up of warehouses, train tracks, graffiti, indie boutiques, cafes, and yoga studios.

The Broad Museum

The Broad.

Downtown LA Arts District Mural

A mural in the Arts District.

The Springs in Downtown LA

The Springs.

WHAT TO DO

Make reservations for as soon as you decide to visit, or show up early to wait in line for the limited number of onsite tickets. The city's newest contemporary art museum is free and reservations are in high demand. Eli and Edythe Broad, two of LA's most prolific philanthropists, founded the three-story museum to showcase their vast collection of nearly 2,000 pieces of postwar and contemporary art. The features works from recognizable names like Jasper Johns, Barbara Kruger, and Yayoi Kusama. I was especially enamored with the building's striking interior and exterior design, nicknamed "the veil and the vault" to reflect the idea of having both a gallery and storage space onsite. It's a spectacular museum showcasing a great collection and the small size makes it a manageable addition to any Downtown agenda.

For a different kind of cultural experience, book a guided tour of the Arts District with Cindy Schwarzstein, the founder and director of . The once gritty section of DTLA is quickly becoming a dynamic community with a thriving street art scene. Schwarzstein has a wealth of knowledge on the topic and is super passionate about the the ongoing evolution.

, another Arts District draw, is a health and wellness center housed in a cavernous mixed-use space. The cafe and coffee bar sell vegan food and fresh juices, while the small boutique has a selection of locally made clothing and home goods. The in-house yoga studio offers ashtanga, power flow, and kundalini practices, and offers free meditation sessions on weekdays at 1 p.m.

Nature is not something you'll readily find in DTLA, so if you crave trees and fresh air, schedule a morning excursion with . The Hollywood Hills Hike took a little over two hours and was an invigorating way to see the city from a different vantage point while taking in local icons like the and .

Matteo Arts District store

Matteo.

Poketo Arts District store

Poketo.

WHERE TO SHOP

The Arts District has a top-notch indie boutique scene. , a design-driven shop that I've been following online for a few years (and regularly feature in our weekly Travel Loot column) did not disappoint. Their independent stationery game is strong, as is the collection of jewelry and colorful homewares. Design firm  set up shop with moody and dark vintage furniture sold alongside lifestyle products from new companies like Milla Chocolates and paper goods. sells luxurious linen sheets in earthy colors that make you want to redo your bedroom; socially conscious has a well-edited selection of men's clothing.

The Standard DTLA 24/7 Restaurant

24/7 Restaurant at The Standard Downtown LA.

WHERE TO STAY

The hotels skew in two directions: Big chains like , , and  or boutique brands like  and . Over the next two years, , , and  are scheduled to open West Coast outposts.

Cafe Gratitude DTLA

The Mucho Mexican bowl and Grace smoothie at Cafe Gratitude.

WHERE TO EAT

, a downtown landmark that opened in 1917, is one of the area's biggest draws. The space was originally used for green grocers, fishmongers, butchers, and Jewish delis catering to Bunker Hill's stately residences. Today it has a variety of food counters showcasing cuisine from the city's many different ethnicities. A recent influx of new, cool businesses include  (try the namesake dish, a coddled egg atop a potato puree served in a glass jar with a side of toasted baguette), , a modern Jewish delicatessen, and specialty espresso bar

is an organic, plant-based restaurant that is practially a Los Angeles institution. Their new DTLA space is bright and beachy with reclaimed woods and handmade tiles. The menu features healthy riffs on junk food classics like pizza, burrito bowls, and Indian curry.

is a low-key Mexican joint from the chef of (a more formal Mexican restaurant near the Staples Center) that serves excellent tacos and inventive cocktails.

and , two dinner spots I didn't make it to, come highly recomended.

Venice Beach sign

The entrance to Venice Beach.

Sunset at Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach

Sunset from the rooftop of Hotel Erwin.

ESCAPE TO THE BEACH

It's hard to imagine a trip to Southern California without a visit to the beach. On my last full day, I took a forty-minute taxi ride out to Venice and checked into , an edgy boutique hotel with a rocker vibe that's one block from the boardwalk. The neighborhoods hippie-surfer attitude instantly relaxes you, making it a nice way to cap off a visit to LA. I spent the afternoon strolling the canals and shopping Abbot Kinney —  for stationery, for biodynamic chocolate, for fresh nut milk and wellness products, and for all things Japanese — before catching the sunset from Hotel Erwin's rooftop bar (call ahead to make reservations) and grabbing dinner at much-loved restaurant .


HOW TO GET THERE

DTLA is a thirty-minute drive from both (LAX) and (BUR). Both airports have several car rental agencies and taxi stands.

GETTING AROUND

A car is the best way to get around Los Angles, but if you're not planning on leaving DTLA you are better off without one. Parking is difficult and expensive. Much of the area is walkable and car services like and are readily available for longer distances. If you want to rent a car for a portion of your stay, major brands like Avis and Budget are a good bet.

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