There are lots of reasons why you might be in Downtown Los Angeles for only a day. Maybe you’re here on business or for a conference. Maybe you’re on an extended layover. Maybe you’re a local and just decided it’s time to really get to know what DTLA is all about.

Let us posit that you’re staying at Hilton Checkers Los Angeles, a beautifully renovated 1927 boutique hotel featuring 193 guest rooms, a killer rooftop patio, and a marvelously restored interior. You’ve just closed a big deal the night before, but you have one extra day booked specifically so you can hit some of the local sites. What do you do?

Lobby of Hilton Checkers Los Angeles

Step outside the lobby to Grand Ave. and you’ll find L.A.’s highest concentration of cultural landmarks, public spaces, historic architecture, and public transit, all within about a one-mile radius. The choices overwhelm.

To get you started we’ve compiled some suggestions on where to start, and how a jam-packed day might unfold. Hope you make the most of your day in Downtown!

First Stop: Grand Central Market

New food halls seem like they popping up in Los Angeles every month, but Grand Central Market is the archetype. GCM is about a ten-minute walk from Checkers, which is just far away enough to work up an appetite. Thinking breakfast sando? Get in line early for Eggslut. Want a bagel? Grab one of L.A.’s best at Wexler’s. Morning brew? Stop by G&B. Whatever you choose, this is will be the perfect spot to score a small bite, caffeinate your morning, and plan out the rest of your day. -> More information

Busy morning at Grand Central Market. Photo by Christina Champlin

Visit the Bradbury Building

On the south side of Grand Central, just across Broadway, you’ll find the Bradbury Building, which features of the most recognizable interiors in all of Los Angeles. Even if you don’t know it, you’ve almost certainly seen it. The ornate staircases, birdcage elevator, and glass-paneled ceiling are features you’ll recall from films like Blade Runner or 500 Days of Summer. There are couple plaques inside through which you can learn the building’s cinematic history, but really you’ll just be here to soak in the beauty, and probably snap a photo or two. Plus, free is great. The Bradbury Building is open to the public seven days a week. Please note that visitors may only go up to the landing of the second floor staircase. -> More information

Interior of The Bradbury Building Photo by Christina Champlin

Find a Free Museum: The Broad or MOCA

Head back to the other side of GCM and you’ll see Angels Flight Railway, a historic funicular opened in 1901 that still operates today, and costs only $1 to ride. If you pay the fare and journey upwards, you’ll arrive at California Plaza, just a short walk from either The Broad of the Museum of Contemporary Art Grand Avenue location. For the The Broad, admission is free, but advance reservations are recommended, and may need to be made some weeks or months in advance. There is a standby line, but that may short-circuit your day’s schedule. Consider MOCA, which as of Jan. 11, 2020 will offer free admission at both of its downtown locations. Just consider that if you were to try to see both museums, it might eat up most of your morning and afternoon, and we think there may be other places you want to check out. Totally up to you!

Lunch at Checkers

As tempting as to keep plowing through to-dos, it’ll serve you well gather yourself for a moment and fuel up. If you are staying at Checkers, the early afternoon would be a perfect time to swing back to the hotel, recharge, and grab a bite at 1927 Bar+Kitchen, the restaurant adjacent to the hotel lobby. Here you’ll find a variety of delicious California-driven fare, and we’ll personally vouch for the arugula salad topped with flat iron steak (yum!). -> More information

Arugula salad topped with flat iron steak at 1927 Bar+Kitchen. Photo by Christina Champlin

Jet over to Little Tokyo

Ok, so you’ve done the financial district and walked much of Grand Ave, but maybe you want to expand your scope a bit. Ride the metro or call a ride-share over to Little Tokyo, and you’ll find a whole new set of experiences. The Japanese Village Plaza offers an array of Japanese dining options and snack, but even just a short walk away from that central hub you’ll find lots to see and eat.

For sushi we’d recommend Sushi Gen (one street over in a plaza on 2nd St.) and for ramen try the Daikokuya location on 1st street. Both restaurants will likely have a line. It’s worth it.

There are plenty of sweet spots as well, including old-school mochi and multiple boba tea shops. But our current favorite? Try the soft serve in a taiyaki cone at SomiSomi.

Soft serve in a taiyaki cone at SomiSomi. Photo by Christina Champlin

Supposing you do eat in Little Tokyo, then you’ll probably need a place to walk it off. You could hit up the Japanese American National Museum (free after 5 p.m. on Thursdays) or stop in to MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary Campus on Central Ave.

And if you’re looking for one Downtown L.A.’s most serene spots, head to the Kyoto Garden at the DoubleTree by Hilton on Los Angeles Street. It’s only a five-minute walk from the Japanese Village Plaza, and we don’t think you’ll regret it.

Kyoto Garden at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown. Photo by Christina Champlin

Head Home… or Finish up with a drink at Perch

Ok, it’s been a full day, but if you’re looking for a night cap then one of downtown’s best features is the many bars with rooftop patios. Perch is a favorite.

Drink in a sparkling view of the DTLA skyline as you run through all you’ve experienced throughout the day. It’s a fitting conclusion to a short (but productive!) stay in Los Angeles.

However your plan ends, just remember that the choice is really up to you. Thankfully there plenty of free options that are tightly packed together, so even if you’re on a budget, you’ll find lots to explore, experience, and enjoy.


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