My friends and I decided to do Sunday Funday right last weekend and go to Downtown L.A. (DTLA). We thought it would be fun to spend a day exploring. We had a list of spots that we wanted to hit and I think we did a pretty good job of seeing them all. There were three of us and one of us (not me) was a pro at DTLA. She knew how to take the Metro, which stops to take, where to walk and how to get to all the places we wanted to go.
Our day started at 7:50 in the morning. We met at the Metro in NoHo. Our first stop off of the Metro was the Civic Center. Some of the attractions of Civic Center are the Ahmanson Theatre/Mark Taper Forum, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles City Hall, Grand Park, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Little Tokyo. Our purpose of getting off of this stop was to go to Little Tokyo.
It was still very early in the morning, so it was quite peaceful. We walked by the LA Times building and the Central Community LAPD police station. While passing by a Metro Bike Share station where you can rent a bike for $3.50 for 30 minutes, we decided to do it. It took a little bit of coaxing since two of us were on the fence about going bike riding in DTLA ( I was one of them). But after some discussion, we got talked into it and I am so glad that we did! It ended up being my favorite part of the day. It was around 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday, so it was very calm. There weren’t a lot of people or cars, so our first time riding bikes in DTLA went smoothly. We rode to the Arts District and before our 30 minutes were up, we parked the bikes at one of the bike share stations and decided to walk to Cafe Gratitude to have a delicious and healthy breakfast. I was very grateful for this breakfast. It happened to be my 2nd favorite part of the day.
After breakfast, we made our way to Little Tokyo. On the way there, we stopped at a bookstore and passed by some really cool restaurants and apartments. There was a lot of public art spray painted on the sidewalk and murals on the side of the buildings that I found very interesting. I wish I had taken more pictures of them but I only took one.
We finally made it to Little Tokyo. We went to the Japanese Village Plaza Mall where we walked around the shops and stopped for mochi ice cream at Mikawaya. If you don’t know what Mochi ice cream is, it’s ice cream wrapped in sweet sticky rice dough. The traditional flavors are green tea or vanilla. I picked plum wine for my Mochi ice cream flavor since I’ve never had it before. It was delicious! My friends had cookies and cream and coffee. We also went inside a Japanese grocery market. In there, I bought some Japanese candy for my kids. I can’t wait to go back to Little Tokyo to have lunch and do more exploring and shopping. There are so many sushi restaurants to try and a shabu shabu house. We saw people waiting in long lines to eat at the ramen restaurants. We quickly passed by (but didn’t go in) the Japanese American National Museum and the Higashi Hongashi Buddhist Temple. These places, along with the James Irvine Japanese Garden are places I would like to explore further next time I go to Little Tokyo.
Next stop was Pershing Square. Rather than taking the Metro to get there, we decided to walk it. At Pershing Square you will find Pershing Square park, Angels Flight, Grand Central Market, Jewelry District, Millennium Biltmore Hotel, and the Richard J. Riordan Central Library. Our purpose of walking there was to see Clifton’s Cafeteria, the Central Library and the Last Bookstore.
We stopped at the Bradbury Building which is Downtown’s oldest commercial building (1893). An impressive and very beautiful building made of brick, iron and wood and a really cool ambiance because of the natural lighting coming from the glass ceiling. I liked the bird cage style elevator. You can only explore the lobby area and first stair landing because the rest of the building is still being used for private office space. The steps of the stairs are marble and the railings are iron, so it’s worth it to go up the stairs. I just wish I took better pictures but I guess the pictures wouldn’t do it justice anyway.
We walked through Grand Central Market and saw all the really cool places to eat. It was crowded. There was even a Filipino restaurant, which we are going to try when we go back. We also passed by the Angel’s Flight Railway which leads to the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art).
On our way to The Last Bookstore, we walked through a Farmer’s market. It was getting very hot and we had done a lot of walking by then, so I was a sweaty mess. It didn’t help that the Last Bookstore had no air conditioning (neither did the Grand Central Market), but it didn’t matter because they were both awesome.
The Last Bookstore had a bohemian and vintage vibe which I really enjoyed. It’s interesting to know that it used to be a bank. I can see that with the high ceilings and marble pillars. Filled with old books, it had a musty, vintage smell that only a book lover would love. I loved it. I enjoyed exploring this place especially the upstairs, which they call the Labyrinth. There were books formed into tunnels, books formed into artwork, magnifying glasses hanging from the ceilings and a really cool vault room filled with horror and sci-fi books. There were some artist’s spaces upstairs also and it was interesting to see what they were working on as well as viewing their finished works of art.
Clifton’s Cafeteria was very cool. It had that 1930’s vibe and I loved exploring it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to eat here. It was actually the plan, but because we had already eaten our spontaneous breakfast at Cafe Gratitude after our spontaneous bike ride, we were still full. So we just explored but we are definitely going back to eat there.
Besides, we wanted to save our tummies for black ice cream. We went to Little Damage where they sell black soft serve ice cream in black ice cream cones. The flavor of the black ice cream is strawberry cheesecake. It’s dyed black with activated charcoal. Ironically, none of us ended up getting black ice cream which was the plan. Instead we got Unicorn Tears (blue ice cream with vanilla birthday cake flavor) and the Salted Coffeve (light salted caramel w/ a hint of coffee). We were lucky. We beat the lines. There weren’t many people there when we arrived. I had heard that the wait time in line is about 45 minutes and luckily, we didn’t experience that. However, we noticed that while we were eating our ice cream, a very long line had formed. We were grateful that we didn’t have to wait so long for our little expensive treat ($6, $7 if you want a black cone).
More walking, sweating and about 15,000 steps later (for me, because I’m short and take small steps) and we made it the Central Library. On the way there, we passed by the Jewelry District and the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. We saw that they have afternoon tea there. That sounds like alot of fun.
The Central Library is an awesome library and the best part, it’s air conditioned! A perfect place to end our day after all the walking that we did. We did a little exploring, checked out the exhibit which was “Pintando: the Colors of Education, Art in Textbooks of the Mexican Educational System and admired the art on the ceilings and murals on the walls. After our little tour of the library, we sat down to relax. We ended up sitting for awhile. It was very comfortable. For a minute there, I remembered that we were in the library and realized that we were talking and laughing loudly. I was waiting for a librarian to come up and say “shhhh…”. It never happened. If it did, that would’ve been the icing on the cake for me because I’ve never been shushed by librarian in a library before.
Another walk to the Metro station. This time to take the metro back to the NoHo station so we can go home. The day went smoothly. We were out for 8 1/2 hours so it felt like a work day, but instead of work, we had fun. So much fun. We hit all of the spots we wanted to hit on our list. We never ran out of things to talk about. We had a great time exploring together. Can you believe I took 20,200 steps that day?!? 2 days worth of targeted steps for the day. A world record for me! My friend had taken 15,000 steps. So I’m not sure if my pedometer is broken or if I take little teeny tiny steps because I’m short.
This trip was so historic and so fun and there is still so much left to see in Downtown L.A. Guess what? We’re already planning our next trip, this time with plans to bike DTLA.
I am grateful for friends, adventures with friends, bike rides, legs for walking, broken pedometers, metros, old buildings, smelly books, tourists, gratitude food, a bucket list of restaurants we have yet to eat at, mochi ice cream, Japanese candy, expensive soft serve ice cream, air conditioning and invisible librarians.