Los Angeles isn’t a city that’s typically had a strong downtown identity—it’s tough to compete with beaches and Hollywood. But DTLA is experiencing a boom, with lots of new development and plenty of bars, restaurants, and entertainment options for city dwellers.

If you find yourself in Downtown Los Angeles for work (whether you’re a SoCal resident or just traveling), you won’t want to miss these hidden gems. Pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and put “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses on blast. There’s plenty of stuff in DTLA to look forward to:

 

James Irvine Japanese Garden

Take a deep breath. Listen. Is that the sound of… a stream?

The James Irvine Japanese Garden is a rare haven of respite in the concrete jungle. If you have a few minutes to spare, visit this green space that’s designed in the tradition of zen gardens in Kyoto.

To find a moment of calm in your crazy trip, we recommend washing your hands in their fountain, listening to the sounds of the waterfall, and enjoying a good book. Ahhhhh…

244 San Pedro St. More information here.

 

 

 

Urban Radish

For those of you who like to cook your own meals on the road, Urban Radish will have whatever you’re looking for–– in twenty different varieties. This 8,200 square-foot grocer in the Arts District is packed with high-end, quality food.

Whether you’re craving the fixings for a cheese plate or want to pick up a ready-made meal, Urban Radish has you covered. If you’ve got some time to kill, it’s a great place to wander, try free samples, and chat with the vendors.

Pro tip: They have live jazz music every Wednesday night!

661 Imperial St. More information here.

 

 

The Varnish

Every trip deserves a visit to a fun bar. If you can only choose one in DTLA, go with The Varnish. Once named the Best American Cocktail Bar, this dapper speakeasy will deliver custom-made drinks in a memorable setting.

To get there, head through Cole’s—a restaurant and bar famous for their French dip—and walk towards through the kitchen. Then sneak through a secret door, find a seat, and ask for the “bartender’s choice.” One of the establishment’s cocktail creatives will mix and shake up something that you’ve never had before. As one Yelp reviewer said, “The bartenders are like performers.”

118 E 6th St. More information here.

 

 

Grand Central Market

New York City and LA share some great things in common—and Grand Central Market is one of them. This food-filled wonderland is home to famous stalls like Eggslut, Sticky Rice, and Prawn. If you’re traveling in a group, you’ll have food to meet everyone’s palette in one convenient place.  

Come hungry, because portions are typically large. And make sure to bring cash!

317 South Broadway. More information here.

 

 

 

The Blue Ribbon Garden

Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of the most famous tourist attractions in LA. Yet a lot of people miss one of its best feature—the Blue Ribbon Garden.

Into photography? This zen oasis has stunning views of the Hollywood sign and the San Gabriel Mountains, without the crowds of more popular photo spots.

If you’re lining up meetings, try convening at this peaceful enclave. Every conversation goes better when you’re in nature!

111 S Grand Ave. Info here.

 

 

Nickel Diner

Your diet probably goes out the window when you’re traveling—which means you need to check out Nickel Diner.

Fans are obsessed with their pulled pork sandwich and recommend that you pair it with a biscuit covered in homemade honey butter and ham.

For those with a sweet tooth, opt for the maple-glazed bacon or strawberry crumble donut (Or, let’s be real, both).

524 S Main St. More information here.

 

 

The Biergarten at The Standard, Downtown LA

It can be hard to find a restaurant where people are open to chatting with strangers. The Biergarten at The Standard, filled with German snack foods and plenty of space to wander, is a great choice for your friend-making mission.

Warning: if you’re really sensitive to second-hand smoke, you should probably steer clear. Open-air means that the smoking section, even though it’s sectioned off, is essentially everywhere.

550 S Flower St. More information here.

 

 

Velveteria

Craving something quirky? Stop by Velveteria, a museum dedicated entirely to paintings made of—you guessed it—velvet. If you’ve never seen a velvet painting before, you’re about to see 3,000 of them.

Try and spot one of our favorites, the Ryan Seacrest unicorn. If you can’t find it, the owner is always happy to give people a tour of the space!

711 New High St. More information here.

 

 

Heritage Square Museum

Alright, so this one stretches the limits of “Downtown” just a little bit, but a short Uber ride will get you here. History buffs will love going on a tour of the Heritage Square Museum, an open-air architecture museum by the Arroyo Seco Parkway. This spot is entirely volunteer-run, which means the staff—who are dressed in 19th-century costuming—are thrilled to tell you everything they know about the property. You’ll get ghost stories, details about the space’s design, and the daily activities of someone who lived there in days of yore.

Wear comfortable shoes—there are eight different houses to visit!

3800 Homer St. More information here.

 

 

LA Boulders

You probably want to get some exercise on your trip—so it might as well be fun! LA Boulders offers a $15 day pass for unlimited climbing. If you’ve been to bouldering spots in other cities, you know that’s a steal.

Both bouldering and belay climbs are available. Plus, for those with extra energy, there is a more traditional gym and fitness classes. Acroyoga, anyone?

One more thing: there’s free parking. Exercise angels are smiling upon you!
1375 East 6th St. Info here.