Head Downtown to Discover Art, Culture, Food and More

Most people think of sunshine, traffic jams, long lines and amusement parks when they hear of a trip to Los Angeles. But there’s another side of La La Land that’s a haven for culture lovers, foodies and kids.
Downtown Los Angeles is in the midst of a cultural and architectural renaissance. It’s now a bustling art scene with great food, and enough to keep both children and parents entertained for several days.
Here are some things to do when you visit:
Take in some contemporary and pop art at the Broad Museum, which features whimsical sculptures by Jeff Koons along with iconoclastic Andy Warhols. Yayoi Kusama has two Infinity Mirror rooms on exhibit. Each room is an immersive experience that will make you feel as if you’re floating in space.
Admission is free, but make sure to get your tickets in advance, as there’s usually a long line for day-of tickets. thebroad.org/visit/tickets&scp=truei.
Or check twitter (twitter.com/thebroadstandby?lang=en) to see wait times in the stand-by line. 221 S. Grand Ave. 213-232-6200. thebroad.org.
Across the street from the Broad Museum is the main branch of the Museum of the Contemporary Art (MOCA). Here you can introduce the kids to the more abstract art of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. There are lesser-known artists on display as well. 250 S. Grand Ave. 213-621-2766.
Your kids might not be up for sitting through a performance of the LA Philharmonic, but they’ll enjoy the futuristic-looking exterior of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This $274 million building, designed by Frank Gehry, has become the centerpiece of L.A.’s downtown revival. 111 S. Grand Ave. .
Head to the Ahmanson Theatre to catch a touring Broadway show. The theater opened in 1967 and has staged a wide assortment of musicals, plays and world premiers (including six by Neil Simon). Some of the more recent plays and musical include The Humans and Come From Away. 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-628-2772.
L.A.’s Central Library has a rich history that started in 1926 and includes a fire in the 1980s that was the topic of the bestselling Library Book by Susan Orlean. Even if you can’t borrow books, you can check out the ceiling mural in the main lobby and a series of murals dedicated to California history in the Children’s Literature Department. 630 W. 5th St. 213- 228-7000.
The largest used bookstore in California might also be the strangest. But The Last Bookstore is a great place to inspire your child’s love of reading. The upstairs has nooks that are literally made out of books and feels a bit like the library at Hogwarts. The downstairs has more traditional classics and bestsellers. 453 S. Spring St. 213-488-0599. lastbookstorela.com.
Cheap Fun
Skip the steep climb back up to Grand Street, and take Angel’s Flight instead. The world’s shortest railway (just 298 feet!) opened in 1901 and was featured in the hit movie La La Land. There’s just enough of a sway up Bunker Hill to offer the old-timey cheap thrills your kids will love. Trips are $1 each way (most people just take the funicular up the hill), and you pay after the trip as you exit the car.
The Bradbury Building sits at the top of Angel’s Flight. Its Victorian court and open elevators make it a photographic and cinematic delight. Some of the movies that have been filmed there include Blade Runner, The Artist, Pay It Forward and The Outer Limits. Make sure you have your camera ready as your kids explore this historic building. 304 S. Broadway.
Grand Park officially opened in 2012 and is a great spot to relax by the fountain and people watch. There are picnic benches and shady trees to lounge by, which makes it a favorite spot for pop-up community events, including a July 4 celebration and outdoor free theater. 200 N. Grand Ave. 213-972-8080.
Where to Stay
The Omni Hotel is smack in the middle of things and walking distance to the featured attractions in this article. Kids receive a backpack filled with fun items like a small tabletop game and stickers. They also receive milk and cookies delivered to their guest room on the first night. 251 S. Olive Street. 213- 617-3300. 
What to Eat
Grand Central Market is housed in the 1917 Homer Laughlin Building and features an eclectic mix of food from world-class Thai to Southern-style barbecue. If your kids live on PB&J, there’s a vendor dedicated to riffing on the classic. Don’t miss the fabulous McConnell’s Ice Cream scoop shop based out of Santa Barbara.
Downtown has an eclectic mix of sit-down restaurants ranging from the much-raved-about tacos at B.S. Taqueria to beloved diners like the Original Pantry Café. Little Tokyo is also nearby, and well worth the walk, if you’re craving affordable, authentic ramen and don’t mind a wait.


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