Christmas can be a great time to create and take a self-guided walking tour around a city. With the help of a friend who is a Los Angeles native, and by consulting a walk for tourist we found online we planned a pretty cool day out. It was great fun, though I learned in Los Angeles Happy Hour is only a Monday through Friday affair, so drinks and snacks were a little more expensive than we had hoped. Here is some of the cool stuff around Downtown Los Angeles during the festive season.
The Gingerbread Village at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles is an annual (free) event in the lobby. By sounds of it this started as a little project working with a culinary school and the tradition gets bigger each year. I think it’s super-duper cute! The amount of detail going into the displays shows off each student’s skill, creativity and talent. Plus, the hotel building itself has a futuristic sort of architecture about it that I thought was really cool.
The Last Bookstore is this quirky and fun local establishment brimming with character! It doesn’t need to be Christmas time to visit this fine establishment. Located in central downtown Los Angeles it was fabulous to pop-in and check it out. You will have to check your bags at the door, but once you’re in you are re free to roam, and photograph. I had my big camera with me that day and was a little nervous about leaving all my lenses in the bag checked at the front of the store, but there was no trouble (the store doesn’t take responsibility if there is trouble). There are cool art installations featuring books, cool places to take pictures, and of course you can actually buy books there too. It was a really fun time.
California Plaza has a beautiful holiday themed installation and was surprisingly deserted when we stopped in shortly after sunset. There were only two other people despite being a dry and not terribly cold night (maybe it was cold by Southern California standards). I enjoyed the opportunity to practice some nighttime photography without trying to work around a lot of people.
Walt Disney Concert Hall is not a seasonal attraction. Designed by Frank Gehry, the outside of this architecture definitely makes a statement. I’ve heard the concert hall inside is stunning, but haven’t checked it out for myself as the events I’m most interested in have been fully booked months in advance
Grand Park is a pretty cool place. It is directly across from the iconic county courthouse and central to the arts district. There are often cultural events happening here during the day, and I found it very pretty at night, particularly with festive palm trees to celebrate the season.
This photo was taken from a structure connecting foot bridges across the streets on one side of the Bonaventure Hotel. The Los Angeles Central Library is framed in the center, and I think it’s interesting surrounded by skyscrapers.
Olvera Street is free with market stalls, street vendors, and a few (free) museums of historical significance to Los Angeles. It’s right next to Union Station, the city’s hub for all public transportation. It’s a wonderful place to walk through and experience the culture. One lady I passed was telling no one in particular she was buying gift souvenirs for her grandchildren. This place is perfect for such activities.
Notes: These neighborhoods are pretty safe during the day, but there are a lot of homeless people. The Los Angeles homeless population I’ve interacted with are the most aggressive beggars I’ve encountered, ever. If you want to keep a dollar or two in your pockets you can, but I personally wouldn’t get my wallet out of my bag. It’s an area where it’s still probably best to walk around with someone, so if you’re traveling solo, you may want to consider a group walking tour for that reason.
Save some cash and visit Downtown Los Angeles M – F early in time for Happy Hour. We added a few fine eating establishments and bars to our walking tour.
Visiting from out-of-town and like to party? There is a budding nightlife in the heart of Los Angeles. From speakeasies to clubs where flapper dresses, burlesque, and bow ties are a thing, you can have a great night on the town (though you’ll pay at least $14 for a fancy cocktail and most beers are at least $6). Of course the reputation in the area also has some pretty raunchy places so you’ll want to know where you plan to go before going out. Be safe and use a ride share service or the Metro on your way home and try and minimize walking by yourself.