Downtown LA is a great place to take kids to explore the cultural and rich history of Los Angeles. The downtown area is a walkable, Metro-friendly destination complete with museums, unique restaurants and beautiful buildings. Some blocks are cleaner and more family-friendly than others. So, it’s important to do your due diligence and keep an eye out when walking around. To help plan your day, here is the list of the best things to do in downtown LA with kids.
Things To Do In Downtown LA with Kids
Angels Flight, which you may recognize from the movie La La Land, is one Los Angeles’ most enduring landmarks. Constructed and opened in 1901, it’s billed as the “shortest railway in the world,” the funicular has two cars, Olivet and Sinai, connected to the same cable and counterbalancing one another.
Angels Flight only runs for one block (298 feet to be exact), but it’s a steep one. It links the Grand Central Market at the bottom to the Water Court shopping mall at the top, connecting Hill and Olive streets.
Angels Flight operating hours are 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year, including all holidays. A one-way ride costs $1. No reservations needed. Simply show up and hop aboard.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale. The complex includes the 250-seat Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre, a restaurant and a roof garden. Free audio tours are the best way to explore the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The self-guided audio tour takes visitors through the concert hall’s history from conception to completion. Narrated by Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor John Lithgow, the tour provides insight from architect Frank Gehry and other key contributors. An augmented reality video walk is also available to experience.
OUE Skyspace LA
Are you an adventurous family looking for a fun time in Downtown LA? If so, you should take a ride down the glass slide at OUE Skyspace LA , the tallest open-air observation deck in California. The one-of-a-kind slide goes along the outside of the iconic U.S. Bank Tower, which is approximately 73 stories tall and sits 1,000 feet above the ground.
The tower is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River and the 12th-tallest building in the United States. You can see some of the best views of Los Angeles from the top too. Get discount tickets to OUE Skyspace LA here.
Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market is a European-style food hall, which has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. It’s a great spot to grab a quick lunch, do some meal shopping or enjoy a cup of coffee or dessert. From gourmet burgers to Filipino rice bowls and falafel, you’ll want to take your kids to enjoy some of the best food in Los Angeles.
The Bradbury Building
The Bradbury Building, built in 1893, is Downtown LA’s oldest commercial building. Movie buffs will recognize the zigzagging staircases from the climax of Blade Runner. The building is open daily at 9:00 am to the public and there is no admission charge. Visitors are allowed in the lobby area and on the first stair landing. The rest of the building is used as private business offices.
Grand Park provides majestic views extending from the Music Center to City Hall. It is a great spot to sit and relax after a long day of walking around downtown LA. Kids can play in the community fountain, while parents enjoy a cup of coffee from the local Starbucks.
Grand Park has four distinct areas featuring amenities ranging from a restored historic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain with a new wade-able membrane pool, a small intimate performance lawn, a community terrace planted with drought tolerant specimen plants representing the diverse cultural make-up of Los Angeles itself, and a grand event lawn.
The Grammy Museum, is an interactive, educational museum devoted to the history and winners of the Grammy Awards. The Museum strives to inspire its visitors to learn about musical genres and history through interactive touch-screens, videos, and recording booths.
The museum also features a rich collection of historical music artifacts including costumes and instruments from the Grammy Awards, hand-written lyrics, records, and audio/video recordings. Self guided tours are available for a fee.
Los Angeles Central Library
The Central Library in downtown Los Angeles is both a leading public research library and a major architectural landmark. Comprised of the original 1926 library now called the Goodhue Building and a 1993 addition named for former mayor Tom Bradley, it ranks with the Bradbury Building and Union Station as a treasure of the city’s historic downtown.
The library has been designated a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Free docent tours of the building and its art are given every day the library is open, and on Saturday there is a tour of the Maguire Gardens which surround the library.
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising has a collection of more than 10,000 costumes, accessories and textiles from the 18th century through the present day, includes film and theater costumes. Annually, costumes from previous year’s best films and sampling of Academy Award nominated costumes are featured. On the day that we went we saw the costumes from the hit TV show Black-ish and Game of Thrones.
The Broad Museum
The Broad is located on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. Founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the three-story museum features 50,000 square feet of column-free gallery exhibition space divided between two floors and has more than 2,000 works of art, which is among the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide.
The Broad offers free admission to the general public. Advance admission tickets are often fully booked, but an onsite standby line is available at the museum every day except Mondays, when the museum is closed.
The Last Bookstore
The Last Bookstore is housed in what used to be an old bank building on Spring Arts Tower at 5th & Spring complete with marble columns and giant doors. The store has over 250,000 new and used books on two floors and tens of thousands of vinyl records and graphic novels. The best part is the huge mezzanine level that includes the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore, which makes for great literary photo ops.
Observation Desk at Los Angeles City Hall
The Los Angeles City Hall proudly stands at 454 feet high and use to be the tallest building in Los Angeles from 1928 until 1964. The observation deck on the 27th floor offers a 360 degree view of the LA skyline and on a clear day you can see the entire county.
The observation deck is open Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You need a valid I.D. to check in. On your way out, make sure to see the LA mayoral hall of fame and take a picture in front of the city lectern. It makes for a fun photo op.
Los Angeles Flower Market
The LA Flower Market is actually two marketplaces across the street from each other: the Original Los Angeles Flower Market at 754 Wall St. and the Southern California Flower Market at 755 Wall St. Together they house about 70 vendors.
The market is open to the public and admission is only $2 on weekdays and $1 on Saturdays. Flower Duet offers a guided tour of the LA Flower Mart with time for shopping at the end of the tour for $20 per person. It is one of my favorite things to do in downtown LA with out of town guests.
Opened in 1935 as Clifton’s Brookdale, Clifton’s Cafeteria was the second in a chain of theme restaurants founded by Clifford Clinton. During the Great Depression, Clifton’s reportedly served more than 10,000 people a day. Patrons could pay whatever they wanted and a sign invited them to “Dine Free Unless Delighted.” The food was simple: Salisbury steak, sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, cubes of Jell-O.
Today, Clifton’s is a cultural icon with it’s more than 16,000 square feet of faux redwoods, frolicking forest creatures, scenic murals, a brook babbling with limeade and a 20-foot waterfall cascading over artificial rocks. The revamped cafeteria quietly closed in September 2018 and is reportedly being transformed into a global dining hall.
Happy Field Tripping!
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