Downtown is one of the few areas where it’s better to walk than to drive. Parking spaces are limited and expensive, DASH shuttle buses (50 cents/ride) serve the area along with the metro rail and metro buses; everything can be seen in one day. Downtown is largely a commercial area — office buildings, stores and the like so it tends to “quiet down” in the evening,
Olvera Street is the oldest area of Los Angeles, although there are no remains of the first settlement from 1781. The oldest house, Avila Adobe, which was built in 1818, is here, along with several other historic buildings. The Plaza is a popular place for street performances, vendors and also hosts the annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Olvera Street is one block long, with Mexican restaurants and shops selling Mexican handicrafts. On the other side of the Plaza are other historic buildings, including Pico House, the first building taller than two stories built in LA, and the Merced Theater, the first theater in the city. Across Main Street from the Plaza is the Plaza Church, oldest church in Los Angeles.
South Park: In recent years, the South Park district of downtown Los Angeles has seen many dramatic changes for the better. The district covers 25 square blocks, bounded by the 110 and 10 Freeways, and Main and 8th streets. It’s filled with a rich mix of entertainment options that have made the area a mecca for people from all over Los Angeles. New residential spaces and new businesses have solidified the neighborhood as one of the best places to live, work, and play in Los Angeles.
The opening of the Staples Center in 1999 opened the floodgates for a rapid transformation of the area. Luxury condominiums with ground-floor retail began construction shortly afterwards. The district’s proximity to the University of Southern California and the Blue Line light rail has attracted young professionals looking for a great quality of life to go with an easy commute.
The light industry and storefronts that once formed the commercial base of the South Park area have been replaced by corporate headquarters, including those of AEG Group and Herbalife. Dance halls have given way to L.A. Live, which houses theaters, concert halls, and upscale clubs. The changes aren’t just cosmetic, they’re structural, giving South Park great long-term prospects for growth and prosperity.
Broadway: This area most closely resembles a contemporary Mexican shopping street but most people visit for the vivid atmosphere. It is one of the busiest Downtown areas.
Jewelry District is technically a part of Broadway and starts right below 5th Street on Broadway.
Civic Center: This area hosts most of Los Angeles’ administrative buildings and is the largest concentration of government buildings outside Washington DC. City Hall is the most distinctive of the buildings, familiar to anyone who watched the old Dragnet series. Nearby is the Cathedral Lady of the Angels, the home of the Los Angeles Archdiocese (Visit http://www.olacathedral.org/), and the L.A. Music Center, featuring Walt Disney Concert Hall, Ahmanson Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion and Mark Taper Forum.
Chinatown: Located at the northern end of Downtown, Chinatown is home to about 35,000 people and the place to watch the Chinese New Year’s parade, and purchase Asian products.
Little Tokyo: Past Temple Street on Alameda, home of one branch of MOCA and the Japanese American National Museum.
Financial District: This neighborhood, also known as Bunker Hill, was the city’s first “high class” neghborhood. All of the homes from that era have been torn down and replaced with skyscrapers. At its foot is Grand Central Market where the residents of Bunker Hill used to do their shopping, and where you can still find all kinds of vendors selling all kinds of foodstuffs, some prepared food, and other things.
Other sites worth visiting near here are the Richard Riordan Central Library, an architectural attraction (and home to one of the largest library collections in the world), Union Station, and the Bradbury Building (an extraordinary design of inner atrium and wrought iron — as seen in the film “Blade Runner.”)
University Park & The Coliseum Comples: Due south of downtown and less than 4 miles away are the University of Southern California, and Exposition Park, the museum complex that is neighbor to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum which hosted its 2nd Olympics in 1984, is currently home of the Umiversity of Southern California Trojans football team. The museums include The California Science Center andThe Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. There is also an IMAX theater. The USC campus (across Exposition Bl from the Museums) has its own architectural gems – and it’s not widely known that in “The Graduate”, Dustin Hoffman who sought out his fair lady allegedly in Berkeley, was actually trolling the USC campus.