Fun Stuff in Downtown LA
August 29, 2019 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in LA for a single day and have successfully convinced my family (mom, sister, 12 year old niece) we should spend it downtown rather than at the beach. I used to live there and have some ideas but I would love to know about any other fun things I might not be aware of.

Here's my general plan:
- Wander around Pershing Square area to visit The Last Bookstore, Central Library, Grand Central Market for lunch, Angels Flight
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Head over to Union Station area to see Olvera Street, maybe Chinatown after that.

And I thought if everyone gets bored we could always take the Red Line to Hollywood.

What am I missing, though? Are there any other fun things that a smart, nerdy 12 year old would find especially interesting?
posted by something something to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The nerdy 12-year-old will probably love it. Bonus: it's next to an In-N-Out Burger, if you like that kind of thing.
posted by holborne at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

Walk over to Little Tokyo, wander through the stores, and maybe go to the Japanese American National Museum.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:48 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I prefer the Broad to MOCA -- it's a smallish jewel, so you can do the whole thing and not feel exhausted or overwhelmed. Tickets are free. See if you can get advance tickts, or else you wait in a line.

If you're looking for organized fun, I highly recommend Watson Adventures' scavenger hunt. Mr. Blah and I have done the one in Chinatown/Little Italy/Olvera Street and the movie locations one which starts in Pershing Square.

And at Olvera Street def. save your appetite for taquitos from Cielito Lindo at the far end.

Lastly, just a general fun idea for a nerdy 12yo: download the geocaching app. There are tons of caches in the area you mention.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

A possible alternative to MoCA is The Broad. Depends on what they're exhibiting and what you prefer.
posted by willnot at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Broad might be a more kid-friendly option than MOCA unless there is a particular exhibition that interests you. It's very heavy on big/colorful/interactive art. Get tickets ahead of time if you can.

On preview, I see I'm not alone.
posted by acidic at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2019

Response by poster: I would love go to The Broad but alas, I did not plan ahead and advance tickets aren't available.
posted by something something at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2019

Walk through Grand Park?
Visit the Bradbury Building?
The LA Conservancy website also mentions a Saturday 10am walking tour of downtown if you'll be there on the weekend.
posted by Red Desk at 12:19 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Two Bit Circus is in the Arts District and has lots of fun games.

The Fashion Institute has their annual exhibit of television costume design; they also have a very nice gift shop and a separate Scholarship Shop with all sorts of interesting stuff.

Depending on what sort of nerd the 12-year-old is, there are a bunch of stores in Little Tokyo like Kinokuniya and Anime Jungle that she might enjoy.
posted by mogget at 12:27 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Re: the Broad -- if it's not a weekend, I'd definitely still wait in line at the Broad over going to MOCA. And you can always keep track of the line length via the line's Twitter account.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:38 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I loved my downhill trip in the Angels Flight funicular culminating in a yummy visit to Grand Central Market. Combined with It left me thinking downtown LA was the coolest!

It also helped to rent scooters and bikes and to check out the bike enhancements along Figueroa.

The Biltmore Hotel was a fun stop too - it's where the Academy Awards started out and their walls, in places, are lined with amazing photos of bygone days. Late at night, I wandered with a colleague around the 1920s style lobby area and into the old dining rooms and kitchens. It would be a great place to play "sardines" or hide-and-seek late at night.
posted by rw at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Rather than the Red Line to Hollywood, consider taking the Gold Line to Pasadena. The train is above ground with great views (and much cleaner), which makes the ride more enjoyable.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:41 PM on August 29, 2019

The museum of Jurassic Technology is pretty cool but also in Culver City which isn’t in Downtown LA.

Depending on your particular kid’s brand of nerd, the Grammy Museum may be cool. There’s a lot of good history and they do some cool live events. That’s also very close to the Staples Center, if you wanted to watch a sports game to close out the night.

If you end up in Hollywood, I’d recommend an improv show at The Second City (the Hollywood and Highland exit.) or UCB (Hollywood and Western Exit)
posted by Pretty Good Talker at 3:57 PM on August 29, 2019

The Arts District is more interesting than regular DTLA, I think. Two Bit Circus, Hauser &Wirth, Wisdome, lots of good food (Bestia, Bavel).
posted by Ideefixe at 4:07 PM on August 29, 2019

Walt Disney Center is really beautiful inside and out. I especially love the interior of rosewood that enhances the acoustics. The top of the Disney Center has a really nice little garden with a rose shaped fountain of broken Delft Ware. You can stick your head inside the rose petals of the fountain for a nice water acoustic experience. Edith Disney was an avid rose collector, so Fran Gehry themed the whole building on roses.
posted by effluvia at 4:18 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you do end up going to the Broad, the absolute first thing you should do, as soon as you enter, is get tickets to the Infinity Room from the machine in the lobby. Each person can get their own ticket. This puts you in the queue. You can explore the rest of the museum while you wait. When I went first thing in the morning, the wait was already 45 minutes. Later, it went up to 2 hours (which actually was a perfect amount of time, I saw rest of the museum and went into the room again).

The wait for the Broad isn't too bad in the morning... I went without advance tickets on a Saturday and got in line about 45 minutes before opening, and was able to enter almost right when the doors opened. Since you have a group, someone can run to a cafe and grab breakfast, and you can eat while you wait in line.
posted by airmail at 4:19 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you like the library, The Library Book by Susan Orlean is a deeper dive on that part of LA and late 20th century happenings. The first several chapters about the fire were tremendously interesting to my geeky tweens. The book might be a good travel read, though there might be more tourists in the central library, too.
posted by childofTethys at 5:05 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

My personal favorite off-beat LA museum is the Velveteria, a black velvet painting museum! Open: Wednesday - Monday (Only Closed Tuesday) 11:00am – 6:00pm. $10 Admission.

Not too far from DTLA is Marciano Art Foundation if the Broad is out of the question due to availability. It has a rotating collection and is housed in a uniquely huge, former masonic lodge in Mid-Wilshire.

If you're not familiar with 2 Bit Circus: Imagine if Dave & Busters was made much more endearing and had more unique games and VR experiences. 2 Bit was originally an experiencial ad agency and at some point they just changed over to a modern arcade with food/bar.

You didn't mention the last time you lived in LA but Grand Central Market has been totally re-invented and is now a giant gastronomical food court. If you're around Union Station / Pueblo Philippe's is right across the street for a french dip sandwich. And not too far from that is Howlin Rays Hot Chicken, but lines are long. Nashville hot chicken is the current food of the moment in LA.

OUE Skyspace LA (in the "US Bank Tower") has an ourdoor, clear 45-ft slide on the exterior of the building and an observation deck.

Little Tokyo is a good hour, my favorite ramen in the city is at Daikokuya. Lines can be long, but it's the closest to the ramen I've had in Tokyo.

If you're there in the daytime, you can browse the fashion district for T-Shirts. Often they'll have 3 for $10 or some ridiculously cheap deals for some weird fashions.
posted by wcfields at 5:11 PM on August 29, 2019

Seconding the Marciano. I'm also a big fan of the Velaslavasay Panorama, a funky little wonderland you'll never forget. It's got a couple of big, 360 murals that are like something out of the 1912 World's Fair, and a sweet outdoor garden. The whole place has a lovely, faded, steampunk-y vibe. Chinatown is also pretty great in a more touristy way, and Olvera Street is fun. I'd suggest a visit to Wacko/Soap Plant, a combo gallery/oddities store, although right now their exbibit is pretty meh to me so it'd mostly be a chance to browse the aisles and gawk at all the Lowbrow art books and endless weird gift stuff.

It'll be hot. This summer isn't as hot as usual, but downtown is still gross and armpit-y.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:01 PM on August 29, 2019

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater is an "only in L.A." kind of place, in a GOOD way. It's very old time theater magic.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 1:17 PM on August 30, 2019

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