I remember several years ago (in the before times/pre-pandemic), I had a work trip where we stayed in downtown LA. I didn’t properly explore it (besides going to The Last Bookstore which might be the coolest bookstore I’ve ever been to) and came back home feeling mostly underwhelmed, saying I wouldn’t stay downtown again. Since dating my boyfriend, that has changed! He’s shown me how much there is to explore here (especially all the museums, but also the proximity to Little Tokyo which is just the greatest). I have come to really, really like downtown LA and think my younger self was a bit of an idiot. There is also so much history and good stuff to explore.
Downtown LA Staycation
Downtown is a bit of a hike from my his place, so we usually only go there for daytime things (museums, mostly!) as it’s such a long drive back. I was very excited when The Ace invited us in for a staycation. We thought it would be the perfect chance to spend even more time downtown. Back to Little Tokyo (truly, it’s the BEST sushi ever), all of the museum-ing, and probably the best part: he surprised me with tickets to the philharmonic!
(Also, in the spirit of transparency, my friend from high school works for The Ace and offered us an amazing room at their discounted “friends” rate.) We stayed in one of the corner loft rooms, which I would highly recommend… you can see more of it on my Instagram (I have an LA highlight and a reel from this trip!) Like all Ace Hotels, we had a great experience. Our room was spacious and modern, the rooftop is especially lovely, and we loved the coffee shop downstairs.
The rooftop of The Ace is perfection – like an enchanted garden!
One of the most fun parts of downtown LA is all the history.
The old theaters, the ornate building facades… places like The Biltmore (above: we got drinks there and then wandered the halls, my favorite is all the old, glamorous photos from past Academy Awards as back in the old days, that’s where they were hosted!).
On our first night, we went to the coolest little speakeasy, The Varnish. The drinks were just beyond. (I recommend The Bramble, I swapped bourbon for tequila.) You walk in through an old Irish pub, there is live piano music… it’s just a fun, sexy little vibe.
The next day we went to The Last Bookstore (one of my all time favorite bookstores!) Afterward we went to LACMA, eating lunch in their cafe (below).
We had such a fun little date night on Saturday.
We started at Otium for dinner (we chose it as it’s such a quick walk from Walt Disney Hall but the food was exquisite). The highlight of our meal was probably the salmon tartare which is served lettuce wrap style with shiso leaves (beyond!). Then we walked over to Walt Disney Hall (an incredible building, designed by Frank Gehry) for the performance.
The next day, we went out to our friend’s ranch but in the afternoon, we went to The Broad (probably my favorite LA art museum!).
And then it was time for my favorite thing ever – sushi in Little Tokyo. Our go-to spot Sushi Gen was closed, but we had heard great things about Sushi Komasa and it did not disappoint. I honestly think that the sushi in Little Tokyo is better than Nobu, at a fraction of the price. Most of these spots don’t take reservations so get there 30-40 minutes before you want to eat, put your name in, and have a drink nearby!
The last thing we did (before my flight!) was drive to Pasadena to the Huntington Gardens.
So, so beautiful. I loved exploring but my favorite parts were definitely the Japanese and Chinese Gardens. You could easily spend all day here exploring, I wish we had more time.
I’ve never been to LA, but you’re convincing me that whenever I do visit, I need to spend some time Downtown!! That garden looked beautiful too.
It’s the best, I hope you can go!
I do the same in thing in New York and stay in a different neighborhood each time I travel. It’s almost like a new vacation within a tried and true travel destination. I enjoy your LA posts and how you create new mini-itineraries with your visits. It has been a decade since I’ve been back and I think it’s time to book another trip.
I love that!!!! Yes, we spend so much time in Santa Monica and Malibu, it’s fun to mix it up!
This is a cool, different view of LA! I’ve visited a few times and did the very touristy things and wasn’t very impressed. It’s neat to see a different side of the city culturally and historically. Always more to explore!
ALWAYS!!!!! It helps having someone who knows all the good stuff.
First, I think you look radiantly happy in your photos. I’m so happy for you!
Second, I love downtown LA! I have done a similar day trip and two other cool places are the La Brea Tarpits (major Princess Bride Fire Swamp vibes) and the original Farmer’s Market. I love Monsieur Marcel, a supercool French-focused market and restaurant. The market does have a lot of other international food funds as well.
Finally, it is so awesome to have a friend in high end hospitality. My sister has stayed at some amazing places around the world with her friend and one time, I got to tag along at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. That meant I got to swim in the famous rooftop infinity pool!
Thank you for the suggestions!!! And that sounds SO cool!
Love LA, my boyfriend and I make an annual pilgrimage over Labor Day Weekend (lol, it’s always 20 degrees cooler there than in TX ). Last time we went to Grand Central Market which was good, something for everyone. We also always go to Pizzeria Mozza (esp after seeing the Chef’s Table episode about Nancy Silverton). Also love Gjusta in Venice, their patio is so nice to just chill and it’s close to Abbot Kinney. Have also heard great things about Gjelina their sister restaurant but never been!
I love that! We did Grand Central Market last time we were downtown (over the summer) and it was everything! And love love love Gjelina!
Have you been to Japan? I think you would LOVE it, if you haven’t!
No but it is so, so high on my list!
I live in LA and so much of this is new to me! Thank you so much for these recs, I can’t wait to check it all out!
Sounds like a perfect staycation! You look so happy and glowing in all your photos. Love your travel recaps! I’ve never been to LA but I lived in Japan for 2.5 years until this past September and I’m so intrigued by Little Tokyo! Do you know if there are Japanese stores and shops too in the neighborhood, or is it mostly restaurants?
It was so much fun! Honestly, I am not sure! I think maybe googling it could be a better solution as I’ve only seen/gone to restaurants but I have only been twice and tend to have my eye on the prize (SUSHI!).
My dad is from LA so I have many found memories of Huntington, yet haven’t spent much time in downtown LA. Maybe it is time for another visit!
I think it’s time!!!
Looks like a great staycation! I haven’t been to LA in 5 or 6 years but remember loving Olvera Street and having some of the best tacos of my life there! They were making tortillas right on site and everything was so fresh. Also, a walk through the train station is neat for any interior/architect lovers and movie buffs (there are several famous movies scenes shot in the train station). I’m going back to the LA area in a few months and look forward to fitting some of your recommendations into my trip!