What most surprised me about my visit to the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza was how much I loved exploring downtown Los Angeles with my kids. In the past, Los Angeles had a reputation of being a city without a “heart” because the downtown area wasn’t developed enough to attract Angelinos and tourists. Today however, downtown is vibrant. History, architecture, and ethnic neighborhoods mix with modern art and exciting attractions. Here’s my list of the top kid-friendly activities in downtown Los Angeles:
Grand Central Market is a feast for the eyes and the stomach
The Omni has a hotel courtesy car that will transport guests within a three mile radius of the hotel and is available on a first come, first served basis. This is a huge perk as there are so many things to do and see within that area.
Ride a Funicular. Angels Flight is a 1901 funicular located at California Plaza just steps from the hotel. For 50 cents you can ride down Bunker Hill and you’ll be one block from Grand Central Market or the metro.
Stroll Iconic Grand Central Market. Grand Central Market is LA’s oldest open air market. It’s colorful, full of casual dining options and open every day.
Check out LA’s Art and Music Scene. The Museum of Contemporary Art is located in the California Plaza and has Studio Sundays the first Sunday of the month for families. No time? Just walk through the plaza and look at the sculptures. The Walt Disney Concert Hall has daily audio tours and Saturday morning concerts for ages 5-11 at various times throughout the year.
Take a Food Tour in Little Tokyo. If you have adventurous eaters, a Little Tokyo food tour with SixTaste tours is a delicious way to get to know Japanese culture. At about four square blocks, the three and a half hour tour in Little Tokyo is not too much walking for kids. They won’t forget the sweet treats at the end.
Visit the Museums at Exposition Park. The Natural History Museum and the California Science Center (free admission) are right next door to each other. Eat lunch at the museums or bring a picnic and relax in the Rose Garden.
Eat and Play at LA Live. LA Live is the entertainment complex near Staples center and the Nokia Theatre. It’s full of restaurants and there is also a movie theater and bowling alley. This is the closest night time entertainment area for families in the downtown area.
Experience Los Angeles’ Mexican Heritage. El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is a slice of L.A.’s Mexican culture. It is touristy with lots of shops and restaurants on Olvera Street but it’s an interesting stop with kids. A family favorite is Avila Adobe, the oldest residential building in Los Angeles. It was built in 1818 and simply shows what daily life was like during this time. On many weekends, there is dancing and festivals in the plaza.
Be a Part of History at Union Station. Union Station is one of the most beautiful and most recognizable landmarks in downtown Los Angeles and it’s conveniently located across the street from Olvera Street. It opened in 1939 and still functions as the main passenger train hub in Los Angeles. Kids can really get a sense of what train travel was like and how a train station functioned – the old ticket booths are still there! Make your visit more fun and ride the metro two stops back to the hotel.
Eat Dim Sum in Chinatown. Dim Sum is small or bite-sized portions of food generally served in steamer baskets. At dim sum restaurants servers wheel carts around the restaurant with the different offerings and you choose what you want. Empress Pavilion is a famous dim sum restaurant and while there are many tourists here it’s also very popular with locals – this is the place to go if you haven’t tried dim sum.
Hike or Play at Griffith Park. The largest park in Los Angeles, Griffith Park has so many activities that you need a plan before you go. Some activities like the Zoo or hiking can take up your entire day. Others like the pony rides or Travel Town are shorter stops. Travel Town is a must if you have a little train lover. It’s a train museum (free) with a train ride and it’s also a great picnic spot. If you really like trains, adjacent to Travel Town and open on Sundays, is the Live Steamers narrow gauge train. Riders sit on top of the train and you may even see wildlife (deer) on your journey.
Editorial Note: Kristi and her family received complimentary accommodations at the Omni Hotel Los Angeles at California Plaza, but as always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle
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